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English / Listening
Improve your English listening skills
Listening (c) Hemera Technologies Inc
  Cassette tapes / CDs
Related pages:
Speaking ; Reading ; Writing


If your computer does not already have software for listening to sound (audio) files, you may need to download it. The most common player is RealOne (previously known as RealPlayer): Instructions about how to download a free version of this player are shown at:

Even if you are living outside the UK, you should be able to listen to British radio stations through the internet. This is a good way to study English before coming to the UK or after you have returned to your home country. For the internet links to the main British stations, see below.

The Rough Guide to Internet Radio
Author: L.A. Heberlein
Publisher: Rough Guides
Date: June 2002

Free sound (audio) files are available on some websites. These can be played back several times if you don't understand everything first time. Sites which also provide written versions of the sound files (known as transcripts) are particularly useful for studying English.
- BBC World Service: Learning English website
News about Britain: (transcripts and notes are available)
Business stories: (transcripts and notes are available)
- BBC Newsround website
Short news stories read by British teenagers: (transcripts are available)
- BBC News website
You can listen to the news at any time from: (no transcripts)

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Listening to the radio can be a good way of improving your listening skills. You may learn most by listening to the spoken word channels; you can try recording programmes and playing them back several times. Some of the most popular British radio stations are shown below. The radio frequency is shown, together with an internet link (you can to listen to most channels online, anywhere in the world):
Spoken word (news, debate):BBC Radio 4 (92.4-94.6 FM):
BBC World Service (648 MW):
BBC London (94.9 FM):
LBC (97.3 FM):
LBC News (1152 MW):

Spoken word (sport):
TalkSport (1053 or 1089 MW):
BBC Radio 5 Live (693 or 909 MW):

Pop music (younger, louder style):
Capital FM (95.8 FM):
Kiss 100 (100.0 FM):
Absolute Radio (105.8 FM in London, 1215 MW): [formerly Virgin Radio]
BBC Radio 1 (97.6-99.8 FM):

Pop music (older, quieter style):
Heart (106.2 FM):
Capital Gold (1548 MW):
BBC Radio 2 (88-90.2 FM):
Magic (105.4 FM):

Classical music:
Classic FM (100-102 FM):
BBC Radio 3 (90.2-92.4 FM):

BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) radio stations are listed at:
Digital versions of the BBC channels can be heard at:
For a full list of UK radio stations which can be heard on the internet, see:

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The main TV channels in the UK are:
Channel 4:
Channel 5:

BBC channels are paid for by the TV licence, but you need to buy a licence even if you don't watch these channels. For information about TV licences, see: Prepare/Arrival. ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 are commercial channels and are paid for by showing advertisements between programmes.Additional satellite TV or cable TV channels, paid for by subscriptions, are broadcast by Sky:

To find out which programmes are on television today on any of the major channels, see:
Newspapers list programmes for today, and many also produce a free weekly guide to television programmes (usually as part of Saturday or Sunday editions).
In London, the Thursday edition of the Evening Standard comes with a free weekly entertainment guide (including TV) called Metro Life.

In the UK, most programmes on the main television channels can be seen with the words shown at the bottom of the screen (to help people who cannot hear well). To access this, you need a television with Teletext; use page 888. In newspaper or magazine television schedules, the programmes with Teletext sub-titles are often marked with a * or (T). Teletext sub-titles will not appear if you watch a recorded programme. Some programmes on Sky satellite channels also have a text service (Sky Text).

If you have access to a DVD player or video cassette recorder (VCR), you can study English by watching DVDs or videos which you record yourself, borrow from a library or a friend, rent from a rental shop, or buy from a shop. For ideas about some British films you may wish to study, see: Britain/Films.

If you are not in the UK, you may be able to see British channels through satellite or cable TV. Ask your provider which channels are available (you may be able to access British channels such as BBC World). For information about BBC programmes outside the UK, see:

Short television news broadcasts can be played at the websites for
- BBC News:
- ITN (Independent Television News):

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Books are sometimes available in spoken format. For example, see

"Readers" consist of a book and a matching cassette tape or CD, set at different levels of English ability
Penguin Readers (Penguin Longman):
Cambridge English Readers (Cambridge University Press):
Oxford University Press Readers:
Heinemann ELT Guided Readers (Macmillan Heinemann):

Many books for studying English have tapes which can be bought separately.

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Useful vocabulary

A film is the British English expression for what Americans call a movie (a short form of "moving picture").
A script contains the words to a film (or play or television broadcast).
A transcript is a complete written copy of the words (dialogue) in the film.
A screenplay contains instructions for the actors as well as the words (dialogue).
A film with subtitles shows the words at the bottom of the screen. In America, these are also called close captions (CC).
A repertory cinema shows a wide range of films, but usually shows each film only a few times.

How can I study English using films?

Studying films can be an entertaining way of learning English and learning about British culture
You can watch the film in a cinema, on television, on video, or on a DVD. Either a video or DVD can be watched many times, which may be helpful if you do not understand everything the first time you see the film. A DVD may contain information (for example, sub-titles or background information) which is not available on the video.
You may wish to read the book on which the film is based (or there may be a book which was written after the film was made) - to find this, enter the film's name into an online book service such as Amazon at
The following website provides guides to the story, main characters and English used in a range of popular American films:

How can I see films cheaply?

Many cinemas offer discounts to students (you will need to show your card).
Some cinemas offer cheaper tickets on a certain day of the week (for example, on Mondays).
If you are in London, you can become a student member of the National Film Theatre (NFT). For details see
If you can use a video/DVD player, it is cheapest to borrow videos or DVDs from a rental shop or from a library.

How can I find out what films are being shown at cinemas?

If you are in London, see the Hot Tickets section of the Evening Standard's site

How can I find the words to a film (the script)?

Many film scripts are available free on the internet.
One list of film scripts is provided by Simply Scripts at
The list of British films (see below) shows if the script are available from this site.
Alternatively, use a search engine (such as Google at with the name of a film (in quotes if it has more than one word) and the words "script", "transcript" or "screenplay". For example, if you use a search +"Notting Hill"+script you should be able to find a copy of the words to the film "Notting Hill"
For studying, you may find it convenient to buy the book which goes with the film (if there is one)

How can I see a film with the words written on the screen (sub-titles)?

It can be easier to understand an English film if the words are shown, either in English or in your language, at the bottom of the screen ("sub-titles")
A range of videos showing original British film classics with English subtitles and a booklet containing the complete film script, as well as notes and activities, has been produced by Lazzaretti Publisher (note that UK videos may not be playable in some foreign countries) [how do you get these?]
If you see an English-language film in your own country (or a film from your own country in the UK), try to watch the original version with sub-titles instead of a "dubbed" version (in which voices have been changed)
Note that DVDs may allow you to add English sub-titles to a film
If you are watching a film on television in the UK, you may be able to add sub-titles using Teletext page 888

If I buy a British DVD, will I be able to watch it in my own country?

To play a DVD, your DVD player needs to be able to recognise the region and the video format
There are 6 main regions:
1 - US/Canada
2 - UK/Europe/Japan/South Africa/Middle East
3 - Asia
4 - Australia/New Zealand
5 - Russia/Africa/Mongolia
6 - China
There are two main video formats: NTSC and PAL. British DVDs use the PAL format.

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