domingo, 30 de septiembre de 2012

Families living in cars

We are focusing on extensive listening on Sundays and posting documentaries that are within the grasp of intermediate English learners, so that they can have a chance of listening for the sake of listening and prove themselves capable of understanding the main ideas in TV programmes originally intended for native speakers of English.

Today's entry deals with the way the economic crisis is hitting thousands of American families and forcing them to live in cars. Hard Times Generation: Families Living in Cars, is a CBS 60 Minute programme where Scott Pelley takes the cameras to central Florida to document another form of family homelessness: kids and their parents forced to live in cars.

You can find the transcript of the documentary here.

sábado, 29 de septiembre de 2012

The Internet Grammar of English

The Internet Grammar of English is "an online course in English grammar written primarily for university undergraduates, (...) but  it will be useful to everyone who is interested in the English language."

The Internet Grammar of English does not assume any prior knowledge of grammar and is accessible free of charge.

The site is easily accesible and is divided in user-friendly sections:

Glossary of terms
A-Z index
Search box

I stumbled upon The Internet Grammar of English through Jeffrey Hill and his excellent The English Blog.

Remember that this blog features other grammar sites:

Grammar Speaks (Azar Grammar)

viernes, 28 de septiembre de 2012

Get up, Australia

Some Australian well-known personalities come together on this spot to share their concern for the environment and climate change.

Self-study activity:
Complete the blanks in the transcript below with the missing words.

Australians have (1) ... to make great challenges before.
We know how to (2) ... above our weight and pull together as a team.
Here we export our ideas that change the world.
Here we (3) ... and protect the things that matter most.
Right here we just turned a (4) ... corner on one of the huge challenges of our time.
We know that our climate is becoming (5) ... .
The greater risk of extreme weather conditions of (6) ... and floods, bush fires of rising sea levels.
Now we have a price on pollution, it means businesses can’t pollute our air for free.
Now we are investing in clean and (7) ... energy that’s better for our health and better for our planet.
And together we (8) ... the best bits about living here, will still be here for our kids.
Important (9) ... like this are never easy and they are often controversial.
But Australia’s future is worth the (10) ... .
We’re proud to be (11) ... climate change.

risen 2 punch 3 treasure 4 major 5 disrupted 6 droughts 7 renewable 8 ensure 9 changes 10 investment 11 tackling 

jueves, 27 de septiembre de 2012

Palestinian singer on freedom of speech

In another installment of the series See Britain through my Eyes, where British people and foreigners talk about their experience of living in the UK, British born Palestinian singer Shadia Mansour talks about what being able to choose her own path means, and the support and help she's received in the UK.

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

1 How did Shadia start to sing?
2 Where did Shadia go to college?
3 Where does Shadia's open-mindness come from?
4 How did Shadia start rapping in Arabic?
5 How did Shadia feel when she performed her songs live in Palestine?
6 What has going to Palestine  made her appreciate?
7 What have British society and Britain as a whole meant for her?

To check your answers, you can read the transcript below.

Very old. I grew up listening to these songs, you know, my family would play these songs for me when I was a little girl, and make me sing them.
I love hearing Arabic melodies on Western music.  And now, I can walk around comfortably as an Arab in Britain because people can celebrate the culture with me.  For me it’s great that it’s embedded here in Britain. Taking it back to a world when I was younger, going to school, growing up and going to college, when I was living in Britain I used to feel very British and now I feel very Palestinian.
But, in terms of how I think, I think the open-mindedness has definitely come from Britain. It definitely comes from growing up here, and that's, I think, that's how British I feel.
I've been given the privilege of knowing what freedom feels like, being here.  I have the option of choosing what path I want to go down and that's part of the journey.  And I've taken that with me.  Well, actually no, it's taken me, you know, with it through music.
When I started rapping in Arabic, it started off as a hobby.  I wasn't uncomfortable with singing, like rapping in English or singing in English, but I felt like I really had to, I had to be honest and real with myself and original.  I wanted to claim a voice. I wanted to claim an identity in terms of being a Palestinian and the diaspora.
When I went and actually performed the songs live in Palestine, in front of a live audience, it was an amazing experience, you know, going there and seeing the people that listen to my music face to face, and trying to keep their identity and maintain it. It's like taking the songs home.
Actually, going to Palestine really made me appreciate, you know, the privileges we have here.  You actually have a chance here to have your voice heard.
I value the freedom of speech in Britain and I've started to appreciate that, whereas before I didn't actually notice it, I didn't realize it.  So I do feel like that's been kind of a backbone for me.  I'd have to say definitely that British society and Britain as a whole has been kind of like a backbone.  It's shaped my ability to be able to do what I do with no restrictions.

miércoles, 26 de septiembre de 2012

Talking point: Speaking a second or third language

Today we are celebrating the European Day of Languages, so it seems more than appropriate that this week's talking point revolves about the benefits of speaking a second language. The topic is taken from a question that came up in the Student Opinion section of The New York Times Learning Network, Do you speak a second or third language?, where they informed about the discoveries made by cognitive neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok, who states that children who are bilingual have a way of thinking that helps them better distinguish important information from the less important.

Get together with the members of your conversation group and discuss the questions below.

What languages do you speak?
Are you or someone you are close to able to speak two (or more) languages fluently? 
What's your experience of speaking the second or third language?
Do you think in one language and “translate” your thoughts when you wish to speak in your other language(s)?
Have you found yourself thinking in the new language at times?
If you have bilingual friends or acquaintances, have you noticed whether they have sharper minds than most other people?
Have you noticed any advantages other than being able to communicate with more people?
What is the hardest part about learning a new language? The best part?
Do you think that learning about the culture of the second language may be useful to learn the language?
Is it important to be a man or a woman to better grasp the second or third language?
Is it important to have reference books like dictionaries or grammars or just read for pleasure in the second language?
Do you think that being good at expressing yourself in your own language,both in speaking and writing, helps to learn another language?
How important do you think it is having a good memory?
What other qualities are important to learn a second language?

In preparation for your conversation session and to gain some insight into the advantages of being bilingual, you can read the two posts I mentioned before or read The New York Times article “The Bilingual Advantage” by Ellen Bialystok.

Chris Young for The New York Times

We have already published a couple of posts on this blog about the advantages of being bilingual or mastering a second language: The advantages of being bilingual and The Guardian article Being bilingual boosts brain power.

European Day of Languages

Today we celebrate the European Day of Languages.

The Council of Europe set up this day 12 years ago to foster and promote language learning throughout Europe because it was thought there have never been more opportunities to work or study in a different European country than now but lack of language competence prevents many people from taking advantage of this situation. In addition, learning other languages is a way of helping citizens to understand each other better and overcome cultural differences. Here's the promotional video for this year.

To celebrate  the  European Day of Languages, the Council of Europe has organised a number of activities that try to raise Europeans' awareness of the diversity and variety of the languages spoken throughout the continent and the need to speak more than one foreign language.

I have gone through these resources and have made a selection of those which might help us to both become aware of the objectives of the day and develop our grasp of English. Feel free, however, to vist the webpage of the  European Day of Languages to gain a full scope of all the suggestions and information gathered by The Council of Europe.
  • Take a quiz to test your knowledge about the languages of Europe.
  • Read and/or download the Passport to the European Union to find out some basic information about each of the countries in the Union. (For Básico 1 and Básico 2 students.)
  • Let's Explore Europe is a flipbook that you can read online or download in PDF format. (For Básico 1 and Básico 2 students.)
  • The students at Newbury Park Primary School teach you key phrases in a wide range of languages and a bit about the country where that language is spoken. The video where the programme is introduced is good listening practise  for intermediate students, but if you have a genuine interest in languages, drop by the homepage of Newbury Park Primary School and you will get the opportunity to learn the basics of a different European language every month.

The forthcoming Indian film English Vinglish, the trailer of which we can watch here, may help us understand how important it is to know the language when we visit or live in a foreign country. The film deals with the problems an Indian housewife has with English when living in New York. She makes up her mind to sign up for an English course to please her family. You can read the transcript below.

Next! How are you doing today, mam?
I want a…
I asked how you, how you were doing today.
I’m doing…
What is the purpose of your visit to the United States?
My sister is certain in reading.
Hello? English tuition?
I can come in?
You may not.
You need to ask “May I come in?”
My name’s Laurent.
I Shashi from the India.
Not Shashi. Not from the India. From India.
Why India, not the India, why America, the United States of America?
My English… weak.
Mam, how will you manage in our country if you don’t know English?
Like you´re managing in our country without knowing Hindi?

martes, 25 de septiembre de 2012

Hong Kong series: My favourite film

Karen, Kaal and Sharon, three teachers from the British Council in Hong Kong, answer the questions below about their favourite film.

Remember most of what they say will be shown on the screen to facilitate the comprehension process. After you have watched the video three or four times, try to answer the same questions about your favourite film.

What is your favourite film?
What happens in this film?
Why do you like it?

lunes, 24 de septiembre de 2012

Welcome message for the new academic year

This week classes are starting out at EOI for on-site students, so this video by Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, welcoming students for the new year comes in handy for both getting the feeling of a new school year and practising our listening skills.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video through to find out what the message is about.
Watch the video again and number the topics below in the order Ms Rothwell mentions them.
The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

People with badges will help students
Good wishes
Welcoming everybody
University life is much more than studying a degree
University students also need help
University life has nothing much to do with school life
The first year at university is difficult

You can read the transcript and check your answers below.

Hello, my name’s Nancy Rothwell and I’m President and Vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, and I want to say a very warm welcome to all the students that are arriving here this week. We’re delighted you chose to study at the University of Manchester, which of course is a great university and a great city.

For those of you arriving in your first year, there’ll quite a lot of changes. And it can be quite daunting but there are plenty of people who are round to help you. Just ask. In particular, look for all the people with this “Askme” badges because they’ll be able to guide you and point you in the right direction.

You’ll also find that it’s quite different to being at school. We often say that students at school are taught whereas students at university learn. What that means is that increasingly university students drive their own education. You decide very much about the pace of your work on what you want to learn. But that doesn’t mean to say there won’t be a great deal of support and guidance.

Obviously, you can here to study for a degree and I wish you every success in that but I hope your experience at university is much wider than that, that you’ll make life-long friends, you’ll develop new interests and hobbies, and you’ll make use of the great facilities within the university and in a wider city and beyond.

So I really hope you get a great deal out of your time at university, you have a good time and I look forward to seeing you at some time during your studies. Thank you.

1 Welcoming everybody
2 The first year at university is difficult
3 People with badges will help students
4 University life has nothing much to do with school life
5 University students also need help
6 University life is much more than studying a degree
7 Good wishes

domingo, 23 de septiembre de 2012

Circus life

Last week we started out a new weekend feature on this blog about extensive listening. Today's documentary shows a PBS programme on circus life.

I know that the level of Circus will fit nicely in an advanced course, but the documentary combines both difficult and easy listening stuff, showing people who talk at length and those who just say a few words (giving us time to process what is being said and relax), and it presents the ideas and opinions of both native and non-native speakers of English. .

On top of that, this PBS documentary gives us the opportunity to activate the CC subtitles, so that we won't miss anything of what is being said.

Watch First of May on PBS. See more from Circus.

sábado, 22 de septiembre de 2012

14 tips on prepositions

This is a really interesting infographic about the general use of prepositions in English which I discovered through Anthony Teacher.

You may be able to read the poster more comfortably on, where you will also find some other interesting resources to study English.

[Infographic provided by]

viernes, 21 de septiembre de 2012


Right before the Olympics started on 27th July we learnt this story about a boy who had travelled with no boarding card and no passport from England to Italy.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and answer these questions:

1 How old was the boy?
2 Which airline did the boy fly with?
3 Which city did the boy board the plane in and which city did he arrive in?
4 What aren't passengers allowed to take on board?
5 How many security checks did he go through unnoticed?
6 How was the boy discovered?
7 Where's the boy now?

You can also read about this news story in The Telegraph online.

1 eleven years old 2 Jet2 3 Manchester / Rome 4 no oversized luggage, no big bottles of water 5 Three: security, boarding gate and head count on the plane 6 through other passengers 7 at home with his mom

You can read the transcript here:

Finally tonight: the school boy stowaway who slipped onto a jet in England and ended up in Italy. Ciaran Jenkins of Independent Television News tells the story.
Liam Corcoran flew Jet2 to Rome yesterday afternoon, and nobody knew he was there, which is surprising, given that Liam is 11 years old and had no money, no passport, and no ticket.
We're certainly not proud of what's happened, and that's why we and the airline are doing an investigation. Now, if you think about what security is like at this time of year, there's lots of families traveling on holiday.
An 11-year-old boy turns up. He's very confident. He's mingled with other families, presented himself to security. At that point, we should have realized he didn't have a boarding card.
What he did have was a knack for evading detection, wandering off from his mom while they were out shopping and then somehow navigating the three miles from Wythenshawe shops to Manchester Airport.
Now only the meticulous security checks of an Olympic host nation stood between him and Italy. Anyone who has flown recently will know just how tough they are on what you can take on board, no oversized luggage, no big bottles of water. But if he's cunning enough to slip alongside you, you can take on an 11-year-old boy without anyone really noticing.
Tagged along with a family, Liam slid past security, where he should have been asked for his boarding card and passport. Of course, he had neither, and yet he still eased through the second check at the boarding gate.
Finally, he snuck on to the plane, this time without cabin crew seeing his boarding card or spotting him during a routine head count. Liam's adventure only ended when fellow passengers clocked he was alone.
It is obviously quite an exceptional thing that has happened. But we need to learn from it and then take the necessary steps to make sure it doesn't happen in the future.
Jet2 said they're investigating the incident and have suspended three members of staff. They put Liam on the return plane home and he was reunited last night with his mom.

jueves, 20 de septiembre de 2012

Mona Lisa search in Florence

Self-study activity:
Watch this short BBC video clip where a group of Italian archeologists are looking for the skeleton of Lisa Gherardini, who is believed to be the real Mona Lisa, and say what the following words refer to in the clip.

silk merchant
carbon 14

You can check your answers with the transcript below.

Could this possibly be her? The remains of the woman who inspired the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. Her identity’s been a source of huge controversy, but now she is quite widely believed to be Lisa Gherardini, the wife of a silk merchant. And the team searching for her remains reckons she was buried here, in what used to be a convent. This skeleton is the latest of three to have been unearthed so far.

Now we are entering the heart of the search, which is the most important moment. The skeleton has to be analised through carbon 14 and histological tests to gauge its age.

If they do discover Lisa Gherardini’s remains they’ll attempt to build an image of her face from the shape of her skull, and just maybe they’ll shed a little light on the reason for that mysterious smile.

Alan Johnston BBC news, Rome.

miércoles, 19 de septiembre de 2012

Talking point: Failure

Have you ever failed at something?
Have you ever failed at something important to you, whether in school, at home, with your friends or anywhere else? 
How did you react to that failure?
Did anything positive come out of it? What?
Can you think of someone who failed in the same field and reacted differently?
Do you agree that “there is enormous power in failure” and that sometimes failing is the best thing that could ever happen to a person?
Can you think of examples to illustrate/counter these ideas?

In preparation for you talking session, you can watch JK Rowling's lecture at Harvard on the benefits of failure (see transcript by clicking on the link the blog entry here) and read William D. Cohan's article in The New York Times The Power of Failure.

martes, 18 de septiembre de 2012

Hong Kong series: My home

Dickie, Kathryn and Kate, teachers at the British Council in Hong Kong, talk about the place they live in. Listen to what they say and note down their answers to the questions below. As usual, you'll get plenty of help with comprehension with the video, as some of their answers are highlighted on the screen.

After you have watched the video three or four times, you can answer the same questions about your home.

Where do you live?
What is it like?
What do you like or dislike about your flat?

lunes, 17 de septiembre de 2012

Lady Gaga on acting

Self-study activity:
This is Lady Gaga's appearance on the Ellen show towards the end of last year. Watch this two-minute clip and answer the questions below.

1 Is Lady Gaga offered jobs in the acting world?
2 What problem does she have with that?
3 What dream does she have as far as acting in concerned?
4 What has she just finished doing? What's she planning to do next?
5 Why doesn't she buy a house?
6 Where does she live?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

You know I always, when I talk about acting, I’m always surprised that no one ever asks me to audition. 
Because... do they offer you just jobs without auditioning? 
Ya because they’ll just say we want her to do this movie. And I’m just like: “Why, you’ve never seen me act before.” I wanna audition, I wanna work for it, you know, so I I sort of, when I get offered jobs and I don’t audition for then I...
Turn them down? 
Ya, I turn them down. 
So if someone asked you to audition, you’ll go audition? 
Hell ya!
Alright, and what would you wanna – would you wanna do comedy? Would you wanna do drama? Do you have any ideas of what you’d wanna do? 
I don’t really know, I guess my dream would be to be in a Woody Allen movie or something. That would be, that would be sort of my dream. 
Alright, let’s make that happen, maybe he will make you audition? 
Maybe? I’d like to audition.
Before we go I just, you’re going on tour, you just finished touring, most people would just fall down for a year, you’re getting ready to go back on tour again, right? 
I can’t wait! I’m so excited. 
You just love touring. 
Ya, well, it’s it’s I love it and also it’s just not so different from my day to day life because I don’t have a home still. 
Well you could buy one, you know. 
I could. I just, I’m a gypsy. You know, I really just, I can’t plan my life out like that so much and then I think, oh gosh! what a waste of money to buy a place when I’m on the road, you know, even though like maybe it might not seem like a big deal because you know I’m like a pop singer or whatever, it’s still like hurts to write a check when you didn’t like you know.
Not if you’re gonna be there. 
It’s a lot of money. 
But, you know, you’re in a hotel all the time. 
I was, we were laughing, everybody's laughing 'cause when I signed my tax returns this year I had to get completely wasted, I was just like: they were just – they’ were just holding me up, I was like, I just couldn’t even, it’s unbelievable. 
Yes, it’s a lot. It’s that mo’ money mo’ problems that Biggie told us about.

domingo, 16 de septiembre de 2012

Extensive listening: Allergy planet

I have been meaning for some time to include a feature on the blog that focuses on extensive listening, that is, listening for the sake of listening, with no task in mind. Somehow, we started out this trend last Sunday with the post which remembered Gore Vidal's life and achievements.

So from now on and for a number of weeks we will be posting at the weekend a video clip aimed at intermediate students around a topic of interest with no obvious task beyond student's enjoyment. However, as the prime aim of this blog is to provide English students with opportunities to develop their English, we will try to publish entries which are supported by subtitles or the transcript.

Today's video is part of a BBC programme, Horizon, and deals with the ever-growing problem of allergies around the world.

Watch Allergy Planet and enjoy it. You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 15 de septiembre de 2012

Student recipes

StudentRecipes.Com, the largest collection of recipes for students written by students, was created by James Bailey in 2004, when he was a first year student at the University of East Anglia. Since then the website has grown and now is visited by 150,000 unique users every month.

As a student himself at that time, he struggled to find recipes that were quick, easy to cook and cheap.

Apart from the practical value of StudentRecipes.Com for the people who are interested in cooking, English learners will find hundreds of recipes where they will be able to develop their reading skills in an authentic material context and, most importantly, enhance their English vocabulary.

viernes, 14 de septiembre de 2012

The business of English

About one year ago we informed on this blog about Living English, a 42-episode English course for Elementary to Intermediate students created by Australia NetworkAustralia's international television service.

Today we would like to draw your attention to The business of English, a 15-episode business English course aimed at intermediate and advanced students and which looks at the language used in everyday business situations such as meetings, presentations and negotiations.

Each episode lasts about 10 minutes, and comes complete with transcript and explanations for some of the language used.

jueves, 13 de septiembre de 2012

The good in this world

Here are a couple of videos that show the good in human nature. The second, which I learnt from Larry Ferlazzo, is an ad, but the commercial message doesn't really interfere with the value of the pictures.

Lesson idea:
Watch the videos. How many actions can you remember?
Have you ever been witness to a situation like that?
Have you ever been helped in a difficult situation by someone you didn't know?
Have you ever helped someone you didn't know?

What would it take to restore your faith in humanity?
Maybe it's seeing someone pay it forward to a person they’ve never met.
Or seeing signs of generosity in places you thought were only interested in making money.
Maybe it’s seeing someone else who understands that it’s not always about winning.
Sometimes it’s just about helping someone else cross the finish line.
Maybe it’s something as simple as a smile.
Or a gift for someone in need.
Or an apology – and the relief that comes from it.
Maybe it’s seeing someone reach out across divisions, across cultures to find new friends.
Maybe it’s finding other people that realize just how silly the world can be sometimes.
Sometimes it helps to remember that there are good people out there.
People whose instinct it is to protect the weak and the helpless to be brave.
People who don’t hesitate to help a stranger even if it’s an inconvenience or dangerous or requires a bit of undressing in the process.
It helps to remember that this instinct spans generations.
That young people can act kindly without being told to and that old people will sometimes give their lives in order to spare the young.
Sometimes it just helps to remember that there is good in this world. Real, honest good.

miércoles, 12 de septiembre de 2012

Talking point: Great conversations

Are you a good conversationalist?
Do you know anyone who is?
Do you remember the last time you had a good conversation?
Who did you have the conversation with?
What was it about?
How long did the conversation last?
What made it such a good conversation?
How important do you think face-to-face conversations are?
Do you think we’re having fewer and fewer conversations as we communicate more and more through texting and social media?
Do you ever find it difficult to have a conversation in person? Why or why not? 

This week's talking point, from The New York Times Learning Network, deals with the art of conversation and the way we seem to be losing it. In preparation for your session with your conversation group, you can read professor Sherry Turkle's article in The New York Times, The Flight from Conversation, published in April this year.

Photographs by Peter DaSilva and Byron Smith, for The New York Times

martes, 11 de septiembre de 2012

Hong Kong series -My home town

Four teachers from The British Council in Hong Kong -Kevin from Southbourne, Maria from Shrewsbury, Nishani from Durban and Tom from Ashwell- tell us about their home town. These are the questions they answer:

Where are you from?
What’s your home town like?
Why did you leave?

lunes, 10 de septiembre de 2012

This is my chance

This Is My Chance is a video clip created for the HP You on You project. It has a lively pace, it is full of optimism and conveys positive feelings. The video maker lets us know what her personal credo is. 

I think the video is suitable for Básico 2 students.

Self-study activity:
Watch the clip and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

I am just a regular girl with a regular life, but (1) ... dreams.
I live in the city but I love (2) ... .
I love a lot of things, you know.
(3) ... , family, animals, music, (4) ... , photography, (5) ... , movies.
Love is certainly an inspiration for everything I do.
And yes, sometimes I feel I'm lost and I don't know which (6) ... to take, and I want to (7) ... .
But then I realize, so what if I (8) ... ?
I'm (9) ... , I can keep trying and do what I want.
At (10) ... I won't say, what if I had done this or that?
Life is exciting.
You can (11) ... it, change what you don't like, make it better, do something big, you know.
The (12) ...  the limit.
I want to enjoy everything, big or (13) ... .
I don't wanna (14) ... all those little happy moments, waiting for something else.
I have so many dreams and only one life, and I feel like mine is just starting.
This is my (15) ... .
And that's me.

huge 2 nature 3 God 4 writing 5 art 6 path  7 give up 8 fail 9 alive 10 least 11 shape 12 sky's 13 small 14 miss 15 chance

domingo, 9 de septiembre de 2012

Remembering Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal, the American writer, died on 31 July this year. He belonged in the generation of Norman Mailer and JD Salinger and was known for his novels, essays and media appearances, always showing an interest for social and historical topics, and the identity of America.

This nine-minute video clip from PBS looks back on his life and his achievements.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 8 de septiembre de 2012

Graduates around the world tell their stories

This is an interactive from The Guardian that I discovered through David Deubel a few weeks ago. It is a part of The Guardian series The graduate without a future.

In this interactive, "international graduates share their experiences of jobhunting and discuss how they see their career prospects, alongside data showing how employment compares in different countries - from Macedonia with a graduate unemployment rate of 67% to the Netherlands, where only 4.4% of recent graduates are unemployed."

viernes, 7 de septiembre de 2012

Australian bowerbird

Self-study activity:
Watch this four-minute BBC video clip where David Attenborough gives us a few details about the intriguing behaviour of an Australian bird, the bowerbird.

Complete the blanks in the video with the missing words.

And this is the work of the master builder among bowerbirds. I'm in the Vogelkop on the far western tip of New Guinea and this is the bower of the Vogelkop bowerbird. And what an (1) ... it is! Surely one of the wonders of the natural world.
The bower has been completely roofed over, thatched with these stems of (2) ... . It's been built around the base of a sapling, it has a stark pillar right in the middle, and it's got two smaller pillars on the side, to support it. The whole of the treasury is five or six yards across. And what treasures it contains! Or what a variety of treasures it contains!
On the far side, there are the black (3) ... of tree ferns. Here is the lawn neatly planted with (4) ... , and on it, the shiny wing covers of beetles. There are orange fruits, there are these (5) ... orange dead leaves. These are the acorns of the tropical (6) ... which are common around here. Behind me, there are black fruits. All of which has been brought specially by the bird.
Bowerbirds are so dedicated to their work that even if you sit out in the open beside the bower they will often continue to work, provided you sit absolutely (7) ... .
This Vogelkop bowerbird is the plainest of his family, with no sign whatever of a crest. But the more spectacular the display in your bower, presumably the less need you have to impress your (8) ... with bright feathers. And it's difficult to imagine a more impressive collection of treasures than this. But they do have to be properly arranged to show them off really well.
Flowers, whenever they appear in the forest have an obvious (9) ... to a bird who has a passion for interior decoration. From one point of view, these adornments are better than feathers. Individual birds of paradise cannot choose their (10) ...  shape and colour. They have to display with what their (11) ... have given them. Bowerbirds, however, can choose. If a male decides that he stands a better chance of seducing a female with pink, rather than blue then he can decorate his bower that way. So it's the tastes and (12) ... of the females, single mothers, who have no need of the help of the male in bringing up their families, that has led to these extravagant exhibitions.
Whether or not the bowerbirds are closely related to the birds of paradise, both families have reacted in remarkably similar ways to the (13) ... they share - the huge richness of this forest.

astonishment 2 orchids 3 stems 4 moss 5 glowing 6 oaks 7 still 8 mate 9 appeal 10 plumes' 11 genes 12 fancies 13 asset 

jueves, 6 de septiembre de 2012

iPhone 4S

English learners who have an i-Phone or who are familiar with an i-phone will be at an advantage while doing this listening activity, which is a promotional ad of the new features of the iPhone 4S.

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

How have they improved iPhone 4S?
What has been completely redesigned?
What is Siri?
What’s the difference between Siri and other similar devices?
What will be difficult to believe when you see the quality of the photos?
What does the face detection feature of the video camera mean?
What can you do with iCloud?

To check your answers, you can read the transcript on

miércoles, 5 de septiembre de 2012

Talking point: Zoos

In March  this year The New York Times published the article Farewell to the Monkey House, about the closing of the famous Bronx zoo. Read the article in preparation for your talking session this week about the topic of zoos, from the NYTimes Learning Network.

These are the questions you can use as a springboard in your session:

When and where have you visited zoos in your life?
How did you feel about the experience?
Do you think it is better for animals to become extinct than to be kept artficially alive in zoos?
Do you think, in general, that zoos are essential for educating humans about animals, or do you think they’re too cruel to the animals to be worth what they might bring to humans? Why?
Do you agree with Mr. Siebert that we’re attracted to zoos to feel our kinship and commonality with animals, but also to feel the “bittersweet blend of awe and loneliness we humans feel over being the only animal who can look back at all the others and capture them?”
Many zoos, including the Bronx Zoo, have evolved as scientists learned more about animal behavior, psychology and needs. Do you think this is enough, or do you think, as do some quoted in this piece, that zoos “enslave” animals regardless of how and where they’re kept?

martes, 4 de septiembre de 2012

Hong Kong video series: My family

How big is your family?
Where do they live?
Who are you closest to?

These are the questions three of the teachers at the British Council in Hong Kong answer in this video.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and make a note of the answers the three teachers give to the questions above. As usual, most of what is being said will come up subtitled on the screen, which is very helpful for comprehension purposes.

After watcing the video, answer the same questions about you. Try and use some of the phrases you heard in the video.

lunes, 3 de septiembre de 2012

History of Labour Day in US

Labour [Labor in American English] Day is a holiday observed in the US on the first Monday in September. The day celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.

Self-study activity:
Watch this three-minute History Channel video clip which I learnt about through Larry Ferlazzo and answer the questions below about it.

1 What was imposed in the work place in Canada and US in the 19th century?
2 Why was 1872 important for unions?
3 Why was September 5th chosen to celebrate a workers parade in New York City?
4 What activities did workers do on September 5th 1882 in Reservoir Park?
5 What did workers have to choose when the parade was moved to the first Monday in September?
6 What happened in 1887?
7 What happened in 1894?
8 What three things happened in the second half of the 20th century?
9 What significance does Labour Day have in US today?

To check your answers, you can read the transcript below.

The Industrial Revolution modernized the United States and Canada during the 19th century. As people enjoyed steady employment, they compromised their rights in the work place. Longer work hours and pay cuts were imposed. US labour groups began protecting themselves by unionising. In Canada unions were illegal until 1872 when thousands of autolabourers marched to Prime Minister John McDonalds’ home. That year Canada wiped the entire Union Law from its books, and the march became an annual Canadian tradition.
In 1882 Toronto labour officials invited an American union leader Peter G. McGuire to Toronto’s Labour celebrations. McGuire was so impressed that he suggested a workers parade in New York City Central Labour Union. He chose September 5th as the date because it filled a long void between July 4th and Thanksgiving. Coincidentally, that same year a machinist from Patternson New Jersey, Matthew McGuire also proposed a labourers celebration. On Tuesday September 5th 1882 thousands of New York City labourers marched from City Hall to Union Square. They gathered in Reservoir Park for an afternoon of picnics, concerts and speeches, rallying for an eight-hour work day.
Two years later the Central Labour Union moved the parade to the first Monday in September. They also encouraged all US cities to follow New York’s lead and marched for the working men’s holiday. For many the choice was to either spend the day at work or march without pay. That began to change when Oregon became the first state to legalise the Labour Day holiday in 1887. Other states, including New York, soon followed.
It took a political disaster to put Labour Day on the national calendar. In 1894 railway workers in Pullman, Illinois, went on strike to protest wage cuts. President Grover Cleveland faced pressure to end the demonstrations and sent 12,000 federal troops to break the strike. Violence erupted. Two strikers were killed and Cleveland’s harsh methods made headlines. In an attempt to appease the nation’s workers he signed a bill to make Labour Day a federal holiday. Cleveland still lost that year’s election.
American workers continued to gain power through the 1950’s when over a third of all labour forces were unionized. Labour Day had become a time to rally workers for safer conditions, fair pay and benefits. But in the second half of the 20th century the US labour force diminished, many factories closed, jobs were outsourced to other countries.
Today, workers still parade through blue-coloured neighborhoods on Labour Day and speeches unite the ever dwindling labour force. But the day’s true call has quietened. For now most Americans leisurely enjoy the holiday as summer’s last bow.

domingo, 2 de septiembre de 2012

Listening resources for beginner and elementary students

Only yesterday we published a post informing about Listen and Read, a site where lower-level students can develop their reading and listening skills.

On occasion, lower level (Básico 1 and Básico 2) students write to enquire about sites and webpages where they can develop their listening skills, and it seems to them, with good reason I must say, that most of the resources on this blog are aimed at students in the intermediate segment.

So I have looked back at the 1,000 plus entries on this blog and I have made a selection of the sites where Básico 1 and Básico 2 (beginners and elementary) students can find material to develop their listening skills.

Speakout (videos tagged "elementary")
Hong Kong series
Video course for elementary students
Real English (videos tagged "beginner")
Pod English (videos tagged "beginner")
USA learns
El blog para aprender ingles (audios)
Listen and read
Adele’s ESL Corner
Four Stories
TPR exercises
Easy conversations for Beginners
Interactive laboratory
Interchange Arcade
Checking in/out of a hotel
Speak and Spell (The British Council)
Listen and Watch (The British Council)
Story Blocks
Kizclub –Stories and props
Super easy reading
Reading lessons for adult learners
Le Precepteur

sábado, 1 de septiembre de 2012

Listen and Read

In mid-July Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers informed about Listen and Read. This is what  Richard wrote about this resource:

"Listen and Read is a set of 54 non-fiction stories from Scholastic. The stories feature pictures and short passages of text that students can read on their own or have read to them by each story's narrator. The collection of stories is divided into eight categories: social studies, science, plants and flowers, environmental stories, civics and government, animals, American history, and community.

Listen and Read looks to be a great resource for (...) reading practice in general. At the end of each book there is a short review of the new words that students were introduced to in the book. Students can hear these words pronounced as many times as they like."

We don't often have the opportunity to publish listening activities for Beginner and Elementary (Básico 1) students, so we should welcome Listen and Read as an invaluable resource where Básico 1 students can practise vocabulary, pronunciation, listening and reading.

Students in other levels, especially those in Básico 2 will also benefit from Listen and Read for consolidation purposes.

Both Básico 1 and Básico 2 students should focus on the stories tagged level A, whereas Intermediate 1 students should concentrate on the stories tagged level B.