viernes, 31 de enero de 2014

Urban dolphins: Challenges of city life revealed

Scientists from Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, are studying the urban dolphins in the city's Swan Canning Riverpark.

The research team's ongoing survey aims to find out which areas of the river the dolphins are using the most, and therefore which areas might need greater protection.

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

1 Why is Swan Canning Riverpark a challenging area for the dolphins?
2 Why can the population of dolphins decrease very quickly?
3 How long will dolphins stay at the surface? And underwater?
4 What happened in 2009?
5 How many dolphins usually die in a year?
6 What is good news?
7 Name one threat dolphins face in Swan Canning Riverpark.

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

For the population living in the Swan Canning Riverpark, it’s about 25, 30 individuals. It is a very challenging area for these dolphins because the Swan Canning Riverpark is an urbanized area. They have a very high risk of danger in the river and if we do not make personal … the population can decrease very quickly, especially because it’s a very small number.
We are trying to… Ah! We have dolphin! So at the moment they are foraging, so you will see them at the surface for just a little bit, but diving for quite a few minutes until they come back at the surface.
First of all, looking at which area the dolphins are using in the river, and from that we’re going to see if that area need a little bit more protection.
Back in 2009 we had six dolphins dead in the river in a very short time, so that just basically it’s the population of resident dolphins in Swan Canning Riverpark just decreased in a very high proportion.
Generally you count about one dead per year. This time was six in the year, so we call that an unusual event of mortality. The population numbers is back to what it was ten years ago. It is a good news, but you have to keep in mind that is still an urbanised area, so it’s still very challenging for any individuals, dolphins individuals to live in an urbanized area, and they have a high risk of danger like entanglements with fishing lines, speed boats with any recreational boats around.

jueves, 30 de enero de 2014

Office Posture Matters: An Animated Guide

Health and safety at work are often neglected areas. We should know better than turn a blind eye to them, as this video from Essential Health and Safety demonstrates.

I came across this video through Learning English Matters.

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

Office Posture Matters: An Animated Guide from Flikli on Vimeo.

1 Name at least two health-related problems derived from unhealthy postures.
2 What does 54% refer to?
3 What are the three basic pieces of advice given about how to sit?
4 What do you have to do after 30 minutes?
5 Name at least two activities you can do to get moving in the office.
6 How can you promote your well-being and boost your energy levels?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

Throughout the course of history, humans have spent a lot of time sitting.
Now, more and more, we find ourselves sitting, which is not necessarily a good thing.
Today, office workers spend hours slouched over and hunched into chairs, moving minimally.
Even after finishing work, we continue our everyday lives on the couch, that’s if we are even able to continue on at all, despite the spinal, body weight related and cardiovascular problems caused by unhealthy postures.
It’s been shown that people with sitting jobs have twice the rate of cardiovascular disease as people with standing jobs.
In fact, a recent medical journal study showed that people, who sit for most of their day, are 54% more likely to die of a heart attack.
Even if you dedicate a lot of time to staying fit, the time you spend sitting is still far greater than what is healthy for your body.
Even 1 hour of daily sports can’t compensate for 11 hour sitting sprees, so what can you do?
Paying attention to your posture is the real key to a healthier life in the office.
Now this doesn’t mean forcing your spine into a rigid upright position in whatever chair you are sitting in. This may actually create more stress of your vertebrae.
It’s important to know some basics about good sitting posture before you adjust yourself.
First, you need to support your back.
Then make sure your feet are comfortably rested. Try not to cross your legs, that can restrict circulation.
Finally, keep you monitor at arm’s length away at eye level
This way you will avoid having to hunch over and crane your neck unnaturally.
Even rocking back and forth in your chair can help, and recent research has shown that this minor act of balancing boosts your ability to concentrate.
To get yourself in better shape at the office, you’ll need to interrupt your sitting at least once every 30 minutes.
You don’t even need to do gym exercises to get moving. Get up and do some simple lunges, calf phrases, and shoulder shrugs, to loosen up your joints, relieve tension and stretch your muscles.
Take advantage of every chance you have to move your body.
One day, what we think of work will be completely different, and the workplace may well be a far ergonomic and active place for your body.
But until then, you can promote your wellbeing and boost your energy levels by simply paying more attention to your body during the workday.

miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014

Talking point: Extreme sports

This week's talking point is extreme sports. Before getting together with your friends, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with the members of your conversation group and you can solve vocabulary problems beforehand.

Do you enjoy doing sport? Which ones?
What do you do to keep fit?
Do you enjoy watching sports? Which ones?
What extreme sports can you name?
What extreme sports can you do in your area?
What companies or associations or clubs do you have to contact to practise them?
Would you like to jump off a mountain with a parachute or go down a river in a kayak or climb up a mountain or mountain bike in the wild? Why or why not?
Why are there so many people into extreme sports?
Have you heard of accidents of people doing extreme sports?
To what extent is society (rescue services, the police) obliged to help and pay for the cost of rescuing extreme sportspeople?
Do you own any adventure clothing? If so, when do you wear it?

To illustrate the topic you can watch this Nikon film. The English is really hard, so don't feel any regrets about reading the accompanying transcript.

Nikon - WHY from Corey Rich on Vimeo.

Dane Jackson, kayaker:
I think I learned how to kayak long before I’ve learned how to talk and walk, that’s for sure…
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
I’m not sure I agree with the quote that it’s all about the journey, because for me it’s all about the competitive aspect, I’m a racer and I love to win.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
“I wouldn’t say that I try to prove something to people. Or that I’m trying to prove something to myself really… But I’m sure there’s a little bit of both.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
When I was growing up and we lived in an R.V. and we were always parked by a river ‘cause we would just go, wherever my Dad wanted to kayak. I was born directly in the sport of kayaking.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
I specialize in long distance mountain biking. What it means is that I ride my bike for a really long time and a 10 hour race would be a short race for me. A race or event where I get to sleep in my own bed that night is a sprint…”
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
Basically, soloing is just rock climbing without a rope, without protection. It’s basically the most distilled type of climbing. I think the beauty of soloing is so simple, you just go by yourself, put your shoes in your track bag and you climb it.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
In my world the only constant thing is that there is no constant. When I’m at a rapid or water fall I may pick my line but it’s never the same, it’s always changing.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
I grew up with suffering skill, my nickname is ‘The queen of pain’. I cannot put my head down, turn the voices inside my head off. It takes hours and days, it kind of strip away all the exterior that kind of find out who you are.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
Yeah, there’s no real ritual, seriously for someone, I just put on my shoes, I chalk up and I rock climb.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
For me, the definition of ‘the zone’ is when you don’t feel the burning of your legs, you don’t hear your heart race, you’re basically just on autopilot, and everything seems easy.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
When all of the movement just feels so crisp and precise and perfect. You don’t feel pain in your fingers as much you could really like torque super hard. I mean, you just feel stronger a lot of time.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
Whenever I’m coming up the lip of a big waterfall, everything else just goes blank and I just focus on what I need to do.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
It’s a big question ask why I solo. Then part of it is the challenge like the fact that it’s hard, the fact that it demands a lot from you. And part of it it’s just the simplicity of soloing is really appealing too, it’s just you, and the route, and climbing. I don’t think there are that many things in life that require the 100% focus that you get out of soloing. You know, it’s kind of like the most pure form of climbing.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
One of the main reasons that I kayak is just the awe of finding new beautiful places. It’s a feeling of being somewhere new nobody else has ever been or you’ve never been, and just the beauty of what’s happening around you. I kayak because it allows me to do what I want to do. I’m always afraid at some point, without the fear it wouldn’t be the same. Overcoming the fear is what really makes kayaking amazing.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
If people ask me why I do this over and over again, the best thing I come up is because I have to, I don’t know how to live my life any other way. I do this because I love it and I’m inspired by the places that I go, I feel it’s the need to explore and to be somewhere new, see what’s around the next corner.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
Yeah, I guess every once in a while you have those moments when you say it’s really magical, this is awesome, you know.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
Without kayaking, I don’t know where my life would be, definitely it wouldn’t be the same, it just drives my life.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
Tapping in on who I am as a person is something I need to do on a regular basis because you never really get to that place on a normal life, and that’s the point when it’s perfect, it’s nirvana.

martes, 28 de enero de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Do Hollywood films need stars to be good?

In our Madrid Teacher series, four teachers discuss how important it is for Hollywood films to have big names in the cast to be successful.

The video gives us a good opportunity to see native speakers of English interacting and the different strategies they use to keep their conversation going. Here are some of them:

- The use of so as a linking word.
- Involving the other people in the conversation through questions: 'or what do you think?', 'don't you think?'
- Showing agreement: 'Yeah!' 'Yeah, definitely', 'definitely, yeah'.
- The use of question tags to check information: 'Wasn't it?', 'don't they?'
- Use of I mean to rephrase information we have just said.
- Use of you know to gain thinking time.
- Use of sort of to express ambiguity or vagueness.
- Use of like as a filler to introduce our ideas.

Watch the video and identify some of the above-mentioned features in the conversation.

Then answer the question for yourself, do Hollywood films need stars to be good?, and try to use some of those features of spoken English when you talk.

So, do you think a film needs good actors to be good, or what do you think?
Not necessarily. Movies can be good if the script is good and… I think in that case it’s actually the script and the books that were released beforehand that make the actors become so famous. As I said, beforehand nobody knew them.
It was a good story. . .
Yeah. . .
Wasn’t it?
Yeah. . .
Yeah, a very good story. Did you enjoy it?
Is this . . . I don’t, I don’t . . .  Is this the vampire series?
Sorry. I’m not into vampires. Everybody’s reading up on all these vampires about this human . . . or she’s human and he’s a vampire or vice versa and . . .
That’s it.
I’m not a vampire fan, but it was a very good film.
Yeah, it was a good film but, I mean, usually good films have good stars, like very famous stars, don’t they? But then, what makes a film good if . . . if they are, these actors are not, are not known from before or . . .
Well I could think of lots of films that, that didn’t have a . . . for example Secrets and Lies was a really good film. It wasn’t a Hollywood blockbuster. It was one of Michael Lee’s, you know, he’s sort of an indie guy, and, I thought the film was great. Of course Brenda Blethyn I guess, or Blethyn? I don’t know how it’s pronounced in Britain.
I don’t.
Yeah, you see because this actress, like she’s more a stage actress, and she’s done a lot of TV things and she wasn’t so famous in movies. But what makes a, a, a good film, it’s not the actor it’s that it’s believable; that you believe that the person is upset, or you believe that the person is really in love, or whatever. Like for example, Brokeback Mountain. What I didn’t like about it, I mean, I’m not against homosexuals or anything, but I didn’t believe that the actors really loved each other. Like it didn’t seem credible to me. And that’s what I didn’t like about the movie. So I think what makes a movie credible is not such a great actor but, somebody who can do the part and believe in what they’re doing.
So there can be good films, but with actors that we have never seen, don’t you think?
Yeah, definitely.
Yeah, I’d agree with that, definitely, yeah. I suppose you concentrate less on the actor or actress, if they’re not famous, and more on the story, and what they’re doing, and the special effects, and everything else that’s happening. Yeah.
So, do you think an actor, a good actor, can make a film be good? Maybe if the film, the script is not that good, but it’s a very well-known actor so maybe they think it’s going to be popular.
Perhaps they cannot make the film good, but they can make the directors and the producers money at the box office.

lunes, 27 de enero de 2014

The loathsome, lethal mosquito

The loathsome, lethal mosquito is a Ted Ed lesson by Rose Eveleth. This is the way Ted Ed introduces the lesson:

"Everyone hates mosquitos. Besides the annoying buzzing and biting, mosquito-borne diseases like malaria kill over a million people each year (plus horses, dogs and cats). And over the past 100 million years, they've gotten good at their job -- sucking up to three times their weight in blood, totally undetected. So shouldn't we just get rid of them?"

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 What's the worst bug on the planet?

2 How long have mosquitoes been around?
3 What quality do all mosquito species share?
4 What does 'two or three times' refer to?
5 What two 'qualities' of mosquitoes are mentioned?
6 How many people die of mosquito-borne diseases every year?
7 Why don't we get rid of mosquitoes?

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

You can also drop by the Ted Ed lesson and keep to the standard procedure all the Ted Ed lessons follow: Watch the video, answer some listening comprehension questions, check additional resources to explore the topic (Dip Deeper) and talk about the questions in the Discuss section.

What's the worst bug on the planet? You might vote for the horsefly  or perhaps the wasp, but for many people,  the worst offender is by far the mosquito.
The buzzing, the biting, the itching, the mosquito is one of the most commonly detested pests in the world.
In Alaska, swarms of mosquitos can get so thick that they actually asphyxiate caribou. And mosquito-borne diseases kill millions of people every year. The scourge that is the mosquito isn't new. Mosquitoes have been around for over a hundred million years and over that time have coevolved with all sorts of species, including our own.
There are actually thousands of species of mosquitos in the world, but they all share one insidious quality: they suck blood, and they're really, really good at sucking blood.
Here's how they do it. After landing, a mosquito will slather some saliva onto the victim's skin, which works like an antiseptic, numbing the spot so we don't notice their attack. This is what causes the itchy, red bumps, by the way. Then the bug will use its serrated mandibles to carve a little hole in your skin, allowing it to probe around with its proboscis, searching for a blood vessel. When it hits one, the lucky parasite can suck two to three times its weight in blood. Turns out we don't really like that too much.
In fact, humans hate mosquitos so much that we spend billions of dollars worldwide to keep them away from us from citronella candles to bug sprays to heavy-duty agricultural pesticides.
But it's not just that mosquitos are annoying, they're also deadly. Mosquitos can transmit everything from malaria to yellow fever to West Nile virus to dengue.
Over a million people worldwide die every year from mosquito-borne diseases, and that's just people. Horses, dogs, cats, they can all get diseases from mosquitoes too. So, if these bugs are so dastardly, why don't we just get rid of them? We are humans after all, and we're pretty good at getting rid of species. Well, it's not quite so simple. Getting rid of the mosquito removes a food source for lots of organisms
like frogs and fish and birds. Without them, plants would lose a pollinator. But some scientists say that mosquitos aren't actually all that important. If we got rid of them, they argue, another species would simply take their place and we'd probably have far fewer deaths from malaria. The problem is that nobody knows what would happen if we killed off all the mosquitos. Something better might take their spot or perhaps something even worse. The question is, are we willing to take that risk?

domingo, 26 de enero de 2014

Extensive listening: Make me a German

In summer last year BBC aired Make me a German, where two Brits move to Nuremberg, Germany, to live like Germans.

The programme delves into the German efficiency, their attitude to work and money, their social customs, their personality, how they organise their lives and their homes.

sábado, 25 de enero de 2014

Reading test: I taught a homeless man to code

Today’s reading activity deals with the issue of how we can help the needy, the destitute. I taught a homeless man to code brings to mind the saying ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him how to fish and you will feed him for a lifetime‘.

We are going to use this The Guardian article I taught a homeless man to code to get familiar with another type of reading comprehension activity English learners sometimes come across in exams, and one students don’t particularly feel comfortable with.

Go over sentences 1-8 and say whether the information is true (T), false (F) or is not mentioned (NM) in the text.

1 The way the homeless man kept fit was the key factor for Patrick to talk to him.
2 The homeless man was confused when Patrick first talked to him.    
3 Patrick studied computer engineering after school.
4 The basic computer skills Leo knew were essential for his progress.
5 The application Patrick and Leo are designing will fill a niche in the market.
6 Patrick and Leo work on a bench because cafés don’t allow homeless people in.
7 Leo was a lonely person when Patrick met him.
8 Patrick has found a place to live for Leo.

Patrick McConlogue
Photo credit: The Guardian

1T 2T 3NM 4F 5NM 6F 7F 8F     

viernes, 24 de enero de 2014

Cult of kids' soccer is a family affair

Kendra Davenport's family dedicates many hours a week to her daughter Peyton's soccer team. And as if travelling more than 50 miles to and from practice wasn't enough, each game is located out of their state.

Self-study activity:
Watch this BBC video clip about the popularity of youth soccer in the US and answer the questions about it.
The activity is suitable for (strong) intermediate students.

1 How many weekends a year does the family devote to soccer?
2 How much do they spend on every tournament they go?
3 How long do they spend travelling every week?
4 Is Kendra a housewife?
5 Does she regret the time she spends on this soccer thing?
6 How have they met their friends?

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

Come on hey!!! Come on, get going, get your back, get your trunk…
Soccer in Virginia is like religion. It has dramatically changed our life. If you had told me seven years ago that we would be spending the kind of money we are spending on soccer, that we’d devoting twenty-five, thirty weekends a year, I probably wouldn’t have believed you, I really wouldn’t have. Soccer is definitely a thirty-hour a week commitment.
The games, they can be in another state. Every tournament we go to is a minimum of five hundred, six hundred dollars for that weekend.
The larger car pool is essential because if you had to do this every day it would be a killer. Where they practise from right here is over an hour one way, it’s five or six hours three times a week. We got a car so that we could participate in the car pool.
I enjoy the time we spend with our children. My husband and I both work and we try when we are not working to be with our children and this facilitates that. The children are here for such a short time with you. I don’t know what we’d rather be doing if we weren’t spending time with them.
We made it with time to spare. It’s six nineteen because I rock.
There is no community center any more. Virtually all of the friends we socialize with, we’ve met them through soccer. If we were outside this bubble, and we weren’t in the soccer community any more, we wouldn’t be spending the time we were in their company. You know, I know we hear the argument sometimes that children are over-programmed, that there’s too much. I don’t think so. I think it’s time well spent.
Sure there are days when I just roll my eyes, shake my head and go ‘oh my gosh’, but we’ve got it down to a science and we really, really enjoy it.
Proud the way you worked.
Thank you.

jueves, 23 de enero de 2014

Why the cheetah is so fast

This is a short video from the Smithsonian Channel which explains why the cheetah reaches mind-boggling speeds.

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

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

The Cheetah is undisputed king of speed, holding nature’s land speed record for 10 million consecutive years. It reaches top speeds of (1) ... miles per hour.
But its acceleration is what’s truly impressive. It leaves most of the world’s fastest supercars in its dust; the Ferrari, Lamborghini or McLaren is no (2) ...   . Zero to sixty in three seconds or just three strides. Aerodynamics and a light weight frame enable this (3) ... acceleration. Weighing in at only 125 pounds, its muscles don’t have to carry much weight translating into acceleration instead. And the small head, flattened rib cage and (4) ... legs minimize air resistance.
Once it reaches top speed unique design (5) ... sustain this speed. The cheetah has an extremely flexible spine as well as pivoting hips and shoulder blades that are not attached to the collarbone. This allows the front and rear legs to (6) ... further apart when fully extended and move closer together when the feet come under its body increasing the cheetah’s stride length to an (7) ... 25 feet.
The cheetah moves so quickly that its feet spend more time in the (8) ... than on the ground, twice during each stride having all four feet off the ground at the same time.
In a high-speed (9) ... the long muscular tail works as a stabilizing rudder. Even its feet are modified for speed. Unlike other cats cheetah’s footpads are hard and flat like tyre treads and their short blunt claws do not retract completely like (10) ... and (11)...  . They are designed for grip like the cleats of a track shoe. These modifications provide the cheetah with (12) ... traction in fast sharp turns.

1 seventy-five 2 match 3 astonishing 4 slender 5 features 6 stretch 7 amazing 8 air 9 chase 10 lions 11 leopards 12 increased

miércoles, 22 de enero de 2014

Talking point: A special place

My area, my home and my favourite room is the topic of this week's talking point. Before you get together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below and think of the answers, so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary issues beforehand.

Most of the questions below are taken from the Anecdote section of Inside Out, MacMillan Heinemann.

Where do you live?
What are the pros and cons of the area where you live?
What is there to do in your free time in your neighbourhood?
Describe your flat or house.
What would make your home a better place?
Where would you like to live in the future?

Which is your favourite room?
What do you use it for?
How is it decorated?
What sort of furniture does it contain?
Where do the windows look out on?
What's the best thing about the room?
Is it usually tidy?
Who cleans it?
What would you change about your favourite room to make it a better place?
How much time a day do you spend in it?
How does your favourite room reflect your personality?

To illustrate the topic you can go to the MacMillan site and watch the video A special place, where two girls, Heather and Sue, talk abut their favourite room in their house.

You can watch the video online or download it. You also have the option to download the accompanying worksheet and the teacher's notes with the transcript.

martes, 21 de enero de 2014

Madrid Teacher series: Louise's daily routines

This week's Madrid Teacher video is intended for Básico (elementary) students. Louise tells us all about her daily routine.

Here are the answers Louse gives to her friend. Before you watch the video, can you think what the questions are?

I wake up at eight-thirty, usually.
I have to have a cup of coffee, and usually some cereal.
I go to work around ten o’clock.
I have lunch around one o’clock.
I like to eat a sandwich.
I finish work at six o’clock, or six-thirty in the evening.
I walk.
It’s a twenty minute walk.
When I get home, I start to cook dinner, and while I’m cooking dinner, I watch television.
I eat dinner at eight o’clock.
I watch more television.
I go to bed at eleven o’clock.

Now watch the video and check whether your questions were correct.

1 So, what time do you wake up?
I wake up at eight-thirty, usually.
2 OK. And do you brush your teeth after that?
No. First, I like to eat breakfast.
3 OK. What do you have for breakfast?
 I have to have a cup of coffee, and usually some cereal.
4 OK. And after that, do you brush your teeth?
After that, I take a shower.
5 OK. And then what time do you brush your teeth?
After the shower. OK.
6 What time do you leave your house to go to work?
I go to work around ten o’clock.
7 And what time do you have lunch?
I have lunch around one o’clock.
8 What do you usually have for lunch?
I like to eat a sandwich.
9 And what do you drink with your sandwich?
More coffee.
10 OK. What time do you finish lunch? Not lunch, work?
I finish work at six o’clock, or six-thirty in the evening.
11 And how do you get home from work?
I walk.
12 How far is that?
It’s a twenty minute walk.
13 OK. And what do you do once you get home?
When I get home, I start to cook dinner, and while I’m cooking dinner, I watch television.
14 At what time do you eat your dinner?
I eat dinner at eight o’clock.
15 And, what do you do after you’ve eaten your dinner?
I watch more television.
16 What time do you go to bed?
I go to bed at eleven o’clock.
OK. Thank you.

lunes, 20 de enero de 2014

Moscow by metro

This episode of Euronews on Russian Life is devoted to the Moscow metreo.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What is the nickname of Moscow?
2 What does 1930 refer to?
3 What is the Arbat?
4 What has been going on in Bolshoi Theatre in the last six years?
5 How big is the theatre today?
6 What is the GUM?
7 What did Winzavod use to be?
8 How are the young artists who show their exhibitions at Winzavod selected?
9 What does 19th century refer to at the end of the clip?
The Moscow metro runs for 300 kilometers and is considered one of the most beautiful in the world. In this edition of Russian Life we are taking a trip around the capital that never stops.
Carrying over 7 million passengers a day, the metro is Moscow’s vital transport artery, going underway is the best way to avoid the sometimes unbearable road traffic. But it was also one of the USSR’s most extravagant architectural projects, embodying the utopian idea of a bright Communist future. The original stations, built in the 1930s, are true underground palaces with marble walls, elaborate mosaics and cast bronze statues.
Most of the metro lines run through the city centre, which is covered with attractions such as the Arbat, one of the oldest surviving pedestrian streets, where one can meet some of the quirkier people from the city.
A couple of metro stops away stands the iconic neoclassical facade of the Bolshoi Theatre – one of the world’s most renowned ballet and opera companies. The historic main building has recently been reopened after an extensive six-year renovation that cost, according to official estimations, more than half a billion euros. The first major repairs in 150 years restored the acoustics to their original quality and brought back the Imperial decor.
“There was a real threat of losing the building that served as a true symbol of our culture for Moscow as a city and for all Russians. The building was preserved and expanded, so now it has twice as much floorspace and the stage is bigger”.
Another historic building that still fulfils its original function is the Moscow GUM. The main department store built at the end of the 19th century is now a place of luxury shopping that keeps some elements of Soviet nostalgia in its decor.
Other objects of Moscow’s architectural heritage have found a new vocation. Winzavod used to be Moscow’s oldest winery but now this serves as an important contemporary art centre.
 “There’s a lot to see and discover in Russian modern art. It’s very distinctive, and at the same time it gradually shifts to fit nicely into the European and global context.”
Experts select young artists from all around Russia, granting them exhibition space in the mysterious and evocative halls.
A family-friendly way to end an eventful day in the Russian capital would be a visit to the famous Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard.
“This is one of Russia’s oldest circuses. It was founded in the late 19th century and some of the most famous artists have performed here.”
 “Circus is always a happy festival, a bright, colourful spectacle in colourful costumes with beautiful music, played here by a live band.”
In the next edition, we will continue our promenade along the most picturesque sites on the banks of the Moskva river. See you next week in Russian Life.

domingo, 19 de enero de 2014

Extensive listening series: Sahara with Michael Palin

This video is the beginning of the first episode of BBC documentary Sahara with Micheal Palin, A Line in the Sand.

The programme starts in Gibraltar, from where Palin travels to Tangier. We can see Palin riding a camel on the beach, and playing football with some youths on the beach, visiting a public bath house and attending a church service at St. Andrews Anglican Church together with some Nigerians who are trying to gain access to Europe. He also visits Jonathan, an expatriate Englishman, and his pet cockerel Birdie.

To get to the Sahara it is necessary to travel over the Atlas Mountains. Along the way Palin visits Fez and sees the old-fashioned way to dye leather.

You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 18 de enero de 2014

Why do I have difficulties in understanding natural speech?

In late December 2013 World Teacher published a short summary of a webinar hosted by Cambridge University Press and presented by Johanna Stirling under the title The Spelling Thief.

The webinar is still available for registered members of the Cambridge English Teacher community, but you will have to sign up if you want to have full access to everything Johanna said.

However, in the short summary made by Andrea Noginsk in World Teacher we can begin to understand the reasons why we usually have difficulties in understanding English.

Here are the reasons Johanna talked about and Andrea included on her post:

Why don’t students understand natural speech?
It’s too fast for them to process.
The words aren’t spoken clearly.
They aren’t listening properly.
They don’t know all the words.
They panic.

The first two are probably the main reasons for non-comprehension.

From here Johanna moved on to deal with the way the listening skills is taught today through prediction activities, listening for gist (the main idea), listening for specific information and inferring .

But it doesn't seem to be enough. Pronunciation, which is very often neglected in the classroom, plays an important role in developing the listening skills. Johanna mentioned 5 main types of 'receptive pronunciation' which are closely associated with listening:

1 Ellipsis (incomplete sentences)
2 Weak forms (many syllables are squashed)
3 Elision (some sounds are lost when we speak)
4 Word linking (words join together in fast speech)
5 Assimilation (some sounds change when they are near other sounds)

If you want to find out a little bit more about receptive pronunciation and see some examples of the main five types Johanna mentioned , drop by World Teacher and read Andrea's post.

You can also make a point of dropping by Johanna Stirling's excellent The Spelling Blog, which we have commented on in this blog several times.

viernes, 17 de enero de 2014

Vows: Gabby and Anthony

This is the love story of Gabrielle Rubinstein and Anthony Cheong, which The New York Times published some time ago as part of the Vows series.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 What did Gabby do in 2003?
2 What did Gabby and Anthony and some other people use to do every Saturday?
3 When did Anthony kiss Gaby for the first time?
4 Why did they take their relationship slowly to begin with?
5 How long did they take to get engaged?
6 What happened in a Montreal hotel?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

I’m Gabby. This is the story about how Anthony and I met. I opened up Joe with my brother in 2003 and by 2006 I knew several thousand people and I thought it would be fun to start setting people up on dates. It usually doesn’t work out, but I had one couple that got married, then they got divorced, but I think it still counts.
I moved to New York in 2006 from Sydney, and I was in the hunt for some good coffee like all the Australians do, so I came in one day and ordered my latte, and then next to the counter I saw this sign that said, ‘come and join this running team on Saturday morning’ so in 2007 I started running with the team Joe, and that’s where I met Gabrielle. Now, the next two years, you know, I would show up every Saturday morning and we would be for our run and we became best friends.
So I really wanted to set him up with myself, it’s true. So we jokingly go on these pretend dates where I was kind of hoping they would turn in more than pretence, but then at the end of the night, you know, I got a pat on the back, you know, and then I went home thinking, oh I guess he likes me as a friend.
My last effort was to plan a New Year’s Eve party for all our Joe friends. My plan was to see if he wanted to kiss me at midnight.
Then I started thinking, ‘ah, she’s a…, you know, she’s a really nice woman and I like spending time with her and… then I sort of like as we got to New Year’s Eve I thought, ‘why not?’
Later that night it was time for the kiss and… so I said ‘so, what do you think? Should we have our New Year’s kiss now?’ And so he leans in and he kisses me on the cheek.
Just like this.
And I probably looked at him like that, and then I said ‘So this is your big chance, really, that’s all, that’s all I get? I mean, really, we can forget about it tomorrow, but let’s go for it.’ So then he leaned in for another kiss and the kiss turned into another kiss and before you know it, there was quite a kiss.
I think both of us were afraid of, you know, jeopardizing our friendship, we really valued that so much more than having a short-term relationship or a fling, and so… We… I actually took our relationship slow for a few months.
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, we got engaged about six months after we started dating, it was really slow, it was very slow.
We went to Montreal for a romantic weekend, and we were on the plane he started getting very sick with a cold. He was also acting a little bit nervous I thought because he was sick…
Because I am carrying this ring in my pocket for the entire time.
So he kept jokingly asking me, ‘will you marry me? Do you want to spend your life with me?’, and I said ‘yes, of course I do, but stop asking me unless you have a ring’, so we get back to the hotel, we walk in the front door, he pulls me in and says again ‘will you marry me? I love you, do you want to spend your life with me?’ I say ‘of course, you have the ring or not’, and so he pulls out the box and I just froze.
And then I go down on one knee. I could hardly speak, so I was whispering into her ear, ‘will you marry me?’
Just couldn’t wait any longer.
Just couldn’t wait.

jueves, 16 de enero de 2014

Accommodation at Manchester University

Living on campus or living off campus is a key question lots of students must face when they start university. Which are the advantages of halls of residence? And the disadvantages?
Which are the advantages of rented accommodation? And the disadvantages?
Which type of accommodation would you prefer? Why?

Self-study activity:
Watch this Manchester University video where some students tell us about the advantages of the halls and say whether the statements are true or false.

The activity is suitable for strong intermediate students.

1 Owens Park is the biggest halls in the University of Manchester.
2 Each student has their own kitchen.
3 It is not difficult to make friends if you live in halls.
4 There are lots of things going on at Manchester University.
5 There are no common spaces in the halls.
6 Everybody in your hall study the same degree.
7 Manchester University guarantees accommodation to first-timers.
8 International students are guaranteed accommodation only in their first year.
9 Students have their clothes washed if they live in halls.

The atmosphere in halls when I first moved in was very much, right we’re a new group of people, let’s go and meet each other, make friends, and we can go and take it from there.
I was in Owens Park, which is the biggest hall in the University of Manchester. We were just in a small flat, perhaps forty-eight of others I think it was and on over four floors, and that meant that you got to know everyone in your building very, very well and the buildings around you.
You’ve got a shared kitchen between eight of you and so you get to know each other really well, but then at the same time you are in a massive lot with hundreds of other students all mixed into blocks of eight.
I’ll tell you is the best place to make friends when you first arrive is the people from your building.
I used to hang around more with my flat mates, so we moved around in groups, go, go, go city wherever we go, we used to go together most of the time.
It does encourage you to mix with each other more, you share a kitchen and a living room and bathroom, and you get to know each other so much better, then just  being stuck in a room on your own or in just a block of flats.
Living in halls really just sets you up for the rest of your stay in Manchester really because when you come here and you meet other people who are really in the same position as you are, so you, you make great friends.
Everyone is off into the same boat. The atmosphere is very much ‘right, let’s make friends, find somebody else, let me go and do something else’.
Everyone’s so excited to be away from home and be at university. There’s always something going on literally every night of the week.
We had a lot of socials going on, we had a room, a postgraduate room.
You have a Common Room you most halls spend a lot of your time with each other and you… in my halls we went for tea together as well, so every now and then we knock on each other’s doors for tea in five minutes, are you coming?
You get a knock on your door from someone you might not’ve met before and a group of people be going out.
I mean, being around so many people, you’re forced to speak to them, but that was the first stage, then it was a really nice time of the day, when you went back to the hall you could talk about your day, how is your day, how is your classes with other people doing different courses and from different cultures.
Coming to Manchester and knowing there was an accommodation guarantee was a huge weight off my mind. It wasn’t the same situation at every other university, and knowing that if I got into Manchester and could study here I was guaranteed a place in halls, that was a huge weight off my mind, it meant a lot less organization.
Every student is guaranteed accommodation the first year in the university, all international students are guaranteed accommodation throughout their stay in Manchester.
It’s pretty wonderful the halls  experience, you have proper responsibility for yourself for the first time in forever, probably most people. Ok, it’s a bit of a pain to do your own washing, and cleaning your plates and stuff, but it’s so much better than having to follow somebody else’s rules, pretty much I mean obviously there are things that don’t make too much noise really at night or whatever, but within reason it’s just whatever you all agree as a group.

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miércoles, 15 de enero de 2014

Talking point: Learning English

This week's talking point deals with our grasp of English and the way we learn English. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily and you can overcome vocabulary issues when you get together with your friends.

How many languages do you speak?
How well do you speak each one?
What are your reasons for learning English?
Do you think people from your country are generally good at languages?  Why (not)?
What are the main difficulties of English for learners?
Are you happy with the way you are taught English?
How could the teaching method be improved?
Do you think English will one day become a world language?
What other languages might take the place of English in the future?
What are the good and bad things about the popularity of English around the world?

1. What is a complete immersion in language learning?
2. Why is it seen as such a good way to learn a language?
3. Is it possible to get some of the benefits of a complete immersion without going to an English-speaking country? If so, how?
4. How beneficial is the Erasmus programme for learning a language?

To illustrate the topic of immersion in language learning, watch this video from the Learning English Video Project where foreign students living in Cambridge talk about their experience with immersion.

martes, 14 de enero de 2014

Madrid Teacher series: Cheating in sports

Four Madrid teachers discuss cheating in sports this week. The conversation gets a bit technical today as some of the teachers seem to be in the know about different cheating methods sportspeople use these days. To make matters worse, they seem to be interrupting one another quite often, which makes it really difficult to keep track of who says what.

The three-minute video helps us once again to come face-to-face with 'real' English as opposed to 'textbook' English.

Let's have a look at some of the features we can come across in this debate:
  • Agreement: Yeah; of course; Yeah, exactly.
  • False starts: But if this is...; there was a rugby player who; If we, if you think; I’d… might
  • Fillers to gain thinking time: I don't know...; you know...; I mean...; Well...
  • Repetition: when it, when it burst it..; it’s competition… it’s competition,
  • 'So' as a linker: So the coach...; So that when it...; So we’re not...
  • Checking that one has understood correctly: That’s what you’re saying?
  • Use of auxiliary verb to emphasize our ideas: we do need some rules

Now it's over to you.
What do you think about cheating in sports?
What examples come to mind?
What's the place of 'fair play' in today's professional sport?
Try and use some of the features of spoken English the Madrid teachers have used in their debate.

I think sports is different things to different people.
Yeah, I don’t know if it was ever confused with ideas of honor or nobility. I think it’s competition. And competition between human beings, if you think about it, takes into all accounts.
But if this. . . in a competition both sides should be equal, should start off in equal positions…
I don’t know, maybe in a perfect world.
…and then the difference comes from strength or speed, you know… natural, natural… natural strength. And speed… I mean…
And cheating… and cheating… And cheating is probably… picaresque.
There are different kinds of cheating, too, I mean… there are some things are a bit more innocent. This recent case, there was a rugby player who… the team had, had used up all of their allowed changes of players. So the coach sent him out with a fake blood capsule in his mouth. So that when it, when it burst it looked like he was bleeding and he had to be sent off the field and they could send on a better player. It’s kind of clever.
Yeah, I mean it’s competition… it’s competition, you should use all the tools that you have.
All is fair in love, in love and war, yeah? That’s what you’re saying?
I mean… it’s something like this. If we, if you think about it from a philosophical point of view, those who are able to conquer their foes, with whatever means, be it cleverness or otherwise…
…maybe they don’t need as many rules to govern their actions.
They’re above law?
I don’t know. I think with sport, we do need some rules and guidelines, and rules of conduct and behaviour. Gentlemany, gentlemanly behaviour. You know? I think without that…
I don’t know how many people consider rugby or football a gentlemanly occupation. Perhaps cricket.
Maybe fifty years ago. Yes. But it’s true that things, things are changed a lot. Especially with technology now, they’re making kinds of advances in…
…of course…
…athletes’ training and…
Of course.
It gets very borderline as to whether it’s cheating or not.
With gene therapy they’re talking, I’ve heard about blood vessels that increase the capacity of normal human… or blood cells that increase the capacity of normal human capacity for oxygen. Which means you could perform for much harder and much longer without being winded.
Well they were doing this, also, with blood transfusions. I think plasma and other things to, inject more ... White blood cells is it?
I don’t know.
...into a person so yeah so more oxygen and the ability to produce, or have more oxygen in the body. And I think they’re, nowadays I mean with new technologies, biolo-, biological technologies they’re developing things like . . . they’re modifying the glucose cycle. The genetic modifications, all sorts of things.
So we’re not, now we’re not going to know who’s the fastest, who’s the strongest because it’s going to be… you know, if I race against you, you’re going to have some of these blood vessels in you, you’re going to win.
Yeah, yeah.
Sure, we’ll know…
Whereas on a normal day I think, I’d… might be able to beat you in a race.
Yeah, well. Yeah .
That’s going to be the future.
I think we’ll know; it’ll be the richest team. We’ll just see more Real Madrid’s on top.
Yeah, exactly.

lunes, 13 de enero de 2014

The history of Johnnie Walker

As a follow-up to 29 December documentary on whiskey, here's a 6 minute film about the history of Johnnie Walker whiskey. It is played by actor Robert Carlyle and directed by Jamie Rafn, shot on location near Loch Doyne in Scotland.

The video is subtitled in English, but I include the transcript in case any blog followers want to find out the meaning of any unknown vocabulary item. Remember you can do so by double-clicking on the word you want to look up.

Hey, piper! Shut it! Here’s a true story about a young lad named John. Just a local farm boy, but there was something special about the lad, a glint in his eye, a fire in his belly, a spring in his step. And one day he went for a walk. Now, this walk began when his father died. The year was 1819 and he was just 14 years old. Bereavement counseling? Well, these were the days when young boys sent into the fields, the mills, the mines, tough times. But young John was smart enough to be lucky. His father’s farm, where he was born and raised, was sold and the proceeds used to open a grocer’s. Big responsibility for the wee lad. His own shop in Kilmarnock, with his name on the door: John Walker. Or Johnnie, as the world now knows him. Back then, all grocers stocked a range of local single malts, but they could be a wee bit inconsistent.

For John, that wasn’t good enough. He began blending different malts together as a way of offering his customers a consistent, unique product. Now, this back-room art quickly developed into a commercial proposition and a very profitable one. And because there’s nothing like a commercial proposition to stir Scottish heart, it grew quickly into an industry filled with ambitious entrepreneur distillers. John thrived in this environment, and so too soon would his sons, Robert and Alexander, who joined him on his journey.
The Walkers became the biggest name in a rapidly growing industry. They were unstoppable. In one bolt bit of 19th-century corporate raiding, they bought the famed distillery at Cardhu, lock, stock and… ensuring their supply of this silky single malt, and guaranteeing, more importantly, that none of the other big blenders could get their hands on it.

But young Alexander wasn’t content with being Scotland’s biggest blender. Not ambitious enough for him. No, no. He convinced the ships’ captains of Glasgow to act as agents for him, and drove the whisky bearing his father’s name across the globe. By 1860, he had developed the square bottle, now with a label at an angle of precisely 24 degrees. No big deal, you might think, but you’d be wrong. The acquire bottle meant less breakages and more bottles per shipment. The diagonal label meant larger type and together that meant Johnnie Walker had unmistakable presence on any shelf in the world. The bottle became an icon, and the rich liquid it contained sought after and consumed across the globe.

Quite a character, Alexander Walker. Master of the blender’s art, ambitious, uncompromising, Mr. Walker. It was John’s grandsons, George and Alexander II’s turn to join him on his journey. They led the brand into the 20th century. By 1909, they had developed the iconic Red Label and Black Label, and persuaded Tom Browne, the best young illustrator of the day, to sketch a striding man on a napkin during a business lunch. In the stroke of a pen, the Victorian grocer was transformed into an Edwardian dandy.

By 1920, Johnnie’s walk had taken him through 120 countries, and he continued walking through the brand’s advertising over the next 50 years, into the fabric of global culture, deep into the dark hearts of several wars, to the pleasure palaces of the aristocracy, immortalized by screen legends, celebrated by filmmakers, singers, songwriters, novelists, shoulder-to-shoulder with the great sportsmen of the age, winning countless international awards for quality and even being awarded the Royal Warrant by King George V. No going back after that. No that going back would even have occurred to Johnnie or any of his family.

By the end of the 20th century, the familiar Red Label and Black Label were joined by the Green Label, the Gold Label and, the grandest of them all, Johnnie Walker Blue Label. By the beginning of the 21st century, Johnnie Walker wasn’t just the world’s biggest whisky brand, but an international symbol of progress, the brand’s ‘Keep Walking’ mantra adopted by pro-democracy protestors and parliamentary speech writers.
What would the farm-born Victorian grocer have thought of all of this? He’d have loved it. A Victorian farm-born grocer he might have been, but he, and the family that followed him, were possessed by a fiery ambition, with the skill and intelligence to match. Two hundred years later and Johnnie Walker’s still walking. And he’s not showing any signs of stopping.

domingo, 12 de enero de 2014

Extensive listening: Talking Canadian

A part of  The Canadian Experience series of CBC documentaries, Talking Canadian was aired in 2004. It takes an often-amusing look at the Canadian accent, intonation and vocabulary, how Canadians speak today, and how they will talk in the future.

I was unable to find the documentary with subtitles, although the YouTube CC subtitles may help a little bit. Anyway, The Canadian Experience can help us to understand how English is spoken in this part of the world and their well-deserved reputation as the most accessible accent for English language learners.

sábado, 11 de enero de 2014

Reading test: Do trees on the streets make people happy

Today’s reading activity is related to the way green spaces, especially trees, change the areas where we live and the influence they have on our everyday life. Before doing the multiple choice task, think about these questions.

Do trees on the streets improve the quality of people’s lives?
If so, how?
Do green areas raise the price of property?
Can trees save us money?
What reasons can some people have to object to trees?

Now read the BBC article by Vanessa Barford Do trees on the streets make people happy? to see if you ideas coincide with those in the article.

Now it’s time to do the reading comprehension activity. Go over questions 1-8 and choose the option A, B or C which best answers each question or completes the sentence.

1 What is an almost accepted wisdom?
A A property in a tree-lined street is more expensive.
B A well looked-after garden can increase the price of the house.
C An area stops being deprived if trees are planted.

2 The government's Big Tree Plant campaign
A has managed to plant 1 million trees in four years.
B has managed to actively involve the population in the campaign.
C is trying to persuade citizens of the benefits of trees. 

3 According to Margaret Lipscombe,
A trees give light in winter time.
B trees provide shelter for wildlife.
C trees have a soothing effect on people.

4  Green spaces
A may increase life expectancy up to five years.
B may help us get better soon if we are ill.
C saves the NHS a lot of money.

5 Some people have negative feelings on trees because
A they see them as potentially dangerous.
B they cause car accidents.
C they make the city dirty.

6 Which sentence is true, according to the text?
A Local authorities consider broad-leafed trees dangerous.
B Annamaria Mignano lives in a middle-class area of London now.  
C Annamaria Mignano and her neighbours aren’t scared anymore.

7 In Tower Hamlets
A there aren’t graffiti any more.
B fighting dogs are positively valued.
C residents own communal areas.

8 For Shaun Bailey
A trees make living spaces more decent.
B the influence of trees in many areas is limited.
C it is very important to maintain some English traditions.

Photo credit: BBC

1B 2C 3C 4C 5A 6A 7B 8B

viernes, 10 de enero de 2014

The Australian Outback

At the beginning of the school year Australia came up in class. I wish I had known about the video at the time. Anyway, here it is for those of you who have an interest in this country.

Before you watch the video, answer these questions:
Which country do the British refer to as down under?
What places, people or things of interests do you associate with Australia?
Do you know anyone who has been to Australia?
Would you like to go?
What can a tourist see or do in Australia?

To learn a little bit about one of the most characteristics features of Australia, the Outback, watch this Encyclopaedia Britannia video.

Self-study activity:
Watch the four-minute video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 There are cities in the outback.
2 The outback is highly populated.
3 The outback is fertile.
4 Uluru and Ayers Rock is the same thing.
5 Uluru changes colour during the day.
6 There are 45 to 50 different tribes of Aborigines.
7 Kangaroos do the most activity during night time.
8 Camels are native to Australia.
9 Australia is a world top producer of sheep.
10 Minerals are extracted in the outback.

The outback conjures one of the most iconic images of Australia to the rest of the world. The term outback or the bush defines any part of Australia removed from the more settled edges of the continent. In other words, it is outback, from the largest cities that reside on Australia’s coast.
The outback is typified as arid or semiarid, open land often undeveloped. From space, we see it as a vast reddish landscape. One can fly roughly two thousand miles between Sydney and Darwin without seeing anything but scattered and minute signs of human habitation.
The Great Sandy Desert is one such part of the outback. Maps of this land sometimes designates areas as lakes, but many such lakes are dry.
In Australian northern territory lies Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock. Uluru, a Unesco World Heritage Site might be the world’s largest monolith. The rock-a-piece changes colour throughout the day as the position of the earth changes in relation to the sun. At sun set, Uluru seems to glow a fiery orange red hue. Caves at the base of the rock are sacred to several aboriginal tribes and contain carvings and paintings. The art is distinctively abstract and representational at the same time.
The aborigines have been in Australia between 45 to 50 thousand years and have endured the harshest desert conditions the outback ever experienced. They survived in hunter gatherer societies, they created an elaborate culture of religion, storytelling, dance and other complex and nuanced social rites.
While the outback may hold few people, it’s still home to wildlife. The red kangaroo is native to the outback, hardy and well adapted to cover the open terrain, kangaroos survive in the hot days resting in the shade and licking their forearms to promote heat loss by evaporation. The majority of their activity is spent during the night and times of low light.
Lorikeets and other members of the parrot family often flock near waterholes or billabong in the wet season. The native cuckoo burrow also inhabits areas of the outback in the eastern border of Australia, and has been introduced to Western Australia as well. This bird is distinctive for its call, it sounds like the English laughter.
After 1788 the English began to settle Australia as a colony. They were challenged by the outback’s hot dry conditions and import camels to help them cross deserts. The construction of the railroad in the early 20th century lessened the necessity of camels for travel and up to 20,000 camels were released into the wild. Over the rest of the century, their numbers grew in rural Australia. Today, the feral camel population is estimated to be between 600,000 and over a million.
The English also brought livestock to the outback, raising them on large land-holdings called stations. Sheep-herding became very successful, making Australia a top world producer. Beef cattle are also raised in cattle masters, what North-Americans might call round-ups cattle are herded by helicopter or off-road vehicles to loading points, where road trains hold the live cattle to market.
Where rain fall permits, wheat is grown. Some margins of the outback are well-known for their fine wines, but where agriculture is difficult, minerals provide an industry. The outback has reported careful prospectors particularly in the open mines near Coober Pedy.

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jueves, 9 de enero de 2014

Angelina Jolie speech at the 2013 Governors Awards

38-year-old Angeline Jolie received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award during the 2013 Governors Awards held in November last year for her work as the co-founder of the Prevent Sexual Violence Initiative and for serving as a special envoy for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Self-study activity:
Watch the four-minute speech and say in which order the topics below are mentioned.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

Change of attitude
She couldn't have that

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you. It’s quite overwhelming. Thank you to the members of the Academy for this honor. My dear friends who are here tonight, Gena and George, for your kind words, to my hero, Louis Zamperini, to the cast of Blood and Honey and most of all, to my family, my love. Your support and your guidance make everything that I do possible. Mad, I’m not gonna cry, I promise, and I won’t embarrass you. You and your brothers and your sisters are my happiness and there is no a greater honor in this world than being your mum.
I’m very humble to be here tonight among so many extraordinary artists. My mother loved art. She loved film. She supported any crazy thing I did, but whenever it had meaning, she made a point of telling me, that is what film is for. And she never had a career as an artist, she never had the opportunity to express herself beyond her theatre class, but she wanted more than for herself. She wanted for Jamie and I to know what it is to have a life as artists. And she gave us that chance. She drove me to every audition, and she would wait in the car for hours, always make me feel really good all the times I didn’t get the job. And when I did, we would jump up and down and scream and yell like little girls.
She wasn’t really the best critic, since she never had anything unkind to say, but she did give me love and confidence, and above all, she was very clear that nothing would mean anything if I didn’t live a life of use to others. And I didn’t know what that meant for a long time. I came into this business young and worried about my own experiences and my own pain and it was only when I began to travel and look and live beyond my home, that I understand my responsibility to others.
And when I met survivors of war and famine and rape, I learned what life is like for most people in this world and how fortunate I was to have food to eat, a roof over my head, a safe place to live and the joy of having my family safe and healthy. And I realized how sheltered I have been. And I was determined never to be that way again. We are all, everyone in this room so fortunate.
I have never understood why some people are lucky enough to be born with the chance that I had, to have this path in life and why across the world, there is a woman just like me, with the same abilities and the same desires, same work ethic and love for her family, who would most likely make better films and better speeches. Only she sits in a refugee camp, and she has no voice. She worries about what her children will eat, how to keep them safe, and if they’ll ever be allowed to return home. I don’t know why this is my life and that’s hers. I don’t understand that but I will do as my mother asked, and I will do the best I can with this life, to be of use. And to stand here today means that I did as she asked. And if she were alive, she would be very proud.
So thank you for that.

1 Gratitude 2 She couldn't have that 3 Self-centered 4 Change of attitude 5 Puzzled

miércoles, 8 de enero de 2014

Talking point: Means of transport

Today's talking point deals with means of transport in general, although we'll be focusing on taxis and the bicycle.

Before you get together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that you can work out vocabulary issues beforehand and ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends.
  • What is the best means of transport to get around a big city?(by tram, by bus, by car, by bicycle, by underground, by motorbike, by taxi, on foot)
  • And for tourists and visitors?
  • Which do you usually use? Which do you never use?
  • Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the means of transport above. You can mention the following: saving time and money + respect for the environment + good for your health + safety
  • Have you ever taken a taxi?
  • Do you think they are expensive or good value?
  • When was the last time you took one?
  • Did you talk to the driver? What about?
  • What reputation do taxi drivers have in your city/country?
  • What was the taxi like?
  • Have you ever taken a taxi in a foreign country?
  • What different parts of a bike can you name?
  • What are the problems/advantages of using a bike to get around a city?
  • Can you explain the bike-hire scheme of your city?
  • What rules do/should cyclists follow?
  • What changes would be needed where you live to make cycling a practical form of transport?
 To gain further insight into the problems of riding a bike in a city you can read the BBC article Readers' radical solutions to protect cyclists.

martes, 7 de enero de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Natalia's personal information

This week's Madrid Teacher episode is devoted to Básico 1 and Básico 2 students. One of the Madrid Teacher is interviewed and she tells us basic personal information about herself.

Watch the interview through and just find out about Natalia.
Watch the interview again and note down the questions that she is asked.
Watch the video clip for a third time and note down Natalia's answers.

You can check both questions and answers with the transcript below.

Now it's over to your. Answer the questions Natalia was asked about yourself.

Hi, what’s your name?
My name is Natalia Perkalovich
And where are you from?
I am from Warsow, Poland.
And how old are you?
I am 34.
Have you got any brothers or sisters?
Yes, I have one older sister.
And how old is she?
She is 43.
Err… what does she do?
She is an editor.
And where does she live?
She lives in Mexico.
What’s your favorite film?
My favorite film is an American film called Stand-by me.
And who is in the film?
One of the actors is River Phoenix.
Very good. What’s your favorite type of music?
Hmmm… I would have to say pop.
And your favorite singer or favorite band?
Hmmm… yes my favorite singer is George Michael.
And what’s your favorite song by George Michael?
Wow, only one? Well, I really, really love all of them, but…
Your all time favorite.
Father Figure.
OK. Very good. What are your parents' names?
My parent’s names are Andrea and Teresa.
And what do they do?
My father is a scientist and my mother is a nurse.
And where do they live?
Right now they are living in the United States.
Err… which city?
College Park.
And what kind of house do they live in?
They live in an apartment. It’s a regular size.

lunes, 6 de enero de 2014

A New You for the New Year

A New You for the New Year is a video clip that ABC News aired on 1 January and which deals with New Year's resolutions.

In the video clip we are told about five easy ways to make 2014 the best year yet in our life.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and note down the five tips to make our life easier this year.

Lesson idea:
The video clip lends itself to a nice lesson about New Year's resolution after the holiday break.
What are the typical New Year's resolutions people usually make?
Why do people usually fail to fulfill the resolutions throughout the year?
Is it a good idea to share your resolutions?
Have you made any New Year's resolutions?
After watching the video, how could you adapt the theory of the 'easy fives' to your resolutions?

If you're one of the nearly a hundred million Americans starting a New Year’s resolution today chances are you’re about to… let me guess, improve your health for 2014, whether your goal is to lose weight, to eat better, exercise more, ABC’s chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser is here to help with five easy ways to make 2014 the best year yet in your life.
That's right.
So let's start by talking about resolutions and how to pick a good one.
Yeah, I mean that’s when a lot of people make a big mistake and they choose something that's so impossible to do that they're never going to succeed. So if you want to pick something that you really care about and you want to pick something that you can live with, so you know it has to be something that's doable in your life and then you want to tell people about it because that will help keep for feet to the fire when it gets a little tough. Those three things will get you…
I never want to tell anybody. In case I don't do it.
I know, I know because you think next week I’m going to blow it, so I don’t want anyone to know.
So I think that's smart to have somebody watching you.
Becoming your coach, yeah, you don't have to tell everybody, but tell somebody.
Ok. So keep your goal…you know, be real.
That's right. That's right.
So, the five… the fives… Five simple things you can do to improve your health. The first one to address is the single most common New Year’s resolution. That, of course, is losing weight.
Yes, so losing weight, everybody wants to lose weight and they want to lose a lot of weight. They want to look like the models they see here at GMA. But that is a goal for failures. So here it is, this is the fives, 5%, if you can lose just 5% of your body weight, you’re going to reduce your risk for diabetes, all kinds of medical problems and 5% is doable. If you weigh 200 pounds 5% is ten pounds, right? And so if you set the goal, I'm going to lose ten pounds over the next three or four months, you can do it. For a lot of people that just means to cut out the soda, you can lose your 5% that way, ok? And make a change that you can live with and 5% is doable.
5%, very reasonable. Another one we all make, vowing to exercise more.
Yes, you know, and there exercise is key. If you can say there that I'm going to take five minutes, right? Five minutes. You always say you have to do 30 minutes five times a week for your health.
That's too daunting.
It's daunting. How do you even start that if, if your life is full… but five minutes, okay, and that can mean you're getting up from your chair, you’re taking these mini-breaks throughout the day, you're walking for five minutes. The thing we’ve learned is that the time you spent sitting at your desk is really bad for your health. So five minutes, five times a day, you’ve got twenty-five minutes there. You're walking around, you're checking with people, you may go up and down the stairs, going around the block once. You're done.
You can do it.
You can do fives.
I also like, your morning five.
Yes, your morning five. So we know that breakfast is really important to be able to concentrate at work. It’s important for your kids to do well at school but people say, I don't have time for breakfast. Take five minutes in the morning. That’s all it takes for breakfast. Whole grain cereal with some fruit on there, whole grain toast, toasted, put a little peanut butter, some raisins on there. You can do that in five minutes and you'll get off on the right foot.
Yes, it goes against everything you think, I’m going to eat less but that's the one meal that you don't want to skimp more.
Yes. If you skip breakfast you’re more likely to eat more across the entire day and the total of calories will be higher.
Five minutes, all it takes to make yourself some toast. This is interesting, you say that gratitude can improve your health.
Yeah. There is more and more evidence that having that attitude, being grateful, being thankful is good for your health. And so here’s an easy way to change that framework. Consider focusing on the person who really did you in today. Focus on five things that happened today that you're grateful for, it may be just someone said hi to you. Someone who at coffee said ‘oh, you go first’, just something, and before bed, think of those five things. Write them down in the notebook. Occasionally write a note to somebody and say, ‘you know what, thanks so much for just saying hi’ and those things will change your whole mindset, it's good for your health, you'll sleep better.
Less stress.
Less stress.
Stress causes cortisol or something...
Yes, it raises the stress hormones, which are really bad for you. Which is changing that focus to being grateful.
 I love that idea. It’s a great idea to do to kids to change their frame of mind.
You can do that around the dinner table, what thing today are you grateful for, what are you thankful for? They will help you.
I’m thankful for these tips. And finally, tell us about five minutes for you.
Yes, so this is the one that I'm going to do, I'm going to tell people this because I’m going to try to do this this year.
Ok I’m going to hold you to it.
For me, it's going to be meditation. I know George meditates, Dan Harris meditates. It’s very hard Dr. B. to turn that brain off I tried, focus on five minutes.
It is, it is. You know, focus on five minute, you know. I'm going to take on meditation. If you do it for five minutes twice a day it's going to bring down those hormones, it's going to relax you and it’s going to allow you to sleep and focus. The stress in your life is going to melt away. I'm more and more convinced that meditation is really, really good for your health and I’m going to try and do it. I have trouble shutting off the brain and everything that is going on. I’m going to try five minutes in the morning, five minutes in the evening.
I'm going to do that one with you. I’m saying it to you right now.
Really? All right. That’s right. The easy fives.
Give me a high five.
High five. There we go.
Really great tips. Thank you so much Dr. B.

domingo, 5 de enero de 2014

Extensive listening series: The Truth About Supermarket Price Wars

Two years ago now, BBC's Panorama aired The Truth About Supermarket Price Wars.

In this thirty-minute documentary, reporter Sophie Raworth goes around some of Britain's biggest supermarket chains and discloses some surprises at the checkout.

"With their price drops, roll-backs, brand matches - as well as that old firm favourite, the two-for-one offer - our leading supermarkets are doing battle for our cash. They claim their price war is good news for shoppers in these tough times, but are their money-saving offers all they seem?".

Watch this fast-paced current affairs programme and find out the truth about supermarkets in the UK. No transcript available, but the CC YouTube subtitles on the lower side of the video player give a fairly accurate transcription of everything that is being said.