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In real life and on standardized English tests, you’ll have to work with listening passages read by speakers with non-American accents. Watch this lesson to get some hands-on practice.

Accented English

American English isn’t the only English around! Even if you’re planning to live or study in the United States, you’ll still probably come across other English accents – and if you’re headed to a school in the United Kingdom, Australia, or New Zealand, you’ll definitely need some practice with native accents! Some tests of English proficiency, like the TOEFL, also include listening passages read by speakers with non-American accents.

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This shouldn’t throw you too hard – the words are mostly the same. But it can be a little off-putting, so in this lesson, you’ll get some practice listening to English spoken by native speakers who aren’t from the United States. First, a few tips:

  • Try not to get hung up on unfamiliar words. For example, if a speaker from the UK says ‘beef mince’ instead of ‘ground beef,’ listen for the overall meaning of a sentence, not individual words.
  • If you’re watching this lesson for test prep, take notes on the passage. Get up and get some notepaper now if you don’t have any.

All right, ready for the passage?

Passage 1

PROFESSOR: Good morning, class.

We’re starting on Marx today, so, uh…how did you like the reading?STUDENT: It was really hard. Really hard.PROFESSOR: Yes, Marx is hard to read. Was there, um, anything – any concepts in particular that confused you?STUDENT: Well, um, the difference between use-value and exchange-value?PROFESSOR: Did anyone else have trouble with that?STUDENT 2: Yes, I did.PROFESSOR: All right, well, let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Let’s first take an example of a commodity – that’s just a thing that we make in order to put it on the market or exchange it for something else.

All right, so our commodity, let’s say it’s a jacket. Our jacket has two kinds of value, according to Marx: use-value and exchange-value.The use-value is what you can actually use the jacket for, or, um, what it does that meets someone’s need. So the use-value of a jacket is that it keeps you warm in the cold; maybe it keeps you dry in the rain. Then there’s exchange-value: that’s a way of measuring what kinds of other commodities you can trade for the jacket. Because to, uh, to trade one thing for another thing, you have to have some kind of abstract idea of what the thing is worth.For example, let’s say I have two jackets but no boots.

Maybe I’ll trade one of my jackets for a pair of boots, so we could say that the exchange-value of the jacket and the exchange-value of the boots are the same, so we can trade them for each other. On the other hand, I probably wouldn’t trade a whole jacket for just one glove. That’s because the exchange-value of the glove is less than the exchange-value of the jacket.STUDENT: So, exchange-value is basically price?PROFESSOR: No, not exactly.

Because you can – you can measure exchange-value in ways other than money if you want to. You don’t have to use money. All right?STUDENT: All right, I get it

Questions

Now for the questions.

If you took notes, keep your notes out as you answer because you’ll have them on the test.1. What are the professor and the students mainly discussing in this lecture?a.

The value of jackets, boots, and gloves.b. The concepts of use-value and exchange-value.c. The price of commodities.

d. The difference between value and price.The correct answer is b. The professor starts off the lecture by saying he’s going to explain use-value and exchange-value, and then goes through each of them.2.

According to the professor, which of the following describes the use-value of a jacket?a. It keeps you warm and dry.b.

It is worth as much as a pair of boots.c. It is worth more than a glove.d. It can be exchanged for another commodity without using money.The correct answer here is a. The professor says that ‘the use-value of a jacket is that it keeps you warm in the cold; maybe it keeps you dry in the rain.

‘3. Listen to the following portion of the passage again.STUDENT: So, exchange-value is basically price?PROFESSOR: No, not exactly. Because you can – you can measure exchange-value in ways other than money if you want to. You don’t have to use money.

All right?STUDENT: All right, I get it.Why does the professor say ‘all right?’a. He is irritated at the student.b.

He is worried about the student.c. He wants confirmation that the student understood.d.

He is ready to end the lecture.The correct answer is c. The professor is checking to make sure that the student followed his explanation.

The student responds by saying ‘All right, I get it,’ letting the professor know that it made sense.4. What two concepts does the professor mainly contrast in this passage?a. Use-value and exchange-value.

b. Use-value and price.c. Exchange-value and price.d. Value and price.

The correct answer is a. The concept of price only comes up briefly at the end, so b, c, and d do not accurately describe the main contrast of the entire passage.5. According to the professor, what is a commodity?a. A thing with use-value, but not exchange-value.b.

A thing with exchange-value, but not use-value.c. A thing with a high exchange-value.

d. A thing that you make in order to put on the market.The correct answer is d. The professor says, ‘a commodity – that’s anything that we can make in order to put it on the market or exchange it for something else.

Quiz Passage

Now listen to this second mini-passage and take notes on it too; you’ll answer questions about it in the quiz. In the passage, George is a student who is having a discussion with his RA. In American universities, an RA is an older student who lives in a dorm with younger students and helps them with academic and social problems.RA: George, you’ve been looking tired. I’m starting to get worried.

Are you all right?GEORGE: Oh, I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m so worried about my exams.RA: Exams can be scary, especially in your first year.

Have you gone to tutoring at the library?GEORGE: No – what is that?RA: They have tutors there for every subject, from 4 pm to 10 pm. It might really help you.GEORGE: That sounds perfect; I’ll go tonight. Thank you!

Lesson Summary

In this lesson, you practiced with a passage read with non-American accents. This is useful for everyday life, and also for standardized English tests, like the TOEFL. Now try your hand at some quiz questions on the passage you just heard about George and his RA.

Learning Outcomes

By the time you have finished this lesson, you should be able to:

  • Recall some of the different non-American accents
  • Remember some tips for listening to different types of accented English
  • Apply these tips to tests like the TOEFL

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