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BBC 6 minute English-Why do gibbons sing duets

BBC 6 minute English-Why do gibbons sing duets

BBC 6 minute English-Why do gibbons sing duets


Transcript of the podcast

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

Rob: Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I’m Rob

Neil: And hello! I’m Neil

Rob: Hi there Neil. Have you ever had a close encounter with a monkey or an ape

Neil: Well I am sitting right next to you, Rob

Rob: Very funny. No, Neil is referring to the fact that all humans are descended from apes, and apes and monkeys belong to a group of animals called primates. The difference is that monkeys have tails, and apes don’t

Neil: Well, I didn’t know that. On a serious note… I had a close shave with some monkeys once in Bali

Rob: A close shave is where you only just manage to avoid a dangerous situation. So Neil, what happened

Neil: I was walking up a mountain on my own and suddenly a bunch of monkeys jumped out of nowhere, blocking my path

Rob: Oh goodness! OK. So what did you do

Neil: After standing there for ages while the monkeys screeched at me, I turned round and walked back the way I came

Rob: OK. If you screech at someone it means to make a loud, high and unpleasant sound. So the monkeys won that face-off, then

Neil: Absolutely! Yes, they did. And a face-off, by the way, means an argument or fight

Rob: Well, today’s show is about gibbons and the different sounds they make. Gibbons are small apes that live in South East Asia. And while Neil’s monkeys screech unpleasantly, gibbons sound like they are singing

Neil: Musical apes – that’s nice! So how about today’s quiz question, Rob

Rob: OK, good idea. How far can a gibbon’s voice travel through the forest? Is it

a) 500m

b) 1km or

c) 5km

Neil: Hmm. Well, I have to guess and I’m going to say b) 1km

Rob: You’ve never heard one

Neil: Never heard one

Rob: OK. We’ll find out later in the programme whether you’re right or wrong. Now let’s listen to what a gibbon really sounds like

Interview with Dr Esther Clarke, researcher at Durham University Interviewer

Let’s just hear this. [gibbons calling] That’s an absolutely wonderful, evocative sound, isn’t it? Beautiful sound. And what are they doing there then? That is… I said, talking to each other

Dr Clarke: Well this is their… They’re singing together. So a male and a female, when they hold a territory together, will sing every morning what they call a duet. All the groups

Interviewer: What we call a duet. Dr Clarke: Yes, absolutely. And they’ll all sing together at the same time, and the whole forest will be alive with this cacophony of song

Rob: So the gibbons make an evocative sound. If something is evocative it brings strong feelings or memories to mind

Neil: And something that is evocative is usually pleasant, Rob

Rob: It is. And what’s also interesting is that the apes are singing in pairs – one male and one female. They are singing duets together. So, a duet is a song sung by two people – or in this case, sung by two gibbons

Neil: And a lot of gibbons are singing duets at the same time – which Dr Clarke describes as a cacophony. Cacophony means a mix of loud noises, which often sound out of tune

Rob: And that could easily describe us singing together

Neil: Let’s not do that

Rob: But what’s the reason for the gibbon duets, Neil

Neil: Well, the songs advertise the relationship between the male and the female. And they also help to make clear which territory – or bit of land – belongs to a pair or group of gibbons

Rob: Gibbons also use different sounds to alert – or warn – other gibbons about danger from predators – these are animals that eat other animals. The gibbons use a quiet ‘hoo hoo’ call to communicate that a leopard is nearby, and an even quieter ‘hoo hoo’ call for an eagle

Neil: You’re very good at that Rob

Rob: Thank you

Neil: Now let’s hear more from Dr Clarke about this. How does she describe language

Dr Esther Clarke, researcher at Durham University

Yes, so the idea is that if we find things like context-specific calling in non-human primates, it suggests that way back in time the ancestor that we shared with them also had contexts-pecific calling so basically it just gives us some clues [as] to the evolutionary roots of complex communication like language

Rob: Dr Clarke says that if we go far enough back in time humans and other primates such as monkeys and apes have the same ancestor

Neil: Right. And ancestor means an animal – or human – from the past that a modern animal or human has descended from. So if this common ancestor used context-specific calls like modern gibbons – then it could have passed on this ability to humans a long time ago

Rob: Context-specific calling means different calls for different situations, for example one call for ‘leopard’ and another for eagle

Neil: And evolutionary means a gradual process of change or development

Rob: OK, let’s have the answer to the quiz question. Earlier I asked: How far can a gibbon’s voice travel through the forest? Is it

a) 500m

b) 1km or

c) 5km

Neil: And I said b) 1km

Rob: And you were right! A good guess! Perhaps you do know a lot about gibbons. So well done! Now, can we hear today’s words again maybe in a gibbon’s voice Neil

Neil: I’m not sure about that. I’ll do it in a human voice

primates a close shave screech face-off gibbons evocative duet cacophony territory alert predators ancestor evolutionary

Rob: Thank you. Well, that’s the end of today’s 6 Minute English. You can hear more 6 Minute English programmes on our website at bbclearningenglish.com. Please join us again soon

Both: Bye

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