Episode 11

Tess and Ravi talk about pop music and Jo and Adam look at the difference between the verbs 'hear' and 'listen'.


Jo and Adam – Welcome back!

Adam: Hello and welcome to Episode 11 of Series 4 of LearnEnglish Elementary Podcasts. My name is Adam and, as usual, my colleague Jo will be joining me later to talk about some of the language that you're going to hear in the podcast.

If you remember, last episode, Carolina, Jamie and Emily were having a meal in an Indian restaurant, and everything was going very well … until Emily asked Jamie about his plans for the future. Jamie said that he'd applied for jobs in places like Borneo and Antarctica, and Carolina didn't know anything about it! And she was not very happy about the idea!

It's a difficult decision for Jamie – should he follow his dream even though Carolina doesn't want him to go? And Carolina – should she support him whatever he decides to do? It's a decision that could change both their lives. We asked you to write in and tell us what you think.

Well, a lot of people wrote in to say that it's important to follow your dreams. Reza Saadati from Iran wrote to say that he is following his dream to be a physicist; he wants to study in England and he says he isn't going to let any 'Carolinas' stop him! Good luck, Reza!

Englishlover2015 from Yemen and Pincopanco from Italy both agree. People (like Jamie) should follow their dreams, even if your goals are hard to achieve. And the person who is with you has to understand that and encourage you in the things you want to do. That’s true, but what about their dreams?

Crisloren from Brazil says we have to think about the consequences of following our dreams: 'I have a dream of living in another country, but that dream will involve another person – my daughter – who doesn't have the same dream'. Crisloren asks 'Do I have the right to do that?' That’s a good question, Crisloren. When there are people you love, you have to consider them in your decisions.

Dimadmitriev, from Russia, thinks that if Carolina really loves Jamie, she'll either wait for him or go with him, and Lucas Souza from Brazil thinks that Jamie should go because careers are more important than relationships. I’m not sure about that, Lucas – I think it’s a personal judgement.

And, to finish, Nada Ghannoum from Syria has a very ... well, practical approach to the problem. Nada says 'I think Jamie should follow his dream, because if he abandons his dream for her, Carolina will spend her life listening to him whine about what he could have done without her'.

Thanks for all your interesting comments, including all the ones I didn't have time to read out. Please, keep sending them in – and keep listening to the podcast. Remember the Elementary Podcasts app – you can download it from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, or follow the link on the LearnEnglish website. It has a lot of helpful features, including some exercises for you to test your understanding and, if you want, you can read the script and listen at the same time. And, of course, there’s loads of exercises on the LearnEnglish website.

Now it's time to hear what 'typically British' thing Tess and Ravi are going to talk about today. We've heard about pets, red buses, the British personality, shopping in London and the British pub. What next? Do you want to know a secret? OK, from me to you, they're going to talk about some famous people – four famous men.


Tess and Ravi

Ravi: Hello again, I’m Ravi.

Tess: And I’m Tess.

Ravi: And we’re here again to talk about something you think you know about Britain. We asked our listeners to tell us what they think is typically British. They said things like ‘politeness’, ‘drinking tea’, ‘big red buses’ and … ‘In the town where I was born, lived a man who sailed to sea’…

Tess: The Beatles?

Ravi: Yep. Well, the Beatles and pop music in general – lots of people said that they really liked music by British groups.

Tess: OK – did they mention the names of other groups?

Ravi: Yeah, people mentioned the Rolling Stones, of course – and lots of other bands – the Sex Pistols, Queen, Radiohead, The Stone Roses, Oasis – lots of different bands, but I think we should start with the Beatles – they’re probably the most famous British band ever, don’t you think?

Tess: Yeah. Are you a fan?

Ravi: I think everyone’s a bit of a Beatles fan. Everyone knows some songs, at least – Yesterday, Yellow Submarine, Strawberry Fields, She Loves You yeah yeah yeah …

Tess: OK – don’t get carried away. Why do you think the Beatles are so popular?

Ravi: Well, they wrote a lot of great songs, obviously, and they came along at the start of the nineteen sixties as rock and roll had become really popular in America and around the world. I think they were in the right place at the right time – but most of all, it’s the great songs.

Tess: Great songs in English.

Ravi: Yeah, you’re right. I think that’s important too. Pop music in English is popular all over the world. It’s strange – almost anywhere in the world, you’ll go to, say, a market in a small town somewhere and you’ll hear people singing songs in English.

Tess: Yeah, I know what you mean. I wonder why that is.

Ravi: I think it’s not just British groups. American music is really popular all over the world – but songs in English, yeah.

Tess: Well, I guess people learn English all over the world, so they can understand the words of the songs.

Ravi: And some of the Beatles songs are really quite easy to understand – especially the early ones from the sixties – ‘I want to hold your hand’, ‘She loves you’ … do you know the song ‘Hello Goodbye’? That’s really easy to understand … ‘You say yes, I say no, you say stop and I say go go go’.

Tess: OK, Ravi, OK – but some of the other groups you mentioned – Radiohead, say, or Queen – their songs aren’t always easy to understand.

Ravi: No, I know. Lots of people use pop music to help them learn English – it’s usually quite easy to find the lyrics – the words of the song – on the internet, but they don’t always make sense though.

Tess: I listened to some Spanish songs to help me learn Spanish, but I guess most of the music I listen to is in English.

Ravi: I listen to all kinds of music from all over the world – there’s some Swedish music I really like. In fact it’s much easier these days to hear music from other countries and in other languages, but for a long time English really was the language of pop music – and the Beatles took British pop music all over the world.

Tess: OK.

Ravi: Right. Time for one last song, don’t you think? Yesterday – all my troubles seemed so far away …

Tess: Aaagh!


Jo and Adam

Adam: And let's say hello to Jo. Welcome back.

Jo: Hi. Thank you.

Adam: Do you like the Beatles, Jo?

Jo: I do. Do you know, my mum saw them in concert in the sixties in London.

Adam: I love the Beatles. Early Beatles, late Beatles, I love it all. I think they still sound exciting today. Do you ever listen to music in a language you are learning, Jo?

Jo: Good question. Well, I studied Portuguese and Spanish at university and when I discovered Brazilian music, which I loved, it really made me want to learn a lot more Portuguese so that I could understand the lyrics. And what about you? Which British singers or bands are your favourites?

Adam:  And do songs help you learn English? Write and tell us what you think. The address is www.britishcouncil.org/learnenglish. And now let's look at some of the language that you heard in the podcast.

Jo: My students sometimes confuse the verbs 'listen' and 'hear'. Tess and Ravi use both of them in the podcast.

Tess: I listened to some Spanish songs to help me learn Spanish, but I guess most of the music I listen to is in English.

Ravi: I listen to all kinds of music from all over the world – there’s some Swedish music I really like.

Jo: Tess listens to English music and Ravi listens to music from all over the world. Don't forget to use 'to'. 'Listen to music'.

Adam: Or 'listen to the radio', or 'listen to the teacher'.

Jo: When you listen to something – or someone – you pay attention. Now listen to Ravi using 'hear'.

Ravi: … it’s much easier these days to hear music from other countries and in other languages …

Jo: 'Hear' is different. You can hear things when you aren't paying attention.

Adam: For example, last night I was listening to the radio. I could hear a dog barking in the street, I could hear my neighbours talking in the garden, I could hear cars going past – but I was listening to the radio.

Jo: We often use 'hear' with 'can' or 'could'. 'My grandfather's very old – he can't hear very well'.

Adam: And I think that's all for this time. There are exercises on the website to help you with 'listen' and 'hear' and other language from the podcast.

Jo: And listen to some songs in English! It can be a really good way to learn. On the LearnEnglish Teens website, there's a section called Music UK. Have a listen to the songs there and do the exercises to practise. See you next time.

Adam/Jo: Bye!

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Submitted by Ahmed Hesham A… on Thu, 16/09/2021 - 16:24

I love quiet English music not hot music which could learn me English well

Submitted by jmajo on Wed, 03/03/2021 - 12:52

I don't have a favourite British band really, but I do listen a lot of music in English, Sting is one of the British artists I like to hear and other artists playing standards of jazz(mostly ballads). I don't really like pop music very much but some songs are nice. It depends on the stile of the singer that I can understand the lyrics in a song or not, not every artist sing clearly and in an easy way to understand, lots of artists modify the correct pronunciation of the words to match the tones of the song, so I prefer to listen the ballads and quiet songs to try to understand the lyrics and use the songs to learn English. Thanks for the episode. Great site!!

Submitted by February on Wed, 10/02/2021 - 01:13

I know Beatles but actually the group is not my generation. It's my parents' generation, I guess. But they say that listening to Beatles' songs is good to learn English because they use simple English. Some of my English teachers used English songs in class back in school. By learning English with English songs, we can learn grammar and pronunciation at the same time.

Submitted by Jhonny on Tue, 03/11/2020 - 15:14

Hello, thanks you for teaching us English lenguage. In attention with the question, I can say that I like to lisenting to English music, there are a tons of good bands, but I think my favorite is Queen, Oasis, Aerosmith, Guns and Roses, and more recently I like the music from James Blunt, his letters are easy to understand and it's a fun way to improve our english's skills.

Submitted by danisep on Tue, 20/10/2020 - 22:46

I think that a lot of people have listened to at least some british songs but I'm not sure what bands are british or american. I love music, especially rock. For that reason I listen to a lot of songs in english I think it is a great way to entertain you while you improve your listening and speaking. Although to me it is sometimes difficult to understand, when I’m doing other stuff, I must pay a lot of attention to understand lyrics.

Submitted by nikoslado on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 17:57

...and, in addition, in Task 8/eighth, couldn't we say ''I was listening to'', instead of '' I listened to'', because there is a ''while'' not ''when''? Thanks again

Submitted by nikoslado on Wed, 24/06/2020 - 16:17

Dear Team, from point 11:00.....and forward there are missing word and whole phrase of Jo's speaking. Best wishes Nikoslado

Hello Nikoslado,

Thanks for pointing that out; I've fixed it now.

Re: Task 8 number 8, 'was listening to' would not be something we'd normally say here. We usually do use a continuous form, but in the 'while' clause, not necessarily in the main one.

All the best


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by SamerTJ on Sat, 13/06/2020 - 05:53

I listen to music almost always but still couldn't understand the entire lyrics of songs, I think it is ok because sometimes I use the lyrics for songs in my native language too. In my opinion, songs help us to learn new words as we entertain ourselves. I believe that music is the most important part of the song and especially if you are listening to a new song or if you are doing another activity besides listening. so you will pay attention to the music and it will be the first thing to attract you. Then you will love the song even before knowing the meanings of its lyrics, just because you loved the tone. and the meanings will amaze you as much as the tone, I am sure about that because it always happens to me...

Submitted by Bruno2020 on Fri, 29/05/2020 - 19:58

Hello everyone! I love cold play and a lot of others bands from Britain!I think listening to English songs has been helping me quite a lot in English.

Submitted by Sergey Sh on Tue, 15/10/2019 - 06:42

The Beatles and Coldplay are ones of my favourite. I used to listen to and sing some Beatles songs in my school lessons. Songs are also good way to learn languages but some of them can have difficult lyrics and The Beatles I think, have easy ones as well as great words and meaning of their songs. As for me songs are another good way to learn English.

Submitted by parisaach on Sat, 08/06/2019 - 07:14

I love British and American music. I'd rather listen to the English music than music of my country. I like rock and pop music. My favorite British band is Muse though I like many other bands and singers too, I like Cold Play, Pink Floyd, Radio Head, Elton John, etc... , but in spite of Ravi's opinion I don't like Beatles. I have not listen to Beatle's songs , maybe I've heard them and I don't remember now.The only song I remember is Yesterday that was a good song but it' s not my favorite. I never listen to a song in purpose of learning English. I listen to music because it inspire me and it connect with my soul. I even can write a scenario for the music I listen to ,in my mind. Actually I do it , I mean whenever I listen to a music that I like I make a movie for it while I 'm listening to the music.

Submitted by User_User on Mon, 27/05/2019 - 20:58

Hello My knowledge about music is limited. I didn't know all the music genres. I don't know songs from the Beatles. When I hear radio the oldest songs which they play are songs from the 80s. In task 7 is the first solution is: My sisters always 'listens to' music when she's studying. If you are studying then you are paying attention to your lets say book and not to the music. You are playing music so that you don't hear other noises. That doesn't mean that you are paying attention to it. If you are learning vocabulary and you hear music then you should play music without understandable spoken words because that would confuse you. To make it short I believe that 'hear' is also possible here. Bye

Submitted by Peter M. on Tue, 28/05/2019 - 06:26

In reply to by User_User

Hello User_User, The difference between 'hear' and 'listen' is not one of attention or concentration, but one of choice or control. We might use 'hear' if the music comes from somewhere else (another room, for example), or to describe a sound we have no control over (birdsong, traffic, someone shouting etc). 'Hear' is a passive action, not one we control. ~ In your situation, the music is something that your sister is in control of and has chosen to put on. It doesn't matter whether or not she is concentrating on it; she has chosen to have the music and so we say 'listen'. ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team ~ Peter The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by ali aiad ali shanan on Wed, 23/01/2019 - 16:45

The songs don.t help me to learn english . read and listen and movies

Submitted by cuneyt on Thu, 06/12/2018 - 12:34

Hi Everybody, İndeed I don't like very much listen to music. Even so I seldom listen to some songs. so I haven't got any favourite singers and brands. Especially I prefer listen to instrumental music. My favourite name is Lindsey Striling. I actually like to listen to violin and piano. Englısh songs avail for improve my Englısh language. I just listen to Englısh songs beacause of this. Have a nice day everyone. take care of yourself.

Submitted by Mostafa Taavoni on Fri, 30/11/2018 - 16:14

I don't know any English music band but I know some singers such as Shakira, Enriko, Adel etc. I really like their voice and type of music. I used to listen to English music to learn English but now I seldom listen to English music, because it took me many times to learn new English words and many of those new words were informal and the speed of songs was very high and I couldn't understand the meaning of songs. I decided to listen to learn English podcasts to practice the listening skill.

Submitted by Emily on Thu, 26/07/2018 - 21:31

The Queen's songs were a great help to learn and use the english language, when I was very young. Now, my best help are Depeche Mode's songs and David Bowie's texts; plus, for my pronunciation and sense of understanding.

Submitted by Shiiya on Tue, 05/06/2018 - 12:39

I do believe listening music is pleasure way to learn a new language , when I was a child I used to listen english music like Beatles and Elvis Presley and so on , I really liked but didn´t understand at all ,twenty years later my english is much better rather before and I still listening Beatles and Elvis , but this time I can understand the lyrics and it makes the song much pleasure and enjoyable to listening , by the way nowadays there aren´t good music and good singer like formerly

Submitted by foofighters12 on Tue, 01/05/2018 - 19:48

I like the Beatles but my favourite band is Oasis I've seen them twice both at Wembley stadium old and new, I also like the stereophonics I've seen them at Wembley Arena I also like Coldplay avril lavigne I've seen, her twice the 02 Arena and the oppollo in London

Submitted by annacm on Thu, 29/03/2018 - 22:47

Hello, I discover the Beatles songs when I was eleven. And more than 30 years after, I still listen to their songs. I really love them. They also opened my mind to know other British and American bands. I like Queen, The Police, Duran Duran, Oasis, Nirvana and many others bands that I can't remember now... Listening to these songs has helped me to improve my English. Best regards

Submitted by igor ap on Sat, 03/03/2018 - 15:20

I learned that to finish email as good way I can use: I look forward to hearing you. Could be? I look forward to listened you. because, I think listen is more polite than hear, or not? please, Mr K, let me know.

Hello igor,

That's right -- 'I look forwarding to hearing from you' is a very common way of ending an email. Please notice that the word 'from' is important and that the verb after 'to' ends in '-ing'.

You can change the 'hearing from you' to 'listening to you', but it means something different and more specific. When we say 'hearing from you', it means we look forward to a response (written or spoken) from the person. If you said 'listening to you', it would mean you're going to have an opportunity to listen to the person, for example, they are going to sing a song in a concert or give a speech at a conference. As you can see, that is quite a different meaning!

You might want to read a little about the difference between 'hear' and 'listen'.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

You could say 'I look forward to listening to you'

Submitted by braveofthering on Mon, 20/11/2017 - 21:44

Hi, Jo and Adam in conversation, Adam say "And now let's look at some of the language that you heard in the podcast." Why is HEAR?

Hello braveofthering,

'Hearing' is the process of us becoming aware of a sound; if we are in a normal state of consciousness, we hear sounds. 'Listening' involves paying conscious attention to sounds. In this case, Adam isn't assuming that people have paid close attention to every single word in the podcast. If he had meant this, he could have said 'listened to' instead.

Does that make sense?

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Tomoaki Hachiya on Mon, 30/10/2017 - 12:35

Dear Matkes from Slovakia, Don't be too humble, your English is perfect (I'm afraid I'm not native English speaker, either... However, I'm a professional translator of English in both ways, English-Japanese and Japanese-English). Besides, you seem to be very poetic, starting your comment with "beautiful April day". I also love poems, let me see, it's October and in Japan, the leaves of trees are starting to change their colour into yellow and red. We Japanese like to go to a park or a mountain nearby to enjoy the beautiful autumnal trees with their beautifully tinged leaves! Enjoy studying English. P.S) I love the Carpenters (American pop singers) as well as the Beetles.

Submitted by Matkes_Slovakia on Sun, 09/04/2017 - 10:35

Beatiful April day everyone. I don´t listen to music in english as a way of learning. When I listen to music and there is a song that I like, sometimes I want to know lyrics. I will find a "karaoke" version of the song with translate into my mother tongue. My family members often catch me how to sing a song. What is a very fun. My favourite British band is Coldplay. I like the kind of musis that they make. Each member of the band is really well playing a music instrument. The best of all is Chris Martin. He is frontman of the band. He is charismatic, inspiring and full of energy. Everything in this band I like (albums, songs, style dress at last but not least concerts). My English is not at the level I would be able to understand the words of the song that are spoken quickly and incomprehensible. Can you check my grammar and give me feedback. Thank you :)