Improve your listening skills

On the BBC 6 minute English website you will find a large number of articles about a range of different topics.

You can download the podcast and the tapescript for each one of them and you also have vocabulary explanations for some of the most difficult words.

Try to listen to at least one podcast per week.

Here is one about Bats: are they friend or foe?

Bats are in the news quite a bit due to the Covid pandemic, but even before that they weren’t always the most popular creatures. Are bats your friends or not? Neil and Sam discuss the topic and teach you related vocabulary.

This week’s question 

Roughly how many different species of bat are there worldwide?

a) one and a half thousand
b) two and a half thousand
c) three and a half thousand

Listen to the programme to find out the answer. 

Vocabulary

carnivores
animals that eat meat

insectivores
animals that eat only insects

pest
insect or small animal that is harmful or damages crops

voracious
very eager for something, especially food

the holy grail
something that is extremely difficult to find or get; the cup believed to have been used by Jesus Christ at the Last Supper

that’s brilliant!
very good!; amazing!

Transcript

Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript

Neil
Hello. This is 6 Minute English from BBC Learning English. I’m Neil.

Sam
And I’m Sam.

Neil
For centuries the relationship between humans and bats has been complex. In some cultures, bats are depicted as vampires, associated with Halloween, witches and dark, scary places. In others, they are considered messengers of the gods.

Sam
Bats play an important part in stories and myths from around the world. And a large illuminated ‘bat signal’ shining in the night sky can mean only one thing – a call for help to the superhero, Batman!

Neil
So do we love or hate these furry flying mammals? And with some newspaper headlines identifying bats as the possible source of Covid-19, should we think of them as friend or enemy?

Sam
We’ll be answering all these questions soon, but first, Neil, time for another interesting bat fact. Did you know that bats account for 1 in 5 of all mammal species? There’s a huge variety of them, from tiny fruit-eating bats that fit into the palm of your hand to giant carnivores, or meat-eaters, with nearly two-metre wingspans.

Neil
That’s right. In fact, it’s the variety of bat types that might explain our complex feelings towards them. So, Sam, my quiz question is this: roughly how many different species of bat are there worldwide? Is it:

a) one and a half thousand?
b) two and a half thousand? or,
c) three and a half thousand?

Sam
Hmmm, I’ll say b) two and a half thousand.

Neil
OK, Sam, we’ll come back to that later in the programme. Maybe not everyone likes them, but bats do have some friends. Farmers love them for pollinating their plants…

Sam
…and medical scientists study them hoping to discover the secrets of their anti-ageing and long life.

Neil
Dr Winifred Frick is the chief scientist at Bat Conservation International, a group of environmentalists working to protect bats.

Sam
Here she is telling BBC World Service programme, The Documentary, about another useful service provided by bats in the United States:

Dr Winifred Frick 
Most bats are insectivorous and they’re really important consumers of different kinds of insect pests and here in the United States it’s been estimated that bats provide billions of dollars every year to the US agricultural industry through their voracious consumption of agricultural pest insects.

Neil
Most bats eat only insects – they’re insectivores.

Sam
That’s good news for farmers because they eat many pests – insects or small animals that are harmful or damage crops.

Neil
Even better, bats’ appetite for these annoying insects is voracious – very strong and eager.

Sam
So far, so good in the friendship between humans and bats. But then along came the coronavirus pandemic and with it, newspaper reports that bats might be to blame.

Neil
Before we get into this, we need to explain some terms. The Covid which people around the world have been suffering from is the ‘outbreak virus’. But if you go backwards there’s an intermediary known as the ‘progenitor virus’ between this and the ‘ancestral virus’, which is decades or centuries older.

Sam
Ninety-nine percent of scientists would agree that the ‘ancestral virus’ of Covid-19 came from bats. But it’s the go-between ‘progenitor virus’ that everyone is searching for now.

Neil
One of the scientists leading this search is Linfa Wang, a professor at Duke Medical School who is known as the ‘Batman of Singapore’. Here he is explaining his work to BBC World Service’s, The Documentary:

Prof Linfa Wang 
Of course the holy grail right now for Covid-19 is to discover where is that progenitor virus and also in which kind of animals or humans, right? And usually, the progenitor virus has to be 99.9% identical to the outbreak virus and so our study was set up to do that. If you can catch that virus and you demonstrate the genomic sequence is 99.9% [identical] then that’s brilliant.

Sam
Professor Wang thinks that finding the source of Covid-19’s ‘progenitor virus’ would be like finding the holy grail. This expression – the holy grail – is associated with the cup believed to have been used by Jesus Christ at his last meal. It means something extremely difficult to find or get.

Neil
If you can discover the ‘progenitor virus’ then, in the words of Professor Wang – that’s brilliant! – an exclamation meaning ‘that’s very good!’ or ‘amazing!’

Sam
So although bats are sometimes, wrongly, blamed for causing Covid, they are good friends to farmers, environmentalists and scientists – as well as vampires! Are bats friend or foe? You decide. So anyway, what was the answer to your quiz question, Neil.

Neil
Ah yes, I asked Sam: How many different species of bat are there around the world? What did you say?

Sam
I said there were, b) two and a half thousand different species of bats. Was I right?

Neil
You were close, Sam, but the correct answer was… a) there are one and a half thousand different species of bats around the world. With so many I guess some of them might be friendlier than others.

Sam
Let’s recap the vocabulary from this programme about the relationship between humans and bats, starting with carnivores which are animals that eat meat…

Neil
Insectivores, meanwhile, are animals, like most bats, that eat only insects.

Sam
pest is an insect or small animal that is harmful or damages crops.

Neil
Bats eat pests voraciously, or very eagerly.

Sam
The holy grail refers to something that’s extremely difficult to find or get.

Neil
And finally, you can use the phrase, that’s brilliant! to say, ‘that’s great!’ or ‘amazing!’

Sam
Once again our six minutes are up. See you again soon for more topical chats and trending vocabulary here at 6 Minute English.

Neil
And don’t forget you can download our app to find programmes on many more topics, from African animals to zodiac signs and zombies, all here on the BBC Learning English website. Bye for now!

Sam
Bye bye!

Votre commentaire

Entrez vos coordonnées ci-dessous ou cliquez sur une icône pour vous connecter:

Logo WordPress.com

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte WordPress.com. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Image Twitter

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Twitter. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Photo Facebook

Vous commentez à l’aide de votre compte Facebook. Déconnexion /  Changer )

Connexion à %s