Today we start our advanced English class with a history of the furniture store, IKEA. Maybe this doesn’t seem so interesting, but dueing this ten minute advanced audio you’re going to hear stories of Nazis, transsexuals, bomb threats and the world’s largest charity. Have you ever asked yourself what the word IKEA means? Have you ever wondered how it’s possible a tiny mail order company in the middle of a forest rose to become the world’s largest furniture store? Add to these questions a discussion on consumerism, and we have an interesing class for you. Download the audio now for a supreme learning experience.

This great scene from ‘Fightclub’ masterfully portrays Tyler’s love and obssesion with Ikea. As the camera rolls through his apartment Tyler meticulously lists all the Ikea products he has – including the bubble imperfections in the plates and glasses. Can you relate to Tyler’s obssesion or is it shameless consumerism?

Advanced English Listening 1

Abba are one of those few bands whose popularity, if you are young today, truly crosses all 3 generations. Your grandparents loved them, your parents love them, and you love them. In fact, I often wonder if it is a scientific fact that it is impossible to hate ABBA. Other tri generational bands like the Beatles and the Stones always have their detractors but ABBA are impossible to hate. 370 million records sold worldwide and they still sell millions each year… who can argue with that? Oh… and there’s one more amazing thing I want to tell you about ABBA – we already know that the Swedish furniture giants IKEA got its name from the four initials of the founders name, hometown and farm… well guess what: ABBA is also a construct of the initials of its members. This must be a Swedish thing. So, anyway, what’s my favourite song? Well, that’s easy… it’s gotta be Waterloo.

Advanced English Listening 2

Waterloo won the Eurovision song contest for ABBA in 1974 and it was the first ABBA song to have international success. It was number 1 across Europe and went top 10 in the US, selling six million copies. This means it is in the top 40 best-selling singles of all time (the number 1 bestselling single is White Christmas by Bing Crosby.) The song gained its title after the Belgian village of Waterloo where one of the most important battles in European history took place. Clearly, however, ABBA’s song is not a treatise on military history but demonstrates a well-known English metaphor. Due to the battle, you can say to someone who is about to be defeated by someone or something. “you’re going to meet  your Waterloo.”

Advanced English Listening 3

The Battle of Waterloo is one of those quintessential events in British history that anyone wanting to know about British culture, should know about. In fact, if you work in England and you and your colleagues have to have some dealings with the French, mention Waterloo and they’ll love you forever. You see, The battle of Waterloo, 18 June 1815, isn’t important to the English because of its consequences for the political future of Europe, or its importance in ending the Napoleonic threat… it was important for one reason… because we beat the French and there’s nothing an Englishman loves more than beating the French. Therefore, everything associated with Waterloo is sacrosanct; especially the commander who won – the duke of Wellington. 

Advanced English Listening 4

Wellington boots are those rubber boots you wear in the rain to keep your feet dry. They are a classic British invention and were invented by no other than, yes, you’ve guessed correctly – the Duke of Wellington. Tradition says that he ordered his shoemaker to modify the type of boot commonly worn at the time. He did so because many of his cavalry soldiers were receiving serious knee injuries. Wellington’s instructions therefore were to extend the boot to cover the knee, therefore providing some protection in battle. Because he himself was such a celebrity after his victory at Waterloo the boots soon became popular with many aristocrats and they were called ‘Wellington boots.” Obviously the rubber boots we have today (first made by tyre manufacturer Goodyear) are a long way from the original but there is no doubt they are related, and they are still called wellingtons or ‘wellies’ for short,


    1. Who is more popular according to the narrator – ABBA or the Beatles? Why?
    2. Explain in your own words the origins and use of the English metaphor… ‘to meet your waterloo.’
    3. Is it advisable to start talking about Waterloo in business dealings with the French? 
    4. What is the difference in materials between the original wellingtons and wellingtons today?



Listening answers

  1. ABBA – because everyone loves them. Although the Beatles are popular there’s always some people who don’t like them.
  2. The enemy was totally defeated at Waterloo, therefore you can say ‘you’re going to meet your waterloo when anything or anyone is about to defeat or destroy you.’
  3. It depends: if you want your British colleagues to love you, yes. Probably not so good for the French relationships.
  4. One is made of rubber, the other… leather.

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