martes, 31 de agosto de 2010

How to detect a lie

Self-study activity:

1. Get together with someone who also speaks English or record yourself answering these questions.

Have you ever been talking to someone and noticed that this person wasn't telling the truth? How could you tell this person was lying to you? Have you ever told a lie? Talk about someone you know who is fond of lying.

2. Watch the first part of the video and make a note of the three things you need to detect a lie.

3. Watch the rest of the video and put these steps in the correct order.

a Change the subject _____   b Check their smile _____   c Follow their eyes _____   d Note their posture _____    e Note their words _____    f Pause before responding _____   g Pay attention to details _____   h Teach your liar a lesson _____   i Watch their hands_____

4. How much do you remember? Answer the questions.

1 What does the note in the fridge say?
2 What do you think the liar did?
3 What does the liar take from his pocket?
4 What object does he put between them?
5 Describe the shirt the liar is wearing?
6 What percentage of Americans reported lying in a recent poll?

2. 1 a good ear; 2 good eyes; 3 a healthy scepticism
3. 1 Watch their hands; 2 Follow their eyes; 3 Note their words; 4 Check their smile; 5 Note their posture; 6 Pause before responding; 7 Pay attention to details; 8 Change the subject; 9 Teach your liar a lesson
4. 1 The note says: Hands off. 2 He took/ate some food without permission. 3 He takes a piece of paper with some notes from his pocket. 4 He puts a cup of coffee between them. 5 It’s a light-coloured striped shirt. 6 In the poll, 91% of Americans reported lying on a regular basis.

You can read the transcript of the video here.

This activity is adapted from an e-lesson from Global, MacMillan Publishers

Frozen Grand Central

Watch this famous video by Improv Everywhere, a group of people based in New York City who create unusual scenes in public places and film them.

Self-study activity:
1. Complete the words in the text of what the man says at the beginning of the video:

‘All right. Thanks for coming out, everybody. I’m really excited that all you (1) ________ are here. We’ve got a really exciting (2) ________ that we’re going to be doing today. We’re going to be (3) ________ in place (4) ________ at the exact second. We’re going (5) ________ that for five minutes and then we’re going to unfreeze and we’re out.’

2. Choose the correct option.

1 The pre-mission meeting takes place in Bryant / Central Park.
2 107 / 207 undercover agents take part in the mission.
3 The mission starts at 14.30 / 16.30.
4 The man driving the yellow vehicle is / isn’t an agent.
5 One person thinks it’s an acting class / a TV show.
6 At the end of the mission people start clapping / protesting.

3. Watch the video again and note down some of the activities frozen people are doing. Example: someone is talking on the phone, a couple is holding hands.

1. 1 guys   2 mission   3 freezing  4 on cue   5 to hold
2. 1 Bryant  2 207  3 14:30   4 isn’t   5 an acting class   6 clapping
3. Suggestions: [someone is / people are] drinking a coffee; eating a banana / a yoghurt or ice cream; holding a bottle of water / a cup / holding hands; looking at a map / a train timetable / his/her watch; picking up papers; talking on the phone / to someone; tying his/her shoelaces

This is an activity based on one of Global e-lessons.


Watch this trailer on the release of a DVD on planet Earth and answer the question that follows.

What do these figures refer to? 4 billion; 200,000; 50

You can watch the full feature film with English subtitles here. But be warned. It takes over one and a half hours.

You can read the transcript of the video here.

Key: 4 billion years ago life appeared on earth; 200,000 years ago human life started; in the last 50 years the earth has been more changed than by all the previous generations.

Tiger Woods really balls it up

Self-study activity: Read this article about Tiger Woods. If you find any vocabulary items difficult, just double click on the word or look it up in the online Macmillan Dictionary embedded in the blog.

You can also enjoy the video clip related to the story.

How many women did the papers say? Tiger Woods was the model sportsman with a career tightly managed first by his father and then by his sponsors, with a gorgeous wife and children, before he balled things up. How could the man with the golden arm humiliate his Swedish wife, Elin Nordegren, so deeply? In February he apologized publicly and underwent therapy. "I was unfaithful. I had affairs. I cheated," Woods said. Now he and Nordegren are divorced.

Tiger Woods, his ads made us believe, could walk on water, and his only mess-ups were funny bloopers. Now his affairs have cost the companies that sponsored him, or whose products he endorsed, between $5 billion and $12 billion. Nike is one of the few companies ballsy enough not to drop him. Their response was a strange commercial that aired during the US Masters tournament in April, featuring the golfer's late father and coach Earl Woods speaking to him in a voice-over. Jimmy Kimmel presented it on his show:

Woods's game has been erratic ever since. He had his worst finish on the US PGA Tour in August, stringing together four over-par rounds, and so didn't qualify to play for Team USA in the Ryder Cup (see Eamonn Fitzgerald's in-depth report in Spotlight 9/2010). Woods could still win one of four wild cards and play in the tournament, but it will surely be a while before he finds his game.

This is a story from Anne Hodgson (

lunes, 30 de agosto de 2010

How the Internet is changing English

Self-study activity: Watch this video in which Professor David Crystal talks about the influence of the Internet on English and answer the questions below.

1. What technological change came in the 1400s?
2. And in the 19th century?
3. And in the 1920s?
4. The Internet really has few technological variations. True or false?
5. The styles of the technologies are basically the same. True or false?
6. New patterns of grammar have emerged with the Internet. True or false?
7. Millions of new words have come into English as a result of the Internet. True or false?
8. English now is the same as before the Internet. True or false?

What do you think? Get together with a friend or classmate and discuss these questions: How important is the Internet for you? Which of the technological manifestations of the Internet Professor Crystal mentions do you regularly use? Do you know anyone who's addicted to any of them?

You can read the script of the video here.

: 1printing 2telephone 3broadcasting 4False 5False 6False 7False 8True

domingo, 29 de agosto de 2010

Funeral Blues

Self-study activity: Watch this clip from Four Weddings and a Funeral.

1. What do we learn from Gareth's (the deceased person) appearence, personality and interests?

2. Watch the video again and fill in the gaps in the poem with the words given. Notice the rhyme.
    come / glove / sun / wrong / bone / dead / rest / wood

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy _________ (1),
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners _________ (2).

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbiling on the sky the message He is_________ (3),
Put crépe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton _________ (4).

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday _________ (5),
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would Iast forever; I was _________ (6).

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the _________ (7);
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the _________ (8);
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

3. Get together with a friend or record yourself to describe a typical funeral in Spain.

1. fat / terribly rude, hospitable, joyful, splendid, replete, big-hearted / loved experimental cooking, drinking, loved waistcoats
2. 1bone 2come 3dead 4gloves 5rest 6wrong 7sun 8wood

You can read the script of this clip here.

This activity is based on an exercise from Headway Intermediate, Oxford University Press

Why I'm learning English

On this video a number of people explain the reasons why they are studying English.

Self-study activity: Answer these questions:
Why are you studying English?
What other (general or specific) reasons do people have to study English?

Listen to the video. Just listen, without watching it (you will have to minimise the window of your PC), so that you can't see the images, as everything people say is shown on screen.

What are the reasons why people are studying English?
Do they mention the same reasons as you?

Watch the video now, so that you can fully understand what the speakers say.

Breathe in

Self-study activity: Watch this video and answer the questions that follow.

1. Where's the man?
2. What is he thinking about?
3. What was the weather like today?
4. Why didn’t he buy any sugar?
5. What’s he going to do after class?

Note down some examples of affirmative and negative imperatives that you can hear and watch in the clip.

Listen to the yoga teacher’s voice and follow her instructions. Then describe what you saw and who you
met in the wood. What did the person say?

Discuss with a friend, relative or classmate: How do you usually relax? Where do you feel most relaxed?

Key: 1 at a relaxation class 2 sugar 3 rainy 4 he didn't pass the supermarket 5 go to the supermarket

Close your eyes. Breathe in. Breathe out. Relax. Stop thinking about sugar. Think of all the different things you did... Now imagine you walk out of this room. Look around you. Follow the path. Look up at the trees. Smell the flowers. Listen to the sounds of the birds. Don’t forget to buy some sugar. Remember what the person says and then return through the wood. Open your eyes.

You can read the script here.

This activity is adapted from Global Pre-intermediate, Macmillan Publishers

Last words

Watch this video, where a man shows different ways of saying good-bye.

Self-study activity: Watch the video again, and complete the blanks in sentences 1-9 with the speaker's words.

1 I really should be ...
2 Let’s keep in ...
3 You’ve got my ...
4 Call me. Text me. Email me...
5 I’m late for an ...
6 We must meet ...
7 OK. I’m out of ...
8 I’ve really enjoyed ...
9 I’ve had a fantastic ...

What phrases would you use to say good-bye in the following situations?
1 You’re talking to someone on the phone. The doorbell rings.
2 You’re at a party and need to catch the last train home.
3 It’s the end of a job interview.

Get together with a friend or classmate and tell each other about some occasions in your life when you have had to say good-bye.

Key: 1going; 2touch; 3number; 4anytime; 5appointment; 6again; 7here; 8myself; 9time

(suggestions to situations 1-3)
1 I'd better be going, there's someone at the door / I'm sorry to rush off but...
2 I must go, I need to catch my bus home / I really should be going... / I really have to go now...
3 OK. This is it. It's been a pleasure. You've got my number. Call me. Text me. Email me. Anytime. Bye!

You can read the script here.

This activity is adapted from Global, Pre-intermediate, Macmillan Publishers

The First Thanksgiving

Visit this webpage to go through an interactive trip of the Pilgrim Fathers voyage to America.

Simply select one of the three options on the menu (Voyage on the Mayflower; Daily Life; The Thanksgiving Feast) and click on the sound button. You will be able to simultaneously read and listen to the story.

Self-study activity: Read and listen to the story as often as necessary, and look up the words that you don't understand. Finally, retell parts of the story in your own words.

sábado, 28 de agosto de 2010

It's a small world

Watch this video, where John meets different people at a party.

Self-study activity:
1) Who are the seven people John meets? Number the people from the list: The host, a couple, an old friend, a person he doesn't recognise, a person he likes a lot, you, someone he's surprised to see.

2) What does John say to each different person?
    Example: 1 an old friend: Hello! How are you? It’s good to see you again.

3) Are the sentences true or false?
a) He doesn’t know many people at the party.
b) He pretends to know the second person.
c) He’s polite to the host.
d) He likes both of the people in the couple.
4) Stop the video when John talks to you and answer his questions.

Key to exercises 1 and 2:
2 a person he doesn’t recognise: How are you? Who are you?
3 a person he likes a lot: How are you? You look amazing.
4 the host: Great party! Thank you for inviting me. I mean it. Thank you. I'm having such a good time.
5 someone he’s surprised to see: What are you doing here? It’s a small world.
6 a couple: Hey guys. It's great to see you again. Excuse me.
7 you: I don't think I know you. My name's John. What's your name? What do you do? Really? It's very nice to meet you. Tell me more about yourself.
Key to exercise 3: 1F; 2T; 3T; 4F

You can read the script here.

This activity has been adapted from Global Pre-intermediate, Macmillan

viernes, 27 de agosto de 2010

A letter of complaint

The episode in the restaurant of Fawlty Towers brings up the issue of how to write a letter of complaint, which is an academic task intermediate students and above frequently have to deal with.

There are three basic parts in a letter of complaint, and we should write each part in a different paragraph.
a) Why you are writing (introduction).
b) What exactly happened (details).
c) What you want the company to do and what will happen if the problem is not solved.

On top of that, we must remember that this type of writing is formal or semi-formal, so we should use polite formulas and respect layout conventions.

And never forget, especially in exams, to keep to the length of the piece of writing. Sometimes it is really difficult to include lots of information in a very limited space!

You can read a corrected version of a letter of complaint in the Flo-Joe site, which prepares students for the Cambridge exams.

Microsoft also gives us access to endless templates for letters of complaints or any kind of writing  for that matter. Just download and read three or four models so that you get familiar with the type of language and design that you should use.

Self-study activity: You are Mr or Mrs Johnstone from the clip Gourmet Night in the blog entry before. Write a letter of complaint to the manageress of Fawlty Towers Hotel, complaining about the situation and the manager's attitude. Write 170 words.


Watch this video from the Fawlty Towers episode 'Gourmet Night'.

Self-study activity: Answer these questions about the clip:

1. What do the customers complain about?
2. How much did they eat?
3. What different solutions do the customers and Basil Fawlty suggest?

Watch the video again and think about the mistakes Basil (John Cleese), the hotel manager makes.

You can self-correct the activity by reading the script here.

Self-study activity: Discuss these questions with a friend:
1. When was the last time you complained about a product or service? What did you do?
2. When was the last time you were dissatisfied with something but didn’t complain about it? Why didn’t you complain?
3. Which advice on handling complaints positively would you give?

jueves, 26 de agosto de 2010

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Watch this short scene from the film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, where a series of unpredicted events lead to an accident.

Self-study activity:
Now watch the scene again and finish off the sentences below imagining what would have happened if things had been different. You will have to use the third conditional in all the instances.

Remember the formula for the third conditional:
If + past perfect // would have + participle

The second part of the conditional will be the same in the exercise:
... Daisy and her friend would have crossed the street and the taxi would have driven by.

Only the "if" part will change. Example:
Daisy’s friend’s shoelace broke > If her shoelace hadn't broken (they would have crossed the street...)
  1. the delivery truck moved
  2. the package wasn’t wrapped
  3. the girl broke up with her boyfriend
  4. the man forgot to set the alarm
  5. the taxi driver stopped for a cup of coffee
  6. the woman didn’t remember her coat
Self-study activity: Get together with a friend or a classmate and talk about one time in your life when you suffered or witnessed an accident.
Afterwards think about different ways the accident might have been prevented by using third conditional sentences, as in the activity above.
Example: If I hadn't answered my mobile I wouldn't have crashed with the van.

Key: 1. If the truck hadn't moved... 2. If the package had been wrapped... 3. If the girl hadn't broken up with her boyfriend... 4. If the man hadn't forgotten (or had remembered) to set the alarm... 5. If the taxi driver hadn't stopped... 6. If the woman had remembered her coat.

This activity is adapted from one designed by Claudio Azevedo (Movie Segments to Assess Grammar Goals).

Controversial ads

You are going to watch three adverts which have been controversial in the UK.

Self-study activity:  After watching them, try to think of the reasons why viewers complained about them.

Ad 1 -Bedtime story
(Subtitles can be activated on the tab under You in "You Tube".)

Ad 2 -Ford car

Ad 3 -Duffy ad

 (You can read the lyrics of Duffy's song and some suggestions about why viewers complained about the ads here.)

Self-study activity: Get together with a friend and discuss these questions: Do you think viewers were right to complain about the adverts? What adverts on Spanish TV would you like to complain about?

English Sounds is an extraordinary site we can use to improve our English with. It includes pronunciation lessons that can help us get to learn how to pronounce all English sounds and the difference between some difficult sounds.

The site allows us to download both the videos and charts with examples of each sound.

Mr Bean gets ready in a car

Self-study activity:
In this video, Mr Bean is running late for the dentist, so he gets ready in his car on the way.

Watch the scene and describe Mr Bean actions in the clip. Use the present simple in your sentences. And don't forget to use first, next, later, after that, afterwards, then, finally to sequence the actions.

Examples: Mr Bean leaves his house. Then he gets into his car.

You can check your ideas here.

Finally tell a friend or relative who also speaks English about your typical routine every morning. Try to be as specific as possible.

This is an idea adapted from Nick Jaworski -Turkish TEFL.

Pronunciation Dictionary

Study strategy:
Pronouncing English words correctly is essential for effective communication. Spanish speakers show a tendency to read English words the way they are written, as we do in Spanish, which results in endless difficulties to make ourselves understood.

It is always a good study idea to compile vocabulary lists to memorise and revise new words and expressions. The books of Modules 1, 2 and 3 of That's English! bring vocabulary lists at the back. However, as well as learning the meaning of new (and old) words, we must make sure that we know how to pronounce them. is an extraoridinary online pronunciation dictionary that can help us pronounce words and names correctly. We must try and get into the habit of checking the pronunciation of new words.

Forvo is a similar online dictionary, but it is a bit more complicated to use as it gives us the option of pronouncing words in lots of different languages.

martes, 24 de agosto de 2010

The History of St Valentine

Self-study activity:
1) What do you know about St Valentine's Day. Discuss with a friend everything you know about this festivity (date, origins, people's typical way of celebrating).
2) Watch the video through (without stopping). Some parts might be a bit difficult, but listen through it so that you can get a general idea of the documentary.
3) Watch the video for a second time (or as many times as you wish). Say whether the statements 1-7 below are true or false.

1. St Valentine's Day contains vestiges of the early Christian church in ancient Rome.
2. Pope Gelasius declared February 14th as St Valentine’s Day in the 15th century.
3. Emperor Claudius II banned (prohibited) marriages.
4. Claudius II sentenced Father Valentine to death.
5. Father Valentine was born on 14th February.
6. Americans give 180 millions roses on Valentine's Day.
7. Valentine's Day brings in 40 billions dollars annually.

4) Now you can check your answers while you read the script of the documentary here.
5) Discuss with a friend or record yourself answering these questions: How do you celebrate St Valentine's Day? How do your family or friends celebrate it? What would your ideal Valentine's Day be like? Do you think lovers really need a day to proclaim their love or is it just business?

lunes, 23 de agosto de 2010

Grammar clinic 001

Self-study activity:
Do the following grammar activities.

1) Are these verbs active (A), passive (P) or wrong (W)?
  1. was sent
  2. was running
  3. were given
  4. were been phoning
  5. has started
  6. is being built
  7. has been working
  8. will been doing
  9. had reading
  10. will be told
2) Which of these sentences is / are possible?
  1. I work as a teacher.
  2. I'm working as a teacher.
3) Choose the best reply, A or B:

Why do you work so hard?
A: Because I'm only happy when I'm busy.
B: Because I have to finish my report by the end of this week.

1) 1P, 2A, 3P, 4W, 5A, 6P, 7A, 8W, 9W, 10P
2) Both are correct: 1: my job as a teacher is a permanent situation; 2: the situation is a temporary one.
3) A. Permanent situation.

The activities are taken or adapted from Grammar Scan, Oxford University Press.

Smile, you're on Google Street View

Self-study activity: Read this article and do the activity that follows.

A man is driving along when he spots two hookers. The camera zooms in on his face and captures his expression as he drives up to them. The exact location is pinpointed on a map. How embarrassing these pictures would be in the wrong hands! Well, it's too late to worry about it. The world is laughing: Smile, sir, you're on Google Street View .

These 360-degree pictures of locations seen from the ground extend Google Map's usual overhead satellite image and matching map to the street level. Taken while driving through the streets using car-mounted panoramic cameras, the pictures are static, not webcams monitoring real-time scenes. Still, like any snapshot, they might unintentionally invade people's personal space and catch them off-guard. Data filters are supposed to blur faces and license plates to avoid recognition, but accidents will happen. So is the amusing person in the picture really relevant to us? Of course not. We're just checking how a place looks before we go there to have dinner or to find a new business location.

When Google announced last week that it would launch Street View in 20 German cities by the end of 2010, it set off a heated political debate on privacy. One politician complained the service would disclose information that would help burglars. Google doesn’t see a problem: The images are of people and things in plain view from the street, so there's no confidential information at stake. In addition, anyone can report inappropriate images. Yet Google is a big money-driven corporation, and information privacy and data protection are civil liberties in conflict with the interests of marketing. The government should be worrying about what Google is doing with undisclosed user information rather than trying to stop an application that will be very popular. And our politicians should finally begin a proper debate about our web-driven "culture of publicness" to help them figure out how to protect our interests.

What do you think?

Is privacy a luxury in the age of Google Street View?


1. Does Google Street View erase / evade / invade our personal space?

2. Google doesn't intend to disclose / enclose / unclose information that could cause trouble, but accidents do happen.

3. The people and things Google Street View shows are in plain / pure / straight view from the street. But can something we see in the street still be personal and private?

4. If we capture / catch / see a person off-guard, we collect information about them they might not want to share with us, or with anyone.

5. How can we protect / save / shelter our privacy against a huge corporation driven by data collection?

Anne Hodgson

Key: 1 invade / 2 disclose / 3 plain / 4 catch / 5 protect

The article and activities were devised by Anne Hodgson, from Spotline on line (

sábado, 21 de agosto de 2010

A Picture is Worth

"A picture's worth a thousand words", as the saying goes. A Picture's Worth is also an internet project where people upload a photograph of special significance to them and make comments about why that specific picture is important.

Self-study activity: E-mail David Chin at and send him your photo and the story around it. You can find more details on how to go about it in the Submit tab of A Picture's Worth. Alternatively, just enjoy the photographs and the stories in the site.

viernes, 20 de agosto de 2010

Phonetic Symbols

This is the interactive phonemic chart of Oxford University Press China, where you can revise the English sounds and their phonetic symbols.

You can also download and print the phonemic chart from Oxford University Press here.

The British Council also allows you to download an interactive phonemic chart to work offline, which will permit you to hear the sounds of English whenever you want. Go to this link.

The MacMillan site Onestopenglish also offers and interactive phonemic chart that can be viewed online.

martes, 17 de agosto de 2010

Best Photos of All Time

Watch this presentatiom about the best photos of all time.

Self-study activity: Stop after each still and discuss with a friend what each photo is about and what you know about each historical XXth century event.
Finally you can check your ideas against the version with helpful comments here.

lunes, 16 de agosto de 2010


Self-study activity: If possible, try and get together with a classmate or with someone who speaks English.

One of you must read the questions in this photocopy aloud, paying special attention to the pronunciation of the words in plural or third person singular. The other must answer each of the questions, but should include the information in the questions in their answers, so that you can get more practice with the plural.

A: "How many glasses of water do you drink every day?"
B: "I usually drink four or five glasses of water every day."

You can check the pronunciation of your questions here.

After the questions, you have a short theoretical revision of how to pronounce the plurals and some other activities.

Regular verbs

Self-study activity: Watch this presentation about the pronunciation of the regular verbs in English and do the exercises that come up in the second part.

It might be helpful for you to download the presentation on your PC so that you can work more comfortably and view all the exercises without a problem.

What is a Moment?

Self-study activity: Watch the video and describe as many actions as possible by using the Present Continuous.

Example: "Some children are playing."

What did you do yesterday?

Watch the video where a number of people answer the question "What did you do yesterday?".

Self-study activity: Watch the video through (without stopping) for the first time, so that you can have an idea what the people talk about.

Watch the video for a second time (or as often as necessary) and pause after each speaker, so that you can note down the different activities the people did yesterday or in the morning. You only have to write the verbs the speakers use (example: cooked, slept, worked).

When you have compiled a list of the speakers' actions, read the verbs aloud so that you can contrast your pronunciation of the verbs with that of the speakers on the video.

Finally answer these questions:
What do you do yesterday?
What did you do in the morning?

You can check your answers here.

Irregular verbs

Self-study activity: Practise the pronunciation of the English irregular verbs with this presentation prepared by the teacher Luis Ignacio Pérez Navarro:
Irregular verbs -Part one e
Irregular verbs -Part two