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.
Futility is one of the most famous poems by one of the most famous poets of World War I, Wilfred Owen, 1893-1918. This poem tells us of an incident where a group of soldiers try to revive an unconscious soldier by dragging him into the sun on a snowy day, but their efforts are in vain because the soldier is already dead. 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.Popular Poetry Course
By Wifred Owen (1893-1918)
Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.
Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke once the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved, still warm, too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth's sleep at all?
Wilfred Owen was born in Oswestry, Shropshire, on 18th March 1893, and was killed on the battlefields of France on 4th November 1918. He is regarded as the greatest poet of World War one. He composed the poem in this lesson while recuperating from shell-shock in Ripon in March 1918. Owen volunteered to return to active duty in France in July 1918, despite his fellow poet and friend, Siegfried Sassoon, trying to persuade him against it. Owen was killed exactly one week before the end of the war, and his mother was informed of his death on Armistice Day.
What this poem is saying:
Move the dead soldier into the sun. The sun's warmth used to wake him and remind him that he needed to finished planting the fields. The sun always woke him up, even on the battlefields of France, until this snowy morning. Surely the kind old sun will know how to wake him now.
Think of how the sun encourages seeds to grow, and how it brought to life a cold, lifeless planet. A man's precious limbs and body are surely more easily brought back to life? Did life rise from the lifeless Earth just so it could die? Then, why did the sunlight bother to wake the Earth into life?
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.
Perhaps one of the most famous World War I poems, The Soldier, by Rupert Brooke is known at least in part by most British people as it is often used on military memorials. The poem is one of a series of 5 sonnets that Brooke wrote on themes from the war published as 1914. This evocative and poignant poem romanticises the war rather than focussing on the grim realities. At the time Brooke wrote the poem, in the early years of the war, bodies of the dead were buried near where they fell and there are vast graveyards of British soldiers in foreign fields. Using patriotic language, the poem represents the idealism of the early days of the war which would be replaced by the horror of mechanised warfare as the war dragged on. Brooke would himself lie buried in a corner of a foreign field in 1915.
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.
The Vagabond is one of the poems from Robert Louis Stevenson's Songs of Travel and Other Verses published in 1896. In this lesson you will learn some of the vocabulary in the poem, as well as improving your pronunciation skills and your knowledge of the British English IPA chart and symbols. Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a Scottish travel writer, poet, essayist, and novelist. He is best known for Treasure Island, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Kidnapped. He is the 26th most translated author in the world.
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