Archive for October, 2012

We are all human

Title: A History of The World in 100 Objects

Provider: BBC 4

As promised – a broader version of the podcast I’ve written about in the last post. It is extraordinary – especially compared to some history lessons. Through this podcast you get to learn, not as usual the history of the western culture, but the history of humanity. The entire humanity – beginning with a simple tool found in the heart of Afrika and going through objects found across the world. It is a good reminder that we – humans – all come from the same place, and though we traveled different paths, we are at core the same.

The podcast allow us to glimpse at the everyday lives of people long gone. The stories are made around  100 objects, all from the British Museum, which you can see photos of (if you’re not lucky enough to live in London) here. I must admit I’ve listened to the first 7 episodes without looking at them, and while it is good to see what they are talking about, it is not necessary. In each track the object at hand is described in detail and it is not difficult to imagine it. For me personally it was outstanding how much can you learn about the human society from a single object. It never ceases to amaze me how much scientists know about the history of our race – and from so little evidence.

Perhaps I’m so amazed because I’m still at the very beginning of the podcast – still at the very beginning of humanity, and there is very little left of those times. I’m looking forward to listening about all 100 objects – and impatient too since I’ve seen that one of the last objects is a credit card I wonder what can be said about humanity from that little pice of plastic.

So, as always, go listen and tell me your impressions, or if you want to tell me about a podcast I should check out, or a subject you want me to find something on.

by Izabela


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Title: Shakespeare’s Restless World

Provider: BBC Radio 4

Have you ever read a book and thought that, somehow, not everything is clear to you? I’ve felt that way whenever reading Shakespeare – and I’m not talking about the language itself, mind you. I mean I did not understand all the implications of the text that would have been obvious in Elizabethan England. This podcasts helps you with that. It is made around objects relevant to the period – things of everyday use. Through them many interesting questions about the Shakespearean world are answered: Do the same things shocked people back then that shock us now, like for example torture? How was the question of Queen Elisabeth’s heir raised in the plays? What kind of people went to the theatre and how did that affect the writing of the plays?, and many, many others. It really is splendid (I use superlatives so much that I finally have the opportunity to use the exercise from my high school – the persistent questions of my English teacher – name as many superlatives as you can). It is useful for me in my studies as well – I’m currently taking a course in Shakespeare and it is much easier to read the plays now – especially “The Taming of The Shrew”. As I wrote in a previous post, I’m a feminist so seeing a women being subdued is difficult for me (If you don’t know what I’m talking about – go read the play). Now it is a bit easier – I found out from the podcasts that there were other plays about ‘training’ women that were much more cruel – to the point of physical abuse. In that sense Shakespeare’s version can be seen as kind.

The podcast is truly delightful (see – another superlative) – and I’m going to listen to the broader version – “A History of The World in 100 Objects”, so wait for my review of that too. And, by the way, I found this podcast thanks to a recommendation – the broader one, I mean. I felt like listening to something about Shakespeare this week, but fear not I shall write about the other one – see? I do listen to recommendations, so keep them coming :-).

by Izabela

P.S. Best wishes and many thanks to YETI

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Title: The English We Speak
Provider: BBC

What does “knickers in a twist” mean? What would happen if somebody “painted the town red?” And what a “hullabaloo” is? If you’re curious, you should click on the title above. I have stumbled upon this series by accident, and I find it really worth listening to. It can be very useful, especially for those of us who want to enrich their vocabulary, improve their way of speaking, and enjoy the sound of a wonderful British accent. 🙂 It can be also very helpful when you try to teach somebody English – it can diversify your classes.
The authors assure that their extracts can help us to make our English sound more natural. There is over a hundred of podcasts, and each of them provides the listeners with a short programme about a piece of slang or a particular everyday English phrase. It is that kind of English we won’t have ability to learn at school, and at the same time it is presented in a very simple language. I would like to underline that it is really short, too – the duration of every podcast is about 3 minutes. What is more, the series is updated every week so you can learn systematically.  Nothing’s easier! Just stay tuned and keep listening! I hope you would like it! 😉

by Alicja

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Title: Start writing essays

Provider: The Open University

As much as I enjoy writing (having a blog kind of proves that) there comes a time when I stare at a blank page and have absolutely no idea what to do. I think most of the students have similar problems – for example in writing class where we have to write on a specific subject in a specific form. Here it may seem that I’m suggesting that I don’t like writing classes and that’s not true. I think they are very useful and I do want to improve my writing style – but sometimes it is a painful process. Hence the podcast. Each episode deals with one issue and different people talk about it giving tips to us poor students. It may sound boring to you. You may be thinking: Oh, come on… Writing essays, really? But again – it is important to write well – and this particular podcast is not boring – it’s highly informative and at the same time not too formal – you can still laugh at times. An added bonus is that teachers will rarely tell you those things included in this audio material – they will focus on the form and not tell you those little things that differentiate a good writer from a mediocre one. And anyway if you are a university student, especially philology student not writing at least acceptable texts is.. well… kind of.. embarrassing? So go listen, come back and tell me what you think. And if you want me to find a podcast on a particular subject please tell me and I’ll see what I can so

by Izabela

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Getting social

Not an actual post this time – just letting you know who reads (because from the lack of comments it could seem no one does). So take a look at the stats and see how many visitors from different countries we have. I expected to see people from Poland – it’s where I live, but I’m glad to see that my English is good enough, so that native speakers read what I write 🙂 – 2nd, 3rd and 4th places in the stats. So thank you all and keep coming back.









P.S Just a quick update – We’ve just hit over 1000 visitors 😀

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Time to meet Bill Bryson

Title: Anglofile

Author: Bill Bryson

Something a little different this time – not a series of podcasts, but articles. A treat for everyone with an appreciation for subtle humour. Bill Bryson is an author every self-respecting fan of Anglo-Saxon culture should know. And imagine my delight to find his 10 essays in the Internet. Each and everyone is witty and extremely entertaining, not to mention interesting.

My particular favourite is “In Praise of English Food”. In the article Bill Bryson explains the wonders of English cuisine and his love for it. He explains that most of it requires getting used to, and some can never appeal to foreigners and even some Britons. But having said that he continues on to explain reason for its unpopularity like the strange names or the aversion to it by Britons themselves. Then he refers to his personal experience with British cooking and his first contact with it a buffet in Victoria Station, London which he has nightmares about to this day. He ends with numbers from his 1991 “Michelin Guide”, which featured only 7 restaurants with English cuisine in London of the total 224 listed. This illustrates the extreme unpopularity of British cuisine, which as the author claims, apart from few examples, is superb.

All in all, a great series of articles, which have only one drawback – they pose a serious threat of making you spend a lot of money. The articles themselves are free, but once you read them you’re going to crave more – and Bill Bryson wrote quite a few books. I’ve read several and I’m itching to get my hands on more. So when you read the articles you will probably want to buy his books. And no, I’m not paid for doing this promotion – because it can sound like one. I just genuinely love Bryson’s writing style.

So go read and then please come back and let me know if you enjoyed the articles. Or perhaps you could send me some suggestions on what I should write about next. And I know I’m repeating myself here, but… Anyone?

by Izabela

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