Poems for pronunciation practice.

16th April 2021

I loved the beat generation. Then I realised it has no place for women |  Books | The Guardian
Members of the ‘Beat Generation’ hanging out & chewing the fat in New York, 1950s. Allen Ginsberg, whose poem ‘Howl’ ends this blog, is on the right, smoking a cigarette.

A major issue I encounter with ESL students is pronunciation and associated features such as intonation, stress, rhythm and pacing. Therefore, I decided to select some English-language poems for practice in class, while online students can find a multitude of YouTube videos of poems being recited by professional actors. I shall add some links at the end of the blog.

Now, without further ado, poetry.

Amazon.com: Poetry: Jeong-hie Yun, Da-wit Lee, Hee-ra Kim, Nae-sang Ahn,  Myeong-shin Park, Yong-taek Kim, Hyun Seok Kim, Chang-dong Lee, Hyun Kim,  Dong-ha Lee, Jun-dong Lee, Michel Saint-Jean, Myung-soo Jung, Seung-ho Lee,  Sung-min
Poetry can take many forms, not just writing; poetry in cinema, in dance, in speech … in life.

Let’s take a look at the first poem, ‘Dreams’ from 1922.

Recite the poem slowly and clearly. In the first line, stress ‘fast‘ and ‘dreams‘.

Secondly, listen for the rhyming pattern in lines 2 & 4: ‘die’ rhymes with ‘fly’, while verse 2 rhymes ‘go’ with ‘snow.’

Regarding ‘colour’, which tone of voice to use, decide if this is a positive or negative poem. Discuss in class what you think and give reasons.

Remember, art (painting, cinema, literature etc) is subjective; each person is allowed to have their own opinion. Develop speaking skills to enable you to support your views (give reasons).

Dreams

BY LANGSTON HUGHES

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Frozen with snow.

Read more at: https://www.biography.com/news/langston-hughes-poems

The following poem, from 1938, was featured in the British film ‘Four Weddings and a funeral’ (1994), and may be viewed here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DDXWclpGhcg&ab_channel=englishclasspoems

Funeral Blues

By W.H. AUDEN

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

A highly emotional rendition, one person expressing their feelings over a loved-one’s death.

Let’s continue with a nonsense poem by Edward Lear from 1876:

The Akond of Swat

Who, or why, or which, or what, Is the Akond of SWAT?

Is he tall or short, or dark or fair?
Does he sit on a stool or a sofa or a chair,
        or SQUAT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Is he wise or foolish, young or old?
Does he drink his soup and his coffee cold,
        or HOT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Does he sing or whistle, jabber or talk,
And when riding abroad does he gallop or walk
        or TROT,
    The Akond of Swat?

Does he wear a turban, a fez, or a hat?
Does he sleep on a mattress, a bed, or a mat,
        or COT,
    The Akond of Swat?

A great poem to demonstrate rhythm as well as ‘floating opposites’ e.g. young & old, hot & cold, not forgetting synonyms such as talk & jabber. Now, for really advanced beatniks, try the beginning of the famous, indeed infamous, poem ‘Howl’

Howl, Parts I & II

Allen Ginsberg  1926-1997

For Carl Solomon

I

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,
who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz, …

The poem, along with a recitation by the poet, may be accessed here:

https://poets.org/poem/howl-parts-i-ii

And now, as promised, some YouTube links of magnificent actors reciting majestic poems.

First up, Richard Burton reading the beginning of fellow Welshman Dylan Thomas’ ‘Under Milk Wood’.

Now Benedict Cumberbatch, who you may know better as Sherlock or Dr Strange, reciting a John Keats poem, ‘Ode to a Nightingale.’

Finally, Amanda Gorman reading her own ‘The Hill we Climb’ from President Biden’s inauguration 2021.

Adult Speaking Class. Theme: Love & marriage Part 2

12th January 2020

How would you describe the emotions / feelings of these people ?

Image result for wedding party maori
Maori wedding in New Zealand
Image result for wedding party inuit
Image result for wedding party scotland
Scotland
Image result for shotgun wedding
A shotgun wedding

FREE SPEAKING: What is a traditional wedding in your country ?

In the UK and many western countries, the bridegroom waits in the church next to the Best Man, who has the rings. The church music starts and the Bride walks down the aisle next to her father, who will ‘give her away.’ Behind the Bride are her Bridesmaids. The Vicar will start the service. At the end, the Bride and Groom kiss.

Pictures of typical UK wedding.

Identify Bride, groom, best man, vicar, bridesmaids, father of the bride.

Image result for uk bride
Image result for uk wedding service church vicar
Image result for drunk best man
Image result for cute asian bridesmaids
Image result for father of the bride

Weddings can be a nerve-wracking time. What wedding people can you see in this clip. Do you recognise anybody famous ? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dKkT8_RGDYg

Image result for rowan atkinson in 4 weddings

Vocabulary booster

Match words with meaning

Honeymoon // a secret relationship

Romantic // promise to do something/ be loyal to someone.

Divorce // when people decide they will get married

Affair // after you legally separate

Engaged // a holiday after getting married 

Listening Practice

Wedding vocabulary and listening exercise: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPsrWWyTRz8

The lady speaks slowly and clearly; try to understand without subtitles.

Wedding planning

New vocabulary 

to consider / to decide / to weigh up (phrasal verb) / to mull over [all mean ‘to think about’]

let me sleep on it (idiom = need time to think).

the final call / the final decision on a subject

logistics (n) // logistical (adj) organising people at the same time. 

co-ordinating // arranging things to happen at the same or at an arranged time

It’s a logistical nightmare ! (very hard to co-ordinate all the different factors).

likewise / also, in the same way

therefore / so, for that reason

value for money /deciding if something is good quality and good price.

a multitude / so many 

not to mention / additionally, adding a stronger point (expression)

potential minefield / an area of possible dangers and serious trouble (metaphor)

There are a multitude of things to consider when organising a wedding. The tasks range from choosing the dress and accessories, to booking the cars and flowers, not to mention the potential minefield of the food. What do people like to eat, what do they hate ? Are they on special diets, do they have allergies, are they restricted by religious considerations ?

What sort of things have to be planned for a successful wedding ?

Put them in order of importance – if that is possible ! (they are ALL important)

food / dress / invitations / venue / music / guests / honeymoon / flowers / transport / photographs / paperwork !

(Venue – place for the party)

Let’s start with the dress

Whose decision is this ? Who makes the final call ?

Do you go traditional ? Modern ? Discrete ? 

What are your opinions of these dresses:

Some dresses can average at over £1 400 (over 43 million VND), so people try to make their own dresses, or consider using cheaper materials. 

Listen to this clip: https://www.newsinlevels.com/products/very-special-wedding-dress-level-2/

What are the dresses made out of ? (made from ?)

For how long has this event been taking place ?

In which city is the festival held ?

What was the name of the winning design ?

Traditions

These vary (change) from country to country, but a traditional UK wedding would be something like this:

A church for a Christian service (synagogue for Jewish, mosque for Moslems)

Vicar to perform the service

Bride and Groom

Bridesmaids and Best Man 

Father of the Bride 

Guests

Order of Service

The minister will give plenty of advice on hymns to choose, but order of service is basically broken into six parts:

  1. Introductory Medley
  2. Entrance of the bride,
  3. Hymns, marriage vows and prayers
  4. Hymn or psalm blessing
  5. Signing the register
  6. Leaving for the reception (party, lunch)

As the party leaves the church, the order should be bride and groom, chief bridesmaid and best man, bride’s mother and bridegroom’s father, bridegroom’s mother and bride’s father, bridesmaids and other attendants.

At the party or reception, people are usually told where to sit. Before the food, there are a number of speeches. Some are serious, but the Best Man usually makes a humorous one, saying funny things about the Groom :

This is from the British film ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, with actor Hugh Grant delivering the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6GPicVYCvs

Decision – making

The menu – which do you prefer ? The food, the choice and the design.

The party (and after-party !)

A Jewish wedding party with traditional music https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5k3sH8AmeJk

A Mexican wedding: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCa-tXL4miM

Today’s song: Sweet ‘Love is like oxygen’  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9XYaEsfuU0