sábado, 30 de noviembre de 2013

Reading test: Ryanair stories

In today's reading activity we are going to do a multiple matching activity. We are going to read a number of comments by Ryanair users in which they express their opinions about the airline. You have to match the comments with the heading that best reflects each opinion. Each heading can only be used once, and there is one heading that you do not need to use. Comment 0 is an example.

Heading A: They draw the line of saving costs at the most important thing
Heading B: Depends on your personal situation
Heading C: Some strings attached  (=hidden demands)
Heading D: Felt like cattle
Heading E: Air travel is never easy
Heading F: Not good value for my money
Heading G: You get what you pay for
Heading H: Simply careless travellers
Heading I: Left to yourself
Comment 0 (example): Heading I
Flew with Ryanair to Bratislava two years ago for a week's walking holiday, bags lost for five out of seven days, ruined holiday, had to buy all new items, took me six months to get any money out of them and no apology - will not recommend them to anyone
Paul Chappell, Milton Keynes

Comment 1
I cannot understand the media's obsession with Ryanair, no one is forced to fly with them. There are plenty of alternative (and more expensive airlines) to choose from. It does exactly what it says on the tin, it is a low fares airline.
Sean Murphy, Holywood, Northern Ireland 

Comment 2
Mr White missed a few of the airline's more insidious tricks, which those of us who use it frequently know about, such as its new bag weigh-ins at the boarding gate, after they've bought duty free (which in many cases will have taken them over the 10kg baggage allowance). Ryanair introduced this last-minute shake-down this summer, weighing bags before boarding and forcing people to pay £40 penalty to check their bags into the hold if duty free had taken them over the allowance. And in the event of double bookings, they wait until an hour or two before check-in for the flight closes to send an e-mail alerting the customer to that fact - by which time it is too late to do anything about it or claim a refund. I have reported Ryanair to Trading Standards for this and was told that it is illegal as they have a duty to provide services with due care and attention.
Kate, France 

Comment 3
While I admire Michael O'Leary and detest (some of) his attitude equally, the thing that re-assures me about Ryanair is O'Leary's admission that the only thing that keeps him awake at night is safety. It has also been stated that it is the only area where he refuses to cut costs. I hope this is true.
Bradley Hardacre, Dublin, Ireland 

Comment 4
Well I'm definitely in the 'I hate Ryanair' camp. And the idea that they're cheap just doesn't add up. If like me you book a business flight with maybe 3 days notice then they're often one of the more expensive by the time you add all their hidden charges. Given the choice I'd rather fly say British Airways, and pay the extra £20 or so and have a nice comfortable flight with a coffee and a seat I can actually fit in (I'm 6'4") rather than the 'Sit down and SHUT UP' attitude I often suffered with Ryanair.
Phil Mudge, Cambridge

Comment 5
I used to prefer Ryanair to Easyjet but now they charge you for every little thing I've given up on them, it’s all very well for single people who can fit 2 weeks worth of clothes into a small bag but for someone with a toddler the fees rack up mighty quick until British airways becomes the cheaper option!
Katharine, Leicester

Comment 6
I have flown with Ryanair for the last five years regularly, at least four-six flights a year and never had any problems. No lost baggage, no "hidden" costs, no nothing. And always well below £30 return flights. The hidden costs only appear to people who can't actually read. I work as a receptionist and I know how some people complain about things as "hidden" and "never mentioned" that were clearly stated in the booking. If one reads every word through booking, then he or she will find out about every charge, and if someone packs for a two-week holiday clothes that would be enough for a year-long trip, then they should be prepared to pay extra. I personally only fly with hand luggage so I won't need to queue to check in or pay extra for anything. So if you wanna fly cheap, be prepared to make sacrifices.
Janos Gal, Edinburgh

Comment 7 
This September my family and I happened to fly internally in Italy on another cheap airline. We got: numbered seats, free coffee, free biscuits and preferential treatment because we are a young family. Unlike Rynair, no pushing and crowding to get on the bus, no rude people attempting to get in front of you, all generally very pleasant. The time of the flight was also more convenient; we left Milan Linate at midday. The equivalent Ryanair flight would have meant getting up at four in the morning. Suffice to say, we will not be hurrying to fly with Mr O'Leary's company in the near future.
Liam Bass, Brescia, Italy

Source. A love/hate affair with Ryanair, BBC Magazine

Photo: The Times
1G 2C 3A 4F 5B 6H 7D

viernes, 29 de noviembre de 2013

Sharing economy: New app to share your food leftovers

To some extent, this activity is the other side of yesterday's. In Managing food shopping can help cash-strapped families we were give advice on how to save on our shopping list. Today we are going to find out about a new app which is aiming to help people in New York make better use of the world's resources by letting users pass on their uneaten food.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

There’s some delivery for you.
Thank you!
It’s dinner time, and after a long day at work it’s convenient to get your meal (1) ... to you to your home. But as a newcomer to the city I forgot how massive the (2) ... is. Check out this pizza. It’s enormous.
So I’ve managed to eat three (3) ... but I’m totally full now, so what should I do with this (4) ... pizza? Well, there’s an app for this. It’s called ‘Leftover swap’. So you just simply take a picture of your food and upload it, and hopefully, someone nearby will want my (5) ... pizza.
But who will be willing to eat (6) ... food from strangers?
It’s not for everyone. More people might be comfortable with (7) ...   ... food. One, one of the populations that we expect will love it is the (8) ..., (9) ...   ... .
Americans waste more than forty percent of the food they produce, so if it works, it’s a (10) ... idea. The app will be officially (11) ... later this month.
As for my pizza, Samantha, a friend of Dan, has come to pick it up. It may be a small contribution, but at least it didn’t go to (12) ... .
Mariko Oi, BBC News, New York

1 delivered  2  portion 3  slices 4  leftover 5  leftover 6 leftover 7 giving away  8 college 9  college crowd 10 noble 11 launched 12 waste

jueves, 28 de noviembre de 2013

Managing food shopping can help cash-strapped families

Many families have found their budgets under pressure as the climate of economic crisis goes on and on. In the UK food prices have risen 12% in real terms over the past five years and last year the average household weekly spend on food was £54.80.

So how can households lacking money save on essential groceries at the supermarket?

In this short BBC clip, from the Inside Out series, we meet Tina Jefferies, a single mother of seven children from Telford, who has mastered the art of shopping for less by careful management of what she spends on family meals. She challenges Claire Bache from Birmingham, another single mother of seven, to reduce her weekly food expenditure and produce a very cheap meal.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Claire spends more than 200 pound on food every week.
2 Tina challanges Claire to get a meal for the whole family for 5 pound.
3 Tina and Claire walk to the second supermarket.
4 Tina advises viewers to cook the food before freezing it.
5 There is no problem in filling cupboards with food you don't need.
6 Supermarket staff are helpful in telling you what you can find in their store.
7 Claire thinks she will manage to cook her meal with that money because she has some ingredients at home.
8 The new products in the freezer should be put on top.

It’s shopping day for Claire, and Tina has arrived to talk about what she found.
Hi, I’m Tina.
I’ve come to see if I can help you.
Ok, come on in.
What exactly was your weekly budget again?
About 150 to 200 pound a week.
Right. And on your menus do you have a set menu plan with a fixed price per head?
Oh, it’s fixed menu plan but not the price.
There is only one way to test Claire’s resolve, by setting her a challenge to shop for tonight’s dinner, Tina-style.
I would like to set you a challenge. I would like to take you to a supermarket. I’m going to give you a five-pound note and I want to see if you can get a meal for the whole family for a fiver. Do you think you can do it?
That’d be hard!
Well, hopefully with some of my tips you’ll get there.
Ok, guys, come on!
The ladies head straight to the reduced section to see what’s available in this store.
We’ve got some ham here. These aren’t necessarily of the best tip time of the day for the reductions.
There’s not many there, so they probably would’ve been  gone by then
It looks like their pickings are a bit slim in this supermarket, but that doesn’t faze Tina, who simply heads to another store.
It doesn’t seem as if we’re gonna get anything here tonight. How far is our next supermarket?
It’s about two miles from here.
Ok, let’s hope in the car and go and see what we can get.
So it’s off to the next supermarket. It may be more legwork than Claire is used to, but with only five pounds in a family of seven to feed she needs the best deals.
Right, let’s go and see what we can find.
So while they are busy shopping for reductions, we’ll recap Tina’s top tips to reducing your grocery bills.
When living on a budget your freezer is your best friend. If you can buy reduced items, especially your meat, poultry, fish, any of those, you can freeze them on the day and they will remain fresh. If you’ve got something and you’re not sure whether it can be frozen, cook it, make it into a meal, and then freeze it, because if you’ve got a full freezer, you’ll never be without a meal.
When looking at your dried goods and tinned foods, the best time to get them is when they are on special offers or multi-buys. Stock up, fill your shelves. They are a great additive to any meal, and they’ll certainly fill up those teenagers, they won’t go hungry.
If you’re all new to this and you’re starting up looking for the reduced stuff, the easiest way to do it in any supermarket is to go and ask. Don’t be embarrassed. They will take you to where it is or they will tell you where it is.
Tina and Claire have reemerged from the shop, but have they managed to find a meal for their five pounds budget?
I’ve got two packs of veal mince  and I’ve also got a packet of potatoes all of which should’ve been five pound and I’ve also saved a further pound at the till. I’m gonna make a moussaka with aubergine and layered potatoes and a mince all in one because I’ve got 50% of ingredients at home I can, I can do it for that price basically.
She needs then now sort her freezer out, get everything in order and start using old stock first, and then replenish it with good quality, good value reductions.

1F 2T 3F 4F (only food you're not sure it can be frozen) 5T 6T 7T 8F

miércoles, 27 de noviembre de 2013

Talking point: Liars

The topic is this week's talking point is liars.  Before getting together with the members of you conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow more easily when you meet your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

What’s the connection between Pinocchio and a polygraph?
Why do people lie?
What do people usually lie about?
Are all lies bad or can you tell a good lie?
Is it OK to tell white lies?
How many lies do people tell in a day?
Do you know anyone who never lies?
Do some professions lend themselves more to telling lies?
In what situations do people tend to lie? (vg., the CV, teenagers lying about their age)
Have you ever told a lie that caused a problem for you?

Quotes. Discuss these remarks.
-    When someone starts by saying ‘To be honest…’, you can be certain they will lie to you.
-    The mouth may lie, but the face tells the truth.
-    Liars need to have good memories.
-    Lies have very short legs.

Work out the contexts for these lies. Where are the people? Who is speaking to whom?
'I can stop smoking whenever I want to.'
'Thank you. That’s just what I wanted.'
'He’s only a friend.'
'I wasn’t sacked. I resigned.'

What films or TV series do you remember where the main character is a liar?
What do you know about the TV series Mad Men and its main character, Don Draper?
Have you ever watched it?
Why is it so successful?
What topics does the series touch on?
Why would Don Draper come up in a lesson on lies?

If you have never heard of Don Draper, here it is a video which shows three key scenes in the first season.

scene 1
Advertising is based on one thing, happiness. And you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance that whatever you are doing is okay. You are okay.
It’s toasted. I get it.

scene 2
But there is a rare occasion when the public can be engaged on a level beyond flash – if they have a sentimental bond with the product. My first job I was in house at a fur company, with this old pro of a copywriter, a Greek, named Teddy. Teddy told me the most important idea in advertising is “new.” It creates an itch. You simply put your product in there as a kind of calamine lotion. He also talked about a deeper bond with a product: nostalgia. It’s delicate, but potent. Sweetheart. Teddy told me that in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It’s a twinge in your heart, far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship, it’s a time machine. It goes backwards, forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called a wheel, it’s called a carousel. It lets us travel the way a child travels. Round and around, and back home again. To a place where we know we are loved

scene 3
Client: Is that all?
Don: You're a nonbeliever. Why should we waste time on kabuki?
Client: I don't know what that means.
Don: It means that you've already tried your plan, and you're number four. You've enlisted my expertise and you've rejected it to go on the way you've been going. I'm not interested in that. You can understand.
Client:I don't think your three months or however many thousands of dollars entitles you to refocus the core of our business...
Don: Listen. I'm not here to tell you about Jesus. You already know about Jesus. He either lives in your heart or He doesn't. Every woman wants choices. But in the end, none wants to be one of a hundred in a box. She's unique. She makes the choices and she's chosen him. She wants to tell the world, he's mine. He belongs to me, not you. She marks her man with her lips. He is her possession. You've given every girl that wears your lipstick the gift of total ownership.
Client: Sit down.
Don: No. Not until I know I'm not wasting my time.
Client: Sit down.

martes, 26 de noviembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher: Present perfect to talk about experience

This week's Madrid Teacher entry deals with the use of the present perfect simple to talk about personal experience.

We use the present perfect simple this way when talking about our experience up to now in life:
I have visited Rio,  but I have never been to Buenos Aires.

We use indefinite time adverbs like ever, before, never.
I'm sure we've met before.

The standard question in this use of the present perfect is Have you ever + past participle?
Have you ever cooked a meal for more than ten people?
If we want to talk about specific details about the experience, we usually change to the past simple and use adverbs of finished time (yesterday, last month, three years ago). 
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Yes, I have. I saw one at my granny's house twenty years ago

Watch the first video below and try to understand the conversation. Pay attention to the Have you ever...? questions. Also pay attention to the way the two Madrid Teachers sometimes change to the past simple to discuss detail of the experience they are talking about.

Remember the short answer:
Have you ever seen a ghost? 
Yes, I have.
No, I haven't. 

The second video is a follow-up of the first one. But the conversation is a bit harder to understand for elementary students. However, it is interesting to watch because it very well exemplifies the change from present perfect simple to ask about experience to the past simple/past continuous to give details of that experience.

Video 1
Have you ever ridden an unusual animal?
Yes I have. I’ve ridden an elephant. Have you?
No, I have not.
Have you ever tried any extreme sports?
Yes, I have. I’ve jumped out of an airplane.
Ah, skydiving.
Yes! I’ve also been skydiving.
Ah, isn’t it fun?
It is!
Have you ever fired a gun?
Ah, yes I have.
What did you shoot at?
It was just shooting at a target.
Have you?
Yes, I have, also at a target.
And have you ever hitch-hiked?
Yes, I have, once in Boston.
Have you?
No, I’ve never done that.
Have you ever given a speech to more than ten people?
Yes, I have, to a room full of people when I was at school.
Have you?
Yes, I have. A few times at school.
And have you ever sung in a karaoke bar?
Yes, I have. I love karaoke. I have sung in several.
Really? And what do you like to sing?
All songs mostly. Have you?
No, I’m too afraid. I’ve never sung in a karaoke bar.
And have you ever worn a silly hat in public?
Yes, I have for certain holidays or festivals. Have you?
Well, not since I became an adult. When I was a small child, yes, but… I’m too grown-up now.
Ok. And have you ever fallen down in public?
I’m sure I have. Have you?
Of course.
I think everybody does.

Video 2
So have you ever slept in a tent?
Yes, I have, when I was camping.
Ah, ok. Where were you camping?
I was camping in Connecticut where my parents lived.
Ok. Was it a big tent?
No, not big enough.
How many of you were camping?
Well, I think there were four of us.
But it was good fun.
Have you ever seen a shark?
I have.
Fortunately only in the aquarium, because I think I would die of fear if I really saw one…
… when I am swimming at the beach.
Yes, of course.
Have you?
No, I can’t say that I have.
They are very scary-looking creatures.
I believe it.
They really are.
I love to watch television programmes about them.
And have you ever played a joke on someone?
Yes, I have. Once I went to visit a friend’s university and while he was out of his room I put the fish tank on top of his bed, an empty one but a large one, and then filled it to the top with water, so that removing that tank and all of its contents would be something he would have to come home to.
That’s very, very cruel, especially if he came home very tired.
Well, we were very good friends.
Have you ever fallen asleep when someone is talking to you?
I don’t think so. That would be a bit rude. I know that I often fall asleep in front of the television, though.

It’s a… it’s too easy sometimes. The sofa is very comfortable.
Of course.
Have you?
Actually I have. I was talking to a friend very late at night and we’d had a bit of wine and in the morning she told me that I’d stopped listening.
You just drifted off. She wasn’t too offended, I hope.
No, also good friends.

lunes, 25 de noviembre de 2013

City Halls Invisible Library

The storerooms below New York City's municipal library keep millions of objects, papers, documents and photographs, some of which were unearthed  for an exhibition on late Mayor Ed Koch.

Self-study activity:
Watch this short New York Times video and answer the questions below.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What date does the woman with glasses say at the beginning?
2 What is the job description of the people working in the archives?
3 How long did Ed Koch stay in office?
4 When did he die?
5 How old is the building where the library is?
6 Why can't we see a library sign on the walls of the City Hall?
7 What does 'first time' refer to when Ed Koch's niece comments on the exhibition?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

Ok, guys. Are you ready for this?
Guess what we found?
Muhammad Ali.
It’s a good find for this municipal curator and her colleagues in the cavernous underground storage rooms in the new City Hall.
July 1st 1981. Do you have anything else?
At the end of these aisles we have all kinds of maps, and blueprints and I’m sure you can image that in a city as large as New York there are a lot of them.
As employees of the City’s department of records they have spent weeks searching through the millions of papers, photographs and objects here to find material for an exhibition on Ed Koch, the charismatic three-term former mayor of New York who died in February. Some of these objects don’t see the light of day for years, and there are surprises down these endless corridors.
This is great. These are priceless.
We knew it was here, we just had to pull it out, but we didn’t know it was signed.
So the average working year how much would be down in places like this?
I wish it was a hundred per cent.
Lashaun and I have been down here for a week together.  We jammed out to some nineties tunes in slow times.
But at least the exhibition’s name was easy, Ed Koch’s own catchphrase. All this takes place out of the public eye, inside a century-old building right in the heart of Lower Manhattan, but off the library, the municipal archives, and the shiny new visitor center not a sign outside. Not one.
We don’t have a sign on the building because unfortunately it’s a landmarks building. It’s a little bit of a historical quirk but it does present an obstacle for us. Because the average person walking by or a lot of the tourists that are down in this area don’t know that we are hidden inside this building.
Casual visitor Ken Brown had no idea there was a library here.
So I was intrigued by the building and then I noticed this clipping here on Muhammad Ali. It brought back memories and then the gentleman came by told me there is a library. I open this door and to my amazement find one of the most surprising events in Manhattan, right before my very eyes.
In the vault beneath his feet, record staff are putting the final touches to the Koch exhibition. Opening night arrives. … lobby is transformed.
Among the guests is Ed Koch’s niece.
First time since he died I really looked at all this sort of stuff and it’s really a wonderful exhibit. It makes me sad, you know, I wish he were here.
We got a lot of very positive feedback.
And now it’s on to the next one.

domingo, 24 de noviembre de 2013

Extensive listening: Modern-day Robin Hood

In May this year CBS's 60 Minutes aired the segment Modern-day Robin Hood, featuring billionaire Paul Tudor Jones and his Robin Hood Foundation.

This is the beginning of the interview to Paul Tudor Jones in the programme.

"Ask Wall Street bankers the net worth of Paul Tudor Jones, and they'll tell you, $3.6 billion. He's one of those hedge fund managers. But ask a homeless child or a struggling family and they'll tell you that a spreadsheet is no way to measure a man.

Paul Tudor Jones wonders that if billionaires, like him, are such geniuses, then why do nearly two million people live in poverty in New York City alone? In 1988, he started a charity called the Robin Hood Foundation. Twenty five years later, Robin Hood has given away more than one and a quarter billion dollars. As we first showed you in April, it's become the city's largest private backer of charter schools, job training and food programs. Tudor Jones has learned hard lessons -- for a latter day Robin Hood, it turns out giving to the poor is harder than he thought. And as for taking from the rich? Well, he finds it's best to distract them."

Watch the thirteen-minute report now. Remember that if you want to fully understand everything that is being said you can activate the CC subtitles on the lower side of the video player or read the transcript here.

sábado, 23 de noviembre de 2013

Online OXFORD Collocation Dictionary

Learning to use collocations correctly is a key aspect of the language learning process from the very beginning, but especially so from the intermediate level upwards.

Collocations are the key to fluent English. Learning words on their own may help us to communicate, but we must try and learn how words combine with other words so that our English sounds natural.

The Online OXFORD Collocation Dictionary can be a more than effective tool for those students who take this aspect of their English learning in earnest.

The Online OXFORD Collocation Dictionary gives us guidance on common word combinations (150,000 collocations for 9,000 headwords), offering more than 50,000 examples to show us how the collocations are used in context.

viernes, 22 de noviembre de 2013

Oman invests millions in the tourism industry

Would you fancy a holiday in Oman? You might, after watching this BBC video that tells us all about how the country is trying to boost the tourism industry.

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

The  activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What does 'one million a year' refer to?
2 What will be completed by 2014?
3 What does 'five million' refer to?
4 What's the main problem for tourism in Oman and its capital Muscat at the moment?
5 What does '30%' refer to?
6 What's the main advantage of attracting tourists in the luxury top market?
7 What type of tourism does neighbouring Dubai appeal to?
8 What is the main asset of Oman for tourism?
9 What might the real difficulties be for the Omani tourist industry plans?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

Oman in the 1970’s. After years of isolation, ruler Sultan Qaboos slowly opens up the country to foreign visitors. There are few hotels. Visas are hard to come by. Tourism, an unfamiliar concept. But wind the clock forward forty years and the modern image Oman would prefer to project. Everywhere you look, huge investment in infrastructure and leisure facilities, part of the big push by the Omani government to increase the number of visitors to more than one million a year.
And at the center of the plan this, the new terminal at Muscat International Airport, due to be completed by 2014, music to the ears of Oman Air’s chief executive Wayne Pierce.
The capacity goes up to 12 million people in that one building alone. Besides the terminal, there is a second runway that’s going to open and that gives us greater durability and ease of landing and take-off. So I’ve been focused and it’s evident throughout advertising our regional branding is to attract tourism to Oman and facilitate people travelling in and out of the country. So far 5 million this year we are aiming to maintain a growth rate of 10% plus.
But here’s the crunch. Oman, and in particular its capital Muscat, has had a reputation for limited and overpriced hotel offering, who with new developments like the Kempinski and the Sundus  Rotana soon to open, it's estimated the number of rooms in the Muscat area will double to nearly 8,000 in the next seven years. Developers are clearly optimistic.
The return we envisage is not less than 16, 17% on investment. In the last two years I’ve… there’ve an increase of something like 30% of tourists into Oman, because people are getting to know more and more of the sultanate. Europe, Europeans are more than 30% of the tourists that come to Oman and they are increasing.
But does a tourism-heavy strategy leave the country exposed to the twists and turns of the world economy? Not so, according to the manager of the high-end Chevy Hotel.
You always have people or… clients who have the money to travel. It doesn’t really matter if there is a recession or not and I think if you are in the luxury top market… level, then you get less affected than if you look for more say two- three star tourism. The market is so small at the moment that there is still space for improvement. We’re not gambling into a stage where it’s going to be an oversupply of hotel rooms. That will take another 10, 15 years.
But what about the demands? Will then holiday-makers choose Oman when neighbouring Dubai is already attracting 12 million visitors a year with a family-friendly offering?
Oman has quite a special asset in terms of its delayed development behind Dubai, and certainly noting and learning from the lessons that should be, that have been learnt in the Dubai markets. I think the wider geography of Oman is a real asset to the tourism opportunity and I think there is a real attraction towards niche tourism coming into the market, which is a discerning tourist, which can also complement what is going on four or five hours away across the border in Dubai.
So Oman must play to its strengths, but with an unstable security situation in neighbouring Yemen and ongoing political unrest in Egypt, realizing a successful economy based on tourism may well hinge on external factors despite the best laid plans.

jueves, 21 de noviembre de 2013

Emma Watson for Time 10 Questions with

Emma Watson was interviewed for Time 10 questions with... just after the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1.

The interview is more suitable for advanced students of English, but I think intermediate students can have a go at it and will be able to understand most parts of the interview.

Self-study activity:
Watch the five-minute interview through and note down the questions the Emma is asked. Beware! You will have to minimise or scroll down the screen, as the questions are shown on-screen.

Now watch the interview again. What's Emma's answer to each question?

You can read a full transcript below.

I’m Rebecca Jones from Time and we are here with Emma Watson, who’s starring in the new movie Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1. Thanks so much for being here, Emma.
Thank you for having me.
So I think we had a record number of questions for you, 1600…
Oh my goodness!
…so we’d better get started…
That’s amazing!
We’ve narrowed them down. I ‘m gonna start with a very girlie question for you. You look amazing with the new do! What made you cut it?
I think I just needed a change, you know, I had my hair long for ten years when I was playing Hermione and then when I finished filming I just… I needed to… I just needed to do something different.

How would you describe yourself before Harry Potter and after Harry Potter? Obviously you’ve grown…
That's a huge question because before I did Harry Potter I was ten years old, and now I'm 20 years old, so obviously, you know, all the changes that go hand in hand with umm, you know, growing up, physical changes, emotional changes, umm but in terms of how Harry Potter's affected my life I've learned how to be an actress, you know, I would say I was so young that when I first started out the director would literally have to direct me as the camera was rolling, you know, and really steer me in a big way, and now I can make my own choices and I have my own instincts about it and I know how a film set runs and works and just how a movie is made, so I think that's pretty huge.

That said, Mairead Horton from Cary, North Carolina wonders, would you consider a profession outside of acting?
I think... I want... the difficulty with me is I’m interested in so many different things. I can never really imagine myself doing one thing, and I'm pretty sure though I'll end up doing four or five different things. I wanna be a Renaissance woman, that's my thing. I wanna paint, and I wanna write, and I wanna act, and I wanna just do everything.

Why did you choose to attend Brown?

Em… because I love...  its kind of liberal approach to an education and I love the sense of community that there is there and the anonymity that I have over in the States. I just think it has just such a great atmosphere, I don't know, I just really love it and it feels like home now.
You’re in your sophomore year? That’s great.

A question from Tory Dailey in Jacksonville Florida. What was the last day of filming like?
It was really emotional, it felt very surreal, it almost felt like an out-of-body experience because… I felt like it's been coming for such a long time and I felt like I’d spoken about it so much and thought about it so much when it actually arrived it just didn't feel real, it was really hard to process, so… it was weird.

How much time elapsed between that day and the day you cut your hair?
I think I left like two or three weeks. I needed like enough time to kind of find my feet and then I was like, right, now I'm ready, it's time.  And you really have to be in a good frame of mind to do something so drastic to your appearance, you know, and I needed to be in a really good place, and when I was feeling very confident I was like, I’m gonna do it, I’m going to cut it all off.

If you could run away from all the bother of being a celebrity for one day, where would you go and what would you do?
I guess just like go and stand in the middle of a mosh pit in a rock concert because I usually can't get away with that because people tend to recognize me and then things get a little crazy. So, you know, just like being in the middle of a big crowd, yes, and just be anonymous.
Although it just sounds to me like that’s happening a little bit in college.
It is actually, college... Brown is being amazing and I really get left alone there so I’m very grateful.
Have you had a choice of major yet?
Yes, I'm major in history.
Oh, that’s great.
Yeah I'm really excited.

One more from Erica Bode from Arlington Texas. You had doubts about continuing to play Hermione after the fifth movie was finished. How do you feel your life would have been altered if you had not decided to return for the last three films?
I think I probably would have been public enemy number one. I would not have been very popular. I think I would've… I think I would find it very difficult watching the movies being made without me being part of them ‘cause I grew up making them, felt like part of, being part that film franchise feels like part of my identity  in a way. Things would’ve been a little easier for me to get a lot more of sleep and things would’ve been maybe less hectic but I definitely made the right decision.

Is there a role you would really like to play?
Tons. Which one to choose? I would love to play, Juliette in Romeo and Juliette.
Oh, I hope casting directors are watching this.
Me, too.
So nice to have you here.
Thank you so much.
Very nice to meet you.

miércoles, 20 de noviembre de 2013

Talking point: Being the first

The umbrella topic for this week's talking point is being the first, and it revolves around the unit Firsts from Inside Out Advanced, Macmillan.

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

What's the idea underlying these two quotations?
  • Winning isn't everything, it's the taking part.
  • Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.
Which quotation do you identify with?
What famous pioneers or famous 'firsts' in history can you think of?
For example, Christopher Columbus was the first person to set foot on America, or Reinhold Messner was the first climber to reach the summit of the Everest without oxygen.

What about your country?
How did their feats change the world?
What do you think motivates pioneers when they try to achieve these feats?
What made these people different from their contemporaries?
Have you ever attempted to do something risky?
Have you ever been  the first to achieve something?
Have you ever won the first prize in something?
Do you remember any occasions when you did something for the first time?
What qualities do you have that are specially useful where you work/study, or in a team or club?
Have you ever held a special responsibility that made you feel important in a group or organisation?
To illustrate the topic, you can watch this short CNN video where Michelle Obama explains what being the First Lady involves.

You can read a full transcript for the CNN video clip here.

martes, 19 de noviembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher: Pub closures

This week's Madrid Teacher entry is intended for intermediate students. It is a bit dated, from when new smoking regulations in pubs and restaurants had been passed in the UK but not in Spain. Anyway, the video is another great opportunity to listen to authentic snippets of conversation between native speakers of English and see the way they interact.

Watch the video through and enjoy these nice bubbly Madrid Teachers discussing pubs both in Spain and in their home country. What different pub-related topics do they mention?

Let's pay attention to some of the expressions for agreement that we can hear on the video:
Yes, sure.
That's right.
Absolutely, yeah.
It certainly is, yeah.
They are, yeah.
A lot, yeah.

At the beginning of the clip the boy gives us an example of how we can give emphasis by using the auxiliary verb. We usually do so when we wish to show listeners that we feel strongly about what we are saying:
I do enjoy the occasional country walk to a pub.

There are no other examples of this kind of emphasis in the video clip, but here are some other examples:
You do look good today!
I did play a lot of football when I was at school.
You have grown.
You must believe me.

In the sentences with no auxiliary verb, we add do/does/did. We stress the auxiliary verb to make the whole sentence sound more emphatic.

Now it's over to you. Discuss your pub-related habits using some of the topics mentioned on the video or some others you can  think about. In your conversation, try and use some of the expressions for agreement you could hear on the video and use auxiliary verbs to emphasize some information.

I’ve heard recently that there are lots of closures to pubs in England, or there have been over the past year. And I’m a little bit worried because I do enjoy the occasional country walk to a pub, find somewhere unusual in the countryside and have a strange pint.
That’s a part of the culture of England.
Have you visited a country pub in England?
Yes, sure, and what I love about them is now, ‘cause, smoking is banned there isn’t it? So, . . .
That’s right.
. . . to me, well, it’s perfect. Just compared to Spain, where you go to pubs and it’s, there’s smoke everywhere. It’s not nice.
And unhealthy, yeah. What about the, the drinks? Do you enjoy a pint of beer? Do you enjoy that?
I’m a wine drinker.
You can have a glass of wine in a pub, as well.
Absolutely, yeah. But the wine in the UK isn’t really as good as the wine in Spain. And it’s very overpriced comparatively. Yeah..
It certainly is, yeah. Yeah, it’s become more and more popular, hasn’t it, to have a glass of wine at the pub, as opposed to a proper pint of beer.
Yeah. Well they’re heavy, you know?
Yeah, heavy. They’re large, they’re filling. But now they’re cheaper than a glass of wine as well, which is an advantage.
They are, yeah.
What about the, the rules of engagement when you go to a pub in the UK?
What is that?
What are the rules when you approach the, the bar, what do you do? What do you do when you get there?
Elbow your way to the front. Stand on your tip toes.
Biggest, broadest smile, off you go.
And get a beer as soon as you can.
In Spain, for example, do you have rounds?
Yeah, sure we do. I think it’s more common in England, isn’t it? But yeah, we, and you go with your friends, and you go to the bar, and you ask a round for everyone, and then the next person, and, and you can keep all night long.
Absolutely. What about in Canada?
Not many pubs, not, at least not in Quebec. I think in, maybe in Ontario they have more pubs but, there’s not really a pub culture. People aren’t known . . . and in Quebec, in the summer especially, people, people like terraces, you know? They take, try to take advantage of the little, the few months of, you know, nice weather and, you know, sit on the terrace. Rather than being closed in a pub, you know?
So there’s not much of a pub culture, to tell you the truth.
Well, yeah. I’d, I’d hate to think that it was dying out in England but it appears to be. And, Scotland as well?
Well . . .
I think, in Glasgow, there are more than . . . eight hundred bars and pubs, so . . .
Glasgow’s quite a small city. And I have heard that there have been a lot of closures . . . Something like, in the UK fifty-two bars are closing a month or a week or something?
A lot, yeah. It’s worrying.
A lot. But I can’t see the culture ever dying out.
I suppose the strong ones will survive.
And we’ll keep visiting them.
Oh absolutely. There you go. We have the attitude.

lunes, 18 de noviembre de 2013

Supermodel at 85

Former Vogue model Daphne Selfe has been modelling for longer that she can remember, although at 85 she is busier than ever.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Younger models help Daphne.
2 Daphne is shorter than the conventional model.
3 Daphne has always been a fashion model.
4 Today's women are under a lot of pressure to look beautiful.
5 Today's fashion is helping young people to make them feel good with themselves.
6 Daphne likes grey a lot.
7 Daphne's mum was 95 when she died.

At 85 model Daphne Selfe is landing major contracts. In fact, she’s busier now than she was in her 20’s.
Going modelling now it’s wonderful because I meet lots of other young people and I can get tips of them on how they sort of get around and I travel a lot and see lots of different places and things. How else could you do that? This girl here was so gorgeous but see how outdoorsy she is compared to me.
Yeah, because you are not exactly model tall, really?
Five seven and a half when I was young, now I reckon I’ve lost two inches at least… as you’ll do. Wait for it, yeah.
Oh, thanks, but getting old is a bit depressing though, isn’t it? I mean, you know, you look back on your youth and what you had…
…and if you’re restoring houses or something, you always try to make it look better…
…but with your body you can kind of slowly see it get older. 
Oh, yes, I don’t do nude anymore. I used to be an artist model but I don’t think anyone wanting me to do that anymore. That was around, you know, no underwear…
Ah… looking good.
…but that was the first thing that got me in… I started in Vogue. No, never done it since, so start at the top, you know.
Absolutely. It looks like you’ve got buns of steel there, it is amazing at seventy. Pretty good time.
That was seventy, yes. I mean…
But there’s so much pressure, isn’t it, to look good… all of the time and…
Yes, there is.
Do you feel sorry for the younger generations?
Well, that’s the thing, yes. I don’t think fashion is helping them at the moment, I don’t really appreciate what people are doing themselves at the moment. The fashion is not pretty or doing people any favours.
Not particularly flattering.
I think they did give me that dress, after I got that.
That’s a gorgeous dress, isn’t it?
It’s not my colour, it’s a bit grey, but, however, they did.
You look great in anything.
And now I’m disgusting.
Yeah, you’re disgusting, it’s just so not fair! Can you see that there’ll be an end?
Oh, yes. I mean, I must come to an end soon, shortly. As for shortly, my mother lived to ninety-five, so I’ve got hopes of keeping on a bit longer, whether I should be able to work or not, you just don’t know. Make every day count because you never know, you never know.

1T 2T 3F 4T 5F 6F 7T 

domingo, 17 de noviembre de 2013

Extensive listening: Dogs decoded

Dogs Decoded is a 2010 Nova documentary aired this summer again. Dogs Decoded examines the special relationship that exists between human beings and dogs.

The film reveals the science behind the remarkable bond between humans and their dogs and investigates new discoveries in genetics that are illuminating the origin of dogs – with surprising implications for the evolution of human culture.

Other research is proving what dog lovers have suspected all along: Dogs have an uncanny ability to read and respond to human emotions. Humans, in turn, respond to dogs with the same hormone responsible for bonding mothers to their babies.

How was this incredible relationship between humans and dogs originated? And how can dogs, so closely related to wild wolves, behave so differently?

You can read the transcript of the film on the Nova website here.

sábado, 16 de noviembre de 2013

Reading test: Coffee and pregnancy

Today's reading is taken from BBC's Magazine. The full title is Coffee, wine, cheese: How much can pregnant women have?, and has to do with the changes in diet women have to go through when pregnant.

Before reading the article and having a go at the multiple choice reading comprehension below, discuss the changes pregnant women have to go through in their lifestyle, food-wise and with all other aspects of their routine.

Read the article now and check whether your guesses about changes in diet were right.

Read the article again and choose the option a, b or c which best completes the sentence or answers the question. Only one answer is correct.

1 Emily Oster set out to find out
a how many coffees a day she could have when pregnant.
b how safe it was for pregnant women to drink coffee.
c why her doctor disagreed with the literature on this issue.

2 Oster felt
a guilty because she was having more coffee than she should.
b terrible during her pregnancy.
c unwell during the early stages of her pregnancy.

3 Which sentence is true, according to the text?
a Randomizing women for these studies is not a good idea, because women differ in many ways.
b Readers of Expecting Better can find clear-cut conclusions on how to proceed with coffee.
c Sick women when pregnant usually drink less coffee.

4 How much alcohol can a pregnant woman drink?
a Heavy excessive drinking is dangerous for everybody.
b It’s better to abstain altogether, according to some studies.
c Regularly after the first weeks if you don’t overdo it.

5 According to the UK's National Health Service,
a mental or physical disability can result in any levels of alcohol intake.
b the lower alcohol the mother drinks the lower the damage for the foetus.
c you’d better do without any alcohol at all.

6 Oster
a could safely eat most items on the list of restricted foods.
b didn’t want to tell friends and relatives she was pregnant.
c read the list of forbidden foods openly.

7 For Oster
a doctors are often reluctant to explain things to women.
b in practice most pregnant women have to make important decisions on their own.
c  women have to show some initiative before talking to their doctor.

The article Coffee, wine, cheese: How much can pregnant women have? gives us a good opportunity to discuss our diet and how beneficial or harmful some foods can be.

Are you a healthy eater?
Do you ever buy ready-made foods?
Are you addicted to any food?
What food is beneficial/harmful when having specific health issues?  For example, if you're constipated you'd better skip bananas, bread, cheese.

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

viernes, 15 de noviembre de 2013

'Monkey Christ' fresco boosts tourism

A Spanish fresco became famous around the world in summer last year after its poor restoration by an elderly local. Ecce Homo earned the nickname 'Monkey Christ' after Cecilia Gimenez attempted to restore it. The story goes on one year later.

Self-study activity:

Watch this short BBC video and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

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

An (1) .... mistake. This 19th century fresco depicting Jesus Christ adorned the walls of a church in a small Spanish town for almost a century. But then, parishioner Cecilia Jiménez decided to get her (2) ... out. Her attempt to a restoration was so bad, it stunned Spanish culture officials, made (3) ... around the world and devastated the artist. Then people began flocking to the church near Zaragoza in Northeast Spain, leading the council to think the painting merited an (4) ...   ... of one euro.
Suddenly, Mrs Jiménez is on the (5) ... for all the right reasons, more than 40,000 visitors and more than 50,000€ (6) ... for a local charity. Even her skills as an artist are being admired here at her own exhibition in the town.
We’ve had a complicated year, we are under pressure from many people. It was a (7) ... year for Cecilia and also for the (8) ... , but well, in the end time puts everything in its place, and today it’s a day of happiness, a day to be enjoyed.
And enjoy it, she will.
I’m happy because my neighbours are being nice to me, she says. There are people who have (9) ... me a lot. I’m very happy because of that.
The amateur artist is signing a (10) ... with the local council to share profits from merchandise (11) ... the botched image. As for the fresco, officials now say it’s not possible to restore the painting’s original look, so the more famous if less beautiful version remains seem to be available on (12) ... , postcards and cigarette (13) ... .
Emily Thomas. BBC News.

1 unforgettable  2 paintbrush 3 headlines  4 entrance fee 5 spotlight 6 raised 7  tough 8  foundation 9 supported 10 deal 11 featuring 12 plates 13 lighters

jueves, 14 de noviembre de 2013

Cleaning windows in high-rise buildings in New York

Brent Weingard has battled dirt and grime high above New York City for as far as he can remember. He tells us what his job really involves in this three-minute plus video.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What are the two titles to describe Brent's job?
2 What does '35' refer to?
3 What attitudes towards heights should anyone in this job show?
4 What New York buildings have anchors outside?
5 What three things do professionals use for washing?
6 What is one of Brent's biggest fears?
7 What part of the body suffers the most because of this job?

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

You know, I get up in the morning sometimes, and I get out there on the ledge. I just have to say, God! I love the smell of ammonia in the morning.
We are window cleaners. You know, some people will refer to us as window washers and I know they are either not that knowledgeable of this business or they are trying to put us down.
I’ve been working for thirty-five years, primarily here in New York City. I think heights… we never want to take our equipment for granted or our ability to work safely at great heights, so a certain amount of respect for the height and fear can… is healthy.
We take advantage of this door frame, and it’s a very, very good anchor. So if I were to lose my balance, free fall, one foot, this would certainly stop me, out of luck.
In pre-war buildings and buildings that have been properly renovated they have anchors outside of the windows that we can clip on with our window cleaning belt. First time I used the window cleaning belt I remember going out and just hugging the window as much as I would not lean back on that and trust those anchors enough.
For washing, the universal solvent is water. Added to the water we prefer mostly ammonia and just a squirt of Joy for lubrication. I was visiting my grandmother and I was about ready to clean her windows and she said ‘before you put anything in the water I’ve got the best thing for you’ and she pulled out a bottle of Joy dishwashing liquid and I said, ‘grandmother, that’s what the professionals in New York use’ and she says, ‘that’s right, it’s the best stuff’.
I can think of five occasions, were things we dropped, either a pole or squeegee and it is one of my biggest fears, our care not to drop equipment. We sometimes hold that equipment very tightly, tighter than necessary, kind of a dead grip.
I remember when one of my earliest realizations was my hands cramping at night, feeling very sore but I would say the more wear-and-tear for a window cleaner is in the knees. I’ll be ready for knee replacement.
When I was younger, guys, used to say to me or the super ‘you missed a spot’.  I guess that’s the oldest joke in the window cleaning industry, but I always took them very seriously and I would always try to find that spot and fix it.
Voila! Looks good, eh?

miércoles, 13 de noviembre de 2013

Talking point: The economic crisis, homelessness and poverty

There is great concern about the international economic crisis, as it is affecting most sectors of societies worldwide, especially in countries like Spain. Strikes and political instability are spreading while the unemployment rate soars, the quality of life keeps deteriorating and we don’t seem to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Go over the questions below and think about the answers, so that ideas flow more easily when you get together with the members of your conversation group and you can deal with vocabulary issues beforehand.

- Why have we ended up in this deep international recession?
- Who is to blame?
- How is the economic situation affecting our society?
- How is the situation affecting you on a personal level?
- What can we as individuals do to cope with the situation?
- What can governments do to improve the situation?
- How is it possible that an ordinary citizen ends up homeless or living in poverty?

- Have you ever talked to a homeless/poor person?
- Have you ever helped a homeless/poor person? If so, how?
- What do you do when a beggar asks you for money?
- Would you pay more taxes if this eliminated poverty by creating jobs for everyone?
- Are you or have you been involved with a charity? Do you know anyone who is?
- How do volunteers involved in charities help people? How much time do they devote to helping others?

To illustrate the topic you can watch CBS's Hard Times Generation: Families living in cars, released in their programme 60 minutes, about two ordinary American families who became homeless because of the economic recession.

You can read the transcript for the segment here or activate the CC subtitles in the lower side of the video players.

martes, 12 de noviembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher series: Ashley's personal information

In this week's Madrid Teacher series, we are showing an interview with Ashley, a Scottish girl who lives in Madrid. It's suitable for Básico 1 and Básico 2 students (elementary) and it gives an opportunity to revise information questions and get acquainted with a Scottish accent.

Watch the video through and write down the questions Ashley is asked.
Watch the video again and note down Ashley's answers.

You can check everything with the transcript below.

What's your name?
My name is Ashley.
Ashley, where you live?
In Glasgow, Scotland.
Oh, excellent. How old are you?
I’m twenty-two.
And what do you do?
I work for a big public relations company, so I write press releases and send them out to journalists hoping that they get published in a newspaper.
Nice. Have you got any brothers or sisters?
Yes, I have one brother, he's younger than me. He’s twenty-one.
Okay, and what does he do?
He’s in the British Army, he works as a royal engineer.
So, Ashley, what do you do with your free time?
With my free time I like to go to concerts, I really enjoy live music and socializing with friends.
What’s your favorite kind of live music?
Favourite kind of live music as dance music, I like DJs and electronic music.
And if you had to pick a favorite place to travel, where would that be?
I would love to go to South America, anywhere in South America to practise Spanish and learn about the culture and definitely I want to go there in the future.
Thank you.
You’re welcome.

lunes, 11 de noviembre de 2013

Ancient art of knife massage helps Taiwanese stay sharp

In August this year, the BBC aired Ancient art of knife massage helps Taiwanese stay sharp, as part of their extraordinary close-up series, on aspects of life in countries and cities around the world.

In Taiwan, an unusual kind of massage is given: Knife massage.

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

The activity of suitable for intermediate students.

1 What is the effect of knife massage on some people?
2 When and where did knife massage originate?
3 Why has knife massage become popular these days?
4 Knife massage is very good at relaxing toxins, so in what treatments is knife massage helpful?
5 What three routines do knife therapists have to keep to?
6 What is the training period for a knife therapist?
7 How are first-time customers calmed down?
8 What two everyday problems does the female customer have that make her tired and stressful?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

It looks horrifying but people who have tried Taiwan knife massages say it’s so relaxing that they can fall asleep to the experience. But don’t expect aromatherapy oils or relaxing music, here it’s just a customer, the therapist and two kitchen cleavers. 
The knife massage is not some crazy idea thought up by Sadist. It actually dates back more than two thousand years to China, where they originated. Back then, people who suffered from so-called strange diseases, those that can’t be easily cured by traditional Chinese medicine, would seek the help from Douist and Buddhist monks or nuns, and they would massage them with knives.
Although it almost died out in 280, knife massage has had a revival in Taiwan in recent years. Knife therapists say it’s become more popular because of the increased stress in modern society. According to the World Doula Association, there are around 2009 therapists in Taiwan.
How does knife therapy help people? Why use knives?
Knife therapy is different from other types of massage which is shallow. Knife therapy is more penetrating. We use steel knives as a conduit of energy. This helps our muscles relax and helps stimulate the normal functioning of our blood circulation and metabolism. So it can help us sleep better and reduce our muscle soreness, and it’s very good at releasing toxins, so it’s also very helpful in our beauty care and weight loss.
What kind of qualifications do knife therapists have to have?
In the early days, more than 2,000 years ago, knife therapy was performed by monks and nuns in temples. Nowadays knife therapists must go through strict training. They have to eat vegetarian meals every day, meditate and practise knife therapy. The reason we eat vegetarian meals is because we want to get rid of the toxins in our body and use the best energy we have to help the customers do knife therapy to bring about the best results.

But don’t even think about trying this at home. These are not ordinary cleavers. Professional massage knives with dull edges that don’t cause cuts.
Knife therapist also must undergo half a year to three years of training. They focus on the body’s acupuncture points in …, the passages to which the energy travels throughout the body and they avoid hitting the bones. The knives are also blessed by Buddhist or Douist masters.
How do you get first-time customers to calm down?
People who come here for the first time are nervous, so in the beginning we massage them by hand to calm them down.
Has anyone ever been hurt by this?
No one’s ever been hurt. It’s very safe.

I’ve just had massage. It feels really good and very relaxing. The reason why I came here because I’m a housewife and taking care of my baby and all of the housework makes me feel really tired and also very stressful.  I’ve tried many different massages and it doesn’t work, so I came here and now I feel really relaxing and it also boosts my immune system. Now I can sleep well.
I’m working in the high power high tech company, a lot of big pressures, I’ve got a high blood-pressure problem. The … will help me to lose my weight efficiently, it could thin my blood, go very smoothly all around the body.
Now the only way to know if it works is to give it a try. Now I never thought I would put myself on a chopping wood, but here we go. Now I’ve gone to a lot of massages before but never one with knives. I must admit after getting over the initial fear is rather relaxing. Unlike with any massages, I worry about how I’ll feel the next day. Still, I think I can get used to this.

domingo, 10 de noviembre de 2013

Extensive listening: The secret life of your body clock

In March 2009 BBC's Horizon aired The secret life of your body clock.

Why are you more likely to have a heart attack at eight o'clock in the morning or crash your car on the motorway at two o'clock in the afternoon? Can taking your medication at the right time of day really save your life? And have you ever wondered why teenagers will not get out of bed in the morning? The answers to these questions lie in the secret world of the biological clock.

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

sábado, 9 de noviembre de 2013

Building your vocabulary while reading the news

In May this year, Nik Peachy posted an entry on his blog Nik's Daily English Actitivies in which he let us know about Knowble, "a website which can help you speed up [the reading] process and also provide you with interesting reading materials at a level which is appropriate for you."

Nik explains very clearly how to go about using Knowble. I'm just giving a few guidelines of the process here, but you'd better reading Nik's post for a more detailed explanation.
  • Go to knowble and sign up.
  • Choose a username and provide the few details you are asked for.
  • Click on 'Start knowble'.
  • Do the 40-question test to find your level, so that the site offers you texts at your level.
  • knowble will give you a choice of texts for you to choose from in five different categories: World, Business, Entertainment, Sport, Science.
  • Click on the article of your interest. You can find out the meaning of the highlighted words by double-clicking on them.
  • On the right hand side, you can also do a fill-in the blanks exercise in which you have to use some of the highlighted words in the article.

viernes, 8 de noviembre de 2013

E-book revolution

In August the BBC aired this short video clip on the way the rise of digital books is revolutionising the global publishing industry.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip and answer the questions below about it. It's not a fast video, but the questions are open-ended and some a bit lengthy, so you may need to stop the video player to have time to write down the answers.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What does "20%" refer to?
2 What is the key question about the book market?
3 What kind of music does Roger Hurn write?
4 What common prejudice about the digital publishing revolution does Roger Hurn mention?
5 What are the three necessary ingredients for success, according to Roger?
6 What three activities is Joanna Penn involved in?
7 What professionals do writers need to hire to attract customers?

You can self-correct the activity by reading the transcript.

There is a romanticism to writing a hit novel and becoming the next Ian Fleming. With the rise of digital publishing, anyone can have a shot. As a result, there’s been an explosion in the number of authors. In 2011in the UK e-books made up just 5.8% of the market. A year later that was up to 14.3%, and this year the market could break 20%. But with the book market so fundamentally in turmoil at the moment the key question has to be ‘are any of the new authors actually making money out of digital books?’
Meet Roger Hurn. His first hard-boiled detective novel topped Amazon’s novella chart. He’s also written music that links up with some of his books, so he’s an internet one-man brand.
I think the digital publishing revolution is a great thing, though I do worry that everybody thinks if they self-publish a book they’re gonna to become multi-millionnaire overnight. That’s just not the way it works. You gotta have a quality idea. It’s got to be a great book and you really do need someone out there to market it and push it for you.
Another author who is a one-woman brand is Joanna Penn. She runs a successful blog, lectures in digital marketing and uses those to help drive sales for her series of religious thrillers.
There isn’t a single model for anyone to write one book and become an overnight success, but there are some, you know, some really good things that will help you, so for one when you self-publish it’s really important to kind of emulate  the publishing industry, to get a professional editor, very important, and a professional cover designer. You want your book to basically be as attractive to customers as possible.
So unlike Ian Fleming, self-published authors won’t be celebrating their millions with martinis straightaway but their opportunities are growing. An interesting twist.
Philip Hampsheir, BBC News.

jueves, 7 de noviembre de 2013

Inside the Voice Actors Studio

An actor's life can be hard enough to make a living out of acting. Two American actors tell us how they manage.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Scott Aiello is a very-well known actor.
2 Aiello's first audio-book has 40 pages.
3 Audible made a profit of 240 million last year.
4 Actors sometimes work as waiters.
5 Audio books are the main source of income for Aiello.
6 Books on tape and audio books are two different things.
7 Gabra divides her time as an actress between audio books and stage acting.
8 Grabra makes $3,000 per week.
9 Gabra keeps lots of medicines from when she worked at a chemist.

You cannot afford to be “oh I am a stage actor. I’m a film and TV actor”. You have to be open to everything if you want to make a living doing this.
This is Axel Gerdau for The New York Times. The name Scott Aiello probably doesn’t ring a bell, but what about his voice?
My first audio book was Emperor Mollusk versus the Sinister Brain, which is an awesome book with over 40 wacky characters, there’s rock creatures and there’s aliens that have no lips. They spoke but they had no lips. Trained at Juilliard, Aiello now works for Audible in Newark, the audio books publishers owned by Amazon.com and the leader in a burgeoning industry that saw revenues rise to 240 million dollars last year, creating more employment opportunities for actors.
The book I’m working on right now is called Kane’s blood. It’s sort of a cloning nightmare book gone wrong.
It’s a big step up from his previous day jobs, but Aiello still jokingly calls himself a starving actor.
It would be a lie to say that the sort of, the jobs like waiting tables and temping and stuff like that don’t drain your soul a little bit. I have found a way to live under very little but I will say that I support myself solely almost from the audio book work that I make. It really is like the dream day job for a young actor.
When I got started audio books were called books on tape. Now we call them audio books. I prefer the term books on tape, but of course we don’t use tapes any more, so it’s hard to get away with it.
Gabra Zackman lives what she calls the middle class dream as an actress due to her more than ten years in audio books.
50% of my time is spent acting mostly on stage with a bit of camera work thrown in for good measure, and 50% of my time I am recording audio books.
Zackman has recorded more than 200 titles and now earns up to $3,000 per book. Her advice to up-and-comers? Protect your voice.
I carry a bag that my friends joke it looks like a pharmaceutical store. Herbal resistant liquid vegetarian caps, Zicam herbal remedies spray, entertainer secret for dry throat and hoarse voice, Gaia throat shield sage and aloe, lip balm, Luden’s honey licorice.

1F 2F 3T 4T 5T 6F 7F 8F 9F 

miércoles, 6 de noviembre de 2013

Talking point: Controversial issues on education

This week's talking point deals with education and with some controversial topics around it. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the issues below, think of your ideas about them and work out any vocabulary issues you may have.
  • Subsidised private education should disappear –the schools should be either state schools (paid for by the government) or private (paid for by the families).
  • Boys and girls should study separately to achieve better academic results.
  • A strict dress code should be imposed to stop students showing underwear or wearing provocative clothes.
  • Uniforms are a necessary evil to ensure all the students are equal.
  • Exams are a necessary evil.
  • Physical education (PE) shouldn’t count as a subject and students shouldn’t be given marks.
  • Textbooks should be kept to a minimum, as they are an expensive economic burden on families every school year. Tablets or laptops are a better option, as they are inexpensive in the long run and educational software can be downloaded on a regular basis. Families and the state should share the cost of this technology.
  • Home-schooling doesn't prepare children well-enough to deal the demands of academic life at university and with the intricacies of today's society.
  • Teachers and the government are mainly responsible for a child's education.
  • "He who can, does; he who cannot, teaches." George Bernard Shaw
To gain further insight into the topic, discuss the ideas in the film Dead Poet's Society if some members of the group may have seen it.

What is the film about?
Which educational models are contrasted?
Have you had a Mr Keating among your teachers?

martes, 5 de noviembre de 2013

Madrid Teacher series: Dog phobia

In this week's Madrid Teacher series, the teachers are discussing dog phobia.

Just listen to the conversation and find out about the problem with dogs one of the girls has. Do you have a similar problem with dogs? Does anyone you know have a similar problem? If you love dogs, do you find it difficult to understand the fact that some people suffer from dog phobia?

Now, the girl on the left seems to be genuinely surprised with her friend's fear of dogs. She expresses her surprise by using really? Other expressions we can use to show surprise are:
Oh my goodness!
That’s awful.
That’s a shame.
That’s incredible.

Another interesting feature of spoken English that is used in the dialogue is the particle so. So is used in a variety of ways in English, but many times English speakers use so in conversation as a linking word that brings two ideas together. Let's pay attention to some of the remarks in the dialogue:

So, Sofia, are you afraid of anything?  [to introduce the topic of conversation].
there’re dogs everywhere in Spain so I’m constantly... [to show result or consequence]
I think because my mom’s afraid of dogs,(...) so, I inherited that phobia. [to show result or consequence]
But, I’m indoors usually so I’m safe. [to show result or consequence]
But I don’t want them to be scared, so I’ll probably say, “go near the dog,” [to show result or consequence]
I’ve heard. So it’s something that I’d like to do in the future because... [to introduce a new idea]

We shouldn't confuse these different usages of so as a linking word, with its use as an intensifier, some examples of which can also be seen in the dialogue:
So many dogs there
so often

Now, let's try to put into practice the above-mentioned features of spoken English. Get together with some English-speaking friends and discuss these phobia-related questions. As you listen to your friends, react to what they say if they come up with a surprising piece of information, and don't forget to use 'so' to introduce a new idea or to show a result.

Do you have any phobias or irrational fears?
How did the phobia start?
In what situations is the phobia triggered?
Do you have any strategies to help you mitigate the effects of the phobia?
What could you do to overcome your phobia?

So, Sofia, are you afraid of anything?
Yes, I am. I’m afraid of animals in general, but especially dogs.
Big dogs?
All dogs.
All dogs?
Tiny, tiny Chihuahuas?
From puppies to, yes.
Yeah, it’s a, it’s a really serious phobia actually because there’re dogs everywhere in Spain so I’m constantly like . . .
And when did this start? Have you always been afraid of dogs?
I think because my mom’s afraid of dogs, and she passed that on to me. Because we’d be walking through a park, and she’d sort of grab my hand and pull me away from the dogs so, I inherited that phobia.
OK. But do you know, do you know why you’re afraid of, do you know what you’re afraid of when you see a dog?
That they’re going to bite me.
But have you ever been bitten by a dog?
No, because I never . . . I never get close enough for a dog to bite me.
So no, I’ve never been bitten.
And have you ever done anything to try and overcome this fear?
No. I’ve been thinking about hypnotherapy though.
It’s supposed to work.
Yeah, I’ve heard. I’ve heard. So it’s something that I’d like to do in the future because it’s a little bit difficult going through the park.
I can imagine.
So many dogs there.
I mean, if you’re afraid of spiders or crocodiles…
. . . Yeah.
…things that you don’t see so often, but dogs are everywhere.
Yeah. Yeah, it’s pretty difficult at times.
And does it affect your…, does it affect what you can do, what kind of jobs you can get? I suppose it would.
I can’t be a vet.
No, clearly.
Outdoor things wouldn’t work for me either, outdoor occupations wouldn’t work for me then. But, I’m indoors usually so I’m safe.
But what do you think you’ll do if your, I, I don’t know. Do you have children?
No, not yet. And if you do, what do you plan to do when you see a dog in the park?
I don’t know, I don’t know. But I don’t want them to be scared, so I’ll probably say, “go near the dog,” and I’ll be there sort of scared in the corner.
Maybe you can overcome your fears and then you can get a family puppy.
Yeah, further down the line. Uh-huh.