IELTS Listening Practice - "Voyager, Soft drinks and a Ball" with BBC

Posted by on March 2, 2014

Listening comprehension is an important part of learning a language. It represents roughly half of our daily interactions and conversations in the language we are trying to learn. What's more, listening can be tricky because each person we encounter speaks with slightly different accents, tones, and cadence. The best way to increase your listening comprehension is to engage the target language in meaningful segments that can be repeated and analyzed for increasing comprehension. The more natural and real these segments are the better equipped you'll be for the real world.

Join us as we listen and analyze a few segments of 'Words in the News' by the BBC. We recommend that you read the questions first and then listen to the audio while trying to answer the questions. If you need to, listen to the audio a second time and then check your results against the answers. If there are sections you don't understand or words you don't know then read the transcript for complete understanding and make sure to look up any words you don't know.





Voyager 1

Voyager 1 was launched into space in 1977 to study the planets beyond our own. But after passing them one by one, it just kept on going. And now scientists believe the probe left the edge of our solar system on the 25th August last year. It crossed a region known as the heliopause, where particles hurled out from the sun pile up against the matter and magnetic fields from other stars. Now, at nearly 12 billion miles from earth, it's in interstellar space - a cold, dark part of the Milky Way filled with gas and dust. Ed Stone is Voyager's chief scientist: 

Ed Stone, Voyager’s chief scientist:
This is one of those journeys of exploration, like circumnavigating the globe for the first time, or having a footprint on the moon for the first time. This is the first time we have been exploring now, this new region of space, interstellar space.

As Voyager 1 ventures into the unknown it will send data back to NASA. Eventually though, it will fall silent - its power supply is expected to run out in the next 10 years. But if the probe is ever happened upon by extraterrestrial beings as it floats through space they'll find a record containing pictures and messages. (RECORDING OF VOICES)


Mexican Soft Drink Tax

Promising that the fiscal reform was "good news for Mexicans", President Enrique Pena Nieto unveiled a wide-ranging proposal which managed to sidestep a political controversy about sales tax on food and medicine. 

Those would remain unchanged, undermining a central part of the left's opposition to the reform programme. But a hike in the tax on soft drinks was included. In part, the government hope it will help tackle the country's serious obesity problem. Mexico has the second-highest obesity rates in the world after the United States. 

However, the reform is also intended to deal with Mexico's weak tax revenues. The country's coffers urgently need bolstering and the intention was that long-running loopholes, which have allowed large corporations to benefit for decades, would be closed. 

In particular, there were calls to impose greater taxes on the country's top earners, including the world's richest man, Carlos Slim. 

However, the final document appears to have been watered down in that regard. The proposal must now be approved by Congress and the Senate, as well as a majority of Mexico's states.


Have A Ball

Finn: Hello Feifei. Welcome back to the office.

Feifei: Hi Finn. Back to work!

Finn: How was your holiday? You look great.

Feifei: Oh thanks, fantastic. We spent every day on the beach…

Finn: Nice…

Feifei: Yeah, just relaxing, swimming, reading novels, eating fresh seafood, and my favourite new thing: playing beach volleyball!

Finn: Cool – you must have had a ball!

Feifei: Of course we had a ball. We were playing volleyball! You can't play volleyball without… a ball.

Finn: You're right, you do need a ball – but you see I meant…

Feifei: I know what you meant, just kidding! To 'have a ball' means to have a really good time, to enjoy yourself.

Finn: Yes, well did you? Have a good time?

Feifei: We had… a ball!

Finn: Listen to these other people who had… a ball. 

  • We went to my sister's wedding at the weekend. Everyone had a ball – it was so much fun.
  • I had a ball at the party. So many of my friends were there and the music was great.

Feifei: Of course we don't always use it to talk about things in the past. 

Finn: Yes, listen out for people 'having a ball', like this one:

  • I'm having a ball in my new job. It's so much better than my old one.

Feifei: Or you can combine with 'will' when talking about the future. 

  • A: I'm not sure about joining the singing class.
  • B: Of course you should join – you'll have a ball!

Finn: Anyway Feifei, it's good to have you back.

Feifei: Good to be back.

Finn: We're having a ball.

Feifei: I know, it's fun to be in the studio again.

Finn: No, we're really having a ball.

Feifei: Eh?

Finn: Yes, BBC Learning English is holding a ball – a formal party where people come and dance - tonight.

Feifei: Oh, that kind of ball – our ball! I'd completely forgotten! I'm playing volleyball tonight.

Finn: Well, I'm sure you'll have a ball whatever you do!

Feifei: Haha – yes, well you have a ball, at the ball! 

Finn: Very good. For more English phrases, log on to Goodbye.

Feifei: See ya.


Words in the News – Voyager 1

  • The probe was launched (1)__________ ago and has spent years hurtling (2) ____________ the sun.
  • Voyager 1 was launched into space in (3)__________ to study the planets beyond our own.
  • The probe left the edge of our Solar System on the 25th of August (4)__________.
  • Its power supply is expected to run out in the (5) _______________.

Words in the News – Soft Drink Tax

  • Mr Pena Nieto described the tax as a (6) ________________, which has the second highest rate of obesity in the world.
  • In part, the government hopes the tax will tackle the country's (7) ________ __________ _______.
  • The country's (8) __________ urgently need bolstering...
  • The world's richest man, (9) ___________ would also be targeted.
  • However, the final documents appears to have been (10) _______ _______ in that regard.

The Words We Speak

  • Feifei's favorite new thing is (11) ________ _____ ________!
  • To 'have a ball' means to have a (12) ________ _________ ________.
  • I had a ball at the party because many of my friends were there and the (13)_______ _____ _____.
  • Feifei thinks it's fun to be in the (14) _______ _______.
  • The BBC Learning English Ball is a (15) _________ _______ where people come and dance.

1. 36 years
2. Away
3. 1977
4. Last year
5. Next Ten Years
6. Health Tax for Mexico
7. Serious Obesity Problem
8. Coffers
9. Carlos Slim
10. Watered Down
11. Playing Beach Volleyball
12. Really Good Time
13. Music Was Great
14. Studio Again
15. Formal Party

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