Jokes Course Humour | Vocabulary | Listenings | Pronunciation


These English Activities are built around English jokes. The jokes may be old or new; they may be very funny or just amusing. The language of the joke is explored, and you will begin to understand a very important aspect of the English language - humour. Many students of English, be they students of English as a second language or of English as a foreign language, find it very difficult to "get" English jokes. British humour has a strong satirical element aimed at showing the absurdity of everyday life. A lot of English humour depends on cultural knowledge and the themes commonly include the British class system, wit, innuendo, to boost subjects and puns, self-deprecation, sarcasm, and insults. As well as this, English humour is often delivered in a deadpan way or is considered by many to be insensitive. A particular aspect of British English humour is the humour of the macabre, were topics that are usually treated seriously are treated in a very humorous or satirical way.


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.


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.  


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.

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This Alaska joke gets its humour from the pronunciation features of British English. If you understand the rhythm of English and how weak and strong syllables behave when we speak, you will be able to understand the humour of this joke. The Britlish Library lesson explains how and why the joke is funny and gives you plenty of exercises to help you learn, remember, and use these pronunciation features.

Jokes Course

A. Where’s your friend from?

B. Alaska.


A. No, I’ll ask her myself.

From the OED

Alaska (əˈlæskə) 

The name of a State in the north-west of the United States, used attrib. to designate things connected with it in origin: as Alaska cedar, Alaska pine, trees indigenous to western N. America; Alaska sable, Alaska seal, used in the fur trade as spurious names for skunk and other pelts. 

   1884 Sargent Rep. Forests 7 The most valuable species of the northern Coast Forest [is]‥the Alaska cedar (Chamaecyparis [nootkatensis]).    1897 Boston Even. Transcript 11 Sept. 24/3 Skunk skins are one of the biggest items in the fur market. They go under the attractive name of ‘Alaska sable’.    1897 Sudworth Arborescent Flora 45 Tsuga mertensiana‥Alaska Pine [of] Northwestern lumbermen.    1910 Encycl. Brit. I. 475/1 The yellow or Alaska cedar, a very hard and durable wood of fine grain and pleasant odour.    1921 A. C. Laut Fur Trade of America iv. 43 Skunk as skunk simply wouldn't sell; so skunk became ‘Alaska sable’.    Ibid. iii. 33 Plucked otter is sold dyed for Alaska seal.

b.b baked Alaska, a dessert consisting of a centre of sponge cake and ice cream with a light covering of rapidly cooked meringue. 

   1909 Farmer Boston Cook Book 448 Baked Alaska.‥ Make meringue of eggs and sugar‥, cover a board with white paper, lay on sponge cake, turn ice cream on cake‥, cover with meringue, and spread smoothly. Place on oven grate and brown quickly in hot oven.    1954 Menu (M/S Stella Polaris) 13 Dec., Tenderloin Steak with Vegetables—Baked Alaska.


 Additions 1997

 Add: [a.]a Alaska Current, a surface ocean current that flows anticlockwise in the Gulf of Alaska. 

   1880 S. Jackson Alaska & Missions N. Pacific Coast i. 54 The former stream flowing northward has been named ‘the *Alaska Current’, and gives the great southern coast of Alaska a winter climate as mild as that of one third of the United States.    1984 A. C. & A. Duxbury Introd. World's Oceans vii. 226 The Alaska Current, fed by water from the North Pacific Current and moving in a counterclockwise gyre in the Gulf of Alaska.


Understanding another culture's humour can be one of the most challenging things for a student of any language to master. The lessons in this course are all typical English jokes which depend for their humour on word play, puns, and pronunciation. If you understand the humour in these jokes, you will be well on your way to understanding English humour in general.

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I’m not going to write the punchline of the joke here, but the tag line is What’s orange and sounds like a parrot? English humour can be difficult for non-native English speakers. This is why simple English jokes are a very good way of teaching vocabulary, and why I’ve chosen a very simple joke for this lesson. You can listen to the joke here and then do the exercises where you can learn about why it is so funny. You will also learn about how word play and the double meaning of words in English are the basis for much of its humour. There are interactive exercises in this lesson that will help you to see why this joke is funny.        

Categories: Humour | Vocabulary | Listenings

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There are four homophones in the lesson which have very different spellings but exactly the same sound when spoken. The exercises will help you with your pronunciation skills. English humour can be difficult for non-native English speakers. This is why simple English jokes are a very good way of teaching vocabulary, and why I’ve chosen a very simple joke for this lesson. The jokes goes: A lion walks into a restaurant, sits down and calls the waiter over. The waiter says, Can I take your order, Sir? To which the lion says, I’d like an antelope… steak. The waiter says, Of course, Sir. One antelope steak. But why the pause? The lion says, Because I’m a lion. Watch the video and then do the exercises in the Activator.   

Categories: Humour | Vocabulary | Listenings

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Wear the Fox Hat

A lack of understanding of the English that sounds rude can get you into difficulties, as Tatiana and her new husband discovered when she misheard his advice and went off for a day trip to Worcester in the wrong attire. This lesson will help you get to grips with the F word and help you to avoid similar misunderstandings. English humour is a great way to improve your English skills and this lesson will certainly make you chuckle when you get the joke. As with all the Sounds Rude lessons, it is suitable for 18+ students only as it contains language that sounds rude.

Categories: Sounds Rude | Listenings | Humour | Speaking

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