Audio: Beating stress

(B1), B2, (C1)

The demands of modern-day life create a lot of stress, which has a very negative impact on our physical and mental health. In this activity from the British Council Learn English website, you will hear Emily, a native of Hong Kong, explain how she combats stress. Her advice to us centres around the acronym S-T-R-E-S-S!  Activity time: 25 to 45 minutes.

Task:  Go to the activity page and
1  Do the Preparation task to learn some key vocabulary used in the audio
2  Listen to the audio and check your comprehension in Task 1
3  Develop your vocabulary in Task 2. Listen again to the audio if necessary.

The activity is here.

Vocabulary: Phrasal verbs for travel

B1, B2, (C1)

English is full of phrasal verbs like check in, pick up etc. The best way to remember these verbs is to learn how to use them in specific situations. In this activity you will learn ten common phrasal verbs used in a travel context and then practise using them in an example conversation. Thanks to Blair English for the definitions and examples of the different verbs . Activity time: 15 to 30 minutes.


1  Go to this page and learn the meaning of the ten phrasal verbs. Note them down on a piece of paper.

2  Now practise the verbs in context. The exercise is here.

3  Can you use these verbs to describe your own travel plans or experiences? Write down some example sentences of your own.


Video: Why books are here to stay

(B1), B2, C1

When digital books, or e-books, first appeared on the market, it was predicted that the physical book would suffer from the competition and maybe disappear completely. And yet today many people still prefer to read real paperbacks or hardcover books. In this short video from TED, graphic designer Chip Kidd explains why physical books will continue to remain popular. After comparing your own ideas on the subject with the video, you will do some exercises to understand and practise different linking words and sentence structures. Video time: 3 minutes 10 seconds Activity time: 30 to 45 minutes. 

(The exercises that follow are also available on a pdf here.)

1 Make a list of reasons why physical books remain popular despite the competition from e-books. Then watch the video and compare your answers. (NB On the video screen you can activate or disable the subtitles as necessary)

2  Match 1-7 to a-h to make eight complete sentences from the video. Then watch again to check.

1  Don't do that unless
2  Actually, it can sort of
3  It wasn't until then
4  So people would take them off
It delivered a user interface that was unlike
6  I believe that the core purpose of a physical book is
7  You don't really get that
8  A shelf of books, frankly, is made to outlast you,

a  to record our existence and to leave it behind on a shelf…
b  and throw them away.
c  you never intend to see that book again.
d  from anything else.
e  no matter who you are.
f  anything that people had before.
g  that there was any kind of consumption of books by a large audience.
h  be your friend.

3  Look at the underlined words in phrases 1-8 in Exercise 2. What do the words refer to? e.g. Don’t do that unless… What is “that”?

4  Look how these words are used in Exercise 2. Then complete the following sentences with the same words.

unless   actually    sort of     until     unlike      frankly     no matter     anything

1  I don’t know if the book is available as an e-reader. And _______________ , I don’t care!
2  The book got very bad reviews, but I thought it was  _______________ very good. 
3  How would I describe the book?  Quite dark, _______________ scary, really.  
4  We won’t know what happens to the hero _______________ the last book of the trilogy comes out.
5  I wouldn’t recommend this paperback _______________ you enjoy cheap airport novels!
6  _______________ the critics, most of whom loved it, I thought the book was really badly written.
7  A friend said it made her cry, but there wasn’t _______________ in the book that moved me.
8  I always find half an hour to read every day, _______________ how busy I am.   

The answers are at the end of this activity.


Grammar: used to

B1, B2, (C1)

A lot of learners have difficulty distinguishing between the different forms and uses of the words used to. In this activity from the British Council Learn English website, you will learn about the differences. You will read a grammar summary and do two exercises to test your understanding. Activity time: 10 to 30 minutes.


The activity is here.
1  Do the first exercise to test your knowledge.
2  Understand your mistakes (if you have any!) by reading the grammar explanation that follows.
3  Do the second exercise to test your understanding.


Pronunciation: spoken short forms

(A2), B1, B2

"I dunno." "Whatcha doing?  "Lemme see". These are all examples of short forms we use in informalconversational English. In this activity from the BBC Learning English site, you will practise identifying and then pronouncing phrases like these in example sentences or dialogues. Activity time: 20 to 40 minutes.

I dunno

There are three audio activities to do. Note that for each one, you can click on "Show transcript" to see the text if necessary. Go to the activity here.

1 Listen to the audio for Activity 1 and read the vocabulary notes on the page.
2 Click on "Next Activity" to go to Activity 2.  Listen to the audio and note the short expressions you hear. Then do the quiz that follows: "Spot the short forms"
3 Click on "Next Activity" again  to go to Activity 3.  Just listen and repeat when the speaker asks you.

Video: How to be a good conversationalist

(B1), B2, C1

Radio host Celeste Headlee believes that many of us need lessons in how to engage in real conversation. In this talk from the TED website, she describes ten ways in which we can become better conversationalists. NB there are subtitles available for this talk - just click on  the video screen below to see the menu.  Video time:  11 minutes 40 seconds  Activity time: 30 minutes to 1 hour


1  Make a list of ways in which you think many people are NOT good conversationalists.

2  Read the advice below. Then watch the video that follows and put the different recommendations in the order Celeste Headlee mentions them. Which two ideas does she not recommend?

__ Listen with the intention of understanding, not of replying
__ Believe you have something to learn from each conversation

__ Don't bore people with unimportant details like dates and names
__ Don't talk about how your own experience is similar to the other person's
__ Ask a lot of questions with who, why, what, where etc
__ Don't dominate the conversation - keep your own contributions short
__ Don't be distracted by other thoughts or questions coming into your head
__ Don't try to be an expert on everything
 1  Look the person in the eye and smile
__ Don't repeat the same things again and again
__ Summarize what the other person has said

__ Don't try and do something else at the same time e.g. look at your phone

3  The answers to Exercise 2 are at the end of this activity. You can also see the complete transcript of the talk here. (also available in other languages including French)