TED is a set of conferences, held in various cities around the world every year. With various speakers - also from various parts of the globe - all the speeches are uploaded to their website, for everyone to see.
TED conferences invite speakers to give presentations on a variety of topics. The different speakers are usually experts in their field and talk about new ideas and recent developments that are important to their work. The speakers are often also well-known, with people such as Microsoft giant Bill Gates and world-renowned chimpanzee expert, Jane Goodall, having given talks. There are many talks on environmentalism, for example, and on international development, aid work, and how to help poor people with all sorts of new innovations. There are a number of talks about education and education reform and topics that are in the news are often featured, such as the recent NSA spying revelations.
While the talks cover a wide variety of topics, all speakers have a strict time limit – each presentation must last no longer than 18 minutes.
As with all organisations, however, TED has had its downs as well as ups. The organization has been criticised for taking intelligent, upstanding members of the scientific – and other – communities and turning them into mere entertainers. Perhaps a bigger and more significant criticism of the organization is that it is incredibly elitist. Those who attend must be very privileged with tickets for TED events costing some US$6000 (or more).
However, ted.org, the organisation’s website, is where the many fascinating talks become accessible to everybody who has an Internet connection. Every weekday, a new video is uploaded from a TED event, allowing people from around the world to listen to the talks for free. At only 18 minutes, even if the video is not that interesting, you know you are not going to waste too much time.
Most TED talks are in English but there are talks available in other languages, too. Plus, most of the English-language talks also have the option of subtitles in various languages and, as a result, the site is excellent for practising English and learning new vocabulary, particularly in a topic that you find interesting and enjoyable. With so many choices of subject, the videos are often much more exciting than the listening comprehension exercises used in many classes.
Note from Editor: TED stand for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Have a look at the TED Talks website to find out more. To watch young people giving TED Talk presentations, have a look at this website: http://www.ted.com/topics/youth
Have you used the TED website before? What other websites can you use to practise listening skills?