6 Minute English
What makes a good story?
Episode 210121 / 21 Jan 2021
Telling stories is a powerful way to connect and communicate with people - they help us make sense of the world. Neil and Georgina talk about storytelling and why we’ve been telling them to each other for millennia.
This week's question
Which of the following well-known folk tales is a ‘defeating the monster’ story? Is it...
b) Beauty and the Beast?
c) Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Listen to the programme to find out the answer.
stories that parents have told and passed on to their children over many years
related to all people or things in the world
understand, connect to and express something such as people’s beliefs or attitudes
achievement of things you really want and desire
talk in a confused way, often going off the subject or not making much sense
get to the point
start talking about what is most important and relevant
Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript
Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil.
And I’m Georgina.
Let me tell you a story, Georgina. Are you ready?
Grandma had always warned me not to look into the mirror at midnight. There was something strange about that mirror, she said. How childish – to believe silly stories! Later that night I heard a noise. I woke up, dark and alone. A clock chimed midnight. The floorboards were creaking as I walked towards the mirror. I looked into my face reflecting in the glass, when suddenly - my eye winked!
Agh, stop Neil! You’re scaring me!
Oh sorry, Georgina! OK, let’s try another story: Once upon a time there was a beautiful servant girl who lived with her wicked stepmother and two jealous stepsisters…
Ah, that’s better, Neil, and I know this story – Cinderella – more romantic and much less scary!
As you can see from Georgina’s reaction, telling stories is a powerful way to connect and communicate with people - and the topic of this programme.
Stories help us make sense of the world, which is why we’ve been telling them to each other for millennia – and why some of the earliest folk tales – stories that parents have told and passed on to their children over many years – are still being told today.
According to the novelist Sandra Newman, and other academics, there are seven classic plotlines which are constantly being recycled into new stories. They include ‘rags to riches’ plots, like Cinderella…
‘Defeating the monster’ plots, like Dracula…
…and other plots such as ‘comedies’, ‘adventures’ and ‘tragedies’. So, my quiz question is this: which of the following well-known folk tales is a ‘defeating the monster’ story? Is it:
b) Beauty and the Beast? or,
c) Goldilocks and the Three Bears?
Well, they all have beasts, bears or wolves in the title, so I’ll guess b) Beauty and the Beast.
OK, Georgina, we’ll come back to that later. It’s interesting to ask how we can explain the lasting appeal of these classic plotlines. Someone who might know is anthropologist and writer, Professor Jamie Tarani.
Here he is talking to BBC World Service’s, The Why Factor. See if you can spot his answer.
Often the reason why we feel so motivated to pass on stories is because the stories do tap into certain universal human fantasies and fears that will often transcend the concerns of particular times and places. We are intensely moralistic – most of the time, the bad guys have unhappy endings and the good guys have happy endings. We know that in the real world it doesn’t actually work like that so there’s an element of wish-fulfillment that somehow satisfies our moral appetite.
Stories from very different cultures often have plots with similar fantasies and fears. These human emotions are universal, meaning they exist everywhere and relate to everyone in the world.
Classic stories work because they tap into basic human emotions – they understand and express what it means to be human.
Unlike in the real world, stories can reinforce our sense of morality - evil stepmothers get punished, Cinderella marries her prince and everyone lives happily ever after. In this way they create wish-fulfillment – the achievement of what we really want and desire.
Well, so much for plotlines, Neil, but that still doesn’t explain how stories have the power to catch and hold our attention.
Let’s hear from novelist Sandra Newman, author of How Not To Write a Novel – a handbook of over 200 common mistakes.
Here she tells BBC World Service’s, The Why Factor, that her absolute number one storytelling rule is comprehensibility – people need to understand your story.
There are some people who actually are so unfortunately bad at communicating that even when they tell a story to another person it becomes incomprehensible. And gradually as they stop making sense and ramble and digress and don’t know where they’re going, you see everybody not only lose interest but become hostile – people become very frustrated when someone is not getting to the point.
According to Sandra, the biggest mistake is incomprehensibility or not understanding the plot because the storyteller is rambling – talking in a confused way, going off the subject or not making sense.
When listeners give a story their time and attention, they want the storyteller to get to the point - start talking about the most important and relevant information.
But to cut a long story short, Georgina, it’s time to return to the quiz question. Remember I asked you which famous folk tale had a ‘defeating the monster’ plot. What did you say?
I said the answer was b) Beauty and the Beast. Was I right?
Your answer was…
Oh, do get to the point, Neil!
…wrong! In fact, the answer is, a) Beowulf - an Old English epic about the hero, Beowulf, who defeats dragons and beasts.
Well, Neil, there are two sides to every story, as the saying goes. So, let’s recap the vocabulary we’ve learned, starting with folk tales – popular stories that have been told and passed down over generations.
Many folk tales contain universal ideas – ideas which exist everywhere, in every age and culture. Stories tap into these ideas, meaning they understand, connect to and express them.
Wish-fulfillment means the achievement or realisation of things you really want and desire.
A good storyteller will never ramble - talk in a confused way, often going off the subject or not making much sense.
And instead will get to the point - start talking about what is most important and relevant.
That’s all we have time for, but remember to join us again soon for the inside story on trending English topics and vocabulary, here at 6 Minute English. Bye for now!
Latest 6 Minute English
Episode 220623 / 23 Jun 2022
In this episode, we discuss the events leading to the creation of the first atomic bomb.
Episode 220616 / 16 Jun 2022
What is life really like in the Pacific islands?
Episode 220609 / 31 May 2022
What is the relationship between translation, technology and the human brain?
Episode 220602 / 02 Jun 2022
We talk about a very British tradition
Episode 220526 / 26 May 2022
Living with synaesthesia
Episode 220519 / 19 May 2022
Is there north and south in space?
Episode 220512 / 12 May 2022
Hear how tech is helping people change their behaviour for the better
Episode 220505 / 05 May 2022
How do you mark your personal territory?
Episode 220428 / 28 Apr 2022
Deep convictions and a sense of humour - we talk about a man who helped end apartheid in South Africa.
Episode 220421 / 21 Apr 2022
We talk about an extreme environment which is stranger than fiction
Episode 220414 / 14 Apr 2022
We talk about an art that started with ancient Greek philosophers
Episode 220407 / 07 Apr 2022
It's not all about tea. Britons love coffee too!
Episode 220331 / 11 Mar 2022
Listen to a conversation about optimists and pessimists
Episode 220324 / 24 Mar 2022
Hear a chat about the queen of murder mystery, who had her books translated into over 100 languages
Episode 220317 / 17 Mar 2022
Is there life on Mars?
Episode 220310 / 10 Mar 2022
Shouldn't we take laughter more seriously?
Episode 220303 / 03 Mar 2022
Listen to what scientists are saying about the benefits of giving others a helping hand
Episode 220224 / 24 Feb 2022
Would you eat a cricket? How about a portion of nice crunchy ants?
Episode 220217 / 17 Feb 2022
Why not put your idle brain to good use?
Episode 220210 / 10 Feb 2022
We wonder what all that licking is really all about
Episode 220203 / 03 Feb 2022
Life in a place where people work, study longer hours and get less sleep than anywhere else
Episode 220127 / 27 Jan 2022
Artificial snow, coronavirus and controversy surround the Beijing Games starting soon.
Episode 220120 / 20 Jan 2022
Learn how microbes help digest food and have an impact in our bodies.
Episode 220113 / 13 Jan 2022
How do languages get invented?
Episode 220106 / 06 Jan 2022
What will future technology be like?
Episode 211230 / 30 Dec 2021
We talk about the defences plants might develop after facing periods of stress.
Episode 211223 / 23 Dec 2021
We talk about the maths formulas that are increasingly part of our lives
Episode 211216 / 16 Dec 2021
Diamonds and poo - could these be used to help prevent climate catastrophe?
Episode 211209 / 09 Dec 2021
How can we make video conferences feel more natural?
Episode 211202 / 02 Dec 2021
Hear about a project through which you can borrow a person to have a candid chat with
Episode 211125 / 25 Nov 2021
Questions about the safety of nuclear plants remain for many people.
Episode 211118 / 18 Nov 2021
Georgina and Rob talk about memorising things.
Episode 211111 / 11 Nov 2021
We talk about a famous video game character from the 80s.
Episode 211104 / 15 Oct 2021
Should athletes be sponsored by companies that produce unhealthy food?
Episode 211028 / 28 Oct 2021
We talk about the music of Wiley and Stormzy, inspired by derelict housing in London
Episode 211021 / 21 Oct 2021
We discuss what happens to the extra money you give at restaurants
Episode 211014 / 14 Oct 2021
Why is the German leader Angela Merkel called 'Mutti'?
Episode 211007 / 07 Oct 2021
Could AI be the answer in the fight against climate change?
Episode 210930 / 30 Sep 2021
Why don't people talk more about this aspect of women's lives?
Episode 210927 / 27 Sep 2021
Bitcoin: is it an investment option for ordinary people?
Episode 210923 / 23 Sep 2021
Hear about a woman's effort to keep her language alive
Episode 210920 / 20 Sep 2021
What are non-fungible tokens?
Episode 210916 / 16 Sep 2021
Could robots be artists?
Episode 210909 / 13 Sep 2021
Learn more about these furry flying mammals
Episode 210909 / 09 Sep 2021
Some extreme weather events are puzzling scientists
Episode 210906 / 06 Sep 2021
Can spending hours online affect the new generation's mental health?
Episode 210902 / 02 Sep 2021
They make coalitions and have a desire for power. Are they like us?
Episode 210826 / 26 Aug 2021
What's behind counting people in a country?
Episode 210823 / 23 Aug 2021
How much maths do you need to know to get by?
Episode 210819 / 19 Aug 2021
We discuss if AI could replace human doctors and nurses
Episode 210816 / 16 Aug 2021
How actors are made to feel more comfortable in intimate scenes
Episode 210812 / 12 Aug 2021
We discuss the long-term effects on players who make a career taking heavy tackles
Episode 210809 / 09 Aug 2021
What goes in the mind of the richest person in the world?
Episode 210805 / 05 Aug 2021
How a fun activity was discouraged by religion and in the name of school discipline
Episode 210802 / 02 Aug 2021
Companies are considering using carbon labelling the same way as they use nutrition information
Episode 210729 / 29 Jul 2021
Learn the language of going to the toilet
Episode 210726 / 26 Jul 2021
How the Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins felt in 1969 about not walking on the Moon.
Episode 210722 / 22 Jul 2021
A toast to the vocabulary you'll learn here!
Episode 210719 / 19 Jul 2021
Which colour makes you happy?
Episode 210715 / 15 Jul 2021
Is there a stigma attached to not wanting to work the 9-to-5 shift?
Episode 210708 / 08 Jul 2021
Can anyone be hypnotised?
Episode 210701 / 01 Jul 2021
We talk about a breeding programme with the last individuals of the species.
Episode 210624 / 24 Jun 2021
Shouldn't we stop throwing things away and start fixing them?
Episode 210617 / 17 Jun 2021
Do you 'read' people easily?
Episode 210610 / 10 Jun 2021
Does carving scary faces into pumpkins really frighten away evil spirits?
Episode 210603 / 03 Jun 2021
We talk about the famous piece of rock that was key to translating the writing system created in ancient Egypt.
Episode 210527 / 27 May 2021
Covid-19: Are we tired of feeling sorry for others?
Episode 210520 / 20 May 2021
Why do people decide to be alone for long periods of time?
Episode 210513 / 17 Mar 2021
Learn about self-cloning animals
Episode 210506 / 06 May 2021
Sirens, mermaids, mami wata... we talk about different representations of these intriguing water creatures.
Episode 210429 / 29 Apr 2021
Hear about whether noise is bad for our health
Episode 210422 / 11 Mar 2021
Can the two biggest polluters work together?
Episode 210415 / 15 Apr 2021
Hear about why being naked in nature might be good for you
Episode 210408 / 08 Apr 2021
Learn why this tasty snack became popular with the Industrial Revolution
Episode 210401 / 01 Apr 2021
Where did today's English language really come from?
Episode 210325 / 25 Mar 2021
Hear all about the Skylab astronauts’ disagreement with mission control
Episode 210318 / 18 Mar 2021
Hear about digital technology which helps blind people improve their lives
Episode 210311 / 11 Mar 2021
Hear about what small things you can do to feel happier about life
Episode 210304 / 04 Mar 2021
Hear about how to create a happy place
Episode 210225 / 25 Feb 2021
Hear about Covid-19 and how our knowledge has changed
Episode 210218 / 18 Feb 2021
Hear about singing and why it’s good to do it
Episode 210211 / 11 Feb 2021
Hear about why some people are choosing to freelance
Episode 210128 / 28 Jan 2021
Hear about a woman whose cells never die
Episode 210121 / 21 Jan 2021
Hear about storytelling and how it helps us to connect and communicate
Episode 210114 / 14 Jan 2021
Is learning languages good for head, heart and soul?
Episode 210107 / 07 Jan 2021
Hear about comfort food and why we eat it
Episode 201231 / 31 Dec 2020
Hear about why fat-shaming is on the rise
Episode 201224 / 24 Dec 2020
Hear about coronavirus and how it isn’t that bad compared to historical pandemics
Episode 201217 / 17 Dec 2020
Hear about how trees can communicate with each other
Episode 201210 / 10 Dec 2020
Could jellyfish could reduce plastic pollution?
Episode 201203 / 03 Dec 2020
Hear how texting has become more popular than talking
Episode 201126 / 26 Nov 2020
Hear about how loneliness can affect everyone
Episode 201119 / 19 Nov 2020
Hear about different people's attitude to being on time
Episode 201112 / 12 Nov 2020
Hear about online fraud and how it is becoming more common
Episode 201105 / 05 Nov 2020
Scientists worry about this year's global heating and melting polar ice
Episode 201029 / 29 Oct 2020
About 40 years ago, portable music players became a craze with the launch of the Sony Walkman.
Episode 201022 / 22 Oct 2020
Hear about projects to create liveable underwater habitats
Episode 201015 / 15 Oct 2020
Volunteer hackers are invited to prevent election cyber-attacks
Episode 201008 / 08 Oct 2020
Hear the iconic environmentalist Jane Goodall talk about the deep connections between humans and the great apes
Episode 201001 / 01 Oct 2020
Learn about Web Science, a new academic subject about the internet
Episode 200924 / 24 Sep 2020
What will the jobs market look like after the coronavirus pandemic ends?
Episode 200917 / 17 Sep 2020
Local project trains grandmothers to help Zimbabweans mental health
Episode 200910 / 10 Sep 2020
The number of bees is declining at an alarming rate, with serious consequences for humans.
Episode 200903 / 03 Sep 2020
Conspiracy theories: Don't be fooled!
Episode 200827 / 27 Aug 2020
What does your blood type say about you?
Episode 200820 / 20 Aug 2020
The future of cities after the Covid-19 crisis
Episode 200813 / 13 Aug 2020
What is trust? And who should we place our trust in?
Episode 200806 / 06 Aug 2020
Can companies operate better without managers?
Episode 200730 / 17 Jul 2020
Neil and Georgina talk about the origins of Covid-19 and teach you related vocabulary.
Episode 200723 / 23 Jul 2020
Could plant growth studies in the ISS help feed people on Earth in the future?
Episode 200716 / 16 Jul 2020
Surf in South Africa, skateboarding in Afghanistan – are making poor children more assertive.
Episode 200709 / 09 Jul 2020
Lots of companies are rushing to install technology to make offices and workplaces safer.
Episode 200702 / 02 Jul 2020
Is wearing a face mask necessary?
Episode 200625 / 25 Jun 2020
Why are millennials so attracted to starting their own businesses?
Episode 200618 / 18 Jun 2020
We talk about being a saver in a consumer culture and discuss the meaning of 'thrift' through history.
Episode 200611 / 11 Jun 2020
New apps are transforming the way people order food from home
Episode 200604 / 04 Jun 2020
Listen to civil rights activist, Tarana Burke, who coined the phrase
Episode 200528 / 28 May 2020
Is recycling a guilt-free way of encouraging us to use more plastic?
Episode 200521 / 21 May 2020
How can books help us relax and feel more alive during troubled times?
Episode 200514 / 14 May 2020
How do electric systems differ across the world?
Episode 200507 / 07 May 2020
Episode 200430 / 30 Apr 2020
Episode 200423 / 23 Apr 2020
Does crying make you feel better?
Episode 200416 / 16 Apr 2020
Bucket list dilemma
Episode 200409 / 09 Apr 2020
Where does a pasty come from?
Episode 200402 / 02 Apr 2020
Music with a smaller carbon footprint
Episode 200326 / 26 Mar 2020
How smart is artificial intelligence?
Episode 200319 / 19 Mar 2020
Free your mind
Episode 200312 / 12 Mar 2020
How long will we survive for?
Episode 200305 / 05 Mar 2020
Who's responsible for recycling?
Episode 200227 / 27 Feb 2020
Pond scum - the new superfood which could benefit your health and the planet
Episode 200220 / 20 Feb 2020
Cheap production of clothes is being blamed for contributing to global warming.
Episode 200213 / 13 Feb 2020
Are we born with the ability to cope well with difficult situations? Can we learn it?
Episode 200206 / 06 Feb 2020
Can a battle of ideas be a constructive exercise?
Episode 200130 / 30 Jan 2020
What are low emission zones and why are more cities adopting these cleaner-air initiatives? Clean up your English by listening to this discussion
Episode 200123 / 23 Jan 2020
What's inspiring women to get involved in politics?
Episode 200116 / 10 Jan 2020
Giving up beer, wine and spirits is a challenge many people include in their New Year's resolutions.
Episode 200109 / 09 Jan 2020
Episode 200102 / 02 Jan 2020
Why is yawning contagious?
Episode 191226 / 26 Dec 2019
What's the carbon footprint of your Christmas tree?
Episode 191219 / 19 Dec 2019
Can ecotherapy heal our urban woes?
Episode 191212 / 12 Dec 2019
Anxious about talking to people you don't know? Listen to what a social psychologist has to say about it.
Episode 191205 / 05 Dec 2019
Does delaying university to travel help you get a job in the future?
Episode 191128 / 28 Nov 2019
Diving without air
Episode 191121 / 21 Nov 2019
Robots with a heart?
Episode 191114 / 14 Nov 2019
How small changes can make a big difference to people with mental health issues at work.
Episode 191107 / 01 Nov 2019
What goes on in the brain and the body when we listen to Adele?
Episode 191031 / 31 Oct 2019
Do we only learn language from our mother?
Episode 191024 / 24 Oct 2019
Are you prepared to be the canvas for a painting that might last forever?
Episode 191017 / 17 Oct 2019
Internships: exploitation or valuable work experience?
Episode 191010 / 10 Oct 2019
How lying helps society
Episode 191003 / 30 Sep 2019
Consumers are less keen to keep quiet when they are not happy with the service.
Episode 190926 / 26 Sep 2019
Learn about alphabet disadvantage!
Episode 190919 / 19 Sep 2019
Something to smile about
Episode 190912 / 12 Sep 2019
Everyone loves a holiday, but what damage can tourists do? Sam and Rob find out.
Episode 190905 / 05 Sep 2019
How are we going to feed ourselves?
Episode 190829 / 29 Aug 2019
Being more environmentally friendly
Episode 190822 / 22 Aug 2019
Age and political views
Episode 190815 / 15 Aug 2019
Libra, Bitcoin... would you invest in digital money?
Episode 190808 / 08 Aug 2019
How much should you tip?
Episode 190801 / 01 Aug 2019
Does recycling coffee cups make a difference?
Episode 190725 / 25 Jul 2019
Falling for fraud
Episode 190718 / 18 Jul 2019
Why is 'shame' the emotion of now?
Episode 190711 / 11 Jul 2019
Are you planning for a comfortable retirement?
Episode 190704 / 04 Jul 2019
FIFA Women's World Cup 2019
Episode 190627 / 27 Jun 2019
Game on for eSports!
Episode 190620 / 20 Jun 2019
Does fast, loud, aggressive, guitar-based music inspire violence or happiness?
Episode 190613 / 13 Jun 2019
Is talking on the telephone embarrassing?
Episode 190606 / 06 Jun 2019
Why do we associate motorcycles with men?
Episode 190530 / 30 May 2019
Shopping online in the middle of the night is becoming popular but, is it always a good idea?
Episode 190523 / 23 May 2019
Is there anything more frustrating?
Episode 190516 / 16 May 2019
Studies have shown that about 40% of the variation in a person's weight is influenced by genes.
Episode 190509 / 09 May 2019
Do smart speakers make life easier or spy on you?
Episode 190502 / 02 May 2019
Has anxiety been good for humans?
Episode 190425 / 25 Apr 2019
Everyone's wearing them!
Episode 190418 / 18 Apr 2019
Neil and Rob talk about the animal symbol of Easter in literature and in the real world.
Episode 190411 / 11 Apr 2019
Is it time you decluttered?
Episode 190404 / 04 Apr 2019
Do you know that cringey feeling?
Episode 190328 / 28 Mar 2019
Do you have a second job?
Episode 190321 / 21 Mar 2019
Be careful where you look!
Episode 190314 / 14 Mar 2019
Episode 190307 / 07 Mar 2019
How much do you enjoy doing housework and paying bills?
Episode 190228 / 28 Feb 2019
Why are these magical creatures back in fashion?
Episode 190221 / 21 Feb 2019
Are you allergic to anything?
Episode 190214 / 14 Feb 2019
How effective are dating apps when you're looking for a romantic partner?
Episode 190207 / 07 Feb 2019
What's so special about these uncomfortable shoes?
Episode 190131 / 31 Jan 2019
How good is your memory?
Episode 190124 / 24 Jan 2019
What makes you happy?
Episode 190117 / 17 Jan 2019
New technology might be putting an end to instrumental introductions to pop songs
Episode 190110 / 10 Jan 2019
What's the positive side of feeling good when bad things happen to people you envy?
Episode 190103 / 03 Jan 2019
Would you all but give up eating meat to save the environment?
Episode 181227 / 27 Dec 2018
The former US First Lady and her mission to inspire women
Episode 181220 / 20 Dec 2018
Are you a button presser?
Episode 181213 / 13 Dec 2018
Inside a teenager's head
Episode 181206 / 06 Dec 2018
What does 'x' really mean?
Episode 181129 / 29 Nov 2018
Making good-looking food
Episode 181122 / 22 Nov 2018
How important is the smell of coffee?
Episode 181115 / 09 Nov 2018
What can chickens teach us about organisation?
Episode 181108 / 08 Nov 2018
Can people feel lonely in a crowded place?
Episode 181101 / 01 Nov 2018
Neil and Sam discuss objectification. What is it and is there really a 'perfect body'?
Episode 181025 / 25 Oct 2018
Rob and Neil discuss the must-have skill of the future
Episode 181018 / 18 Oct 2018
Paying a lot to look a mess!
Episode 181011 / 11 Oct 2018
Could we live without plastic? We discuss the issues and the progress that's being made.
Episode 181004 / 04 Oct 2018
Have you grown up with social media?
Episode 180927 / 27 Sep 2018
A bright new fashion trend
Episode 180920 / 20 Sep 2018
The word snowflake has taken on a new meaning. We discuss this new term without causing offence!
Episode 180913 / 13 Sep 2018
What does our brain tell us to do when faced with a dating app?
Episode 180906 / 06 Sep 2018
Do you lead a sedentary lifestyle? Learn what made people more active in Finland.
Episode 180830 / 30 Aug 2018
Why is street food becoming more popular in the UK?
Episode 180823 / 10 Aug 2018
Do people still buy cameras when everybody is keen on selfies?
Episode 180816 / 16 Aug 2018
Why do men want to be fathers?
Episode 180809 / 09 Aug 2018
Does being taller mean you earn more at work?
Episode 180802 / 02 Aug 2018
Learn more about this fascinating animal
Episode 180726 / 26 Jul 2018
Why are countryside walks no longer so popular?
Episode 180719 / 19 Jul 2018
Why technology doesn't always know best
Episode 180712 / 12 Jul 2018
Episode 180705 / 05 Jul 2018
Surf and turf shopping
Episode 180628 / 28 Jun 2018
A healthy heart
Episode 180621 / 21 Jun 2018
The Fortnite phenomenon
Episode 180614 / 14 Jun 2018
Are you a football fan?
Episode 180607 / 07 Jun 2018
Our new virtual assistants
Episode 180531 / 31 May 2018
Episode 180524 / 24 May 2018
Episode 180517 / 17 May 2018
Why are football fans so quiet nowdays?
Episode 180510 / 10 May 2018
hungry + angry = hangry
Episode 180503 / 03 May 2018
What does your smell say about you?
Episode 180426 / 26 Apr 2018
Is the internet a positive thing?
Episode 180419 / 19 Apr 2018
Is it good to lie?
Episode 180412 / 12 Apr 2018
How much do you know about the food you eat?
Episode 180405 / 05 Apr 2018
Episode 180329 / 29 Mar 2018
A bag for a man
Episode 180322 / 22 Mar 2018
Episode 180315 / 15 Mar 2018
Words to learn
Episode 180308 / 08 Mar 2018
Would you tell a robot your deepest secrets?
Episode 180301 / 01 Mar 2018
The history of the humble ‘hello’
Episode 180222 / 22 Feb 2018
A new approach to swimming
Episode 180215 / 15 Feb 2018
Are drones taking off?
Episode 180208 / 08 Feb 2018
Episode 180201 / 01 Feb 2018
A new wedding trend?
Episode 180125 / 25 Jan 2018
Are robots and artificial intelligence taking over from humans? Dan and Neil discuss the rise of the machines
Episode 180118 / 18 Jan 2018
Are you trying to give up drinking this month? Catherine and Rob discuss abstaining and the benefits of a dry January
Episode 180111 / 11 Jan 2018
Would you pay more for coffee if you knew it was doing some good? Dan and Catherine discuss the pros and cons of ethically produced coffee.
Episode 180104 / 04 Jan 2018
Bitcoin is here and it's generating interest. Is that a good or bad thing? Dan and Neil discuss the pros and cons of this digital currency.
Episode 171228 / 28 Dec 2017
Can science prove the existence of 'man flu' or are men just big babies? Dan and Neil discuss all this and give you six useful items of vocabulary.
Episode 171221 / 21 Dec 2017
A popular job at this time of year is playing the part of Santa. But what does it take to be the perfect Father Christmas? Neil and Dan discuss whether it's a role that would suit Dan.
Episode 171214 / 14 Dec 2017
The number of schoolchildren doing part-time jobs in the UK has fallen. Is that a good thing? Neil and Dan discuss the pros and cons of working while you're still at school.
Episode 171207 / 07 Dec 2017
Have you ever bought something when you're sad and then regretted it later?
Episode 171130 / 30 Nov 2017
How old is your smartphone?
Episode 171123 / 23 Nov 2017
More people are going to the gym to get fitter but why?
Episode 171116 / 16 Nov 2017
Does a cafe's free wi-fi encourage you to go in and buy a coffee?
Episode 171102 / 02 Nov 2017
There’s a fresh interest in keeping cars out of cities. Is it a good idea?
Episode 171026 / 26 Oct 2017
Are you aware of how much of the sweet stuff you eat?
Episode 171019 / 19 Oct 2017
When you have to be polite and courteous ... even when you swim!
Episode 171012 / 12 Oct 2017
Can you tell the difference between the taste of bottled water and tap water?
Episode 171005 / 05 Oct 2017
Neil and Rob talk about vigorous exercise – and whether adults take enough of it!
Episode 170928 / 28 Sep 2017
Are you afraid of machines that copy human intelligent behaviour?
Episode 170921 / 21 Sep 2017
Did you know that when the entire body is aging hair can grow stronger?
Episode 170914 / 14 Sep 2017
Tim and Neil talk about interactions that can be misunderstood by people of different backgrounds
Episode 170907 / 07 Sep 2017
A policeman, a pilot, a chef - what's our fascination with uniforms?
Episode 170831 / 31 Aug 2017
Tim and Neil laugh their head off as they teach you useful vocabulary
Episode 170824 / 24 Aug 2017
Rob and Neil are in a hurry to discuss our concept of time and teach you new words
Episode 170817 / 17 Aug 2017
Rob and Neil discuss what makes people want to share a video
Episode 170810 / 10 Aug 2017
Have you ever thought about what sort of funeral you would like to have?
Episode 170803 / 03 Aug 2017
The treatments that help people stay mentally healthy
Episode 170727 / 27 Jul 2017
Have you ever cheated an honesty box? Is honesty really the best policy?
Episode 170720 / 20 Jul 2017
Do you not want to be seen?
Episode 170713 / 13 Jul 2017
How do lost cats and dogs find their way home?
Episode 170706 / 06 Jul 2017
Want to improve your life?
Episode 170629 / 29 Jun 2017
Can we trust our first impressions?
Episode 170622 / 22 Jun 2017
Why do we throw away so much technology?
Episode 170615 / 15 Jun 2017
Relax, slow down and breathe. Neil and Catherine explore mindfulness - what it is and what benefits it offers
Episode 170608 / 08 Jun 2017
Is happiness in the DNA?
Episode 170601 / 01 Jun 2017
A new way to rest in peace
Episode 170525 / 25 May 2017
Could you give up meat and animal products?
Episode 170518 / 18 May 2017
Do people now have shorter attention spans than goldfish?
Episode 170511 / 11 May 2017
Food waste is a major problem
Episode 170504 / 04 May 2017
The rich are getting richer
Episode 170427 / 27 Apr 2017
How did a man fall from a 47 storey skyscraper and survive?
Episode 170420 / 20 Apr 2017
Why do we sigh?
Episode 170413 / 13 Apr 2017
What's behind the trend for having more than one career?
Episode 170406 / 06 Apr 2017
How does your food affect your mood?
Episode 170330 / 30 Mar 2017
Can dogs be used to detect cancer?
Episode 170323 / 23 Mar 2017
Are you an emoji person? We explore how simple smiley faces have become powerful communication tools.
Episode 170316 / 16 Mar 2017
What do you eat for lunch? Sandwiches are the most popular lunchtime meal in the UK, but why?
Episode 170309 / 09 Mar 2017
Are mermaids real?
Episode 170302 / 02 Mar 2017
Can humanity really breach the 90 year limit?
Episode 170223 / 23 Feb 2017
Gun control with no guns? How is that possible? Join Dan and Neil to find out.
Episode 170216 / 16 Feb 2017
Neil and Dan discuss romanticism
Episode 170209 / 09 Feb 2017
Catherine and Neil discuss why the police and the legal system are concerned about eyewitness testimony
Episode 170202 / 02 Feb 2017
Catherine and Neil discuss how the pressures of modern living are making us hostile to each other
Episode 170126 / 26 Jan 2017
Why are so many people obsessed with learning about their family history? Neil and Catherine talk about genealogy
Episode 170119 / 19 Jan 2017
The increased study of extremophile microbes has revealed a lot about what is and is not needed to sustain life on Earth
Episode 170112 / 12 Jan 2017
Why are we so fascinated with the superheroes that populate our cinema screens and comic books?
Episode 170105 / 05 Jan 2017
Alice and Neil discuss whether we would miss driving as driverless cars are tested in cities around the world
Episode 161229 / 29 Dec 2016
What’s your personality type? If you are an introvert you’re in good company; Barack Obama, JK Rowling are introverts...
Episode 161222 / 22 Dec 2016
Why is it that some games, hobbies and activities become crazes while others don’t? Alice and Neil talk about their preferences
Episode 161215 / 15 Dec 2016
Alice and Neil discuss circadian rhythms – the so-called body clock that influences an organism's daily cycle of changes
Episode 161208 / 08 Dec 2016
Sophie and Neil discuss why the last pharaoh of Egypt still fascinates people today
Episode 161201 / 01 Dec 2016
Why do we fear animals that pose no threat to us? Sophie and Neil discuss the reason why fear of spiders is so common
Episode 161124 / 24 Nov 2016
Neil and Alice talk about the defiant women who fought for their right to choose their representatives
Episode 161117 / 17 Nov 2016
Call them what you want – trainers, sneakers, tennis shoes – but why does everybody love them so much?
Episode 161110 / 10 Nov 2016
Sophie and Neil discuss the bike's mass appeal, from helping to widen the gene pool to blazing a trail for the women’s movement
Episode 161103 / 03 Nov 2016
Sophie and Neil discuss social networks and why we often use different identities for different social media
Episode 161027 / 27 Oct 2016
Free, digital news is threatening traditional newspapers. Sophie and Neil discuss the pros and cons of news in print
Episode 161020 / 20 Oct 2016
Why are we attracted to some people and not to others? Sophie and Neil discuss love at first sight
Episode 161013 / 13 Oct 2016
What is loneliness and why do we feel it? Sophie and Neil discuss how feeling lonely can help us to survive
Episode 161006 / 06 Oct 2016
How do you see yourself and how do others see you? Alice and Neil discuss identity and how appearances can be deceptive
Episode 160929 / 29 Sep 2016
Why is punctuation important? Neil and Alice discuss rhetoric, commas and full stops.
Episode 160922 / 22 Sep 2016
Alice and Neil discuss penicillin, the so-called wonder drug discovered in 1928 by Alexander Fleming
Episode 160915 / 15 Sep 2016
What might the world look like if temperatures keep rising? Neil and Alice discuss the need to adapt to the changes ahead
Episode 160908 / 08 Sep 2016
Did you ever own a Walkman or a record player? Alice and Neil discuss old tech and why the US Pentagon still uses floppy disks
Episode 160901 / 01 Sep 2016
Neil and Alice discuss the differences between slang, jargon, and swearing, while teaching you some Cockney Rhyming Slang
Episode 160825 / 25 Aug 2016
Do women clean the house more often than men? Alice and Neil discuss the topic and teach you a tidy amount of vocabulary
Episode 160818 / 18 Aug 2016
Is food labelling clear enough to help us make healthy choices? Alice and Neil discuss chocolate chip muffins along with some other tasty vocabulary
Episode 160811 / 11 Aug 2016
Who were the Muses and how did they help the creative process? Neil and Alice discuss how to be more creative
Episode 160804 / 04 Aug 2016
Will we still be speaking in an English we recognise in a thousand years' time? Alice and Neil make some educated guesses!
Episode 160728 / 28 Jul 2016
Neil and Alice discuss the threat to The Great Barrier Reef, the Grand Canyon, and the Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru
Episode 160721 / 21 Jul 2016
Why do some weeks just fly by but sometimes minutes can seem like hours? Neil and Alice discuss our perception of time
Episode 160714 / 14 Jul 2016
What will the cities of the future look like, and will we enjoy living in them? Alice and Neil discuss Neil's attempt at town planning
Episode 160707 / 07 Jul 2016
Why is the disease diabetes on the rise? Alice and Neil talk about the role that diet has to play in this global health problem
Episode 160630 / 30 Jun 2016
Why do we procrastinate? Rob and Alice discuss why it can be difficult to get on with tasks
Episode 160623 / 23 Jun 2016
Why do we like to impersonate people? Neil tries out his best impression of Elvis while teaching you some related vocabulary
Episode 160616 / 16 Jun 2016
Alice and Rob consider which study techniques are good and which aren't. Does sleeping with a book under your pillow help?
Episode 160609 / 09 Jun 2016
Young entrepreneurs are appearing everywhere. Alice and Rob discuss whether grey hair is best
Episode 160602 / 02 Jun 2016
Why do people often say one thing and do another? Alice and Rob ask how far hypocrisy is actually part of who we are
Episode 160526 / 26 May 2016
Do you have what it takes to go to space? Alice and Rob discuss the challenges of a job thousands of people are keen on
Episode 160519 / 19 May 2016
Do you believe men walked on the Moon? Alice and Rob discuss why some people are suspicious about everything
Episode 160512 / 12 May 2016
You've decluttered and tidied but could you live life free of stuff? Alice and Rob discuss why we give objects emotional value
Episode 160505 / 05 May 2016
Are you a teetotaler or a drinker? Rob and Alice discuss what risk to your health regular drinking may have
Episode 160428 / 28 Apr 2016
What does it take to impress the ladies in the 21st century? Neil and Alice discuss knights in shining armour
Episode 160421 / 21 Apr 2016
Is retirement the end of everything or just a door for new opportunities? Alice and Rob talk about aging
Episode 160414 / 14 Apr 2016
Do you always agree with what most people in your group say? Neil and Sophie discuss staff meetings.
Episode 160407 / 07 Apr 2016
Neil and Sophie discuss the health benefits of being able to speak two languages fluently. And Neil... speaks Japanese!
Episode 160331 / 31 Mar 2016
How often do you check your phone? Neil and Sophie discuss how social media is changing the way we interact.
Episode 160324 / 24 Mar 2016
Sophie and Neil discover that soil has some surprising qualities and discuss how growing food can be therapeutic too
Episode 160317 / 17 Mar 2016
Sophie and Neil talk about traditional fairy tales for the adult market and teach you some magical vocabulary
Episode 160310 / 10 Mar 2016
Neil and Sophie discuss the growing industry of team building – from zombie bootcamps to horse training for executives.
Episode 160303 / 03 Mar 2016
Neil and Sophie discuss Mars, the fourth rock from the Sun
Episode 160225 / 25 Feb 2016
Neil and Sophie talk about gene editing, designer babies and how many errors Neil might have in his genetic code.
Episode 160218 / 18 Feb 2016
How generous are you? Neil and Sophie discuss Mark Zuckerberg and what it takes to be a modern-day philanthropist.
Episode 160211 / 11 Feb 2016
Are the days of paying by cash for a latte or a newspaper nearly gone? Alice and Neil discuss Neil's fondness for loose change...
Episode 160204 / 04 Feb 2016
Tea comes in different forms – milky, sweet or spicy. Alice and Neil discuss how this Asian leaf conquered the world.
Episode 160128 / 28 Jan 2016
Train, car, bicycle ... Hundreds of millions of us make the same journey day in day out. Take a hike with Alice and Neil and learn new vocabulary.
Episode 160121 / 21 Jan 2016
Are food allergies on the increase and if so, why? Neil and Alice talk about the growing fear of food and teach new words.
Episode 160114 / 14 Jan 2016
Are artificial lights and late night TV ruining our sleep? Neil and Alice discuss the issue and teach you related vocabulary.
Episode 160107 / 07 Jan 2016
What does it take to be a good interviewer? Neil and Alice discuss TV chat show hosts and teach you some related vocabulary.
Episode 151231 / 31 Dec 2015
How much does appearance really matter? Neil and Alice discuss fitness and New Year's resolutions
Episode 151224 / 24 Dec 2015
Some families struggle to buy even food and can’t afford presents. Neil and Alice discuss how some charities are helping those in need.
Episode 151217 / 17 Dec 2015
Alice and Finn talk about the passion some people have for danger and the unseen threats we face every day
Episode 151210 / 10 Dec 2015
Alice and Neil discuss the psychological pressures of going to university. They also teach some related vocabulary.
Episode 151203 / 03 Dec 2015
Neil and Alice discuss the long-lasting appeal of this man with a bow and how he has changed over the centuries
Episode 151126 / 26 Nov 2015
Do you know how much your partner earns? Is he or she in debt? Would this make you love them less?
Episode 151119 / 19 Nov 2015
The BBC broadcasts a season of programmes discussing women's issues around the world
Episode 151112 / 12 Nov 2015
Are you good at telling jokes? What makes a good comedian?
Episode 151105 / 05 Nov 2015
Should we all pay for supermarket plastic bags? Neil and Alice take a look at the environmental impact of plastic and teach you some related words.
Episode 151029 / 29 Oct 2015
Should the difficult language of Shakespeare be 'translated' into plain English?
Episode 151022 / 22 Oct 2015
The bicycle is the most popular form of two-wheeled transport in the world, but could we all soon be using hoverboards? Listen to Neil and Finn's conversation and learn some new words.
Episode 151015 / 15 Oct 2015
If you are sitting at a desk or answering the phone, stop for a moment and ask: could a robot or machine do this job better? Neil and Finn discuss the future of our jobs.
Episode 151008 / 08 Oct 2015
Neil and Alice discuss what kind of book people like to be seen reading. Do you like to impress people with a classic book in your hands?
Episode 151001 / 01 Oct 2015
Does being born in the summer reduce your chance of going to university?
Episode 150924 / 24 Sep 2015
Take a trip with Rob and Alice to find out about the Earth’s core. They’ll discuss how hot it is – and whether there are any dinosaurs living there!
Episode 150917 / 17 Sep 2015
Do you dress formally or casually? Do you choose trendy items or old comfortable ones? Rob and Will talk about the meaning of clothes.
Episode 150910 / 10 Sep 2015
It's been described as the world's largest and most democratic classical music festival. Neil and Finn guide you through the BBC Proms
Episode 150903 / 03 Sep 2015
What an awful sound - cracking your knuckles! Listen in to Rob and Neil to find out if it's a useful skill or just an annoying habit
Episode 150827 / 27 Aug 2015
Was Charles Darwin the only man with ideas about evolution? Rob and Neil talk about someone else who discovered it first.
Episode 150820 / 20 Aug 2015
What are the modern day dilemmas in using a lift? Rob and Neil discuss the awkwardness and irritation of being in one
Episode 150813 / 13 Aug 2015
Should young people be made to vote in elections or should we choose? We discuss the ideas behind compulsory voting
Episode 150806 / 08 Aug 2015
What do we need our chins for? Rob and Neil discuss how we got them and what our chins say about us
Episode 150730 / 30 Jul 2015
Why do gibbons sing duets and what has this got to do with the evolution of the human language?
Episode 150723 / 23 Jul 2015
Skinny models: What does the law say about walking the catwalk?
Episode 150716 / 16 Jul 2015
The dangers of computer games. How good are they for our health?
Episode 150709 / 09 Jul 2015
It's amazing! What part of our body have scientists discovered can heal and help us?
Episode 150702 / 02 Jul 2015
Do you chew gum and what do you do with it when you've finished? Listen to Rob and Finn discussing the history and chemical properties of gum and why it's messing up our streets whilst explaining some related vocabulary
Episode 150625 / 25 Jun 2015
Food banks provide food to people in the UK who can't afford to buy their own. Rob and Finn discuss this how they work and how they help many of the country's poorest
Episode 150618 / 18 Jun 2015
Listen to Neil and Rob discussing mood swings, risk taking, and why people make fun of teenagers, while they also explore some related vocabulary.
Episode 150611 / 11 Jun 2015
How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge
Episode 150604 / 04 Jun 2015
What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.
Episode 150528 / 28 May 2015
Big bushy beards have become so fashionable that there's now an art exhibition dedicated to them
Episode 150521 / 21 May 2015
A London apartment block has front and back entrances for private and social housing - or so-called rich and poor doors. Does it make sense to you? Listen to a discussion whilst learning some housing-related vocabulary
Episode 150514 / 14 May 2015
Fifty years ago, on 18 March 1965, Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk. Listen to Rob and Neil describing the struggles of that ground-breaking space mission whilst explaining some related vocabulary.
Episode 150507 / 07 May 2015
Furniture with built-in wireless charging technology - like a coffee table is now being sold. 'Built-in' means the technology is included as part of the table. So you just pop your phone on the table, and technology does the rest!
Episode 150430 / 30 Apr 2015
Many animals face extinction. But people are realising that they must act now to stop further losses. A scheme to save the Asian elephant in China could provide an answer.
Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015
How does music make you feel? Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub
Episode 150416 / 16 Apr 2015
Coffee is now the most popular drink in the world. But what about the economics and politics of coffee production? It's as complicated as getting the right flavour in your cup
Episode 150409 / 09 Apr 2015
Rob and Neil put on their sunglasses to find out more about this special star and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won’t be blinded with science!
Episode 150402 / 02 Apr 2015
The UK has become the first country to approve legislation allowing the creation of babies with genetic material from three people. Listen to Neil and Harry’s conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150326 / 26 Mar 2015
What are some art galleries banning to protect their paintings? Find out with Neil and Harry
Episode 150319 / 19 Mar 2015
An electronic device under your skin?! Workers in Sweden take part in experiment which allows them to get in and out of their office without a key, ID or password. Listen to Neil and Harry’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150312 / 12 Mar 2015
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is known throughout the world for his role in defeating Nazi Germany but he also made mistakes. Listen to Neil and Mike’s discussion, and learn new vocabulary.
Episode 150305 / 05 Mar 2015
We live in a richer world. But the gap between rich and poor is still very wide in individual countries. How to change this? Listen to Rob and Harry’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150226 / 26 Feb 2015
The price of vaccines has escalated and some poor countries are struggling to prevent children from catching certain life-threatening diseases, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. Listen to Rob and Neil’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150219 / 19 Feb 2015
Will thinking computers be the end of humans? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150212 / 12 Feb 2015
About 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this season. But should they be going to a region with such a sensitive environment? Listen to Rob and Neil’s conversation and learn some new vocabulary.
Episode 150205 / 05 Feb 2015
At a time when more people compete for fewer jobs, are you sure you present your skills and abilities well to a potential employer? Listen to Rob and Neil's conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150129 / 29 Jan 2015
Going to a party where you don't know anyone? Listen to Rob and Neil's advice and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150122 / 22 Jan 2015
We use computers for everything nowadays. Are we forgetting our own abilities - and losing our talent? Listen to Rob and Neil's discussion, and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150115 / 15 Jan 2015
Smoking in cars with children might be banned in England. Listen to Neil and Rob's chat and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150108 / 08 Jan 2015
Is bullying just an attempt to give a bad name to what is part of human nature? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150101 / 01 Jan 2015
What would you put in your time capsule? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141225 / 25 Dec 2014
When enemy soldiers sang together in WW1. Listen to Rob and Finn’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 141218 / 18 Dec 2014
The London school where students speak 42 different languages
Episode 141211 / 11 Dec 2014
Laughter isn't always the best medicine, says research
Episode 141204 / 04 Dec 2014
Are your pictures, documents and videos safe online? Listen to Rob and Finn's chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141127 / 27 Nov 2014
Nowhere to park? How the sharing economy is changing the way we use our space
Episode 141120 / 20 Nov 2014
How can science fiction help the world? Rob and Finn discuss a project which aims to inspire through stories of a bright future
Episode 141113 / 13 Nov 2014
Why is eating meat bad news?
Episode 141106 / 06 Nov 2014
Do real-life superheroes exist or are they just cartoon characters?
Episode 141030 / 30 Oct 2014
Rob and Finn discuss the World Health Organisation's recommendations on e-cigarettes
Episode 141023 / 23 Oct 2014
Should we eat less sugar? Listen to Rob and Neil and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141016 / 16 Oct 2014
Is learning English getting easier? Find out what's new
Episode 141009 / 09 Oct 2014
Why do we buy so much food and not eat it all? Learn more about food waste
Episode 141002 / 02 Oct 2014
Is it right to sleep at work? Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of sleeping on the job.
Episode 140929 / 29 Sep 2014
Is the way we see famous people a new thing? Learn about the first 'modern celebrity'.
Episode 140821 / 21 Aug 2014
Bored? You're not alone. Rob and Finn discuss how to deal with boredom and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won't be bored!
From the Archive
Episode 210204 / 04 Feb 2021
Can a woollen hat make a difference when you are cold?