lunes, 31 de diciembre de 2012

Twiggy on fashion and London

This is another video in the series This is Great Britain. Famous 60's model Lesley Lawson, Twiggy, tells us about British fashion and the meaning of being British for her.

Self-study activity:
This is a listening activity for intermediate students. Listen to the clip and answer the questions below.

1 Why did Twiggy's first boyfriend make fun of her?
2 What piece of clothing was popular in Twiggy's times?
3 What does Carnaby Street mean for people in general and for Twiggy in particular?
4 Twiggy mentions three things that the British have got. What is it?
5 What's the good thing about British museums?
6 What phrase does Twiggy use to describe her feelings towards London?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

My first boyfriend’s brother, in the ‘60s, used to tease me ‘cause my legs were so skinny. It started as “Sticks,” and then it turned into “Twiggy.”
When I burst on the scene in the ‘60s we had Barbara Hulanicki, who gave us Biba, and Mary Quant and the mini skirt. And I think from then on British fashion has just grown and grown and grown.
I think we’ve got such an amazing stable of designers now that all the world looks to. We’ve got Stella McCartney, Matthew Williamson, Vivienne Westwood, Christopher Kane, Christopher Bailey, Paul Smith. They are some of the great designers and we’re brave, we go for it. And there’s always new things; I mean, it’s brilliant!
Carnaby Street, you know, if you say that name, everyone in the world knows it’s London. To me it just means my teenage years, it was the exciting place, and it was a hip hop place to go.
We’ve got everything: we’ve got art, we’ve got fashion, we’ve got history.
There’s such an array of museums in Britain and they’re all free, which is great!
I’ll always live in London. You know, it’s in my heart. Britain’s in my heart and soul.
You’re invited!

domingo, 30 de diciembre de 2012

Ghosts of Machu Picchu

Located on a mountain crest, mysteriously abandoned more than four centuries ago, Machu Picchu is the most famous archeological ruin in the Western Hemisphere and an iconic symbol of the power and engineering prowess of the Inca. In the years since Machu Picchu was discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911, there have been countless theories about this "Lost City of the Incas," yet it remains an enigma. Why did the Incas build it on such an inaccessible site? Who lived among its stone buildings, farmed its emerald green terraces, and drank from its sophisticated aqueduct system?

Watch this NOVA documentary which touches on areas of Machu Picchu that haven't been dealt with since the time of the Incas. See what they discover when they unearth burials of the people who built the sacred site.

You can watch the parts two, three and four of the documentary here.
You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 29 de diciembre de 2012

The Queen's Christmas 2012 speech

This is Queen Elizabeth's Christmas message on 24th December, where she reflects on her Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.

The video clip is a bit lengthy but for English learners at an intermediate level and above, it is an extraordinary opportunity to come face to face with English in a stress-free situation.

If you are after an activity around the message, St George International has devised a straightforward task around the use of regular and irregular verbs in the speech.

This past year has been one of great celebration for many. The enthusiasm which greeted the Diamond Jubilee was, of course, especially memorable for me and my family.

It was humbling that so many chose to mark the anniversary of a duty which passed to me 60 years ago. People of all ages took the trouble to take part in various ways and in many nations. But perhaps most striking of all was to witness the strength of fellowship and friendship among those who had gathered together on these occasions.

Prince Philip and I were joined by our family on the River Thames as we paid tribute to those who have shaped the United Kingdom's past and future as a maritime nation, and welcomed a wonderful array of craft, large and small, from across the Commonwealth.

On the barges and the bridges and the banks of the river there were people who had taken their places to cheer through the mist, undaunted by the rain. That day there was a tremendous sense of common determination to celebrate, triumphing over the elements.

That same spirit was also in evidence from the moment the Olympic flame arrived on these shores. The flame itself drew hundreds and thousands of people on its journey around the British Isles, and was carried by every kind of deserving individual, many nominated for their own extraordinary service.

As London hosted a splendid summer of sport, all those who saw the achievement and courage at the Olympic and Paralympic Games were further inspired by the skill, dedication, training and teamwork of our athletes. In pursuing their own sporting goals, they gave the rest of us the opportunity to share something of the excitement and drama.

We were reminded, too, that the success of these great festivals depended to an enormous degree upon the dedication and effort of an army of volunteers. Those public-spirited people came forward in the great tradition of all those who devote themselves to keeping others safe, supported and comforted.

For many, Christmas is also a time for coming together. But for others, service will come first. Those serving in our armed forces, in our emergency services and in our hospitals, whose sense of duty takes them away from family and friends, will be missing those they love.

And those who have lost loved ones may find this day especially full of memories. That's why it's important at this time of year to reach out beyond our familiar relationships to think of those who are on their own.

At Christmas I am always struck by how the spirit of togetherness lies also at the heart of the Christmas story. A young mother and a dutiful father with their baby were joined by poor shepherds and visitors from afar. They came with their gifts to worship the Christ child. From that day on he has inspired people to commit themselves to the best interests of others.

This is the time of year when we remember that God sent his only son 'to serve, not to be served'. He restored love and service to the centre of our lives in the person of Jesus Christ.

It is my prayer this Christmas Day that his example and teaching will continue to bring people together to give the best of themselves in the service of others.

The carol, In The Bleak Midwinter, ends by asking a question of all of us who know the Christmas story, of how God gave himself to us in humble service: "What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a wise man, I would do my part". The carol gives the answer "Yet what I can I give him - give my heart".

I wish you all a very happy Christmas

viernes, 28 de diciembre de 2012

A pay phone library

A designer on the Upper West Side has had a funny idea to change the urban landscape and surprise New Yorkers.

Self-study activity:
Watch The New York Times video clip and answer the questions about it. The activity is suitable for strong intermediate students.

1 Why did Mr Locke decide to do something with the phone booths?
2 Why is it so easy to attach shelves to the booths?
3 Why does he usually do it on a Sunday morning?
4 Who pays for the shelves?
5 How long do the shelves last?
6 What does Mr Locke like doing after fixing a bookshelf?
7 What does the "four hours" refer to at the end of the clip?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

There is no part of you that is expecting something to be in a phone booth so you just have this natural like New York City bloke filter that makes you walk on the street and be like I will not look at any phone booths, I will not look at any bus stops, you know, I´m not going to look at trash cans or street lights, I’m just gonna to keep walking, I’ve got somewhere to go and if they hurry, you just totally miss it. Now? Ok. My name is John Locke and I’m an architectural designer here in New York, and I also work on spontaneous interventions, community projects, self-initiated projects on the side.
Mr Locke didn’t think the un-used pay phones on the Upper West Side were doing anyone much good, so he decided to start using them as bookshelves.
This particular model of phone booth, the tied-in booth provides a kind of, almost like a natural spot you attach something to. No fastener are required, no screws, no bolts, no any no nothing. Basically you just need the shelves and books and that’s it. So typically, you know, on a Sunday morning when it’s not a lot of people out, when there aren’t a lot of people out, you can just go down and find a good booth, carry it out, latch it in, takes seconds, then you just fill it up with books, and let’s wait and see what happens.
Mr Locke isn´t sought for in these shelves. The first one was gone in a few days. Another one lasted about a month, and some people actually began putting their own books up on it. Mr Locke likes to lurk nearby just checking out people’s reactions. He says a few people take books, and some more stop to stare, but for the most part people just walk by without a second glance.
I don’t know, maybe as if it becomes more widespread or more people know about this, it might be something that you stop by and you start, you know, you see something bit, maybe there’s something in there.
I think that would be really cool if there were bookshelves in every phone booth, but I don’t know if it is something so ubiquitous like that, if it would still  have the same power or it´s something that you can stumble upon and you find.
You got to be pretty optimistic to think that phone booths can be transformed into little oasis of literacy and community cooperation. On this particular morning the library lasted about four hours. Then a group of men showed up with plastic bags. A few minutes later Mr  Locke’s shelf was empty. But that afternoon he came back carrying a fresh box of books.
Here´s some more books for them.
They are like sweet, this guy is so dumb.  Just put a few more.

jueves, 27 de diciembre de 2012

Weather problems for holiday makers in US

Watch this short ABC video footage about millions of travellers being affected by weather conditions just before Christmas Day.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

What do the following numbers refer to?
93 million
9 months
45 minutes
83 million

For correction, you can read the transcript below.

A mass exodus is under way. 93 million Americans trying to make their way home for the holidays in the wake of a monster storm. And all day from L. A. to New York, we saw the pictures. Families stranded at airports. And look, every dot a plane, though hundreds of flights never made it off the ground, though. And here's why. Highways iced over turned into skating rinks and powerful winds, you can see how ferocious, that's not the ocean, it's the normally calm waters of Lake Michigan. The ice, wind and snow meant a headache for travellers. Tonight ABC's meteorologist Ginger Zee is tracking it all from one of the busiest airports in the nation, Chicago O’Hare.

Cynthia, almost 500 flights were cancelled here it Chicago alone. It caused a domino effect across the nation ruining some plans and delaying a whole lot of others. The holiday rush is on. Airports packed with frustration and fiasco. 
“They told us they can't fly us out of here until Monday, which is two days after our cruise, our ship leaves.”
More than 1600 flights yesterday and today, canceled. Among those affected, the Apter family.
"It's frustrating. We're going home. We're not happy.”
Their nine months of planning a family trip to Peru, erased. Ripple effects from this week’s storm were felt all the way to Los Angeles. 
“I had to wait like 45 minutes to see somebody to change my next flight.”
The storm that caused all that unhappiness, but it ripped scaffolding from buildings in New York City today, rocked rough waves across the great lakes, and left far from perfect roads for the 83 million expected to hit them this weekend. We took an icy drive from Des Moines to Chicago. So, we are just going east on i-80 going only about 20 miles per hour, it's a full ice rink, even though the skies are completely blue. Look at the westbound lanes. They have been like that for about half a mile. We don't know how long that goes. 
There are new weather woes are on the west coast too. Heavy rain drenching the pacific northwest causing landslides in Oregon, and shutting down rail service in parts of Washington state after 11 landslides in three days. The weather this weekend is a whole lot quieter, so that’s good news, aside from that storm in the west. Next natural question, who gets a white Christmas. Look at this map, the Rockies, the plains where we just had that blizzard, plenty of cold to keep the snow there and in the north east and New England we can see a little fresh white at least in some parts.

miércoles, 26 de diciembre de 2012

Talking point: How musical are you?

This week's talking point derives from a lesson in The New York Times Learning NetworkRocking It Out: Exploring Music Teaching Methods. Get together with the members of your conversation group and answer the questions below. Try to go over the answers in advance so that the conversation is more fluent and you are not at a loss for ideas when you meet your friends.

What types of music do you like?
When do you usually listen to music?
Do you prefer listening to recorded or live music?
Who is your favourite composer or musician? Why?
How did you discover their music?
How do you think the musicians you admire started out learning music?
Does it make a difference to you whether artists you like compose their own songs?

Have you ever had music instruction of any sort? If so, why? If not, why not?
At what age, if any, did you start learning to sing or play a musical instrument?
What instrument(s) do you, or did you, play? (Voice counts as an instrument.)
What genre of music have you learned?
If you don’t play anymore, at what age did you stop? Why?
What, if any, instruments would you like to learn to play?
What, if any, genre of music would you like to learn to perform?

In preparation for your conversation session you can read David Bornstein's article in The New York Times Beyond Baby Mozart, Students Who Rock. The article deals with the way music is taught at schools and specifically focuses on a music programme called Little Kids Rock in which students play their favorite songs, perform in bands, and compose their own music.

You can also watch David Wish's talk in TED We are all Musicians, about the relationship between language acquisition and music.

martes, 25 de diciembre de 2012

Real English series: Can for ability and what are the French like?

Two new videos in our Real English series. In the first one, a group of people in the street answer questions with the verb can so that we can find out their ability to do something.

Can you play any musical instruments? I can play the piano
Can you cook?
Can he cook?
What else can you do?
Can you speak any foreign languages?

You can watch the same video clip with subtitles on the Real English site here.
You can do an excercise on the video above on the Real English site here.

Pay attention to the differences in pronunciation between affirmative can and negative can't. This is a subtle difference that causes English learners of all levels great difficulties as many times listeners fail to understand whether the speaker is using can in the affirmative or in the negative.

For a detailed explanation of how to pronounce can, check this blog entry.

The second video, What are the French like?, is a repeat of the entry What are the English like? and What are the Americans like?, which we studied last week. So revise the explanation we gave to this tricky question before you watch the video.

The main difficulty of the video lies on the vocabulary, mainly adjectives, the speakers use to describe the French. Most of the adjectives will definitely be understood by elementary learners (Básico 1 and Básico 2), but a few of them are a bit tricky. It is advisable to watch the video clip below with subtitles on the Real English site here.

You can also do an excercise on this video here.

Real English also provides a longer version of the same video for intermediate students here.

lunes, 24 de diciembre de 2012

Unexpected Christmas present

Christmas is round the corner and it's a time for celebration, for family gatherings and for presents. As English students the best present we can receive is being given new opportunities to improve our English, and this is what today's post is about.

A few weeks ago I came across a series of videos under the title Back to BasicsBack to Basics is a series of short videos, around two minutes each, explaining basic vocabulary to use in everyday situations. In each video we can learn verbs, expressions and vocabulary with teacher Alison Lanthorn, from Vaughan TV. She is very pedagogical, constantly draws our attention to the differences between British English and American English for vocabulary and uses some translation in Spanish to help us memorise the new items.

Prepositions in the park

The front of the car

To do the dishes

domingo, 23 de diciembre de 2012

Best of 2012

As 2012 draws to an end it's getting more and more fashionable to come across compilations with the highlights of the year, both in pictures and images.

I came across Jean-Louis Nguyen's video clip 2012: What brought us together through Larry Ferlazzo.

This is the way Jean-Louis himself describes his video:

"It was a year of breakthroughs, adversity, accomplishments. And the web shared all of it. From the highest sky-dive to the fastest running man, a first vote or last mission, joys and tragedies, grumpy cats and flash mobs, from silly to serious; whatever it is that we shared in 2012, here is a compilation."

Jean-Louis has also provided a document with a full list of all the events on the video plus hyperlinks to the original clips.

Lesson idea:
I also think that the video lends itself to a nice lesson for after the holiday break, especially if you have access to a computer room where students can work with an internet connection and find out more background information about some of the news items on the video. It is a kind a treasure hunt using Jean Louis's hyperlinked document 

Allot different video footage to different pairs/groups of students and give them Jean Louis's document with the hyperlinks. In pairs/groups students explore their own choice of four or five news items they knew little or nothing about.

After 15-20 minutes students make new groups, where they share information about whatever they have found out.

The bridges that built London

Historian Dan Cruickshank explores the bridges that have made London what it is and which explain their importance in the evolution of London as a city in the documentary series The Bridges that Built London.

In this BBC documentary, he tells us stories of bronze-age relics, of why London Bridge was falling down, of midnight corpses floating under Waterloo Bridge, and he also tells us about the bridge builders themselves.

In this short four-minute excerpt Dan Cruickshank explores the history of the Westminster Bridge

It was only in 1736, after centuries of argument, that Parliament agreed to a bridge at Westminster. Under the act, the watermen got £25,000 compensation,  the equivalent today of more than £2 million. When Westminster Bridge officially opened in 1750, London was transformed once again. The Thames had been a kind of moat protecting the city. Now, all that changed. The commercial and political powers north of the river, once represented mainly by the church, now took charge across the river. 
And so started the dramatic transformation of the south bank of the Thames. Traditionally, the south bank had been a place independent of the city on the north bank, a place free of the city's controls and statutes. It was, I suppose, a land of liberty and libertines. There were theatres, bear-baiting pits, brothels, market gardens and pleasure grounds. But now, it became something quite different. It became, in a way, a province of the north bank of the Thames, largely because, perhaps ironically, one of the major landowners and developers of the south side of the Thames was the City Corporation. 
The City and the Bridge House Estate owned land across the river which jumped in value once Westminster and then Blackfriars Bridge were built. And the obelisk they erected here, planned to be the focus of a grand new urban district, marks the centre of their holdings. 
As a result of the new bridges, London north and south of the river had become one great city. The new crossings were a distinctive part of what was to be the zenith of Georgian London. But like the Roman and mediaeval bridges before them, they too are now ghosts, swept away by development. Flying 14 miles upstream, however, we can experience their effect. Richmond bridge, a classic 18th-century masonry arched structure, is the only one of London's Georgian bridges to survive. 
And it sits in a green riverside landscape, a middle-class suburb surrounded by aristocratic houses and parks. It allows us a glimpse of what Westminster might have been like when the bridge was new and the idea of London as a river city was at its height. 
Early one morning, in September 1802, William Wordsworth passed across Westminster Bridge on the top of a coach. He was inspired by what he saw, it was a vision. He wrote a poem. And the poem, in a most charming way, is here, in this bronze plate upon Westminster Bridge. 
"Earth has not anything To show more fair /Dull would he be of soul Who could pass by / A sight so touching in its majesty / This city now doth Like a garment wear / The beauty of the morning... / Ships, towers, domes Theatres, and temples lie / Open unto the fields And to the sky." 
Standing here, I can see the city as Wordsworth saw it. It haunts my imagination, Georgian London, one of the greatest urban creations ever achieved by mankind, I argue. And to think that, from here, that great city unfolded itself to Wordsworth in a way he could not resist. 

sábado, 22 de diciembre de 2012

The story of English spelling

Why is English spelt the way it is? countless numbers of English students have wondered at some stage during their learning years.

In Augst David Crystal published The Guardian article David Crystal: the story of English spelling, where he mentions the missionaries, the French, medieval scribes, Flemish typesetters, 16th century spelling reformers among others as the groups who had the main influence on English spelling.

Read this short he Guardian article which I found through the MacMillan Dictionary blog and find out a bit more details about this fascinating evolution.

David Crystal has written Spell it Out: The Singular Story of English Spelling.

How long before this rhubarb becomes rubarb? Photograph: Klaus Hackenberg/zefa/Corbis

If you want to watch David Crystal talking on how the internet is changing English and do a listening activity about what he says, watch this video 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?

You can read the script of the video here.

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

If spelling is a priority for you, I strongly adivise you to drop by the excellent Spellingblog, by Joanne Rudling, where you will find tons of rules, suggestions and activities to improve your spelling and pronunciation.

viernes, 21 de diciembre de 2012

The Queen and her Butler: Video story to learn the present perfect

We have mentioned St George International School several times on this blog for a number of good reasons like an activity to revise the pronunciation of -ed endings in regular verbs or a poem for Mother's Day to revise some basic phrasal verbs.

In late summer St George International School started a new series on their blog to tackle basic grammar points, the first one being the present perfect.

The six entries on the present perfect include an infographic on the main rules of the present perfect, the story of Jack the Ripper to illustrate the use of this tense, a Present Perfect Love Story in cartoons to explain examples of the present perfect, an interactive Present Perfect Timeline, another story, Present Perfect sentences by an Alien, with more explanations, and last but definitely not least, the video story embedded here The Queen and her Butler, where the differences between the present perfect and the past simple are dealt with. If you drop by St George International School you will find the transcript for the story and explanations for the usage of the present perfect or the past simple.

All in all, the series on the present perfect is an engaging fun way of learning and revising a difficult grammar point for language learners. I would say the material in the series is suitable for strong Básico 2 and intermediate students.

I wouldn't like to end this post without mentioning the podcasts St George International School publishes on a regular basis which are suitable for intermediate students. Teachers of the school discuss everyday topics in a natural way on the podcasts. Transcripts and activities are forthcoming.

jueves, 20 de diciembre de 2012

The subway shuffle -video activity

Today's listening activity is taken from an interesting section of The New York Times Learning Network, 6 Questions.

6 Questions usually revolves around an article or articles, and then English students have to answer some general questions about what they have read. On occasion, however, 6 Questions uses a video clip as input.

The subway shuffle was published in The New York Times in July, and it shows us in a two-minute video clip the hectic everyday life lots of New Yorkers face on their way to work.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the nine (not 6!) questions taken from The New York Times. The order and wording of the questions has been taken from The Learning Network.

1 WHAT is the “subway shuffle”?
2 WHAT does the conductor sometimes do that makes deciding between two trains on one platform easy for New York City commuters?
3 WHAT are some of the consequences that New Yorkers face when they lose a few seconds during their commute because they picked the wrong train?
4 WHEN does the shuffle most often occur?
5 WHERE in New York City is the shuffle especially problematic for commuters?
6 WHY do some New Yorkers run from one car to another car on the same train when their train is waiting on a platform?
7 HOW do New York City commuters cope with the stress of two trains waiting to depart from the same platform?
8 In the captured situation in which one woman ran “at an impressive speed” and barely made it onto a departing train, HOW long did the less fortunate commuters have to wait for the following train to depart?
9 WHOM do you know who has a challenging commute to work or school?

To gain more insight into the topic, you can read the transcript below and read the original article from The City RoomIn Commuters’ Daily Gamble, Dashing to Victory, or Despair.

For New Yorkers in the morning every second counts. So if two trains pull up to a station, they try to guess which one will leave first. The first to arrive is not necessarily the first to depart. That’s the commandeering facing subway riders at the uptown 34 St Station Q, N and R platform. They wait at subway doors, listening for a clue. Sometimes the conductor tells them which train will go first, sometimes not. Sometimes the subway riders guess it right, sometimes not. And while the train idles another trick common to New Yorkers is to run to the car that they know are closer to their exit, gaining back a few precious seconds. Maybe these two conductors are discussing it.
“You go first, I insist.”
“But my riders, they’re patient, don’t worry about it.”
This guessing game happens again and again. Take a look at this woman running at an impressive speed. This footage was not sped up. Now let’s watch it again in slow motion. Her timing is to be commended. The others who followed were not so lucky. Now they must wait another minute and thirty-six seconds before their train leaves. This is a life time for a New Yorker. It means there’s no time to get coffee before the morning meeting. It means using the excuse “Sorry, my train was late”.

1 Having to change trains to get to a destination (has to be inferred from the video) 2 Tell passengers which train will go first 3 They have to wait for another train and will be more pressed for time the rest of the day 4 We infer that it is in the mornings 5 34 St Station Q, N and R platform 6 To run to the car that is closer to their exit, so that they can gain a few seconds later on 7 They wait at the doors for a clue or simply guess 8 one minute thirty-six seconds 9 Your own answer

miércoles, 19 de diciembre de 2012

Talking point: What famous tourist destinations have you visited?

Tourists show a tendency to usually go to the same famous destinations. Most of us seem to have visited a number of must-see places. This week's talking point deals with popular tourist destinatinations and how conventional we are in our choice of holidays.

What are your experiences with visiting famous places?
Have you been to any memorable sites in your country or abroad?
What made you choose those destinations?
Do you have lasting memories of your trips or regret the experience?
Which famous tourist destinations and sites do you recommend people visit?
Which famous tourist destinations and sites haven't you visited yet?
Which famous tourist destinations and sites do you refuse to visit?
Do you agree with the view that tourism ruins everything it touches?
What are the favourite tourist spots where you live?
Do they have any problems?

To help you prepare the topic before you get together with the members of your conversation group, you can read Adam Nagourney's article for The New York TimesStalking the Biggest Star in Hollywood: Its Sign”.

martes, 18 de diciembre de 2012

What are the Americans and the British like?

Today we are posting two new videos in the Real English video series. We continue describing people by answering the question What are the Americans like? and What are the British like?, which has already come up several times in our Real English video series.

Remember that we use the structure What is XXX like? to ask someone to describe people, places and objects, but when used for people we just refer to their personality.

In the answer, we generally use adjectives, and we never include the word like in our answer (which is used as a preposition in this question).

Another interesting point to bear in mind is the use of the article the + nationality adjective (the British) to refer to British people in general (always followed by plural verb). To talk about the nationals of a country we can say
The + nationality adjective (The British are...) or
Adjective + noun with no article (British people are...)

Spanish people or The Spanish
French people or The French

We can also use the structure the + adjective (with no noun) to refer to a group of people in general: the poor, the rich. The verb is always plural after the adjective.
The rich are always a minority
The poor are always the first to suffer in crisis times.

Watch the videos and find our what the British and Americans are like. You may need to watch the clips with subtitles on the Real English website (links are provided below) as the main difficulty of the videos is not the accent or how fast the people interviewed talk, but the meaning of some of the adjectives used to describe people.

You can do an exercise on this video on the Real English website.
You can watch the same video with subtitles on the Real English website.

Students at an intermediate level can watch a longer version of this video on the Real English website.

You can do an exercise on this video on the Real English website.
You can watch the same video with subtitles on the Real English website.

Students at an intermediate level can watch a longer version of this video on the Real English website.

lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2012

Stimulus versus Austerity to get out of the crisis: CNN video activity

The CNN has a feature called CNN explains where  some time ago they published a short video explaining the opposing views of stimulus versus austerity to get out of the current economic crisis.

Self-study activity:
Watch the three-minute video clip and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words. The activity is suitable for intermediate students. Before you try the activity, first watch the video through to get the main ideas.

To consolidate both the ideas and vocabulary in the clip, try to explain the difference between stimulus and austerity for a country's economy in your own words.

Growth is a very (1) ... value-laden word right now. Every economy wants and needs growth. But there are many ways to get there. Stimulus can produce growth. Austerity can produce growth. Cutting (2) ... can produce growth. It`s very (1) ... and not every example is the same.
It`s hard to compare. Some people hold austerity out on one side and stimulus out on the other, when in fact, most solutions probably lie somewhere in the middle.
Austerity is a program where a government cuts back on its spending. It either cuts back on benefits or payments to its citizens or payments to its businesses in order to get its (3) ... under control. Governments don`t typically like to impose austerity, because voters don`t like austerity.
Voters, citizens, like getting money. They like getting benefits from their government. They like to have (4) ...  ...  in at some point. So governments don`t tend to impose austerity until it`s absolutely necessary. But in many cases, it`s to show creditors that a government has discipline. In many cases, it`s to balance the (5) ... because no more money is available. In many cases, it`s about paying down (3) ... because it would take too long to pay that (3) ... down if austerity measures weren`t brought in.
Stimulus is when a government gets involved to (6) ... money or things like money to its citizens or its businesses to stimulate the economy. An economy works because there`s demand. People work. They earn money. With that money, they go and buy things. With the money that they use to buy things companies expand, (7) ... more people. Those people have money. They go out and buy things. That is the (8) ...    ... of demand. Well, the way you stimulate that is if people have money. That is stimulus. Austerity is not stimulus.
The United States has done something very interesting over the last several years. Right after the financial crisis in 2008 we came up with stimulus. Sure you remember President Obama’s stimulus bill. Well, that (9) ... hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy, but at the same time in the (10) ... the Federal Reserve was printing money, creating more money. But at the same time states and municipalities which can’t run deficits, were pulling back on spending. So what you have in the United States is this mixture of massive stimulus and austerity. States were (11) ...   ...  teachers, and nurses, and police officers, and firefighters. At the same time, the government, the federal government was (12) ... money into the system, so it is unclear in the US whether it was stimulus or it was austerity and many people argue now that the federal stimulus programme has long ended in the United States that it is nothing but austerity here.

1 tricky 2 taxes 3 debt 4 retirement kick 5 budget 6 transfer 7 hire 8 virtuous circle 9 pumped 10 background 11 laying off 12 pumping 

domingo, 16 de diciembre de 2012

Aerosmith, still on after 40 years

For our Sunday's extensive listening activity we are posting a CBS 60 Minute documentary on the rock band Aerosmith, Aerosmith Livin' on the Edge.

The band has been together for 40 years, and still is one of the last great American rock bands who manages to fill stadiums despite years of infighting and drug use.

The documentary is thirteen minutes long and it features interviews and footage of the band on their tours.

You can activate the closed captions (CC) on the lower side of the screen for an approximate transcript of everything that is said in the film. You can also read a full transcript of the programme here.

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012

Is British food great? Video activity

The series This is Great Britain features a number of videos on key aspects of life and culture in Great Britain (music, sport, fashion, business, food) as a way of promoting the country for the 2012 Olympics. This is the third video in the series to be posted on this blog after Victoria Beckham's (fashion) and Richard Branson's (business).

In the first place, I must warn you that I found the video difficult to understand. Some foreign accents, fragmented English, a few dishes I had never heard of... I don't know. Anyway,  six of the most celebrated chefs in Britain (no Jamie Olivier, surprise, surprise), Raymond Blanc, Brett Graham, Ruth Rogers, Atul Kochar, Angela Hartnett and Fergus Henderson tell us their ideas of British food.

Self-study activity:
This is an activity for strong intermediate students, but it is more suitable for advanced students.

A. Watch the video through and note down the dishes and names of foods that are mentioned.

B. Watch the clip again and say whether the following statements are true or false:
1 London is one of the greatest gastronomic cities in the world.
2 British cuisine has changed a lot in the last few years.
3 Every cuisine in the world can be found in London.
4 Sustainability is key for most English chefs at the moment.
5 Markets and local shops are getting more and more important for people.

You can read the transcript below.

A great British menu…
Oh, dear, that’s a long one.
Well, it’s just a… a menu… thank you very much…
Ultimate British?
It’s a…
It would be rice chicken.
Great Stilton.
Spiced smoked salmon.
Cheese, blue cheese.
Best end of roe deer baked over Douglas fir.
Cornish pasty.
Probably an apple.
Tandoori pigeon served in a Yorkshire pudding cup.
It’s about the produce, it’s about meat, it’s about two veg.
I still love crumble, to me, I’m obsessed by crumble. That is a beautiful dish. It should be known across the world.
I think most people think we overcook our beef. Everyone just eats fish and chips or soggy vegetables. I don´t think, certainly not accurate. We certainly do great fish and chips still.
London is definitely one of the great gastronomic cities, not just in Europe, but in the world.
I think people who were returning to Britain after maybe living abroad or people who are just coming here on holidays, they see a massive change in the cuisine that is offered in Britain and the type of food that is being offered at the moment in restaurants and they seem generally really surprised.
I think you can sit there now and go… what do I want to eat and you can pretty much go round the world.
You have smells, and you have taste, and you have colours. I go to a local market, it’s like taking a trip into another (this one is grammatically incorrect on her part) countries.
From Vietnamese, from French, from Italians, from Mongolians, Japanese… we’ve got every cuisine under one capital.
Look out the window in this office and be told there are five little pop-up restaurants across the street.
My cuisine has been enriched by your multicultural society. Does it divide you my frenchness and my type… No! It enriches it.
Sustainability is my religion. Anything that is not sustainable will not be on my menu. That community of chefs is massive in the UK. We all strongly believe into that, and we follow those ethos very strongly.
The British chef knows where his food comes from, and the consumer too.
And I think the food scene is getting better and better, which is we are using more local stuff, we’re really going back to artesan and producers and not rely so much on the supermarkets, markets are coming back. People are going to their local shops.
So, so exciting over here, seasons, game birds, I mean, natures hurling lunch at you, pay attention.
Food before was separated from us, now it’s part of it, it’s part of our consciousness, here as well.
I don’t think anybody can take away that from us. And I feel very good that I stand at that podium as a British person.

All the five statements are true.

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2012

BBC grammar videos and activities for elementary students

The British Council's Learn English Kids site features a new section devoted to grammar for lower level students, those at A1 (Básico 1) and A2 (Básico 2) levels. Originally, the contents are designed for children, but the material can be used by learners of all ages at an elementary level.

This is the way The British Council introduces the section on its webpage:
"Do you want to practise your English grammar? Watch the grammar videos, play the grammar games, print the grammar worksheets, write to us in the grammar quiz section and then test yourself with our downloadable grammar tests. Don't forget you can always print the grammar reference cards to help you."

As you can see from the screenshot above, there are four parts in the section. I found the grammar videos and grammar tests the most interesting ones for learners.

In the grammar videos you will find one-minute videos with explanations on a number of grammar topics: countable/uncountable nouns; future with will; present simple vs simple continuous; comparatives and superlatives; how to use prepositions of place.

In the grammar tests, you will find explanations of grammar topics with lots of examples (adjectives, past and present of to be, possessives, pronouns, demonstratives, like/don't like, modals, have got) and tests or activities for you to download together with a "reference card", which is a fast and effective way of revising and consolidating how to use a specific grammar point. You will need to register to be able to download this stuff, but it is free and you gain instant access.

jueves, 13 de diciembre de 2012

Sex offenders lie detector

Yesterday's talking point dealt with lies. To round off the topic we are posting a Skynews video activity about a controversial gadget, the polygraph or lie detector.

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

1 How long has the programme been going on in the UK?
2 Name at least three aspects of the human body that lie detectors test?
3 What does 85% refer to in the report?
4 What method is generally used to monitor sex offenders when they are released from prison?
5 Why were some offenders more likely to admit a crime during the pilot programme?
6 What does six months refer to at the end of the clip?

In many countries the polygraph is a key law enforcement tool, and now in this country the government is convinced mandatory lie detector tests for sex offenders are the way ahead. The organizers of a two a half year pilots in the Midlands say that regular tests made a significant impact in preventing reoffending.
Successes of course are always invisible, but I have no doubt that a number of offences were prevented in the course of the pilot. On some occasions it's offenders who have been recalled to prison who said if they hadn't been recalled when they were, they would have reoffended.
Polygraph tests work by measuring blood pressure, heart rate, breathing and perspiration, which experts say display subtle changes when someone lies. Studies have shown they have around 85% accuracy rate. I agreed to take part in a simple test.

Choose one of the numbers, any one, and it’s number…
Number three.
Then quite simply I was asked to lie about that number when questioning.
Did you pick the number three?
Did you pick the number seven?

But however convincing I might have thought I was, there is, it seems, no fooling the machine.
…what you responded  at  various places through the chart, but where you responded particularly to the number it shows a big cardio response there and also you can see here your galvanic and scheme response.
The polygraph test will work in tandem with other safeguards like the sex offenders register which are designed to monitor the likes paedofiles and rapists on release from prison.
I think it’s going to be an important tool for probation officers in managing sex offenders on license in that second part of the sentence when they’ve been released from custody and are liable to recall prison if their behaviour gives any cause for concern.
The pilot programme found those tested were two to three times more likely to admit to offending behaviour knowing they’d be caught out anyway by the polygraph. Eventually it’s hoped all high risk sex offenders on licence will be tested every six months. Mark White Sky News.

miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2012

Talking point: Why do we lie?

In this week's talking point, we are dealing with the topic of lies. Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below.

Why do we lie?
What do people usually lie about?
Do you know anyone who never lies?
Talk about the most honest person you know.
Talk about a person you know who lies very easily.
Are all lies bad or can you tell a good lie?
Is it OK to tell white lies?
How many lies did you hear today?
Have you ever told a lie that caused a problem for you?
Have you ever got into trouble because someone lied?
What do you think about these two remarks?
"Liars need to have good memories."
"Lies have very short legs."

To help you prepare your conversation session, you can read the Wall Street Journal article Why we lie by Dan Ariely.

We have already posted a number of entries around the topic of lies on this blog:

When is it OK to to tell a lie is a video from the Speakout series.
How to spot a liar is a TED talk.
How to detect a lie is a Howcast listening activity.

This Videojug clip can show you how you can detect if someone is lying to you. You can find a listening activity here.

martes, 11 de diciembre de 2012

Real English series: Marital status and describing the weather

We are posting two new videos in the Real English video series. In the first one, people in the street answer the question Are you married? to talk about their marital status.

As usual, the two-minute video is used to revise some other basic information questions that have come up  in the Real English video series so far:

Are you engaged?
How old are you?
What’s your name?
Where do you come from?
What’s your favourite colour?
Would you introduce me your friend?
Where’s your ex-husband?

You can do an online activity about the video on the Real English site here.
You can watch the same video with subtitles on the Real English site here.

In the second video some people in the street answer the question What's the weather like? 

We have already come across the question What's XXXX like? in the Real English series a couple of times before, but to describe someone's personality:

What's John like? = Describe John's personality = What kind of person is John?

The same structure is used when we want someone to describe something for us, be it the weather, a city, an object, a building.

What's London like? (¿Cómo es Londres?)
What's your flat like? (¿Cómo es tu piso?)
What's an Apple PC like? (Cómo son los ordenadores Apple?)

Remember that most of the times we just use adjectives in our answer, and that the preposition "like" is never used in the answer.

What's London like? It's a huge, exciting city.
What's your flat like? It's a bit small, very light and with great views.
What's an Apple PC like? It's faster and much more intuitive.

You can do an online activity about the video on the Real English site here.
You can watch the same video with subtitles on the Real English site here.

lunes, 10 de diciembre de 2012

Anti-Venom Running Low For Deadliest Spider

Life-saving anti-venom is in short supply in Australia for the treatment of bites from the world's deadliest spider, the funnel-web spider.

Self-study activity:
Watch this short Sky News clip and learn all the details about this health problem. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 students.

1 How many people die in Australia every year because of the venom of the funnel web spider?
2 Where was John Gambrill bitten?
3 Why are the Australian health authorities running low on the anti-venom?
4 What are the zoo staff asking the public to do?
5 How many milkings are necessary for one dose of anti-venom?
6 Why are the 1980's mentioned?

You can check the answers and read the full transcript below.

The funnel web is the world’s deadly spider. Dozens of Australians get bitten every year. Its lethal venom can kill in a matter of hours unless treatment is given, so it pays to know where they like to hide.  
John Gambrill was bitten on the wrist while gardening. Within seconds, the venom was making him ill.
Everything sort of happened all at once and I thought this is not good. I just didn't know how bad it was going to get. My perspiration was just coming out of me everywhere, I had the shakes, I felt a bit faint and that’s it, so I decided in the end, it caught me for about 5 or 10 minutes.
So we’ve got a whole bunch of females on this side and then over here we’ve got our male funnel web which is… they are in decline at the moment. 
This zoo north of Sydney is the only Australian center where venom is extracted to make the anti-venom. The weather hasn’t been great for the funnel web population and stocks are worryingly low, so staff are asking the public to catch funnel webs and bring them in, so they can be milked for their poison.
Usually we are the ones saying to people if you see a dangerous animal leave it alone and it will leave you alone, you won’t have any run-ins. But it is really important that we turn to the community to actually obtain our funnel-webs. It's the most productive way for us to get these animals.
The dangerous extraction process involves stroking the spider’s sharp fangs and sucking the venom through a pipette. It takes seventy milkings to make just one dose of the life-saving drug. And it’s not just spiders. These zoo residents also donate their venom, although unlike the funnel webs the zoo isn’t running low on dangerous snakes. The anti-venom only came into use in the early 1980’s, and it’s saved many lives. Now Australians are being asked to face their fear and catch rather than kill these harmful creatures. Jonathan Samuels, Sky News.

1 we don't know, it doesn't say. 2 on the wrist 3 because the weather has been bad for the spider 4 to catch funnel webs and take them to the zoo 5 seventy 6 because anti-venom started being used in those years

domingo, 9 de diciembre de 2012

American and British politeness

Lynne Murphy is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics in the School of English, University of Sussex. Her research concerns what we know when we know words, and stretches to how non-linguistic knowledge and behaviour affect our use of words. Raised and educated in the US, Ms Murphy lived in South Africa in the 1990s and has been in England since 2000. Her observations on the Englishes of these places (and the linguistics behind them) are chronicled in the blog Separated by a Common Language.

In April this year Ms Murphy gave a talk for TED at Sussex University where she dealt with the issue of politeness in US and Britain and how this key aspect of everyday life differs between the two countries.

As it is stated in the first paragraph of this post, Ms Murphy's blog, Separated by a Common Language, delves into the cultural differences of English-speaking countries. If you click on the link above, you can also read her own observations about her TED talk posted here, American and British politeness.

I have been unable to get a transcription of the talk, but if you watch the talk on the YouTube site, you will be able to activate the subtitles on the lower side of the screen. These  YouTube  online subtitles are less accurate than  we would like to, but they may come in handy for English students as a guideline of the main ideas in the talk.

sábado, 8 de diciembre de 2012

Interactives- Elements of a Story: Cinderella

It must have been around summer time this year that Richard Byrne, the person behind Free Technology for Teachers, posted about Interactives: Elements of a Story, an interactive lesson from Annenber Learner , provider of educational materials for American teachers.

As Richard Byrne himself explains, Interactives - Elements of a Story "uses the story of Cinderella as a model for learning about the elements of a story."

From the very beginning I noticed the positive implications this interactive could have in an English class for students of almost all levels: First of all, students listen and read the story of Cinderella. This tale will be used as a framework to teach the key elements in any story.

Then the different elements of a story are explained one by one (setting, character, sequence, exposition, conflict, climax and resolution) using the story of Cinderella to illustrate each of them. As happens with the story, the explanations can both be read and/or listened to. Students have to do a short quiz at the end of each explanation, which helps them consolidate the concepts.

Writing stories is a must in the English class. In my experience, this is one of the most difficult writing tasks a learner can undertake, as it demands specific narrative techniques that a good share of students are lacking in. Students can also adapt the key elements in a story shown in Interactives - Elements of a Story  when they write about personal anecdotes or when they have to make up a story.

Interactives - Elements of a Story is a funny, practical lesson that can throw some light into a really demanding writing task.

viernes, 7 de diciembre de 2012

More people go with Visa

These are two short Visa ads that may have some inspirational effect on us.

Self-study activity:
Watch the ads and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words. You may need more than one word in some of the blanks. The activity is suitable for Básico 2 students, although strong Básico 1 learners can give it a go.

A fresh (1) ... .
A (2) ... to go in a whole new direction.
So, will you?
Will you walk out the door and go left, (3) ... right?
Will you create a new (4) ... ?
Find a new favorite (5) ... ?
Do something you've always (6) ... to?
Will you go (7) ... while also giving back?
And will you (8) ... going, no matter what life (9) ... your way?
Well, (10) ... .
More people go with Visa.

When you wish, they fly just a little bit (1) ... .
[Third attempt at a new world record.]
When you (2) ... , they go just a little bit (3) ... .
[...was 22 years old, speed and momentum going down.]
When you (4) ... your breath, well, they can (5) ... be perfect.
[Perfect 10! The first time I've ever seen... ]
And when we come together, to (6) ... as one, we know what (7) ... .
[ lane five, I don't know if he's gonna catch him.]
Visa. (8) ... sponsor of the Olympic games for 25 years. (9) ... our global (6) ... .

Key 1:
1 start 2 chance 3 instead of 4 recipe 5 song 6 wanted 7 forward 8 keep 9 throws 10 let's go

Key 2:
1 higher 2 scream 3 further 4 hold 5 even 6 cheer 7 happens 8 Proud 9 Join

jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2012

Northumberlandia: A face appears in the landscape

Watch this short BBC news clip about a country park which will be opening next year in Northumberland and answer the questions about it. The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

You can watch the clip by double clicking on the BBC link or on the picture below.

1 What mineral is extracted from the mine where the park is being built?
2 What makes the figure unique?
3 What does the figure represent?
4 Which two specific activities are mentioned that locals will be able to enjoy in the park?
5 What's the main difficulty in building a figure this size?
6 Five locals give their opinion of Northumberlandia. How many of them mention "The Angel of the North"?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

This near Cramlington in Northumberland is the largest open cast mine in the country. It’s expected to yield some five and a half million tons of coal. And this is Northumberlandia, created from the leftovers of the mine and carved here by the man who mined the coal. It’s the largest replica of a human body ever seen on the planet, of a reclining female form a quarter of a mile long. When the country park opens a year from now, there will be four miles of paths all over this figure with a number of lakes around its base.
There's things which have been revealed about this project that even we, as part of the project team didn’t realize. In particular, the spectacular views that you can enjoy from the high points on it and the joy of exploring Northumberlandia by walking on the different paths and taking a different route each time you come here. So we think it’s going to be a really special place for people to come and enjoy.
The landowners, Lord Ridley’s Blagdon Estates, are equally enthusiastic.
We believe that it’ll draw people to Northumberland, we also believe it will be a great facility for the local people to enjoy, be it walking or just picnicking. From the Estates’ point of view to be able to leave a legacy like this is really quite a special occasion.
From the curve of her hip to the nose and its cheek Northumberlandia mimics the undulating landscape around her. Her sheer size has surpassed even the expectations of the man brought in to design her, celebrated landscape artist Charles Jencks.
It’s much bigger than I ever thought, and if you put anything in a big scale like this it disappears, you have to make a really bold gesture and accentuate, you know, exaggerate the lips, for instance. We are all attracted to the face. We have more neurons to identify other people than any other parts of our brain. So it’s the face that attracts you.
"I like it, but I think people who didn’t know about wouldn’t have any idea what it was unless they knew about because it looks like a lump of shrawns."
"Well I just said if you can see it from the air but it’s a lady-like, funny, no clothes on."
"I kind of think it looks good on."
"It’s like the angel of the north, isn’t it? It’s something that people (…), it’s something like… come and have a look."
"We didn’t like the angel when it first went up, did we? And that was part of the north east."
The north’s latest and biggest work of public art has perhaps done something to improve the image of open cast mining, and should be around for many generations to come. 
Serena Shaggot BBC York North Cramlington.

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2012

Talking point: Would you like to be a teacher?

Would you like to be a teacher? is this week's talking point. Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below about the topic.

Do you have a close relationship with a teacher? If so, how do they feel about their job?
How do you feel about teachers and the teaching profession in general?
How do you feel about the status of teachers and teaching in Spain or in your country?
Do you think teachers in Spain or in your country get enough respect and social recognition?
How does it compare with some other countries?
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of the job?
Think about the working conditions, the daily working hours and aspects like salary and holidays.
What about other less known aspects of the teaching profession like retraining or working at home and at weekends?
Do you feel teachers are adapting to ICT (Information and Communications Technology)?
Would you like to be a teacher yourself? Why or why not?

You can also widen the scope of your debate by discussing the opinions of experts on How to Raise the Status of Teachers in the Room for Debate section of The New York Times.

And you can read The Guardian article Why I became a teacher, where primary school teacher Andrew Kite tells us about his life-long vocation.

martes, 4 de diciembre de 2012

Real English series: Telling the time and describing people

In our Real English series we touch on two different points today: how to tell the time in English and how to describe people's personality.

In the first video, several people answer the question What's the time?

Remember we can tell the time analogically or digitally. That way in British English:
8.05 five past eight [analogical] or eight (oh) five [digital]
8.10 ten past eight [analogical] or eight ten [digital]
8.15 (a) quarter past eight [analogical] or eight fifteen [digital]
8.30 half past eight [analogical] or eight thirty [digital]
8.35 twenty-five to nine [analogical] or eight thirty-five [digital]
8.45 (a) quarter to nine [analogical] or eight forty-five [digital]
8.50 ten to nine [analogical] or eight fifty [digital]
9.00 nine o'clock [analogical] or nine [digital]

In American English, after is often used instead of past:
6.10 ten past six (British English) / ten after six (American English)
6.30 half past six (British English=American English)

And of or before or till instead of to.
2.35 twenty-five to three (British English / twenty-five of (or before or till) three (American English)

You can watch the same video with subtitles on the Real English site here and do an activity to practise the time on the Real English site here.

You can find several entries on this blog to practise how to tell the time by clicking on the tag Telling the time on the right.

The second video helps us to revise some basic questions to find out personal information like What's your name?; Where are you from?; Can you introduce your friends? Yes, this is my daughter.

The video, however, focuses on describing people's personality by answering the question Can you give me two or three adjectives that describe your mother?

Funnily enough, two weeks ago we dealt with descriptions in our Real English series when talking about astrological signs. That day we learnt a number of questions we can use to ask about someone's personality:
What are you like?
What kind of person are you?
Tell me about your personality.
Today we have learnt another question to find out the same information: Can you give me two or three adjectives that describe your mother?

You can watch the same video with subtitles on the Real English site here and do an activity to describe people on the Real English site here.

lunes, 3 de diciembre de 2012

Tallest tree in the UK: video listening activity

Watch this short BBC video clip which informs us about the tallest tree in the UK and the way its height was worked out. The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

To watch the clip you can click on the BBC link or on the picture below.

1 Would you be able to repeat the formula we can work out the height of any tree with?
2 What’s the problem when measuring an old tree?
3 Which two instruments does the tree climber need to exactly work out the height of the tree?
4 Would you be able to repeat the way the tree climber calculates the height of the tree?
5 How far off the ground is Waldo sitting?
6 What’s the distance between Waldo and the tallest part of the tree?
7 What’s the exact height of the tree?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

Well, this is it, the very tall tree. Now, it’s an oak tree, and it is very tall, but how tall exactly, and how are you going to find out.
Well, that is actually quite easily answered. So stand near to the tree and if you know exactly how far away from the tree you are, and you measure the angle looking up to the very top of the tree, then you can do some maths and work out the height of that third side of the triangle. Then add up your own height but only up to your eyes, and then you will know how tall the tree is.
So they did all of that and what they found was they needed a tape measure. They would also need a professional tree climber, this one is called Waldo, to take the tape measure up the tree and then adjoin a catapult to help him started.
We have measured this by laser, but with an old tree, with a broad crown like this you can’t always guarantee you’re hitting the very tallest twig of that tree. So this is the only way of really guaranteeing we’re getting the tallest measurement, the highest measurement we possibly can.
So off went Waldo, the professional tree climber to try and get all that important and accurate measurement. Well, as you will probably have seen is quite wet here at Stourhead and our camera is starting to fog up. It’s quite difficult for us to see all the way up to the tree, but just with a naked eye I can tell you Waldo is right up to the top there, he’s got the measuring tape there, so he’s going to measure from where he is, and he’s also got some sticks, which he knows how long the sticks are, so we’ll go from where he is to the very top from where he is to the ground, and then add up the two together and we’re looking for a number, fingers crossed, anything over 40 meters would be pretty amazing.
It would in fact be a record and would make this oak tree the tallest oak tree in the UK. Now that is the measuring tape and Waldo is sitting 36 metres and 30 centimetres up in the tree. He extends that measuring stick to the tip of the tallest branch and records that distance as four metres and ten centimeters, making this oak the tallest in the land.
We were hoping for 40 metres for the champion and it’s gone to 40.4. That’s fantastic. Champion tree.

And a very fine champion looking every bit worthy of that title. 
Jules Heim BBC Points West.

domingo, 2 de diciembre de 2012

Digital nation

Today's Sunday, which means it's time for our weekly extensive video activity. This week we are showing a PBS 90-minute documentary entitled Digital Nation. The programme studies the effects digital media and the Internet are having on our everyday life in areas which range from culture to work to socialising, and the way they are specially affecting teenagers and the young.

But as the PBS production team states in this synopsis of the programme, "is the technology moving faster than we can adapt to it? And is our 24/7 wired world causing us to lose as much as we've gained?".

I know a 90-minute TV programme can be beyond most people's time availability in this age and time, let alone if we have some comprehension difficulties and have to rewatch some parts over or read the transcript to make sure we have understood correctly. However, the programme is divided into several parts, "chapters", which roughly last 8-10 minutes each. It is enough for us to watch one or two of these chapters to get the gist of what the programme is about and enjoy a few minutes of top quality TV.

You can read the transcript of the programme here.

Watch Digital Nation on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.