This Leonard Cohen song is not only beautiful but is also a good way to improve your listening skills. It shouldn’t be very difficult to fill the gaps as they are fairly common words – the tricky thing is to understand the whole of the song, but that should be a different lesson.
For now, it’s enough if you listen and complete the text:
The difficulty of this task is below B2 level – somewhere between intermediate and upper-intermediate.
There will be more tasks based on this song, so check back soon.
This is something that I’ve wanted to share for quite some time but somehow there was always something else that seemed more important at the time. This is it:
I mean the first word: ye. What does it mean, how do you pronounce it and where does it come from?
Actually, the answer is simpler than you’d think: it means the, and it is pronounced ðə (just like the word the when unstressed): It is spelled with a y because the Latin alphabet didn’t have a letter for the ð sound, and there was a time when the letter y was used to represent this sound.
OK, so this was the short version. Here is the slightly longer and more detailed explanation:
Old English had a letter called the thorn: þ. This was used for the sound ð, so what is today written as the, was þe in Old English. In handwriting (and in those days they only had handwriting, of course), þ and y looked very similar and were used practically interchangeably. After a time, the letter þ fell out of use and the sound ð got represented by the letters th instead.
But what about the word olde? Well, it’s just a clever way of making things look, well, old. Or archaic, if you will – because business owners believed that if they manage to make their shop (pub or any other business) look old, it will give the impression of being well-established and reliable, which should mean more customers. Some modern English words had an extra -e at the end in Old English, which people easily recognised as archaic. So pub owners started using the phrase Ye Olde [something] around the middle of the 19th century in the names of their pubs. The word old used to have a number of different spellings: alde, awld, auld – remember Auld Lang Syne? – and ole, but olde was not a frequent version at all. It didn’t matter: it became a popular phrase.
Yes, I know that this is still a somewhat simplified version but I didn’t think most people would want to read a chapter-length explanation of a two-letter word or a two-word phrase.
One final thing: ye was pronounced jiː when used as the second person plural personal pronoun; put simply: you when talking to more than one person.
Read these Wikipedia articles to learn more about the topic:
The soundtrack of this version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow (originally from The Wizard of Oz) was featured in several films, commercials and radio shows, and the video was downloaded over ten million times.
Your task is to listen to the song and complete the text.
There will be more tasks coming later based on this song.
Solsbury Hill is an important song in Peter Gabriel’s career for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was the first song he published as a single after leaving his band Genesis, where he had been the lead singer since the start. Secondly, it is the song that he played the most often in concert: he included it in the setlist for every tour and played it no fewer than a total of 706 times to date.
2017 marks the 40th anniversary of the publication of Peter Gabriel’s debut album featuring Solsbury Hill and he (or his team?) came up with a special idea to celebrate: they put together a montage of his live performances of the song. In the video below you can see six rather different Peter Gabriels playing the same song, from 1978 to 2013.
The listening task that follows is not very difficult in itself as you only have to choose the missing words from a list. Later you’ll find more tasks based on this song, most of them more difficult than this introductory one.
We’ll come back to revisit this song (and this video especially) since the lyrics should be interesting to look at more closely and also because this version contains a slightly modified version of the final verse.
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