viernes, 31 de mayo de 2013


Self-study activity:
Watch this ITN video about a landslide and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

Be careful! The video is very short and there are a lot of questions. Try to answer them mentally, without taking any notes.

1 How many houses have been damaged?
2 Where did the landslide happen?
3 When did it happen?
4 What other damage did the landslide do?
5 How many people were injured?
6 Are power and water supplies available in the area?
6 What time did the landslide happen?
7 What have residents been asked to do?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

Remember you can easily find out the meaning of unknown words by double-clicking on them.

One house has been left severely damaged after a massive landslide struck Whidbey Island in Washington State on Wednesday morning. The landslide also took out a road cutting off access to more than a dozen homes.
Fortunately, there were no injuries but the landslide cut off power and water supply to the area. According to reports residents heard a thunder like boom at around 4:15 am local time.

The landslide remains a threat to many other houses in the area and residents have been asked to evacuate the neighborhoods.

jueves, 30 de mayo de 2013

Master of ceremonies

This is James Mitchell, who works as a marriage officiant at the Manhattan Marriage Bureau, where he has performed over 27,000 ceremonies in three years.

Self-study activity:
This is more of a talking activity rather than a listening activity for Intermediate 2 students.

Watch the video and answer the questions below.

How many different couples do you remember?
Who are they with?
What are they wearing?
Where are the ceremonies held?

To what extent do you feel the video shows a picture of the early 21st century?
What do the words below tell us about today’s world?
    climate change – globalisation – Google – credit crunch – Web 2.0 – carbon footprint – youth culture
What other trends, ideas, changes or factors define our times?

The video is part of The New York Times video series Vows, where couples explain the way they met and how their relationship developed.

We have posted two more Vows videos, Marguerite and Sean's love story and How we met, Erica and Matthew, both of which include listening activities for intermediate students.

You can also watch the post Wedding Season, and compare the more traditional wedding ceremonies with the Manhattan Marriage Bureau video we have posted today.

We have all types of people who come into the Marriage Bureau. They are from all aspects of life. They are from all over the world.
Welcome guys!
How are you doing today?
We are gathered here tonight to witness the exchanging of marriage vows between Claudio and Geneva…
I might be doing my 100th ceremony but for the couple in front of me is their first ceremony and so what I want to do is I want to make it as special as I possibly can. So when I close the chapel doors the people that are in front of me are the most important people that are at the office at that time.
Do you Roy solemnly declare to take Nicole to be your lawfully wedded wife?
Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and keep him for as long as you both shall live. As a symbol of your promise, please place a ring on the young lady’s finger.
In as much as you both have consented to be united in the vows of marriage and have exchanged your wedding vows in front of us here tonight and by the power invested to me by the laws of the great state of New York I now pronounce you married. And you may seal your vows…
This should be one of the happiest days of a person’s life and I may be able to be a part of that and just feeling of that energy, the energy in the room, the love in the room, is enough to help me get through each one of the ceremonies.

miércoles, 29 de mayo de 2013

Talking point: Art

This week's talking point revolves around the topic of art, which isn't an easy one to discuss for the layman. This post is inspired by an activity in It's Magazine (you haven't gone yet and we're already missing you!).

Get together with the members of your conversation group and talk about the questions below.
  • Do you think Art is important?
  • Do you know much about art or know someone who does?
  • Do you own any art books?
  • Which do you prefer, painting , photography, sculpture?
  • Do you have a favourite painting or artist?
  • How often do you visit art galleries or museums?
  • What was the last exhibition you saw?
  • When you go to another city, do you usually visit an art gallery or museum there?
  • Can you name some art galleries and museums in New York, Paris, London, Madrid, Florence?
  • What do you think is the most famous painting in the world?
What’s your reaction to the remarks below?
     ‘Art isn’t art until somebody says it is.’
     ‘A painting belongs to the person who’s watching it.’
     ‘Art? What’s that?’
     ‘Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.’ Picasso.

To gain further insight into the topic you can read this article on David Hockney's exhibition in London last year from The Telegraph. Watch the slideshow of Hockney's paintings accompanying the article and
  • describe the pictures
  • compare the pictures
  • do you like them?
Finally, watch the accompanying video. You can answer these questions, also taken from the It's Magazine activity.
  1. In the video, Alastair Sooke describes David Hockney as ... 
  2. He describes the landscapes in the first rooms as ... 
  3. He thinks the series of landscapes of woods are full of ... 
  4. In the next room, he thinks the paintings are ... 
  5. In his favourite room he describes the paintings as ... 

    I’m at the Royal Art Academy for a sneak preview of the RAs first big exhibition of the year, David Hockney, a Bigger Picture, a show of more than 150 works of art, predominantly landscapes by undoubtedly British most popular living artist.

    What you see here are a number of landscapes created by Hockney but much earlier in his career. This in a sense is the beginning of the show proper. What you see are a number of oil paintings on that wall, watercolors on that wall, of the countryside near Bridlington, where Hockney’s lived in the past seven or so years. They are quite modest paintings really. They’re very upbeat, they’re perfectly cheery, they’re delightful, a little polite for my taste. But if you carry on going through, they really are quite a lot of landscape paintings from this area of Yorkshire. In fact, in the exhibition are more than 150 works.

    Here’s a series which shows you the Woldegate Woods, Silven, forest scenes which have some of that mystery that age old feeling  of wondering being enveloped by the forests and gloom,  you’re really sucked into these quite large paintings which are full of certain wildness and mystery, an ancient feeling of the forest.

    In here things start to go a bit haywire. I feel like… the show starts to become almost spectacularly weird. Take this painting, for example. This is kind of mad. This doesn’t look like a natural landscape. It’s completely transformed by Hockney’s vision. You have these trees and shrubs which are given quite a strong silhouettes. They look to me like they have a kind of life force, almost extraterrestrial. They are covered with this very thick paints.

    And in here, my favourite room because earlier on, you saw landscapes which are quite upbeat. They are very charming, they’re very colourful, they’re very pretty, but I kind of don’t get them. They feel quite retrograde to me, and I know that Hockeney is fully aware of our history, 20th century art history in modern art. I just don’t understand why he seems to be sort of ignoring that whole legacy and painting stuff that really looks a little bit like an amateur Sunday painters.

    Here though you have something else. There’s a very, you can see them, vivid, intense palette kind of fauvist palette.  The painters like Darren, Matisse who were working at the very beginning of the 20th century. It has almost religious vision intensity that are partly because if you see those bright blue trees leading off by the road just up near the horizon it starts to bend and curl and distort into a kind of vortex sucking you in in the distance. So to me it doesn’t  take very long to look at the tree stump and to look at those chopped-up logs awaiting collection and start seeing symbols of mortality. Hockney’s managed to take quite an everyday humdrum scene in Yorkshire, something really with very little mystery and imbue it with power and strangeness. That for me is why I like this room the best.

    martes, 28 de mayo de 2013

    Speakout starter: Journeys

    Journeys is the title of this week's video podcast from Speakout, Pearson Longman. It is a nice follow-up to yesterday's post on What is bicycle travel?

    Watch the video and note down the answers to these questions:

    How do you get to work?
    How long does it take?
    Do you like the journey?
    How much does it cost?

    Beginners and elementary students can find it difficult to understand and use the question How long does it take? For a more detailed explanation of this question, read this entry from our Real English series.

    Now it's over to you. Answer the questions above about yourself. Try and use some of the expressions the people interviewed used.

    You can read the transcript here.

    lunes, 27 de mayo de 2013

    What is bicycle travel?

    Watch this short video by The Path Less Pedalled about the advantages of travelling by bike.

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

    The activity is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

    What is bicycle travel?
    Bicycle travel isn't about (1) ... .
    It's about going (2) ... , exploring your country, and seeing it for the first time.
    It's about doing something you didn't think you could do before.
    It's about (3) ... to some places you've never been.
    It's about slowly (4) ... a mountain,then (5) ... down the other side.
    It's about traveling with friends and making new ones.
    It's about (6) ... fruit stands or finding the best meal you've ever had and getting (7) ... .
    It's about getting lost to find (8) ... .
    But most of all, bicycle travel is about people (9) ... stories with other travelers and (10) ... with the locals.
    Because when you travel on a bike, you (11) ...   ...  but smile and people (11) ...   ...  but smile back.
    Travel by bike. Live more.

    Make a point of dropping by The Path Less Pedalled and you will have the opportunity to watch some other similar videos to What is bicycle travel? together with some advice to take into account if you are planning to travel by bike.

    You can also hold a conversation with your English-speaking friends around the topic of the bicycle in today's time and age:
    • What are the advantages of using a bicycle to get around a city?
    • What problems are there'
    • What cities have a bike-hire scheme?
    • How do these schemes work?
    • Are you in favour of encouraging the use of bicycles as a form of transport? Why (not)?
    • What changes would be needed where you live to make cycling a practical form of transport?
    • What rules do you think cyclists should have to follow?
    • Are you a cyclist or would you consider cycling in a city?
    1 bike 2 slowly 3 riding 4 climbing 5 flying 6 roadside 7 seconds 8 yourself  9 swapping 10 laughing 11 can't help 

    domingo, 26 de mayo de 2013

    Extensive listening: Life inside the North Korean bubble

    A week ago, we posted on our Sunday's intensive listening series the first episode of a couple of American expats who want to show us what their life is like in South Korea. While doing so, we had the opportunity to have a glimpse of the country, its culture, traditions, and everyday life.

    Today, we are going to watch the reverse of the coin, and see what life is like in North Korea through a unique BBC documentary by Newsnight editor Sue Lloyd-Roberts.

    You can read an accompanying article on the Newsnight BBC website.

    sábado, 25 de mayo de 2013

    Class in British society

    A few weeks ago the BBC reported on the results of a survey of the social structure in Britain in XXI century.

    It seems that the traditional three-class system (upper, middle and working class) has been replaced with this more elaborate seven-class system:
    • Elite - the most privileged group in the UK, distinct from the other six classes through its wealth. This group has the highest levels of all three capitals.
    • Established middle class - the second wealthiest, scoring highly on all three capitals. The largest and most gregarious group, scoring second highest for cultural capital
    • Technical middle class - a small, distinctive new class group which is prosperous but scores low for social and cultural capital. Distinguished by its social isolation and cultural apathy.
    • New affluent workers - a young class group which is socially and culturally active, with middling levels of economic capital.
    • Traditional working class - scores low on all forms of capital, but is not completely deprived. Its members have reasonably high house values, explained by this group having the oldest average age at 66.
    • Emergent service workers - a new, young, urban group which is relatively poor but has high social and cultural capital.
    • Precariat, or precarious proletariat - the poorest, most deprived class, scoring low for social and cultural capital.
    Drop by the BBC webpage and read the article that explains the ins and outs of today's British society. You will also be able to take the test so that you can find out where you would fit in the British social class system, and you will also be able to listen to an radio interview where these results are explained.

    viernes, 24 de mayo de 2013

    The Duchess of Cambridge, in support of Children's Hospices

    Watch the Duchess of Cambridge  video message in support for the charity Together for Short Lives.

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

    The activity is suitable for Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

    As Patron of East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, I’ve been fortunate to see at first hand through (1) ... work that they do for children and young people with life limiting conditions and their families. It is simply transformational. There are (2) ...  children’s hospice services across the UK, all providing similar, invaluable and life enhancing care to thousands of families.

    Children’s Hospice Week is the time to recognize, celebrate and support the inspirational work of those Hospices and those who (3) ... palliative care to these children and families. Children’s hospices (3) ...  (4) ... to families at a time of unimaginable pain. The support they give is vital. In order to (5) ...   ... this wonderful work, our help is needed. With our support those providing children’s palliative care can continue to offer these extraordinary (6) ... . It does not bare thinking about what these families would do without this. I hope that you’ll (7) ... me this Children’s Hospice Week, in supporting your local service.

    To find out more about how you can help, please visit

    With your support we can (8) ... that these children and their families can make the most of the precious time they have together.

    1 remarkable 2 forty-nine 3 provide 4 lifelines 5 carry out 6 services 7 join 8 ensure

    jueves, 23 de mayo de 2013

    How to clean the world's tallest windows

    Supersized Earth is a BBC programme that explores the way  we have redesigned our planet to build the modern world.

    Dallas Campbell, the show's host, goes up to the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which has the world's highest windows. He joins the team whose job is to clean them.

    Self-study activity:
    Watch  the four-minute video clip and answer the questions about it.

    The activity is suitable for Intermediate students.

    1 How far below is the next platform?
    2 What would happen if Derek dropped anything?
    3 What two factors are really important to build buildings this high?
    4 What is the main danger for tall buildings?
    5 Can you explain what 'confusing the wind' is?
    6 How long does it take to clean all the windows?
    7 How many windows are there?

    To check your answer you can read the transcript below. Remember you can double click on any word to find out its meaning.

    Today, I’m going to join the team whose job it is to clean the outside of the world’s highest windows.
    Just pull a little slack free. Just pull up on this one. A little bit more.

    Okay, now lock the handle off.
    Yeah, yeah.
    Okay. Okay, just lean back, just lean back. You’re okay, you can’t go anywhere.
    I need the bucket.
    Yeah, hang on a second. Take this…
    Dry mouth.
    Do you get nervous at all?
    Yes. Scared – little bit scared? Yeah. I haven’t looked down yet. Now I’ve looked down!

    It’s almost inconceivable how high these windows are. I’m 60 meters above the next platform below, which is, in itself, 600 meters above the ground higher than the previous world’s tallest building. At this height, if I dropped anything, it could do serious damage.
    Building height, is a load of factors you’ve got to take into consideration. One of them obviously is gravity, which I’m feeling right now. The thing about gravity is it’s very predictable. It’s a force that’s going one way. The thing you’ve really got to worry about is wind, because by its very nature it’s unpredictable, it swirls around and it can affect the building, as well as window cleaners.
    Surprisingly, very tall buildings aren’t in danger of being blown over, but of being sucked over. As wind hits them, it can form small whirlwinds, called vortices. This swirling air can create low-pressure areas that tug at the building. And if enough of them combine up the tall straight sides, they could make the tower rock from side to side. So why doesn’t this happen to the Burj Khalifa? Well, it’s taken some careful aerodynamic design. By stepping the building in as it rises and introducing angles and curves, the Burj Khalifa breaks up the desert wind, preventing the vortices from combining dangerously. The designers call it ‘confusing the wind’, and they reckon it’s the only way to build this high.
    It strikes me, being out here, that even though we are in such a technically advanced building, that – in order to keep it nice and clean, you still can’t beat a man with a squeegee and a bucket. It takes three months to clean all 24,000 windows, and when they finished, the team has to start all over again.

    If you are going to build a building that’s truly iconic, you’ve got to make it look nice.
    And keep it looking nice!
    And keep it looking nice, exactly, yeah.
    Keep going, you’re all right. Keep going, lovely.
    Wow, that was intense! I don’t know how those guys do it every day. That was intense, but good.

    miércoles, 22 de mayo de 2013

    Talking point: Your very own hero

    The topic of heroes seems to be a regular feature in the English class. This year we did the following activity in class, which is based on a worksheet from Global Advanced, Macmillan.

    Write the name of two people who have been a great influence on your life. One of them should be an ordinary person, preferably someone close to you like a friend or relative. The other one should be someone who is/was famous for their big contribution to mankind or their country, or who has achieved a remarkable feat (a scientist, a political leader, a sportsperson).

    Who are the people you chose?
    What do you know about their life?
    Describe the type of person they are/were.
    What did they do that you admire most?
    How did they influence your life?
    What is your best memory of this person?
    Think of some advice that you would give to someone else based on your experience of this person's influence.
    'Heroes and heroines are really normal people’. Do you agree with this sentence?
    Talk about something remarkable you have done.

    Derek Sivers sparked off this idea for this week's talking point when I read his moving blog post following film critic Roger Evert's death in early April this year. When reading Derek's comments about Mr Evert one can feel his admiration for him and his work.

    If you click on the link on Derek Sivers, you will also have the opportunity to get to know some of Evert's most outstanding film reviews.

    If you would rather do some sort of listening stuff, why not watch this Evert's talk for TED, when he was unable to talk because of his illness.

    Remember you can activate the English subtitles to fully understand everything that is being said in the talk.

    martes, 21 de mayo de 2013

    Speakout starter: Routines

    In a new episode of our Speakout series for beginners, Pearson Longman, passers-by answer the two questions below about their weekend routine:

    What time do you get up at the weekend?
    What do you usually do at the weekend?

    Watch the video clip and note down the answers pedestrians give. Then answer the questions about yourself. Try to use some of the expressions you heard on the video.

    You can read the transcript here.

    lunes, 20 de mayo de 2013

    Salar de Uyuni: Salt Desert

    Watch this short ITN news report about an unusual holiday destination, the Salar de Uyuni, in Bolivia, and answer the questions about it below.

    The activity is suitable for (strong) Básico 2 and intermediate 1 students.

    1 The Salar de  Uyuni is the biggest ... on Earth. Can you complete the sentence?
    2 What service started last November?
    3 How many people visited the place last year?
    4 How did tourists from the US reach the Salar before?
    5 How big is the area?
    6 What was the place like 40,000 years ago?
    7 What's the weather like at night? And during the day?

    To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

    One of the Earth's natural beauties, yet we rarely hear about it. But now, the world's biggest salt desert, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, is attracting tourists like never before. A private air service on an antique plane opened flights over the area in November, and it's fast proving to be a popular attraction. Around 60,000 people visited last year. But since the new flight service was launched, the bookings have shot up, and it's totally full for this month and February. Hercules de Souza is manager of the Aerosur Airline.
    Now, tourists from the United States are going to arrive directly to the salt plant. Before, they had to pass through the towns along the way and take different forms of transport to arrive to this wonder.
    The area is around 4,000 square miles, situated in the southwest of the country near the Chilean border. Around 40,000 years ago, the Salar de Uyuni was part of a lake that covered a huge part of the Andean Highlands. Then it dried up, leaving a salt desert and moonlike landscapes. There is so much salt there that locals even make buildings out of it. In fact, the airport is built of the stuff. Pink flamingos, one-thousand-year-old cacti, and rare hummingbirds make their home here. At night, it freezes, and in the day, there's a blazing sun. But, it's still worth the trip.

    domingo, 19 de mayo de 2013

    Extensive listening: Life of two expats in Seoul

    This is a beautiful film on the life of Tiffany Needham and Erik Moynihan in Seoul that I discovered through EFL Classroom.

    The Expat Life is in fact a 17-video series so far about this couple's life in Seoul, which revolves around their discovery journey of a new country and its traditions and touches on topics as varied as plastic surgery, music, dance, night life, relationships, family, animal shelters, culture shock, traditional, architecture,  drinking, styles of dressing, sport, art and cooking, and that you can follow on their Facebook page here.

    This is the way their first film, Permanent, was presented on Vimeo:

    "Meet Tiffany Needham and Erik Moynihan – entrepreneurs and your guides to the expat life in Seoul. In this premiere episode, they remember what brought them here and the opportunities and connections that made them stay and start up Magpie Brewing Co. We meet Hassan, another Seoul veteran and their business partner. He came for a two-week vacation seven years ago and liked it so much he never left.
    On the other hand, Tori is seeing the city with fresh eyes. She and her boyfriend arrived from Canada just six weeks earlier, moving for his job at an international school, and leaving her job as a radio producer behind. Tiffany and Erik explore the Filipino market in Hyehwa with Tori, then head to Suyu for a BBQ lamb leg dinner with Hassan. The day ends over makgeolli in Insa-dong, where the trio of veterans help Tori decide if she can make a long-term commitment to Seoul."

    sábado, 18 de mayo de 2013

    The English Effect

    The English Effect is an exhibition held at the British Council in London until 29 June. Its aim is to explore the English language in the world today.

    The organizers have scheduled a number of events so that visitors can get a deeper insight into understanding the reality of the English language today. These include talks and seminars on English teaching, spelling and pronunciation, the Englishes in the world and many more.

    If someone can’t make it to London, they can still get involved online in the activities through Twitter, Facebook and Youtube.

    As language learners, we can also benefit from some of the material that is available on The English Effect website. Just click on the ‘Economic benefits’ tag and watch some of the videos where a panel of experts from different industries express their views about the English language being the UK’s greatest asset today.

    You can also get familiar with some common words in English and their origin by clicking on the tag 'A global language'.

    In the video below, a group of people explain what English means to them. While you watch the video, keep thinking about what English means to you.

    What English means to me, opportunities to travel, meet people from other countries who I can speak to in in a language, in a common language.
    English is a very powerful media to keep us connected to the rest of the world.
    Definitely English is a must because English in my opinion is the universal language.
    Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Brunei and Rwanda, the majority of them speaks English, which means that students after learning English would be able to look for jobs from the neighbouring countries.
    English means to me the whole world, this is my working language.
    English means the whole world to me. First thing because my husband is British, so thanks to English I met my husband, then we were able to live a life together.
    I wanted to speak English just for me to be… because I don’t want to, I don’t want to be not understand people when I’m in a different country.
    English is a language in which I think, and English is a language in which I dream.
    It’s little because of music, because all my best singers are from America or from England countries, so when I’m listening to their song, I use to search their lyrics to search new words and step by step I’m feeling better with speaking English.
    I think I have plans for my children to learn the language and also plans to help them strengthen the language, be able to interact with the world as it comes.
    If I, for me to belong I’ve, I’m not be isolated I just speak English so that I’ve been to move with others, move with society.
    English is one of those things you need in the world today in order to function in business, in science, in politics.
    English means to me that I have the passport to the world, the passport to life and the passport to information.
    At least we can use one language to unite us, we can understand each other to promote our relationship and friendship.

    viernes, 17 de mayo de 2013

    Paris city guide

     Watch this Lonely Planet video on Paris and answer the questions about it.

    The video is suitable for intermediate students.

    1 How many people live in Paris?
    2 How many high-rises or skyscrapers can you see?
    3 What happened in 1848?
    4 Why was the Eiffel Tower built?
    5 What is the Parisians attitude towards fashion?
    6 What three foods are mentioned?
    7 Why is Paris one of the best places to be hungry?

    To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

    The City of Light is the capital of France and the epitome of romance, culture and beauty. Home to over two million people Paris straddles the river Seine and is divided into twenty districts called ‘arrondissement’, each with its own personality.
    The heart of Paris has changed little since the mid-nineteenth century when its grand boulevards and art and villa apartments were built. Strict planning regulations have preserved its layout and ensured and almost total absence of high rises. To fully appreciate the city’s charms you’re best exploring Paris on foot. Take a leisure stroll along the Seine or wander the cobble-stoned streets of Montmartre.
    Paris probably has more familiar landmarks than any other city on earth. Once a fortress and royal residence, the iconic Louvre is the city’s greatest gallery, especialising in art from the Middle Ages to the 1848 Revolution.
    Stroll the Champs Elysees to reach the might Arc de Triomphe commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his greatest military victories.
    The Eiffel Tower is the most famous fixture in the city’s skyline built for the World Fair in 1889.
    Parisians live and breathe fashion, have an immense sense of style and dress with meticulous care. You can get the look and match your credit card in the boutiques of the route of Fabeau Saint Honoré, often cited as the world’s most fashionable address.
    The side streets of Paris are full of quirky boutiques and specialty stores. Locals buy their pastries at the patisserie, bread at the boulangerie and cheese from the fromagerie. This style of shopping not only offers a wealth of expertise but a perfect excuse for Parisians to talk about their favourite subject. Food, fresh ingredients, great chefs and the refined style of French cooking makes Paris one of the best places on earth to be hungry, and if you subscribe to even half of the superlatives thrown at this city, it’s one of the best places to be. Full stop.

    jueves, 16 de mayo de 2013

    My first job

    The YouTube Whitehouse channel features a number of videos where the staff currently working for the Whitehouse talk about their first job experience.

    The videos are on the short side, ranging from thirty seconds to two minutes, and they also vary in difficulty. Needless to say the bulk of these videos will be appropriate for intermediate students, but some of them, as that of chef Chris Comerford featured here, will also be suitable for strong Básico 2 students.

    If you view the videos on YouTube, the interactive transcript will give you an accurate transcription, which makes me think the transcript has been cleaned.

    Lesson idea:
    The videos lend themselves to a nice class about first-job experiences, summer jobs and occasional jobs we used to do to earn some extra money.

    Chef Chris Comerford

    My very first job, you might want to know, is that, you know, back in Chicago, when my family moved here from Manila in 1983, my first job was a salad bar girl. And at that time when I was working it wasn't one of those glamorous job or anything that, you know, you might really aspire for, but being a culinary laureate now and looking black I've learn so many things from that very first job.
    I've learned how to organize myself. I've learned how to work with other people and I've learned to really love what I do. So even though like you know at the time being it might not seem very important, every job is important.
    You know, like as a chef right now I rely on this salad bar girl, really take care of my needs, take care of everything that I need to have to ensure that, you know, an event that I have or a menu that I have worked very nicely. So you know, looking back it was a very great experience for me.

    My first job was actually when I was 13 years old, and it was, I was technically a volunteer but I did get a pay check of five dollars a week that made me really proud and just gave me a sense of kind
    of responsibility at a good age. I worked with my cousin. And we were actually responsible for answering phone calls for people that were interested in more information about the impact that pesticides was having on farm workers and farm worker children.
    And so we would send them out a little information video and for me it was again the sense of responsibility, but also I think I got a little excited and felt like I was in charge. And would try to boss my cousin around all of the time which she didn't really like since we were the same age, but she was much taller than me. And so everyone thought that she was obviously older than I was. You know, through that summer again, I, it just gave me an opportunity to really contribute and to show that even though I was 13 years old, I could do something to inform others about you know issues that they cared about or you know that I could also take a part in helping to improve the lives of, in that case, it was farm workers. And so for me, it was again that sense of really having meaning and purpose in whatever it is that I chose to do. And chose to take on.

    My first summer job was pretty unique in that I was 14 years old living in the Republic of South Korea where my dad was stationed as a member of the Army. And for a summer employment option, they gave us the option of working on a military base. And so my first summer job was working with a group of Korean men in a supply warehouse at a supply base outside of Tagu South Korea.
    It was very challenging for one because I didn't know the language, and I had to work with people, obviously, of a different culture and a different background than me. I was only 14, and so these gentlemen were much older than me. And it required me to, one, not only learn the ins and outs of just showing up for work on time but also how to communicate and work with people that I would not otherwise interact with on a regular basis and how to form coherent teams to get the basic things done that you need to do to be productive.

    miércoles, 15 de mayo de 2013

    Talking point: Change

    The topic of today's talking point is Change. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that you can get familiar with the topic and ideas flow more easily on the day when you get together with your friends.

    Which of these things do you know how to change? a nappy - a tyre - a light bulb - a plug
    Which, if any, of these would you like to change? Why or why not? your name - your image - your lifestyle
    What changes, if any, would you make to the following? Why? your home - your school/workplace

    What might the effects be if the following changes were to occur in your country?
    The average temperature increases by 5ºC all year round.
    The third most important political party wins a majority at the general election.
    The official retirement age is increased by 5 years.
    At primary and secondary school the lessons have to be taught in English.
    The government introduces a four-day working week.
    The minimum age for driving a car is increased by three years.
    A new tourist resort opens on the coast of Morocco with very cheap prices.
    Cars are banned in the city centre.
    Some important industry in your area is relocated in another country.

    Which changes would you like to see introduced, either regionally, nationally or globally?
    What can an ordinary person do to change the world?
    Do movements like The Occupy Movement - Escraches – Anonymous – Wikileaks – Peta – Femen really change society?
    To what extent campaigns like My Friends is or Do you see what I see are useful?

    My friend is so much fun… he is always playing tricks on people... he is so smart. In fact, he is one of the must intelligent beings on the planet. This friend can litteraly see through me and I'm not kidding. My friend races sailboats ... and always wins. My friend has no problem hitting the high note.
    My friend can surf waves 25 feet high ... with no board...  I like to see you try that ... This friend can understand us...  but we can’t understand him.
    He saves lives. He saves human lives. He is always smiling. But that doesn't mean that he is always happy.
    My friend doesn't belong in captivity. His home is in the ocean.
    But my friend is in serious trouble. In fact, he is fighting for his life right now...  off the coast of Japan dolphins and poroises are driven to a horrible fate.
    The most attractive are chosen for life in captivity. The others are brutally killed. Their meat that contains toxic levels of mercury is sold as food. The majority of people in Japan don't even know that this is happpening...
    Please help us end this senseless slaughter, please help us get the word out, please join us in getting the word out. Help us get the word out! To find out more go to We are their biggest threat and their only hope...

    martes, 14 de mayo de 2013

    Speakout starter: Life (free time with friends)

    In a new episode of the Speakout video podcast series, Pearson Longman, a group of passers-by answer questions on free-time activities.

    What do you like to do with your friends?
    What do you like to do on your own?
    Do you go to concerts, plays or films in London?

    Now you can answer the same questions about yourself.

    You can read the transcript for the video here.

    lunes, 13 de mayo de 2013

    Givers and Takers

    Susan Dominus talks to psychologist Adam Grant about his new book, Give and Take, which takes a look at givers, takers and succeeding in the workplace.

    Self-study activity:
    The pace of delivery in this interview is really fast, and even strong intermediate students are going to find it difficult at times. However, I have decided to post the video because I found the topic interesting and because it may help us focus on an interesting exam strategy: The input we get through the questions in the task is very often an invaluable source of information about the content and a guideline that helps us to monitor what is being said.

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

    1 Giver, taker and matcher are the three main styles of worker.
    2 Takers usually don't contribute much in an organization.
    3 Most workers are takers.
    4 Givers usually achieve great things.
    5 Takers use the 'five-minute favour' strategy.
    6 Most takers are successful in the end.
    7 Gossiping through social media helps us identify the style of worker we are dealing with.

    So everybody´s going to read this book and start going through their work like you know ok, giver, taker, matcher…
    I actually think when people go around looking around their workplaces they are going to go giver, matcher, matcher, matcher, matcher, taker, matcher, matcher, matcher, giver, because most people are matchers. The book is called Give and Take and is about why people rise to the top or sink to the bottom in organizations. When I’ve found is there is these three sort of fundamental styles of interaction at work that exist in most industries, in most cultures around the world. And I called them ‘giver’, ‘taker’ and ‘matcher’. I think you’ve probably encountered your share of takers over the years. The takers are the people who are trying to get as much as possible from other people and contribute as little as they can in return. And then at the other end of the spectrum you have these people that I call givers, who actually enjoy contributing more to others than they receive in return.
    How weird!
    I know it´s very strange, who would do that, but there’s this breed of people who sort of walk around in their professional lives, making introductions, offering mentoring and providing help all without strings attached. Most people fall in the middle of that spectrum and I call them matchers. And a matcher is basically somebody who, who walks around trying to maintain an even balance of give and take.
    In your book there are a lot of stories about people, you know, do achieve great things by being givers, and maybe you can talk me through a little bit about how that works because when I read that theory some friends of mine they all thought ‘that’s not the people I see at the top necessarily’.
    So if you look at sales people or engineers or even medical students, the ones who are most inclined to help others are more likely to fail dramatically and also to succeed really big. One of the really big questions is what do the givers at the top do? A lot of it actually has to do with one of my favourite characters in the book, the five-minute favour. Looking for a low-cost to you but high benefit to others ways of contributing.
    I love the idea of the  five-minute favour its totally appealing, however, in my experience the five-minute favour tends to turn like a twenty-minute favour that day, and then there’s usually some follow-up.
    This is something I´ve been trying to apply to my own life having learned it from a bunch of people in the book. When somebody asks me for help, instead of saying ‘yes, I will help you’ right away I will say ‘ok, is this something I can add unique value and helping with’. If not, let me see if I can connect you with someone else who can really contribute.
    You are doing a favour to the person who needs the introduction but maybe you’re imposing on the person you are asking them to meet. I meet how does it all work?
    I try to make those asked frequently are givers and I know often times what I hear back ‘hey, this is a meaningful opportunity for me to help, can you send me more like this?’ Sometimes also I’ll send those requests to people who I know are more like matchers, who I helped in the past. I wouldn’t recommend doing 5-minute favours for everyone, ok, I would ask first of all ‘are you trying to help somebody who is a giver, a taker or a matcher?’, and if the person is really a taker you may want to be a little bit more cautious.
    So how is it that so many takers end up so successful?
    A lot of takers succeed in the short run, but not in the long run, so, you know, trying to claim as much of value from other people as possible is often a really efficient way to get things done but it also tends to burn bridges. The world’s has gotten more connected, especially if you look at organizations and so, you know, there is this big relationship and reputation component of succeeding at work that perhaps was less salient before.
    So as the world becomes more connected and social media are more prevalent, the reputational cost of being a taker are going to be spread more quickly than it maybe did twenty years ago, is that the idea?
    That’s one of my predictions. Rob Wiley has some studies on this at Berkeley where he shows that people actually go around trying to punish takers, and one of the ways they do that is by gossiping and spreading negative reputational information to protect other people.
    So in this way gossip turns out to be an incredibly healthy productive office activity.
    It can be, yes, so Rob is calling actually, talks about pre-social gossip and the idea that you can contribute to others through sort of protecting them or at least encouraging them to keep their guard up when somebody has been so really self-absorbing in the past.

    1T 2T 3F 4T 5F 6F 7T

    domingo, 12 de mayo de 2013

    Extensive listening: Asia’s illegal animal trade

    Photographer Patrick Brown, as stated in his bio on World Photo, was born in Sheffield, England, although he spent his childhood moving to the Middle East and Africa before his family finally settled in Perth, Australia.

    On leaving school, Brown taught himself photography while working as a set builder for theatre and ballet. However, he found himself increasingly drawn into documentary photography and decided to return to Africa, where he spent six weeks in Malawi documenting the work of an Australian surgeon who had once saved his own life.

    Returning home, his photos soon became a major exhibition, raising thousands of dollars for charity and winning the Australian Kodak Photographer of the Year award.

    Inspired by this success Patrick left for Asia in 1999. He has since made Thailand his base, devoting himself to documenting critical issues across the Asia region. His major project on the illegal trade in endangered animals won a World Press Photo award in 2004 and a multimedia award from POYi in 2008.

    In this short film Patrick Brown talks about his book, Trading to Extinction, which documents the illegal trade of endangered animals in Asia.

    To fully understand the documentary, you can activate the YouTube CC subtitles on the lower side of the screen.

    sábado, 11 de mayo de 2013

    Nature works everywhere

    Towards the end of March I got wind of Nature works everywhere through Richard Byrne on his excellent Free Technology for Teachers.

    On Nature works everywhere we can find a number of resources for both teachers and students to get acquainted with nature and conservation: Nature works everywhere gives teachers, students and families everything they need to start exploring and understanding nature’s fantastic factory — videos, interactive games, and interactive lesson plans.

    Some of the topics which are dealt with on the site are dirt, reforestation, pollinators, cleaning water, fighting fire, urban trees, the salmon, coral reefs, forests, grasslands, oyster reefs.

    We also have the opportunity to meet the scientists through a number of videos.

    viernes, 10 de mayo de 2013

    Three unique attractions in Tokyo -video activity

    Tokyo is one of the world's most offbeat cities, with a character of its own. Watch this Lonely Planet video to check out three unique experiences in Japan's quirky capital.

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

    The activity is suitable for (strong) Básico 2 and Intermediate 1 students.

    1 Why are the girls dressed in French maid outfit?
    2 What ancient Japanese tradition are maids compared to?
    3 When was Pachinko first designed?
    4 Who was Panchinko originally designed for?
    5 When did the first Capsule Hotel open?
    6 Who are the main customers of Capsule Hotels?
    7 What can you find in a standard 'bedroom' or capsule in this type of hotel?
    8 How much does a night cost?

    For correction, you can read the transcript below. Remember to double click the vocabulary items you don't know.

    Tokyo likes to do things differently. At first glance everything may seem pretty normal, but scratch the surface and the city’s true character soon begins to emerge. Here’s our top three unique experiences in Tokyo.
    In any other city you think girls donned in French maid outfits will be heading to a costume party, but in Tokyo they are on the street to promote the latest Maid Café. These surreal cafés appeal to Japanese otaku, a subculture composed of obsessive comic, anime, video game and manga fans.
    Maids pamper, serve and play games with male customers in what some consider to be a contemporary twist on ancient Geisha tradition.
    The Pachinko Parlour is one of the noisiest places in a noisy city, and that’s how the locals like it. Pachinko was designed in the 1920’s as a children’s toy but quickly moved into an adult pastime.
    The Capsule Hotel is Japan’s unique contribution to budget accommodation. The first Capsule Hotel opened in 1979 and quickly became popular with Japanese businessmen working late at the office. This simple space-age sleeping beds, contain a bed, small television and reading lamp and are still primarily used by men. While some visitors find them claustrophobic, capture hotels are a novel experience and at around 45 dollars a night, they certainly won’t break the bank.

    jueves, 9 de mayo de 2013

    A disastrous year for bees

    America's beekeepers have struggled for nearly a decade with a mysterious disease called colony collapse disorder that kills honeybees in large numbers. However, this year the situation seems to have gone out of control..

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

    1 How many bees have died since last fall?
    2 What do bee-keepers think is the reason for the death of bees?
    3 What is the Environmental Protection Agency doing?
    4 Why are a lot of families devastated'
    5 To what extent does America's diet depend on honeybees?
    6 Is the situation new to farmers?

    For correction, you can read the transcript below.

    The bees they are dying. We can’t keep them alive.
    California’s commercial bee keepers are ringing alarm bells over record die offs from their hives. Since last fall they fear they have lost forty to fifty percent of insects on average to a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder. William Dahle is one of them.
    When the honey bee starts dying off is similar to the canary in the mineshaft. When he canary died everybody knew to run. When honey bees die off, it’s serious.
    Despite intense studies scientists have not drawn any conclusions as to the cause of the honey bees’ deaths. But many bee-keepers think they believe the swift adoption of new neonicotinoids, a new class of pesticide, plays an important role.
    Right now we aren’t really sure what we are facing. We think it might be viruses, you know, have a lot to do with it. And also there’s a chemical world where they are coming out with new insecticides all the time and they seem to be detrimental to everything we do.
    Manufacturers say pesticides are safe but the Environmental Protection Agency has accelerated its review of the chemicals impact on the bees and other wild life.
    You have insecticides that last several weeks when they used to last just one or two days, so when the bees are out foraging even after the crops have been sprayed they still bring the insecticides home with the pollen that they carry and the nectar that they carry, they deposit that in the hive, the bees eat that and they die off.
    I see it every day with every family that comes in here, I hear every story from the families… they are devastated. They are going to lose everything they’ve got.
    The honeybee losses can have a significant impact on the nation’s food supply. A quarter of America’s diet depends on honeybees for pollination. Fewer bees can mean smaller harvests and higher food prices.
    We use bees for pollinating watermelons, to the cantaloupes, to all your melon crops, which are a lot here in this valley. Your cherries we pollinate, your apples, I mean all your seed crops. We had, you know, a few years back we had the same sort of situation but nothing nearest as much as it has been this year. It’s bad.

    miércoles, 8 de mayo de 2013

    Talking point: Dogs and pets

    This week's talking point revolves around the topic of pets in general and more specifically on dogs, and how to behave towards them in this time and age. In preparation for your talking session, go over the questions below, so that you can sort out vocabulary problems beforehand and ideas flow easily when you get together with your friends.

    Have you ever had a pet? If so, what's your experience like?
    If not, does anyone in your close circle have a pet? What's their experience like?
    What can you say about these animals? Cats, dogs, canaries, snakes, turtles, hamsters
    Would you choose any of them to be your pet?

    Discuss these points, all of which are related to pet-keeping:
    • Do pets serve a useful function?
    • Pet-owner relationships
    • Keeping an animal at home: pleasures and duties
    • The cost of keeping a pet
    • Keeping exotic/dangerous animals at home
    • Problems pets cause to people who are not their owners: dogs off a lead, dog mess, visitors at a home with a dog
    • People who abandon their pets
    • Animals that help people

    To gain further insight into the topic, you can go over the following resources:
    The Guardian article on a Wigan girl who was killed by dogs.
    List of dogs banned in the UK.

    You can also watch this video by Battersea Dogs and Cats home where we get to know everything we should know about dogs and how to feel safe around them.

    martes, 7 de mayo de 2013

    Speakout starter: Things

    In another episode of our Speakout series, from Pearson Longman, people in the street are asked these two questions:

    What’s in your bag?
    What are your favourite clothes?

    The video is an excellent opportunity for Básico 1 and Básico 2 students (elementary) to get familiar with the name of everyday objects and clothes.

    After you have watched the video several times, try to answer the two questions above about yourself.

    You can read the transcript here.

    lunes, 6 de mayo de 2013

    The science of love

    How does love work? Why does love work? We seem to know very little about this emotional state which seems to have wondered philosophers, scientists, writers and the ordinary man in the street since the world is world.

    Canadian-born singer, actor and biology student Mitchell Moffit has compiled a fast-paced two-minute video where he analyses this feeling and tries to explain it from a scientific point of view.

    Self-study activity:
    The difficulty of the video is quite high, which means that even strong intermediate students will find it difficult. So I would recommend watching it a couple of times at least to get familiar with Moffit's accent, the topic and ideas, and the communicative value of the images.

    Then you can go over the transcript below and complete the blanks with the missing words.

    Remember that you can quickly look up the meaning of unknown vocabulary items by double-clicking on the word you don't understand.

    From philosophers and historians, to poets and scientists alike, love has (1) ... our imagination and curiosity for centuries. Many have experienced the rush of falling in love for the first time, or the deep feelings of love for your children, family and friends. But what is love from a biological perspective? No doubt it’s intertwined with the evolutionary survival of our (2) ... . After all you come from an unbroken line of organisms reproducing from the very first microbe that split in two, to your ancestors who have all successfully mated since the dawn of time.
    Sadly, if you fail to have children this perfect streak comes to a halt. But while we’re driven to reproduce, we’re also driven to make sure our (3) ... survive.
    Though we often associate love with the heart, the true magic can be seen inside the brain.
    It may not be entirely surprising to find out that the brain of somebody in love looks awfully similar to one on cocaine. Cocaine acts on the pleasure centers in the brain by lowering the (4) ... at which they fire. This means that you feel really good a lot easier. We see the same thing in the brains of those in love, but it’s not just the cocaine or the love that makes you feel good it’s the fact that anything you experience will now more easily (5) ...   ...  pleasure centers and make you feel good.
    Because of this you not only fall in love with the person, but begin to build a romanticized view of the world around you. Interestingly nearby pain and aversion centers begin to fire less, so you become less (6) ... by things. Simply put we love being in love.
    So what chemicals are at work to make all of this happen? Both during orgasm or by simply looking at photos of a loved one, there is a surge of dopamine and norepinephrine from the ventral tegmental area. This not only (7) ... sexual arousal in your racing heart, but gives you the motivation, craving and desire to be with a person more and more. You see, romantic love is not simply an emotion, it’s a drive from the motor of the mind. And this motor brings about intense energy focused attention and (8) ... . The pleasure centers are part of the brains reward system. The mesolimbic dopamine system. If you stimulate this region while learning, learning becomes much easier because it’s pleasurable and perceived as a reward. We also see a surge in the neuromodulator oxytocin from the nucleus accumbens. Sometimes called the 'commitment neuromodulator' because in mammals it helps to (9) ... bonding or attachment. When prairie voles are injected with either oxytocin or vasopressin they will instantly find a (10) ... to pair a bond with.
    Finally, studies have shown that people in love have low levels of serotonin, which is similar to people with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This is likely cause of our obsession and infatuation during early love. Amazingly, these areas associated with intense romantic love can remain active for decades, and while there are many other physiological and psychological components that add to the mix, the truth is, science still knows very little about exactly why or how love works. And yet somehow, we all seem to know it when we feel it. Got a burning question you want answered? Ask it in the comments, or on facebook and twitter. And subscribe for more weekly science videos.

    And this is the video Mitchell Moffit submitted for the Best job in the World competition a few years ago now. He seems good fun.

    1 captured 2 species 3 offspring 4 threshold 5 set off 6 bothered 7 triggers 8 elation 9 reinforce10 mate

    domingo, 5 de mayo de 2013

    Extensive listening: Antoni Gaudi's glorious vision

    Architect Antoni Gaudi's vision for the Sagrada Familia, a church under construction for over 130 years, is depicted in this twelve-minute segment of CBS's 60 Minutes.

    Watch the clip and find out the ins and outs of the building, its architect and the reasons why it is taking so long to finish.

    You can read a transcript of the video here but you can also activate the CC subtitles on the lower side of the screen.

    sábado, 4 de mayo de 2013

    Learning English Matters

    We are devoting our Saturday's posts to a kind of  hotchpotch which includes vocabulary, reading, online games, grammar and so on. We are also trying to draw your attention to interesting sites for students to learn.

    A few weeks ago I got wind of Learning English Matters. Canadian-born Cristina (Crissy) Faita is the person behind this blog. She lives in Italy, where she works as an English teacher, but she also works with people from all over the world thanks to distance learning.

    Learning English Matters is about "learning a little English every day", as the blog motto claims. Here you will find 'pills' to keep your English going (almost) effortlessly on a regular basis.

    Learning English Matters posts deal with vocabulary, songs, audio files, videos, conversation topics, you name it! The content of the posts, like the good food, always come in small doses, which means they won't keep you busy for long, which is always an asset in this time and age.

    Make a point of dropping by Learning English Matters and judge for yourself.

    viernes, 3 de mayo de 2013

    Battersea Power Station Project

    Architect Rafael Vinoly, walks us through his design for the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station and the extended site.

    Self-study activity:
    Watch the 5-minute video clip through in the first place to get acquainted with the ideas Rafael Vinoly sets out and to absorve some of the visual information.

    Watch the video again and answer the questions below.

    The video is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

    1 How many residential buildings are planned?
    2 What does 'three main avenues' refer to?
    3 What is the main reference throughout the site?
    4 What is the 'prospect'?
    5 How will vehicles gain access to the site?
    6 How big are the turbine halls?
    7 What does 'two thousand' refer to?
    8 How big is the office space?
    9 What type of energy will the power station produce?

    You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

    I’m Rafael Vinoly. I’m the master planner for the new project for the redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station site. The most important object of the site is, of course, the power station, which remains the central focus of the plan. The power station is then framed by two residential buildings and that guides the view towards its heart that is the main public space.
    To the south of the station we are creating a hotel and an office block and two residential blocks. The access to this site then from the south is achieved through three main avenues.
    The high street links the new tube station with the town square and it is a two-level pedestrian thoroughfare that is activated by retail frontages, cafes, and art galleries creating a very active urban life.
    Imagine you’re exiting from the tube below. The upper level is very much linked to the lower level. From here you start seeing the architecture of the buildings that define the space of the high street leading towards the power station in the back, so the power station always remains as a main reference to orient yourself through the site.
    The second and perhaps most spectacular point of access is what we call the ‘prospect’. The main purpose of the prospect is to link the lower community to the site to enable people to have a clear view of the power station from Battersea Park Road. It’s activated again by a series of cafes and opportunities for people to enjoy the space itself. It’s lined by trees highlighted by this reflecting pool that drips down into the public space to maximize the presence of the building and the whole experience of walking through the site.
    Hotel Lane is a tree-lined boulevard that is the main point of entrance into the site for vehicles and main access to a new building which is a hotel that opens into a larger square which is open to the sunlight from the south.
    The part will become a leisure destination for visitors, it will be a resource for the use of residents but also for the public at large.
    Pathways through the open park land reflect the historic pattern and the  typical tradition of London public spaces.
    All of these public spaces lead you to the experience of reencountering the power station renovated again into a very important attraction.
    Both turbine halls are also going to be renovated. Each of them is the size of the Tate Modern Gallery.
    Invading the centre of the power station there is a huge conference center with a wonderful two-thousand seater for banquets and events of many kinds linked directly to the access from a series of cascading stairs.
    At the top of the building there are six floors of office space punctuated by a series of atriums that bring
    natural light to the spaces.
    The important story behind this is that the power station returns to its original function. It will become again a power station producing carbon-neutral energy venting water vapor through the original stacks.
    This is a very well balanced solution for a site with an enormous set of opportunities and challenges. It will revitalize a view of the power station to create a new destination for London.

    jueves, 2 de mayo de 2013

    That's what I heard you say -Sony ad

    I heard about this ad and poem from Kieran Donaghy through the lesson Love at first sight on his extraordinary blog Film English.

    I have been tempted to devise a short gap-fill listening task about the ad, but on second thoughts, I have decided to do nothing, as I feel it is enough that we simply enjoy the sheer beauty of the images, the music and Leonard Cohen's poem without any distractions.

    Once you are familiar with the poem, you can try to shadow-read it, that is, recite the poem at the same pace as Leonard Cohen. That way you English pronunciation will improve, especially as far as the rhythm is concerned.

    If you have any difficulty with the vocabulary, you can double click on the word you don't understand and the meaning will immediately pop up on screen.

    That's What I Heard You Say

    Don’t matter if the road is long
    Don’t matter if it’s steep
    Don’t matter if the page is gone
    It’s written that we’ll meet.
    I loved you when you opened
    Like a lily to the heat
    And I love you when it closes
    A thousand kisses deep
    I know you had to lie to me
    I know you had to cheat
    You learned it on your father’s knee
    And at your mother’s feet.
    But did you have to fight your way
    Across the burning street
    Where all our vital interests lay
    A thousand kisses deep

    Leonard Cohen

    miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013

    Talking point: What makes you happy

    This week's talking point deals with happiness. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, most of which written by KATHERINE SCHULTEN for The New York Times Learning Blog, and think about the answers. Also, try to think about any vocabulary problems you may have and try to work out your queries before the talking session starts.
    • What makes you happy? Be as specific as you can in listing at least five things that make you happy. (For instance, if “home” makes you happy, say what details about it are so happy-making.)
    • How could you be happier than you are now?
    • How closely is money related to happiness?
    • What problems may prevent people from feeling happy?
    • What do you do to make others happy, whether on purpose or not?
    • Have you ever made a big sacrifice for another person?
    • How do other people make you happy?
    • Do you think your nation should be like the Kingdom of Bhutan and have a Gross National Happiness Index? 
    • If so, do you think that would measure prosperity better than income does?
    • Do you agree with Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, that “when we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched”? 
    • Have you ever had the experience of being made happy by helping someone else?
    • Do you ever literally “count your blessings,” ie, focus on the good things in your life instead of the bad? If so, what’s on your list right now?
    To gain further insight into the topic you can read Harvey Morris's article for The New York Times Happy International Happiness Day.

    You can also watch this Matt Morris film, Mr Happy Man, that we posted on our blog in August last year.

    You can  read the transcript here.