sábado, 31 de agosto de 2013

What do good candidates do in speaking tests?

In this video three examiners give their advice and tips for the oral paper of the Cambridge English exams. You'll find it useful, no matter which exam you intend to sit.

Read the tasks carefully, and listen to your partners.
React to what your partners are saying to keep the conversation going.
Interact with your partner and the examiner.
Move forward the conversation.
Use eye contact.
Use body language to encourage your partner.
Show that you are resourceful in your language (extend the conversation, don’t get stuck, paraphrase).
Balance fluency and accuracy.
Ask questions if you don’t understand.
Help your partner.
Prepare before the exam (the more prepared you are, the more relaxed you will be in the test).
Control your nerves.
Practise sufficiently beforehand to know how to be in control of time.
Maintain the flow of the conversation to know how long the answers should roughly be and do not stop too early.
Don’t be put off if the examiner interrupts you.
Preparation is key.

viernes, 30 de agosto de 2013

How fireworks work

Watch this short National Geographic video explaining how fireworks work and answer the questions about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

Watch the video through in the first place to get a full understanding of what it is about. Watch it again and say what the following figures refer to.
20 -
10,000 -
£30 -
100 -
7 -
80 -
2 -
12 -
120 -

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

We are at one of the UK’s leading firework manufacturers. And this is their 125 millimetre aerial starburst shell. A 20-minute display will launch up to 10,000 fireworks, and 60% of these will be these bad boys. Each one costs around £30 and contains half a kilo of explosive, enough to launch it to a height over 100 metres. As you can see, it’s much more than a ball of loose powder, and this is how they test the component parts.
The basic firework recipe is flash powder, a potent form of gunpowder. It’s a mixture of potassium perchlorate and aluminium. These ingredients are mixed together in 7-kilo batches and a small sample is ignited to make sure it has the requisite brightness. This sample has been mixed with strontium to make it glow red, and it’s clearly a pass, while this sample has barium added to glow green. Again, it does the trick nicely.
If the firework was packed with this loose powder, it would explode in one instant flash. So the gunpowder mixture is turned into pellet, to prolong the burn time. As the burning pellets fall through the sky, they create the spreading patterns we’re all familiar with. This test checks whether this particular pellet size will burn for sufficient time to create the burst diameter of 80 metres.
“There are two perfectly formed rings of stars, a central ring and an outer ring. The outer ring is made of stars of a slightly larger size. Therefore, they’ll be heavier and when the burst in the middle ignites the stars and blows them in the outer circle formation, the inertia of the heavier, larger stars will travel further. Thus in the sky you’ll see one small ring and then a larger ring around it.”
The next test checks the fireworks two fuses. Firstly a length of fuse is measured out, which will slowly burn inside the firework to ensure it ignites at the correct altitude. A fuse this length should burn in about 12 seconds. It has, so it’s a pass.
A second external fuse is needed to launch the firework. Wrapping the fuse in paper should contain the hot gases and make the fuse burn much quicker. 
“I would expect this length of fuse to burn with a 100th of a second. Looks like a pass to me.”
The final test is to ensure the firework is no louder than the European regulation of 120 decibels, the same noise level as a pneumatic drill at close range. 
“That’s a pass.”

jueves, 29 de agosto de 2013

How do you make a building disappear

The New York Times's Henry Fountain describes two unconventional demolition methods pioneered by the Japanese.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 Henry travelled to Tokyo to watch the demolition of a 14-storey hotel.
2 Implotion is a very popular type of demolition.
3 Demolitions are difficult in areas where there are a lot of buildings close together.
4 Implosion involves using wrecking balls and/or explosives.
5 Tall buildings were forbidden in Tokyo as a result of the 1932 earthquake.
6 Today's ceilings are similar to those in the 60's.
7 In Tokyo, whenever they get rid of a building the first thing that goes away is the roof.
8 The second demolition method mentioned is like making a building the other way round.
9 The demolition work with this second method starts from the roof.
10  The Singer Building holds a world record.

How do you tear down a skyscraper? Well, as the old punch line has it, very carefully. But on the cover of Science Times this week, science reporter Henry Fountain makes it clear that it’s not just a matter of our being careful. Henry travelled to Tokyo to watch the demolition of a 40-storey hotel and is back to tell us about the science of creative destruction. So, hi, Henry.
So how come they couldn’t just, you know, blow it up?
That’s what everybody wonders. Actually that kind of demolition which is usually referred to as implosion is only used in about 2% of the cases, number one. Number two, in a place like Tokyo as in a place like New York where buildings are closely packed, even a very carefully controlled demolition is a dangerous and risky thing, so it’s basically not allowed.
So no high explosives, no wrecking balls.
No wrecking balls either, because you need room to swing them and you never know what’s going to happen. Basically the idea is you have to keep things as controlled as possible. The most controlled way to do it is actually taking it apart bit by bit.
You point out in your story that they weren’t even allowed to build high rises until the 60’s.
Yeah I was sort of offshoot 1923 earthquake, the famous earthquake that nearly destroyed Tokyo for the next 40 years the building heights were limited to about a hundred feet but, you know, the economy took off. It started with the 1964 summer Olympics, actually, Tokyo hosted the Olympics. The economy took off, they started building and in lots and lots of buildings they built some hotels like this one. The ceiling heights nowadays are very sort of tight compared to sort of modern standards.
So what did they do?
So what makes it interesting is, because you know, cities occasionally have to tear down large buildings. In this case in Japan the environmental regulations and the recycling laws are such that they really wanted to keep it under control, so what they do in the case of the hotel is they kept the roof on. Ordinarily the first thing you do is get rid of the roof, and then they built a scaffold sort of hanging off the roof it hangs down about three floors, and the roof and scaffold were supported by these beams, these columns, they destroyed, demolished a couple of floors and then they lowered the whole sort of this cap that they built, the scaffold and roof they lowered it down over the course of about seven or eight hours, and then they started the next two floors. It’s kind of bit by bit taken apart, taking the building apart from the top up down, keeping it all, if you’re ever walked by everyday you wouldn’t really notice anything is going on. Over time you might think, hey that building is like, you know, half the size it used to be but it basically looks pretty normal.
You were in the hotel yourself while this was going on?
What was that like?
I would spend most of the time down at the bottom where I talked to the engineers and stuff. Up top it’s a total chaotic scene with heavy equipment, you know, dust and grime and everything, and then it stops and they have these jacks that actually jack the roof down over as I said six or seven hours and then once the roof is back in place they work on the next two floors. The columns themselves are lowered down, so the whole thing is kind of leapfrogging in fact, it’s pretty cool.
It’s almost like a building project in a certain way.
Yeah, in reverse, sort of.
Yeah. You are… also describe a different kind of process and this one it just totally boggles the mind, demolishing a building from the ground up.
…from the ground up, yeah.
How does that work?
That’s also in Tokyo. That’s been done a couple of times and that really is like building in reverse. So what they do is the building they just finished in January was something like 300ft tall it had 40, it’s a steel structure, it had 40 columns. They cut each column about two feet at a time and they support them with these big hydraulic jacks that can support, you know, a thousand tons each, and they do in a sequence so that the building doesn’t kind of you know fall over while they’re doing it. They got it very planned out. Then they lower all the jacks that two feet or so all at the same time. They cut another two feet out of each one, lower it down until they get to do three or four of those before they get to the next floor. They demolish the floor, they repeat the whole thing again. So all the demolition work actually takes place on the ground, which means a couple of things. Number one, it’s generally safer, number two you can use bigger equipment, because you don’t have to raise, lift the equipment to the roof or to the top of the building.
Do we have a lot of obsolete skyspcrapers in the United States?
You know, we don’t have a lot. We actually we may have a few in New York. The people I have talked to seem to think tearing down a building is a big deal so the reality maybe you get half a dozen, maybe a dozen at the most buildings torn down, but still, you know, in New York we had the Deutschbank building torn down a couple of years ago and that was damaged in the World Trade Center attacks. We had the Coliseum, where the Time Warner building is now, but before that the biggest building and still the biggest building ever torn down anywhere was the Singer Building which was torn down in 1968. That was six hundred something feet tall. So, you know, we haven’t torn down very many big buildings so we may be, we may be seeing more of them.
Well, when it happens Henry Fountain will be here to tell us about it.
Yeah, I’ll try to stay out of the way.

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miércoles, 28 de agosto de 2013

Talking point: Superstitions

Today's talking point is superstitions. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow more easily when you hold the discussion sessions and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Look at the pictures. What do these situations suggest to you?

Do you follow any special rituals when:
• you are about to take an exam? 
• you are travelling by train or car? 
• you are playing or watching a sport?
• you are choosing an important number (e.g. a lottery number)?
• someone wishes you good luck or mentions something unlucky?

Do you regard yourself as lucky or unlucky? For example, do you often win competitions or are you accident prone?
Some people say you 'make your own luck'. Others say you are 'born lucky’. What do you think?

Some experts say that luck does exist and ‘our attitude to life is the key'. How far do you agree? Think of your own experience.
What advice would you give to someone who complains that they ‘never have any luck’?

Have you ever consulted a fortune teller, palmist, etc.?
Do you read your horoscope regularly?
Have you got a lucky number?
Are you bothered by the number 13?
Have you ever thrown a coin into a wishing well?
Have you ever made a decision after tossing a coin?
Is there any particular day of the week which is lucky or unlucky for you?
Is there any particular piece of clothing which is lucky or unlucky for you?
Have you ever changed your plans because of a dream?
Have you got any kind of talisman or lucky object/charm?
Do you know any jinxes?
Do you know funny superstitions from around the world?

To gain further insight into the topic, you can read this BBC article on superstitions in sports.

martes, 27 de agosto de 2013

Speakout Advanced: Inspiration

This is the last but one episode of our Speakout series, the video podcasts from Pearson Longman. Today's topic is inspiration, which deals with the role of creativity and art in our lives.

Passers-by are asked the questions below:

Do you do anything creative in your life?
Is there anything or anyone that really inspires you?
In what ways do the arts influence your life?

Now it's over to you. Answer the questions above about yourself. Try and use some of the expressions you heard on the video.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 26 de agosto de 2013

Cambridge illegal parking, cheaper for shoppers

Shoppers in Cambridge city centre are finding it cheaper to park illegally and pay a fine rather than use an official car park.

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC news item by clicking on the picture below or on the BBC link and answer the questions below about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 1 and intermediate 2 students.

1 How much is the fine if you are caught parking illegally on the street?
2 How much does parking cost at the Grand Arcade multi-storey car park?
3 Who decides the prices?
4 Who do shop owners want to park in the car park?
5 How many parking spaces are there available?
6 How does the first woman interviewed usually get around in Cambridge? Why?

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

For a motorist, a heart-sinking moment, a parking ticket on your windscreen. But if you come to shop here in Cambridge and park in this multi-storey on a Saturday, paying a fine could be the cheaper option.
Get caught overstaying in a meter and the fine is £25 if you pay it soon enough. Nine to five at the Grand Arcade though is £26 and then they’ll charge an extra pound for every hour after that.
The city council set the parking prices here. They are high on purpose, they say.
The main driver, for the very high all day charge is we don’t want them to be parked all days, so if the car park is filled up with tourists and commuters then there will be spaces denied to shoppers, and the retailers don’t want that.
Just over 950 spaces here generate more than £9 million, the profits helping to pay other council’s services. But shoppers today were unimpressed.
I try to bike into Cambridge as much as possible because I live in the city purely on the basis because car parking is so expensive, …and that’s actually probably what I think they want me to do. But the reality is that when you have two children and that can be rather more problematic than they might appreciate.
Park outside and get a parking ticket? It’s ridiculous.
I think it’s a lot of money. I’m just visiting Cambridge today, and we’ve only been here a few hours. We’ve enjoyed the day but it’s a lot of money.
If the prices rise even further here, some motorists may even opt for a fine on the streets outside instead.

domingo, 25 de agosto de 2013

Doping to win

"Can't tell your peptides from your steroids? Not sure how EPO improves stamina?" Catalyst, a programme from ABC, Australia's public broadcaster, investigates the substances at the forefront of the sports doping controversy and asks whether we are all potential candidates for life enhancing drugs in an eighteen-minute documentary.

You can read the transcript here.
You can download the programme here.

H/T to The Prop Room.

sábado, 24 de agosto de 2013

Expat blogs on Spain

In late June this year, Barry O'Leary, the man behind Teaching English in a Foreign Land, made a selection of the best expat blogs about Spain.

It's funny to see how foreigners view your country and your customs. Only for this reason, Barry's list is worth checking out, especially if you are a Spanish learner of English. An added bonus of dropping by any of the blogs on the list is that Spaniards will find the English counterpart for a number of Spanish expressions and words that have a difficult translation into English.

The comments on the blogs below are Barry's, and I have added only a few of the blogs he suggests. Drop by Barry's blog for a full list and for keeping abreast of the latest news of Barry's life in Spain and his round-the-world trips.

Spain Expat is a website and covers loads of topics. Have a look for a great forum, business, finance, language, legal, lifestyle, moving, working, and technology. An amazing resource and a great way to get in touch with other expats.

The Spain Scoop is well worth a visit for expat information on Madrid, Seville, Bilbao, Santiago and the Balearic islands. The Spain Scoop is written by several expat experts and they cover issues such as travel, food, museums, transport, festivals and entertainment.

Spanish Sabores has a mountain of information about Spain, travel, recipes, teaching English, and expat stories.

Sunshine and Siestas is a cool blog about life through the eyes of a Chicago girl, Cat, who lives in Seville. She covers issues on travel, food, teaching, and she has some great photos.

Piccavey is a useful blog. Written by an expat living in Granada who covers issues on travel, tapas, Andalucia, flamenco, and life as an expat.

Christine in Spain is a great blog about expat life, the Basque Country, food, and world travel.

BCN blog is all about Barcelona. A great blog full of posts about sport, music, festivals, food and drink, exhibitions, hotels and business.

viernes, 23 de agosto de 2013

New York's City Bike Share

New York's bike-share programme seems to be encountering some difficulties, as this New York Times video demonstrates.

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

The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

1 Everybody is happy with the bike-share programme.
2 The programme has been running for two years now.
3 A user (Ivan Baker) says that he's having problems 40% or 50% he tries to get a bike.
4 Some of the problems seems to have to do with vandalism.
5 The instructions to borrow a bike are clear.
6 New Yorkers make more than 170,000 bike trips annually.
7 New Yorkers have a reputation for being patient.

It could be better if it works then I’d be on the bike now but…
Yeah, it doesn’t seem to work, maybe we have to find another station.
It’s been a rough road so far for New York City’s ambitious bike-share programme.
We’ve basically imported Europe’s most boring idea.
The programme started two weeks ago with the installation of 6,000 shiny blue bikes across more than 300 stations in New York City. But on Wednesday, a multi-bike trip from Brooklyn into mid-town Manhattan, with several stops at stations along the way, revealed some of the problems that have bedevilled riders and led to a flurry of complaints about a system some say was not ready for prime time.
It’s been my experience 40%, 50% some times on bad days don’t report that the bike has been returned or I can’t get a bike out. And it’s just not taking my card, before I had no problem at all, and I’ve been using it all around in Brooklyn, and yeah it looks like I’ll have to go to another station.
Just across the Brooklyn Bridge at City Hall. One of the city’s bike fixers was busy resetting the entire rack. Although almost every bike was fine someone had pushed every button signaling the need for repair.
I don’t know who is malicious. It could’ve been.
Soon after the station’s first customer arrived.
We are from Sweden, we arrived last Saturday and we’re going to be here for a week. We think like taking a bike for a tourist is really nice.
But things didn’t go as hoped.
Yeah, [it] doesn’t seem to work, maybe we have to find another station.
Just up the street at Hudson and Reed bike-share, users were greeted with the blank screen. The entire station, it seemed, was without power. The bike-share I-phone app directed users to the same station, suggesting everything was just fine. Of course, despite these problems, the systems seem to work fine for many.
It’s a…but it was flawless… I loved it.
It’s been acceptable for me. I haven’t had any problems with bad kiosks or those sort of things so far.
Others just found it confusing.
Did it give me the code for the bike that I was supposed to get, or did it me give the code that I have to enter somewhere, or do I dip my card.
So far the City says more than 170,000 trips have been taken with annual memberships surpassing 36,000
I look at this as a big quality of life enhancer, yeah.
The biggest problem encountered on this day was at Grand Central Station. One of the system’s largest which was entirely shut down.
I’ve had two trips already where I was charged 45 hours because I thought it had taken and then someone took it out, and took it around for two days. They cleared the charge but it’s crazy, all these stations are down.
The bike-share programme is clearly going through growing pains and city officials, who would not go on camera said in an email statement that this was an adjustment period. New Yorkers, for the most part, seem enthusiastic, and while not always the most patient people in the world, seem willing for now to give the programme a chance.
I don’t want to think like this is a terrible programme. It’s the best thing I think has happened to the city and I’ve been living here for thirty years.
This is Erik Olsen reporting for The New York Times.

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jueves, 22 de agosto de 2013

Family share

This video was created by Family Share to honour fathers on Father's Day this year. The celebration is long past, but it's a nice video to watch.

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

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

Ever (1) ... in the moment your balloon came back.
Or why you like to (2) ... with your hands?
Or why your friends always came and played at your house?
Ever (3) ... how vacations are made?
Why the night monsters never came back?
Or why you and the (4) ... always had the same name.
Ever appreciate how happy your dad could be when he (5) ... into the house.
How goofiness can ease the tension.
Or the non-stop battle he fights between (6) ... his family and (6) ... his family.
Because this Father’s Day if you really look around you just might.
You might appreciate where your (7) ... came from.
Might (3) ... on the dreams of those before
You might (1) ... that being the bad (8) ... is sometimes a very hard job.
You may even discover the ultimate (9) ... in his eyes, then you’ve learned for yourself.

1 notice 2 work 3 wonder 4 princess 5 walked 6 supporting  7 passions 8 guy 9 pride

miércoles, 21 de agosto de 2013

Talking point: Future gazing

This week's talking point is a follow-up of the topic we dealt with two weeks ago, The future, although today's topic has a slant towards technology, economy and e-business.

This post is very much based on a lesson from issue 125 of the extinct It's Magazine.

Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out any vocabulary issues beforehand.

How has life changed in the last fifty years? Look back on what you know about life fifty years ago and describe how life was different in the following fields compared to today.


Fifty years ago students used to go to school on Saturday (education)
Fifty years ago the national service was compulsory for men in Spain (society)
Fifty years ago English wasn’t taught at school. It was mainly French, and people didn’t speak the language, it was just grammar and translation.

What sensible progress do you expect humankind to have made in 50 years from now?  Use the categories below. Try to think of logical advances and be prepared to give reasons for your ideas.


Human cloning will be part of the health care system, which will allow doctors and surgeons to make spare parts for patients in need.
Space missions to Mars will be run regularly with a view to making this planet habitable.
Home schooling will be usual, as computer assisted learning will make it possible for students not to go to school to keep in touch with teachers and classmates alike.

The following may be representative of some aspects of today’s life style. What do they all have in common? What do you know about them? How often do you use them? How have they changed life in 21st century?

  • Have you ever used Amazon? 
  • What do you think of the site?
  • What do you like or not like about it? 
  • Does it provide a good service?
  • Amazon’s strategy of selling books at a discount has had a negative effect on publishers and bookshops, many of which have closed down. Do you think Amazon’s influence on book publishing has been positive or negative?
  • When you use the Amazon site, the site gathers information about you and recommends things you might want to buy based on your preferences. Amazon doesn’t sell this information but it can share it with certain businesses. Do you think this is a good or bad thing?
  • Amazon allows users to submit reviews of the products they buy. Reviewers must rate the product from one to five stars and can also leave comments. However, some authors have admitted to writing their own reviews. Can you trust reviews and comments that are posted at sites such as Amazon?
To gain further insight into the topic, you can watch the NBC video below about the way Amazon organizes its business. You can activate the Closed Captions to fully understand everything that is being said in the video clip.

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

martes, 20 de agosto de 2013

Speakout Advanced: Time

There are very few episodes of our Speakout series left. As a matter of fact, this video podcast about time is the last one but two.

This week passers-by are asked the following questions:

In what ways do you feel different today than you did ten years ago?
What’s the best time of life do you think?
In what ways has ageing affected your life?

Now it's over to you. Go over the questions above and answer them about yourself. Try and use some of the expressions you heard in the video.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 19 de agosto de 2013

Cicadas -video activity

Why were there so few sightings of cicadas in New York City this year? This New York Times video gives us all the details about it.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions about it below. The activity is suitable for intermediate 1 and intermediate 2 students.

1 How often do cicadas appear?
2 What feature of the cityscape stops cicadas from getting into town?
3 What are the typical spots where cicadas are usually found?
4 And some unusual ones?
5 What is the main reason why cicadas have only been found in specific places this year?
6 What does '300' refer to?
7 What specific ability are cicadas lacking in?

For correction, you can read the transcript below.

Many people feel disappointed that in the seventeenth year cicadas didn’t appear in their neighbourhood this year. But the cicadas were out there. You just had to be in the right spots. Central Park in Manhattan are no good. Too many skyscrapers in the city block the way in from the suburbs for insects not well-known for its flying abilities. And while the Bronx had a few, Queens and Brooklyn seemingly had none. By far, the cicada hot spot for New York City this year was Staten Island.
Here they can easily be found in all the usual spots, in woodlands, parks and backyards. However, they can also be found in unusual locations, such as on the beach just a few feet from the ocean, and even in the ocean if they have chosen an unfortunate spot on which to land.
So why were the cicadas this year only found in patches, sometimes miles apart, rather than in a continual blanket across the landscape from North Carolina to Connecticut? One part of this puzzle is to understand how we’ve changed the landscape over the past several centuries. Once, the eastern United States was almost entirely forested and periodical cicadas were quite possibly found everywhere if there were appropriate types of trees. But after 300 years of agricultural and urban development, the forests nearly everywhere have been cut down at least once one time or another, and without enough trees eventually you lose the cicadas. Even where enough trees remained to support them, like Robinson Crusoe shipwreck on island, the cicadas often became marooned on forested fragments scattered across the larger landscape.
And because they are not the best of flyers, even when they trees grow back, it can take a long time for the cicadas to return. Able to fly no more than a few miles every seventeenth year, it will be centuries before the cicadas can spread back across the landscape that they once occupied. And even then, continued development always has the potential to remove them from the Ardmore of their habitat. In the end, all we can do is enjoy them where they are currently found and hope that enough trees and forests remain and grow back in the future so that one day the seventeen-year periodical cicadas will once again be heard everywhere. Maybe even in Central Park.

domingo, 18 de agosto de 2013

Extensive listening: Heathrow Airport documentary

Airport Live is a documentary series looking behind the scenes at Heathrow Airport. It was aired by the BBC in June this year.

The programme shows air traffic control in action and explains the logistics behind every flight.

You can read a transcript for the first twelve minutes here.

sábado, 17 de agosto de 2013

Improving your listening

A few months ago a post by MCargobe under the title Improving your listening drew my attention. In that post, she mainly went over another post from PhraseMix with the title How to improve your English listening comprehension.

The short PhraseMix article touches on the reasons why English is so difficult to understand, to go on to give some practical advice for students to improve their listening skills.

Please, do make a point of going over the PhraseMix article. It's very short and you'll find valuable advice.

Along these lines you can also find the video below really interesting. It is from Anglo-Link  and MCargobe included it in her above-mentioned post. The video mainly goes over the same ideas set out in the PhraseMix article, but much more thoroughly and with many more examples. It is quite easy to understand, and viewers get a lot of help to understand with lots of on-screen information. The YouTube captions are also really accurate.

viernes, 16 de agosto de 2013

The European Union explained

C.G.P. Grey explained to us in July the ins and outs of the European Union.

Self-study activity:
This is a five-minute video delivered at a develish speed for intermediate students, with some added vocabulary difficulties. Make a point of listening to it several times before you attempt the activity.

If you find the video beyond your listening skills, read the transcript below as you listen to it, and them give the activity a try.

What is said about the following?
1 Your rights if you are from a member country.
2 Can a Norwegian citizen live in any EU country?
3 What is the European Economic Area?
4 What is the position of Switzerland?
5  What is the Schengen Area?
6 What do you need to visit Britain and Ireland?
7 What is the Eurozone?
8 What is special about Andorra, San Marino, Monaco & Vatican City?
9 What are the Outermost Regions? And the Overseas Territories?

Where, is the European Union? Obviously here somewhere, but much like the the European continent itself, which has an unclear boundary, the European Union also has some fuzzy edges to it.
To start, the official members of the European Union are, in decreasing order of population:
Germany; France; The United Kingdom; Italy; Spain; Poland; Romania; The Kingdom of the Netherlands; Greece;Belgium; Portugal; The Czech Republic; Hungary; Sweden; Austria; Bulgaria; Denmark; Slovakia; Finland; Ireland; Croatia; Lithuania; Latvia; Slovenia; Estonia; Cyprus; Luxembourg; Malta

The edges of the EU will probably continue to expand further out as there are other countries in various stages of trying to become a member. How the European Union works is hideously complicated and a story for another time, but for this video you need know only three things:
1. Countries pay membership dues and
2. Vote on laws they all must follow and
3. Citizens of member countries are automatically European Union citizens as well
This last means that if you’re a citizen of any of these countries you are free to live, work and retire in any of the others. Which is nice especially if you think your country is too big or too small or too hot or too cold. The European Union gives you options.
By the way, did you notice how all three of these statements have asterisks attached to this unhelpful footnote? Well, get used to it: Europe loves asterisks that add exceptions to complicated agreements.
These three, for example, point us toward the first bit of border fuzziness with Norway, Iceland and little Liechtenstein. None of which are in the European Union but if you’re a EU citizen you can live in these countries and Norwegians, Icelanders, or Liechtensteiners can live in yours.
Why? In exchange for freedom of movement of people they have to pay membership fees to the European Union — even though they aren’t a part of it and thus don’t get a say in its laws that they still have to follow. This arrangement is the European Economic Area and it sounds like a terrible deal, were it not for that asterisk which grants EEA but not EU members a pass on some areas of law notably farming and fishing — something a country like say Iceland might care quite a lot about running themselves.
Between the European Union and the European Economic Area the continent looks mostly covered, with the notable exception of Switzerland who remains neutral and fiercely independent, except for her participation in the Schengen Area.
If you’re from a country that keeps her borders extremely clean and / or well-patrolled, the Schengen Area is a bit mind-blowing because it’s an agreement between countries to take a ‘meh’ approach to borders.
In the Schengen Area international boundaries look like this: no border officers or passport checks of any kind. You can walk from Lisbon to Tallinn without identification or need to answer the question: “business or pleasure?”.
For Switzerland being part of Schengen but not part of the European Union means that non-Swiss can check in any time they like, but they can never stay.
This koombaya approach to borders isn’t appreciated by everyone in the EU: most loudly, the United Kingdom and Ireland who argue that islands are different. Thus to get onto these fair isles, you’ll need a passport and a good reason. Britannia’s reluctance to get fully involved with the EU brings us to the next topic: money.
The European Union has its own fancy currency, the Euro used by the majority, but not all of the European Union members. This economic union is called the Eurozone and to join a country must first reach certain financial goals — and lying about reaching those goals is certainly not something anyone would do. Most of the non-Eurozone members when they meet the goals, will ditch their local currency in favor of the Euro but three of them Denmark, Sweden and, of course, the United Kingdom, have asterisks attracted to the Euro sections of the treaty giving them a permanent opt-out. And weirdly, four tiny European countries Andorra, San Marino, Monaco & Vatican City have an asterisk giving them the exact reverse: the right to print and use Euros as their money, despite not being in the European Union at all.
So that’s the big picture: there’s the EU, which makes all the rules, the Eurozone inside it with a common currency, the European Economic Area outside of it where people can move freely and the selective Schengen, for countries who think borders just aren’t worth the hassle. As you can see, there’s some strange overlaps with these borders, but we’re not done talking about complications by a long shot one again, because empire. So Portugal and Spain have islands from their colonial days that they’ve never parted with: these are the Madeira and Canary Islands off the coast of Africa and the Azores well into the Atlantic. Because these islands are Spanish and Portuguese they’re part of the European Union as well.
Adding a few islands to the EU’s borders isn’t a big deal until you consider France: the queen of not-letting go. She still holds onto a bunch of islands in the Caribbean, Reunion off the coast of Madagascar and French Guiana in South America. As far as France is concerned, these are France too, which single handedly extends the edge-to-edge distance of the European Union across a third of Earth’s circumference. Collectively, these bits of France, Spain and Portugal are called the Outermost Regions — and they’re the result of the simple answer to empire: just keep it.
On the other hand, there’s the United Kingdom, the master of maintaining complicated relationships with her quasi-former lands — and she’s by no means alone in this on such an empire-happy continent.
The Netherlands and Denmark and France, again, all have what the European Union calls Overseas Territories: they’re not part of the European Union, instead they’re a bottomless well of asterisks due to their complicated relationships with both with the European Union and their associated countries which makes it hard to say anything meaningful about them as a group but in general European Union law doesn’t apply to these places, though in general the people who live there are European Union citizens because in general they have the citizenship of their associated country, so in general they can live anywhere in the EU they want but in general other European Union citizens can’t freely move to these territories. Which makes these places a weird, semipermeable membrane of the European Union proper and the final part we’re going to talk about in detail even though there are still many, more one-off asterisks you might stumble upon, such as: the Isle of Man or those Spanish Cities in North Africa or Gibraltar, who pretends to be part of Southwest England sometimes, or that region in Greece where it’s totally legal to ban women, or Saba friends who are part of the Netherlands and so should be part of the EU, but aren’t, or the Faeroe Islands upon which while citizens of Denmark live they lose their EU citizenship, and on and on it goes. These asterisks almost never end, but this video must.

jueves, 15 de agosto de 2013

Catalan restaurant offers unpaid work for the unemployed

This is a short BBC clip about an entrepreneurial idea to cope with the recession in Spain.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip by clicking on the BBC link above or on the picture below and answer the questions about it.

1 What do most of the restaurant workers get in return for their work?
2 How long has Jose been unemployed?
3 How many paid staff members work at the restaurant?
4 How much do customers pay for a meal?
5 What does '60,000€' refer to?
6 What is the unemployment rate in Spain, according to the video?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

Lunch time in Tarrasa, a Catalan town, and this is a restaurant with a difference. Nearly everyone working here is unemployed. They don’t get paid for the work they do here, but in return they eat for free.
28-year-old Lanuta has been out of work for 18 months. 23-year-old Jose for two and a half years, and then there’s Jaume.
It’s a project, to help us…
How long have you been looking for a stable job?
Six years.
Estafania is also one of the 6.2 million unemployed people in Spain, and 58-year-old Dolores has been looking for work for three years.
It’s made me feel useful working here, she tells us. Before I felt isolated at home and I got depressed, she says.
Including the two cooks, the restaurant has four paid members of staff. A three-course meal plus wine and water costs just 6.50€. Some of the customers like Alfonso and his wife pay, others like Andres are also unemployed. He sometimes works here for free, so he can eat here for free too.
Now despite the fact that some of the customers here work to cover the cost of their food, the overall cost of running this restaurant in this its first year is expected to be 60,000€ more than the income generated by paying customers, so it does raise the question of how even a novel social project like this one can be sustainable in the longer term.
The managers are asking local companies for sponsorship, and might even increase the price for paying customers. The project, they say, gives people back their self-esteem.
They are much more happy. They are even getting achieving new friends, so they are well recuperating them for the common society, for Spain, because we are giving them some additional tools to cope with this huge crisis.
It’s a crisis which is now into its sixth year. Projects like this can only help cut the massive rate of unemployment in Spain which stands at a record 27%.
Tom Burridge, BBC News in the town of Tarrasa, in Cataluña.

miércoles, 14 de agosto de 2013

Talking point: Gestures

This week's talking point has to do with gestures. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below (some of which are taken from iteslj) so that ideas flow more easily when you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary difficulties beforehand.

What everyday gestures do you use?
What's the meaning of the following gestures and postures?
           a handshake - biting your bottom lip - sitting back in your chair - standing with arms crossed
What common gestures in your country aren't visitors used to?
What gestures have you found surprising in foreigners or when being abroad?
Can you think of some gestures that have different meanings in different countries?
What are some gestures you know that relate to the sporting world?
Have you ever made a social mistake using wrong gestures?
What gesture in your culture do you think is unique from other cultures?
What gestures, in your opinion, are understood by people anywhere in the world?
How much do people in your country move their hands when they talk?
Do you know any gestures you can make with your feet? What do they mean?
Why do you think people express with gestures?
Do you "talk" with your hands?  

You can watch a New York Times video about how Italians talk with their hands below and read the accompanying article here.

Why do Italians talk with their hands? For many, it’s something in their blood. Some scholars argue that gestures have been in Italy for centuries. They came with the ancient Greeks that once colonized southern Italy. These gestures survived. They’ve been passed down through generations for centuries, even more than language.
Be careful.
Professor Poggi has identified around 250 hand gestures that Italians use in everyday conversation. It’s a language of its own with its own complex vocabulary.

martes, 13 de agosto de 2013

Speakout Advanced: Freedom

In this week's video podcast from Speakout, Pearson Longman, passers-by discuss the topic of freedom by answering the questions below.

What do you do to switch off at the end of the day?
What kinds of things in your life make you feel free?
In what period of your life have you felt the most free?
Do you think young people have more freedom now than in the past?

Now it's over to you. Answer the same questions about yourself. Try and use some of the expressions you heard on the video.

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 12 de agosto de 2013

The world at 7 billion -BBC video activity

The UN is set to announce that the population of the planet has now reached seven billion people. But will this number continue to rise in future years - and if so, what could this mean?

Self-study activity:
Watch this three-minute BBC video and answer the questions about it.

Get Adobe Flash player

1 When did the world's population reach one billion people?
2 What are the three reasons mentioned for the increase in population?
3 What will the earth's population be in 2100?
4 What problems is Sub-Saharan Africa facing today?
5 Why might the population decrease?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

We’re living in an era of huge population growth. It took until 1804 for there to be one billion people on the planet. By 1927, that figure had doubled. In just about thirty years, it hit three billion. Then look out quickly: it rose to four, five, six and now seven billion. The world’s population is growing by 200,000 people a day.
Lack of space shouldn’t be a problem if everyone lived in one megacity the density of Paris then in theory the entire population of the planet could fit into France with room to spare. So, will our numbers keep rising? Almost certainly yes, for several decades. More people are in their reproductive years than ever before, more children survive thanks to better health care and sanitation and people are living longer. The UN’s best estimate is there will be eight billion people by 2025, nine billion by 2050 and ten billion by the end of the century. A higher UN prediction has the population at nearly sixteen billion by 2100.
Much of the increase will be driven by poor countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, many already with inadequate food and water. In the next forty years, Ethiopia could see its population rise from around eighty million to one hundred and forty-five million. Contrast that with Germany; a similar population to Ethiopia now but this could fall to seventy-five million by 2050.
Indeed there is a scenario that sees the world’s population falling. The UN’s lower estimate for 2100 is just over six billion people; a billion fewer than there are now. Why? Well, global fertility is already falling. In 1950, women on average had five children each; it’s now down to two and a half. Small variations in fertility could have a big effect on population size in the future. In much of the world, including Brazil, Europe, Russia, Japan, even China, fertility has fallen so much the populations are reliably predicted to fall later this century.
But whatever the long-term projections for the coming decades, we can expect more and more people on the planet, way beyond the seven billion milestone we're now passing.  

domingo, 11 de agosto de 2013

Extensive listening -Standing on shaky ground

Thirty years ago, the indigenous Tao inhabitants of Taiwan's Orchid Island were told their home had been chosen as the location of a fish cannery and with it would come employment and economic growth beyond their subsistence existence.

Instead, they got a nuclear waste facility, and they now worry about the impact of a growing stockpile of low-level radioactive waste on their farms and fishing grounds. Tens of thousands of the barrels of waste are corroding, and the islanders fear widespread contamination.

Watch this Al-Jazeera 101 East documentary released in June this year and find out all the details about the growing resistance in Taiwan to this toxic nuclear waste.

You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 10 de agosto de 2013

Best books for language learners

International House is celebrating its 60th anniversary and they have had the great idea of inviting top names in the English Teaching world to give learners tips on ways they can improve their English.

In today's video, Tim Brombley, Jeremy Harmer, Scott Thornbury, Alastair Grant and Nicky Hockley express their opinion about their favourite books for learners of languages.

In early July we also published a similar International House video under the title Best TV Shows for English Learners.

viernes, 9 de agosto de 2013

Pregnancy explained -Video activity

In early July we published DNA explained, the first short documentary from BBC Knowledge & Learning series , a forthcoming project that aims to explore a large variety of subjects in engaging and accessible ways.

Today we have posted the second episode in the series, Pregnancy.

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

The activity is suitable for Intermedio 1 and Intermedio 2 students.

BBC Knowledge Explainer: Pregnancy from TellyJuice on Vimeo.

Each and every one of us began life as a single cell, no bigger than a full stop. From this we (1) ... into a human being made up of trillions of cells performing countless different functions. But how?

Pregnancy from conception to birth takes an average of forty weeks starting from the beginning of the mother’s last menstruation period. Development begins with fertilization when a sperm (2) ... with an egg to create a single cell called zygote. This cell holds immense potential. It is a shared genetic (3) ... from the mother and the father encoded in the genes of their combined DNA.

Over the next four days the zygote journeys down the fallopian tube to the uterus. On the way, it divides, eventually forming a cluster of cells called a blastocyst which has two distinct parts. One part will form the embryo. The other part will form the placenta, which (4) ... it. The blastocyst arrives in the uterus and within two days the cells sink in and attach to the uterine wall to continue their development.

By four weeks the embryo consists of three (5) ... that will become the baby’s organs and tissues. The ectoderm will become the central nervous system, the brain and spine. The mesoderm gives rise to deep structures, the (6) ... , cartilage and bones, and the endoderm could form blood cells and the intestines.

At around five weeks a heart beat can be detected. (6) ... begin to form, and small swellings called limb buds show where the legs and arms are growing. From eight weeks, the organs, nerves and muscles are all in place. The embryo is now referred to as the foetus.

At around ten weeks the face is taking shape and the foetus is recognizably human. Between eleven and fourteen weeks finger nails, toe nails and unique fingerprints are beginning to form. Between fifteen and twenty-six weeks the foetus  begins to react to loud sounds. It is now possible to tell whether it is a boy or a girl.

Between twenty-six and thirty-six weeks the foetus will begin to react to life and to develop a (7) ... cycle. The lungs and and nerve system have matured to the point where the foetus has a good chance of survival if it is born prematurely. From now the foetus starts to put on weight very rapidly, growing (8) ... deposits under the skin, ready for life outside the womb.

From thirty-seven weeks the baby is full term and maybe be born at any time. By now, the baby is usually head down, so that they can (9) ... into the mother’s pelvis. Eventually the mother’s uterine (6) ... start to contract. The cervix shortens and opened and the baby makes its journey down to the birth canal and into the world. It is the start of its life as a physically separate being, a baby with trillions of specialized cells, and it all began from just one.

1 developed 2 merges 3 inheritance 4 nourishes 5 layers 6 muscles 7 sleep 8 fat 9 descend

jueves, 8 de agosto de 2013

Big cat hunter

Big Cat Hunter is another report in the BBC's Real Time video series. Jonathan McGowan, a naturalist from Bournemouth, tells us about the existence of big cats in the UK.

Self-study activity:

The activity is suitable for strong intermediate students.

Watch the video through. What animals does Jonathan mention?

Watch the video again and answer these questions.

1 When did Jonathan start spotting big cats?
2 What does Jonathan do when the hair he collects?
3 Where do leopards leave their kills?
4 What does Jonathan do with the cameras?
5 What does Jonathan get every week?
6 What's people's reaction when Jonathan tells them about big cats in Britain?
7 Are big cats dangerous for humans?

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

We have puma, I can smell cat spray, we have leopards, and we have linx.
The numbers have escalated.
Looks like it.
We have so many. We have thousands of sightings a year by members of the public. This is one of my newest study areas where a lot of people have seen large black cats.
It all started with me in 1984 because I was into watching wildlife. And I got more than I bargained for. Once when I was watching a badger set, saw a puma come along and stalk one of the badgers that I actually knew quite well, and I couldn’t believe it. And so it set me on a sort of a task to find out whether there were any more of these animals in the area. I thought I’ve got to do a proper study about this and so that’s what I’ve been doing for the last 12 years now.
I’ve got some possible leopard scat here. It’s full of hair, that’s a typical find within a leopard territory. I collect lots of evidence in regards to field science, that’s droppings, footprints, scrapes from the ground and claw markings on trees.
You see, claw marks here because when cats often do scraps they often put their claws out to make the ground up.
These are all my hundreds of bags of hair I’ve collected. A very small amount of it has been analysed, yes, and some of it has proven to be puma, leopard hair. I’ve got whiskers as well. That’s possibly a whisker from a large cat. Cats have huge big whiskers like this. We have deer bones that fall out of trees because leopards often take their kills up trees just to prevent foxes from eating them. Big jaws have crunched the bones. This is a leopard skull here, just to show the teeth and how strong those jaws are.
This is one of my many trigger cameras. I’m gonna open it up and see wether there’s actually anything on there. In actual fact, it hasn’t been triggered yet at all, so I’ll put it back and I’ll return in a few weeks time.
This is one of the images I obtained. It was taken about three am, and one can clearly see there’s an animal there which I believe to be the male leopard that will often visit this pond to drink.
Every week I get reports some of which are ‘cat seen by multiple witnesses’ or cat seen by several people in different vehicles, for example in a traffic jam. It’s good just to speak to the witnesses just to relax them and let them know they are not unique, they are not mad.
People are skeptical because big cats are iconic. People think that Britain is so cold and rainy and boring that we couldn’t have big animals like leopards and pumas here.
Once you start looking for the evidence, it all falls into place. This is quite interesting here. They keep themselves to themselves, and they don’t want to touch humans, they just want to get up and get out of the way if they know humans are near.
To me it’s such a wonderful part of nature, and I feel part of nature when I see that shy elusive animal watching me. It does something which is really hard to explain, and it makes it more passionate, and you just want to be part of it.

miércoles, 7 de agosto de 2013

Talking point: Scientific advances for the future

This week's talking point deals with scientific advances for the future. Before you get together with the members of your conversation group, think about the predictions below and rank them from 1 (the soonest) to 14 (the most distant).
  • There will be a permanent undersea city.
  • Companies will have workers aged from 18 to 75 due to the late retirement age.
  • We won’t need to eat meals. We’ll take nutritional pills instead.
  • Everybody will buy e-books or audio books instead of paper books.
  • No one will smoke.
  • We will be able to control the weather.
  • People will take space holidays on the Moon – if they can afford it.
  • 3D TV will be the norm.
  • There will be one currency used throughout the world.
  • All edible fish will have disappeared from the ocean.
  • Super-planes will cut travel times by half, and there will even be flying cars.
  • Organ donors will no longer be necessary. We’ll be able to get an artificial heart, liver or other body part if needed.
  • The ageing process in humans will be stopped.
  • Everybody will be driving a hydrogen-powered vehicle.
What other advances, inventions and innovations would you like to see in the future?

To have a peek at how close some of the above-mentioned advances are, watch this video which I think I discovered on English on Target.We miss you, Irma.

Today I'm making history. I'm driving from the Midlands to the Isle of Wight. Ahh, I hear you say, nothing very historic in that. But just hang on a minute. I'm doing it in the world's first commercially available hydrogen car. By the end of this year, we will be able to lease Hyundai SUVs like this that are powered entirely by hydrogen. And the Isle of Wight connection? Well that is the UK's biggest green energy collaboration project EcoIsland. Now to get to the Isle of Wight I'm going to run entirely on hydrogen so I'm going to need to top up which is why I'm in Nottingham where the University of Nottingham has bought a mobile hydrogen refuelling station from ITM Power in Sheffield.
Gavin... Hello...
Hi Quentin.
Now you are a professor of Sustainable Energy here at Nottingham University. Tell me about EcoIsland. 'cause that's a really significant project.
This is a huge set change in the hydrogen infrastructure development in the UK. On the Isle of Wight they're looking at four times the size of this refueller providing sustainable hydrogen for a local fleet of vehicles that the community can all use.
In the next few years, Hyundai will be rolling out ten thousand of these ix35 SUVs every single year. ITM Power can pluck down hydrogen refuelling stations literally wherever you want. So that means we won't just be getting cheaper, cleaner fuel, we'll also be able to light and heat our houses with hydrogen. I'm off now to the Isle of Wight to have a glimpse at the future. And what's it going to mean, this EcoIsland project for the Isle of Wight? Well, there is the small question of 400 new jobs. 142,000 people here, that it'll directly influence, plus 60,000 homes. And let's not forget this is a globally big deal, so much so that it's attracted the attention of the UK Minister for Energy, who I'm going to pick up from the ferry terminal right now.
Hello... Good to meet you...
Good to meet you, too.
So perfidy to the orthodox: utterly carbon neutral. You can fill it up in three minutes, like a petrol car.
And how long will it run for?
300 to 350 miles.
And how expensive to run?
On renewables, it's half the price of petrol.
So convincing the consumers, you don't have to try and talk to them about saving the planet. You just talk have to tell them, it's going to cost you only half the price.
Yeah, that's why I asked.
And you can use platforms like this which is a conventional Hyundai that would have had an internal combustion engine and put the fuel cell in it.
Welcome everybody. This is the first global EcoIsland summit where island communities all over the world are coming together to find a long term solution to the greatest human challenges of the day.
We are deploying 100-kg-a-day refuelling station and a 15-kg-a-day refuelling station on the island and we'll have its fleet of 20 vehicles, including marine vehicles.
The ITM Power technology is groundbreaking. It's not just about just turning water into hydrogen and oxygen, it's about the portability of it. I mean, they walked up here in the middle of the week with a couple of small containers, they plug it in and they played. And here we have a generator unit that has now got enough juice in it to run a fleet of say ten cars. And once you get to that stage, you can put it anywhere.
I believe this project deserves the support which you've given it and it will certainly get my support, too. Thank you so much.
EcoIsland means that the Isle of Wight, by 2020 will be completely sustainable when it comes to energy. And this is hugely important. I've just come out from the Minister's keynote address, the Minister for Energy, John Hayes, MP, said that this is quite simply the most advanced sustainability project in the entire world. And hydrogen is going to play a major, major part. The Isle of Wight, we wish you well.

martes, 6 de agosto de 2013

Speakout Advanced: Music and fashion

This week the Speakout video podcast revolves around the topic of trends in music and fashion. Passers-by answer the following questions about the topic:

Are you interested in music and fashion?
Tell me about a music trend or style that you love or hate.
Tell me about a fashion trend that you love or hate.

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

You can read the transcript here.

lunes, 5 de agosto de 2013

Surviving the recession communist-style in Spain

The economic crisis has made unemployment reach unprecedented levels in Spain, with record numbers of homes repossessed after the property market crashed.

However, Marinaleda, a small communist-style town in the south, claims to have no unemployment and no repossessions.

Self-study activity:
Watch the short BBC video clip by clicking on the link here or the picture below and answer the questions about it.

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

1 What is the unemployment rate in Andalucia?
2 What does the town hall give David for free?
3 How long do houses take to be finished?
4 What does '15€ a month' refer to?
5 How many people work in the agriculture sector?
6 What did Gordillo's followers do last summer?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

Marinaleda is a small town in Andalucia, a region where more than one in three are out of work and record numbers of homes being repossessed after Spain’s property bubble burst. But in this town they’re working to make mortgages a thing of the past.
Residents like David Gonzales Molina are building their own homes. David tells us the situation in his town is much better than in places nearby. People there are claiming state benefits because there’s no work, he says, especially now the construction industry in places like Malaga has ground to a halt.
The town hall here gives David 190 square metres of land for free. The cost of the materials is initially covered by the regional government and professional builders employed by the town hall help out. When the houses are finished in about two years’ time,  they’ll look something like this, and then the owner will have to pay just 15 euros a month to the town hall to pay back the cost of the bricks and mortar.
When you finish building your house, what are going to do for work?
David says he’ll work in the countryside or in metal work in which he’s trained. There’s always crops to harvest, he says.
Agriculture employs about half of the population. The town has a collective farm, so work is shared out meaning no one has no work. The graffiti here shows the ideals and politics of this place. The town hall is run by Spain’s United Left Party, and the mayor hopes to create some type of communist-style utopia.
Juan Manuel Sánchez Gordillo sparked controversy last summer when he and his supporters stole food from supermarkets to hand it out to the poor. But could his formula for this town really work in other parts of Spain?
I think we need to rethink our values, the consumer society, the value we place on money, selfishness and individualism.
On the streets of the Spanish capital protest continue against austerity. There are signs that the ideas of the left are gaining support. What they are building in this town is a small challenge to capitalism. Because of Spain’s crisis the credibility of the current system here has taken a knock.

domingo, 4 de agosto de 2013

Extensive listening: Interview with Beyoncé

This is an interview of Beyoncé with the CBS programme 60 Minutes in early 2010. I know that the interview is not the most recent one, but given that Beyoncé's stardom keeps growing by the day, I thought it would be a good idea to check the way she saw herself when she was already a well-established personality in the music world and the way she talked about her family and childhood.

I am embedding here the full  CBS programme 60 Minutes of 31 January 2010. You will find the interview with Beyoncé at 28'.

You can also read a full transcript of the interview here.

I managed to find this YouTube video with the same interview, but you may find the publicity a bit annoying.

Finally, if you wish to do a listening activity based on the interview, Cristina Cabal has devised this listening comprehension for her students. Well, as a matter of fact it was through Cristina that I bumped into the video.

sábado, 3 de agosto de 2013


Omnilexica is a free online dictionary.  Omnilexica defines itself as "search in all dictionaries at once".

I think this description makes justice to Omnilexica  as it provides definitions for all English words and expressions in both mainstream and specialised dictionaries together with examples, pronunciation, videos, quotes.

 Drop by  Omnilexica and type in any word or expression in the search box at the top and you will discover a dictionary with a difference.

viernes, 2 de agosto de 2013

Our oceans animation

This short film by oceanographer Sylvia Earle highlights the urgent need to protect our oceans from pollution and overfishing. It was released to coincide with World Oceans Day in early June this year.

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

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

The world is blue. If you look at it from (1) ..., that image should alone inspire us to think that we, too, are sea (2) ... . We are as dependent on the ocean as any (3) ... or any coral reef. Take away the ocean, and there is no us. We have looked to the ocean as a place to put things that we don't want, and a place to take things that seemed in (4) ... quantity... We’ll never run out of fish, it was thought.
We’ve lost on the order of  (5) ... of many of the big fish like tunas, swordfish, sharks, marlin, cod. Some of the techniques for fishing should definitely be (6) ...  . That includes bottom trawling. They are so destructive. It’s like using a bulldozer to catch some (7) ... . You shake up a few pounds of protein but you’ve destroyed the (8) ... and everything that is in it.
What can you do? Think about what you're eating. Make better (9) ...  . Know where the fish come from. I think of the ocean as the blue (10) ... of the planet. But how much of your (10) ... do you want to protect?

1 space 2 creatures 3 whale 4 infinite 5 90%  6 banned 7 birds 8 forest 9 choices 10 heart

jueves, 1 de agosto de 2013

Royal baby clothing at the Museum of London

July has seen the arrival of a new member of the Royal Family. The Museum of London has on display royal baby clothing. Fashion curator Timothy Long has selected some of the pieces and he shows them on this video.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 When did the London Museum open?
2 Where were the items from the Royal Family originally shown?
3 What material is the robe made of?
4 Who was Prince Albert Edward?
5 What is special about Princess Alice's shoes?
6 What name did Prince Albert Eward use as a monarch?
7 What does PW stand for?
8 What items belong to Princess Alice and Princess Beatrice?
9 What items belong to Princess Louis and Princess Victoria?

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

Hello, my name is Timothy Long. I am curator of fashion and decorative arts at the Museum of London. The arrival of the newest member of the Royal Family is a momentous occasion that has captured the world's attention.
The Museum of London has quite a rare connection to the Royal Family because prior to the formation of the Museum of London in 1976 the museum was two different institutions. One was the Guildhall Museum and the other was the London Museum, which opened in Kensington Palace in 1912.
Kensington Palace accumulated an impressive collection of material that documents both the city of London, but also very unique items from the members of the Royal Family. Today we're going to focus on the material related to Queen Victoria's children. 
This is a robe that was made for one of Queen Victoria's children and what becomes quite apparent when you look closely at the pieces, the tremendous skill and craftsmanship that went into its production. It's a cotton child's robe that has a great deal of cotton thread embroidery and that lays all the way across the front of the piece.
This infant cap was worn by Prince Albert Edward, who was born in 1841. It was the second child of Queen Victoria and it is made of a very, very fine cotton fabric that has been embroidered with cotton thread across the front as well as a floral scene at the center back.
These shoes were worn by Princess Alice. The significance here is that these were actually made by her mother, Queen Victoria. Alice was born in 1843 but these were made for her a few years later and are made of a very fine white wall that have been embroidered and verifying silk thread in a floral pattern across the front throughout the sides and also at the center back.
These shoes here document two different generations of the Royal Family in the 19th century. If you look closely at a few of the pairs you can get some clues about the individual member who wore those items.
This pair in particular, if you turn over, you can see that someone has written Prince of Wales across the front, so you know for certain that this was worn by Prince Albert Edward when he was a child before eventually becoming King Edward VII.
We have a bed sheet that was used by Prince Albert Edward when he was a child. This piece was made in 1842. We can see that by the date above which you have PW for Prince of Wales, and above that we have the embroidery of a small crown in red thread.
Additional accessories in the collection related to the Royal Family are pieces that we have here from a few pairs of stockings worn by Queen Victoria's daughters, Princess Alice and Princess Beatrice, very finely embroidered both with the initials of the wearer as well as the royal crown, as well as two kid leather gloves worn by Queen Victoria's granddaughters, Princess Louis and Princess Victoria.
As the capital prepares itself for the newest royal arrival, we here at the Museum of London are looking forward to seeing what the next generation of royal baby clothing will be.