lunes, 30 de septiembre de 2013

For sale: Britain's most remote bookshop

Kevin Crowe and Simon Long have been running Britain's most remote bookshop, in the Scottish Highlands. But now they have decided to put their bookshop on the market.

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC's four-minute video clip [by clicking on the picture below or on this link], part of the series Stop/Start, which follows both new trends that are beginning and old traditions that are coming to an end in the UK.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 How long have Simon and Kevin been running the bookshop?
2 What are their two hobbies?
3 What are some of the problems living in a remote area has?
4 What is the busiest time of the year in the shop?
5 How do they keep themselves busy in winter?
6 What three activities does Kevin mention, which proves his point that 'in remote areas like this it’s good to have more than one iron in the fire'?
7 Why are they called 'book detectives'?
8 What does '50' refer to, and 'Harry Potter'?
9 Why have they decided to sell their business?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

Ever since I learnt to read I’ve just  always had books. My partner Simon and I had run the business for fourteen years. When we bought the premises it wasn’t a bookshop and restaurant, it was a shop room by a potter. We decided to combine our two hobbies, so Simon has always loved cooking, and I’ve always loved books.
Some people were shocked to the idea of us living in a remote area like this. The remoteness can present some problems in terms of getting supplies, in terms of the fact that the nearest hospital is a hundred miles away, but it’s a beautiful part of the world, it’s a friendly part of the world, and we both are happy living here.
Through here is the children’s section. Here we have the history books. These are all the second-hand fiction. The busiest time of the year is the late-spring summer and early autumn and because we’re very much tourist-based in the shop. In the winter it can get very quiet in the shop but we do quite a substantial trade on the internet.
Particularly in remote areas like this it’s good to have more than one iron in the fire, so we sell books, new and second-hand, online and in the shop. We also have a restaurant, and we sell the work of local artists in our art gallery.
We’ve had quite a few famous people at the shop, including Carol Duffy, who is now a poet laureate, and including Ian Rankin.
One journalist created the phrase ‘book detective’ about us because we do do book searches of people for out-of-print books that they might be looking for. Sometimes we are requested for a book where the person hasn’t got the full information. They may know the author, they may know the title, they may just know what the book is about, so then I have to do some research to try and locate where exactly the book is, and I can search on various different bibliophile sites.
We’ve had lots of interesting online orders. I did send 50 bibles once to South Korea. There’s also a professor of sociology in Beijing who ordered everything out on the shelves about Scottish witchcraft. We had someone who collected Harry Porter in as many languages as possible and it was looking for a copy of Harry Porter written in Arabic.
We decided to move on with the business and put the business on the market. Basically Simon is now in his 70’s, I’ve had some health issues. In the future we will be retired from business. On our page our life will  slow down and we’ll just have more time to enjoy each other’s company.

domingo, 29 de septiembre de 2013

Extensive listening: Growing old

Don't grow old is a Horizon documentary the BBC aired in 2010.

In the programme, we are told about remarkable discoveries that suggest that ageing is something flexible and can be manipulated.

The documentary shows us the scientists who are attempting to demonstrate why we age and what we can do to prevent it.  Does the 95-year-old woman who smokes two packets of cigarettes a day hold the clue? Do blueberries really delay signs of ageing or is it more a question of attitude? Does the real key to controlling how we age lie with a five-year-old boy with an extraordinary ageing disease or with a self-experimenting Harvard professor?

Could one of these breakthroughs really see our lives extend past 120 years?

You can read the transcript for the first ten minute of the programme here.

sábado, 28 de septiembre de 2013

Changing 'y' to 'ies' or 's' to make the plural

It's been quite a long time since we last posted about Joanne Rudling and her Spelling blog.

In early August Joanne published this lesson for elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) about when to change final -y into -ies to make the plural (or the third person singular of present simple, for that matter).

The 5-minute video is self-contained. Learners have the opportunity to listen to Joanne explain the rules, with lots of examples and visual aids. In the end, a short test is given.

Drop by Joanna's webpage How to spell and click on the tag lessons for more tips on how to spell correctly.

viernes, 27 de septiembre de 2013

Genius 13-year-old with IQ of 162

Neha Ramu lives in London. She is only 13, but has a higher IQ (intelligence quotient) than Stephen Hawking. Neha scored 162 in a Mensa IQ test for people under 18, the highest possible mark, which put her in the top one percent of the UK's brightest people.

Self-study activity:
Watch the BBC video by clicking on  the picture below or this link and say whether the statements below are true or false.

Neha's accent isn't easy at all, but intermediate students will find her mother's well within their reach.

1 Neha considers herself to be clever.
2 The people who took the test with Neha were the same age as her.
3 Neha's mother got the test results first.
4 Neha had to repeat the test because there was some problem.
5 Neha finds all subjects easy.
6 Neha is involved in several activities other than studying.
7 For Neha, intelligence without work won't get her too far.
8 Neha dreams of becoming a scientist.

I never really thought I was clever. I may just be like above average, in like type, in some school subjects but other school subjects I have to learn loads so no, I don’t really think I am clever. I think I am just, you know, just have a high IQ doesn’t really mean that I am clever.
I had the test in Birkbeck College in London, so I went there and I registered sat down and I was just looking at everyone around me, like everyone was some person was actually sixtyish, and most people were like seventeen, eighteen, and I was like the youngest person there because I was only twelve.
I came home from school I saw an envelope with my name on it, so I opened it up and I’ve realized I’d got into Mensa. I like called up  my mum I was like really really excited and I told her the news.
I was extremely happy when she said the first thing she had got into Mensa, I was in my workplace, and then I couldn’t believe it, I asked her to repeat the scores, again I couldn’t believe them, because I thought, problem not hearing properly. I asked her to go one by one, one, six, two like that.
When I found out that I got such a high score, I was like disbelieving that because it was just so amazing and like unexpected actually.
My favourite subject is chemistry because it is really interesting, and I love finding out like new things like how if you just mix two elements together you get something completely different. And maths also because it’s logical and like practical and I quite like stuff like that. I don’t really like arts and music because they are really difficult and I struggle with them.
Some people think that I study loads and stuff but I actually don’t really at all. I just like relax, just do like basic stuff.
She does all this without much effort, it’s not just putting some extra effort to get into whatever she’s doing now. She does it at her own pace, and she makes sure she has enough time for TV, for her swimming, for all other fun time with her friends, everything.
Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein achieved so much that I couldn’t like even dream of achieving, so it’s like not right to compare me to them just because of my IQ. I don’t make… if I don’t put in my effort and make use of my IQ, then there’s no point in having it.
This is my human brain book from my summer course. I want to be a neurologist, ever since last summer I’ve been like really interested in the brain and all the system and I’m really quite passionate about this subject so I think it’ll be good for me as a career, and as for university while like my dream college would be Harvard, but Oxford, Cambridge, I’m ok with any university as long as it helps me achieve my dream.
I don’t think I’m ever gonna stop learning even when I’m like graduated I’ll always be curious, and I’ll always be thinking I wonder how that works.

1-5 F 6-8 T 

jueves, 26 de septiembre de 2013

European Day of Languages

Today we celebrate the European Day of Languages.

The Council of Europe set up this day 13 years ago to foster and promote language learning throughout Europe because it was thought there have never been more opportunities to work or study in a different European country than now but lack of language competence prevents many people from taking advantage of this situation. In addition, learning other languages is a way of helping citizens to understand each other better and overcome cultural differences.

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

I have gone through these resources and have made a selection of those which might help us to both become aware of the objectives of the day and develop our grasp of English. Feel free, however, to vist the webpage of the  European Day of Languages to gain a full scope of all the suggestions and information gathered by The Council of Europe.
  • Take a quiz to test your knowledge about the languages of Europe.
  • Read and/or download the Passport to the European Union to find out some basic information about each of the countries in the Union. (For Básico 1 and Básico 2 students.)
  • Let's Explore Europe is a flipbook that you can read online or download in PDF format. (For Básico 1 and Básico 2 students.)
  • The students at Newbury Park Primary School teach you key phrases in a wide range of languages and a bit about the country where that language is spoken. The video where the programme is introduced is good listening practise  for intermediate students.
The Indian film English Vinglish released last year, the trailer of which we can watch here, may help us understand how important it is to know the language when we visit or live in a foreign country. The film deals with the problems an Indian housewife has with English when living in New York. She makes up her mind to sign up for an English course to please her family. You can read the transcript below.

There are lots of video clips around that dwell on the importance of language learning. I've selected two more for the European Day of Languages.

Speaking English in French


German submarine
This is an oldish ad for Berlitz language courses.

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

Speaking English in French
Lady: Excuse me? Excuse me? Sorry. Do you speak English?
Man 1: No, I don't sorry.
Lady: My car's broken down and I wondered if you could tell me where to find a garage.
Man 1: Well you know, that's wasted on me. I don't, I don't understand what you're saying.
Lady: You don't speak English at all?
Man 1: Not a word, no. That's one of those things really I wish I had paid more attention in school, but you know. Excuse me, excuse me, sorry. Do you speak any English?
Man 2: English? No.
Man 1: That's a problem, I don't either. I can't understand her...
Lady: Hi, my car's broken down and I need to find a garage.
Man 2: No, I'm so sorry, I don't understand that at all.
Lady: Alright, well, thanks.
Man 1: I'll tell you what, if you go down that way, about half a mile. There's a village. There might be somebody there that speaks English. 
Lady: Ich speaken bisschen deutsch; Sprecken Sie Deutsch?
Man 1: Deutsch? Nein? Sprichst du Deutsch?
Man 2: Deutsch? Nein. Nur ein oder zwei Wörter. Ich bin nicht fließend.
Man 1: Sorry we could not help. Sorry about that. Hey, you never know, next time you're over , maybe we'll have learned a bit of English...
Man 2: Oder Deutsch vielleicht.
Man 1: Ja, das wäre toll.
Lady: Thanks anyway.
Man 1: I CAN speak English.
Man2: So can I.

German submarine
Mayday, mayday. Hello, can you hear us?, can you hear us? Over. We are sinking! We are sinking!
Hallo! This is German coast guard.
We are sinking! Sinking! 
What are you thinking (seenking?) about? 

miércoles, 25 de septiembre de 2013

Talking point: Speaking a second or third language

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

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

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

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

Chris Young for The New York Times

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

martes, 24 de septiembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher Series: Do TV prank shows go to far?

Four people are discussing TV prank shows in today's installment of our Madrid Teacher series.

I find the conversation really interesting because it has a spontaneous ring to it, it's both conversational and entertaining, and help us focus on specific characteristics of spoken English.

Two weeks ago we paid attention to two features of spoken language on our entry Office Crime, 'You know?' (for the speaker to gain thinking time) and the listeners' reactions (with an aim to showing the speaker that they are listening). Pay attention to both features in today's video, although there are many more examples of the latter.

Today, in the first part of the video, the person telling the first anecdote wants to check that her audience understands what she's saying, and she uses the expressions 'Ok?', 'yeah?', 'alright?' to that purpose. We can also use some other expressions to check that our audience is paying attention to us or understands:
Is that clear?
[Do] you see what I mean?

Here it is the video clip the first speaker is talking about. A picture is worth one thousand words.
Blind man's dog takes nun's skirt

As a matter of fact, Just for Laughs, the Canadian TV show, is wonderful for English learners. Find a clip of your liking by typing in Just for Laughs in the search box on YouTube and describe it in as much detail as possible.

What TV shows featuring pranks are shown in your country?
Do you remember any specific pranks? Can you describe them?
What practical jokes are typical on April Fool's Day or on the Holy Innocents' Day?
Do pranks sometimes go too far?

Lesson idea:
Pair off students with one student in each pair with their back to the TV. Play a Just for Laughs video clip and the students watching the video are to describe it to their partners (you may pause it several times so that students can describe it as accurately as possible).

Vicky: I saw a TV show last night. I think it was called Just for Laughs, OK? And they had a trick where a blind man is walking his dog in the park. And as he approaches some toilets, some porta-loos, he asks a by-passer to take care of his guide dog for a moment while he uses the bathroom. So he gives the stranger his guide dog and his coffee, and disappears, OK? Erm, no sooner has he gone in, A nun walks past.
Bill: Oh dear, oh dear.
Barbara: Oh no!
Vicky: She gets perhaps twenty meters past the dog, and all of a sudden, it escapes from the harness, because the harness isn’t attached, runs straight off up to the nun, bites her, well, “bites” her. And on her habit, yeah? On the nun’s clothing, on her habit. As it does this, the nun goes, “Ooh!” and turns around with her hands in the air, and the habit comes off of her, in the dogs mouth. So she’s left standing with her underwear in the middle of the park, alright? Obviously, it’s a candid camera show. So the main focus at this point is looking at the person holding the dog, or not holding the dog anymore, ha ha…
Barbara: Should have been holding the dog.
Vicky: Ha ha ha, who was holding the dog, briefly, to watch their facial expressions. And usually it’s, I find it really, really funny because the person just ends up going…coffee, escape, toilet.
Barbara: [Yeah, some of them are really good.]
Bill: [Terror.]
Vicky: Ha ha ha, yeah. Have you seen any good shows, like that? Or got any good examples?
Bill: I remember The Beatles About. Do you remember that one, in the UK? Beatles About?
Vicky: Oh yeah!
Barbara: Oh, I don’t know that one. What’s that?
Bill: They… they do all sorts of pranks and jokes. And I remember one particular one. Er, a guy had a brand new car. And then he was called over whilst some people were working on a construction site and there was a large pile of bricks above his car, and they dropped them onto his brand new car.
Barbara: Oh no!
Bill: But it was a fake car. But he was going crazy. Terrifying.
Vicky: I bet he did.
Bill: Horrible. But funny!
Maria: Yeah. I think these programs are very, really funny but sometimes they can be a bit annoying for people. If… I don’t know, if the jokes are, erm, too hard. Mm, I don’t know.
Barbara: Well you mentioned one just before, when you were mentioning Japan, I had never
 heard of that one about…
Vicky: That’s right.
Barbara: Some sniper attack or something. Like some guy pretending that he’s killing people, and I guess they’re like fake bullets, but it must be like in the movies when there’s like blood coming out or something. Paintball or I don’t know what they’re using.
Vicky: That’s right.
Barbara: And like, and some people are there and like watching these people getting killed, and probably thinking, “Oh my God, am I next?” You know? Like that’s like, that’s not funny. I mean, the nun thing is funny, you know, or the construction guy, but I mean that is a bit in bad taste, I think, yeah.
Vicky: Yeah. Well it’s interesting you say that, actually, because some people think that these prank shows should be banned altogether.
Maria: Why?
Vicky: Well I imagine it’s because of examples, such as you’re saying, where the jokes go further than everyday humour, than set-up jokes.

lunes, 23 de septiembre de 2013

Sex discrimination in golf club

Sex discrimination at Scottish Muirfield Golf Club, where the British Open was held in July this year, caused a bit of an upheaval in the media.

Self-study activity:
Watch the two-minute BBC video by clicking on the picture below or on the link here and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

It is a (1) ... that’s brought blue skies for the players but a storm cloud for the organisers. Muirfield is one of the oldest clubs for its history, tradition and men.  Women aren´t  allowed  to be members here. (2) ...  discrimination? Not  so, say those in charge.
“On the Saturday morning, when the guy gets up or the lady gets up, and out of the marital bed if you like, and goes off and plays golf with his (3) ... and comes back in the afternoon, that’s not, on any kind of par, with racial discrimination or anti-Semitism or any of these things. It’s just what people kinda do.”
As  a private club, Muirfield’s men-only membership is perfectly legal. But politicians, including Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, have refused to come here this week claiming the club is (4) ...  ...  ... . Just a few miles down the road, Whitekirk Golf Club has a flourishing female membership and they are less than impressed.
“I really don’t agree with the men-only clubs, it’s (5) ... antiquated.“
“I think it (6) ... a bad example to young male golfers, this is the way that you  can treat women.”
“Women can go as far as they like in business, so why in sport are we differentiating?”
Even Augusta, the US’s famously traditional home of the masters, admitted its first female members this year, including (7) ... Secretary of State Condolezza Rice.  At Muirfield, the stars have been (8) ... to end with the debate, but Britain’s biggest name says it’s time for change.
“It’s something that shouldn’t happen these days, it’s something that we shouldn’t even be talking about. So you know, that’s why I guess a lot of people don’t want to talk about it.”
For now (9) ... , the female spectators here know they can’t be members. At  the Open, where golf’s openness is under scrutiny.

1 venue 2 Damaging 3 chums 4 out of touch 5  pretty 6 sets 7 former 8 reluctant 9  though

domingo, 22 de septiembre de 2013

Extensive listening: How many people can live on Planet Earth

In a 2009 BBC's Horizon special, David Attenborough investigated whether the world is heading for a population crisis in the documentary How many people can live on Planet Earth?
In his career, David Attenborough has watched the human population more than double from 2.5 billion in 1950 to nearly seven billion. He reflects on the profound effects of this rapid growth, both on humans and the environment.
While much of the projected growth in human population is likely to come from the developing world, it is the lifestyle enjoyed by many in the West that has the most impact on the planet. David Attenborough examines whether it is the duty of individuals both to reduce family size and change the way we live for the sake of humanity and planet Earth.

You can read the transcript for the first twelve minutes of the programme here.

sábado, 21 de septiembre de 2013

Building Europe through language learning

Building Europe through language learning (BELL) is a Leonardo Da Vinci project in which a number of educational centers from several European countries have participated in the last two years. The project focused on employability, professional development and language for business to help learners familiarise with business activity/practice/terminology in partner countries, and make them gain a wider knowledge of the European world of work.

The Escuela Oficial de Idiomas de Toledo took part in the project, and teacher Encarnación González Lara posted about the whole experience on her blog this summer.

I think the materials and videos resulting from the project and which feature the EOI students' visit to the Microsoft offices in Wicklow, Dublin, over a long weekend, can be of great interest to English language learners who are considering applying for a job in an English-speaking country, as we can see a number of mock job interviews, accompanied by their transcript, together with templates to write a CV.

All in all, the site provides good language practice for all English learners while offering  practical tips and training for people looking for a job.

If you wish to see a slideshow of the visit in PDF format, click here.

viernes, 20 de septiembre de 2013

Stonehenge -video activity

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England. It is one of the most famous sites in the world. Stonehenge is the remains of a ring of standing stones set within earthworks.

Self-study activity:
Watch this five-minute History Channel video to find out more details about the most famous groups of megaliths in the world and answer the questions about it.

The activity is suitable for intermedio 2 students.

1 When were the stones in Stonehenge put up?
2 What profession were the people who built Stonehenge good at?
3 Were the stones in Stonehenge obtained in the same area where the monument was built?
4 How were the stones brought to Stonehenge?
5 What are some of the theories about who built Stonehenge?
6 Why was Stonehenge built? Name one theory.
7 How big is the stone circle at Avebury?
8 What do we know about this part of the world and its people?
9  Why is it important to value Stonehenge?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

In the fields of South-western England stands Stonehenge, a unique and dramatic monument shrouded in mystery. These stones were put up four and a half thousand years ago. Some weigh more than 40 tons, yet they were arranged with pin-point precision.
It’s difficult to understand how they built Stonehenge because there’s so little evidence for us to find, but we assume that these people were good carpenters and so therefore could make wooden sledges which they would have put the stones on rollers and again they would have used some sort of platform or scaffolding of timber to get the lintels up to that amazing height.
Stonehenge was an evolving site for 1,500 years. It began in about 3,000BC with a circular ditch and bank.  500 years later came the stones. Some had travelled enormous distances.
Stonehenge is made of two types of stone. There are Sarsens, hard sandstone that comes from 25 miles from the north in the Avebury area, and then there are the Welsh stones, the blue stones which come from the Preseli Hills about 125 miles to the west. We have no idea how they brought them here because nobody’s ever found a stone anywhere along the route, but it’s a staggering achievement.
Over the centuries, the mysteries of Stonehenge have spawned many wild theories. In the 12th century Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed that they had been built by Merlin the Wizard. Today, some claim it was constructed by ancient aliens. The most enduring myth concerns a supposed connection to the Druids.
The association with the Druids is one of the very long-standing ideas about Stonehenge, but it has actually nothing to do with the Druids because they were priests who came along a thousand years or more after Stonehenge was finished.
Some theories can be easily dismissed, but the real meaning of the stones remains as elusive as ever.
Why they built Stonehenge is one of the real problems for archeologists because where do we find the evidence for it? There are three main theories. One is that it is a sort of solar calendar because of the way that it is aligned it does mark the changing seasons, the winter and the summer solstices. But also it suggested that perhaps it’s a place for the dead because people’s remains have been found here and also the suggestion that the stones themselves were thought to have healing powers, so there are probably over its long 1500 year life, a number of different reasons why it was built and used.
Stonehenge is the most spectacular site in a landscape full of prehistoric stones, circles, avenues and barrows, the burial mounds of the Neolithic people. The most imposing and mysterious is Silvery Hill. This 40-metre-high mound is as old as Stonehenge itself and the largest of its kind in Europe.
The stone circle at Avebury, 1,300 metres in circumference, is also the largest in Europe. Its purpose, too, can only be guessed at. What these places do tell us is much about the prehistoric society that built them.
What both Stonehenge and Avebury and other sites as well tell us is that this part of the world in the Neolithic was very rich. There were a lot of people here, it was a very well farmed and organized landscape, and there were resources here whereby people could come together to build these lasting monuments that have survived four, five thousand years and which we can still see today.
Today this mysterious landscape continues to intrigue and inspire.
Stonehenge has been both a magnet and an icon for centuries. It’s attracted early archeologists, artists like Turner and Constable, and I think it still inspires people today who come along to marvel at its construction and also have their own ideas about why it was built.
Each year the summer solstice draws thousands of revelers to Stonehenge. They come to greet the dawn, to worship old gods or just to have fun. Its vibrant proof of how the stones continue to inspire people in different ways, something they’ve done for thousands of years. This landscape forms a unique link to a megalithic culture that once spanned the whole of Europe. As such today it is recognized as Unesco World Heritage Site.
It’s incredibly important to value sites like Stonehenge and the landscape that surrounds it because they are a reminder of our deep past, of the fact that people were here shaping the landscape thousands of years before us, and hopefully these enduring remains will survive for thousands more years.
To discover more, Unesco World Heritage Sites, visit our history website.

jueves, 19 de septiembre de 2013

The works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona

Antoni Gaudi  built and renovated some of the city's most beautiful buildings. This short Lonely Planet video offers some background information about it all.

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

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

1 What art movement did Gaudi pioneer?
2 When did the construction of La Sagrada Familia begin?
3 What can you see in the crypt of the cathedral?
4 What are the nicknames of Casa Batlló?
5 What inspired Casa Milà?
6 Where in Casa Milà can you find 'giant medieval knights'?
7 How is Park Güell defined?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

For centuries Spanish architects have unleashed their fantasies in Barcelona, but none have left their mark on this city quite like Antoni Gaudi. The pioneer of the modernist movement designed and built some of the most popular landmarks in Barcelona.
Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia cathedral, is now Spain’s most visited tourist site. Construction on this Roman Catholic cathedral began in 1892 and Gaudi worked on it for most of his professional life, until his death in 1926. It’s still a building site to this day, but visitors can explore the cathedral’s completed sections. Once you enter the building, the eyes are drawn irresistibly upwards by the forest of tree-like pillars. Head to the museum in the crypt.  To view the notes, photos and models of the cathedral that Gaudi left behind.
Casa Batlló is an apartment block Gaudi renovated in the early 20th century. Locals know it as the house of the dragon or house of bones, and it’s not hard to see why.
Close-by is Casa Milà, an apartment building completed in the early 1900s. It was given the nickname ‘La Pedrera’ or the stone quarry by the bemused locals, as they watched Gauidi build it. Gaudi was inspired by the sea. The grey stone façade resembles a cliff face sculpted by waves and its wrought iron balconies the look-like sea weed. At the roof, you’ll encounter ventilation towers, shaped like giant medieval knights.
Park Güell is Gaudi’s fantasy garden showcasing his characteristic prior to Gothic, Islamic and Art Nouveau styles. Past the multi-coloured lizard, the mosaic benches as you head to the viewing deck for a bird’s eye view of the city.

miércoles, 18 de septiembre de 2013

Talking point: Video games

This week's talking point is video games. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow more easily when you get together with the members of your conversation group and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • Have you got a TV games console?
  • If you have, what games do you play? How many hours a week do you spend playing on it? How long have you had it? Do you have a favourite game? Can you describe it?
  • If you haven't got one, have you ever used one? Would you like to have one? Why (not)? Have you heard of famous video games?
  • Do video game isolate or socialize users?
  • Do you think video games are generally men-oriented or they offer something for everyone?
  • To what extent are some video games violent and encourage users to act violently?
  • Whose responsibility is it to decide which video games children can play, parents or the government?
  • Are there any laws in your country restricting the sale or rental of video games to children?
  • What other benefits and problems do video games have?
To gain further insight into the topic you can read The New York Times article Shooting in the Dark, by BENEDICT CAREY.

Photo: eltpics on Flickr

martes, 17 de septiembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher series: Louise's personal information

This is our second episode of the Madrid Teacher series. Today's post is aimed at elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) and we are going to watch a short interview with Louise.

Below you can read the questions she is being asked in the interview. Note down the answers.

Then answer the same questions about yourself.

You can check the answers by activating the CC subtitles on the lower side of the screen.

What’s your name?
And how old are you?
Where are you from?
And, where were you born?
And how many people are there in the town? What’s the population of this town?
Have you got any brothers or sisters?
And what are their names?
Very good, and what are your parents’ names?
And what do your parents do?
And what do you do?
And where do you work?
OK. And what’s your favorite type of music?
OK. And your favorite singer?
Where is she from?
And what’s your… what are your favorite types of films?
Do you have a particular favorite?

lunes, 16 de septiembre de 2013

Jane Austen to appear on Bank of England notes

Chris Salmon, the Chief Cashier of the Bank of England, talks about a new note with the picture of Jane Austen, its design and when it will come into circulation.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Why has Jane Austen been chosen to appear on a new note?
2 What can you see on the right-hand side?
3 What does '1817' refer to?
4 What are we commemorating this year?
5 About the quote, who was reading a book and who said the quote?
6 What is Elizabeth Bennet doing in the image in the background?
7 Who owned Godmersham Park?
8 What information is given about Winston Churchill?
9 What is said about a publicity  campaign?

To check the answers you can read the transcript below.

The Bank of England has confirmed that Jane Austen will appear on a forthcoming Bank of England banknote: the next new character to follow Sir Winston Churchill. Chris Allen, executive director of banking services and chief cashier is here to tell us more. Chris, thank you for joining me.
Thank you.
First, can you give us some background on why Jane Austen was chosen?
Well, as you know we are very fortunate to be able to use our bank notes to celebrate the contribution of eminent figures of our past, to give people the chance to remember and enjoy their contribution to our lives. Austen is undoubtedly one of the most popular and widely read authors in the English language. People come to her novels for the books, for the serializations, for the films. Many people enjoy and love and know her work. Moreover, from the more literary perspective, many critics emphasize the importance of her novels in the development of the British writing tradition.
The Bank has released the concept image of what the reverse of Jane Austen note will look like. Can you talk us through to the design and explain the significance of each of the features?
So as you noted, the concept contains a number of different elements. Most obviously, on the right-hand side is the image of Jane Austen herself. The other elements are drawn from her books, which is how we relate to Jane Austen today, but also we believe captured aspects which has been important to Jane Austen during her life.
First and most important is the image of Austen herself. It’s from an 1817 memoir published by James Edward Austen Leigh, her nephew, and it was on the frontispiece of that book. The illustration itself is by James Andrews and was based on an original sketch of Jane Austen that her sister herself Cassandra Austen drew.
The next two elements I want to emphasize are both taken from Pride and Prejudice. This year, of course, is the 200th anniversary of the publication of Pride and Prejudice and it is the book that Austen herself described as her own darling child. The first element is the quote ‘I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!’ Now actually if you read the book it was said with a degree of irony by Miss Bingley when she was seeking to catch the attention of Darcy and failing, and he was reading a book. But, of course, this is the impression that many of us feel when we are reading a work by Jane Austen herself.
The second element drawn from Pride and Prejudice is the image in the background of Elizabeth Bennet undertaking an examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her, from the drawing by Isabel Bishop that illustrated a 1976 edition of Pride and Prejudice.
The final element that I want to mention is the house itself, which is of Godmersham Park, a house which was owned by Austen’s brother, Edward Austen Knight, and which she visited often and it’s believed to be the inspiration of a number of her novels.
When will the Jane Austen note be issued into circulation?
So as you know, we announced early this year that Sir Winston Churchill will appear on the next bank note to be issued, currently the plan is that he will appear on the five-pound note, the plan is that Austen will then appear on a ten-pound design and we have a strong intention that the two new notes will be issued within around a year of each other. Currently we are planning for Churchill in 2016, which will imply Jane Austen will be issued in 2017.
When will the public find out more information about the Jane Austen note?
So when we get to the point that we are ready to issue the Austen note, we’ll gradually withdraw the current Darwin design, we will run a very energetic publicity campaign to make sure everyone is aware that that is happening and to educate the public about the new security features that we’ll introduce along with the Austen design. But the correct time to do that is when we issue the new note, in a few years time.
Thank you very much, Chris Allen.
Thank you.

domingo, 15 de septiembre de 2013

Extensive listening: The dirtiest place on the planet

Linfen, located in the Shanxi Province, is one of the mining centres that have been central to China's rapid economic growth.

It is an endless landscape of factories and smoking towers, which is constantly emptied by thousands of trucks, taking its coal to the rest of China's cities.

Linfen is the dark side of China's economic miracle. Not only is the air toxic, but the water is so polluted that many towns in the area have been called 'Cancer Towns'. But for the 4 million inhabitants of Linfen, it was only 20 years ago that their city was nicknamed 'The fruit and flower town of Shanxi Province'.

The environmental impact of coal exploitation has destroyed the environment and with no way back the people of Linfen are paying a high price for China's economic progress.

Watch here the first part of this documentary from JourneyMan TV. You will find a variety of native and non-native English accents together with a few subtitled segments, although you can also activate the CC YouTube subtitles, which give an accurate transcription of everything being said. You can also find the transcript here.

You can watch the second part of the documentary here.

sábado, 14 de septiembre de 2013

Learn English with photos

In early August, Jeffrey Hill, the person behind The English Blog, started publishing a ten-installment video series for intermediate students with the aim of developing their vocabulary and listening skills.

The videos show pictures he has taken on his trips in the UK and which he comments on while disclosing specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle and letting us peek into his life and personality.

I find it difficult to put into words my reaction at the bulk of high-quality materials Jeffrey offers both English students and teachers through The English Blog. I'll just say that three years ago I stumbled upon The English Blog after reading a brief review about resources on the net in ELT Journal ('an English guy who lives in France') and I thought to myself, that's what I've been looking for for such a long time, and My That's English! started off as a result.

I would also like to point out that being a non-native speaker of English, I always make a point of reading Jeffrey's daily posts on The English Blog to brush up my English. It just takes half an hour but it's a moment of the day I'm always looking forward to.

Episode 2: A Scottish breakfast
Episode 3: The Whiskey Distillery
Episode 4: The Guesthouse
Episode 5: Shop Names
Episode 6: Shops and shopping
Episode 7: Day Out in Glasgow
Episode 8: Dartmoor
Episode 9: Cross-Channel Ferry
Episode 10: At the Seaside

viernes, 13 de septiembre de 2013

How has the immigration changed Britain?

Today's video clip is a smooth follow-up to yesterday's video clip with the opinion (and the pride) of immigrants living in the US.

To a large extent, today's video clip is the other side of the coin, and shows the way nationals feel about immigrants, especially in this age and time of economic crisis.

We have also changed countries. This time is Britain where BBC's Political Editor Nick Robinson visits Peterborough to find out how immigration has changed the country. The former market town in Cambridgeshire, now a city, used to be "very English and very white", he says, but in the last decade 24,000 immigrants have arrived.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What is the ratio of immigrants in Peterborough?
2  What are people telling British politicians?
3 What is the problem with some schools, according to the man in the shop?
4 Why doesn't this shopkeeper's father go into town any more?
5 How long has the customer at the shop been living in the city?
6 What is the percentage of people who think immigration is too high?
7 According to Karem, what is the main problem with immigrants now?
8 What makes immigration different now from some decades ago?
9 What are Poles well-known for?
10 Why isn't essential for Polish immigrants to know the English language any more?
11 What does political leader Marco Cereste compare immigration to?
12 What does 'a fifth of the population' refer to? And 'a tenth of households'? 

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.
This is how much of the country used to look: A typical market, a typical town, so very British, so very white. Not anymore. The face of Britain is changing, and nowhere more so than here, in Peterborough. In the last decade in this city 24,000 immigrants have moved in, that’s more than one in eighth of the population.
Over the past decade more than a million Eastern Europeans came to Britain and stayed. Now politicians are competing to say that the country is no longer open to all comers. They are listening to the voices of those who are telling them that their towns, their cities, their lives have changed.
I’ll be honest. I want to move out of Peterborough. Surely give my son a fair chance in schools because obviously, you know, everyone’s talented about education but locally there’s so many that the classes will get bigger and therefore one or two schools English isn’t the first language.
So what is it? Is it the scale?
It’s the scale, it’s just such a massive, massive change, and lots of people, my father, very rarely comes into this town or his wife because they don’t feel safe.
They feel uncomfortable?
Uncomfortable, don’t feel safe because obviously you don’t know what, obviously when they talk in their native tongue. You don’t know what they are rabbiting.
Oh, have you got a customer?
There’s one hiding there.
How long have you been living here?
In here? I’ve been yesterday. Yesterday eleven.
No, I said how long you’ve lived in the city?
In the city? One day.
Ian is very, very far from being alone. About three quarters of people tell pollsters they think immigration is too high, and more than half of those say we think immigration should be cut by a lot. That’s been true for a long time but something has changed in the last few years. The number of people who say that the impact of immigration is very bad has almost doubled. Interestingly, that’s a view shared by first and second generation immigrants.
The new arrivals are not integrating as well. There’s ghetto situations. Karam’s father came from the Punjab to Peterborough to set up this store.
How different would he think Peterborough was now to what it was then?
I think he’d be shocked.
Really? Because?
Yeah, I think so, I mean he was a very proud man who was a British and when he came out here and embraced Britain as his country.
Do you see the irony in this?
I do.
You’re a Seikh?
You see, the problem with the immigrants they don’t mix in. That is probably in a nutshell.
Here in East Anglia thousands of Eastern Europeans work on the land, picking fruit and vegs and flowers, people Steve believes have helped locals like him in their jobs.
People say, no, we haven’t got space for them, there’s no room here. There are no jobs here.
There is, there is. There’s plenty of room. We’ll always fit them in.
Imagine somebody says, one of your customers, my kid, my son, my grandson can’t get a job because there’s some Polish bloke taken it or Lithuanian. What would you say to them?
Try somewhere else, work harder.
For decades the whole question of immigration was inextricably linked with race, which is why mainstream politicians were so terrified of the subject. But now that the new influx of immigrants are white and from Europe, that link’s largely been broken, but the pressure is still on the politicians because there are questions of integration and questions of whether the country is simply too full.
So this is a Polish paper from here?
Poles are known here for being hard workers, doing the jobs many others simply won’t do. They’re also known though for keeping themselves to themselves.
We are Polish, aren’t we? So that’s why people are coming here, especially Polish people which are not speaking English.
But I guess forty, fifty years ago maybe new arrivals in Britain thought ‘we have to learn English then we can fit in’?
Yeah, now we don’t have to really because if you’ve got some problems you can always come into the Polish shop.
Come to the shop.
This city is already successfully absorbed many waves of immigrants, including thousands of Italians, one of whom is now Peterborough’s political leader.
My sense is you’re a kind of a big optimist about immigrants whereas I might affix you not to be.
Ok, in my view, it’s a glass that is half full or half empty. Now we can’t stop immigration coming to the city. As a councilor, as an administration I can’t stop people coming in. So what do you do? You either say they are a huge problem and we want them to go away, or you say, well they’re gonna come anyway, so let’s make the very, very best of it.
Italians, Poles, Africans, Asians, a fifth of the population of this city were born abroad, a tenth of households speak no English. Now the opinion polls are clearly telling politicians that people want that flow to stop or at least to slow down. Perhaps though people are as concerned about integration as they are about immigration because in truth most people know that Britain is not simply going to go back to the way once was.

jueves, 12 de septiembre de 2013

American stories of immigration

The White House, just like any other office, is full of American stories that started abroad, as this White House video clip proves. To learn more and  to find out about other American stories of immigration visit WhiteHouse.Gov/Immigration.

Self-study activity:
No listening task today. Watch the video over and over until you get familiar with the accent of the White House staff in it and you kind of fully understand everything that is being said. You can find, as usual, the transcript below, and if you come across a vocabulary item difficult to understand you can easily look it up by double clicking on it.

You can also try the technique of shadow reading to try and improve your pronunciation. There are seventeen short very segments in the video. Choose one and try to read the transcript at the same speed as the person who is talking. That way you will be working on the pronunciation of individual words, speed of delivery and, most importantly, accent.

Monika (Poland): 
We have all these stories, and we have this interwoven experience of having come here for a common purpose, which is to make a better life. And from that, you know, we can aspire to so much as people, as immigrants, as children of immigrants, to achieve really amazing things.
Todd (Korea): 
America has this incredible power to bring people to its shores, to help build a brighter future for our country.
Namrata (India): 
I think what's at stake here is that we need to make sure that we are a place where our actions continue to match our ideals and we continue to be a place of opportunity and hope for the rest of the world.
Leandro (Dominican Republic): 
People still risk their lives to come here. And why is that? Because obviously they have a passion for something and really believe that they can still fulfill those dreams here.
Tina (China): 
Our own competitiveness, our strength as a nation, our ability to have new innovation, be at the cutting edge and leading the world, is at stake as well, because the talent that comes into the United States and the drive and the ambition to build new things and build new companies and find new technologies also comes with immigrants.
Beth (Philippines): 
We're a nation of immigrants, and I'm a perfect example of that.
Nancy (Argentina): 
We're a nation of immigrants, and immigrants lend to the richness of our life here.
Gautam (India): 
These are the stories of real people, of real families, of husbands and wives and kids who all want to be together in one country.
Araz (Iran): 
My parents literally left everything behind in Iran. And when we came here, we started from scratch.
Nadeem (Pakistan): 
Initially, my father, when he moved to this country, he came with only $500 in his pocket and, you know, a family.
Dad came to the United States first to start looking for some jobs. He's a doctor.
Slowly and surely, we learned English, mostly through "Sesame Street." And we began to make friends and do really well.
Toniann (Italy): 
This country was built on dreams with people trying to better themselves, and it seems to be a universal thought, that people come here to do things that they never thought they could do anywhere else.
Matias (Argentina): 
I'm very thankful for the opportunity that this country has provided me and the opportunity for my children.
Fernando (Mexico): 
We are a nation of immigrants. We bring together different ideas, different cultures, different races.
David (Portugal): 
So, as we look forward, when you think about what's at stake for immigration reform, it's a continuation of what we've always been: both a nation of laws and nation of immigrants.
Although we all came from different places, we're sort of bound up in some very shared goals,
and we all want the same kind of future for our kids, who are all going to be Americans who come after us.

miércoles, 11 de septiembre de 2013

Talking point: The ethical man

Today's talking point has to do with the environment, and we are bringing the BBC programme The Ethical Man to take the topic to an extreme.

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

What does the following have to do with the environment?
Justin Rowlatt is BBC's Ethical Man. His family and he spent a year trying to cut our carbon emissions and reporting on the exercise for BBC’s Newsnight.

Rowlatt’s ethical reports include a year without car, flying ethically, going vegan, ethical whaling, ethical man making his house as green  as possible, ethical capitalism, ethical man’s turbine on his garden, ethical man’s water consumption, can the average person really do something practical? and urban foraging.

Watch BBC's Panorama programme Go green or else!, which introduced The Ethical Man to British audiences back in 2007, by clicking on the picture below or on the link here and discuss these questions:

Would you be interested in watching this programme?
Would you be willing to take part in a project like this?

[You can read the transcript of the programme here.]

Other questions related with the environment are:
  • What environmental disasters can you think of?
  • What are the threats to the environment in your country?
  • Do you think your country is protecting the environment enough?
  • How green are you?
  • How big is your carbon footprint?
  • What personal actions can a normal person take to reduce their carbon footprint?
  • In what ways does the destruction of the environment affect us?
  • Do you see a future for renewable energies?

martes, 10 de septiembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher series: Office crime

We have been devoting Tuesdays for videos which show more educational listening stuff, as opposed to most other videos on this blog which feature authentic English and are available on the net for whoever wants to watch them, be it native or non-native English speakers..

We are starting today a new series of videos created by Madrid Teacher, an association of language schools in Madrid.

There are a variety of levels in the videos produced by Madrid Teacher, but  they all show native speakers talking about everyday life while introducing a specific aspect of English grammar or vocabulary.

Today's video, office crime, features a teacher and three very advanced students sharing stories about petty crime.

I don't think it's difficult to follow the gist of the conversation, that is, to understand the main idea of what is being said. Anyway, if you want to fully understand the chat, you can activate the English captions on the lower side of the screen. They are not the automatically-generated captions YouTube adds by default. They captions have been cleaned up because they show an accurate transcription of everything being said.

Self-study activity:
  1. Watch the video through. How many different stories of 'office crime' are mentioned? Would you be able to roughly retell the stories?
  2. When one of the girls is telling a story, the others listen actively, that is, they react to surprising bits of information without really interrupting the speaker. At the same time, they show the speaker that they are paying attention to what she's saying. Watch the video through again and note down the expressions the listeners use to react to what is being said.
  3. The person who is telling the story uses the expression you know to signal some kind of explanation. At the same time, while saying 'you know', the person talking gains time to collect her thoughts and present the story more clearly. Watch the video through again and pay attention to the way 'you know', is used. How many 'you know' could you hear?
  4. Now it's over to you. Have you witnessed similar stories of petty crime? Do you think this is real crime? Remember to use 'you know' while telling your story, and remember to react to surprising facts when you are listening to your friends' stories.

Key to activity 2:
Oh my goodness!
That’s awful.
That’s a shame.
Like Wynona Ryder.
That’s incredible.
Yeah, not necessarily.
No, it’s true.

Key to activity 3:

Yeah, a couple of years ago one of my students, she was very upset one day because she had this new mobile phone and it disappeared. A couple of weeks later, one of her colleagues, she had this really nice Angora coat. It disappeared. Anyways, like, after about. . . I don’t know this went on for, I don’t know, eight or nine months. They realized it was their secretary because these four managers had the same secretary. And that their secretary, who was so helpful, so professional, so nice, she was a kleptomaniac.
Oh my goodness!
And she’d taken these things because, of course, she obviously made a lower salary than all of these managers and it was like, well, you know, you say in Spanish, envidia, like just pure envy, and she she just, you know, couldn’t buy like these nice things and so she would just take them. Well they finally confronted her like they, they, well they set a trap. I think what they did was they left some money, like in a drawer. And she was called into the office. The manager left. And then, you know, she was the only person in the office, and when they opened the drawer the money was gone. So they realized it was her.
That’s awful.
That’s a shame.
And they confronted her and everything, and she finally admitted that she was a kleptomaniac and, that she, you know, was going to try to get some help.
Like Wynona Ryder.
Yeah, well that’s it, you know? I mean, somebody who you think you know who’s making so much money, so . . .
And, actually Steven made me think of, another story at work as well. About . . . well it was on a Friday afternoon or something. Of course, you know, everybody wants to leave early. Some guy comes in with a big suitcase and, which is sort of normal because the auditors when they’re, you know, during their period
when they’re doing a lot of auditing, they carry big suitcases around because they have lots of documents. Anyways, this guy comes in, you know, makes it look like he’s, like, part of the office, goes, gets a coffee, whatever. And all of a sudden, fifteen computers, fifteen laptops disappeared.
That’s incredible.
It’s true you’re not normally very vigilant in the workplace because you have this, you know . . . mutual trust with your colleagues that you think means you can leave things lying around but . . . gosh. Obviously it’s not the case.
Yeah, not necessarily.
It’s just, if you can’t trust you’re colleagues, then . . . it’s just because you are working all day usually, so . . .
Yeah, yeah. And it’s one extra thing to have to lock your drawer and keep everything safe.
Plus it isn’t a nice atmosphere.
No, it’s true.
You know? Like… nobody likes being stolen from, but . . . it’s not, it, I think it creates a really bad energy, if you like, when you end up with the attitude that you cannot leave anything anywhere and you cannot trust anyone. That’s . . .
Especially when you’re in the office, like, eight hours, ten hours a day with the same people. Like, you see in the, in the case of the other guy, the, the guy who, who, who looked like he was an employee but wasn’t. At least everybody thought, “oh, OK, well he wasn’t from the company.”
But it’s when it’s somebody from the office that you’re working with all day. You’d never think, you know, your secretary, who’s in and out of your office all the time, you’re telling her personal things about your life, and then this happens, you know?
You give all your trust to them and then, they just . . .
. . . feel very, very disappointed when something like that happens.
And then there are petty crimes, you know? Like just things like the typical… I must admit I’ve done that, you know, typical, you know, you say, “Oh I, I need some paper.”You know, you take some paper from the office and you bring it home to print some documents. Or pens or things like that. I mean, is that
considered a crime, you think?
Yeah, well, I think it would. You don’t pay for it, do you?
So, you shouldn’t take it home with you.
Technically . . .
Yeah, technically you should be using it only at the office.
Yeah, but I don’t think we can compare that to the other kind of crimes.
The kleptomania.
I mean, on the same right, though, I had a friend who worked in a restaurant in a hotel. We all lived together. I think one day we must have run out of toilet paper or something. Anyway, he stole one roll of toilet paper from the hotel toilet.
He got caught?!
Which coincided with the day they decided to search the lockers and he did get caught and they fired him for it. And he was like . . . he was quite high up in the kitchen, he was quite an important role, I believe. Well that seems sort of silly for a roll of toilet paper that costs like, I don’t know, not even one euro, you know?
I know, I know. It’s slightly extreme.
Well, but then they think, “well, if he’s taken that this time, what can he take next time?” You know? Like, this is the idea. I suppose, yeah.
But, I mean, it’s not fair also, also for the colleagues because, for example I had a friend that was working in a shop. And someone was stealing from there. And what they did, every day they were checking all the bags from everyone, and all the lockers also. And it’s like, “why do I have to pay for it?”, I mean, I don’t need to be checked off because someone’s stealing, . . . It’s unfair for other people as well.
It’s a bit of an invasion of privacy.

lunes, 9 de septiembre de 2013

JK Rowling pseudonym crime novel tops chart

This is a news item aired by the BBC in mid-July. It tells us about JK Rowling having secretly written a crime novel under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith. The Cuckoo's Calling topped the Amazon book chart after its author true identity was disclosed.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What is unusual about the surprises one can find in a book?
2  What has been 'wonderful' and 'pure pleasure' for J.K. Rowling?
3  What does '2001' refer to?
4  What parameters did the expert use to compare The Cuckoo’s Calling with J.K. Rowling’s last two books?
5 What do J.K. Rowling and  Val McDermid have in common?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

Readers often expect books to be filled with surprises. It’s unusual for one of them being who actually wrote it. The unknown author Robert Galbraith now turns out to be the incredibly well-known J.K. Rowling.
The year has been a frenzy whenever she’s published, something she’s avoided this time. She said in a statement: “It’s been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback from publishers and readers under a different name”.
In 2001, when she was halfway through writing the Potter series, I asked her about the possibility of publishing anonymously. 
“Do you think you’ll publish under and hide behind a pseudonym?” 
“I’ve said before only half talking that yeah, it’s very appealing. I think my chances of getting away with that are incredibly remote.”
Perhaps, inevitably, the media discovered her secret. A Sunday newspaper asked an expert to compare The Cuckoo’s Calling with J.K. Rowling’s last two books and books by other authors. “I was looking at word link, sentence link, paragraph link, punctuation, frequency of common words and, in all of these cases, The Cuckoo’s Calling came out significantly closer to J.K. Rowling’s known novels.”
Best-selling crime writer Val McDermid, who shares the same publisher, loved the book when it was first published. Her reaction, when she later found out its author: 
“I just burst out laughing, with delight really. I think that she’s taken us all in so comprehensibly.”
So while a few days ago Robert Galbraith was a little heard-of newcomer, now he’s one of the most talked writers around.

domingo, 8 de septiembre de 2013

Extensive listening: Two American families

This is a really interesting project from PBS. The TV network has followed two ordinary American families, one black, one white, for two decades. Reporter Bill Moyers leads us into this fascinating documentary which depicts middle-class America.

The programme is really lengthy, one hour twenty-three minutes, and the English is not easy for intermediate students, although they will be able to understand many parts. However, the CC subtitles help anyone who wants to understand it all.

Watch Two American Families on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

sábado, 7 de septiembre de 2013

Free rice: Vocabulary online game

Free Rice is an online vocabulary game where students have to find the right definition or synonym of the given word.

For each correct answer, the site donates 10 grains of rice through the World Food Programme to third-world countries.

This is the description Free Rice makes of their project: 

"Free Rice is a non-profit website that is owned by and supports the United Nations World Food Programme. Free Rice has two goals:
  • Provide education to everyone for free.
  • Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.
This is made possible by the generosity of the sponsors who advertise on this site."

There are sixty levels of difficulty and you can choose the subject to answer the questions about.