Tea at 5:00

Authentic Listening with Michael Lacey Freeman

These stories were recorded as a treat for Italian teachers of English, something to listen to during their coffee break or on their way home from school. They provide a few minutes of native English pronunciation and hopefully a chuckle or two about the idiosyncracies of different cultures.

The stories can be easily adapted for use in the secondary classroom, too, depending upon the students' familiarity with English. We will be posting transcripts and worksheets to facilitate use as authentic listening practice in class or set as homework.

This is an experimental project, so we'd really appreciate your feedback. Do you find audio on demand (or podcasts) helpful and enjoyable? Let us know what you think by dropping a line to TeaatFivePodcast@oup.com.

You can also review us on iTunes, Spotify, or comment on our Facebook page, OUPELTGlobal.

Click and Listen! Audio bank


Episode One: RSVP

How do you ask someone out to dinner? How do you politely decline? In this episode, Michael talks about how his style of invitation has changed over time.

Rules are Rules

Episode Two: Rules are Rules

Rules may be rules, but people from different cultures take different approaches to obeying them. Warning: the second story contains content that may be considered inappropriate for younger learners.

Going Places

Episode Three: Going Places

Every journey contains endless material for storytellers, and the astute observer can detect significant cultural twists in even the most mundane interactions.

The Dance

Episode Four: The Dance

In Italy, the very act of saying good-bye can be an act of love.

Teacher Reviews

The promise of a story has always made my heart rejoice. Mr. Lacey Freeman's kind invitation to listen was to me like a welcoming smile: I accepted to enter his world and I am glad I did. I found a courteous British gentleman, a fine and brilliant narrator: one capable of inspiring deep reflections while telling hilarious anecdotes.

Oh Michael, saying "Don't worry if you can't come, it doesn't matter to me" or "It's the same" to an Italian woman is the most hopeless way to ask her out!!! You made me laugh a lot and this story is a brilliant example of how important cultural issues are when we are learning a new language!

By the way, you made me forget that my first intent was simply to improve my listening skills in English. I had a good time and that's when I get to learn the most!

Thank you!

Eloisa Atti, Scuola Media Falcone e Borsellino di Monterenzio (BO)

As a teacher to young adults, I am constantly looking for listening material which is engaging, authentic and easy to use. Michael Lacey Freeman's "Tea at Five" episode is just that! The topic is interesting and can surely stimulate a lot of classroom activities. Rules, regulations and behaviour codes are always relevant for teenagers and it is more so when somebody's experience is being told, when there is a story. Lacey Freeman is both a great story-teller and an established professional in the field of language teaching: in "Tea at Five - Rules", the careful choice of syntax and vocabulary, which teachers will detect and appreciate, does not in the least undermine the overall feeling of authenticity and informality.

As I was listening to the podcast, I could immediately think of a lot of classroom activities for the development of all the four main skills. Yet if students are encouraged to use this kind of material at home, on their own devices, they will have the opportunity to familiarize with some essential features of the spoken language such as variation in speed, pausing and phrasing or intonation. While listening to a native speaker telling a story as if to a friend and not reading from a script, learners will be transported in a realistic learning environment and will also be seduced into making stories out of their own experiences and emotions.

Michela Fraschi - I.C. "Bartolomeo Sestini", Agliana (PT)

Michael Lacey Freeman tells us about his autobiographical journey from Italy to Japan, paying attention to the differences between Italian and Japanese society: the first one based on improvisation and friendly people, the second regulated by rules and efficiency-minded people. The story-teller never judges, he just wants to narrate his personal experience and he does it in such an attractive, humorous way that you can't help listening to it till the very end!

— Letizia Fabiani, Treia (MC)

Great podcast! I like both the story and the topic. The speaker tells about his travelling experience in a very natural way which sounds totally new to me. It is as if you were listening to a friend talking about his adventures. I am going to use the podcast with my last-year students to improve their listening skills. I am sure they will like it because the story is full of funny moments and flows smoothly. Also a fantastic opportunity to focus on specific vocabulary and grammar. There is a lot to work on and I cannot wait.

Michela Romoli, I.C. "A. Manzoni" – Corridonia (MC)

Do you like what you hear?

If you missed Michael at the Oxford National Conference in March 2019, you can watch his talk on Authentic Listening at the link below.

Michael Lacey Freeman

Oxford National Conference 2019 - Authentic Listening

Using Music in ELT

Did you know that Michael is also a composer, songwriter and vocalist? He and his musical partner, Lorenzo Paoloni, have composed many pieces together, some of which specifically geared to language learners. The music you hear in the podcast, for example, is an excellent example. Michael has used this song, Crying, with classes and small groups to explore issues and emotions related to bullying.

Download Crying lyrics