miércoles, 29 de febrero de 2012

Two leap year videos

Here are a couple of videos that explain the history of our modern calendar and why we have an extra day every four years. Richard Byrne published them on his Free Technology for Teachers blog a few days ago.

The first video is entitled The History of the Modern Calendar. It is a very quick-paced video with lots of information and name-dropping, so I imagine most readers of this blog will be more than happy to simply understand the general ideas. You can read the transcript for The History of the Modern Calendar here.

The second video, Leap Year and Leap Day, is much shorter and lends itself to a listening comprehension task for Básico (elementary) students.

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

Today is the rarest day in our calendar: February (1) ...  is a day that occurs only once every four years. That means this year has an extra day, making it a leap year.
A Leap Year is when the calendar year is extended to have (2) ... days - adding February 29th to the year. Leap years are added to the calendar to keep it working properly. The 3 (...) days of the annual calendar are meant to match up with the solar year. A solar year is the time it takes the Earth to complete its orbit around the Sun-about one year. But the actual time it takes for the Earth to travel around the Sun is in fact a little longer than (4) ... days. It is about (5) ...  days, (6) ... days, (7) ... hours, (8) ... minutes, and (9) ...seconds, to be precise. So the calendar and the solar year don't completely match-the calendar year is a touch shorter than the solar year.
It may not seem like much of a difference, but after a few years those extra quarter days in the solar year begin to add up. After four years, for example, the four extra quarter days would make the calendar fall behind the solar year by about a day. Over the course of a century, the difference between the solar year and the calendar year would become (10) ... days! Instead of summer beginning in June, for example, it wouldn't start until nearly a month later, in July. So every four years a leap day is added to the calendar to allow it to catch up to the solar year.
There are a couple of strange traditions pertaining to leap years. For example, supposedly dating back to (11) ... century Ireland, women may make marriage proposals only in leap years, and in some cases only on February (12) ... . In Greece, it is believed that getting married in a leap year is bad luck.
Anthony, New Mexico is the self-proclaimed leap-year capital of the world. Every four years since (13) ... , residents throw a birthday party for people born on February (14) ... .
A person born on February (15) ... may be called a "leapling." In non-leap years, these people often celebrate their birthdays on either the last day of February or the first day of March.

(1) 29th (2) 366 (3) 365 (4) 365 (5) 365¼ (6) 365 (7) 5 (8) 48 (9) 46 (10) 25 (11) 5th (12) 29th (13) 1988 (14) 29th (15)  29th

martes, 28 de febrero de 2012

Speakout Intermediate: Trying new things (success)

How do you feel about trying new things?
What stops you from trying new things?
What have you achieved in your life that makes you feel proud?
Who do you admire for their achievements and why?

These are the questions today's interviewees answer in the new installment of Speakout Intermediate, Longman.

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend or relative and answer the questions above about yourself.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 27 de febrero de 2012

Writing workshop 21: A letter of application

An interesting variation of the character reference that we discussed in Writing Workshop 20 is the letter of application. This time the topic of our letter is ourselves.

We may need to write a letter of application for several reasons: We want to get a job, a grant, a place at a university.

This is a standard task we can find in a typical letter of application:

Stewards required to work at Festival UK, a well known world music festival event in the west of England from August 3rd to 7th.

ResponsibilitiesTo ensure the safety and comfort of the public and to assist in the running of a successful festival.
To reduce any crowd-related problems.
To prevent unauthorized access to the site by members of the public.

RequirementsYou must be aged 18 or over on the date of the festival and be eligible to work in the UK.
You must be fit and healthy and able to work in a demanding atmosphere.
You should have a high level of English, and some experience of dealing with the public.

How to applyEmail your CV to Emma Richards (E.Richards@festivalmail.co.uk).

As you may well imagine, a letter of application is a formal letter, so we will have to make use of the conventions that we learnt in the Writing Workshop 18.

On top of that, the typical layout of this kind of letter will consist of the following parts:
• Paragraph 1: why you are writing and where you read about the job: I’m writing to apply for the post of
• Paragraph 2: give relevant personal information.
• Paragraph 3: talk about relevant experience and qualifications you have.
• Paragraph 4: explain why you think you would be suitable for the job.

Other details you should bear in mind are:
• Never start the letter introducing yourself. Use the formula you have read above:  I’m writing to apply for the post of…
• When you say why you think you are suitable for the job, don't ‘over-sell’ yourself. Be factual and positive, but not arrogant.

Now you can try your hand with a letter of application. Here’s another task. Write a letter/email in about 180 words.

Do you want to work for us?
Are you the right person for the job?
We are looking for fun, energetic, experienced people of any age to work as camp monitors at our day and residential summer camps in July and / or August. Children are aged between 7 and 15, and take part in a wide range of sports and activities from swimming and water sports to survival skills and cooking.

Do you enjoy working with children?
Are you good at working in a team?
Do you have any relevant experience or qualifications?
Do you speak English either as a first language or fluently?
You can earn between £200 and £300 per week (food and accommodation provided).
Minimum contract: one month.

Interested? Send an email, brief CV, and photo to Richard Cunningham at summercamp@bt.com

Remember you can read samples of application letters on Flo-Joe and Microsoft.

Expressing obligation

Recursos Tic for Education is a site of the Spanish Ministry of Education we should get well acquainted with. Here we will find lots of online resources for students of all levels and for all subjects, English included.

Take, for instance, the online activity Society, where you have the possibility of practising the modal verbs of obligation and prohibition, both in the present and in the past, around three different topics:
  • The environment
  • Social behaviour
  • Street behaviour
In the online activities we will find video, listening and reading activities which give the framework for the practice and consolidation of modal verbs to express obligation.

On the minus side, most of these resources require Java and the Malted Web 2.0 plugin in your computer. 

domingo, 26 de febrero de 2012

How to do business in India

A few weeks ago, Jeffrey Hill posted the video How to do business in India in his The English Blog, which is suitable for intermediate English students.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and note down the do's and dont's of how to conduct business deals in India.

For self-correction you can use the transcript that Jeffrey Hill also provided.

sábado, 25 de febrero de 2012

The power of the telenovela

Self-study activity:
Watch this short clip from PBS and say whether the statements below are true or false.

Watch The Power of the Telenovela on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

1 Telenovelas only interest to the latinos living in Latin America.
2 One of the main factors in telenovelas is that there is hardly any drama.
3 Telenovelas are not a cultural characteristic of Latin America.
4 Dr Michael Rodriguez used to watch telenovelas with his grandmother.
5 For José Fuentes, one of the main factors of the success of soap operas in that the spectator can identify with a number of characters.
6 Telenovelas in Latin America usually go on for many years.
7 Telenovelas air interesting stories which are parallel to those in the lives of many spectators.

1F 2F 3T 4F (with his mother) 5T 6F 7F

You can also read the accompanying blog entry about the topic in The Rundown, a PBS programme.

viernes, 24 de febrero de 2012

Nike commercial

Self-study activity:
Watch this Nike commercial and complete the blanks in the transcript.

(1) ..., (2) ..., basketball players, or (3) ...; they all have one thing in common…Nike Fuel.
The ultimate (4) ... of activity, of sport, of (5) ..., of your entire athletic life.
Telling you more about yourself than you ever knew before.
It isn’t (6) ... or (7) ...; it’s (8) ... .
From the moment you start (9) ..., the more you (10) ..., the more you earn.
Fuel is calculated the same way for everyone.
So (11) ... you are and (12) ... you move, we’re all connected.
Connected by Nike Fuel.

1 Runners 2 walkers 3 breakdancers 4 measure 5 commitment 6 bought 7 sold 8 earned 9 moving 10 move 11 whoever 12 however

jueves, 23 de febrero de 2012

Global Climate Change

EPA has developed A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change to help provide students (and educators!) with clear, accurate information about the causes and effects of climate change—as well as the steps we can all take to help solve the problem. The site is divided into five main parts, with lots of links external references.

Learn the Basics
See the impacts
Think like a scientist
Be part of the solution
Take a climate change expedition

The introductory video on the home page also gives us a good overview of the problem and provides optional subtitles.

All in all, A Student's Guide to Global Climate Change is an excellent resource for anyone interested in the topic of the environment. It also provides an easy read for the English language learner.

miércoles, 22 de febrero de 2012

European stereotypes

As part of the Europa project, newspapers from six European countries (Britain, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, and Italy) were asked to stereotype each other, and then asked cultural commentators in each country to assess how accurate they are.  You can read the articles in The Guardian.

This is the beginning of the article about Spain:

Spanish stereotypes: statistics tell us they have Mondays, too.
The sun, the beach and the noisy fiesta were commodities exploited to attract tourists – in real life, Spaniards work longer hours than most Europeans.

Read about the other stereotypes in the project by clicking on these links.
French stereotypes: Arrogant and good in bed? Bien sûr!
British stereotypes: Do mention the war, please!
German stereotypes: Don't mention the towels
Italian stereotypes: Yes, we are all individuals!
Polish stereotypes: Hard-drinking Catholic zealots? Nie!

You can check how European you are by doing this interactive quiz.

martes, 21 de febrero de 2012

Speakout Pre-intermediate: Changes

Are you happy with your life?
Is there anything you would like to change?
How has your life changed in the last few years?

These are the questions some pedestrians answer on a new videocast from Speakout Pre-intermediate, Longman.

Watch the video and try to understand the answers the speakers give.

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with an English-speaking friend and discuss the questions above. Try and use some of the expressions you heard on the video.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 20 de febrero de 2012

Writing workshop 20: Writing a character reference

Descriptions of people can be found in narratives, letters of recommendation, character references, police reports, newspaper articles, and so on. In this kind of task, the description is only one more element of the whole picture, and you must combine several styles of writing. Example tasks:

• Somebody in your community whom you have known for a long time wants to spend a year looking after children in an English-speaking country, and has asked you to write a character reference. You should write a detailed reference, indicating how long and in what capacity you have known this person, the strengths and weaknesses of their personality, and why you would support their application.

• You have seen the following competition advertised in an international student travel magazine: Win a holiday for you and your friend! We are looking for the winner of this year’s ‘Best Friend’ award and are offering a three-week all-inclusive holiday in the Caribbean. Write an article explaining why you are nominating your friend and saying how your friend would benefit from the holiday.

• A colleague at work has applied for a job as Chief Administrator of an international school and you have been asked to a character reference for the applicant. You should indicate how long and in what capacity you have known the applicant, comment on his or her administrative skills and mention any information about the person's character (e.g. ability to form relationships with colleagues, manner with the public) that you think might be relevant to the job.

Now the practice most students are given in class or in standard textbooks only accounts for a general description of a person, which would include the following information:
  • Physical description: What the person looks like.
  • Personality: What the person is like.
  • Hobbies: What the person likes.
  • Personal relationship: How you met this person and what your relationship is like.
The problem with this layout is that it partially addresses the task in hand. Once again, a writing task demands that we combine two types of writing, in this case the description of a person with writing a formal letter or an article, and we must show a good command of the conventions of each kind of writing.

A typical paragraph plan for writing a character reference letter would consist of:
  • Paragraph 1: Talking about your relationship with the person.
  • Paragraph 2/3: Talking about the qualities of the person and experience.
  • Paragraph 4: You have to decide whether to include some negative quality to sound more objective or not. Anyway, if you include anything negative try to present it in a way that leads to a positive assessment of the person.
  • Paragraph 5: Recommeding the person.
Some useful phrases you may want to include are:

I have (known) ... for ... years, both as (a friend) and as (a work colleague).
In that time ... // Over the years ...
My most recent (contact) with him/her was ...
As part of his/her (duties), he/she ...

I have always known him/her to be ...
I remember him/her being ...
He/She always gives the (impression that) …
He/She has always proved himself/herself to be extremely ...
As a (colleague) / With (children), he/she ...
On a (social) level, he/she ...
In fact, I would go as far as to say that he/she ..

Negative qualities
I regret having to say anything negative about ... but ...
Sometimes his/her ... can (lead to) ...
The one (drawback) ...  // The only (weakness) ...

I believe that ... would make a (good) ...
For the reasons I have given I have no hesitation in (supporting) ... application for …
I am pleased to (recommend) ... for the (position) of...

You can see samples of reference letters in Microsoft.

With information from First Certificate Expert, Longman.

American Experience

American Experience is one of the most interesting programmes on PBS. This is the way the channel describes the programme:

"Praised as the "finest documentary series on television," AMERICAN EXPERIENCE brings to life the compelling stories from our past that inform our understanding of the world today."

In American Experience you can watch dozens of documentaries which deal with American recent history, to name but a few, The Dust Bowl, The Great Famime, Stonewall Uprising, the Greely Expedition, the Hurricane of 38 and so on.

You can activate the CC subtitles in some of the documentaries, and all of them offer a downloadable transcript. As an example, here's The Panama Canal, about the construction of the canal.

Watch The Panama Canal on PBS. See more from AMERICAN EXPERIENCE.

H/T to Free Technology for Teachers.

domingo, 19 de febrero de 2012

Visit Britain

I have been meaning to post one of the Visit Britain videos for some time and here it is in the end. Visit Britain is an excellent site for anyone planning to visit the UK, as you will find information about the main cities, itineraries, attractions, events, hotels and accommodation.

For the language learner, Visit Britain provides a great wealth of resources, featuring lots of videos where outstanding British celebrities show us different places of the country.

Self-study activity:
Watch Jamie Oliver inviting us to come and visit Great Britain and fill the blanks in the transcript.

Britain is a country with so many different (1) ... . It’s got amazing cities. They are (2) ... , they are bustling. The countryside is really, really special. Lush, green. If you can get on the (3) ... as well it’s amazing.

The food can be absolutely (4) ...  . Great British food is some of the very best in the world. But you’ve got to (5) ... it.

Great Britain is steeped in loads of (6) ... . But the best thing of Britain is we are a magpie (7) ..., we take the world’s best bits. We embrace different bits and it’s so multicultural out there, whether it’s the food, the music, the (8) ..., the art, it’s all going on.

And if you can get off the beaten (9) ..., you will see, find and eat and have some incredible time.

You’re invited.

1 sights 2 busy 3 seaside 4 incredible 5 find 6 tradition 7 culture 8 fashion 9 track

sábado, 18 de febrero de 2012

English vowels and diphthongs

This is a beautiful video DDeubel has published in EFL Classroom. It gives us a great opportunity to revise the English vowels and diphthongs.

Suggested activity:
1) Watch the video and enjoy it. It has got a great visual power.
2) Try to identify the biggest number of words the voiceover says.
3) Watch the video again and read the words below, paying attention to their pronunciation and the vowel sounds.

Find more videos like this on EFL CLASSROOM 2.0

/ i: / me – tree – three – people – v
/ i / ship – ticket – this – king – shilling
/ e / bed – pen – yes – well
/ æ / Paris – can – Spanish
/ ɑ: /past – dark – palm – car – hard
/ ɒ / knot – wash – song – from – rock – coffee
/ ɔ: / all – small – ball – morning
/ ʊ / full – look – good – foot – book
/ u: / who – move – noon – blue – two
/ ʌ / up – cup – sun – sum
/ ɜ: / her – Thursday – burn – work
/ ə / under – farthera dress – servant – Saturday

/ ei / say – baby – train – plate – table – waiter
/ əʊ / no – smoke – motor – motel
/ aɪ /  ice – eye – side
/ aʊ / flower – cloud – hour – now
/ ɔɪ / boy – noise – boil – voice
/ iə / dear – clear – beer – ear
/ eə / chair – hair – care
(?) four – door - floor

viernes, 17 de febrero de 2012

The British Do Things Differently

In another video from the Foreign Office to commemorate the 2012 Olympics in London, Camila Batmanghelidjh tells us her incredible story as an immigrant in Britain.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say what the following refer to:
Saatchi Gallery

You can self-correct the activity by reading the transcript here.
My name is Camila Batmanghelidjh. I'm a psychotherapist and the founder of Kids Company, a charity supporting 14,000 vulnerable children, and this is See Britain through my eyes. 
When we first started, we were a handful of people in some railway arches. It was 100 adolescent boys from different gangs and I used to just stand here, and kinda take a deep breath, and say, "Welcome, please don't spit." And they used to get their knives out, rip the furniture, set the cushions alight, stick their chewing gums in places. 
But as time went on, I got to know them and they started coming and talking to me, and it's just in this little railway arch, I heard 400 of the most horrific stories of what had happened to these children. So, we quietly, gently, and eccentrically grew to a big organization. 
Now, we've got a five story building as our head office. We're on 40 different sites, 6,000 volunteers, 14,000 children who are being helped, a budget of 12 million and this is all thanks to the British public because every brick of Kids Company was built on the compassion of the British public. 
What we do at Kids Company is that we function like a substitute parent in the lives of these children. Some of the children are so disturbed and traumatized that we need to untangle the trauma before they can go on to flourish. 
When I was nine years old in Iran, I told my parents that I wanted to start an orphanage, but then the revolution happened in Iran, and I ended up in England.  I had to get political asylum. Even though I had significant damage to my brain because of being born very premature, I walked out of Warwick with a first class degree, which then opened all the other doors. So now, I have six secretaries and I don't care if I can't spell. 
At the exhibition we have at the Saatchi Gallery, each child did their bedroom in a shoebox. This is a young girl and she's showing her father's fist. If you look here, there's a ring that says "Dad". But actually, what she was faced with when she saw that ring is him punching her. So, you can see her sitting there with her cat and she was always terrified of his violence. And we had to put her in a hotel whilst we found her somewhere to live and completely stabilized her. 
Here, you have evidence of child abuse and neglect being exhibited in one of the most important galleries of the world, the Saatchi Gallery. 
It's an amazing testament of the commitment of people high up in British society to the welfare of children. The British are a complex race, full of contradiction. They behave completely as if they're obeying every convention there is and yet they are the nation that champions eccentrics. I don't look very normal, I don't dress very normal, I don't think too normal, and yet in this country I've been allowed to flourish. And it's precisely the appreciation, the shy and reserved British have for those who dare to do things differently, that makes this country so exciting to live in.

jueves, 16 de febrero de 2012

The 1:1:1 spelling rule

We have mentioned Joanne Rudling's Spelling Blog here several times. We should make it a habit to drop by on a regular bases or even to subscribe to it, as she always comes up with interesting posts for English students and teachers.

In mid-January she published The 1:1:1 spelling rule. To be honest, after twenty-four years in the professions I had never heard of it, so curiosity caught the best of me and I read what Joanne had to tell us about this rule:

"With the 1:1:1 rule we usually double the end consonant when we add the following vowel suffixes (-ing,-ed,-er, -est, -en, -ish, -ery, -y)."

So it is a great attention-grabbing formula to remind us of a high-occurrence spelling rule that we use with gerunds, regular past and participles, comparatives and superlatives, and to make some adjectives, nouns and verbs.

In addition to the explanation and a wealth of examples, Joanne gives us a quiz and a test, which includes an audio file and she also provides the answers to all the exercises.

miércoles, 15 de febrero de 2012

Is Barcelona being spoilt by tourists

Around 10 million tourists are expected to visit Barcelona in the year 2012. The city has experienced a rapid growth in the tourism sector over the past few decades. But not everyone is happy with the influence that these visitors are having on the city.

Watch this lengthy video clip -upwards of eight minutes- from Fast Track,  a BBC programme that brings the latest travel news and reviews, and shows viewers destinations, experiences and practical hints, tips and advice.

The clip is really interesting for English language learners at an intermediate or advanced level. Here you can listen to native speakers of English, Spanish people speaking English, tourists from different nationalities speaking English.

martes, 14 de febrero de 2012

The Story of St Valentine

Self-study activity:
1) What do you know about St Valentine's Day. Discuss with a friend everything you know about this festivity (date, origins, people's typical way of celebrating).

2) Watch the video through (without stopping). Some parts might be a bit difficult, but listen through it so that you can get a general idea of the documentary.

3) Watch the video for a second time (or as many times as you wish). Say whether the statements 1-7 below are true or false.

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

4) Now you can check your answers while you read the script of the documentary here.

5) Discuss with a friend or record yourself answering these questions:
How do you celebrate St Valentine's Day?
How do your family or friends celebrate it?
What would your ideal Valentine's Day be like?
Do you think lovers really need a day to proclaim their love or is it just business?

Eight St Valentine Stories

Self-study activity:
Watch eight short extracts (not longer than a minute) from the film Valentine's Day and answer the question corresponding to each of the clips. Please click on the the title of the clip to watch the scene, not on the picture.

Did the boy's dad ever give him any
good advice?
Has the girl announced at work that she
 is engaged?
Is Paula in crisis?
Does Kara have a boyfriend?
Where did the boy and the girl meet?
Why did she want to have sex with Alex?
What's the man's marital status?
How many menus are mentioned?

You can read the transcript of the clips here.

If you are in a Valentine's Day mood once you have watched the eight clips, you can have a go at answering some of the 100 questions that Breaking News English has compiled about the topic.

lunes, 13 de febrero de 2012

Writing Workshop 19: Complaints in writing

Complaints in writing

As it usually happens with writing tasks, a specific task, like writing complaints, can present itself in many different formats in the exam. For example:

1 Write an email to a supplier using the information below:
 • You ordered 1,000 t-shirts but only 800 were delivered.
 • You need these t-shirts urgently.
 • There is also a problem with the position of the logo –it should be placed on the right, not in the centre.
 • When you called to speak to someone about it, no-one was willing to deal with you to solve the problem.
 • You have been customers for five years and demand a quick solution or you will stop doing business.

2 You have received this letter from a hotel after a recent visit.
Thank you very much for filling out our feedback questionnaire. We are sorry to see that you were not satisfied with your arrival arrangements. Would you be so kind as to provide us with detailed comments and make suggestions for improvement? We trust the rest of your stay was satisfactory and will happily give you one night’s free accommodation the next time you visit us.
Write your letter of complaint.

3 You recently went for a meal at Benny's fast food restaurant, which is part of an international chain. Unfortunately, the service was very slow and the food was badly cooked so you complained to the supervisor. However, he was very rude to you and insisted on your paying for your meal. You have decided to write a letter of complaint to the company's head office. Write your letter, explaining the reasons for your complaint and saying what you expect the company to do.

4 Write a blog entry describing a complaint you have about a specific aspect of everyday life.

Whatever the task, you will always have to pay attention to several details outside the complaint itself. This involves:
• Study the task carefully and mark all the points in the task.
• As far as possible, use your own words and avoid copying sentences and phrases from the input of the task.
• Use the appropriate layout and conventions for the piece of writing you have been asked to produce –formal/informal letter or email, blog entry.
• Organise the information in paragraphs.
• Use connectors to list and link your arguments.
• Use sufficiently complex sentence structures and a good range of vocabulary.
• Use the register consistently –formal, neutral or informal.
• Write the required number of words approximately.

The paragraph structure when writing complaints will usually keep to the following plan:
• First paragraph: Give reason(s) for writing and all the necessary back ground information.
• Middle paragraph(s): Give details of the problem(s) and the consequences they had on you.
• Final paragraph: Summarise the difficulties and request action.

Useful language
Reasons for writing 
I am writing...
… in connection with my order FS690 which arrived today.
… to complain about the poor service we received from your company.
… to complain about the quality of a product I bought from your website.

I would like to begin by saying how frustrated I was…
My next complaint was with …
Another problem was …
The thing that angered me the most was …

Request for action 
I hope that / trust this situation will not occur again.
I would be extremely grateful if you could give me a reply before tomorrow.
I would appreciate it if you would send me a refund.
If I do not hear from you within two weeks, I am afraid I will have to take legal action.

For a corrected and explained letter of complaint, check Flo-Joe here.

Microsoft also offers a wide range of sample letters of complaints here.

For other models of corrected and explained composition tasks you can visit Flo-Joe.

With information from First Certificate Expert, Longman.

Texting while walking

Are you keen on texting?
How often do you text on a daily basis?
Do you ever text while you are walking?
Do you think texting while walking is a dangerous activity?
Do you think that people who text while walking disturb other pedestrians?

Texting while walking is the title of a New York Times video by Casey Neistat about the incidents of this activity while we are walking. You can also read his background ideas to the video in this The New York Times article.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video by clicking on the picture below and complete the blanks in the transcript.

Texting while walking may (1) ... the social stigmas of (2) ... driving or smoking crystal meth, but it can be just as dangerous. Understanding the blind spot is pivotal to (3) ... .
This is the limit of your visibility when texting. Anything outside of the narrow visibility zone is your blind spot. This (1) ... of spacial (4) ... is the source of most texting incidents.
Walking the streets texting isn’t much safer than walking them with a (5) ... on. Which brings me to lesson two, the etiquette of walking and texting. This man is being inconsiderate with his texting, forcing the people around him to (6) ... while he gets his text done. While this behaviour is clearly ill-mannered, it can also be dangerous.
What will happen when this man here stops to text?
Can I ask you a quick question? Do you think it’s dangerous to walk and text at the same time?
Thank you.
Do you think it’s dangerous to walk and text at the same time?
No, no, no.
Yes, (7) ... , it is.
Yes, but I do it anyway.
Yes, I hate that.
Proper technique is to putting your back against the wall and stand in one place while you text, allowing for traffic to safely (8) ... by.
1 lack 2 drunk 3 safety 4 awareness 5 blindfold 6 yield 7 definitely 8 flow

domingo, 12 de febrero de 2012

Channel One News

Channel One News is the leading television news network for teens in the US.

 Their aim is to inform, educate and inspire teenagers by making news relevant and engaging for young people and sparking discussion around the important issues impacting youth today.

There are many things in store in Channel One for English speakers in general and for intermediate-to-advanced English students in particular, but I would like to draw students' attention to Channel One's daily news broadcast.

Each news programme lasts around 10 minutes and it is divided into three parts of approximate duration. You can easily find it on the VIDEO section of the webpage. What is really interesting for English students is that Channel One provides subtitles for the programme through the CC button on the video player, and it also provides the transcript for each news programme. You can download the transcript by clicking on SCRIPT in the TEACHERS tag.

If you are preparing an exam like the Intermediate or Advanced Certificate exams at EOI, where the listening papers revolve around authentic material, make a point of dropping by Channel One News and watch a news programme once in a while.

I hope you enjoy it.

sábado, 11 de febrero de 2012

Charles Dickens Museum

Charles Dickens Museum gives English learners the opportunity to develop their English listening and reading skills while dropping by the museum's webpage.

To be honest, there isn't much content on the webpage itself, which will give lower level students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) the opportunity to focus on the information without being overwhelmed by content overload.

You can download a leaflet of the museum here.

This is a short promotional video of the museum which is suitable for intermediate students.

The Charles Dickens Museum from martinib.eu on Vimeo.

You can also learn about Dickens and his time by visiting this section of British Library website.

Don't miss John Mullan's video, where he explains in an easy way Dickens' obsession with fame and fortune.

Finally, here's a short BBC documentary that tells us about the life of Charles Dickens.

viernes, 10 de febrero de 2012

Safer Internet Day

On 7 February Safer Internet Day was celebrated. The Safer Internet Day published the video below to promote the event.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the blanks in the transcipt with the missing words. The activity is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermedio 1 students.

The online world is an integral life of children’s (1) ... today. We are growing up digitally with technology invented in every aspect of our lives. Now the internet is such an important part of life adults want to keep children safe and (2) ... guidance in the virtual world as well as the real one.
Since year 2004, Safer Internet Day or SID has been celebrated on the second day of the second week of the second month of the year. SID (3) ... safer and more responsible use of online technology, now including mobile internet.
Safer Internet Day was born in Europe and has grown rapidly now (4) ... to 74 countries worldwide with thousands of people involved in events.
Each year the Insafe network chooses a different theme. Previous years have focused on a variety of topics including cyber (5) ... and social (6) ... .
Safer internet activities are often organized around one major central (7) ... in each country accompanied by a press conference. After that there are lots of small initiatives held in each country.
We’d like to (8) ... schools, institutions, companies and partners to celebrate SID and organise their own (9) ... and activities.
The online world is a (10) ... arena where people of all ages can learn together and from each other, especially regarding online safety.
Whether you are five, forty or seventy-five years old, whether you use the internet once a month or several times a day, each person can add something different and can help (11) ... our online experiences and our safety.
This year’s theme is connecting generations, and we invite you to help (12) ... global awareness of online safety (13) ... by organizing or attending an event on Safer Internet Day.
Go to our website for links and resources on how to get involved. Join us on 7 February 2012 when the world celebrates Safer Internet Day.
Let’s discover the digital world together, safely.

If you are interested in the topic of internet safety, a few days ago Richard Byrne, from Free Technology for Teachers, posted  a number of resources where you can get acquainted with everything related about online safety.

1 reality 2 provide 3 promotes 4 spreading 5 bullying 6 networking 7 event 8 encourage 9 events 10 unique 11 shape 12 raise 13 issues

Come, go, bring and take

Random Idea English is an excellent blog for advanced English students or English speakers with an interest in the English language.

A grammar or vocabulary point is first explained and then there are a number of online activies where the blog users can do excercises to test their grasp and understanding of the point in question.

A few weeks ago Warsaw Will, the person behind Random Idea English, published a more than interesting entry about the differences in usage between come, go, bring and take, which is usually a bone of contention for students of all levels.

Drop by Random Idea English and have a go with come, go, bring and take.

jueves, 9 de febrero de 2012

All the Super Bowl ads

The Washington Journal has published all of the 2012 Super Bowl ads, so that readers can vote for their favourite ones.

This is a good opportunity for us to get to know the latest trends in publicity while practising our listening ability.

I have already taken my pick and gone for the Clint Eastwood ad It's Halftime in America, a powerful ad designed to bring about positive feelings in Americans as we look at the Chrysler products on the screen.

You can watch the two-minute ad below and read the transcript at the same time.

It’s halftime. Both teams are in their locker room discussing what they can do to win this game in the second half.
It’s halftime in America, too. People are out of work and they’re hurting. And they’re all wondering what they’re going to do to make a comeback. And we’re all scared, because this isn’t a game.
The people of Detroit know a little something about this. They almost lost everything. But we all pulled together, now Motor City is fighting again.
I’ve seen a lot of tough eras, a lot of downturns in my life. And, times when we didn’t understand each other. It seems like we’ve lost our heart at times. When the fog of division, discord, and blame made it hard to see what lies ahead.
But after those trials, we all rallied around what was right, and acted as one. Because that’s what we do. We find a way through tough times, and if we can’t find a way, then we’ll make one.
All that matters now is what’s ahead. How do we come from behind? How do we come together? And, how do we win?
Detroit’s showing us it can be done. And, what’s true about them is true about all of us.
This country can’t be knocked out with one punch. We get right back up again and when we do the world is going to hear the roar of our engines.
Yeah, it’s halftime America. And, our second half is about to begin.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

Learn English for the Games

Learn English for the Games is a set of resources from the Learn English section of the British Council based around the London 2012 Games which will be held from 27 July to 12 August 2012.

You can practise your English as you learn about the London 2012 Games and the Olympic and Paralympic history, learn all about Olympic and Paralympic sports, and values.

You can play games, watch videos, read articles, and do interactive exercises. All the video activties come together with a transcript, all the activities allow for self-correction.

There is new content added to the site reguarly, so keep coming back regularly to check for new content.

Learn English for the Games looks like the perfect resource for intemediate language learners in these times where authentic materials are prioritised.

As an example, here's all the activities on Learn English for the Games around Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson, one of Britain’s greatest Paralympic athletes. On this video she explains why the UK is a good place to be as a disabled person and how the country put disability sport on the map by hosting the first ever Paralympic Games in London in 1948.

Click on Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and you will be directed to all the ready-made activities on the video below, which include comprehension questions, vocabulary activities and the transcript. You can also download the video from the site.

miércoles, 8 de febrero de 2012


TED is an excellent site for English students at an intermediate or advanced level to develop their English. There we can find hundreds of talks with subtitles available on any kind of topic.

The TED Talks can also help us to develop as human beings due to the topics they touch on: TED's mission is ideas worth spreading.

A TED innitiative you may not know is Ads Worth Spreading, where the TED team  tries to find companies that want to communicate with their consumers in the same way that TED wants to communicate with its audiences: What makes ideas powerful is that they have a life of their own; an idea can change someone’s view and even begin a domino effect as they pass it on to friends.

Watch 2011's winners and runner-up's by clicking here or on the picture below. You can also see all the entries on TED's YouTube Channel.

Talking point: Why do we collect stuff?

People collect just about anything: stamps, dolls, porcelain figures, rocks, Homer Simpson memorabilia.

What other stuff do people collect?
What kind of things are the most interesting to collect? Why?
What can you collect that
   a) very few people do?
   b) will cost you no money?
   c) is interesting or fun?
What drives people to collect objects?
And when does collecting become a problem?
Why do you think that collectors are more often men than women?
Do you know anyone who has a collection?
Do you collect or have you ever collected anything?
Do you have any things at home that a collector would be interested in?
Are there any special areas or markets for collectors where you live?

Get together with your talking group and discuss the questions above. In preparation for the discussion you may be interested in reading the opinion of seven debaters in The New York Times and see this slideshow.

martes, 7 de febrero de 2012

Speakout elementary: Holidays

What kind of holidays do you like?
Where did you go on your last holiday?

These are the questions speakers answer in this new video podcast  from Speakout Elementary, Longman.

Watch the video and try to understand what the speakers say.

Now it's over to you. Answer the two questions about yourself, and try to use some of the vocabulary and the expressions you heard on the video.

You can read the transcript here.

8 letters in search of a word

8 letters in search of a word is an interesting vocabulary game. The aim of the game is to gain points by creating words from the selection of eight letters given to you on the screen.

Longer words give more points. Add letters to a word by clicking on the letters or using the keyboard, the click the 'submit' button or press 'enter' when you've made a complete word to get the points.

lunes, 6 de febrero de 2012

Some outstanding 2012 Super Bowl ads

Larry Ferlazzo posted a blog entry yesterday where he let us know about some interesting Super Bowl resources.

I looked through them and took my pick, going for the latest, NBC's collection of 2012 Super Bowl commercials.

I have just embedded two of the commercials they show, but if you click on this NBC link, you'll be able to watch NBC's full choice and read some background information about them.

Writing workshop 18: A formal letter

There are different types of letters/emails we can be asked to write. These letters can be  either informal (I) or formal (F):
Introducing yourself to a penfriend (I)
Asking for information from a friend (I)
Giving news to your family or friends (I)
Applying to go to university (F)
Asking for information from an institution (F)
Applying for a job (F)

It is important to emphasize that whatever kind of letter/email we are asked to write, it must have a clear structure and must answer all the points we have been asked to write about in the task.

Sample task
You see this ad in a magazine and are interested in applying for the job.
Are you a strong swimmer?
Do you know about first aid?
Do you enjoy working with people?
Then you might be right person for us!

We are looking for someone in August to assist our lifeguards, provide supervision during beach activities and observe swimmers. Lifeguard qualification and experience desirable but not essential as training will be given. If you are interested, write to the Lifeguard Manager saying why you think you are the right person for the job.
Write a letter of application in 160-180 words.

A good composition layout for the task above would be:
Paragraph 1: Introduction: Name, when and where you saw the ad and one of your reasons why you are interested in the job.
Paragraph 2: Personal information, which could include age, where you live, education, training/qualifications, present job and/or work experience.
Paragraph 3: Further reasons for applying and why you are a suitable candidate for the job.
Paragraph 4: Conclusion: When you are available for an interview and names and addresses of two people (referees) who can recommend you.

As with informal emails and letters, we must not neglect basic letter conventions, which would include:
• Greeting: Dear Sir or Madam, Dear Mr Williams
• Opening remark: I would like to apply for the job of …; I am writing to apply for the position of …
• Closing remark: I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible
• Farewell formula: Yours faithfully (if the greeting was Dear Sir or Madam, ie you didn’t know the person’s name), Yours sincerely (if the greeting was Dear Mr Williams, ie. Dear + person’s surname)

On top of that, the style should be formal and you must use:
• a polite, impersonal tone: I am writing to enquire whether (not *I want to ask if)
• polite formulas without contractions: I would be grateful if; I would appreciate it if you could
• passive voice: I can be contacted (not *You can contact me)
• formal linking words: consequently, therefore, for this reason
• remember: colloquial expressions, phrasal verbs, idioms and contracted forms are not used in formal style

Another sample task
Helpers needed in our summer camp for 10-14 years old. Duties include helping with games and other activities. Helpers must speak English and be able to work at any time, including some evenings, from 5th to 25th July. Apply in writing to Ben Carroll
Write your letter of application in 160-180 words.

For composition samples corrected and explained you can visit Flo-Joe.

With information from Successful Writing Intermediate, Express Publishing and First Certificate Expert, Longman

domingo, 5 de febrero de 2012

The basics of Feng Shui

Host and Feng Shui expert Leigh Kubin answers basic questions regarding the study and the practical applications of Feng Shui in homes, offices, and recreational areas.

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

1 What does Feng Shui literally mean?
2 Where's the programme host?
3 What colour is the journey area? What element does it have?
4 What's the journey area about?
5 What colour is the wisdom area? What element does it have?
6 What ornaments can you put in the wisdom are?
7 What does the family area represent?
8 What colour is the family area? What element does it have?
9 What colour is the wealth area? What element does it have?
10 What do the canisters represent?
11 What does the fame and reputation area represent?
12 What colour is the fame and reputation area? What element does it have?
13 What colour is the relationship area? What element does it have?
14 Why is the children and creativity area important?
15 What colour is the children and creativity area? What element does it have?

You can read the transcript here.

1 wind and water 2 a home accessories boutique 3 black / water 4 your life path 5 blue / earth 6 pictures of people you want to gain knowledge from or find earthy pictures 7 what you think or not as possible for you 8 green  / wood 9 purple / wood 10 the accumulation of wealth 11 What you are doing with your life has value for others 12 red / fire 13 pink / earth 14 Because if we don't have time to play, we won't have energy for the journey 15 pastels /metal

Who, who's, whose

The MacMillan Dictionary language tips are a really helpful learning tool for English language learners. Their weekly tips draw our attention to very specific areas of difficulty in both vocabulary and grammar.

In this tip, they want to show us the difference between whowho's (= who is or who has), whose (=possessive pronoun).

Elearn Language learning also offers some explanations and gives some more examples.

Languageguide.org mainly focuses on the difference between who and whose, but their great asset is that they offer recorded audio files of all the examples.

University of Bristol allows us to do an online exercise to discrimate between Who's or Whose.

sábado, 4 de febrero de 2012

Test results reveal what makes a twin white or black

Self-study activity:
This BBC video clip may be of primary interest to Biology students. I picked it up for other reasons: We have the opportunity to get acquainted with two very distinct English accents: a northern accent from Leeds, the girl, who you might find difficult to pick up, and a Scottish accent, the doctor, which should be a blessing for all language learners.

Watch the clip and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 In the chart, the colour for European is blue and for African is green.
2 The girl's genes are exactly 50% European and 50% African.
3 The girl's mother was 20% European.
4 The reason why one of the twins is black and the other white is just chance.
5 If the girl has more children with a white father it's likely they will be black.

You can read the transcript here.

1F 2T 3F 4T 5T

English verb charts

I discovered English Verb Tenses Explained through Larry Ferlazzo.

English Verb Tenses Explained can help English students to all levels get a quick overview of the English tense system.

They give examples for all the tenses and use a colour code to identify tenses, and also provide the basic usage rules for each tense.

English Verb Tenses Explained can be a good revision tool for us.

viernes, 3 de febrero de 2012

These are James Caan's tips to get a job and distinguish yourself from other candidates. Read his short online Telegraph article.

1. Ensure your CV is interesting.

2. Define your skills.

3. Find a need and follow it.

4. Channel all of your efforts towards finding a company which will actually have a job right for you.

5. Utilise every possible route of finding a job.

6. Be proactive and ask questions about the company, perhaps offer to do a work placement to show your enthusiasm to earn a role in the company

7. Be prepared.

8. Tailor your CV to the position.

9. Image is integral to success.

10. Remember, the company you are applying to may well be researching you, so ensure social networking sites and blogs reflect you in the best possible way.

H/T to Vigilangues.

10 Things Job Applicants should know is a very similar short article from The New York Times.


Here at My That's English! we have published a couple of posts about the economic crisis. In September last year we published An Easy Explanation for the Financial Crisis and in May The Financial Crisis Explained came out.

This is a new video about the subject, by Mark Blyth, who teaches at Brown University, in the United States, and which I discovered through Martin McMorrow, who also devised the accompanying activity.

I know, I know I'm going to come in for a lot of flak, as this five-minute video clip is more suitable for advanced students. But I have made up my mind to publish it for a number of reasons:
  • It is going to help us understand the worldwide economic crisis.
  • A transcript is available.
  • There are a lot of visual aids in Mark Blyth's presentation.
  • And more importantly: it can help Intermedio 2 students prepare their listening paper exam. How? Students can infer part of Mr Blyth's actual words from the questions in the accompanying activity. Tasks are very often a great help for students as they inform them of the content in the audio file. At the same time, they can also use the questions in the task as a guideline throughout the talk, so that they don't get lost and know where they are at all times, irrespective of the fact that they know the answer to a specific question or not.

1 What was the size of the debt caused by the financial crisis of 2008?
a) $2bn   b) 2,000%   c) $2tn

2 The bottom 40% of US population… since 1989
a) hasn’t had a real wage increase   b) improved productivity   c) paid any interest

3 Blyth compares leverage to playing blackjack. What is Blackjack?
a) a criminal activity   b) a form of gambling   c) a violent sport

4 Governments felt they had to intervene to help banks because the banks were too big to…
a) fail  b) see   c) buy

5 Blyth believes governments and businesses need to pay down their debt
a) as soon as possible   b) at different times   c) at the same time

6 The fallacy of composition is the false belief that was is good for one part of the economy is …
a) bad for another   b) good for all   c) bad for all

7 Blythes argues that governments have chosen austerity measures because…
a) they are easier than raising taxes b) raising taxes is more virtuous c) they allow citizens to contribute equally

8 According to Blythe austerity measures make the poor pay for the problems of debt…
a) through higher taxes   b) which they caused   c) twice

You can read the transcript here.

1c 2a 3b 4a 5b 6b 7a 8c

jueves, 2 de febrero de 2012

American Presidents

From George Washington to Barack Obama, the White House webpage offers overviews of the 44 American presidents to day.

This is a good opportunity to get a general perspective of US rulers while developing our reading skills.

Lessons on American Presidents

Together with the information we can read on American Presidents and that can be found in a section of the White House webpage here is a very useful resource for English students that Sean Banville published recently: Lessons On American Presidents, where intermediate language students can find listening activities on every American President.

Both the audio files and the interactive exercises can be downloaded.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

miércoles, 1 de febrero de 2012

The truth about the psychic powers of groundhogs

Self-study activity:
Watch this video from How stuff works, which tries to address the question of whether groundhogs can really predict when spring will arrive or this is just an urban legend.

Some of the vocabulary in the video is quite advanced, but Básico 2 students (elementary) will find it possible to understand the words missing in the transcript below.

So, can a groundhog really predict when spring will arrive? To find out, we need to meet Punxsutawney Phil’s family.

Groundhogs are marmots. There are (1) ... different species of these big furry rodents, and these marmots live high in the mountains.

Up here, you have to understand weather, because the winters can be lethal. While psychic powers may be optional, it pays to be a real glutton. Every day, (2) ... spring and summer, a marmot can munch its way through an amount of food equivalent to (3) ...  of its body weight. It needs to bulk up if it’s to survive the winter. Because when the snows come, it won’t eat again until the following spring.

Marmots spend most of the winter asleep. Their heart rate can fall from (4) ... beats per minute, to less than (5) ...  . And in deep hibernation, their brain activity may drop as much as (6) .... . But occasionally, one will wake up to check the temperature outside. If it’s still (7) ... , then it’s back to the burrow for more sleep.

Like all marmots, a groundhog responds to the (8) ... changes in light and temperature that signal the (9) ... of spring. So you could say that, in a way, the groundhog is a bucktooth barometer.

But in Punxsutawney, they’re not terribly interested in the (10) ... of Phil’s predictions. That’s because this furry forecaster is a marmot, not a meteorologist.

1. fourteen 2 throughout 3 one-third 4 two hundred and fifty 5 ten 6 ninety per cent 7 chilly 8 seasonal 9 arrival 10 accuracy