miércoles, 30 de abril de 2014

Talking point: Buildings

In today's talking point we are dealing with buildings. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below and think about the answers. That way, ideas will flow more smoothly when you get together with your friends and you'll be able to work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

What famous buildings do you know?
Have you ever visited a famous building? Which one? What was it like?
Are there any special buildings where you live? What are they?
Are you interested in architecture? Why/Why not?
Do you think it is more important for a building to look nice or be functional? Why?
What kind of building do you live in? Describe it.
Would you like to live in a skyscraper? Why/Why not?
What do you know about the following famous buildings:
The Alhambra - The Taj Mahal - The Sydney Opera House - The Eiffel Tower

To illustrate the topic, you can watch the New York Times video Living at the top.

Bronx right, so you’re seeing deep into the Bronx…

This is Alexei Barrionuevo, I cover the world of high and real estate for The New York Times.

It took six minutes in the construction elevator to reach the 85th floor of New York’s tallest residential building. Standing in the living room of this four-floor apartment, 850 feet from the ground Central Park lays out like a giant green carpet. For now it’s just bare walls and concrete on the inside, but by early 2014 the owners of apartment 85 will stand in their master bathroom with his/her showers and stare out giant windows at the Statue of Liberty, the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building.

Already several of the world’s billionaires have signed up to live here, including some from the United States as well as China, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Rising to just over 1,000 feet at the top, 157 was built with them in mind. The French architect Christian de Portzamparc designed the shimmering outside. The Danish designer Thomas Johanson is doing the apartment finishes.

Even as the global economy struggles to recover, there seems to be no shortage of millionaires and billionaires willing to pay upwards of 95 million dollars for a chance to live here.

157 once seemed a risky prospect in the dark days after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008 but now it is set off a tall-building’s arms race.

157 will hold on to the title of tallest residential building in the city for about three years, when another building at 432 Park Avenue it is expected to soar almost 400 feet higher, but will it have views like this?

martes, 29 de abril de 2014

Madrid Teacher series: How My Parents Met

In today's Madrid Teacher video Laura tells us the story of how her parents met.

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.

My mom lived in a little town about (1) ... an hour from the city where my dad  (2) ...   ... . And… it’s in the same educational district, so a lot of times the high school sports teams will play each other. And… my dad was a baseball player. He was… he’s always loved to (3) ... things, and so when he was in high school, he played… he was a pitcher for the baseball team. And he was a crazy pitcher. He had a little (4) ...  controlling his arm and his throws. Sometimes his throws went a little wild, and they were very fast. So… one day, high school, baseball (5) ... . My mom’s high school baseball team and my dad’s high school baseball team have a (6) ... . And my mom is a scorekeeper for her school’s team. So she’s sitting on the side, taking notes… if someone’s out, if someone gets a home run, I don’t know. I don’t know what scorekeepers in baseball do. And my dad, it’s time for him to pitch, and one of my mom’s players is up to bat. And my dad lets loose one of his crazy pitches and nails my mom’s friend in the (7) ... with the baseball, and leaves, like… he leaves the imprint of the… of the ball… you could see the stitches of the ball in… in this guy’s (8) ...! And all the mothers from my mom’s high school… they were in shock, they were yelling, they were so (9) ... , they were, like, “That boy! Get him out of here! He (10) ... our child!” Or, whatever mothers yell when their children get hit with balls. And… so yeah, the first time my parents met, my dad… hurt one of my mom’s friends. But they didn’t know it until much, much later, so it didn’t hurt their relationship at all.

1 half 2 grew up 3 throw 4 trouble 5 season 6 game 7 shoulder 8 skin 9 upset 10 hurt

lunes, 28 de abril de 2014

10 questions for Tom Jones

Time Magazine interviewed Tom Jones before his concert for the 2012 Olympics for their series 10 questions for.

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

The activity is suitable for strong intermediate students.

What does the 1990’s refer to?
What does Tom Jones attribute his longevity to?
When did he first meet Elvis?
What were the similarities and differences between Frank Sinatra and Elvis?
What happened in 1967?
What question did the Queen ask Tom Jones when he was doing one Royal Grand performance?
Which does he prefer, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones?
What do music and sport have in common?
When will he stop singing?

When  my friends are gone and my hair is grey I ache in the places where I used to play and I’m crazy for love but I'm not coming on.

I’m Katherine Mayer, Time Europe Editor, and I interviewed to Tom Jones at Somerset House ahead of his Olympics concert.
Tom Jones, thanks very much for talking to Time. The last time I interviewed you was back in the 1990s. I'm really hoping my career last long enough to interview you again in 15 years.
Me too.
I hope I last long enough to interview you again in 15 years. Can you tell me to what do you attribute your great career longevity?
Well, good health first of all, you can’t, you can't do anything without that, so I'm lucky there and my voice is still as powerful as ever, so that's, there’s luck, there as well as the love of it. I'm always finding out new things. When I try a, a different project, you know, there's always something to learn, I don't, I don't think we ever should stop learning.
Tell me about when you first met Elvis.
I met Elvis Presley 1965 when I first went to America. 1965 was a, was a huge year for me. My first hit record was a song called ‘It’s not unusual’. That came out in January 65 and it became a hit, you know, worldwide, so I was meeting all these very famous people, very quickly and Elvis Presley was, you know, was one of those people. I'm I met him in, in Los Angeles. I was knocked out, you know, they said Elvis is filming at Paramount, and he heard that you were here and he’d like to say hi, you know. It was great meeting him and I'm him knowing who I was.
You actually became friends with Elvis and with Fran Sinatra, didn’t you? Tell me something that I wouldn't know about Elvis. Tell me something I wouldn't know about Frank.
Well, I don't think there is anything that you wouldn't know. I mean the biggest difference I saw between Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra, Frank used to like to drink, you know, and so do I. So we have that in common, you know, we would be at the bar in Caesars Palace and we would have a few drinks together and, you know, to me he was very warm person, you know, and a lot of people have said about Frank Sinatra ‘Oh, you know, he could be, could be a little awkward’, but then again who, who's he being awkward with, you know? I think we can all be awkward on times, it all depends who we, who we’re speaking to you know, who we're dealing with. And, and, and Elvis Presley did not drink. The common to nominate, if you like, is, is music.
You performed at the Diamond Jubilee concert recently I'm guessing you've met the Queen a few times over the years. Well I know you met at at least once because you're Sir Tom Jones.
Well, I first met her in 1967. When the show that used to be, used to be called the Royal Command Performance and then I got an OBE, Order the British Empire, and then of course, you know, a few years later they said ‘you’ve been considered for a knighthood’. Wow! That was, that shook me up there for a while, to be honest with you. It made me shake a bit.
So it didn't make you nervous being around a small woman with a very large sword.
No, I had confidence. I know that she wouldn’t… she was still all of, you know, all the faculties were in place. She wasn’t gonna slip anything. But I, I must say I always feel very proud in her presence. She's a fantastic person, she caught me off-guard once, I remember. I was doing one Royal Grand Performance and she said, ‘are you still living in America?’ And I said ‘Yes but only for convenience sake, Your Majesty,’ and then like she shot out to me.
If you had to choose, if you had to choose just a few tracks to be your Olympic sound track to represent Britain, can you think of a few that you might come up with?
Well I mean during the war Vera Lynn was a big singer, so it would have to be something… then there was a fellow called George Formby who used to play, you know, here leaning on the lamp post on the corner of the street, you know, which was a big part of the British music in those, those days. The Beatles, of course.
Beatles, not the Rolling Stones?
Both, I think you can have both, because they’re different from another anyway.
Would you have any punks?
No punk, well, you know, you got to have something from each era, I suppose, you know, to represent Britain so it should be represented, I think it all should be from differently eras, but there's a lot of people so I'm, I'm glad I don't have to make the choice.
Of course,  the Olympics isn't just about sport, it's also supposed to be about legacy.
I think it's great for any country to host the Olympic Games ‘cause it's a wonderful thing. Like music, sport is something that brings people together and I was in Los Angeles in 1984. So they were expecting, you know,  we have to make sure the roads are right and the traffic’s gonna be murder in this side and the other, and when it came with it happened very orderly, so I hope it happens like that in England.
It's hard to imagine you ever stopping.
Immortality would be a wonderful thing for me, you know. I, I'm enjoying myself so much that I never wanted to end and the thing that will stop me will be eventually age because singing to me is not work, singing is… is a pleasure and if everybody could have, some they let, you know, the passion that people have about things, if they could, if they could turn that into a career I think that’s, that’s as the gift of life.

domingo, 27 de abril de 2014

Jeff Bezos looks to the future

Amazon is the world's largest online retailer, serving 225m customers worldwide. What's next for the company that prides itself on disrupting tradition? Charlie Rose interviews Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos for CBS's 60 Minutes.

This is the way Charlie Rose introduces the programme:

"There has never been a company quite like Amazon. Conceived as an online book seller, Amazon has reinvented itself time and again, changing the way the world shops, reads and computes. Amazon has 225 million customers around the world. Its goal is to sell everything to everyone. The brainchild of Jeff Bezos, Amazon prides itself on disrupting the traditional way of doing things. A few weeks ago the company announced it was launching Sunday delivery."

You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 26 de abril de 2014

Connect with English

Connect With English is an educational dramatized television series that was recorded in 1997 by the Annenberg/CPB Project (now Annenberg Media) and WGBH Boston for students of people learning English. The 48-episode program teaches English through use of a narrative fiction storyline and discussion segments featuring actual adult learners.

Through the story of Rebecca, an aspiring singer on a journey across America, Connect with English touches on life's important issues: leaving home, parenting, education, work, love, success, and loss. All of the characters use meaningful, natural language that English students can put to work immediately in their own lives.

The series is divided into four seasons, with twelve episodes each:
1 Big Dreams
2 A New Life
3 Family Bonds
4 Friendship and Love

All the episodes last around 15 minutes and have optional CC subtitles. In addition, practice activities which include grammar, dictation, vocabulary, a quiz on the episode and a diary are offered.

The videos show their age, as they are almost twenty years old, but the quantity and quality of the material make up for everything.

Intermediate students will find in Connect with English a trove of activities to improve and practise their English.

H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

viernes, 25 de abril de 2014

Why does Stockholm love Brooklyn?

Known for its clean air, green spaces, and watery aspect, Stockholm may not, at first sight, have much in common with the gritty New York borough of Brooklyn. But look closely at certain areas of the Swedish capital, and you can spot a strong and growing Brooklyn takeover.

Self-study activity:
Watch this three-minute video clip from the BBC series Stop/Start and say whether the statements below are true or false.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

  1. The Swedes have a cosmopolitan spirit.
  2. This love for Brooklyn lost momentum in 2008 and 2009 because of the financial crisis.
  3. Bar Brooklyn has greatly contributed to the cultural life in Stockholm.
  4. Brooklyn Breweries is a Swedish brewery.
 Swedes have this love for Brooklyn. You see a special relationship with New York. It comes from the movies, the books, the arts, the culture. It is just exploding in this area.
I think Swedes always had a love affair with New York City, we’ve always been international. We grew up that way, and we’ve always been looking for influences in other parts of the world and New York to us I think it’s a concentrate all those influences and that’s why we like it so much.
I think this movement really took speed around 2008 and 2009 with the financial crisis because people started looking you know to the more basic, more natural things in life. I think when this happened we saw Brooklyn or the things that would happen there sort of, you know, sort of a symbol for this type of ideology.
Brooklyn- Stockholm is similar in many senses.
In music, the art and culture.
Me been living here for around 50 years, seem quite a change.
I went to Brooklyn a couple of years ago to visit a brewery and it’s a great place to go to.
This part of Stockholm used to be quite seedy a few years ago and recently a lot of cultures moved in and you can see it with a lot of art galleries, the music, the restaurants and Bar Brooklyn’s contributed a lot to this change. There’s a sort of fantasy about New York and Brooklyn through movies and TV and culture and books even. I think that is the one thing about Sweden and particularly this area of Stockholm is that you have people that are into their culture and I think the Bar Brooklyn sort of encompasses what we try to do and making the culture from New York come to Stockholm and Brooklyn Breweries is actually going to open their own brewery in Stockholm and that’s going to again enhance this old feel of this love for Brooklyn.
We’re going to make a whole range of craft beers.
Brooklyn and Brooklyn larger especially it’s really popular in Sweden. It’s actually the biggest market outside New York City. New Carnegie is a new brewery at Arenastaden in central Stockholm. It is a joint venture between Carlsberg Sweden and Brooklyn and some private investors. Swedes tend to really be curious and really take on new influence and we also love to travel and one of our greatest destinations is actually New York and more and more it’s becoming also Brooklyn.
Brooklyn represents sort of an intersection, the meeting between rural and urban or earthy and urban, and I think this is something Swedes at the moment particularly in Stockholm I guess are very much like it.
Breakfast burrito, yeah, that’s Brooklyn for me.

1T 2F 3T 4F

jueves, 24 de abril de 2014

Destination Ireland

Destination Ireland is a National Geographic three-minute video that shows us the beauties of the Ireland.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

Hi, I’m Patty Kim. Ireland: it’s an exciting mix of the old and the new. Here you’ll find the (1) ... of the countryside and the exuberance of the city. But Ireland is still well stocked with those glorious castles and windswept landscapes. It really is a (2) ... of a destination deserving of its (3) ... , “the Emerald Isle.”
Historically, Ireland was divided into the four provinces of Leinster, Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. Today most of Ulster is now Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom. The Republic of Ireland (4) ...  five-sixths of the island. Its capital is Dublin.
In Dublin, start along the River Liffey for tours of Dublin’s architecture. Visit Trinity College and explore Ireland’s oldest university and its vast libraries.
But for a real (5) ... with history, travel to the Boyne Valley in County Meath and see Newgrange. This massive (6) ... is similar in purpose to the Pyramids of Giza, though it was built over five thousands years ago, before the Pyramids were even a twinkle in a Pharaohs’ eye. Ireland’s Stone Age inhabitants built it to house their (7) ... dead and perhaps for something more. At sunrise on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, a beam of light enters the central (8) ... . What significance this had for the builders is a still a matter of debate. Enter the (6) ... and decide for yourself. The experience is illuminating.
Ireland has produced a plethora of castles, churches and (9) ... . Its monasteries became important centers of learning during the Dark Ages and its fortresses were strategic (10) ... against the island’s frequent invaders. The Rock of Cashel, near Tipperary, served both a secular and religious function. According to legend, this fortress of the Munster kings was visited by St. Patrick himself and eventually became an important medieval (11) ... .
If your tastes cater more toward (12) ... than history, you’re in luck. Opportunities abound. Near Galway, the Cliffs of Moher (13) ... more than 650 feet from the sea providing dramatic views of the coast. Also nearby are the surreal landscapes of the Burren with its cracked limestone and brooding (14) ... .
When it’s time for more (15) ... pace, you can travel along the River Shannon, ride horses in the Connemara or (16) ... through quaint towns and lush countryside, colored in Ireland’s forty (17) ... of green.

1 quiet 2 jewel 3 nickname 4 covers 5 brush  6 tomb 7 honored 8 chamber 9  towers 10 battlegrounds 11 cathedral 12 scenery 13 rise 14 ruins 15 leisurely 16 stroll 17 shades

miércoles, 23 de abril de 2014

Talking point: Advertising

Today's talking point is advertising. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that you can prepare the answers beforehand and you're not at a loss for ideas when you meet your friends. It can also help you deal with vocabulary issues.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of advertising?
  • What is your favourite advert?
  • What adverts do you dislike?
  • Where do you come across adverts (any kind of adverts) these days?
  • ( or What different advertising methods can you think of?)
  • What types of products are usually advertised? 
  • Are there any advertising practices unacceptable (using children in ads, nudity, advertising alcohol or tobacco, comparing your products to your competitors products)?
  • Have you ever bought anything after seeing the ad?
  • Are there any particular brands that well-known for the high quality of their ads?
 To illustrate the topic, watch the two adverts below and analyse them according to these criteria:
  1. Product
  2. Target Audience.
  3. The Content or Message
  4. The Hook. How they get the audience’s attention.
  5. Effectiveness

Oh I love Italy! I had an Italian boyfriend once – his mother broke up with me.
How did I know it was a lie? I read it in your newspaper.
Well, a girl has to have a private life. It keeps the public interested.
Music inspired me, art inspires me, but so does the wind.
Yes, I can really sing. But you’ll have to pay me first.
Ah my favorite part of my body? I like my lips for kissing and for words that start with the letter ‘M’.
Foam slows down time, but a moment can last forever.
I do all of my own stunts, even the love making.
Oh, I’ve played a physicists, a nanny, a surgeon, an actress, a canibal, and a spy.
An actress is the hardest 'cause you never know who you are.
I’m not an actress, I just play one in the movies.
Yes, I can cry on cue, but the third take that’s for real.
The smell of sunshine is the best. You know what I mean.
I’m not looking for a million things, just that one perfect thing, love.
That’s the one.

That's What I Heard You Say

Don’t matter if the road is long
Don’t matter if it’s steep
Don’t matter if the page is gone
It’s written that we’ll meet.
I loved you when you opened
Like a lily to the heat
And I love you when it closes
A thousand kisses deep
I know you had to lie to me
I know you had to cheat
You learned it on your father’s knee
And at your mother’s feet.
But did you have to fight your way
Across the burning street
Where all our vital interests lay
A thousand kisses deep

Leonard Cohen

martes, 22 de abril de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Neighbours from Hell

In this week's Madrid Teacher lesson, Sophia, Vicky, Thomas and Joyce discuss their experience with neighbours. As usual, the video gives us the opportunity to see some native speakers of English in action and the chance to put our listening skills to the test. But more importantly, the clip gives us the chance of focusing on specific aspects of spoken English and the communicative strategies natives speakers use to get their messages across more efficiently.

Just watch the three-minute video and enjoy the conversation of these four teachers.

Watch the video again and try to identify the following aspects of spoken English:

- Fillers: Sometimes words don't come easily and we need them not to stop the flow of our speech: erm, er, you know.
- Repetition of words: At times, we repeat words because we are unsure of what to say next: I, I...
- Showing interest in what the other person is saying by making a comment or letting out an exclamation: wow, oh my God!, that's awful!, oh, no!, oh dear!, At least it’s not Celine Dion., At least the song is good,
Yes, yes. Yeah your story beats mine.
- Involve other people in the conversation: What about you guys, You don't have your story...?
- Vague language: 'like really loud', 'like would wake up', 'he kind of weirded us', 'nurses and that', 'scumbugs or something', 'and all these things'.
- Showing agreement: Yeah.
- Use of so as a connector.
- Use of I mean  to explain what you have just said.
- Use of actually to introduce a bit of surprising information or to correct a fact.

Now it's over to you. What's your experience of neighbours? Do you have any stories about neighbours from hell? Try to get together with a friend and hold a conversation about this topic using some of the features of spoken English which have come up on this video.

Sophia: I think I have the worst neighbour in the world. I live in, erm , a split-level masonette, so I’ve got, erm, a house just above, above mine. And my, my neighbour insists on playing ‘I will survive’ on repeat…
Thomas: Oh my God.
Sophia: …at full blast in the middle of the night. I, I take it she’s going through some relationship problems. But it’s really annoying, it’s been going on for a week and… it’s driving me crazy.
Joyce: At least the song is good.
Vicky: At least it’s not Celine Dion.
Sophia: I guess so, but maybe she’ll change it, and it will be Celine Dion next week.
Joyce: Oh, we used to have a neighbour but it was much worse, and I didn’t even know what was, he was playing. We used to have this neighbour that lived downstairs from us, this German guy. This German guy, very suspicious, this German guy who couldn’t go back to Germany, this old guy. Anyways he used to put on Sunday mornings, this song, like, really loud, and it would wake us up. And it was Cara del Sol, which is like, you know, Franco’s Nazi song, like, you know very fascist, very… And I didn’t even know what, and I remember that, you know, my ex-husband, like, would wake up and go,  “Oh my God!” Like, and it would bring back these memories of the, you know, dictatorship and all these things, so that was really bad. That’s worse than Greg Ainer!
Thomas: Oh wow! Wow!
Vicky: Oh my God! That’s awful!
Sophia: Yes, yes. Yeah your story beats mine. What about you guys, you have any, do you have awful neighbours?
Thomas: That reminds me actually, erm, I might have been the neighbour from hell because… my first flat actually, er, my next door neighbour tried to welcome me and invited my flatmates and myself over for pancakes. But he kind of weirded us out so we said, “thanks”, and just happened to never be around on Sunday mornings when he made them. And then whenever I would play loud music in the evenings with my friends, before going out, he would come banging on the door in his underwear or something and say, “turn it down!” And I was like,  “alright, well now you’re the neighbour from Hell, buddy.”
Sophia: How much, how late were you playing this music?
Thomas: Oh, I don’t know, you know…ten, eleven…
Sophia: Twelve, one.
Vicky: That’s not that late. Ten, eleven’s not that late.
Sophia: That’s not that bad. Yeah.
Joyce: You don’t have your story Sarah, about neighbours from Hell?
Vicky: Er, I think like, er, Thomas, I may have been one of the neighbours from hell. A bit of a… a bit of a mix there. When… In London, I stayed in a flat with a lot of antipodeans. And we were one of those typical households where three people were on the lease but actually, nine of us lived there. It was a really nice house, you know? We had an upstairs/downstairs house [and] the upstairs people… were nice enough at the beginning, but then they just hated the fact that so many people lived there. And although everyone was actually very respectable, nurses and that, they thought we were all… I don’t know what they thought we were doing, scumbags or something. So they used to come complain all the time, especially on a Sunday, for people using the bathroom.
Thomas: Oh, no!
Vicky: So they’d be like, “ we hear the door slam fifteen times in an hour!” And we were sitting there thinking, “the bathroom door never slams.”
Sophia: About the bathroom door though, I mean, if it was taking away your water or something…
Thomas: Yeah.
Vicky: So then they turned off our gas. And then we had the pipe explode.
Thomas: Oh my God!
Sophia: Wow!
Joyce: Oh dear…Well they were the neighbours from hell, I think.
Sophia: …the neighbours, yes!

lunes, 21 de abril de 2014

The History Of The Statue Of Liberty

Watch this WatchMojo.com documentary on the history of the Statue of Liberty.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video clip and answer the questions below. The activity is designed for Intermedio 2 students.

1 When was the dedication ceremony held?
2 Who designed the statue?
3 What elements of the statute had been finished by 1876?
4 What does she carry in her left hand?
5 How tall is it?
6 What colour is it today?
7 When was the statue finally presented to Americans?
8 What happened in 2009?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

She is the symbol for freedom and one of the most recognized figures in the United States. Welcome to watchmojo.com and today we’re learning more about the Statue of Liberty.
We are the keepers of the flame of liberty. We hold it high tonight for the world to see, a beacon of hope, a light unto the nations.
Located in New York Harbor, The Statue of Liberty is a depiction of the Roman Goddess of Freedom. Dedicated in a large ceremony on October 28th, 1886, the Statue’s official name is Liberty Enlightening the World. Originally a gift from the citizens of France, she was designed by French sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi. Law professor, Édouard René de Laboulaye is credited with the idea of a shared Statue between the French and the Americans.
The Statue was meant to commemorate the U.S. Centennial, and the ideals that both France and the United States shared of freedom and democracy. However, only her right hand and torch were finished by 1876 and both were displayed at the American Centennial Exhibition.
Lady Liberty, as she is often called, is represented wrapped in robes. In her right hand, she carries a torch meant to symbolize the light of reason. Her left hand is carrying a book of laws that is marked with the date that Declaration of Independence was signed.
From the base of the Statue to the top of the torch, she measures 151 feet in height. That height is doubled by the pedestal on which she stands. 

Built on an iron support structure, the Statue of Liberty’s skin is made of copper. Originally the color of copper by 1900 the Statue’s exterior had begun to change color. Eventually, the decision was made to leave this patina on the Statue, and today she is the pale green color we know and love.
The Statue’s armature was designed by the same man who designed France’s Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. A joint effort of the French, Americans and countless hard workers, the Statue was to be built in France and shipped by boat to America. In the years before the Statue was built, criticism was raised that she should be designed by an American artist. That, and the fact that it took many years to raise sufficient American funds to build Lady Liberty’s pedestal, stalled the project’s progress for many years. However, she was presented to the Americans on Independence Day in 1884, was finally shipped early the next year, and was ultimately opened in New York Harbor in 1886. Many new Americans, immigrating to the country by boat, were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty upon their arrival. This helped lead to her status as a symbol for the country.
A poem inscribed on her base bears the famous lines: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and welcome settlers to the new world.”  Tourists were originally open to travel up to Lady Liberty’s crown to view the harbor below, as well as making a narrow climb up to the torch. However, the torch has been closed to visitors since the First World War. In preparation for the Statue’s Centennial in 1986, a series of restorations took place. Lady Liberty’s armature was completely replaced, making her more sturdy, and several pieces of her skin were also changed. After 2001’s terrorist attacks in New York City, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island were closed to tourists because of safety concerns. Gradually the island, the pedestal and finally in 2009 the Statue herself were reopened to the public.
Because of Lady Liberty’s status as an American icon, she is often featured in pop culture, and on tourist souvenirs. She is not threatening and not the symbol of power and considered a beacon of hope.
Lady Liberty has witnessed well over a century’s worth of history, and has come to embody the American ideal of freedom.
With joy and celebration and with a prayer that this lamp shall never be extinguished, I ask that you all join me in this symbolic act of faith, this lighting of Miss Liberty’s torch.

domingo, 20 de abril de 2014

What makes art valuable?

Go inside the world of the rich as art critic Alastair Sooke explores the stories behind the Top Ten Most Valuable Paintings in the World to sell at auction.

What makes art valuable? is a BBC documentary that tells the stories behind the astronomical prices of art and why the world's richest people want to spend their millions on it.

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

sábado, 19 de abril de 2014

Reading test: How do we really make decisions?

In this week's reading comprehension activity we are going to practise a different kind of multiple choice activity. Read the article How do we really make decisions? on the BBC's web page and say whether the statements below are true (T), false (F) or the information in the sentence is not mentioned in the article (NM).

1 We always make our decisions using solid reasoning.
2 We are aware of the mistakes we make, but we can’t help making them over and over again.
3 The ‘stranger within’ or ‘hidden autopilot’ is a recent discovery in psychology.
4 Most of the mistakes we make come from decisions taken by our intuitive mind.
5 Our logical mind has nothing to do with our biases.
6 The example of the chocolate box shows how irrational some of our decisions are.
7 Confirmation bias means that negative events are more easily remembered than positive ones.
8 Behavioural economics is the part of psychology that studies the way we respond to economic losses.
9 Loss aversion is very much to blame for the current economic crisis.
10 The evolutionary origins of the logical and intuitive systems have been studied for long.
11 As humans cannot change themselves, they’ll continue making the same mistakes.

1F; 2F; 3NM; 4T; 5F; 6T; 7F; 8F 9T; 10NM; 11F

viernes, 18 de abril de 2014

Conjoined Twins Learn to Live Apart

ABC News aired the story of Allison and Amelia Tucker, two cojoined twins who are learning to live apart.

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

1 The twins have been separate half of their lives.
2 The parents were determined to terminate the pregnancy.
3 The operation to separate them took place in 2011.
4 The girls were 8 months old when they were separated.

Twins often say they feel half of a whole. For Allison and Amelia it will actually always be true.
Let's go.
For half of their lives, they were in a way one person, conjoined at the chest and abdomen, identical twins that didn't separate properly in the uterus, and their parents saw it coming on ultrasound.
I didn’t have any feelings except for a complete shock.
One doctor advised Shelly and Greg Tucker to terminate the pregnancy. But specialists at the children's hospital of Philadelphia thought the babies could survive and be separated.
We were so worried if the girls were going to be okay.
In March 2011 their beautiful conjoined twins were born into a world of medical uncertainty.
They came out screaming, and it was the most wonderful feeling…
Last year, when the girls were just 8 months old, a massive team of surgeons and nurses worked for hours to separate Allison and Amelia, making sure each would be able to survive.
At 3.40pm the girls were completely separated.
They seemed for the first time as two separate girls. It was really the most amazing feeling.
…she’s got hers
It's now been over a year, Allison and Amelia are thriving. They won't even remember their life before, their parents, of course, will never forget it.
I'm thankful every single day and I can't describe it. To see the girls and see them climb and get into things, as aggravated as they get, I can't help but laugh because they're an absolute miracle.
Shelley’s twin challenges are now a little more ordinary.
When people say, oh, are they twins, are they identical or what? And I like I say, you have no idea. It's been a crazy journey this last year, but one that I wouldn’t replace for anything.
For Good Morning America, dr Jennifer Ashton, ABC News, New York.

1T 2F 3F 4T

jueves, 17 de abril de 2014

Inside New York City's Water Towers

Rooftop water towers are the primary source of drinking water for many New Yorkers, yet frequently they are poorly maintained, and present a potential health hazard.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 How many water tanks on rooftops are there in New York?
2 How many of the tested tanks were positive for coliform bacteria and e-coli?
3 What is the source of e-coli?
4 What can you find in a tank in a deteriorated condition?
5 How often should tanks be revised by law?
6 What does 60% refer to?
7 What is the problem if part of a tank is contaminated?

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

Pisa has the Leaning Tower, Paris has the Eiffel Tower and New York has the water tower.
This is Frank Runyeon for The New York Times. There are ten to twenty thousand water tanks on rooftops across New York City. They are the primary source of drinking water for many city-dwellers, and yet the tanks are breeding grounds for bacteria and regulation of them is rarely enforced.

If part of my drinking water came from this, they would certainly change the way I drink water in the city of New York. Nothing to do with the municipal water supply, it’s to do with the tank.
The Times tested 14 tanks in 12 buildings in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Eight of the tank samples were positive for coliform bacteria and five had e-coli. The Health Department, which is responsible for ensuring that building owners inspect and test their tanks for bacteria refused our on-camera interview request, though an official told us that they are satisfied with the inspection requirements as they are right now.
The Doctor Stephen Edberg a leading medical and public health microbiologist who invented Colilert, one of the world’s most widely used tests for bacteria, says there is cause for concern.
E-coli has only one source. It is only there because some animal is defecating in that place, it’s the only way it gets there.
You have a bunch of two-by-fours, that get built up here as framework.
Stephen Silver is a third-generation tank man with American Pipe and Tank.
When the roof on the tank is in deteriorating condition and is open to the atmosphere, you have dust, dirt, pigeons, garbage, we’ve seen people living in roof tanks, you see mice and vermin in the roof tanks, and this is for the most part people’s drinking water that the people in the building don’t even know about.
New York City’s water is gravity fed from reservoirs upstate but this aquaduct system can only deliver water up to six stories so to provide water pressure to the upper floors, water is pumped from the basement to a roof top tank before draining directly into taps.
Water tanks can be exposed to the elements for up to fifty years, so to keep them in working order they need to be maintained.
New York City requires that these tanks are cleaned and disinfected a minimum of once a year, because this is a building’s primary drinking water source, so to prevent algae and bacteria from flourishing which would… under normal conditions you have a tank of water that is baking out in the sunshine all summer long you gonna get things growing in the tank.
We had the chance to drop our camera into a tank on a building above Time Square. We can see a layer of sediment that had built up at the bottom. This is a common site in water tanks around the City. Sediment should be flushed out every year.
It’s so inexpensive to maintain the code by cleaning your water tank and taking a water sample.
Cleaning only costs a few hundred dollars, but the problem is most of New York City’s water tanks aren’t cleaned every year, as required by law. A city survey of one hundred buildings showed that nearly 60% per cent did not comply.
It has been a problem. There has been a less than adequate compliance in my view. But we need buildings to step it up, we need to ensure that they are doing what they are required to do under the law.
The DEP is largely responsible for the city’s water, until it gets to individual buildings, and then it’s up to the landlords to maintain water quality. When tank companies are called to clean a water tank, they drain the tank, scrub the wood inside and add the disinfectant like Clorox bleach to finish the job. It’s also standard practice for them to take a water sample to test for bacteria. We took a sample from this tank just before it was cleaned. We took it to a lab for an independent analysis.
So the fact that the sample is yellow means it’s positive for coliform. And once it’s positive for coliform we put the UV light on it and if it fluoresces it is positive for e-coli.
So what it does mean that it’s positive for bacteria and e-coli?
It means at least from where the sample is collected it’s not fit for human consumption.
The Health Department says that the contamination the New York Times found in samples from the bottom of the water tank would not normally enter the water supply because drinking water exits through a pipe near the middle of the tank. The experts we spoke with disagreed.
In most of the world, water is stored in large vessels and the problem is that if any part of the tank gets contaminated, all of it is contaminated.
So if you have sediment in the bottom of a water tank, then whatever is in the sediment is going to get in the water supply.
Most likely, yeah, no hesitation.
Ok, even if it’s just, you know, at the very bottom of the tank can come up from the middle?
Yes, correct.
But with all these potential contaminants, why don’t we see more people getting sick?
It’s a very hard… to a population as large and dense as New York to ascertain even reasonably large illness outbreaks. You’d literally have to have entire apartment buildings getting sick at the same time. It disappeared, but they are there.
Despite billions of dollars spent to protect New York’s drinking water, the delivery system has a weak spot: the thousands of unmaintained, untested and forgotten water tanks.

miércoles, 16 de abril de 2014

Talking point: Childhood memories

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

What is your earliest childhood memory? Describe it.
What are your best memories of when you were a child?
Was your childhood a happy time? Why/Why not?
Do the photos from your childhood show?
What do your parents tell you from when you were a child?
Were you told off a lot? What for?
What did you enjoy doing as a child? Why?
Did you ever set up any secret groups or societies?
What was your favourite food when you were young? Do you still like it?

Do you ever talk about your childhood with anybody?
If yes, what kind of things do you talk about and who with? If no, why not?

To illustrate the topic, you can watch this Inside Out video where Ryan and Daniele tells us all about their childhood.
You can download the video here.
You can download a worksheet here.
You can download the transcript and the key here.

martes, 15 de abril de 2014

Madrid Teacher: William's Personal Information Video

Bill, from MadridTeacher.com, gives elementary students (Básico 1 and Básico 2) a good revision of wh- questions, yes-no questions and the present simple.

Just watch the video and follow his instructions to practise these grammar points.

Hi, I’m Bill Christensen and I’m from MadridTeacher.com.  This is an activity of elementary English.
I'm going to ask some questions, you right down the questions.
What's my name?
What date is today?
How old am I?
Where am I from?
Am I married?
Where’s my wife from?
What's her nationality?
How many languages does she speak?
How many languages do I speak?
How old is my wife?
How old am I?
What's my wife's job?
Do I have any children?
How many children do I have?
Does my wife have any children?
How many children does she have?
What does she do?
What do I do?
Does my wife like her job?
Do I like my job?

Hello, I’m Bill Christensen, from MadridTeacher.com.
Today is April 5th 2007.
I'm fifty-four years old.
I'm from three places:  Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Now I live in Madrid.
I’m married.
My wife is from Peru. She is Spanish.
I speak two languages, Spanish and English.
My wife speaks three languages, Spanish, English and Quechua.
My wife's age is… sorry, she has for children.
She works for the Spanish tax service.
She likes her job
I work for MadridTeacher.com.
I like my job. Students are fun, the people are nice.
It's very cold here because it's early spring.
I’ll be talking to you later. Bye!

Hello again. These are the questions and that the answers
What's my name?
My name is Bill Christensen.
What is the date?
The date if April 5th 2007.
How old am I?
I’m 54.
Where am I from?
I’m from Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Am I married?
Yes, I am.
Where is my wife from?
She's from Peru.
What languages do I speak?
I speak Spanish and English.
What languages does my wife speak?
She speaks three languages, she speaks Spanish, English and Quechua.
What's my wife's name?
My wife's name is Betsy.
How old is she?
I don't know.
What does she do?
She works for the tax service in Madrid.
What do I do?
I'm a teacher, I'm a teacher at MadridTeacher.com. 
Do I have any children?
No, I don’t.
Does my wife have any children?
Yes, she does.
How many children does she have?
She has four children.
Do I like my job?
Yes, I do.
Do I like being a tourist in Madrid?
Yes, I do.
But do I live in Madrid?
Yes, I live in Madrid.
Do I like accordion music?
Yes, I live accordion music very much.
Do I like bells?
Yes, I like bells very much.
It's a beautiful day today. Nice talking to you. Bye!

lunes, 14 de abril de 2014

Modern Love: Star-Struck

Watch this New York Times video which tells us about the difficulties that an entertainment reporter, infatuated with Hollywood's most famous starlets, has to find real love.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 The reporter was 20 years old when he started working.
2 The reporter has dated some of the actresses he has interviewed.
3 Movie stars use similar strategies to those of politicians to gain people's favour.
4 The reporter sometimes forgets the faces of the actresses he interviews.
5 When the reporter met his wife, he had the feeling she wanted something from him.

Movie stars are incredibly charming people, that’s how they become movie stars. For 20 years I was a writer for Entertainer Weekly. The starlets I’ve interviewed are Nicole Kidman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sandra Bullock, oh my god!, that’s Julia Roberts, three feet away from me.

The experience of sitting there and talking to these people and laughing with these people and dining with these people, you know, for all intents and purposes it is a date, there is really no other difference other than you don’t have a chance of a good night kiss.

As professional charmers there are some techniques that movie stars have that aren’t unlike politicians’ in a way: repeating your name, touching your shoulder or touching your hand, they’re trying to play you a little bit, but it’s still fun, that’s the thing, it’s still fun having Meg Ryan smile at you and Angelina Jolie let you fondle her elbow. You can’t help it, you know, you’re a human being, I think anybody would enjoy fondling Angelina Jodie’s elbow, it’s a nice elbow.

One of the most challenging parts of being a celebrity interviewer is that, you know, you spend all this time with these really celebrated amazing women. You sit down with somebody, you have a dinner with them for two hours and then a week later you can run into them at a party or something and they have no idea who you are, and then you get back to your real life and you go out on a real date and, you know, I’ve had real dates with wonderful women, but they’re not Julia Roberts.

I know with my wife I got the same sort of buzz of this person is really incredibly charming and smart and funny, but there wasn’t this ‘she wants something from me’. This is the difference between reality and fantasy, really. She was my ultimate cure from celebriphilia.

1F 2F 3T 3F 5F

domingo, 13 de abril de 2014

Extensive listening series: Great Continental Journeys -Madrid to Gibraltar

Michael Portillo travels to his native Spain to discover what the tourists of the Belle Epoque experienced on their travels through the fading Spanish empire.
In Madrid, he visits the scene of an assassination attempt at the royal wedding of a British princess and a Spanish king. In Cordoba, Michael dances with an unusual partner and enjoys all the fun of the feria. Then he travels further into Andalusia and arrives in Seville, the city he has made his Spanish home. In the city's tobacco factory, he learns about a gypsy girl named Carmen. After sipping sherry in Jerez, he traces Winston Churchill's tense diplomatic mission to Algeciras on Spain's Costa del Sol and finishes with tales of British espionage on the Rock of Gibraltar.

sábado, 12 de abril de 2014

The American story teller

The American Story Teller is an incredible site created by Nelson Lauver. It is specifically meant for English learners and those with special learning difficulties.

Every week and for the last twenty years, Nelson has been publishing a three-four minute podcast with anecdotes of personal experiences, American history, famous and local people. The stories are told in a casual, conversational way, but they all illustrate what any person can do with courage and determination in their life.

Nelson has grouped the stories around topics that you can find in the Audio Stories tag: American History, American Icons, American Presidents, Animal related, Black History, Disability related, Heart warming, Holiday, Human interest, Humour, Military, Motivational, Overcoming adversity, Real people profiles, Small town America, Trivia.

To get the full transcript of the podcasts you have to register on the site.

viernes, 11 de abril de 2014

How to get the most out of studying

 Samford University in Birmingham Alabama has made a number of videos to help students, freshmen especially, develop good study skills.

Dr Chew guides in this series of mini-talks which can also be beneficial for all kinds of students, not just those at university.

The video uses graphs and headings that help us follow everything Dr Chew is saying, although you can find a full transcript for the first video below.

Video 2: What Students show know about how people learn

Video 3: Cognitive principles for optimizing learning

Video 4: Putting principles for learning into practice

Video 5: I blew the exam, now what?

Hi, I'm Doctor Steven Chew. I'm a professor of psychology here at Samford University in Birmingham Alabama. This is the first in a series of videos on how to study effectively in college.
Attending college is a huge transition and the academic challenge of college-level coursework is a big part of it. We made these videos to help students make their transition. The information will be helpful though to people in almost any learning situation. I'm a cognitive psychologist which means I study how people learn and think.
I'm going to be explaining to you the basic principles of people learn best. Now you can use those principles to increase the effectiveness of your study. I'm not peddling any quick fixes or magic products that's going to make you an A student overnight with little effort. Such things don't exist. The bottom line is this: if you use ineffective or inefficient strategies you can study long and hard and still fail but if you use effective learning strategies, you can get the most learning out of your study time.
In this first video will examine your believes the to see how accurate and understanding you are about how people learn.
All students based their study behavior on their beliefs about how they best learn: do I need to go to class? do I need to read the textbook? how much do I have to study material before I’ve mastered it? The more accurate the beliefs, the more effectively you learn.
Let’s start with some common misconceptions about how people learn that I call beliefs that make you stupid. If you hold these believes chances are you're undermining your learning.
Most first-year college students grossly underestimate the time required to complete assignments or study material effectively. I hear students say things like ‘Dr Chew, you’re going to be proud of me: I read 8 chapters last night’, and I think ‘No, you didn’t. You skimmed the chapters but you learnt virtually nothing’.
Truly comprehending material takes careful reading and more importantly review. Always plan for assignments to take longer than you think and always plan to have your reading finished for an exam well enough in advance to give yourself multiple days for review.
A hall mark of students who are struggling is that they study by trying to memorize isolated facts. Unfortunately many textbooks encourage this by putting key terms in bold print and listing definitions in the margins, so students get no cards right out the definitions and memorize them. The problem is a good teacher tests for comprehension, how well you understand the concept. You simply don't get that if you memorize isolated facts.
Many students believe that people are naturally good or bad at the subject and nothing can be done to change that, but academic success is much more a matter hard work than an inborn talent. Students say to me ‘doctor Chew, you don't understand, I'm really bad at math.’ I tell them ‘no, Tyler, you can do it, you just need to really work hard at math.’ You have to commit the time and hard work necessary to succeed. Now I recognize that people have jobs and family and other obligations, but you have to recognize that the time you have will limit your likelihood of success.
But time and hard work alone do not guarantee success. A lot of students believe they're good at multitasking because they do it all the time, so they study while texting, checking social networks, email and having other distractions. The problem is that these students never compare their performance while multitasking to the performance when they focus on one task without distraction. The research evidence is overwhelming that we are bad at multi-tasking. We’re bad especially if one of the tasks involves concentration and effort like studying. What we're good at is fooling ourselves into believing that we're good at multitasking because all those distractions are more fun than studying, but in order to succeed you need to reduce, or even better eliminate, all those distractions. For every distraction you have, you reduce the amount you learn, increase the time it takes to understand material and increase the chance for a bad grade. So those are the beliefs that can sabotage your learning. I want to introduce a new concept that can have a huge impact on your learning. It's called meta-cognition.
Meta-cognition refers to your awareness of how well you truly understand the concept. Accurate meta-cognition is one of the key differences between successful and struggling students. Weaker students are grossly overconfident on how well they understand the material. As a result, weaker students don't study as much as they need to truly understand the material. They take an exam, they're confident they've done well, then they're stunned when they find out they've done poorly. Let’s see how this works.
A few years ago in my general psychology class I did the following: at the end of the first exam I had students estimate what percentage of the questions they got right, from 0 to 100 percent. I then created this graph of everyone in the class, based on their actual exam performance and how they estimated they did. Each point represents a student. If students have an accurate view of how well they knew the material and how well they did on the exam, their estimate should match the actual performance and they should score on the diagonal. If they did better than expected on the exam, their point would fall above the diagonal. If, however, they were overconfident on how they did, their point would fall below the diagonal.
Look at the results. There are a few students who scored above the diagonal and did better than expected, but most students scored below the diagonal, showing they thought they scored better than they actually did. Now look at the upper right hand corner of the graph. These are the students who did best on the exam. Notice that most of the students are clustered around the diagonal. Now look at the middle of the graph. Here are the students who did poorly and most of their points are far below the diagonal. It was the weakest students who were the most overconfident. They had poor meta-cognition.
After the exam I had students who did poorly tell me ‘I felt so confident after exam’ or ‘I thought I really knew the material’. These are all signs of poor meta-cognition. These students were underprepared, overconfident, and completely unaware of those facts.
The problem for college freshmen is they spent years honing their sense of meta-cognition for high school. Now they come to college and their sense of meta-cognition is all wrong. A big transition in the freshman year is developing a more accurate sense of meta-cognition. The problem of poor meta-cognition is that it may indicate your poor study strategies. The hall mark of the poor study strategy is that builds overconfidence without increasing actual learning, so therefore you have poor meta-cognition. In order to improve your study effectiveness you need to improve your studies skills. That will be the topic of the next video.

jueves, 10 de abril de 2014

10 questions for Susan Sharandon

I find this interview with Susan Sharandon back in 2008 really interesting. The topics she deals with are timeless and very current these days. I am also aware that the clip isn't easy. I would say that advanced students will have to give it their all to keep track of what she says. Anyway, it's worth giving it a try. And let's not set a task for once.

Just watch the video and try to understand as much as possible. If you really find it too hard, read the transcript below in the first place and then watch the video. You may end up by watching the video and reading the transcript at the same time.

We’re here with Susan Sharandon for Time Magazine’s 10 Questions. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
Thank you for asking me.
It’s a pleasure to have you. Your recent role in Enchanted was a delight. What’s more fun, playing a good guy or a bad guy?
Oh, that’s so easy to answer. Definitely a bad guy. I mean, just think about it, you know. You, all the mean things that you would love to say, that you’d relish, that you’d never say because you’re trying to be a generous person, you know. Suddenly, you’re, you have licence to be and do. And they’re just more interesting usually.
As an activist who can sometimes be seen as a little bit controversial, how do you find a balance between being confidently assertive and overly aggressive?
You know, first of all the characters that I’ve played eventually seem like strong women, but when you’re in them they’re very conflicted. I’m not interested in playing heroes that burst on to the scene fully formed, knowing what they’re doing. I think it’s a much more complicated process than that, and they’re usually people who are becoming the protagonist in their own life but it’s costing them to get there. The only thing that gives me the courage, because I’m kind of a shy person to do some of the things that I’ve done, is the idea of living with myself afterwards if I haven’t taken an advantage of the situation, or if I haven’t asked a question or if I haven’t questioned something. For instance, the war you know. I just thought I can’t let this go by without asking questions. It’s too big a deal and no one’s asking. I guess I’ve never seen myself as being aggressive as much as clear on trying to understand a situation so that people can make their own decisions.
How do you feel about the possibility that we could have a woman as president?
Lots of countries have women heading their country.  It’s a concept that’s, doesn’t seem that foreign to me. For me it’s important which woman. I mean, Margaret Thatcher was a woman and I didn’t support her. And I find it insulting to assume that because you’re a woman that you automatically back any woman, or because you’re a person of colour that you would automatically back anyone of colour. I think it’s a little more complicated than that. But, you know, there’s absolutely no reason why a woman shouldn’t be president in that office. I don’t see it as being such a big deal. I’m not sure about this particular woman, but she wouldn’t be my first choice. But there’s no reason why, you know, a woman or a person of colour or a person of whatever faith, I mean, I think Americans are bigger than that and better than that. That would be the only thing that would determine something for them.
What do you think of the current US foreign policy and how George Bush is trying to throw his weight around in the Middle East?
Well, clearly it’s been a disaster. It’s made us much less safe. It’s made the world much less safe. It’s cost us our moral standing in the world. I’ve spent a lot of time with veterans of this war and I think there’s a huge disconnect between the real war and the politicized war. And I think, I wish that our representatives had more experience of the real war when they’re making their decisions. In my overall feeling about the whole Iraq situation is just …, you know, I’m heart-broken for the people that are over there one, two, three times now. And we continue our lives if it doesn’t…, if we’re not part of that 1% that it immediately touches, it’s so easy to forget about that. And I hope that we start to be more supportive of the returning vets because that’s a huge, huge challenge that that no one’s really dealing with.
When you look back on your career, are you happy with the way it has evolved? Do you enjoy the roles that you play now as much as you did the ones that you played in the beginning of your career?
Yeah, yeah. I’m still having a really good time. I’m kind of turning into Gene Hackman. I’m doing a lot of  these supporting, kinda juicy supporting parts now. But I  don’t mind, it gives me more time off. It’s also nice not to carry the entire film sometime. I, my ego isn’t bruised by not playing the lead in a film. I’m a little bit lazy, I suffer a little from inertia so, you know, it forces me to make contact with people to learn about different microcosms to, to really look in-depth. It’s kind of like enforced reincarnation and enforced compassion. And the thing that you find out when you’re an actor for a long period of time is that we’re not so different. Everyone’s afraid of the same thing, everyone needs the same thing, and given a set of circumstances, you can find yourself doing things that you never thought, or feeling things that you never thought yourself capable of feeling or doing. So it makes you kind of much less judgmental and more compassionate, you know, and that’s not a bad exercise to go through every time you go to work.
All right.

miércoles, 9 de abril de 2014

Talking point: Reading

This week's talking point is reading. 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 flow more easily when you get together with your friends.

What kind of books do you read?
Do you read anything else i.e. newspapers, magazines?
How often and how much do you read?
Where do you like reading?
Do you read printed books and newspapers or do you prefer reading online?
What was the last thing you read?
Why do you read?
If you were going to recommend a book to a friend, what would it be and why would you recommend it?
Do you prefer reading a book or watching a film? Why?
Do you usually watch the film based on a book that you have read?
Do you have an e-book reader?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of e-book readers over books?
Will technology ever kill reading?

To illustrate the point you can watch this New York Times video where an American family tells us about their reading habits and the future of reading. 

I guess we are voracious readers because we can’t sit anywhere without reading something, sitting in a waiting room, on a train, we are nuts if we don´t have something to read.
I read about five newspapers a day, I read a number of weekly magazines, and I would say I always read some book before I go to sleep at night.
David Sims and his wife Jean clearly enjoy reading. Every room in their house in Greninge Connecticut is strewn with books and newspapers.
I don’t go anywhere without a newspaper or a magazine or a book. I’m probably at the library three or four times a week. We are very big users at the library.
And their son, Zac, enjoys reading too, but just not in the same way.
My family sort of has a great relationship with reading, but I read a lot more online I can say confidently than the rest of my family, and they probably read more in print than I do.
At least since the invention of television critics have warned that the electronic media would destroy reading by diminishing literacy and wrecking attention spans, but accomplished readers like Zac are redefining what it means to read in a digital age.
When you are reading online you can read a lot of different things about a lot of different subjects in a short period of time, whereas if you are reading a book it’s usually about one subject. I would say reading a lot of magazines, user generated-content that one wouldn’t find in paper form, so a lot of different blogs, I’m subscribed to something like a hundred or two hundred RSS feeds that I read every day, and reading sort of aggregators that bring together a lot of information from different sources.
Sure Zachary likes books but he craves interaction with fellow readers.
It’s about the conversation. I suppose if you just receive it in paper, it´s just like you read and you’re done with it, and I think putting it online takes it a step further.
His mother is staggered by the amount of content Zac absorbs every day.
It’s mind-boggling to me. If he had to go pick up all those resources in print, it would be almost impossible.
Still, she thinks reading in print and on the internet are two different animals.
I don’t think about reading on my computer is a quiet activity. I think about sitting and reading in my comfy chair, crawled up with my book, I don’t crawl up with my computer.
But like many in her generation, Zac and Emma do. 
I don’t think it’s a bad thing. I think when you start looking at the amount of time that spent on social networking and IMing (short for Internet Messaging), that’s where I have a problem.
The Sims, like a lot of parents, are concerned that their daughter spends most of her time online playing games, not reading.
I think that it’s very important especially when the kids are young for them to read. I think it enriches their vocabulary. They also think that it helps to lay a foundation for good writing skills.
Zac, for his part, is obsessed with reading on any digital device, even reading headline on his iphone on the train ride at home.
I wouldn’t say it’s an unhealthy amount of time that i´m spending online. I have Facebook, I do SMS with friends, I do have friends, but I think they recognize the fact it’s a lot of reading, it´s becoming more informed about the world than informed about other things you care about.
Some literacy experts believe that there are online reading skills that can ultimately help children fair better in school, like the ability to locate information quickly, or even type faster. 
David thinks these and other skills will serve Zac well at Columbia University in the fall.
He’s learned various ways on multiple levels to do research. He’s a very inquisitive kid, so when he’s interested in a subject instead of using the internet if it didn’t exist, he would be in the library all the time going through research books to study a subject.
While the debate continues for educators and researchers about the virtues of online reading for this family reading, and whatever form it is, is valuable.
I think that reading is really the basis of all learning. And I think whether it’s a book or whether it’s on the internet if you are reading and digging you are learning. So I’d like to think that, you know, that’s where we all can gain a great deal.

martes, 8 de abril de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Mystery times

Our Madrid Teacher video for this week revolves around the topic of mysteries. Before you watch the video just think about these famous mysteries, what do you know about them?
  • Jack the Ripper
  • The Nazca planes in Peru
  • The Great Wall of China
  • The Moais on East Island
  • The pyramids in Egypt
  • The Loch Ness Monster
Now watch the clip and see whether the Madrid Teacher manage to throw some light on these mysteries.

Once again, the conversation of the Madrid Teachers gives us a great opportunity to get acquainted with some feature of spoken English. Watch the clip again and pay attention to the following:
  • vague language: sort of; or so
  • gaining thinking time: well; you know?
  • connecting ideas: like; so
  • agreement: yeah; that's a good point; yes, that's right
  • involving the other people in the conversation: Do you a little about it?
  • hedging: I suppose; I think
  • rephrasing what you have just said: I mean
  • reacting to what you have just heard: oh!
  • emphasis: really
  • introducing an explanation: the thing is

Now it's over to you. Can you think about some other unsolved mysteries? Can you talk about them with some of your friends? Use the mysteries the Madrid Teachers discussed today if nothing comes to mind. And don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English when you talk.

I just read an article the other day about Jack the Ripper, which a sort of, well, a mystery story because nobody really knows who killed those five women, you know? It was actually just between a, in a seven month period, five women were killed. Two on the same day. And what, what the mystery is, is first of all they never found the guy, and second of all, well, you know there are suspects that it was Queen Victoria’s grandson, who was maybe a Freemason, who, you know, there was all these . . . And there, but there were other suspects as well. The question is also, like, why did they stop all of a sudden, you know? Like, why did he kill those, just those five women? And so there are theories that maybe he killed them, you know, because there was some sort of plan, diabolic plan that he had and he, and, or these women had some sort of relation between each other and once he killed the five of them that’s, that was it. He’d finished his plan. Or, maybe it’s because people started suspecting who it was, and he just wanted to, you know, disappear off the map and not do anymore.
But, but that’s a bit of a mystery, you know? But there are lots of things like that there are mysteries, like for example Nazca planes, in Peru.
Oh, yeah! You know?
Do you know a little bit about it?
I know . . . I’ve never been there. My boyfriend has, but I know that some of them are so large you can see the designs from outer space, apparently. And, many . . .
Like the, like the Great Wall of China.
Yeah, OK, fair enough. But, some people believe that they are tracks for alien landings and what not. Spaceship tracks.
Or runways, I suppose you could call them.
Spaceship runways.
Yeah. If spaceships run, I don’t know.
The thing is, like, how could they, how could people have made those, like if you could only see them from the, even if it’s not from outer space but from an airplane, like . . . how have, could people have engraved these in the, you know?
That’s a good point.
They’re deep, aren’t they? They’re about . . . two feet deep or something? 

They’re huge. Yeah, they’re huge.
Yeah, they’re enormous.
Yeah it would have been difficult to sort of plan it out, to see it from, from the sky.
Another thing are the Moais, or I think it’s pronounced Moais. The ones in Easter Island, those big statues, you know?
Oh yeah.
Like all the bodies are facing one direction, and all the heads are facing another direction. But I mean the heads are like, they weigh like a ton. And how, how can they move these big heads from one end of the island to the other? Like thousands of years ago, like, they didn’t have any, you know modern equipment, or anything to carry these big heads. But the thing is that the head and the body are perfectly aligned. So... you know? Like, it wouldn’t be like just any old head, you know, lined up. Like, it perfectly matches... so, that’s a very, that’s a sort of mysterious thing.
There are no surveys or anything? How did they do it? It’s just ‘cause, if you think about it, it’s not, there’s...

It’s a mystery still, isn’t it? Like Stonehenge, I suppose. They don’t know exactly where the stones came from, or how they were erected, but it happened.
Yes, that’s right.
Is Easter Island the place where it’s an island that obviously used to have a population but, for the past hundred years or so, nobody’s lived there?
Well, it belongs to Chile. I mean, it’s the, it, it belongs to . . . I don’t, I, I actually . . .
But it’s uninhabited.
Is it? Yeah. I don’t know . . .
They did, there was some deforestation, I think, and they were unable to support themselves on the island. Some . . .
Yeah, that’s what I heard.
With the possibility that they used the trees to move the stones.
Well, there’s a movie about that called, Rapanui, which is about, there, there were two tribes of people on this island, and there were always competing with each other. Some of them had long ears and the other ones had short ears.
Yeah, it’s, it’s a really cool movie, actually. And it talks about that mystery. And it talks about how possibly, that one group, well, they were like slaves to the other group. And how they made them carry these heads to the other side like you were saying, like, you know, sort of like when you think of the pyramids, you know? How they built the pyramids, you know? With all the slaves that they used and everything, so  . . .
Magnetic force fields.
So that explains more or less how they did it, then? Or how do they think they did it.
That’s right, it’s a theory. That’s right. Of how they, you know, they sort of had big, you know, logs, and they just sort of rolled them, you know? And of course, people got squished and people got, you know, killed along the way, you know, like, like the pyramids.
It’s a bit different, I suppose, to the Loch Ness Monster, isn’t it? You know, you, you probably know a lot about that.
About the Loch Ness Monster? Yeah. I heard recently that the cast of Allo, Allo went on a boat on Loch Ness, and, I know, but while they were on their boat, the sonar started bleeping and allegedly, they found something very, very deep in the loch, and they didn’t know what it was.