Episode 12

Carolina goes to the river and goes on a rowing boat with Jamie. Adam and Jo talk about difficult aspects of English such as homographs and homophones.



Adam: Hello and welcome to Episode 12 of Series 4 of LearnEnglish Elementary Podcasts. My name is Adam and, as usual, my colleague Jo will be with me later to talk about some of the English that you're going to hear in this podcast.

Last time we heard Tess and Ravi talking (and in Ravi's case, singing!) about the Beatles and British music. Some of you were impressed with Ravi's singing. Abdullah Alshamrani from Saudi Arabia says 'Wooooow! Ravi has a great sound. I think he can join any music band in the world'. I'm not sure Tess and I agree with you, Abdullah, but maybe Ravi has a new career in music. Vocals on a garage track? A new member of One Direction? Hmmm, I wonder …

Apart from Ravi's musical talents, we got lots of comments about the podcast. Some of you love the Beatles, like Percival Moreira from Brazil, Yuta Noda from Japan and ChickenTeriyaki from China.

And I'm happy to hear that the podcast inspired Nada Ghannoum and Reza Saadati to want to listen to Beatles songs. Nada listened to 'Yesterday' and really liked it. Arumayp from Indonesia remembers a teacher using 'Yesterday' to teach English, and a lot of you say that listening to songs in English can really help you learn. That’s good, because a lot of you listen to music in English.

Dora, from Indonesia, says that listening to music before work puts her in a good mood for the day. But maybe Farkhanda Bashir from Pakistan isn't in a good mood; she asks why we haven't read her comments on the podcast. Well, we have now! But although we will never have time to read out all your comments, you can increase your chances by commenting soon after the podcast is released, by answering the question we ask and by saying something personal in your comment. Everyone likes music, but if you tell us an interesting story about why you like your favourite band, we're much more likely to put it in the podcast.

And finally, thank you to all the people who write nice things about the podcast. Nada Ghannoum from Syria says that she used to listen to English music a lot, but now she prefers our podcast. That’s a big compliment, Nada! And our old friend Asuma Girlish from Morocco says 'thank you very much' for the LearnEnglish Podcast app. If you want to try it, you can find it at the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, or follow the link on the LearnEnglish website. But don’t forget to visit the website too for all the language exercises.

And now it's time to hear from Carolina again. Jamie and Carolina are having a day out together in a city called Durham, not far from Newcastle where they live. I wonder what’s happening today?

Carolina – At the river

Carolina: What a beautiful day. Is this the same river as in Newcastle? The Tyne?

Jamie: No. This is the Wear.

Carolina: The Wear. How do you spell it?

Jamie: W-E-A-R.

Carolina: W-E-A-R – like wear, the verb.

Jamie: I guess so, yeah. Spelt the same as wear but pronounced 'weer'.

Carolina: Like 'we are' – we're.

Jamie: Yep.

Carolina: I'll never get used to English pronunciation and spelling. It's impossible.

Jamie: Look. A boat-hire place. Let's hire a boat. What do you think?

Carolina: OK. But you'll have to drive it. I don't know how.

Jamie: Row. These boats don't have engines – you don't drive them. They're rowing boats. You row them.

Carolina: Row. How do you spell it?

Jamie: R-O-W.

Carolina: Like a row of seats – in the cinema.

Jamie: Yep.

Carolina: And how do you spell 'row'? – you know 'argument'. Like when you say 'I had a row with my boyfriend yesterday'.

Jamie: R-O-W.

Carolina: The same as row the boat.

Jamie: Yeah.

Carolina: See? Grrr.

Jamie: Come on. Let's go and have a row in a rowing boat.

Carolina: You're a very good rower, Jamie.

Jamie: Of course. I'm a man of many talents.

Carolina: This is beautiful. What's going to happen next year, Jamie?

Jamie: I don't know.

Carolina: I know you've got your final exams soon, and I know you're a bit stressed and I don't want to hassle you. But I'm worried. About when you finish your course, about what's going to happen. About us.

Jamie: I know. I'm worried too. I want to get a job in conservation, Carolina, something connected with the environment and I don't want to stay in Newcastle.

Carolina: I know. I understand. It's just …

Jamie: Anyway, here's some good news.

Carolina: Good news?

Jamie: About the band. We've got another gig. A real one, with another band – The Electrons. They saw our video on YouTube and they want us to support them when they come to Newcastle.

Carolina: Support them?

Jamie: Play first. Before they come on. We'll be the support band. It's a fantastic opportunity for us.

Carolina: That's great. I'm really pleased for you, Jamie.

Jamie: Come on, cheer up. What do ducks say in Spanish?

Carolina: Cuac cuac. And in English?

Jamie: Quack quack. And what does Cameron say?

Carolina: What do you call those things? The things you use to row.

Jamie: These? Oars. O-A-R-S.

Carolina: Oars. The same as 'or'. O-R. Do you want coffee or tea? It's the same pronunciation.

Jamie: Oh no.

Carolina: How are people supposed to know the difference if you say 'or' or 'oar'? English is impossible. You know I think it must be the most impossible language in the world.

Jo and Adam

Adam: Hi Jo.

Jo: Hi Adam. It's nice to be here again.

Adam: Poor Carolina. English spelling and pronunciation is very difficult sometimes.

Jo: That's true. There are words that look the same but are pronounced differently, like 'row' and 'row' …

Adam: And words that look different but are pronounced the same, like 'here' – in this place, H-E-R-E – and 'hear' – what you do to a noise, H-E-A-R.

Jo: Yes, that's true. And the grammar can be difficult too. My students think that English verbs are easy but they hate prepositions – words like 'for', 'to' or 'of'.

Adam: What about all of you? What's difficult for you in English? Do you agree with Carolina that English spelling and pronunciation 'is impossible!'?

Jo: And what's easy for you? Do you agree with my students – that verbs are easy but prepositions are horrible?

Adam: Write and tell us what you think. The address is www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish. Now let's look at some of the language from the podcast.

Jo: Let's look at some questions that are useful if you're learning English. Listen to Carolina. What does she ask Jamie?

Carolina: Is this the same river as in Newcastle? The Tyne?

Jamie: No. This is the Wear.

Carolina: The Wear. How do you spell it?

Jo: She asks 'How do you spell it?' My students often ask 'How do you write it?' – but 'spell' is better. What's the name of this website, Adam?

Adam: LearnEnglish.

Jo: How do you spell it?

Adam: L-E-A-R-N-E-N-G-L-I-S-H.

Jo: Thank you! Now listen to another useful question.

Carolina: What do you call those things? The things you use to row. Jo: 'What do you call those things?' Adam, let me test your vocabulary – um – what do you call the place where you go to play golf?

Adam: A golf club.

Jo: How do you spell 'club'?

Adam: C-L-U-B. Jo: And what do you call the thing you use to hit a golf ball?

Adam: A club. A golf club.

Jo: And how do you spell 'club'?

Adam: C-L-U-B.

Jo: Ha ha! It's the same for both things. They're both called clubs. Same pronunciation, same spelling but different meanings.

Adam: Good one! Carolina would like that example. There are exercises to help you with English spelling and pronunciation on the website.

Jo: And more useful questions for learning English too.

Adam: And you can look at Series 3, Episode 14 for exercises about words that sound the same, like 'here' and 'hear'. So … I think that's all for today. See you next time.

Adam/Jo: Bye!

Do you need to improve your English?
Whether you need better English to travel or meet new people, our online English courses will give you real practice. Join thousands of learners from around the world who are making great progress with their English level with our online courses.


Submitted by Aljumhy2020 on Sat, 18/12/2021 - 07:48


To me it is difficult to use prepositions and how can l remember the word when l speak.
And the difficult thing, The compound words; l don't know "together or separate" like seafood or sea food.

Hello Aljumhy2020,

Prepositions are indeed difficult in English since there are so many irregular uses. I would recommend that you focus on the regular ones and most common ones. That way you can use the correct forms in more situations than if you studied uncommon exceptions.

In general, the key to vocabulary is exposure or contact. Most people need to see or hear a word -- preferably in context -- many times (I usually tell my students 6-8 times, but it depends) and over the course of time. In other words, after you study one day, wait a couple of days and then study again. Then wait another few days, and study again. Keep this up until you can remember the words easily. It also helps to try to use them in your speaking and writing. Even if you don't speak or write in English much, you can think in English!

As for compound words, I would focus more on learning them than on their spelling, which is quite irregular. If you're writing with a computer, I'd recommend using a spell checker for these words -- save your memory for more important things for now!

All of this is general advice that I might change if I knew more about you and your needs, but I hope it helps you.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmed Hesham A… on Thu, 23/09/2021 - 22:33

I don't think so, because we have many exemplary who they learn more than five languages but it needs more practice and ambition
Profile picture for user amit_ck

Submitted by amit_ck on Sun, 05/09/2021 - 12:19

WITH FAMILIES HAVING little time together, many parents work full-time How can I start a sentence with “With+Subject+Ing verb”. Could you please explain it and give me some examples of this kind of sentences?

Hello amit_ck,

'with' can mean 'because of' or 'as a result of', which appears to be the idea here. I find the sentence a little odd because I'd be inclined to say 'With many parents working full-time, families have little time together', since what makes more sense to me is that the parents' working full-time is the cause of the little family time. But perhaps that's just me.

In this use, 'with' is normally followed by a noun phrase, but if its objects is a verb, the verb goes in the '-ing' form since 'with' is a preposition.

All the best,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by jmajo on Tue, 09/03/2021 - 14:53

For me the most difficult is to remember how to use the different past forms correctly, I don't think the spelling or pronunciation are so hard to learn, it's a matter of good memory and getting use to it, but when we talk about the past in English there are so many ways to same the same thing, so sometimes that make me a bit confused between past participle and past continuous for instance. I find it easy to talk and write about the future but prepositions and articles are a bit confusing though, despite there are a few to learn, sometimes it's a bit difficult to remember which to use in each case correctly. Thanks for the episode. Great site!!

Submitted by February on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 01:21

I don't agree with Carolina that English spelling and pronunciation is impossible. It is difficult, of course, but we can learn that. What's more difficult it slang. We can't learn it in English textbook, but English-speaking people use a lot. That's why the most difficult thing in English for me is slang.
Profile picture for user danisep

Submitted by danisep on Wed, 21/10/2020 - 16:04

To me it is difficult listening, I would like to understand movies without subtitles or music without reading before his lyrics. And it is right, English words have different meanings. In Spanish it happens the same but the same word almost always has relative meanings. one word in english could have two completely different meanings. I think if you read a lot your brain is gonna understand better the different uses of words and how to use prepositions with those words.

Submitted by VegitoBlue on Sat, 04/07/2020 - 08:48

Hi, Every word in English tends to carry with it multiple meanings. For instant, searching up a word like "destroy" under any dictionary will yield multiple meanings such as "to kill an animal", or "to physically damage something" or "to defeat an opponent in a game". My question is does this make words like destroy a homonym? or is it words like "bark (which can refer to the sound a dog makes or to the outer covering of a tree" which are homonyms? If so, what's the difference between say "destroy" and "bark" when it comes to considering whether a word is or is not a homonym?
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Sat, 04/07/2020 - 13:29

In reply to by VegitoBlue


Hello magnuslin,

My students often tell me that English is difficult because words have so many different meanings. What they don't realise is that Catalan and Spanish (and I expect all other languages) also have many, many polysemic words.

'homonym' can be a somewhat imprecise term, as it can cover 'homographs' (words with different meanings that are spelled the same) and 'homophones' (words that are pronounced the same), though it also has a more specific meaning.

I think the articles I linked to will help you, but if you have any other questions about this, please let us know.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SamerTJ on Sun, 14/06/2020 - 07:33

I think, learning new languages depends on two main factors, the first one is the capability of a person to learn new languages, and the second one is the age of the person. Each language has sophisticated rules that couldn't be learnt without practising. I think the biggest problem I am facing with learning English that I learnt it in the wrong way when I was a kid so that I have problems with everything, prepositions, phrasal verbs...., with a horrible pronunciation. because of that, I have to duplicate my efforts in order to learn faster. I hope that the world could find useful and effective instructions to learn English and force all countries to follow them or to give up teaching English. Finally, I wish all the world speak one language to save the time we spend to learn a new language in order to communicate with the outer world. thanks
Profile picture for user Kostya B

Submitted by Kostya B on Thu, 24/10/2019 - 12:26

I think that english lenguage not so difficult.
Profile picture for user Sergey Sh

Submitted by Sergey Sh on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 07:12

Phrasal verbs I guess. I don’t think spelling and pronunciation are impossible. There are some people native Russians who managed to learn English and speak as a native without any accent. That’s about them, not me, cause I also find pronunciation to be one of the hardest part in English for me. Verbs are easy part, I agree, as well as prepositions.

Submitted by corflz on Tue, 13/08/2019 - 19:34

Hello, Sorry, but could you please let me know what does Adam mean by the following sentences? Vocals on a garage track? A new member of One Direction? Thanks in advance for you valuable support.
Profile picture for user Kirk

Submitted by Kirk on Thu, 15/08/2019 - 17:31

In reply to by corflz


Hello corflz

If you are the 'vocals' of a band, it means you sing in the band's music. 'garage' refers to a kind of fast, electronic music in this context. One Direction is the name of a band that was very popular at the time this episode was recorded.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by User_User on Sat, 15/06/2019 - 17:02

Hello What is difficult for me in English? I've no problems with prepositions. I've watched a youtube video about prepositions from engVid and several video lessons from Anglo-Link. I also listened to the elementary podcasts without reading them four times and then with reading four times again. I've heard so much English that I know the most common prepositions in the most common contexts by heart. So, what is then difficult for me? Well, when I know the rules and I try to apply them I sometimes/often get them wrong because there is always an exception. But when I use the expression which sounds better to me I usually get them always right. This happened to me when I had to decide whether to use the adjective or the adverb in a given context (with a gap). I only use the rules when I'm unsure because I don't know the expression by heart. If I've never heard a word before and I don't know whether it's and adjective or adverb then the rules don't help me at all. Bye

Submitted by parisaach on Sun, 09/06/2019 - 07:25

I like English language. I know French and Arabic a bit , and I heard about chinese language so I think it is much easier to learn English, in compare with many other languages. For example in French when you use a verb, noun, adjective, etc, you should think of using masuline or faminine form. It is funny the masculine and feminine colors and nationalities are different. some countries are female and some are male. some objects are female some are male , male and female animals have different names :D After all I like French and I like English. I think all the languages in the world are beautiful , but sometimes specially whenever I travel I wish all the people speak the same language, so we shouldn't waste our valuable time to learn languages.

Submitted by ali aiad ali shanan on Fri, 11/01/2019 - 15:50

I think that English is easy if we learned from our mistakes and in the same English difficult and need Living

Submitted by cuneyt on Fri, 07/12/2018 - 07:31

Hi guys, I Have started Study Englısh for a month but I went to learn englısh in malta for threee months. I justwas speaking two mınute. I dıd not know tense, vocabulary and gramar. I knew three or four words. My level is a poor beginner. I learned to speak englısh a little bit. After I came back in Turkey. I still couldn't learn englısh. I want to learn english so I decided to contınue. I found this website for learn. the website is amazing because you can take according to your level after you can start to study. I promise myself I am going to learn this language because it is important for my businnes life. I want to earn money. I don't want to stay same sitiuation. I want to discover other life. need to learn it. Englısh language is international language. You can use all over the world. We must learn. Even everyone must learn. Take care of yourself.
Profile picture for user Mostafa Taavoni

Submitted by Mostafa Taavoni on Mon, 03/12/2018 - 15:44

I started to learn English about 1 year ago. It's difficult to learn a new language, I heard it a lot. For me at first, everything was difficult such as pronunciations, readings, listening or writing in English. It takes me more than 3 hours per day to learn and practice English but I hope I'll learn English in 3 years. I started with listening to learn English podcasts from series 1. In this first year I could listen to about 52 podcasts. To my mind, a new language is a fantastic communication bridge with other people all over the world. We all are human and we must participate to make a better world to live.

Hi mostafa taavoni,

You've made great progress! Next year we'll be releasing many new pages in our Skills section and a new podcast series similar to LearnEnglish podcasts, so please keep an eye out for this new content.

Keep up the good work!

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Hal55 on Wed, 16/05/2018 - 12:13

I agree Jo's students. I always get confused about prepositions. but there are pictures which explains prepositions on the internet. and you can look and understand easily how prepositions work. and you can get used to it.

Submitted by Josep Anton on Sun, 11/03/2018 - 17:39

Hi, I have a very problem to understand English listening to the podcast, videos or films, because there are a lot of words what I don't know or the spelling is the same of other word what don't mean the same. Also with some verb tense, like were and wear, etc. But I think this website it's useful for improve our English level. It costs me blood, sweat and tears.

Submitted by Khaled v on Sat, 03/02/2018 - 11:04

I think that English is easy if we learned from our mistakes One time our English friend prepared a nice food for us and I said ..oh really you are a good cooker (I supposed it is like drive ...driver, swim...swimmer..etc) but he laughed and said no I am a nice cook .