Slow English

Podcasts for learners of English

Leave a comment

Podcast 18 – A Licence to Drive – Learning to Drive in Australia

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 18 – A Licence to Drive – Learning to Drive in Australia


 Australians love their cars.  We have a large country, long distances and very long roads.  That means that almost everyone has a driver’s license. In fact, it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have one.  I got mine when I was 17 years old, way back in 1969. Back then, it was much easier to get a driver’s licence.   Nowadays, it’s much harder and that’s a good thing.  There are many more cars on the road now and all our drivers need to be highly skilled.  In fact, the number of people killed in road accidents (called the road toll) has dropped steadily in Victoria since 1970, when it was at its peak of 1061.  In 2012, Victoria’s road toll had dropped to 282.  That’s the lowest since we started recording these numbers.  Improving our driver training has played an important role in that reduction. In this podcast, I will give you a summary of how you get a driver’s licence in my state of Victoria.  For more detailed information, you should visit or

In Victoria we have a graduated licensing system.  This means there are 4 types of licences and new drivers move from one type to the next as they develop more driving skills.  For young drivers under 21 years of age, there is an extra step, as these drivers have the most risk of crashing when they first start driving.  The graduated licensing system is helping to reduce this.

 The first licence is a Learners’ Permit.  The second is called a Probationary 1 Licence.  This licence is only for new drivers under 21 years of age. The third is called a Probationary 2 Licence.  The final licence is called a Full Licence.

 You can get a Learner’s Permit from the age of 16 years.  To do that, you must read, study and understand a book called ‘The Road to Solo Driving’.  This book has all the information and rules that a driver needs to know in order to get a Learner’s Permit.  First, you must complete a computer test at an office of VicRoads.


VicRoads is the government department which administers drivers’ licences in Victoria.  You must first book an appointment at VicRoads and then you must take a computer based test. In the test (which is available in 20 languages), you must answer 32 questions about the road rules and about road safety.   In order to pass the test, you must get at least 25 questions correct.  That’s 78% correct.  If you pass, just pay the Learner’s Permit fee and, congratulations, now you are a learner driver!  The Learner’s Permit lasts for up to 10 years.  But I don’t think there are many people that would take that long.  I hope not anyway.

The Learners’ Permit allows you to drive a car only under the supervision of another qualified driver.  They are called the Supervisory Driver.  They must have a Full Licence.  The job of the Supervisory Driver is to teach you how to drive safely and how to drive according to the road rules.  When our two sons were learning to drive, my wife and I were the Supervisory Drivers, although our sons both had around 5 driving lessons with a professional driving instructor.  I think that’s a good idea, especially before they take their Probationary Licence driving test.

 There are some restrictions for drivers with Learners Permits.

  1. Obviously, they must always drive with a qualified Supervisory Driver in the car.
  2. They must show yellow L Plates on the front and back of the car.
  3. They must have NO alcohol in their blood.  That means no drinking alcoholic drinks before you go driving.
  4. They must not use a mobile phone, not even if it is a hands-free phone.
  5. They must not tow a caravan or a trailer, and
  6. They must always carry their Learner’s Permit licence card with them.


But that’s not all. If they are under 21 years of age, they are also required to practise their driving for at least 120 hours before they can take the Probationary Licence driving test.  Included in the 120 hours there must also be 10 hours of night driving.  They must also prove they have done the 120 hours driving by completing an official Learner Log Book.  Each time they drive, they must write down in the log book when they drove, for how long, for how far, in what conditions and who was the Supervisory Driver.  For example, they must show that they have driven in light traffic, in heavy traffic, in the dry, in the wet, on Freeways, on country roads, on gravel roads, during the day, at night and at dusk.  Wow, that is a lot of driving.  But it helps make sure that each new driver receives a lot more driver training than when I was a young man.  And that means fewer accidents and fewer road deaths and injuries.  A Learner Log Book is not required if you are over 21 when you learn to drive.

New drivers under 21 years of age must practice with their Learners Permit for at least 12 months.  Those who are 21 to 25 years of age must practice for at least 6 months, and those over 25 years of age must practice for at least 3 months.  Note however that you can only take the Probationary Licence test once you turn 18 years of age.  So some 16 year old learner drivers will get 2 years of practice with a driving supervisor.  I think that’s a good thing.  Practice makes perfect.

When they are finally ready to take their Probationary Licence test, there are two tests to take.


The first is a Hazard Perception Test.  This is a video test and shows how safely you respond to traffic situations.  If you pass that test, then you take the Probationary Licence Drive Test.  This is the big one. This is a practical test taken with an examiner in the car.  You drive for 30 minutes in many traffic conditions, both quiet and busy.  You must show that you can control the car, can obey all the road rules, can cooperate with the other drivers on the road and show that you can drive safely.   If you pass that test, then well done, you are now a Probationary Driver.  Time to celebrate. If you are under 21 years of age, then your licence is called a Probationary 1 Licence.  This lasts for 1 year.  During this time, you must wear red P plates on the front and back of your car.


 This lets other drivers know that you are a young, new driver.  These drivers have the highest rate of accidents and so there are special conditions which apply, including:

  1. You must not use a mobile phone, not even if it is a hands-free
  2. You must not have any alcohol in your blood.  Like the Learners Permit, no drinking.
  3. You can carry only one other person who is aged between 16 and 22 years of age in the car.  This rule applies because, in the past, we have had crashes where many young people under 22 years of age have all died in one car.  That’s a terrible thing that this law will help prevent.

Once they have successfully driven for 1 year, then the new driver automatically receives his Probationary 2 Licence, which lasts for 3 years.  Now they can change their red P plates for green P plates.


 They can now use hands-free mobile phones, but they must still not have any alcohol in their blood.  Note that new drivers who are over 21 years of age go straight to the Probationary 2 Licence once they pass their drive test.

After 3 years of successful and safe driving with a Probationary 2 Licence, the new driver will automatically receive their full drivers licence.  Now they should be an experienced and safe driver. I hope our road toll continues to drop.  In my opinion, our graduated licensing system is a great system.

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page.  You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at  I would love to hear from you.  Tell me where you live, a little bit about yourself and what you think of my slowenglish podcast.  Perhaps you could suggest a topic for a future podcast. Goodbye until next time.



accidents = something that is not planned, usually something bad

according = when you follow something

administers = to control

alcohol = in beer and wine, it affects your brain.  It can make you drunk

applies = when you must follow what you are told

appointment = when you make a time to see someone

automatically = when something happens by itself.  You don’t need to ask, it just happens.

blood = the liquid in our bodies.  It is red

caravan = a place where you can sleep that is pulled behind a car

computer based test = a test done on a computer

conditions = the things which can change

congratulations = when you tell someone they have done something very good

cooperate = when you help someone else or work together with them

correct = when something is right

country = the areas away from the city

crashing = when two cars hit one another

died = when someone is no longer living

distance = how far from one place to another place

dusk = just before the sun goes down

experienced = when someone has done something for a long time.

extra = when there is one more

graduated = when something increases in steps

gravel = made from loose rock.

hands-free phone = a mobile phone which you can use without your hands

hazard = something which might be dangerous

highly skilled  = when someone is very good at doing something

improving = when something is getter better

injuries = when people get hurt, usually in an accident

killed = when someone has their life taken

nowadays = in our time, now

peak = when something is at its highest

perception = when you see or hear something

perfect = when something has no errors or mistakes

practise = when you do something many times in order to get better

professional driving instructor = someone who is paid to teach learner drivers

qualified = when someone has been trained and knows what to do

rare = when something is hardly ever seen

recording = to write something down

reduction = when something goes down or gets smaller

respond = when something makes you do something else

restrictions = things which you are not allowed to do

risk = when something may happen, but it is not known if it will happen

rules = these tell you what you can and what you can’t do

steadily = when something is changing over a long time

successful = when someone has done something correctly.

supervision = when someone watches you to make sure you do it correctly

terrible = when something is very, very bad

trailer = is pulled behind a car and used to carry things


Leave a comment

Podcast 10 – A Hobby in Melbourne – Motorcycling

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 10 – A Hobby in Melbourne – Motorcycling


Melbourne is one of those cities where you can do a large number of hobbies or pastimes.  One popular pastime in Melbourne is motorcycling.


It is also growing in popularity.   In the countryside around Melbourne there are many fantastic places to go motorcycling.  The major highways out of Melbourne are wide and generally mostly straight.  But if you turn off the major highways onto the minor roads, you will find the roads are still bitumised, adequately maintained and there are plenty of curves and wonderful scenery to enjoy on a motorcycle.

In particular, the area to the north east of Melbourne, within say 300 kilometres, is a great place to go motorcycling on a day ride.  The hills close to Melbourne are called ‘The Dandenong Ranges’, or as most Melbourne people say, ‘The Dandenongs’.   Another name for this region is the Yarra Valley, as the river Yarra runs through it.  This region has a lot of agriculture and also is strong on tourism.  For example, there are about 80 wine growers in this region.


These are world class vineyards and wine making places.  These are always fun to visit, but if you are riding a motorcycle, any drinking of wine must be left for another time.  When on a motorcycle, you need all your senses to be sharp.

There are many small towns in this region. One of my recent motorcycle rides was to a small town called Marysville.  I think this is my favourite small town in Victoria. Let me tell you about this ride.

I often ride with my friend Ray.  Ray has been riding motorcycles since he was a young man and he is now retired.  So he knows nearly all the great places to ride around Melbourne.


For our ride to Marysville, we decided to meet up at Lilydale, a small town on the outskirts of Melbourne. When I arrived, we had a drink and talked about where we would go. Then we looked at and talked about our motorcycles, as we often do. Ray rides a 2006 red and white Honda CB1300.  I ride a 2001 blue, white and black Yamaha XJR1300.  We love our motorcycles.

Then we set off.  We rode off down the highway but were soon riding on minor roads with lots of curves towards a town called Warburton on the Yarra River.  After about an hours riding, we stopped for a break.


We always carry a Thermos of hot water so we can make a cup of tea.  At our stop, we were next to thick forest. All we could hear were the birds and the sounds of the forest.  Life is good, we said to one another.

We set off again towards Marysville and rode through dense forests of tall trees on roads that wound around, through, up and down the hills.


The ride was magnificent.  It was a very hot day, but in the hills and riding past the magnificent trees and undergrowth, the air was cool and fresh.

Finally we arrived at Marysville and parked our motorcycles under the shade of large trees in the main street.


Only 4 years ago, Marysville was almost completely destroyed in a terrible bushfire.  It has now been almost fully rebuilt and is a beautiful village once again.


In another podcast, I will tell you about the bushfire danger in Australia.  It is a very real danger and one which we take very seriously.

After eating a fine lunch and having a long chat, we got back on our motorcycles and came back to Melbourne. There is no better way to spend a day, than riding a motorcycle.

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at I would like to hear any suggestions you may have. I would especially like your suggestions for podcast topics. Goodbye until next time.



adequately = when something is done well enough

agriculture = when people grow plants or animals on the land

arrived = when something has come to a place

bitumised = when a road is covered with a hard, dark blue surface.  Then it will last a long time

break = when you stop doing something for a short time, so you can have a rest

bushfire = when the bush catches on fire and burns everything. Sometimes houses are burned too.

completely = totally

curves = when something bends, like a road when it goes around a corner

danger = when people can get hurt or die

dense = when there are many things together in a small space

destroyed = when something is no good anymore. For example, when soemthing is burned in a fire

forest = an area of trees

growers = people who grow plants on the land

hobbies = things you do for fun, in your free time

magnificent = when something is very, very good to look at, or very, very good to do

maintained = when something is looked after and works well.

minor = not so important

outskirts = on the edge

parked = when you stop your car or motorcycle and turn off the motor

pastimes = the same as hobbies

popularity =high popularity means that many people like it

rebuilt = when a house is built again, after it has been destroyed

region = an area or part of a country

scenery = what you can see in the countryside. For example, hills, valleys and fields

seriously = when we take notice, when we do not ignore it

sharp = when things are very clear

straight = when something has no bends in it

terrible = when something is very, very bad and causes great fear in people

Thermos = this is the name of a container which keeps hot water hot for a long time

thick = when things are very close together

undergrowth = the plants which are growing low on the ground, under the trees

vineyards = where grapevines are grown. Wine is made from the grapes

wonderful = when something is really good

world class = as good as the best in the world

wound around = when something goes around in a curve

1 Comment

Podcast 7 – Melbourne’s Tram System

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

Podcast Number 7 – Melbourne’s Tram System


In my last podcast, I told you about Melbourne’s train system.  That’s the best way to get to and from the suburbs of Melbourne. But when you are in the city centre, the electric Tram system is the best and most enjoyable way to get around.  Melbourne’s trams add colour and are a part of the character of Melbourne.  I love to hear the sound of a tram bell as a tram approaches a tram stop. I can still remember taking my two boys on their first tram ride when we came to live in Melbourne in 1994.  They were so excited as young children to be riding on a tram through the streets of Melbourne. And so was I.  I still enjoy a tram ride today, around 20 years later.


Melbourne’s tram system provides transport for the city centre and many suburbs close to the city.  Actually, Melbourne’s tram system is the largest city tram network in the world.  The network has 250 km of track, 487 trams, 30 different routes and 1,767 tram stops.  Like the trains, trams are quite cheap to use and are great for students, shoppers, tourists, city workers and those who live in or near the city centre.


Melbourne’s trams also take very large numbers of people to and from the many sports and other special events here in Melbourne.  For example, during the Australian Rules Football season and the cricket season, extra trams will run to carry many sports fans to and from the MCG and the Docklands Stadium.  During events such as the Australian Tennis Open in January, the Australian Formula One race in March and the Melbourne Cup in November, extra trams will also be running in order to move the large numbers of people to and from the venues.


And it works very well too.  Trams are great people movers.

One of the great things about trams is their colour.  Many trams are painted in bright colours or covered with bright advertising.  My favourite tram is the one painted with pictures of Rhinos.  Rhinos are a very heavy African animal. Trams are big and heavy too. DSC_0501

This tram is giving the message that one tram weighs as much as 30 Rhinos.  Car drivers need to take care that they don’t collide with a tram.  Trams are not to be argued with on the road!

A popular tram in Melbourne is the City Circle tram.  This is free and operates just within the city centre.


It goes in a circular route around the city centre passing major tourist attractions and shops.  You can hop on and hop off these trams during the day as you explore the city.  City Circle Trams run in both directions around the route and come every twelve minutes or so, between 10am and 6pm from Sunday to Wednesday and from 10am to 9pm from Thursday to Saturday.  These trams are heritage W class and are painted maroon.  You should try these when in Melbourne.

Riding a tram is easy.  You will need to buy a Myki card (just $6 at retail stores and railway stations) and ‘touch on’ when you get on the tram, then ‘touch off’ as you get off.  It’s that easy.


Have fun on Melbourne’s trams.

If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page.  You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it.  Or, you can send me an email at  I would like to hear any suggestions you may have.  I would especially like your suggestions for podcast topics.  Goodbye until next time.



advertising = signs which say you should buy something. For example, buy Coca Cola

African = when something comes from Africa. For example, a lion comes from Africa

approaches = when something is getting closer

argued = when 2 people don’t agree

attractions = places which people like to go to see. For example, the Great Wall of China

bell = something that makes a ringing sound

character = the things about Melbourne that we like

cheap = a small cost

circular = something that is round. For example, a tennis ball is round

collide = when 2 things hit one another

colour = red is a colour. Other colours are blue, green and yellow. The sky is blue.

different = when something is not the same

direction = the way to get to a place

Docklands Stadium = a place in Melbourne where they play sports

enjoyable = when you like something. It makes you happy

explore = when you go to different places to see what is there

extra = some more

heavy = when something is hard to lift up

heritage = very old

maroon = a colour

message = when someone tells you something, it is called a message

painted = when something is covered in colour

popular = when something is liked by lots of people

provides = gives

quite = part of, up to a certain amount

remember = when you can recall something from the past

retail stores = places where you can buy things. Also called a shop.

routes = a way to get somewhere. The way that a tram goes

shoppers = people who buys things in shops

students = people who go to university or high school

tourists = people who have come to Australia for a holiday, to see Australia

transport = a way of getting around. For example, trains, trams, cars, bicycles, motorcycles, etc

venues = a place where sport is played

weighs = when you say how heavy something is. For example, a tram weighs a lot

Leave a comment

Podcast 6 – Melbourne’s Train System

Learn English while learning about daily life in Australia, with Rob McCormack

 Podcast Number 6 – Melbourne’s Train System


Melbourne is a large city with a population of around 4.2 million people. Melbourne is also spread over an area of about 2000 square kilometres. Like all big cities, people need to travel in Melbourne. Many people work in the city centre and each day they need to get to and from work. Still more people like to shop and visit the city centre. About 800,000 people use the city centre each day.

Melbourne has a train system (Metro Melbourne), a bus system and also, for the inner city, a tram system. As well, many people still use their cars to get into the city every day. In this podcast, I will talk about the train system for our city.

Metro Melbourne – trains in Melbourne

The train system, called Metro Melbourne, has 16 lines linking the centre of the city to most of the major suburbs of Melbourne. The lines are named after the final destination for each line. For example, the line closest to me is the Lilydale Line. Lilydale is a nice village on the edge of Melbourne’s north west. I often ride through Lilydale on my motorcycle rides into the hills around Melbourne. So this line is called the Lilydale line.


The Metro Melbourne system is mostly above the ground. Only the small section which runs around the city centre is underground, passing through 3 underground stations. The main city stations are Southern Cross Station and Flinders Street Station and these are above ground. Flinders Street Station is an older style building and very interesting.


Southern Cross Station is a new building and very modern. Each train station has Protective Services Officers. They are special police who only work on the Metro Melbourne train system. They ensure that Metro Melbourne travellers are safe. Melbourne’s train system is a generally safe system and people can use it safely right up until the last train.

The last train from the city leaves at around midnight for most lines. On week ends, a bus service (Night Rider) runs after the last train to most suburbs. But I am always in bed by that time.

To ride on Melbourne’s trains, you must have a special card called a ‘Myki’.


There is no other way to pay for your travel on a Melbourne train. First you need to buy a Myki card (for $6) and you must ‘load’ some money onto it. You can buy a Myki card at any train station, at many shops (e.g. 7-Eleven) and from Myki self service machines at train stations.


When you buy a Myki card, you can also ‘load’ some money onto it at the same time. It’s really quite easy. Every time you travel, you must ‘touch on’ at the Myki reader machine at the entrance to the station where you begin your journey. When you get off at the end of your journey, you must ‘touch off’ with your card at the Myki reader machine at that station. The Myki system subtracts your fare from the amount you loaded onto your Myki. I put $30 on my Myki when I first bought it. It costs about $5.50 to go from my nearest station into the City. That’s about 25 kilometres. So it’s not too expensive.

Of course, at peak travel times around 5pm to 6pm in the evening and from 7.30am to 9am in the morning, Melbourne’s trains are usually full. But even at these times, I can always find a space to stand comfortably, or sometimes even get a seat. At other times, there will always be a seat for you.

I hope that has given you some basic information about Melbourne’s train system. When you come to Melbourne, you should try it.


If you have a question or a comment to make, please leave it in the comments box at the bottom of this page. You can leave your comment in English or in any language and I will translate it. Or, you can send me an email at I would like to hear any suggestions you may have. Goodbye until next time.



amount = how much you have, for example, an amount of money

basic information = the facts that are the most important

bought = when you have used money to buy something

building = a place where people can live or work, with 4 walls and a roof

comfortably = when you feel okay and have room to move

Entrance = the place where you go inside. Often a gate or a door.

expensive = when something costs a lot

fare = the cost of travelling on the train

final destination = the last place the train goes to

generally = nearly all of the time

inner = the middle of a city

interesting = you want to look at it

lines = the different paths where the railway line goes

linking = when one thing is connected or joined to another

load = to put money into

midnight = at 12.00pm

million = a large number. It is 1,000,000.

modern = when something is new

motorcycle = a vehicle with 2 wheels and a motor used for travelling

peak travel times = when there are lots of people travelling to and from work.

population = the number of people that live in a place

section = a part of something

self service machines = machines which you use by yourself. You serve yourself.

special card = a small square piece of plastic

spread = when a city covers a large area

stations = where the train stops and people get on and off

style = how something looks

subtracts = when something is taken away

system = all the parts together form a system

travel = to go from one place to another

underground = under the ground

usually = when something happens most of the time

village = a small town