lunes, 31 de marzo de 2014

The Garden Bridge

Joanna Lumley introduces us to The Garden Bridge project. The Garden Bridge will be a new public garden and pedestrian crossing, extending from side to side of the River Thames, linking the South Bank to Temple station and beyond.
It has been designed by Thomas Heatherwick and will provide a  new route between north and south London and feature plants, trees, woodland and walkways to be used and enjoyed by all.
Its ground breaking design will integrate a new kind of public space into the fabric of the city, adding to London’s rich and diverse horticultural heritage.

Self-study activity:
Watch the short video by clicking on the image below or here and complete the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

We, who live in London, have always been (1) ... of our city. We’ve got used to it improving all the time. The Olympics is only one example of a city that is always changing, always growing, always reinventing itself. It’s lovely to (2) ... around the South Bank or join the (3) ... of Covent Garden and even now Docklands is bursting back into life. So London can be seen as a city with a tremendous history. But it’s also a city for a huge (4) ... for a great deal more. To Londoners, this wonderful place still offers the best quality of life in the world.
But more than that London is a city that is always getting better, always offering us more. The Garden Bridge is an incredibly (5) ... idea, the chance to walk through (6) ... over one of the greatest rivers in the world. For this Garden Bridge is a bridge that will improve the quality of life of everyone in London. For (7) ... , it will provide a quick and beautiful route to and from Waterloo Station. For (8) ... , a quiet place to linger among trees and grasses to look at the views. For tourists, an unforgettable (9) ... . It will link the North Bank to the South, the huge theatrical institutions of Covent Garden in the West End to the South Bank, with its film and television centers, the (10) ...   ...  and art galleries.
On that stretch of the river are the most ravishing (11) ... , celebrated in the song Waterloo Sunset. It will be a place to set (12) ... racing and to calm troubled minds. It will be free to all, open to all, changing with the seasons and (13) ... everyone who uses it. It’s like a tiara on the head of our fabulous city, known and loved throughout the world.

1 proud 2 stroll 3 bustle 4 appetite 5 daring 6 woodlands 7 commuters 8 dreamers 9 landmark 10 concert halls 11 views 12 hearts 13 enchanting

domingo, 30 de marzo de 2014

Joanna Lumley's Nile

 Joanna Lumley gives a very personal response to what she sees and experiences as she journeys along the 4,000 miles of the River Nile into the heart of Africa in this documentary first shown in spring 2010 by ITV.

She explores the world's longest river from sea to source. She begins her adventure on a fishing boat on Egypt's coast, where the Nile spills into the Mediterranean, before capturing the spirit of Agatha Christie in Cairo and enjoying a Nile cruise. She also travels along the river by train, road and felucca sailing boat, and ends the first part of her trip in Aswan, a town the Victorians described as being on the edge of civilisation.

sábado, 29 de marzo de 2014

This I believe

This I believe introduces itself in this fashion:

"This I Believe, Inc., was founded in 2004 as an independent, not-for-profit organization that engages youth and adults from all walks of life in writing, sharing, and discussing brief essays about the core values that guide their daily lives.

This I Believe is based on a 1950s radio program of the same name, hosted by acclaimed journalist Edward R. Murrow. Each day, Americans gathered by their radios to hear compelling essays from the likes of Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, and Harry Truman as well as corporate leaders, cab drivers, scientists, and secretaries—anyone able to distill into a few minutes the guiding principles by which they lived. These essayists’ words brought comfort and inspiration to a country worried about the Cold War, McCarthyism, and racial division. (...)

Teachers around the country—and around the world—have embraced This I Believe as a powerful educational tool. They have downloaded our educational curricula, posters, and brochures for using This I Believe in middle and high school classrooms and in college courses. These curricula help teachers guide students through exploring their beliefs and then composing personal essays about them. The students learn about themselves and their peers, and experience the delight of realizing their views and voices have value."

For the English learner at intermediate level and above, apart from the above-mentioned educational value, This I believe provides an invaluable tool through their daily podcasts which come accompanied by the transcript.

viernes, 28 de marzo de 2014

This is Norway

This is a funny look at Norway and the Norwegians. Watch this short video about the Northern European country and answer the questions.

The activity is suitable to intermediate 2 students.

1 What food has Norway survived since ancient time?
2 What did the Norwegians invent in 1960?
3 What are Norwegian babies born with?
4 What do Norwegian children learn to love during their ski trips?
5 Why are Norwegian children afraid of the dark?
6 Why do Norwegians find it difficult to socialise?
7 What age does school start?
8 What do Norwegian students put on two weeks before graduation?
9 What do Norwegians celebrate on 17th May?
10 What do Norwegians do two days a week?

You can read the transcript below to check your answers.

This is Planet Earth and this, this is Norway. Many people think that Norway is the capital of Sweden. So, if you think so right now, you are wrong. Since ancient time, Norway has survived on fish, potatoes, rocks and plundering. And then in the 1960s, we invented the oil. We gave up rocks and plundering, but we still like fish and potatoes. The invention of oil has in many ways laid the foundation of today’s society, where we are born with skis on our feet. Even before we learned how to walk or even stand, we got dragged into a big ski called a pulk.
But as soon as they learn how to stand on their own feet, they are forced to love skiing. During these ski trips, they also learn how to love the lunch packet. The lunch packet’s most popular contentment is a frozen piece of bread with a slice of yellow cheese on it. But soon enough, we learn how easy it is to get something else. Bedtime stories are a big thing in Norway. They mainly evolve around scary creatures like trolls and a guy called Askeladden. And these stories are the main reason why the children are afraid of the dark.
Even though we know Norwegians got extremely wealthy from inventing the oil, we keep forgetting to buy more kindergartens. So socializing is a rare expense for some kids. But what we do by a lot of our schools. We start school at the age of six and graduate, after we learned that Norway is not the capital of Sweden, and the Norwegian special atlas and lunch packet with a frozen bread and the cheese is still popular here.
Two weeks before the final exams and graduation, the grad students put on red and blue overalls. Then we drink and drive red and blue cars, sometimes also buses, while not doing our homework. The 17th of May is the last day of celebration and this also happens to be our day of independence. On this day, we celebrate our liberty, our fish and potatoes and oil. We have the flags and eat Norwegian traditional food like hotdog. Kids and grown-ups also wear a traditional dress made from wool, called a bunad. It itches terribly, it’s way too warm and makes you look fat. But that doesn’t stop us from smiling and dancing and kicking hats off sticks, doing traditional folk dances.
After graduation from high school, we leave our Moms and her dinners. We migrate to bigger cities and discover dinners that are much more enjoyable than mom’s fish and potatoes, but we still like fish and potatoes. After moving to bigger cities, we find a job or a book to read and go out two days per week. We mingle and have sex. Actually statistically speaking, we are at the top of the scale when it comes to one-night stands, in Norway also referred to as simple, easy, enjoyment.
Then we have babies and start a family. Our children are born with skis under their feet and then put them in pulks and make them go skiing, make them lunch packets, scare them with stories about trolls, make them wear clothes that itches and tell them to kick hats, give them money, so they can drink and drive and not read, so that they can repeat their cycles over and again, and they say now hey, welcome to Norway.

jueves, 27 de marzo de 2014

How an ageing population will change the world

The number of people across the world over 65 years old will triple by 2050, drastically altering some countries' demographic make-up, according to a new report by the Pew Research Center.

BBC's David Botti takes a look at the numbers in this Face Facts report.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip and say what the numbers below refer to.

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

population of Nigeria by 2050

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

The world is getting older. How much older? By 2050 the number of people over 65 will triple. A new aging attitude survey of 21 countries by the Pew Research Centre found that Japan is the most worried about aging. 87% of people think it is a problem, that’s in contrast to the US where only 26% of people are concerned. The survey found that the older the population is predicted to be, the more they are worried about aging..
Countries also have different takes on who should care for the old. Only a few have a big chunk of people who think seniors should care for themselves. Overall most people think the government should be responsible. But also look at a place like Pakistan, where 77% of folks think it’s up to families.
All this aging can hurt economies. Spain is a good example. In the future there will be more younger and older relying on those of working age.
The US, however, make have an advantage here. It’s population is growing slower and getting older, but it’s still projected to be younger than major trading partners in Europe and Asia. That’s because America has the most immigrants of any country. They are bringing higher fertility rates, even as US born women are having less babies. Between 1960 and 2005 immigrants and their descendants have accounted for 51% of US population growth. Now between 2005 and 2050 they’ll account for 82% of that growth.
Pew says countries with the biggest chances of economic boost may be those with the youngest populations. Among these Nigeria is well placed. By 2050 it’s projected to have a bigger population than the United States.
David Botti, BBC News, Washington.

miércoles, 26 de marzo de 2014

Talking poing: Where you live

This week's talking point is about the place where we live. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand and ideas come to mind more easily when you meet your friends.

Where do you live?
How long have you lived here?
What do you like most about the city/town where you live? Why?
What don't you like about where you live? Why?
Have you ever lived in a different place?
If yes, where was it and what was it like?
If yes, why did you move here?
If you've lived in more than one place, which did you like best? Why?
Would you ever consider moving somewhere else? And abroad?
If yes, where and why? If no, why not?
If you could change one thing about where you live, what would it be?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of living in a city or in the country?
What makes a city a pleasant place to live?
If you had to design a city, how would it be?

To illustrate the point, watch this Speakout video where some people talk about the advantages and disadvantages of living in the city.

The video clip is part of a new textbook published by Longman, Speak Out, which stresses the importance of authentic materials in language learning.

You can read a transcript of the video here.

martes, 25 de marzo de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Manners

In Our Madrid Teacher series, four teachers, Sophia, Joyce, Vicky and Louise,tell us about how manners change from one culture to another. Before you watch their three-minute video, think about these questions:

How often do people in your country say 'sorry' and 'thank you'?
In what situations?
How firm should a handshake be in your country?
How many kisses do you give when you greet someone?
Which culture uses bowing as a form of greeting?
Would you touch someone's head to show affection?
Is it common in your culture to burp when you're eating?

Now watch the video and see the four teachers' experience with the situations above.

Once again, the spontaneous talk of the teachers gives us a great opportunity of glimpsing what conversational English is like. Watch the video again and pay attention to the following features of spoken English:

- Generalising: Generally
- Emphasis: quite, really
- Hedging (use introductory verbs to sound less categorical): I think, I don't think
- Agreement: Yeah, definitely, yes.
- Gaining thinking time: You know
- Connecting ideas: like
- Asking question to involve other people in the conversation: Have you made the mistake...
- Showing surprise: Oh, yeah?
- Giving examples: like, for example
- Rephrasing what we have just said to make the meaning clear: I mean

Now it's over to you again. Go over the questions above again and try to discuss the topic of manners in your country and your experience of manners when you have travelled abroad. Try and use some of the features on spoken English  we have mentioned.

Sophia: So how polite do you think you guys are on a scale from 1 to 10?
Joyce: It depends with whom.
Vicky: Or the mood.
Sophia: Oh, go on.
Vicky: Generally, I think I’m quite polite. I think British people often tend to be quite polite at least with their pleases, thank yous, would you mind.
Sophia: May I?
Louise: And profuse apologies. I find it's the same in Australia. We have those, and also we say 'sorry' for everything. We say the buses go past with 'Sorry Not in Service'. We’re always apologizing, whereas other countries it's not quite the same I think.
Sophia: Yeah, I think we’re very big on etiquette and sorry. If you bump into somebody, you say 'sorry' whether it s your fault or not, yeah, it s just the etiquette and when you meet somebody, you give them a firm handshake. That’s also very important. A weak handshake, you’re not such a good person. Strong handshakes mean that you’re confident, you actually want to meet the person that you’re meeting at the time, yeah.
Vicky: And hand crushing handshakes mean, 'don’t mess with me'.
All: Ha, ha, ha.
Joyce: Yeah, but then you got all the complication of the kissing like in different countries, you know, and then if it’s two, if it s one, if it s three, if it s four.
Vicky: In both directions.
Joyce: In France, in certain areas of France it’s three and in other areas of France it’s four.
Louise: And in some places it’s two.
Vicky: In Holland it’s three.
Sophia: I’ve made the mistake of thinking, 'oh it’s one', and they’ve gone for the second one and hmm, uncomfortable situation.
Vicky: I’ve made the mistake of going in the wrong direction, ha, ha, ha.
Sophia: Kissing them on the lips. Ha, ha, ha.
Louise: Have you ever almost made contact on the lips? I did that once.
Vicky: Oh, yeah?
Louise: It was so embarrassing.
Vicky: It s embarrassing.
Louise: But I think, I think, the world’s so global now everybody has a, they’re very tolerant to each other
I don t think anyone’s, anyone’s judging others for not following exactly the manners from their culture I think.
Joyce: Yeah, but for example, we’re not used to bowing and of course like in Asian cultures they do that, you wouldn’t shake somebody's hand and you certainly wouldn’t kiss them, you know also. You really have to be careful sometimes if you go to another country to find out about these little things.
Louise: Definitely, but also I think people are very understanding these days.
Vicky: Well, like in Asia, for example, a gesture that you would do, like to touch someone on the head with our culture, it’s an affection, it’s something you do to someone if you know them well.
Joyce: Or especially the children.
Vicky: It can be patronising obviously, the way some people do it, it can be patronising, the way people do it, but generally it’s not something you would do to someone you didn’t know, it’s certainly not a disrespectful thing, whereas in Thailand if you do it, it’s they don't understand, they don't understand why you would possibly do that.
Sophia: And in certain cultures, erm, you should burp after eating to show that you really enjoyed your meal, but, you know, if you do that in UK, you must say 'I beg your pardon' please, but in certain cultures you should (burp) thanks for that, that was great.
Louise: I enjoyed it very much.
All: Ha, ha, ha.
Louise: Well, I think there are some things that are standard. I mean pleases and thank yous, they go well everywhere, no matter where you go.
Sophia: Yes.

lunes, 24 de marzo de 2014

Why is yawning contagious?

Why is yawning contagious is a TED-Ed lesson by Claudia Aguirre. The lesson is really dense, and the pace of delivery of the speaker really fast, which even good English learners at intermediate level might find a bit intimidating. Anyway, let's give it a try.

Watch the lesson through and try to understand what the following means:
contagious yawning
fixed action pattern
the chameleon effect
empathy yawn

You can check the answers by reading the transcript.

Oh, excuse me! Have you ever yawned because somebody else yawned? You aren’t especially tired, yet suddenly your mouth opens wide and a big yawn comes out.
 This phenomenal is known as contagious yawning and while scientists still don’t fully understand why it happens, there are many hypothesis currently being researched. Let’s take a look at a few of the most prevalent ones, beginning with two physiological hypotheses before moving to a psychological one.
Our first physiological hypothesis states that contagious yawning is triggered by a specific stimulus, an initial yawn. This is called fixed action pattern. Think of fixed action pattern like a reflex, your yawn makes me yawn, similar to a domino effect, one person’s yawn triggers a yawn in a person nearby that has observed the act. Once this reflex is triggered it must run its course. Have you ever tried to stop the yawn once it has begun? Basically impossible!
Another physiological hypothesis is known as non-conscious mimicry or the chameleon effect. This occurs when you imitate someone’s behavior without knowing it, a subtle and unintentional copycat maneuver. People tend to mimic each other’s postures: if you are seated across from someone that has their legs crossed, you might cross your own legs. This hypothesis suggests that we yawn when we see someone else yawn because we are unconsciously copying his or her behavior. Scientists believe that this chameleon effect is possible because of a special set of neurons known as mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are a type of brain cell that responds equally when we perform an action as when we see someone else perform the same action. These neurons are important for learning and self-awareness. For example, watching someone do something physical like knitting or putting on lipstick can help you do those same action more accurately. Neuro imaging studies using FmRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging, shows that when we see someone yawn or even hear their yawn a specific area of the brain housing these mirror neurons tends to light up which in turn causes us to respond with the same action. A yawn!
Our psychological hypothesis also involves the work of these mirror neurons? We will call it the empathy yawn. Empathy is the ability to understand what someone else is feeling and partake in their emotion, a crucial ability for social animals like us. Recently neuroscientists have found that a subset of mirror neurons allows us to empathize with others’ feelings at a deeper level. Scientists discovered that this emphatic response to yawning while testing the first hypothesis we mentioned, fixed action pattern. The study was set up to show that dogs will enact a yawn reflex at the mere sound of a human yawn. While the study showed this was true, they found something else interesting. Dogs yawn more frequently at familiar yawns such as from their owners than at unfamiliar yawns from strangers. Following this research, other studies on humans and primates have also shown that contagious yawning occurs more frequently among friends than strangers. In fact, contagious yawning starts occurring when we are about four or five years old, at the point when children develop their ability to identify others’ emotions properly. Still, while neuroscientific studies aim to prove that contagious yawning is based on this capacity for empathy, more research is needed to shed light on what exactly is going on.
It’s possible that the answer lies in another hypothesis all together. The next time you get caught in a yawn, take a second to think about what’s just happened: Were you thinking about a yawn? Did someone near you yawn? Was that personal a stranger or someone close? And are you yawning right know?

domingo, 23 de marzo de 2014

Extensive listening: Mozart of Chess: Magnus Carlsen

In February this year CBS's 60 Minutes rebroadcast their segment The Mozart of Chess, originally aired in February 2012, on World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen.

This is the way reporter Bob Simon introduced the segment and Magnus Carlsen.

"Magnus Carlsen is the best in the world. He is a 21-year-old Norwegian, reigns supreme in a sport played by 500 million people. It is chess. Many don't think of it as a sport because nobody moves, but chess masters will tell you it can be more brutal than boxing. That's because at the championship level, the objective is not only to win, but to demolish your opponent. That can take hours, the best players need extraordinary endurance so most of them are young. Magnus is the youngest number one ever. And no one can explain to you how he does what he does. As we reported in February, it seems to come from another world, which is why he has become known as the Mozart of chess."

You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 22 de marzo de 2014

Reading test: Why tough teachers get good results

This is an adaptation to the Wall Street Journal article Why Tough Teachers get good results, by Joanna Lipman published on 23 September 2013 and which I came across through The Prop Room.

We are going to do a multiple matching reading comprehension activity based on the article. You will be given a number of headings and you will have to match each heading with the corresponding paragraph. There is one heading you don’t need to use and another heading is used as an example.

A) A little pain is good for you. – 0
B) Creativity can be learned.
C) Drill, baby, drill.
D) Failure is an option.
E) Praise makes you weak.
F) Resolve and determination trump talent.
G) stress makes you strong.
H) Strict is better than nice. 


The conventional wisdom holds that teachers are supposed to tease knowledge out of students, rather than pound it into their heads. Projects and collaborative learning are applauded; traditional methods like lecturing and memorization are dismissed as a surefire way to suck young minds dry of creativity and motivation.
But the conventional wisdom is wrong. And the following eight principles explain why.
True expertise requires teachers who give "constructive, even disturbing, feedback," as Dr. Ericsson put it in a 2007 Harvard Business Review article. He assessed research on top performers in fields ranging from violin performance to surgery to computer programming to chess. And he found that all of them "deliberately picked unsentimental coaches who would challenge them and drive them to higher levels of performance."
Rote learning, long discredited, is now recognized as one reason that children whose families come from India (where memorization is still prized) are creaming their peers in the National Spelling Bee Championship. This cultural difference also helps to explain why students in China (and Chinese families in the U.S.) are better at math. Meanwhile, American students struggle with complex math problems because, as research makes abundantly clear, they lack fluency in basic addition and subtraction—and few of them were made to memorize their times tables.
Kids who understand that not succeeding is a necessary aspect of learning actually perform better. In a 2012 study, 111 French sixth-graders were given anagram problems that were too difficult for them to solve. One group was then told that not getting the problems right and trying again are part of the learning process. On subsequent tests, those children consistently outperformed their peers.
What makes a teacher successful? To find out, starting in 2005 a team of researchers led by Claremont Graduate University education professor Mary Poplin spent five years observing 31 of the most highly effective teachers (measured by student test scores) in the worst schools of Los Angeles, in neighborhoods like South Central and Watts. Their No. 1 finding: "They were tough," she says. "None of us expected that."
The researchers had assumed that the most effective teachers would lead students to knowledge through collaborative learning and discussion. Instead, they found disciplinarians who relied on traditional methods of explicit instruction, like lectures.
The rap on traditional education is that it kills children's' imagination. But Temple University psychology professor Robert W. Weisberg's research suggests just the opposite. Prof. Weisberg has studied inventive geniuses including Thomas Edison, Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso—and has concluded that there is no such thing as a born genius. Most geniuses work ferociously hard and, through a series of incremental steps, achieve things that appear (to the outside world) like epiphanies and breakthroughs.
The bottom line, Prof. Weisberg told me, is that originality goes back in many ways to the basics. "You have to immerse yourself in a discipline before you innovate in that discipline. It is built on a foundation of learning the discipline, which is what your music teacher was requiring of you."
In recent years, University of Pennsylvania psychology professor Angela Duckworth has studied spelling bee champs, Ivy League undergrads and cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.—all together, over 2,800 subjects. In all of them, she found that grit—defined as passion and perseverance for long-term goals—is the best predictor of success.
Prof. Duckworth believes that grit can be taught. One surprisingly simple factor, she says, is optimism—the belief among both teachers and students that they have the ability to change and thus to improve. In a 2009 study of newly minted teachers, she rated each for optimism (as measured by a questionnaire) before the school year began. At the end of the year, the students whose teachers were optimists had made greater academic gains.
Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck has found that 10-year-olds being complimented became less confident. But kids told that they were "hard workers" became more confident and better performers.
"The whole point of intelligence recognition is to boost confidence and motivation, but both were gone in a flash," wrote Prof. Dweck in a 2007 article in the journal Educational Leadership. "If success meant they were smart, then struggling meant they were not."

A little pain is good for you. – 0
Creativity can be learned. – 4
Drill, baby, drill. – 1
Failure is an option. - 2
Praise makes you weak. – 6
Resolve and determination trump talent. – 5
stress makes you strong.
Strict is better than nice. - 3

viernes, 21 de marzo de 2014

The websites that want you to share food

Internet technology, especially mobile, allows us to monitor our resources like never before - in theory making sharing more possible. Watch this BBC report from the series UpNext and find out about this innovative idea about sharing food.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

Get Adobe Flash player

1 is a web platform to share food with your neighbours.
2 People hosting a meal must cook the dishes their guests ask for.
3 The man explaining works as an ambassador.
4 The guest pays in advance.
5 Sharing is part of the French character.
6 The reason behind Crunchd was the creator being unable to consume all the food he grew in his garden.
7 In Crunchd your neighbours give you advice.
8 You can make friends through Crunchd.
9 You are not allowed to make money out of Crunchd.
10 The British are reserved.

I just want to show you what we’ll like be eating.
Cooking is meant for sharing. You have to understand what it means to cook. When you are cooking you’re cooking for other people.
Well, cookening is a web platform that allows us to eat with local people when you’re travelling or you’re an ex-pat in a city, and on the other side it allows people to host meals for foreigners at home and get a bit money out of that.
We have a website called where we have people that are interested in hosting a meal, so they go in the website, and create a profile where they will explain what kinds of meals are ready to organise, what kind of dishes we are ready to suggest. Our team is reviewing it based on pictures, text, and if needed we call them, always send them an email to be sure it is fine.
I do that because I want foreign people to discover the French culture and the French food. I’m kind of happy and thrilled to be a French ambassador for food and wine, yeah, that’s the idea.
On the other side, you have guests that are usually foreigners. They say yeah, hi, I’m in town, I’m interested in eating with you, are you available this day because I’ve seen on your calendar it’s fine. And when the host says ‘Ok. I’m… let’s go, let’s have this meal together’, then the guest is invited to pay on a platform to confirm the meal.
It must be about the social aspect of it and, you know, to hear about their experiences and also see what a French meal is really like, what people talk about.
I might have tried it but I just don’t know.
In our culture of food we like to share and gather, you know, all the resources. We have to do that now because the resources are going down and, you know, and we have to optimize that.
French people love sharing, especially outside of Paris where there’s this kind of way of living and way of consuming, really old, so and the web and all these platforms are just increasing it.

Crunchd started from growing too much spinach in my back garden when I came back from travelling and I found a lot of friends who were interested in eating local, home-grown food by myself. Unfortunately, we’ve got very tired of having to make spinach ice-cream, so decided to try and find other friends who were growing other vegetables, and we were able to swap my spinach for tomatoes, courgettes, apples, strawberries.
It’s a way of recording exactly what you do in your allotment, on your window sill, at the back of your garden. You can record when you’ve planted a vegetable, what it is you’re growing, you can ask questions to your local community, you can see what people in your local community are growing and eating at the same time.
There’s few people on there up the road who I didn’t know beforehand and we’ve met up since, and had a beer together and discussed our vegetables, which is interesting topic of conversation down the pub.
When we get to harvesting times, for example if you grow too many radishes you are able to trade those radishes with your friends, with your local community through the application, whether it be for money or you could swap your radishes for carrots, courgettes, whatever it is your neighbours are growing as well.
It’s been awful of me and my chili seedlings I’ve got far too many of them. I’ve gone absolutely bananas and over board on them, chilies coming out of my ears. Us Brits are slightly more reserved than the French and a few other nations, but we are definitely out there with them. I think we could produce stuff just like the French and get into the whole sharing aspect of it, yeah, definitely.
With Crunchd once we have shown newcomers what it’s like to grow their own food, to share ideas, to share thoughts, to help one another out we are finding us British losing that reservedness and really, really having a lot of fun with Crunchd.

1F 2F 3F 4T 5T 6T 7T 8T 9F 10T

jueves, 20 de marzo de 2014

The mystery of motion sickness

The mystery of motion sickness is a Ted-ed lesson by Rose Eveleth that tries to unravel the intricacies of this common occurrence.

Drop by The mystery of motion sickness in Ted-ed to gain access to all the resources around this scientific mystery. You can also compare the information there with BBC's Why do we get car sick?

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

The activity is suitable for strong intermediate 2 students. Careful! The narrator talks really fast.

1 How much of the population experiences motion sickness?
2 What's the common theory that explains motion sickness?
3 What are the functions of the vestibular system?
4 What is the main explanation scientists have come up with?
5 What does a second theory say?
6 What remedies against car sickness are mentioned?
7 How fast does a spaceship travel?

Can you read in a car? If so, consider yourself pretty lucky. For about one-third of the population looking at a book while moving along in a car or a boat or a train or a plane, quickly makes them sick to their stomach, but why we get motion sickness in the first place? Well, believe it or not, scientists aren’t exactly sure.
The most common theory has to do with mismatched sensory signals. When you travel in a car, your body is getting two very different messages, your eyes are seeing the inside of the vehicle, which doesn’t seem to be moving, meanwhile your ear telling your brain that you are accelerating. Wait, your ear?
Yeah, your ear actually has another important function besides hearing. In its inner most part lies a group of structures known as the vestibular system, which gives us our sense of balance and movement. Inside there are three semi-circular tubules that can sense rotation; one for each dimension of space. And there are also two hairline sacks that are filled with fluid. So when you move, the fluid shifts and tickles the hair, telling your brain whether you are moving horizontally or vertically. With all these combined, your body can sense which direction you are moving in, how you accelerated, even at what angle. So when you are in the car your vestibular system correctly senses your movement, but your eyes don’t see it, especially if they are glued to a book.
The opposite can happen too. Say you are sitting in a movie theater and the camera makes a broad sweeping move. This time, it’s your eyes that think you are moving while your ear knows that you are sitting still, but why does this conflicting information have to make us feel so terrible?
Scientists aren’t sure about that either, but they think there is an evolutionary explanation. You see, both fast moving vehicles and video recordings they only exist in the last couple of centuries, barely a blink in evolutionary time. For most of our history they are just wasn’t that much that could cause this kind of sensory mix-up, except for poisons, and because poisons are not the best thing for survival, our bodies evolved very direct, but not very pleasant way to get rid of whatever we might have eaten that was causing the confusion.
This theory seems pretty reasonable, but it leaves a lot of things unexplained like why women are more affected by motion sickness than men or why passengers get more nauseous than drivers.
Another theory suggest that the cause may have more to do with the way some unfamiliar situations may get harder to maintain our natural body posture. Studies have shown that being immersed in the water or just changing your stance can greatly reduce the effects of motion sickness, but again we don’t really know what’s going on.
We’ll do know some of the more common remedies for car queasiness: looking at the horizon, chewing gum, taking over the counter pills, but none of these are totally reliable, nor can they handle really intense motion sickness and sometimes the stakes are far higher than just not being bored during a long car ride.
At NASA, where astronauts are hurdled into space at 17,000 miles per hour, motions sickness is a serious problem. So in addition to researching the latest space age technologies, NASA also spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to keep astronauts from vomiting up their carefully prepared space rations.
Much like understanding the mysteries of sleep or curing the common cold, motion sickness remains one of those seemingly simple problems that despite amazing scientific progress we still know very little about. Perhaps one day the exact cause of motion sickness will be found and with it a completely effective way to prevent it, but that day is still on the horizon.

miércoles, 19 de marzo de 2014

Talking point: Bureaucracy

Today's talking point deals with bureaucracy. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow more easily and you can work out vocabulary issues when you meet up with your friends.
  • How bureaucratic is the administration where you live? Give examples.
  • Do you think civil servants generally deal well with members of the public?
  • If not, what do you think needs to be improved?
  • What was the last bureaucratic process you had to go through?
  • What did you have to do exactly? How long did the process take?
  • Have you ever had any negative bureaucratic experiences?
  • If not, do you know anyone who has? What made the experience negative?
  • And positive bureaucratic experiences?
  • What do you have to do to renew your driving licence, identity card or passport?
  • And to get a birth/marriage certificate and sign up for social security?
  • Have you ever had to have diplomas and professional qualifications recognized?
  • How do people get a job in the public administration in your country?
  • Do workers in the public administration have a job for life?
  • If so, what are the good and bad things about this?
  • Do you have to deal with the public in your job?
  • If so, do you enjoy it? If not, would you like to? Why (not)?
To illustrate the point you can watch this Euronews report about the bureaucratic difficulties European citizens go through when living in another country of the Union.

It is one of those things almost guaranteed to make our heads spin: getting bogged down in official bureaucracy and paperwork. A public document like this can often be at the heart of the problem. It’s needed to prove who we are. And imagine what it’s like for someone who moves to a different country.
It took me ages to work out what the Austrian officials were asking for.
And somewhat it was like a battle in fact.
Exactly. I was confronted with a daily battle.
Some say bureaucracy is blocking European rights on free movement.
We travelled to Austria to get reaction to new plans to slash the red tape. Brussels is proposing a new regulation aimed at reducing the money, time and energy spent on authenticating official documents used across European borders. This would affect hundreds of thousands of cases involving individuals and businesses.
We met a French pilotand his partnerwho know all about the stress of administrative red tape. They settled in Vienna five years ago, but are still not sure they have beaten the paperwork.
For example, they have had to register the births of two of their three children and sign up for social security. But getting their papers in order, as an unmarried couple, has been difficult.
Every time we do official paperwork we’re not sure if we’re doing everything within our rights, because we’re foreigners, when actually of course we have the same rights. But we’re not sure, and we don’t speak the language well enough to express ourselves.
Also, we have the impression that we’re a nuisance, either because of the queue behind us, or because the kids are noisy, or because we’re not the only ones filling in papers, and we take more time with the officials in front of us. So we end up saying ‘oh, damn, we have annoyed them, we have been a real nuisance’. At the end of the day they’re not there for us. Normally they’re there to help Austrian people.
It is very unsettling because we realise that if we make a mistake when establishing a civil status document, this will stay with the child throughout his life. So we really try to focus, to understand as precisely as possible what we need to provide in terms of documents, and we totally rely on the officials on the other side of the counter.
But we get the impression that even they are a bit lost and not sure about the validity of what they are doing. This plants a seed of doubt and worry, and we wonder ‘but who should we go to, who’s responsible for these procedures?’
Brussels wants to scrap what it calls arcane and costly rubber-stamping formalities, including so-called legalised versions or certified translations of public documents. It also wants to give people the option of using multi-lingual EU standard forms to further avoid translation. And in response to concern about fraud, administrative cooperation between states would be improved.
The new European regulation will cover documents in certain areas including birth, death, marriage, name documents, partnerships, parenthood, adoption papers, residency, citizenship, nationality certificates; but also company details, intellectual property rights and real estate documents. Papers showing absence of a criminal record are also covered.
Austria’s Pan-Europa Movement, the oldest European unification group, took part in a public consultation on the new rules. It welcomes simpler procedures in some areas, but says different standards have to be respected.
It depends what is actually meant by simplification. It should be about getting things recognised in the easiest way possible, so it’s then not necessary to get a document translated for example. That’s simplification. However, given there are different legal standards in place, simplification does not mean having everything automatically recognised.
But Brussels says the regulation will not force countries to recognise a document’s contents, which some had been calling for. For example, a gay marriage certificate issued in one EU country, would not be automatically recognised in other member states. For now the focus is on reducing the hassle of proving authenticity.
The situations we face build up and make us fragile, and that’s when we lose our confidence. And when that happens, I no longer know whether what I am asking for is within my rights. We’re always asking ourselves ‘actually, maybe they’re right, it’s my fault, I’m a foreigner, what am I doing here, there’s no point in me being here. You have to be quite strong to keep confronting the system, the big machine, the administrative steamroller.
The new regulation still has to be approved by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers. And for those wondering about the recognition of diplomas and professional qualifications, that comes under the scope of separate EU law.

martes, 18 de marzo de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Anecdotes -walking home at night

In our Madrid Teacher series this week two teachers tell us about a scary situation when they were walking home late at night.

This gives us the opportunity to see the way they talk about past situations and the way they combine the use of the past continuous (for longer, background situations) and the past simple (shorter actions that interrupt the action in the past continuous).

Self-study activity:
Listen to the two teachers telling their anecdotes. Try to take some (telegraphic) notes of the main ideas in their anecdotes.

Listen as often as necessary until you feel you've got the grasp of what really happened to them.

Then retell the teachers' anecdotes in their own words. Make a point of using the past simple and past continuous all the time, and don't jump to the present.

Finally, can you think about a scary situation in your life? Retell the anecdote using the past continuous and past simple.

The activity is suitable for Intermediate 1 students.

So, something really strange happened to me yesterday.
I was walking home, and it was quite late, and it was a bit dark, it was like eight o’clock and it gets dark now. And I was walking through from the train station to my house and there is like this forest, a mini forest, that I had to walk through and it was a bit scary. Ah, sometimes, you know, you see shadows and you think you see people.
And I was walking through and suddenly saw the figure of this woman between the trees. And…
Yeah, a little bit. It was like a woman in ah, she was wearing like white, white clothes it was a bit strange. I wasn’t expecting to see anyone at that time. And then she started coming towards me and but it was like she was walking, it was like she was floating or something.
And I got a bit scared. And I… anyway started running, and I was running and I fell down and then when I looked up she was standing above me. She had a really strange white face, it was like she was a ghost or something. And she just said… “Don’t come in here again.” And I just jumped up and ran home. I was just like really scared. Nothing like that had ever happened to me before. And I’ve been in that forest again, and I‘ve never seen her again.
Don’t know who she was or what she was doing… She might have been just a drunk who lived in the forest, but I don’t want to have to go through there again.
Is there any other way you can get home or?
Yeah, but it would have to be a bit longer, and I was thinking of leaving my bicycle in the train station, but I heard that if you leave your bike there people might steal it, or a friend of mine did leave his bike there and they slashed his tyres, so…
So, anything strange has happen to you before or any interesting stories?
Well, one day… similar. I was walking home. I was walking home, but… er… not through a forest. No, no. I was just walking on the sidewalk, and I was just walking and it was getting dark. It was bit earlier than in your case. It was getting dark, and suddenly yes  I saw a group of teenagers, you know, a group of teenagers.
They can be very dangerous.
Well, let’s just say it was uncomfortable to pass next to them.
Did they say anything to you?
Well, it wasn’t so much what they said… it was just you know it was a group. It was group of five or six so it was the way they looked. So, it wasn’t… yeah… they didn’t really say but they looked very strangely. So, well I had nowhere to go let’s say so, I had to go straight and they were on the right. I had just to keep walking, but you got the sensation.
Yeah, but nothing happened.
No, no again, this was just one time. I guess they were coming back from a late class or something but it was uncomfortable.
Yeah, you have to be careful walking home at night.

lunes, 17 de marzo de 2014

Paddleboarding Around New York City

1 What is most people's reactions when they see someone paddleboarding?
2 Where are usually the wind and the current when you are paddleboarding?
3 How physically demanding is paddleboarding?
4 What is the number one rule?
5 What is the movement of the board similar to?
6 What does the man compare paddleboarding at the end?

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

The looks you get from people as you are on your stand-up paddleboard and a hundred people come by. You see guys on the construction platforms like scratching their heads going… Hmmm what is that?
Sometimes you just have to work a little harder to get to that activity you want to do. But it all can happen, and with the sea paddle introduced people to hey, get on the water, it’s all the way around you. I mean, I come to the city and I literally put on my inflatable paddleboard, hop on my skateboard, go cross town, pump it up, put my board in the river, and I just go paddle and get my exercise and come back and deflate my board, get back on my skateboard and go cross town and go home. People are like what did you do?
You’re standing up, you’re able to look up at the buildings, the wind is at your back most of the time, the current is in your favour. What a better place for us to paddle, to reach out to all these people and these buildings?
To paddle right next to the FDR, you are like ‘oh gosh I’m always in the traffic’ and you’re blowing by it. Stand-up paddling is definitely a physical challenge in the conditions of padelling round New York City.
Number one rule, don’t fall. Keep your mouth closed.
You’re battling currents, tides.
Watch out for barges, watch out for submerged pilings.
Ferry boats.
Bars, trash. Can I keep going? You might consider it as… if you have a giant yoga ball, stand on it, ok? You’ve got all of that movement , all the balance required, the currents, the wind, the ripples. Core. Once you’ve combined all that is like walking on the street but building up to that level… if you play you pay, you know, you gotta learn how to fall. It’s like riding a bicycle, so what we are realistically doing is we are riding a bicycle three quarters of the way around Manhattan.

domingo, 16 de marzo de 2014

Extensive listening: Silicon Valley

In 1957, decades before Steve Jobs dreamed up Apple or Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook, a group of eight brilliant young men defected from the Shockley Semiconductor Company in order to start their own transistor business.

Their leader was 29-year-old Robert Noyce, a physicist with a brilliant mind and the affability of a born salesman who would co-invent the microchip, an essential component of nearly all modern electronics today, including computers, motor vehicles, cell phones and household appliances.

This PBS documentary from the series American Experience shows us the story of Silicon Valley.

Here is see the first part of the documentary.

You can read the transcript here and access to some other resources about the documentary here.

sábado, 15 de marzo de 2014

Pronounce it right

I recently discovered Pronounce it right, a different online pronunciation dictionary. This is how Patrizia Serra and Laura Mazzoni, the people behind Pronounce it right, describe it:

"Can you correctly pronounce celebrity names such as Aishwarya Rai, Keira Knightley or Agnès Jaoui, or Roberto Benigni? Now try with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy or the Iranian Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Pronounce it right, establishes order in the huge phonetic mess of global communications. Common people as well as media professionals often take a guess in pronouncing foreign names or overseas words used in everyday life.

As a result, all these mispronounced names become "official" thanks to "reputable" radio and television announcers. Now, you can hear the correct articulation of any foreign name with a simple click. Why live with a bruschetta awfully pronounced or a misspelled Zbigniew Brzeziński when it’s so easy to stop making a fool of yourself?"

Patrizia and Laura have organised the names by categories and nationalities. In addition, they include categories like 'the newest 100 pronunciations' and even a pronunciation test.

Drop by Pronounce it right and explore it.

viernes, 14 de marzo de 2014

Fresh vs frozen food

This is a video by Asap Science about the difference between fresh and frozen foods.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Fresh food is always better.
2 Fresh food hasn't always reached its nutritional peak when it is harvested.
3 It may take weeks for fresh food to be eaten.
4 Frozen food isn't frozen immediately after being picked.
5 Frozen foods can contain more nutrition than fresh food out of season.
6 After three days of storage, frozen broccoli had higher levels of vitamin C than fresh broccoli.
7 Fresh vegetables from your garden are to be avoided.
8 UpDesk is offering you $15 discount.

With the advent two freezers were able to keep our food lasting longer than ever before. But is there a difference between fresh and frozen produce in terms of nutrition? Which should you be eating? Your instinct may be to shout out: 'Of course fresh food is better, it’s fresh.'  And you may be right, but it’s highly depended on the circumstances.
In many instances, the food you take off the shelf in a grocery store has been harvested under ripe to avoid damage during travel time. This means it hasn’t yet reached its peak nutrition. Furthermore, the minute was picked its nutritional content began to deteriorate. The food is then loaded on a truck, boat or plane, travels for days and waits on a shelf for you to choose it after which it may sit in your fridge for a few more days before being eaten. Over this period of, potentially, weeks the food may lose up to 50% of its nutritional value.
Frozen foods, on the other hand, are picked when they’re ripe and frozen immediately. And while the quick freeze process does affect some other vitamin content, it essentially freezes or locks most of the nutrients in place. Next to the fresh produce that has been sitting around for weeks, there’s no doubt that frozen foods can contain more nutrition particularly during the month that local produce is not in season and travelling far distances
In a series of studies, after three days of storage frozen broccoli had higher levels of vitamin C and beta-carotene, frozen blueberries were much higher in polyphenols and anthocyanins, and frozen sprouts scored higher on all nutrient measurements.
Of course, if you pick a fresh vegetable from your garden or get it from a local farmers market and eat it that day, nothing can quite compared to both the nutrition and the taste.  But unless you are able to shop every few days, frozen produce can be a great nutritionally comparable alternative.
Like our white board drawings and looking to for your creative side? Check out our friends at UpDesk, who have created these amazing height adjustable white board desks which we now proudly use. Jot down ideas when they hit you or just doodle on your desk, and if you watched our video on sitting down, you know how important it is to be standing more often.  
These things are seriously awesome and they’re offering our viewers $50 off any size and model of UpDesk.  Check them out at and use the promo code updeskasap and subscribe for more weekly science videos.

1F 2T 3T 4F 5T 6T 7F 8F

jueves, 13 de marzo de 2014

10 Questions for Diana Sawyer

Some time ago Time Magazine interviewed Diana Sawyer in their series 10 Questions with...

Self-study activity:
These are some of the questions Diane was asked. Try to note down her answers.
  • Were you worried that sticking with President Nixon during his resignation might hurt your career?
  • Could you shed some light on what it was like for you during the infamous Nixon interviews?
  • Do you regret not having children and when you were younger was it ever a choice between your career and having a family?
  • Do you have regrets about not having children?
  • What has been the most remarkable event in your life as a journalist, the one that has made you feel ‘this is why I love being a journalist’?
  • What is the weirdest thing you ever had to do to cover a story?

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe. I’m an editor-at-large at Time Magazine. And today we have for our 10 questions veteran TV journalist Diane Sawyer. Diane, thank you for doing this. A reader from Chicago would like to know, were you worried that sticking with President Nixon during his resignation might hurt your career?
I didn’t even think of it. No kidding. Not a minute. I guess my reflexes have been trained by my father particularly that you don’t get to be there for the good times with someone and walk away, no matter how the times got bad and who caused them that you don’t walk away.
Quite a lot of people are interested in your time with Nixon and a reader from Portland has a question: Could you shed some light on what it was like for you during the infamous Nixon interviews?
It was not exactly my role as it was. It was certainly not my clothes I wanna go back, I wanna say to Ron Howard, how did you… where did you go, what workshop did go to get some ancient long, pale, loose skirt.
What were you thinking?
Anyway, we all think shallow, right, when somebody’s finally put us on screen, but I thought the movie captured a lot of the mysterious dynamic that you’re always finding out as you go through a series of interviews like this one and by the end of it, you know…
… who knows what we could do. And after it was over, I think the president revealed very little of his feelings about them to any of us who were out there. He often went in a room, closed the door and kept his own counsel.
We got a lot of questions from women, I guess as you’d expect and a lot of them about your career. So, I’ve taken a few. This one is from Florida. Do you regret not having children and when you were younger, was it ever a choice between your career and having a family?
Never that kind of choice. I’ve always thought that’s a curious idea that you, you have more time and therefore you decide to have children. It’s not the way it happened and I think of myself as a life filled with children in my life and intersecting it in a different way. I have stepchildren whom I adore and I think they depend on me some.
You forgive me. I’m hearing regret. Do you have regret about not having children?
No, what you’re hearing I wish I’d met my husband earlier. That would’ve been great. But I love his children with my whole life.
This is a question from Aretta in Boston. What has been the most remarkable event in your life as a journalist, the one that has made you feel ‘this is why I love being a journalist’?
Every day. Pretty much every day. I am glad I have nachos.
No, is it that… is it because of the variety or because of the access or because of the many things you get to do?
It’s because you don’t know what you’re going to learn.  You’re surprised every day.
Come on, every day?
Every day.
Because some days are gonna be like, you know, boring. I just like some pasta and…
… you know, some celebrity got in trouble.
You know, I’m sure it sounds horrible. I’m sure it sounds irredeemably happy and optimistic, but surely this happens every day, but it’s true, it happens every day.
And lastly, what is the weirdest thing you ever had to do to cover a story?
I made my way into the Russian White House in the middle of a coup attempt when Yeltsin was president and no one was being allowed in the building. Everybody was outside and I went up and the guard said women would not be allowed in the building at this point because it was too dangerous and I said I’m not a woman, I’m an American journalist and there was a momentarily perplexed look on his face so he said, ok. It worked. Sometimes a non-sequitur is as good as a strategy.
And then you’re in sound like ‘Well, okay, what do I do now?’
Yes, when we made our way upstairs, I had interviewed Yeltsin once before and we made our way upstairs, completely empty, and tanks were coming around the building if you remember that when Yeltsin comes out and stands on the tank and we made our way upstairs and I have to say he was profoundly shocked, because we were there, the only ones walking into the building and into the room where they were making the decisions about what they’re gonna do. It was amazing. He just looked up and… because he’d heard the reporting around the world assume that soon it was gonna be a kind of cataclysm and they were holed up in there and waiting to be fired on and go down with the building and he just said, tell everyone we’re not dead yet.
Fantastic. Thanks very much Diane.

miércoles, 12 de marzo de 2014

Talking point: The average person

In today's talking point we are dealing with the average person. Go over the questions below and think about them before you get together with the members of your conversation group, so that ideas flow more easily and you can work out vocabulary issues.
  • How would you define the average man/woman in your country? 
  • What kinds of jobs does the average person do? 
  • How much does he or she earn?
  • What is the average size of a family?
  • What are their main ambitions in life?
  • What does the average person do in his or her free time?
  • How do you think the average man/woman compare with the average man/woman in other countries?
  • Can you think of someone you know who represents the average man or woman?
  • Do you consider yourself to represent the average man or woman? In what ways?
  • In which country do you think it's best to be an average man or woman? Why?
To illustrate the topic, you can watch the National Geographic short video 7 Billion: Are you typical? or read the Mail Online article So THIS is Britain's Mr Average?

martes, 11 de marzo de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Gossiping about the rich and famous

In our Madrid Teacher series it's gossiping time today. A group of Madrid teachers discuss Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and how difficult it is for the rich and famous to keep a private life.

As usual, their conversation is the perfect opportunity for us to pay attention to some of the features of spoken English and some of the strategies native speakers of English use in conversation.
  • Use of you know and well to gain thinking time.
  • Involving others in the conversation: Does anybody care?
  • Reacting to information we've just heard: Oh, really?; Oh.
  • Using vague language: Or something like that; kind of; like
  • Expressing agreement: Yeah; That's right.
  • Use of like as a linking word to introduce our ideas: Like, I think they also allow it 
  • Use of so as a linking word to introduce our ideas: so, secret romantic dinners...
Watch the video through and try to spot the above-mentioned features of spoken English.

Now it's over to you. What's the latest gossip about the celebs that you've heard about? How do you feel about the gutter press and gossip magazines informing about all these affairs? How would you stop it if you were famous? Try and use some of the features of spoken English when you answer the questions.

There’s a lot of fuss about Jennifer Aniston, no? The fact that she’s still single and she’s already 40, she hasn’t got any children, she’s, you know, Brad and her broke up and she’s not had a good relationship since. Does anybody care?
Not much to tell you the truth. Yeah, it’s just, well, well that’s true, that supposedly she broke up with Brad because she didn’t want kids and she wanted to get further in her career…
Oh, really?
And so, oh you didn’t know that one?
That’s the rumour.
No, I thought it was the other way around. I thought she wanted children and he didn’t. Strangely, he has now 7 and she doesn’t have any.
No, I think it was that way but, but she strongly denied that since I think.
And now she’d love a baby more than anything but, poor woman, she seems to find the worst men so…
Who was she going out with before? She was with Vincent Vaughan? Or something like that.
Yeah, yeah and then she was with that that John Myer.
Who is that, John Myer?
He’s a singer… and he’s, he’s well
What type of music does he sing?
Oh, he’s been in the charts, he’s, he’s like a singer/song writer with a guitar…
Kind of soppy…
Erm, folky.
Folky, soppy kind of music but he’s, he’s not, not too nice, I don’t think.
Is he good looking?
Yeah, he’s…
Ha, ha, ha.
He’s, he’s kind of hot.
Ha, ha, ha. We are talking show business, you know, ha, ha, ha.
Well, it didn’t last very long I guess.
No, I think it was a bit, a bit of a tumultuous relationship. But it’s so unfair the way all of their dirty laundry is aired…
…in all the magazines.
It’s incredible.
I would hate to be famous really for the same reasons, you know.
But look, there are some famous people you don’t hear anything about them. Like, I think they also allow it, like, I don’t know, like, if they didn’t want to be in the magazines…
Do you think so?
Well, I think they’d be able to sue the magazine or something and say I don’t wanna, you know… I don’t want this information to be in the magazine.
Yeah, which they do sometimes sue for incorrect information published.
Like apparently Brad and Angelina are suing a British tabloid called The News of the World, well. Not really one of the best, don’t know if you know of it, erm, for reporting that they were about to divorce, that they were splitting up.
And supposedly it’s a rumour…
So they say. I don’t know, it’s really difficult, like they say at home if it’s in The Sun it must be true and the same applies to The News of the World.
I think it’s true. I heard, erm, that Brad and Jennifer are having secret rendezvous so, secret romantic dinners so, you never know.
Like then other people say they’re just friends, you know, they’re just good friends like, like many exes who become friends afterwards.
I guess we’ll never really learn the truth.
Unless they get back together again and remarry in Hollywood and splash it all over OK again.
That’s right.

lunes, 10 de marzo de 2014


MomMeetMom is a new matchmaking website which helps moms share tips and arrange play dates.

Self-study activity:
Watch this short ABC's news video clip and say whether the statements below are true or false.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 A lot of mums feel isolated.
2 A lot of mums on MomMeetMom don't work.
3 Allison and Ellie were born in Massachusetts.
4 Meg Gerritson has two children.
5 MomMeetMom gives information based on location, number of kids, interests and priorities.

A new match-making site that we are talking about now. This one is a twist. Mommeetsmom helps new moms connect with each other and share tips on anything, from finding colour to finding playmates. ABC’s Claire Shipman has the story.
For moms with young children, life can be stressful to say the least.
The kids. Kindergarten bake sale. Christmas lights. Birthday party.
I don't know how you do it.
It can also be lonely, isolating.  It's not easy to find other moms you connect with.
And to find people that I felt like I could relate with on a friend basis but also on parenting style, it's very difficult to do.  When you're not working, I mean, where do you go? You just meet someone at the grocery store? I mean, awkward.
Enter online match-making for moms. Allison Peterson and Ellie Dahl say was a lifeline.
When you have a website that works and asks the right questions, the questions people want to know the answers to, then you find the people you want to meet.
Both were transplants to Hall Massachusetts. Ellie from Florida, and Alison from Missouri. They say they were feeling stir crazy and lonely at home with their young kids. Meg Gerritson, also a mother of two, founded the site with two mom friends to combat the stress of old-fashioned mom dating, awkward approaches at playgrounds or gymboree classes.
That's what Mommeetmom does. It gives us the information we otherwise wouldn't have.
The site creates computer profiles based on location, number of kids, interests and priorities and then ideally finds great matches, relationships based on mothers who click, not just kids eager for playmates, a formula that Meg hopes can create lasting tribes and happy moms.

1T 2T 3F 4T 5T

domingo, 9 de marzo de 2014

Extensive listening: Big Mac inside the McDonalds empire

CNBC travels across the US and goes as far away as China to give an unprecedented look at how a hamburger stand grew into one of the most famous brands on the planet.  McDonald's serves 52 million people daily but now we can visit the company's test kitchens thanks to this CNBC documentary.

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

sábado, 8 de marzo de 2014

Reading test: Can baking make you happier?

Today's reading activity revolves around the topic of food and health, mental health. It is based on the BBC's article Can baking make you happier? by Farhana Dawood.

Read the article on the BBC's webpage and then answer the multiple choice questions below.

1 Comfort food…
a)    is a fashionable diet these days.
b)    cures depression.
c)    is supposed to be healing.

2 For John Whaite,…
a)    baking makes him more erratic.
b)    feeling in control is important.
c)    prescribed medication has been useful.

3 The Depressed Cake Shop…
a)    sells grey cakes in London.
b)    helped people with mental health problems.
c)    has its headquarters in Brick Lane.

4 Denyer...
a)    was a good cook when she fell ill.
b)    has feared for her life on occasion.
c)    found out what her illness was 15 years ago.

5 Which statement is correct, according to the text?
a)    The East London NHS Foundation Trust has published a book about healthy cooking.
b)    Mental illness increases the patient’s short memory.
c)    Baking has positive associations in our culture.

6 For Dr Cosmo Hallstrom...
a)    the therapeutical effects of baking are unknown.
b)    any structured non-stressful activity will cure depression.
c)    artists with mental health problems understand their condition better.

7 Which statement is correct, according to the text?
a)    Denyer finds sharing fulfilling.
b)    Baking might give you a sugar high.
c)    It’s not advisable to have sugar if a person has a depression.

Photo credit: BBC

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

viernes, 7 de marzo de 2014

From 1994

Casey Warren made this story in memory of his mom. This is the way this short film is presented in Vimeo.

"What you say to a loved one if you only had one chance to say it all?" From 1994 seeks to answer this along with the importance of remembering those who we've lost in our lives. We are incredibly humbled by all those who supported our project and want to say thank you for all those involved. It has been our labor of love and we are excited to finally release it. -Casey & Danielle."

The topic of death might usually strike a chord, but Casey handles it beautifully. Just watch it and judge for yourself.

Lesson idea:
What would you write as your last words to your beloved ones?  The idea in the film reminded of the BBC Programme 'Letters to Myself', where you can write a letter to yourself and post it to, which will send it back to you at the time in the future you pick. When you receive your own letter, you can see what you were like when you sent it, and what your life expectations were at the time.

"From 1994" Short Film from Casey Warren | MINDCASTLE on Vimeo.

Dear, Casey,
If I could look into a crystal ball, I have no doubts I would find you still blonde, handsome and as full of love and questions as you are now at the age of five.
My favorite time of my life is the years that you’ve been alive, because you have made me feel truly alive. So far in raising you, you have been the child every parent wants, one whom I delight in taking places rather than leaving with a babysitter.
What did you wish for this year son? If I have one wish for you, it is that you have already found a direction in life, a talent or desire that has pointed you towards a life’s work that will bring you joy.
Speaking of hobbies, what are yours now? your five year old self likes to collect and experiment with bugs, do karate, play with micromachines, draw maps, write ‘Chinese-secret hieroglyphics’style
on bitty pieces of paper folded a dozen ways from Sunday.
Don’t be afraid to explore new things, always remember that. You are never bored, and you can entertain yourself for hours without any toy in sight. You’d die for a secret room or passageway all your own. Wouldn't we all?
As I write you are in bed. We let you stay up later than most because you never get tired and crabby like some kids do. Before I say good night, I want you to remember I will always be here for you even-though I may not be with you.
Bye for now, from 1994, see you in the next lifetime.