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IELTS Preparation Series 1, Episode 21: Watching birds


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0:14

Hello, I'm Margot Politis. Welcome to Study English, IELTS preparation.

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Today we're going to look at the continuous tense, and then we're going to practice some

0:25

sentence stress.

0:25

Our clip today is of a birdwatcher named Margaret. A birdwatcher is someone who loves watching

0:33

and listening to birds.

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Let's start by listening to Margaret talk about watching birds.

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Some people think it's a bit of a strange pleasure, but you know, it's always interesting.

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It's interesting to see what they're doing. You know, we saw them sheltering under the

0:46

banks as we came round and so on, and they have to live in it, so why shouldn't we?

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What I'm doing is looking to see what's outside this hide because I'm doing a sheet for the

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'Bird Atlas' of a radius of 500 metres from here to see all the species that are in it.

1:01

I use my binoculars and I'm using a telescope, and I use my ears because I was recording

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birds by call as I walked down the track here - wrens and little grass birds and stuff.

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In fact, if you do a lot of bird watching in the bush, you do a lot by call.

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A day like today's not much good, but normally you do a lot by call, and the idea is to make

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sure you get all the species that are here in the area that you're surveying.

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Margaret is talking about the time she spends watching birds.

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When describing actions that happen for a continuous period of time, we need to use

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a continuous tense. In English, there are several continuous tenses.

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Continuous tenses are formed by using the verb 'to be' plus the present participle,

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the 'ing' form of the verb.

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Today we're going to look at the present and past continuous tenses.

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Let's begin with the present continuous tense.

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The present continuous tense describes things that are in progress.

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Listen to Margaret again and see if you can hear some examples of the present continuous

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tense.

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What I'm doing is looking to see what's outside this hide because I'm doing a sheet for the

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'Bird Atlas' of a radius of 500 metres from here to see all the species that are in it.

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I use my binoculars and I'm using a telescope.

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Margaret uses the phrases 'I'm doing' and 'I'm using' to describe things that are happening

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now.

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We can use the present continuous tense in 3 ways.

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Firstly, we use it to describe actions that are happening now.

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For example, Margaret says, "I'm using a telescope".

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We also use this tense to refer to actions that are happening soon. This is the future

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aspect.

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Thirdly, the continuous tense can describe actions that are happening simultaneously,

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or at the same time.

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In this case, the continuous tense follows the words 'when', 'while' or 'as'.

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Listen to the following sentences and see if you can identify which of these three rules

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is being used.

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"I'm going bird watching today. What are you doing?"

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This is an example of 'rule 2'. Here, we use the present continuous tense to talk about

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things that are happening soon.

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"The birds are singing while they are flying."

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This is an example of rule 3, because we are describing two things that are happening at

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the same time - 'singing' and 'flying'.

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It's a good idea to practice recognising these.

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But now, let's take a look at the past continuous tense.

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And I use my ears because I was recording birds by call as I walked down the track here

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- wrens and little grass birds and stuff. In fact, if you do a lot of bird watching

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in the bush, you do a lot by call. A day like today's not much good, but normally you do

4:09

a lot by call, and the idea is to make sure you get all the species that are here in the

4:14

area that you're surveying.

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Margaret says that she 'was recording' birds as she walked down the track.

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This is the past continuous tense. We can use it in 2 situations.

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Can you identify which one applies to Margaret?

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We use it to describe an action that was in progress at a specific time in the past,

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or to describe a continuous action that was interrupted by something else.

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So when Margaret says, "I was recording birds as I walked down the track", she is using

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rule 1. She is talking about a continuous action that she was doing in the past.

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Here's another sentence.

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"I was walking down the track when the rain started."

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This is rule 2. 'Walking down the track' was interrupted by the rain.

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Notice that the second clause, is introduced by the word 'when' - 'when the rain started'.

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Words like 'as', 'when' or 'while' are often used to begin the second clause.

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And the second clause takes the simple past tense.

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Look at our sentences again.

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"I was recording birds as I walked down the track."

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"I was walking down when the rain started."

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OK, now let's have a look back at the clip, this time we'll highlight all the present

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and past continuous tenses.

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Some people think it's a bit of a strange pleasure, but you know, it's always interesting.

5:48

It's interesting to see what they're doing. You know, we saw them sheltering under the

5:51

banks as we came round and so on, and they have to live in it, so why shouldn't we?

5:55

I'm doing a sheet for the 'Bird Atlas' of a radius of 500 metres from here to see all

6:00

the species that are in it.

6:01

I use my binoculars and I'm using a telescope, and I use my ears because I was recording

6:08

birds by call as I walked down the track here - wrens and little grass birds and stuff.

6:13

In fact, if you do a lot of bird watching in the bush, you do a lot by call.

6:16

A day like today's not much good, but normally you do a lot by call, and the idea is to make

6:21

sure you get all the species that are here in the area that you're surveying.

6:27

Today's clip is about bird watching.

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We've seen that the '-ing' can be used for continuous tenses, but '-ing' words can have

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lots of other uses too.

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'-ing' forms the present participle of a verb. Some 'ing words can also be adjectives, and

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they can act as gerunds.

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A gerund is a verb that acts as a noun.

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Let's look at an example.

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Here's the sentence "I love swimming."

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The word 'swimming' is the present participle of the verb 'to swim'.

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But in this sentence, 'swimming' is a noun.

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So the word 'swimming' is called a gerund.

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Listen for a gerund in the clip.

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In fact, if you do a lot of bird watching in the bush, you do a lot by call.

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'Bird watching'. 'Watching' is a gerund. It is a verb that's used as a noun.

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There are many phrases that use gerunds with the verb 'to go'.

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They are mainly used with recreational activities, or things you do for fun.

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For example, we say:

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'go swimming';

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'go bird watching';

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'go dancing'.

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"On the weekend, I usually go swimming."

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"This weekend, I'd like to go dancing."

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Finally today, we're going to look at some sentence stress and rhythm.

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When we talk about rhythm in English, we mean the 'beat of the language'.

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The beat of the language comes from the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables or words

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in a sentence.

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Some words usually have a strong stress.

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These are 'content words', the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs. They're usually strongly

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stressed and carry the rhythm.

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Then there are the words that have a weak stress.

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These are usually the articles, pronouns, prepositions, and conjunctions. They're spoken

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quickly between the strongly stressed words.

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As well as the different stress on words, the number of pauses you make in your speech

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will affect the rhythm of your language. It helps listeners tell what is important and

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what is secondary information.

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You should practice reading using different beats, and see how this affects the meaning.

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Notice how I can read the numbers:

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1 2 3 4

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or

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1 and 2 and 3 and 4

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Here, the words I'm stressing are the numbers - 1,2,3,4.

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The less important words are squeezed in between the beats. The more squeezed in, the shorter

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they become.

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1 and a 2 and a 3 and a 4

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1 and then a 2 and then a 3 and then a 4

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And that's all for Study English today. Make sure that you listen out for the rhythm of

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people's speech. Copying native speakers is the best way to learn the stress and the beat.

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And I'll see you next time on Study English. Bye.

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