Listening practise 01



'Gironella’s inventive solution' Listening by The Urbanist

Many English learners struggle the most with listening, particularly on the phone. You might be very comfortable with your teacher or colleagues' accents but when there is an unfamiliar situation or phone call your brain wipes out, which feels like this:

The solution to this problem is exposing yourself meaningfully to different topics, accents and situations to develop your ability to respond to these situations. Fortunately for you, you're learning in 2017 with everything the internet has available!

Let me talk you through an example of how you can use short clips from podcasts, youtube etc to quickly improve your listening and also your vocabulary.

This week some of you have already done this exercise with me, but if you want another go (woohoo!) or for those of you who haven't and fancy a challenge, here is an extended version.

You can repeat this type of exercise with any podcast or interview, I like the monocle series because they’re always interesting and current and are split into ‘chapters’ roughly 6 minutes long. I think I’ve learnt more about things I want to see/do in my city (Madrid) through Monocle than any other source!


Today, we’re using

'Gironella’s inventive solution' Chapter 1 from Monocle's The Urbanist podcast, episode 292
  1. To start with have a listen to chapter one of the podcast - click on the link here.
  2. Read the questions below and see which ones you can answer:
  • What do you know about the town of Gironella?
  • What was the problem? 
  • What was the solution to the problem?
  • How did it work?
  • What were peoples worries about the solution?
  • How did the Mayor and the Architect resolve these worries?
  • How has the town dynamic been impacted by the elevator?
  • What other (perhaps unexpected) benefits has the elevator brought?

3. If you can’t answer everything, don’t worry - you’ve only listened once! Listen again and try to catch more information.

4. The next step is to start to ‘steal’ phrases that you like the sound of, and swap out the words you already knew for some more complex alternatives. 

For example ‘they live on top of a hill’ for ‘they live atop a steep climb'

5. To solidify the new vocabulary try using it it to write some thoughts down about the next three questions:

  • Can you think of alternative solutions to the problem?
  • Can you think of any problems with his solution?
  • Where in your city could we use this type of implementation (if at all!)?

6. Finally - have a look at the real thing here! Does it match up to your idea? I’d imagined a cable car covered in army camouflage textiles 😔 So I was VERY pleasantly surprised to see such an elegant and beautifully designed structure!

Here are some bits and pieces of vocabulary and expressions that I caught when I was listening, feel free to add to the list!




atop a steep embankment

stay put


cliff side

upper/lower part

revitalise and regenerate

obviously there were concerns about ……. 

ruining the aesthetic

reject something

remarkable landscape

what I had in my mind


Has it been embraced by the people?


Have a more in-depth look at the lift with a look at this dezeen article about it here and sign up for their newsletter to get some English sent to your inbox every week!

What do you think? Is it how you imagined it?