An English listening practice lesson where we have a conversation in English about an interesting topic. With volcanoes in the news, today’s listening and comprehension lesson is a conversation in English about the Tonga volcano eruption. If you want to improve your English listening comprehension skills, pick up some interesting vocabulary and learn some interesting facts, then all you need to do is listen and learn.
A conversation about volcanoes for an English listening lesson? Why not? If the conversation is interesting, you will stay focused and if you stay focused, you will improve your English listening comprehension. That’s what we’re all about here. Interesting conversations In English spoken by a native British English speaker, at a pace language learners can follow with no distractions.
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Stimulate Distractions Volcanic Magma Lava Erupt Crater Molten Submarine Informative Geography
Let’s do what I call ‘a chatty podcast’ today. We covered quite a lot of grammar and English language learning topics recently. So today let’s have a look at something that you’ll have heard about on the news. You listen to me talk about a subject that’s probably familiar to you, while your brain is learning some more English.
This podcast will help you ‘brush up’ your vocabulary for different locations and countries of the world - their names are probably different in English to their names in your language. And you’ll hear some geological terms and phrases as well. Don’t forget, if you like this way of learning English, through listening to something which you find interested in itself, then there are plenty more podcasts on our website and available to download.
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If you’ve listened to the Adept English podcast for a while, you’ll have heard me previously do a podcast on the eruption of Mount Etna in Sicily. That was episode 415. Since then there has been the eruption of the volcano on the island of La Palma in the autumn - that started on September 19th 2021 and continued for many weeks.
Lots of people have lost their homes and property there. And then on 14th January 2022, there has been a volcanic eruption in Tonga, or The Kingdom of Tonga, a Polynesian country with 169 islands, in the South Pacific. The pictures of this eruption, taken from space show the suddenness and the size of this event. Sadly three people died as a result this eruption - and the shockwaves travelled round the world.
Some people in Tonga are in an emergency situation still, with clean drinking water needing to be brought in. Two people drowned in Peru, when the resulting tsunami hit that coastline. Volcanic eruptions are dramatic and often disastrous events, which often cannot be predicted - even scientists don’t know when they’re going to happen. The eruption in Tonga was heard in places like Samoa - 520 miles away and Fiji, 430 miles away. It was even heard over a thousand miles away in New Zealand, where the sound took two hours to arrive.
So let’s recap on vocabulary here. ‘Volcano’ is a technically ‘a hole in the earth’s crust’, the earth’s surface. We tend to think of volcanoes as a kind of mountain, which they often are, but it’s the hole in the earth’s ‘crust’ or surface which makes it a volcano. The adjective to go with that is ‘volcanic’, VOLCANIC and ‘vulcanology’ is the science around it and ‘vulcanologists’ are people who study volcanoes.
If a volcano suddenly starts to throw out hot liquid, that’s called ‘lava’, LAVA which is in fact ‘molten’ rock. ‘Molten’, MOLTEN means so hot that it’s melted, it’s become liquid. And we use ‘molten’ of substances like rock or metal, that take a lot of heat to make them into liquids. If this liquid is inside the volcano, it’s called ‘magma’, MAGMA and if it flows outside, it’s called ‘lava’. We call this kind of volcanic event an ‘eruption’, ERUPTION and we say a volcano ‘has erupted’ - so the verb is ‘to erupt’, ERUPT. As I said, we tend to associate the word ‘volcano’ with a mountain-shape, but it’s the hole that makes it ‘a volcano’.
So usually there is a ‘crater’, CRATER - which is the dip in the top of the mountain or the large hole. In fact. the two islands in Tonga where this eruption occurred are called Hunga-Tonga and Hunga-Ha’apai. And these are really just parts of the edge of the volcano’s crater - that stick out above the level of the sea and appear as two islands. Underneath the sea here, is the rest of the crater and the mountain-like shape, that we are familiar with in volcanoes that sit on land.
The eruption of the volcano in Tonga was, as I’m sure you know, an underwater eruption - so what you can see in the pictures from space is a massive explosion of gas, volcanic dust and steam. ‘Steam’, STEAM is ‘water mixed with air’. The proper name for an ‘underwater volcano’ is a ‘submarine volcano’ - that’s SUBMARINE. ‘Submarine’ volcanoes behave very differently from ordinary volcanoes - and of course, there’s another risk with these type of eruptions.
They are likely to create tsunamis, that’s TSUNAMI. I expect that word is the same or similar in your language too - and of course, it’s a Japanese word in origin. A tsunami did result after this Tonga eruption, causing lots of people living on Tongan islands to lose their homes. The devastation is still being assessed and the people of Tonga will be dealing with the effects for many months, possibly years to come.
The wave also hit countries like Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, as well as Japan, Taiwan, the US, parts of Canada, Australia, Tasmania and New Zealand. Scientists are now puzzling over why this tsunami was not bigger, in Tonga itself and why it managed to affect places that were so far distant. The devastation in Tonga is widespread, but the loss of life could have been a great deal worse.
So while the people of Tonga will be dealing with this volcano and tsunami for some time to come, will there be any other eruptions, volcanos to be worried about?
Dr Heather Handly, an expert from the University of Monash in Melbourne, Australia commented that there are ‘around 1300 active volcanoes in the world’. But then qualified this by saying that ‘active’ means that they ‘have erupted within the last 10,000 years’. Perhaps not quite so worrying then! Incidentally I noticed that Dr Handly got her PhD in vulcanology from the University of Durham in the UK.
A photograph of an active volcano. Listen to this conversation and practice your English skills. Another great new conversation to listen to that will help you improve your conversational skills and grammar.
The volcano which has in recent months had the attention perhaps of people in other parts of the world, is the one on the island of La Palma, in the Canary Islands - this is the volcano called Cumbre Vieja. Famously, it was suggested in 2001 that there was a possibility that if this volcano were to become very unstable, the whole south western part of the island of La Palma might fall into the sea.
This dramatic splitting of the island would result in a huge tsunami which would sweep over the coastlines of West Africa, the Eastern United States, Brazil and the Caribbean, as well as the Atlantic coastlines of Europe bringing enormous disaster and loss of life. Tsunami surges of 40m and 50m were described. And this report was 2001, by Dr Simon Day of University College, London and Dr Steven Ward of the University of California.
However, fortunately later reports seem to think that this idea is ‘far-fetched’ - that means ‘unlikely to happen’. More recent studies have dismissed the likelihood of this scenario, claiming that geology of the island of La Palma is now known to much more stable than it was thought back in 2001. The volcano on the island of La Palma has in recent weeks become much less active.
Its eruption has again not be good for the people of La Palma, many of whose homes, businesses and properties have been consumed by an unstoppable flow of lava. But the thought seems to be that Cumbre Vieja has perhaps ‘exhausted itself for now’, and this may push much further into the future, any possibility of a much bigger eruption occurring - or indeed, part of the island falling into the sea. Perhaps it is better to have more frequent, smaller eruptions, which though they destroy property, represent much less direct threat to life. And predictions like the ones in that 2001 report, don’t need to keep us awake at night.
So, I hope that the people of Tonga are getting the assistance that they need - there are a number of organisations which are raising money for this cause. It seems as though very basic services are still needed on the islands.
OK, so I hope that that was something informative and interesting to listen to. There’s quite a lot of ‘volcano vocabulary’ there, but also quite a lot of vocabulary, which is essentially geography of the world, names of countries and places. Listen to this podcast a number of times until you understand most of it. And until you’re comfortable with any vocabulary that’s new to you.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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