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Tracks in this podcast:
The History of English in Ten Minutes Shakespeare Narrator:
As the dictionary tells us, about 2000 new words and phrases were invented by Shakespeare. He gave us handy words like ‘eyeball’, ‘puppy-dog’ and ‘anchovy’ - and more show-offy words like ‘dauntless’, ‘besmirch’ and ‘lacklustre’. He came up with the word ‘alligator’, soon after he ran out of things to rhyme with ‘crocodile’. And a nation of tea-drinkers finally took him to their hearts when he invented the ‘hobnob’. Shakespeare knew the power of catchphrases as well as biscuits. Without him we would never eat our ‘flesh and blood’ ‘out of house and home’ – we’d have to say ‘good riddance’ to ‘the green-eyed monster’ and ‘breaking the ice’ would be ‘as dead as a doornail’. If you tried to get your ‘money’s worth’ you’d be given ‘short shrift’ and anyone who ‘laid it on with a trowel’ could be ‘hoist with his own petard’. Of course it’s possible other people used these words first, but the dictionary writers liked looking them up in Shakespeare because there was more cross-dressing and people poking each other’s eyes out. Shakespeare’s poetry showed the world that English was a language as rich vibrant language with limitless expressive and emotional power. And he still had time to open all those tearooms in Stratford.
The History of English in Ten Minutes American English Narrator:
From the moment Brits landed in America they needed names for all the plants and animals so they borrowed words like ‘raccoon’, ‘squash’ and ‘moose’ from the Native Americans, as well as most of their territory. Waves of immigrants fed America’s hunger for words. The Dutch came sharing ‘coleslaw’ and ‘cookies’ – probably as a result of their relaxed attitude to drugs. Later, the Germans arrived selling ‘pretzels’ from ‘delicatessens’ and the Italians arrived with their ‘pizza’, their ‘pasta’ and their ‘mafia’, just like mamma used to make. America spread a new language of capitalism – getting everyone worried about the ‘breakeven’ and ‘the bottom line’, and whether they were ‘blue chip’ or ‘white collar’. The commuter needed a whole new system of ‘freeways’, ‘subways’ and ‘parking lots’ – and quickly, before words like ‘merger’ and ‘downsizing’ could be invented. American English drifted back across the pond as Brits ‘got the hang of’ their ‘cool movies’, and their ‘groovy’ ‘jazz’. There were even some old forgotten English words that lived on in America. So they carried on using ‘fall’, ‘faucets’, ‘diapers’ and ‘candy’, while the Brits moved on to ‘autumn’, ‘taps’, ‘nappies’ and NHS dental care.
The History of English in Ten Minutes Internet English Narrator:
In 1972 the first email was sent. Soon the Internet arrived – a free global space to share information, ideas and amusing pictures of cats. Before then English changed through people speaking it – but the net brought typing back into fashion and hundreds of cases of repetitive strain syndrome. Nobody had ever had to ‘download’ anything before, let alone use a ‘toolbar’ - And the only time someone set up a ‘firewall’, it ended with a massive insurance claim and a huge pile of charred wallpaper. Conversations were getting shorter than the average attention span – why bother writing a sentence when an abbreviation would do and leave you more time to ‘blog’, ‘poke’ and ‘reboot’ when your ‘hard drive’ crashed? ‘In my humble opinion’ became ‘IMHO, ‘by the way’ became ‘BTW and ‘if we’re honest that life-threatening accident was pretty hilarious!’ simply became ‘fail’. Some changes even passed into spoken English. For your information people frequently asked questions like “how can ‘LOL’ mean ‘laugh out loud’ and ‘lots of love’? But if you’re going to complain about that then UG2BK.
The History of English in Ten Minutes Global English Narrator:
In the 1500 years since the Roman’s left Britain, English has shown an unique ability to absorb, evolve, invade and, if we’re honest, steal. After foreign settlers got it started, it grew into a fully-fledged language all of its own, before leaving home and travelling the world, first via the high seas, then via the high speed broadband connection, pilfering words from over 350 languages and establishing itself as a global institution. All this despite a written alphabet that bears no correlation to how it sounds and a system of spelling that even Dan Brown couldn’t decipher. Right now around 1.5 billion people now speak English. Of these about a quarter are native speakers, a quarter speak it as their second language, and half are able to ask for directions to a swimming pool. Modern hybrids of English have really caught on. There’s Hinglish – which is Hindi-English, Chinglish – which is Chinese-English and Singlish – which is Singaporean English – and not that bit when they speak in musicals. So in conclusion, the language has got so little to do with England these days it may well be time to stop calling it ‘English’. But if someone does think up a new name for it, it should probably be in Chinese.
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