About 25% of all people today living in London were born in another country. London is home to people speaking over 300 languages. Below you will find a few facts about London. Add at least 5 facts that you know of yourself.
London is a busy city. You may easily get lost, and chances are that the person you ask for directions will be unable to help. One in four Londoners is not born in the city, besides it is teeming with tourists, and, finally, around 300 languages are spoken in the city. Have a look at this video clip from Oxford Street.
Suggested writing task: Pick one of the passers-by and write their "story" from that particular day. (Suggested length - 300 words)
If you manage to find a genuine Londoner, he may speak very differently from what you have heard on the BBC or learnt at school. The local London dialect is called Cockney. Listen to this London cab driver being interviewed by a Norwegian tourist. They talk about various topics such as rhyming expressions, which are colourful artistic expressions involving a lot of imagery. They also talk about knife crime as they pass Hyde Park. Notice how he pronounces Hyde Park with no /h/. This is a typical Cockney trait.
London has a long and rich history going back over two thousand years. The Romans, who arrived in London in 43 A.D., founded a community on a small area of high ground where the river was narrow enough to be bridged. This is the area in the City of London now called Cornhill. Vikings sailed up the Thames and captured London in the 9th Century, but King Alfred recaptured it in 886 and fortified it.
The Bridges of London
Bridges, and London Bridge in particular, have always played an important part in the life of London. As mentioned above, the first London Bridge was built by the Romans, and there have been numerous other bridges on the same site. The latest one was built in 1973 when the old one became too small and too weak for modern traffic. The old one was sold to an American and now stands in the Nevada Desert in the USA.
Tower Bridge is the one that appears most often in tourist brochures. It was built in 1894 and is the only bridge across the Thames in London which opens to allow ships to pass through. It still functions today, though the pumps that provide power for the opening mechanism are no longer powered by steam, but by electricity.
The Houses of Parliament
Since 1295, London's Westminster has been the home of the United Kingdom’s Parliament and it is the seat of the Government. The Houses of Parliament with the clock tower, Big Ben, are a characteristic sight along the banks of the river Thames.
London has suffered numerous attacks and setbacks of one sort or another. In 1665, the plague killed off thousands of Londoners, bringing trade and business almost to a standstill. If you sneeze, you have probably noticed that the British give you a sympathetic look accompanied by “God Bless You!” Supposedly, this dates back to the plague. One of the first symptoms of the fatal disease was a sneezing fit. In 1666, a fire, which started in a baker's shop in Pudding Lane, destroyed most of the city, including St Paul's Cathedral. However, the fire did have one positive result. The city was rebuilt with much better housing and a number of fine public buildings and churches built of stone rather than wood.
During the 19th Century, London became a very important centre for trade and business and increased enormously in wealth and size. A large area of docks, which was important for international trade, was built to the east of the City. London's final disaster occurred during the last war, when German air attacks destroyed large areas of the city and of the docks. These areas have now been rebuilt. Since London has declined in importance as a port, the dock areas have been rebuilt as modern office and residential areas. To transport commuters and citizens back and forth to the city, London has one of the most extensive public transport systems in the world, with the vital underground system, among Londoners referred to as the Tube. When it comes to international traffic, London's Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in the world.
Over the past two thousand years, London has developed from a small primitive community to a sprawling metropolis with 7.5 million inhabitants and a population made up of people from all over the world speaking some 300 different tongues.
Tasks and Activities
Make up questions for the following answers:
- It is two thousand years old.
- In the the 9th century.
- The Romans built it.
- It opens to allow ships to pass through.
- No, it is now worked by electricity.
- The city was rebuilt.
- They were to the east of the City.
- Londoners call it the Tube.
- Because it is the home of the UK Parliament and government.
They thought you h ad the first symptoms of the Plague.
The nursery rhyme, Ring a Ring o' Roses, is supposedly associated with the Great Plague of London. Look at the rhyme and see if you can identify references to the plague.
Ring a-ring o’ roses,
A pocketful of posies.
We all fall down.
Do you know of any other songs which are associated with a place or event?
- Search Google to find out who said: "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life."
- Find out more about Cockney Rhyming here: Wikipedia Cockney and make a list of five rhyming expressions. Also find out what was the original purpose of developing rhyming slang.
- Listen to the interview with the cab driver once more and make a note of at least 5 names of places or points of interest. Using the Internet find out why the cab driver mentions these especially.
- Make a catch phrase or slogan which describes your town or city in English.
- Have another look at the video clip from Oxford Street. Pick one of the passers-by and write their "story" from that particular day. Remember to include emotions and descriptions. Don't just list what they do. (Suggested length - 300 words)
Write a Letter of Complaint
You have just returned form a London weekend. The hotel was not up to the standard promised in the brochure. The room was dirty and lacked a TV as well as Internet access. Write a letter of complaint to 'London Sunny Sky Hotel' and ask for a 50 % refund.
See how to write a formal letter: How to Write a Formal Letter.
London Sunny Sky Hotel
144 Grosvenor Square
London W1K 3HP
Learn More About London
To learn more about London, go to this website: London - Online Activities and Worksheets for English Learners.
Return to: London Resources - Overview
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