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.
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.
It's not easy to teaching speaking skills remotely through a website, however good the site is. To really practice your speaking skills, you need someone to speak to who can correct your mistakes as you go. The Activities here will go some way to helping you to improve your speaking skills by helping you to mirror the speech you hear in the lesson. In this way, you can notice how your speech differs from that in the Activities and, by recording your own speech, you can adjust your pronunciation to more accurately match that in the Activities.
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.
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.
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.
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.Popular Poetry Course
by John Clare
I am - yet what I am none cares or knows;
My friends forsake me like a memory lost:
I am the self-consumer of my woes -
They rise and vanish in oblivious host,
Like shadows in love’s frenzied stifled throes
And yet I am, and live - like vapours tossed
Into the nothingness of scorn and noise,
Into the living sea of waking dreams,
Where there is neither sense of life or joys,
But the vast shipwreck of my life’s esteems;
Even the dearest that I loved the best
Are strange - nay, rather, stranger than the rest.
I long for scenes where man hath never trod
A place where woman never smiled or wept
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below - above the vaulted sky.
About John Clare (1793-1864)
John Clare was an English poet who spent the last 27 years of his life in an insane asylum. He had first been voluntarily committed in 1837 after suffering from anxiety, hallucinations, and depression, but escaped in 1841 and walked the 130 kms to his family home. As he was still very delusional, his wife called the doctors, and he was committed to the asylum a second time in 1842. It was around this time that this poem was written.
Clare is considered to be one of the major poets of the 19th century. Born into a farm-labourer's family, he has been described as, "the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self."
Childhood malnutrition may have contributed to his small stature and generally poor physical health. Financial pressures dogged him and his family, and he turned to poetry as a way of trying to prevent his family being evicted from their cottage. His first book of poetry was well received in 1820 and "There was no limit to the applause bestowed upon Clare, unanimous in their admiration of a poetical genius coming before them in the humble garb of a farm labourer."
Clare married Martha Turner, a milkmaid, in 1820 and was afterwards torn between his need to write poetry and the need to earn money to feed his family. His health began to suffer as his fortunes declined and his book of poems, The Shepherd's Calendar, 1827, was not successful. By the time his sixth child arrived in 1830 he began to suffer from depression.
By the time of his last published work, Rural Muse, 1835, Clare's mental health had got progressively worse, and he turned to drink. He became an increasing burden for his family and voluntarily entered a private asylum in 1837, his mind "full of many strange delusions". He even began to claim that he was Lord Byron. Apart from a brief period at home in 1841, Clare spent the rest of his life in an insane asylum. Nevertheless, he continued to write poetry until his death in 1864, aged 71.
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.
The most famous and well-known of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets is undoubtedly Sonnet 18 which begins, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? This lesson looks at the pronunciation of the sonnet as well as providing a modern English translation of the sonnet to make it easier to understand. The lesson also looks at some of the old, obsolete language of Shakespeare, in particular the thee, thy, thou which appear in this sonnet. There is a full British English IPA phonetic transcript of the sonnet, too, to help students improve their knowledge and use of the 44 IPA symbols in British English.
A poem from the Welsh poet, W.H. Davies (1871-1940) to help you with your pronunciation and the rhythm of English through British English IPA transcripts. There is a full British English IPA phonetic transcript of the poem, too, to help students improve their knowledge and use of the 44 IPA symbols in British English, and some biographical information about the poet.
This nonsense poem, The Owl and the Pussy-Cat, by Edward Lear, is much loved by children and adults alike because of its rhythm and nonsensical story. It was written for the three-year-old daughter of a friend and published in 1871 in the book Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany, and Alphabets. Enjoy the poem and learn some new vocabulary while improving your pronunciation skills.
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