Because of their structure, poems are a great way of learning about the rhythm of the English language. In these Activities you will be able to listen to poetry, read it, and then improve your knowledge of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) symbols, thus improving your pronunciation. The Activities also include information about the poets and some background to the writing of the poem. Finally, you will have the chance to test how much you have learned about the vocabulary and other aspects of the poems through some interactive exercises.
The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) is an alphabetic system of phonetic notation that was devised in the 19th century as a standardised way of representing the sounds of speech in written form. The British English IPA chart consists of 44 symbols representing the pure vowels (monophthongs), the gliding vowels (diphthongs), and the consonant sounds of spoken British English. The Britlish Library contains a wealth of Activities to help you to learn, remember, and use the British English IPA symbols efficiently whether you are a student or a teacher.
No matter how good your English grammar and vocabulary may be, if your pronunciation is so bad that nobody can understand a word you say, then your English won't be much good as a means of communication. You might be good at grammar, have a broad vocabulary, and be able to explain all the aspects and tenses of English, but it's not much good if you can't be understood when you speak. I have designed these Activities to help you to improve your pronunciation, as well as other areas of your English.
Did you know that there are over 600,000 words in English? That's a lot of words, and far more than any human being could ever manage to learn. Even Shakespeare only used around 55,000 different words in all of his works. Mind you, he did actually invent quite a few of them. To get a good mastery of English, you do need to expand your vocabulary as much as possible. The more words you know, the better your English will be. The Activities here will help you to quickly develop your vocabulary.
Some students like to sit back and listen to some interesting English. It doesn't get much more interesting than some of the old classics from English literature. These Activities have been created to help you get the best from the vocabulary found in some of the old classics. As you listen and read your way through these Activities, you will also broaden your understanding of English culture.
Reading is the easiest way to take in English. Listening is a much harder skill and one that has to be developed as you study the language. There are lots of speech features that arise when native English speakers speak English. These speech features, such as elision, simplification, intonation, stress, and rhythm, and the way in which speakers may miss out sounds or whole words, are important to understand if you are to be able to listen to and fully understand spoken English. These Britlish Library Activities will help you to develop you listening skills.
Written sometime between 1790 and 1792, Blake's The Tyger is one of the most famous of English poems much loved by children and adults alike. The poem asks questions about what sort of creator would come up with something as fearful as a tiger. This lesson will teach you the poem, some background details about the poet, the vocabulary in the poem, and the IPA symbols used to represent the pronunciation of the poem. There is much debate today about the pronunciation of the words eye and symmetry and whether in Blake's time they rhymed or not.Popular Poetry Course
by William Blake (1757-1827)
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies,
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water'd heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?
William Blake (1757-1827) was a visionary English poet, painter, and printmaker. Considered mad by his contemporaries because of his eccentric views, he enjoyed little literary success during his lifetime. He left school aged ten and was educated at home by his mother, who allowed him to read the subjects that most appealed to him. He was greatly influenced by the Bible which in turn influenced much of his work. His early love of drawing saw him apprenticed to an engraver, a profession he took up after his apprenticeship ended.
Written sometime between 1790 and 1792, Blake's The Tyger is one of the most famous of English poems much loved by children and adults alike. The poem asks questions about what sort of creator would come up with something as fearful as a tiger. It questions if the same person who created the Lamb could also have created something as terrifying as a tiger. Despite posing many questions, the poet does not attempt to provide answers, though he leads us to the inescapable conclusion that he who made the Lamb made the tiger, too.
The poem is composed of six stanzas of four lines each, and each stanza has two rhyming couplets (AABB) except for the first and last stanzas which don't have rhyming last lines. Some of the lines have seven syllables while others have eight. The insistent beat of the three stressed and three unstressed syllables (OoOoOoOo) in the fourth stanza brings to mind the steady hammer blows of the blacksmith forging the fearsome tiger in the blazing furnace of creation.
There is much debate today about the pronunciation of the words eye and symmetry and whether in Blake's time they rhymed or not. Is it possible that the eccentric Blake deliberately chose to use the word symmetry because it did not rhyme with eye, much as he chose to use the archaic spelling of tyger for tiger? Or perhaps the vowel sounds in eye and symmetry were closer in the 18th century than today, though we also see the words skies and eyes in a rhyming couplet in the second stanza. This suggests that skies, eyes, and symmetry, all rhymed back then if rhyming had been the poet's intent.
There are many poems that are recognised, if not known, by many people, and which have become cultural icons. Far from being dead or irrelevant, poetry still maintains the capacity to strike deep at the heart of what it means to be English. These poems are as English as cathedrals and castles, Maypoles and Morris dancers and should be read and enjoyed by all English speakers and by those who aspire to understand more of what it means to be English.
In this lesson we will look at the poem, its background and that of its writer, John Clare, as well as some vocabulary from the poem including, abide, esteem, forsake, frenzied, hath, host, oblivious, scorn, shipwreck, stifled, throes, trod, vapours, vaulted, wept, and woe. You can read and listen to this poem, as well as get a deeper insight into it. There are plenty of exercises to help you with the IPA symbols and with your comprehension.
The poem, If-, by Rudyard Kipling was written around 1895, shortly after the birth of Kipling’s son, John. The poem is an example of Victorian stoicism and takes the form of the author’s paternal advice to his son. John Kipling was reported as wounded and missing in 1915 while serving as a Lieutenant during World War I, a post his father had secured him thanks to his social connections and despite his son’s severe myopia. His grave was not identified until 1992. You can read this poem in Latin script and in IPA script as well as listen to me read it for you.
Snake is one of D. H. Lawrence's most famous poems and was published in the poetry collection Birds, Beasts and Flowers. I use this poem in this lesson to help you with your pronunciation, your vocabulary, your understanding of the British English IPA chart symbols, and to introduce you to this most beautiful of poems. Poems are a great way to enrich many aspects of your English and I hope that you enjoy the poem and the exercises included in the lesson.
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