Some good TED talks for English learners
Watching TED talks can be a great way for students of English (and other languages) to practice. There are TED talks of all levels, covering a wide range of topics. You can choose to watch talks with or without subtitles, and there is normally a ‘transcript’ of the talk to read. Best of all, TED talks are really interesting!
It should be quite easy to find something that suits everyone, as there are thousands of talks on the main website. However, here are some personal favourites that I can recommend. I have divided them into Lower-Intermediate, Upper-Intermediate and Advanced, and put a few questions to answer after watching the talks.
Lower – Intermediate
Although both of these videos contain quite complicated language, they are both short, and animated, which makes them easier to digest!
Why Are Cats So Weird? ; 5 minutes.
This is a quick look into how cats have acquired some of their common features.
- Why do cats rip things up? (like furniture!)
- Why do cats purr?
- What are your experiences with cats?
Would you sacrifice one person to save five? ; 5 minutes
This video explores an old philosophical dilemma, and shows how our instincts can be hypocritical!
- Would you pull the lever?
- Would you push the person?
- How might these questions be important for the future?
Upper – Intermediate
Why Governments should Prioritize Wellbeing; 10 minutes
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, recounts how Scotland, New Zealand and Iceland are going to start to use a different system to measure a countries wealth, instead of GDP. Warning; you must adjust your ears to a Scottish accent!
- What are the problems with judging a society by its GDP?
- In what ways do the SIN countries show gender equality?
- How can we measure wellbeing?
A Brief History of Dogs; 5 minutes
This is animated too, but has a lot of heavy vocabulary! It could be good to write down all the words you don’t know as you watch.
- How were old wolves similar to humans?
- Why did wolves evolve to live with humans?
- What health problems have occurred through selective breeding?
Melinda Epier suggests how to help each other at work, particularly people who are new, or under-represented.
- What happened in Melinda’s first meeting?
- How does she suggest to help others?
- Have you experienced a lack of diversity in the workplace, or any other place?
Is the World Getting Better or Worse? 18 minutes
In this positive-minded speech, scientist Steven Pinker analyses a lot of data of different kinds to suggest that humanity is actually progressing, despite what we see in the news!
- In what ways is the world improving?
- Do you agree with Pinker’s ideas of progress? Can you measure happiness?
- Why does the world appear so bad in the daily news?
Do you have any great TED talks to recommend us? Let us know in the comments section below.