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BETTER SPEAKING

Better Speaking is all about how you can become a fluent, confident speaker of English. In the programmes we hear from learners of English from around the world and also from someone who specialises in teaching speaking, trainer Richard Hallows. Better Speaking is presented by Callum Robertson.

Episode 12
In this final episode of Better Speaking, Callum and Richard look back at the previous programmes and discuss some of the main ways you can improve your English speaking.

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PREVIOUS BETTER SPEAKING EPISODES

Episode 1
We hear several learners describe what they find difficult about speaking English, and Callum and Richard discuss the link between confidence and fluency.

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Episode 2
Callum and Richard hear a clip from Korean football manager Pak Han Suk, and discuss ways you can improve your fluency in English.

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Episode 3
Callum and Richard hear a clip from the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan. They also discuss different ways you can practise and improve your English pronunciation.

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Episode 4
Callum and Richard hear a clip from Greek businessman Stelios Haji-Ioannou and discuss different ways that you can organise what you say.

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Episode 5
Callum and Richard listen to a clip from an interview with the successful Icelandic singer, Björk. They discuss the best ways to learn English vocabulary, and some ways you can sound like a native English speaker.

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Episode 6
Callum and Richard listen to an interview with a former Wimbledon champion, Conchita Martinez. They discuss ways that you can hesitate in English and the very important 'er' sound in pronunciation.

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Episode 7
Besides being one of motor racing's greatest stars, Michael Schumacher is also a very good speaker of English. Callum and Richard discuss the importance of using contractions and also varying intonation while you speak.

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Episode 8
How does Iman Abdulmajid's life as a model conflict with her Muslim upbringing? Callum and Richard listen to a clip of Iman talking about this tension, and discuss ways that learners can increase their range of vocabulary.

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Episode 9
This week, Callum and Richard discuss how we can use phrases like I think and I feel to give our opinion. They also talk about natural ways of agreeing or disagreeing in a conversation.

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Episode 10
The pop band ABBA achieved global success with dozens of hits in the 1970s. But how successful were the band members at speaking English? Callum and Richard listen to an interview and discuss different ways that you can be vague in English.

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Episode 11
Steffi Graf is one of the most successful tennis players ever, but is she a successful speaker of English? Callum and Richard listen to an interview with the star and discuss how she manages to sequence what she says.

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ARCHIVE

Blue Arrow Talk About English discussion programmes

Nonsense Thursday, January 24th, 2008

Language from the programme

nonsense
In conversation, this refers to something silly or ridiculous. See the Word Facts below, for examples of its everyday usage.

The more technical definition of this word is 'something which has no meaning'. In the programme, Catherine quotes Noam Chomsky's famous example of a nonsense sentence:

Colourless green ideas sleep furiously

Importantly, nonsense sentences obey the grammar rules of English, unlike gibberish / gobbledygook.

slithy
This is a made-up word from Lewis Carroll's poem, Jabberwocky. You can read the poem on the main webcast page.

Word Facts - Nonsense

Download the Nonsense Word Facts mp3 (3.2 MB)

Download the Nonsense Word Facts pdf (45 K)

When we use the word nonsense in everyday conversation, it’s usually in quite a negative way – to show that we think something isn’t right. For example, if we disagreed with somebody, we might say:

I think that’s nonsense!

This is a very strong word. Another strong word, which the British use in the same way, is the word rubbish:

That’s rubbish!

We can use the verb to talk with these words.

Don’t talk rubbish!

These words are very strong and can be quite rude, but we can make them even stronger by using the adjectives total, complete and absolute.

I’m sick of hearing this! It’s total rubbish!

What he said at the time was absolute nonsense, as he admitted himself later.

I wouldn’t read that article. It’s complete nonsense, I think.

We can also say a load of nonsense.

I wouldn’t watch read that article. It’s a load of nonsense, I think.

If we want a formal word to describe something unreasonable, we can use the adjective nonsensical.

‘When you think about it carefully, it’s a nonsensical argument’.

So that’s talking nonsense or rubbish, absolute nonsense, total nonsense, complete nonsense, a load of nonsense and nonsensical.

There are two words that have a similar meaning to nonsense. They are gibberish and gobbledygook*. In the field of linguistics, a nonsense sentence like Colourless green ideas sleep furiously , follows grammatical rules but doesn’t have a meaning – but gibberish and gobbledygook don’t follow grammatical rules – they aren’t examples of language at all.

You were talking in your sleep last night, but I couldn’t understand what you were saying. It was just gibberish.

Something’s wrong with my phone. All I can hear is gobbledygook.

In conversational English, we can use gibberish and gobbledygook like we use nonsense.

Oh stop talking gibberish!

But more often, we use these words to describe something that is expressed very badly. This might be because it’s too technical or because it’s written in a poor style.

I can’t understand a word of this manual. It’s just gobbledygook!

We have another word which describes something that is difficult to understand because it’s poorly expressed. This is mumbo-jumbo.

Trust me, you won’t understand the contract. We’ll have to get a lawyer to translate all the legal mumbo-jumbo.

An adjective which describes something that is very clear and easy to understand is no-nonsense. We don’t use this word much in conversation, but you often see it in the titles of books.

I bought this book the other day, ‘The no-nonsense guide to downloading music’. It’s really interesting.

So that’s gibberish, gobbledygook, mumbo-jumbo and no-nonsense.

 

* Note these alternative spellings: gobbledygook, gobbledegook