Shengliver’s Note: From a shortwave radio to the Internet, Shengliver has come a long way.


BBC English has been an integral part of my learning and teaching experience.


I first came to know the name BBC through my English teacher in Grade Three, senior high school. She told me about the BBC accent, saying that listening to BBC English on the radio was helpful for our language learning. From then on, I wished to have a radio of my own.


In college I was foolish not to buy a good radio set. Instead I spent a fortune then on a Walkman, which was of inferior quality compared with today’s gadgets. This cassette player had an inbuilt radio. To be honest, there were few language cassettes to listen to at that time. One Sunday morning, having nothing to do in the dorm, I was searching for programmes on the inbuilt radio by turning the knob scale by scale when I came upon BBC news on the BBC World Service. What a feeling! The newsreader sounded so elegant. I could not make out much of his speech, but the newsreader’s English, with its rhythm and intonation, was a feast for my ears.


Unluckily BBC programming was available on this radio for short slots of time. Later I found BBC Chinese language programmes were cast every evening. In this slot there were some teaching programmes, one of which was Professor Grammar. I wished one day I could talk in his exaggerated and funny way. Many an hour was spent on this radio for BBC English by the window in the corridor close to the toilet, which was shared by all the dorms on the same floor. The smell of the toilet was strong, yet the BBC programmes tasted so good that I did not mind it. My readers might wonder why I did not choose a nicer place to enjoy the programmes. The reason was that only by the window near the toilet was the radio signal strong and clear. In spite of that, I still had to magnify the signal by subtly positioning and repositioning my radio set and its antenna. When the weather was foul, I had to give up the listening.


After I started my career, I got a better cassette player with a radio in it. Still the BBC programmes were offered for limited periods of time a day. Also, the signals were not reliable with lots of interference. One moment the voice was stable and clear; another moment it was distorted by hisses and buzzes. I regret my then decision not to buy a stand-alone radio set. It was not until some years later that I came to realise a separate radio works much better than one built in a cassette player.


During the first few years, though I couldn’t pick up reliable, clear BBC programming, I managed to hear some. The most helpful programmes were those English language teaching shows broadcasted in the morning and in the evening. Each cast lasted from 45 to 60 minutes. Each feature in the cast was a quarter long.


I got so passionate about the teaching programmes that I wrote to the BBC office in Beijing, following the address announced in the shows. Some months later I received a newsletter titled London Calling from them. In the newsletter was the info about their programmes, the times of casts and the frequencies on which they were casted. It helped me a great deal.


My school relocated to the city proper in 1999, when I finally purchased a radio set manufactured by TECSUN, a Chinese electronic corporation based in Shenzhen. On this mini radio I was able to enjoy regular clearer BBC news and teaching programmes. Every evening beginning at 18.30 I would sit down for BBC English teaching programmes. This lasted for about 3 or 4 years. This period saw my breakthrough in aural and oral skills. My fluency got much better and my accent sounded closer and closer to the British variety.


Sometime during this period for the regular slot there was WORLD LEARNING, a teaching series tailored to the needs of learners. What a great help to me! I absorbed it all. Through this experience I learned that a learner can progress tremendously if the input is meaningful to him.


These days the Internet makes my learning experience a heavenly one. Online streaming radio services more than meet my appetite for English language broadcasts. I can also hear varieties of English spoken. English is spoken colourfully in different countries and regions. My favourite, however, is still what I hear on the BBC World Service. For a time I also used the online BBC radio player, where the programmes casted on shortwave were available on demand. I no longer worry about the reliability of its shortwave signals though there could occasionally be some technical problems with their webpage. Online listening has gradually replaced my shortwave approach. I have made it a rule that I tune in to BBC English teaching programmes daily through my mobile headset either by shortwave radio or on the online BBC radio player. Should there be any technical problem with their webpage, I will turn to my shortwave radio.


Since BBC English by radio and on the web has helped me so much, I would like to share the link to their website with my friends. You can find BBC Learning English at


Take your time to explore the different sections of the webpage. It is teeming with learning contents, in the forms of texts, images, audio and video clips, and teacher and learner blogs, and more.


One feature I strongly recommend is their downloading page, on which they offer their regular audio and video shows together with the accompanying PDF learning aids. Because this page is updated weekly, remember to visit it weekly, say every Monday, to take away their generous and high-quality learning contents. Here is the link:


Once you get accustomed to their way of teaching, you will never visit those lousy webpages with loads of spelling and grammatical errors and inconsistencies.


Happy listening and happy learning.


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