sábado, 30 de abril de 2011

Energy conservation

Self-study activity:
Watch this short National Geographic video clip on the way we can save energy and say what the figures and phrases below refer to:

300, 400 or 700
The biggest change in our economy in the last 30 years
Economic and environmental benefits of renewable power

You can check your answers by reading the transcript here.


Vocabulary.com is a website I learnt from Larry Ferlazzo sometime ago and, as you may well imagine, it can help us a lot to revise and learn vocabulary in a fun light-hearted way.

viernes, 29 de abril de 2011

Cheetahs playing

Watch this short video clip from a BBC nature documentary and fill in the blanks in the transcript with only one or two words.

I’m desperately trying to figure out the difference between these three (1) … . Those two – the two scrapping – they’re both males. And that looks like a male, too. I’m pretty sure these are three males. Definitely, three little males. Look at them! They’re really going at it! And fighting. That actually is a hugely important part of adult male cheetah (2) … .

These three are going to (3) … . They’re going to rule the area which they settle in. It may not be right here. They’ll probably move away from their mom’s (4) … range. But they will stick together for the rest of their lives. And why? Paring numbers. Easier to hold the territory. Easier to (5) … for danger. Easier to hunt. But it’s going to be a while before they can look after themselves. For now, they’re utterly (6) … on Honey.

I tell you, I’ll look down here. I think I can see lions down there. Down in that drainage line. You see where that (7) … is? I am sure that I saw a lion. Just briefly. And that is – what? Less than half a kilometer to where Honey is with the (8) … . The problem is, this is becoming a hotspot for our predators because who wouldn’t want a (9) … like this? For four months of the year, the wildebeest come here. It’s like a feast. And all the predators take advantage of it. Honey, you’d better watch out. You don’t want to lose another (10) … .

1 cubs 2 behaviour 3 boss 4 home 5 look out 6 dependent 7 tree line 8 cubs 9 food supply 10 cub

True Tube

DDeubel published a blog entry today on True Tube. This is what True Tube says about the site itself.

True Tube is a FREE teaching resource offering:
High-quality youth-led videos on social issues to inspire classroom debate.
Free resources and film-making tools to help bring your teaching to life!
A plethora of authentic material with a youth flavor for your classroom.

And this is what David comments on the site:

I’ve been on TrueTube since the beginning and watched it flourish as a go to site for great, critical content for educational use. In the beginning, a one woman show, now a big production. A real educational success story.

The materials are A+ and all the categories revolve around an issue. For example (because it is in the news), The Royal Family. Along with materials that you can directly use in class. Many, many categories/debates. I particularly recommend and have used – Beauty vs Intelligence and Degree vs Training.

So now that the exam is round the corner and we are trying hard to come across authentic meaningful material to watch or listen to, True Tube sounds like the perfect site for Intermediate 2 students to fall on.

jueves, 28 de abril de 2011

How much do you know about Kate and Will's wedding?

Kate Middleton and William are getting married this weekend. The event is on everyone's lips, and that gave Vicki Hollett, from Learning to Speak 'merican, the idea for this wonderful listening and speaking activity.

First of all, test yourself on your knowledge of both the wedding and the British royal family, and answer these questions:

Do you know much about the British royal family?
Do you know the names of the people getting married?
Do you know any other members of the royal family?
How do you know so many names?
Is there too much or too little about the wedding on TV?
Are you going to watch the wedding?

Now compare your answers with those of the American people Vicki interviewed.

You can read a transcript of what people say here.

Thank you for sharing, Vicki.

25 Most difficult questions on a job interview

This is the beginning of a reprinted article from Focus Magazine:

The job interview is considered to be the most critical aspect of every expedition that brings us face-to- face with the future boss. One must prepare for it with the same tenacity and quickness as one does for a fencing tournament or a chess match.

This article has been excerpted from "PARTING COMPANY: How to Survive the Loss of a Job and Find Another Successfully" by William J. Morin and James C. Cabrera. Copyright by Drake Beam Morin, inc. Publised by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

These are some of the tough questions which are mentioned in the article.

1. Tell me more about yourself.
2. What do you know about our organisation?
3. Why do you want to work for us?
4. What can you do for us that somebody else can't?
5. What do you find most attractive about this position?
6. Why should we hire you?
7. What do you look for in a job?
8. Please, give me the definition of the position for which you are being interviewed.

The article goes on and on up to 25 questions, together with some advice on how to cope with them. Click on the headline below to find out more.

miércoles, 27 de abril de 2011

Time 100 most influential people

Self-study activity: This may be a more difficult than usual listening task for Intermediate 2 students, but as the June exam is getting closer and closer we must do as much practice as we can get.

Watch this MSNBC video clip about Time magazine's pick of the most influencing people in the world in 2011 and try to understand the reasons why the following people have been selected:

Kate Middleton and Will
Mark Wahlberg
Justin Bieber
Oprah Winfrey
Gabby Giffords
Amy Chua

Remember that a lot of MSNBC video clips have subtitles and a transcript available, and although they do not transcribe 100% of the content, they give us an approximate picture of what is being said on the clips. You can read the transcript for this video clip here.

Synonym game

This is a very nice game for elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) I learnt about from DDeubel.

You only have to click on go to move one or two squares and give the synonym or antonym of the word on the square where you land.

It is good fun and good revision for lower levels.

martes, 26 de abril de 2011

Barbie biography

Self-study activity:
Watch this short clip with some basic information about the story of Barbie and complete the missing information in the transcript.

This doll has gone through many incarnations but she always remains recognizable. Hi, I’m Rebecca Britton and welcome to Watchmojo.com , and today we’ll be telling you the story of Barbie.

Barbara Millicent Roberts, otherwise known as Barbie, is a doll first sold in March (1) …. . The character hails from Willows, Wisconsin.

Barbie’s long-time male companion is Ken Parson, who first appeared in 1961. The couple split on (2) …. after 43 years together. The two remain good friends, and they don’t rule out a future reconciliation.

Barbie has held down over 100 careers over her lifetime, solidifying the belief that women can fill any job they like. These professions include Olympic gold medalist, (3) …. and various types of doctors.

Over the years, Barbie has lived in a number of glamourous abodes, usually referred to as Barbie’s (4) …. . One thing all these dream houses have in common is closet space.

Barbie is also a car connoisseur. She got her first ride in (5) …. with the Austin Healey convertible. Many of her later cars were also convertibles. However, she also got behind the wheel of a micro bus and a Volkswagen Beetle.

Throughout her lifetime, Barbie has helped honour historical events. She’s also observed different (6) …. . For example, donning traditional garb as Japanese Barbie, Irish Barbie and Spanish Barbie.

2009 marked Barbie’s (7) …. birthday, and she’s never looked better.

1 1959 2 Valentine’s Day of 2004 3 singer 4 dream house 5 1962 6 cultures 7 50th

How to say numbers

Watch this video from Rebecca ESL, who is going to remind us how to say long difficult numbers in English.

This other video from Teacher Melanie is also very interesting, as it shows more complex aspects of the pronunciation of numbers:

-How to tell times (digital and analogical).
-How to pronounce the number 0.
-How to pronounce money figures.
-How to pronunce telephone numbers.
-How to read numbers in addresses.
-How to read large numbers in populations.

A word of warning, though. Teacher Melanie is a Canadian teacher and she explains numbers the way they are pronounced in America. But most of us are used to British English and a few things (not many) are different. So take into account the following:
-The analogical time is completely different in British English (see several entries on this blog).
-Using zero for 0 is quite safe in most situations, but British English uses nought very often.
-In sports, American English uses nothing (2-0=two nothing), but British English uses nil (2-0=two-nil).

lunes, 25 de abril de 2011

Interview with Hugh Laurie

This is an interview with Hugh Laurie at the Golden Globe Awards. He talks really fast, so you may find it more difficult than usual.

There is no activity today. Just watch the interview and try to figure out what Hugh Laurie is talking about.

You can read the transcript here.

Work vs walk

This is a more than interesting video from Sozoexchange where the differences in pronunciation between work and walk are shown.

Telling the difference in pronunciation between the two words is a bone of contention for a lot of Spanish speakers, even at intermediate and advanced levels.

The video will help us to sort out a few problems, I hope it is for good.

The only downside of the video lesson is phonetics, as the phonetic symbols used do not correspond to the IPA phonetic symbols. This is the phonetic transcription for the words we should learn:

work / wɜːk /
walk / wɔːk /

domingo, 24 de abril de 2011

How to achieve enchantment

This is the definition that the MacMillan dictionary gives of enchantment:

A feature of someone or something that interests and attracts you.

*Synonyms or related words for this sense of enchantment*
advantage, benefit, good, incentive, merit, privilege, virtue, asset, edge, trump card.

Guy Kawasaky explains how to achieve enchantment in this poster (infographic). I hope it may help you somehow, but you know what they say... easier said than done.

Enchantment Infographic

H/T to Tech the Plunge.

I love the world

Self-study activity:
This is a Discovery Channel commercial which tries to raise awareness on environmental issues in a light-hearted way... for once!

Complete the gaps in the song with the missing words. The activity is suitable for all-level students.

-It never gets (1) …, huh?
-It kinda makes you wanna...
-Break into (2) …?
-I love the (3) … .
-I love the clear blue (4) … .
-I love big (5) … .
-I love when great whites (6) … .
-I love the whole world…
-…and all its sights and (7) … .
Boom-dee-ah-da, boom-dee-ah-da. Boom-dee-ah-da, boom-dee-ah-da.

-I love the (8) … .
-I love real (9) … things.
-I love to go (10) … .
-I love (11) … kings.
-I love the whole world…
-…and all its craziness.

-I love (12) … !
-I love arachnids.
-I love (13) … magma!
-I love the (14) … squids.
-I love the whole world.
-It's such a brilliant place.

1 old 2 song 3 mountains 4 skies 5 bridges 6 fly 7 sounds 8 oceans 9 dirty 10 fast 11 Egyptian 12 tornadoes 13 hot 14 giant

sábado, 23 de abril de 2011

The Gulf Oil Spill one year later

In April 2010 an oil platform went on fire in the Gulf of Mexico after an explosion, which resulted in oil flowing into the ocean for three months non-stop. However, the impact of the spill continues one year later, despite the fact the well has been capped.

We can use this piece of news to revisit VOA news, which is one of the best sites for English learners to develop their listening and reading skills.

Visit the English Learning section, where all the stories come complete with their transcript.

If you wish something more structured , click on VOA the Classroom, where you will find reading and listening texts, activities, grammar explanations, dictionaries, pronunciation.

VOA news is an excellent site for English learners of all levels. Spend some time exploring it!

Saving energy

Today we are posting about another website that tries to raise awareness about environmental issues, this one comes from the California Energy Commission.

With the help of a fictional character, Professor Questor, we are guided to find out the way energy can be used more efficiently and to come to terms with the fact that there is a limit to energy comsumption.

viernes, 22 de abril de 2011

Jude Law

Self-study activity:
Watch this interview with Jude Law and say if the sentences below are true or false.

1 This is Jude Law’s first romantic film.
2 Jude Law is reluctant to talk about his role in the film.
3 In the film, Kate Wislet and Jude Law exchange houses.
4 The best period of romantic films was the 60s.
5 Breaking and entering was filmed in Paris.
6 Jude took his children to Africa for a holiday.

You can read the transcript here.

1 T 2T 3F 4F 5F 6T

Telling the time (revisited)

Emphasis on English looks like a more than promising blog for English students of all levels. This is the latest blogpost Katie has uploaded and it is the perfect activity for elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) to revise how to tell the time in English.

After telling us how to tell the time, Katie gives us some practical activities, with both listening and speaking/written tasks.

Recycling guide -Earth Day 2011

On 22nd April we celebrate Earth Day. There are lots of materials around the web I could have chosen to draw your attention to environmental problems and to make you (a wee bit more) aware of the need to take active action on this issue.

I have selected The Recycling Guide, which is part of a British Guides Network  about lots of topics, because it presents the subject in a pedagogical way, it is easy to read, and gives us lots of sound advice on recycling.

H/T to Learn the Net.

jueves, 21 de abril de 2011

Las Vegas

Self-study activity:
Watch this short clip from watchmojo.com about Las Vegas and answer the questions below about it.

1 When was Las Vegas founded?
2 What are the major attractions of Las Vegas?
3 What the weather like in Las Vegas?
4 What’s the one thing you must do if you go to Las Vegas?
5 How many golf courses are there in Las Vegas?
6 What can people do in Las Vegas Boulevard South apart from gambling?

You can read the transcript here.

1 In the 20th century 2 The casinos 3 Similar to a desert 4 See a show 5 More than sixty 6 shopping

Nationality adjectives

This is a more theoretical post than we are used to. From Linglish.net comes this explanation about the pattern in the formation of nationality adjectives.

Remember the eight basic forms of nationality adjectives:

-ian (Italian, Norwegian)
-ean (Chilean, Korean)
-an (American, Mexican)
-ese (Chinese, Japanese)
-er (Icelander, New Zealander)
-ic (Icelandic, Greenlandic)
-ish (English, Irish)
-i (Iraqi, Pakistani)

But read the Linglish.net to find out the recurring patterns in the way these adjectives are attached to different countries.

Also, do not forget to use the map below as a reference to get to know which suffix is used with specific countries.

miércoles, 20 de abril de 2011

Talking elephant

Self-study activity:
Watch this National Geographic video clip about the way elephants communicate and answer the questions below.

1 How do elephants communicate?
2 What two parts of the body are related in elephant communication?
3 Can humans hear an elephant’s rumble?
4 Do underground signals travel farther than acoustic ones?

You can read the transcript here.

1 Through their feet 2 Ears and feet 3 No (barely) 4 Yes

Spin to win

Spin to Win is a fun vocabulary game that I have learnt throught DDeubel.

Simply press the red lever on the right of the picture to take a spin. You have to decide whether the two elements (word+suffix) make an English word.

If you think they do, just click on correct. If they don't, nudge back or forward, either the first element or the second until the two form, in your opinion, an English word. And check what happens by clicking on correct.

martes, 19 de abril de 2011

IN, AT, ON (place and time)

Some weeks ago A Clil to Climb published a short but effective explanation of the differences between the prepositions INAT and ON for both place and time.

Click on the image below to read Chiew Pang’s explanation before trying an interactive cloze test based on the earthquake that hit Japan recently and where you only have to insert either IN, AT or ON.

To study these prepositions in more detail Chiew Pang recommends this article from OnestopEnglish.

Will Farrel debuts as new boss at 'The Office'

Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip from Newsy.com about the debut of Will Ferrell as the new boss for The Office, and say whether the statements below are true or false.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

1 Ferrell might not be in the series for long.
2 Ferrell has been hired for fourteen episodes.
3 Viewership has increased since Ferrell began playing the boss.
4 Almost 8 million people watched Ferrell’s first episode.
5 Critics are not 100% convinced with Ferrell’s character.

1T 2F (4 episodes) 3T 4T 5T

lunes, 18 de abril de 2011

Learning with technology

This is a beautiful slideshow from DDeubel on the English Central blog about the importance of technology of education.

These are David's words in the blog post:

Technology has some good and bad sides – like all things in life. However, for language learning it offers some real power and solutions.

1. It brings context and the real world into the classroom
2. It allows students to repeat and get instant feedback.
3. It helps teachers track and deliver individualized content.
4. It makes the curriculum relevant, today and “hip”.
5. It indirectly teaches students how to use technology that will be vital to their futures.
6. Technology liberates and connects once isolated students and classrooms.

Watch the presentation and think about the ideas that David puts forward while enjoying some beautiful slides.

Traffic cameras make drivers angry

Self-study activity:
Watch this video from MSNBC about the US police fining drivers for speeding with the help of cameras and say whether the sentences below are true or false.

1 The financial crisis has made authorities set traffic cameras.
2 The driving ticket for speeding is $700.
3 Up until now the traffic cameras have collected little money.
4 Traffic cameras cost more than the money they collect.
5 Drivers who have contended the fines in court have won the cases.

You can read a transcript here.

All the sentences are true.

domingo, 17 de abril de 2011

Glacsweb BBC

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC report on how fast a Norwegian glacier is melting and say whether the statements below are true or false.

Say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 The glacier has retreated more than one hundred metres in one year.
2 In November the glacier hasn’t retreated.
3 The last time the researchers visited the place was five months ago.
4 As a result of the melting, the researchers have lost their equipment.
5 The measurements they have date back to twenty years.
6 The scientists have to find another place to continue their research.

You can read a transcript here.

1T 2F 3F 4T 5F 6T

The Civil War Re-enacted

From The New York Times Learning blogs comes this reading activity.

Click on the image to get to the article where you can find the answers to the following questions.

WHERE did the Civil War begin 150 years ago today?
WHEN did the Civil War end?
WHO came to this national monument over the weekend to re-enact the opening shots of the Civil War?
If there had been a government shutdown last week, HOW would it have affected the Civil War commemorations planned here?
WHY do some of the re-enactors quoted in this article see parallels between then and now?
WHAT did Vernon Terry bring to the commemoration?
WHAT “extremes” do many Civil War re-enactors go to to duplicate the experiences of soldiers in the 1860s?

(You might use Tony Horwitz’s 1999 article “Mine Eyes Have Seen the Coming of a Lot of Wacky Stuff” to help you find tips for re-enactors on topics like “grooming,” and “eatin’ and cussin’.”)

sábado, 16 de abril de 2011

History of New York

Self-study activity:
Watch this old documentary on New York city and complete the blanks in the excerpts from the transcript with the missing information.

1 This is New York. A ……………. city. A city of tall buildings, narrow dark streets, …

2 The Bronx, sometimes is called the Borough of Industries, lies on the ……………. to the north and east.

3 On the floor of the Exchange's Great Hall, ……………. are bought and sold

4 New York exerts an influence that is worldwide. Yet, for all its ……………. and activity, New York is…

5 … people who have crowded into this district have made for a ……………. and the consequent high value of whatever land...

6 From the Bay (…) is an extraordinary spectacle and the effects of hundreds of ……………. crowded together along...

You can read the full transcript here.

1 miracle 2 mainland 3 stocks and bonds 4 imposing size 5 scarcity of land 6 towering buildings

Improve your reading

GCF Learn Free is a site that can be more than interesting for English Language Learners, especially at lower levels.

Click on Reading and you will have the opportunity to develop your reading skills in the broader sense of the word: Texts, audio, vocabulary, pronunciation, activities.

After clicking on Start, choose from the icon on the top the topic you want to read about. Then, select from the five icons on the bottom (letters, words, texts, video, activities), the kind of work you want to do.

Take a while to explore GCF Learn Free . It can help you lots with your English.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

viernes, 15 de abril de 2011

Mac versus PC

Which computer is better, a Mac or a PC?

A lot of people prefer using the Mac due to ease of use, but the cost is definitely higher than a PC.

Here is a very nice infographic from iTOK.net comparing the Mac and PC.

H/T to Tech the Plunge.

Green Gyms

Green Gym is an initiative of the BTCV – a UK environmental volunteering charity – that can improve your fitness while helping the environment. For more information, you can visit http://www.nhs.uk/.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below.

What is the Green Gym?
Why do people do it?
Why do some of the people not like conventional gyms?
How many Green Gyms are there in the Uk?
How can you find out where the closest Green Gym is?

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

jueves, 14 de abril de 2011

Food Inc.

In Food Inc. Robert Kenner exposes the US's food industry, showing the highly mechanised parts that have been hidden from the American consumer.

Self-study activity:
Watch the trailer of the film and say what the numbers and phrases below refer to.

50 // 10,000 // 47,000 products // 49 days // two hamburgers // against the law // local or organic // tobacco // wholesome food.

You can check the answers by reading the transcript here.

How to be happy

This The Telegraph article deals with the growing feeling of insatisfaction in today's world, despite the fact that we have more material things than any other generation before.

The article also provides some key deficiencies that make people unhappy. Apparently, one of the main reasons for our happiness is that we do not give enough. Watch this short video and find out what happens when someone makes up their mind to change their attitude and decides to start giving.

You can also visit the Action for Happiness webpage where you will get all kind of advice about what to do to achieve a more balanced, healthier and happier lifestyle.

For the English learner, lots of reading and lots of videos.

miércoles, 13 de abril de 2011

Mona Lisa's home found

Self-study activity:
Watch this short Discovery video on Mona Lisa and answer the questions below:

1 When was Mona Lisa born?
2 How much did Mona Lisa's father pay for the house rent?
3 How many different houses did Mona Lisa live in her life?
4 How old was Mona Lisa when she married?
5 What did her husband do?
6 How many children did she have?
7 How old was Mona Lisa when she died?
8 Where is Mona Lisa's grave?

You can read the transcript here.

1 June 15, 1479; 2 Sixteen florins; 3 Four; 4 Sixteen; 5 He was a silk merchant; 6 Five; 7 Sixty-three; 8 We don't know

Inflation island

Inflation, cost of living, interest rates are just some economic terms which are on the news every day and that we ourselves use on occasion.

Few people, however, understand the ins and outs of economy or are able to explain these terms. That is why Inflation island, an online game from the European Central Bank, may be appealing to us in more ways than one, as we will be able to explore the areas in the island while we learn the basics about inflation, deflation, price stability, hyperinflation.

While doing so, you will be practising your English all the time, and will even have to opportunity to visit the island's cinema to see videos and slideshows which show how inflation and deflation have affected various countries over the years.

H/T to Jeffrey Hill.

Routine in the past

Now that the school year is coming to an end it is the right moment to revise some of the key grammar points that we have been studying throughout the course.

Regular and irregular verbs pose a great deal of difficulty for lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2), that is the reason why the activity Routine in the Past, from the blog The English you Need, is more than interesting.

By clicking on the image below you will be redirected to Patricia Perez's activity, which is divided into two parts: You have to put the pictures in the right order and complete the verbs in the text in the right form.

If you want to revise how to pronounce irregular verbs, check this blog entry.

If you wish to revise how to pronounce regular verbs, check this blog entry.

You can extend the activity by talking or writing about what you did yesterday or last weekend, using some of the verbs in this activity and paying careful attention to the pronunciation.

woke, looked, was, was, jumped, ran, took, had, was, got, put, cleaned, brushed, went, made, had, left, took, wanted, dropped, broke, picked, threw, went, put, went, closed, saw, waited, gave, looked, saw, was, was, needed

martes, 12 de abril de 2011

Building the Great Wall of China

Self-study activity:
Watch this National Geographic video on the Great Wall of China, and note down what the figures, words and phrases below refer to.

16 // bricks // 7 // 20 // 1,200 // the message // 25,000

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

Conjunctions wheel game

Conjunctions Wheel Game is an interactive online grammar game from ESL Games World which will allow us to revise and put to the test our knowledge of English conjunctions.

Click on the 'Hit' button on the middle to rotate the wheel and choose the best option to complete the sentence that will come up.

Once you have selected your answer, click on 'submit' to check whether you got your answer right.

I think the game is suitable for lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2).

H/T to English Teacher blog.

The journey that shook the world

From the BBC comes this report to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's 108-minute flight around the Earth, which started human spaceflight.

The feat was also a major propaganda coup for the Soviet Union, which had successfully launched the first satellite, Sputnit, in 1957.

In this report you can also watch an interview with Yuri Gagarin.

H/T to It's Magazines.

lunes, 11 de abril de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this video which explains the way hurricanes are formed and answer the questions below about it.

1 How far away from where it hits a hurricane is born?
2 What direction does the jet stream flow?
3 What can trigger the development of an easterly wave?
4 Where do the clusters of thunderstorms encounter tropical waters?
5 Where does the warm moist that feeds hurricanes come from?
6 At what speed does the storm develop an eye?

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

Through the Wild Web Woods

From Free Technology for Teachers comes this information about a game which warns children about the dangers of the internet. This is the way Richard Byrne describes the game:

"In an effort to teach children about potential dangers online and how to avoid them, the Council of Europe offers a game called Through the Wild Web Woods. Through the Wild Web Woods is designed for students ages seven through ten to learn how to spot danger on the Internet and what to do when they do spot danger on the Internet, although students of all ages, including adults, can benefit greatly from it. The game is available in twenty-four languages."

The English language learner will have to read lots of instructions and get familiar with a lot of vocabulary while playing, so the game is also interesting for us from this perspective.

The hardest languages to learn

This is a really interesting entry in the English Central blog by DDeubel.

This is what he says about the most important factors that influence learners when studying a second language:

"The biggest factor contributing to a language learner’s success at learning a second language is motivation.

Second is language distance – the difference from the target language and the amount of interference or transfer that can occur.

Learning English can be harder or more difficult depending on your mother tongue. Here are some infographics that detail the languages that have the least language distance (and thus, make it easier to learn English) and those with the most language distance. The photos list how difficult it is for a native English speaker but the case is the same in reverse – for a non-native speaker wanting to learn English!"

domingo, 10 de abril de 2011

Nature versus nurture

Katherine Anne "Katie" Couric is an American journalist, currently the anchor and managing editor of the CBS Evening News. She is the first solo female anchor of a weekday evening news program on one of the three traditional U.S. broadcast networks.

Her notebook feature within the CBS news programme is a short comment she makes on a hot current affairs issue.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing information.

Hi everyone. Scientists may have (1) … a clue to what makes us human, and it's built right into the brain. (2) … from the Brain and Creativity Institute at US say: yes, there really is such a place… say they have located a part of the mind that actually controls (3) … .

In the journal Nature, they report that people who have (4) … the front of their brain were more likely to harm someone when given a (5) … decision. Those with that part of the brain intact were less likely to (6) … others.

One of the authors concluded part of our moral behavior is (7) … into a specific part of our brains. In other words, most of us are wired to do the right thing: to be (8) … about others, to be compassionate, to empathize. In the arguments over nature versus nurture, it's part of our nature to nurture. If you find that both amazing and (9) … , well, I can empathize.

That's a page from my Notebook. I'm Katie Couric, CBS News.

1 uncovered 2 researchers 3 empathy 4 damaged 5 life-or-death 6 hurt 7 grounded 8 concerned 9 uplifting

One of these things

One of these these things is not like the others is an interactive game by DDeubel that can help students of all levels to activate their written or spoken English while having lots of fun.

Self-study activity:
If possible, get together with a friend or relative who also speaks English, so that you can do the activity orally and you can also share ideas and help each other. If on your own, you always have the option to talk out aloud to yourself or to do the activity in writing.

In the activity, students are presented with four different objects within a category, and they have to say why one object is different from the others. There might be more than one possibility of comparing objects within the same category.

Category: Things
Objects: a bomb of dynamite, a ball, a jar of beer, and a clock.

A ball is not like the others because you can play football with a ball, but not with the other things.
A clock is not like the others because you can only tell the time with a clock.

There are as many as twelve categories: things, sports, jobs, places, flight, famous people, clothes, names, food, drinks, fruit, abstract ideas.

To make the objects spring up on the slide, you must click around the question mark (?) in the middle of the slide.

Finally, you can enjoy the Sesame Street song the activity is based on.

One Of These Things (Is Not Like The Others)
(Words and Music by Joe Raposo and Jon Stone)

One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?

Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn’t belong?
If you guessed this one is not like the others,
Then you’re absolutely…right!

A long weekend

A long weekend is the sixth and final episode of the elementary video course.

Before watching the episode, make sure you are familiar with the following adjectives: exciting, historical, modern, beautiful, exotic, cold, dangerous, romantic, boring.

The present perfect is introduced in this episode. Make sure you know how to use this tense in English.

Also, try and remember the past and participle of these irregular verbs: take, eat, get, sleep, fly, go.

After watching the episode, read this summary and correct the eight mistakes the text has.

Jane read an advertisement for a holiday in Barcelona in a holiday magazine. Helen went there three years ago with her family and had a brilliant time. Everyone except Matt has travelled a lot. Matt has only been to Ireland. Jane helps Matt to book a ticket to Barcelona on the telephone. Matt is excited about the flight because he has never been on a plane. On the day of the holiday, Matt packs a small bag and takes a taxi to the airport. Unfortunately, he takes the wrong tickets. He has to return to the house and misses his flight.

sábado, 9 de abril de 2011

Yale under investigation

MSNBC video clips are an invaluable listening tool for intermediate students who are preparing for their certificate exam.

They offer lots of video clips on current affairs, most of which are subtitled and with an approximate transcript available.

Self-study activity:
Watch this clip from MSNBC and say if the statements below are true or false.

1 Yale is a member of the Ivy League.
2 Yale is one of the oldest universities in the US.
3 Yale seems to be more worried about men than women.
4 A group of 43 female students was harassed.
5 When the incident was reported, the university did nothing.
6 A group of 15 girls reported the university to the Department of Education.
7 The Department must investigate whether there is a hostile environment for women.
8 Yale is cooperating in the investigation.

You can read an approximate transcript of the news here.

1T 2T 3T 4F (53 students) 5F (didn't do enough) 6F (girls and boys) 7T 8T

Change of dress

Change of Dress is the fifth installment of the video course for elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) that we have been publishing this week. The focus of the episode today is on shopping.

Before watching this episode, make sure you understand this vocabulary which has to do with shopping for clothes:

expensive; cheap; gorgeous; tight; it’s got a stain; the label of a dress; a charity shop; it’s second hand; it’s torn; try the dress on

To review the episode, put these events in the correct order to tell the story. Then watch the whole episode again to check.

Alison went shopping.
Helen had an accident with Alison’s dress.
Jane, Helen, Matt and David met Alison in the High Street.
Helen told Alison about the accident.
Alison showed her party dress to Jane and Helen.
Helen took Alison’s dress out of the bag.
Jane, Helen, Matt and David went into town to buy another dress.
Matt and David arrived home.
Jane couldn’t remove the stain.
Helen and David found the right dress.

Once you are familiar with the story and the vocabulary, try to tell the story from memory in your own words.

viernes, 8 de abril de 2011

Born to learn

Born to Learn is the first animation in a fascinating series aimed to provide easy-access to the exciting new discoveries constantly being made about how humans learn! Narrated by Damian Lewis.

Self-study activity:
The video is really fast-paced and content-rich, so I just thought I would give you a very general task which would not distract you from concentrating on the video.

Here you have eight topics that are mentioned in the clip. Number them in the order they come up.

a) Reward or punishement.
b) Adolescence, an opportunity.
c) The importance of play.
d) Albert Einstein walking out of school.
e) Breaking away from parents.
f) From childhood to teenage.
g) The brain, a computer programme.
h) Giving full responsibility to adolescents.

You can read a full transcript here.

a)2; b)8; c)4; d)1; e)6; f)5; g)3; h)7

36 uses for a grocery bag

While there's an ongoing debate on whether supermarkets and shops in general should stop providing customers with plastic bags, as they are highly harmful to the environment, some still believe that the reasons for using plastic bags far outweigh the disadvantages, as they are durable, lightweight, moisture resistant, and reusable.

This article from the blog Len Penzo dot com lists as many as 36 amazing uses for plastic bags. Have a look and find out more.

H/T to Learn the Net.

Dinner for two

In the fourth episode of this video course for elementary students, we are going to learn/revise countable and uncountable nouns and food vocabulary, and talk about food and how to make dishes.

Remember that the episode is subtitled, and if you wish to check your comprehension and not to read the subtitles you must scroll down until you cover them, although that will reduce the size of the screen.

After you have watched the full episode, say whether these statements are true or false:

1) Helen is cooking for Matt.
2) They put too much chilli in the food.
3) Julia is late for dinner.
4) Jane is at a restaurant.
5) Helen is a fantastic cook.
6) Matt and Helen cook tuna for David.
7) Julia enjoys the food.
8) David doesn’t know the recipe.

jueves, 7 de abril de 2011


Self-study activity:
Watch this video clip on the importance of words in our daily life and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing figures and numbers.

Did you know the longest word in the English dictionary is Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, consisting of (1) ... letters? It’s a lung disease in case you were wondering.

The average person speaks (2) ... words per day. This morning we’ll say (3) ... good mornings, we’ll sing (4) ... words. Rick will preach (5) ... words.

During the Civil War Edward Everett delivered a speech against birth counseling consisted of over (6) ... words and lasted for (7) ... hours. Abraham Lincoln followed it up with (8) ... words in two minutes to give new fund hope to a bloodied nation, and it’s considered one of the greatest speeches in American history.

On August 28th (9) ... a Baptist minister from Atlanta Georgia spoke (10) ... words that changed the course of a nation. (11) .. years before that an idealistic European Prime Minister’s words were instrumental in changing the course of the world.

Words can define a vision, no matter how sinister the vision might be. Some words are by mothers others by monsters. But do our words matter? Words that build up or words that demoralize, words that challenge or words that excuse, words that unite or words that tear apart. Did they matter? Is anyone listening? Or are they just words?

(1) 45 (2) 16,000 (3) 7.5 (4) 1,148 (5) 5,000 (6) 13,500 (7) 2 (8) 268 (9) 1963 (10) 1,578 (11) 28

An old friend

This is the third part out of six in the video course for elementary (Básico 1 and Básico 2) students that we are featuring this week.

The focus today is on relationships. Who are the following people?
A friend - a colleague - a boyfriend/girlfriend - a fiancé(e) - a husband/wife

The past of both regular and irregular vergs is also introduced. Do you know the past simple of this verbs?
buy - do - fall (in love) - get (engaged) - meet - move - see - think - tell

In this episode we will also be revising some time expressions.
Expressions like Cheers, Really!, Sorry, Darling.
Invitations: Would anyone like a drink?

Remember the video is subtitled, and if you want to check your listening comprehension you will have to scroll down the screen up to the point that the subtitles are covered.

To check your comprehension of this episode, complete this summary by filling in the gaps.

Matt and ... are waiting in a ... for ... and David. Suddenly, Matt sees ... , his old ...  . Matt asks ... to help him. She pretends to be Matt's ...  . She says she's not wearing a ... because their engagement is a ...  . When she goes to buy a drink, ... and David arrive.  ... tries to help Matt, but unfortunately she also tells ... that she is Matt's fiancée. Matt and Jane are very embarrassed. Deb is very ...  .

miércoles, 6 de abril de 2011

Bill Gates at Harvard

This is part of the commencement speech that Bill Gates gave at Harvard University in 2007.

Self-study activity:
Watch the five-minute video clip and number the topics in the order Bill Gates mentions them.

New tools can make the future different.
A problem someone overcame some time ago.
The beginning of the new technology.
Statistics about access to the new technology.
A really boring meeting.
Our goals for the future as far as technology is concerned.
Some examples of new tools that can help to fight poverty and diseases.

You can read a transcript of the clip here.

10 Ways not to be a Jerk Online

"Network etiquette, aka netiquette, is the of set rules for online conduct that separate the n00bs from the power users. We all make mistakes when we start, right? Especially when trying to join an online community or social network.

If you're experienced online and you still break these rules of common online courtesy, then you're probably just a big jerk-face. However, you can avoid being seen as a digital dirtbag to your online fellows by following these simple steps."

These are the first two paragraphs of 10 Ways not to be a Jerk Online, from PCMag. If you want to find out more about Eric Griffith's suggestions so that you don't make a fool of yourself when online, click on the image below.

To the rescue

To the rescue is the second episode of the elementary video course that we started yesterday. It is suitable for Básico 1 and Básico 2 students.

On this episode we are practising the following:

Vocabulary related to breakfast and everyday objects.
Present continuous.
There is / There are.
Can / Could for possibility.
Can / Could for resquests (ask someone to do something for you).
Greetings (Hello! Good morning!) and farewells (Good-bye!).

Remember the video is subtitled and you may wish to check how much you understand first without reading the subtitles, so you will have to listen to the sound without watching the images or just scroll down the screen so that the subtitles are covered. This way you will only be able to watch half the screen, but that's better than nothing.

You can also try the following comprehension task. This summary of the episode has six mistakes. Correct them after watching the episode:

Jane goes to the post office to get some money but can't find her bag.  She telephones Matt. He finds it in the living room. Jane goes home by bus to collect it but can't find her keys. Matt doesn't answer the door because he's sleeping, so she telephones David. When David arrives home, Simon is trying to open the door.

martes, 5 de abril de 2011

Gwen Stefani HP ad

Self-study activity:
Watch this short commercial featuring Gwen Stefani and fill in the blanks in the transcript with just one word.

Sometimes it’s so  (1) ... to find what it is I trying to (2) ... . People might think you can (3) ... creativity on and off, but it’s not like that. It just kinda (4) ... out. A mashup of all these things you (5) ... in your mind, you never know when it’s going to (6) ..., but when it does, it like (7) ... . It’s just that simple and it’s just that (8) ... .

Explore your creativity with projects (9) ... by Gwen Stefani and HP.

1 hard 2 say 3 turn 4 comes 5 collect 6 happen 7 magic 8 hard 9 designed

Memidex -online English dictionary

A few days ago, Larry Ferlazzo let us know about Memidex, an online English dictionary.

Memidex offers the same features as a standard dictionary -definitions, pronunciation, example sentences- and much more, as it tells us almost everything we want to know about a word: class, variations in spelling, synonyms, antonyms and, most importantly, its etimology.

Memidex is a very comprehensive dictionary that compiles information from other online resources.

My new neighbour

Here is the first part out of six of a very interesting video course for Básico 1 and Básico 2 (elementary) students, which can help us to grasp and revise language, vocabulary and structures now that the school year is coming to an end.

What My New Neighbour and revise

Basic information questions

The video is subtitlted in English, so comprehension is not a problem, but if your priority is working on listening comprehension you may choose to listen to it without watching it, either before watching it or afterwards.

We will keep posting the next videos in the story throughout the week.

lunes, 4 de abril de 2011

Global Warming 101

Self-study activity:
Watch this National Geographic video clip and say what these figures refer to:

2.5 // 1.2 to 1.4 // 1998 // 2005 // 420,000 // 10% // 30 // 2 to 10

You can read a transcript of the clip here.

TeaTime Mag

Today English learners got wonderful news through Jeffrey Hill as he has informed on his blog about TeaTime Mag, a free online English language magazine.

The focus of TeaTime Mag is improving students language skills (reading, listening, pronunciation and vocabulary, mainly) while learning about the life and culture of the English-speaking world.

You can download the articles in PDF as well as the audio files. On top of that, all articles have vocabulary help and activities.

The articles are intended for intermediate and advanced students. TeaTime Mag is available in three languages for learning purposes: Spanish, German and French.

There is also a Teacher Edition with extra resources.

As it was said before, the publication is completely free.

Here is a video that explains all the details of TeaTime Mag.

TeaTime Video [No Subs] from Lingua Group on Vimeo.

The Bronx Zoo Cobra

Read this article from The New York Time Learning Blogs and answer these questions about a cobra that went missing recently.

Additional speaking practice:
Remember that you can use the questions below as a springboard to develop your oral skills. Once you have read the article and found the answer to all the questions, you can practise your oral ability by answering the questions orally.

It would be better if you managed to do this oral practice with someone else, but you can also do it on your own or even record yourself doing it.

You can read the related blog post here.

WHEN did this adolescent Egyptian cobra go missing at the Bronx Zoo?
WHERE was she found?
HOW was the cobra caught?
HOW did this snake become a Twitter celebrity?
WHERE are some of the places @BronxZoosCobra claimed to have visited since escaping from the zoo?WHERE would you go if you were a snake that could seemingly travel anywhere in New York City?WHERE might the person sending the Twitter messages live or work?
WHAT did James J. Breheny, the Bronx Zoo’s director, say about all the media attention?
WHAT is the snake’s name?
WHY do you think this story has become so popular?

domingo, 3 de abril de 2011

Aid to children

Aid to children is an online vocabulary game suitable for students of all levels.

We are asked for the correct synomym of a word out of four options. If we get the answer right, .25 cents will be donated to children in the most impoverished places in the world.

The questions vary in difficulty, but that makes the game suitable for all levels.

H/T to DDeubel.

April Fool's or PC's Dooms Day

This information was news on 31 March 2009.

Self-study activity:
Watch the Newsy video and say whether the following statements are true or false:

1 This news is not a joke.
2 The virus will strike on April Fool’s Day.
3 The percentage of computers affected by the virus is limited.
4 The PCs in danger are those with a pirated version of Microsoft.
5 Microsoft is offering a reward to anyone who can stop the virus.

Multisource political news, world news, and entertainment news analysis by Newsy.com

You can read a transcript of the news item here.

All the sentences are true.