sábado, 31 de mayo de 2014

Rachel's English

Let me tell you about Rachel's English, one of the sites for learning English I have bumped into recently which really stands out.

Rachel's English is mainly about pronunciation, American English pronunciation, although we will also manage to develop our listening skills and vocabulary if we watch Rachel's videos regularly.

This is what Rachel says about herself and her site:

"Rachel has been working on Rachel's English for over 5 years.  Having taught ESL off and on since 1999, she became interested in developing a pronunciation-focused resource while living in Germany under the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship program in 2008.

Rachel's initial idea in developing Rachel's English was to make the kind of resource for self-study that she wished she could find for her own foreign language study.  As a classical singer, Rachel has spent much time immersed in singing in German, French, Italian, and Spanish.  She studied with highly acclaimed vocal teachers and coaches and brings a body of detailed knowledge connected to the voice, placement, and the musical nature of speech to her work as a pronunciation coach.

Rachel lives in New York City.  She was born and raised in Florida, went to college in Indiana where she studied Applied Math, Computer Science, and Music, and graduate school for Opera Performance in Boston. She loves being connected to people throughout the world through Rachel's English."

viernes, 30 de mayo de 2014

The Great Barrier Reef

Watch this four-minute National Geographic video on the largest living structure, the Great Barrier Reef.

Self-study activity:
After watching the video answer the questions below.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 How many islands does the Great Barrier Reef span?
2 What is the Great Barrier Reef compared to?
3 What can its diversity be compared to?
4 How many animals are necessary to build a coral?
5 What are red algae responsible for?
6 What does 4,000 refer to?
7 When was the Great Barrier Reef designated a World Heritage Site?
8 What are some of the problems the Great Barrier Reef is facing these days?
9 How old are the oldest corals?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

From space, the east coast of Australia appears to be in the embrace of a giant opal.
The largest living structure on earth, the Great Barrier Reef is a lacy, living wall spanning more than two thousand kilometers of islands and submerged reefs, between the Queensland coast and the western edge of the Pacific Ocean.
Diving in, the opal seems to splinter into millions of pieces, whirlpools of small metallic-blue fish, barracuda gliding like silver submarines, and occasionally, a lone, predatory shark.
The Great Barrier Reef is like an underwater city whose buildings are alive, with millions of small creatures whose lives are intimately – and intricately – connected.
It is as diverse as a rainforest, a mosaic of more than 70 types of habitats hosting thousands of species of marine life.
As many as 100 different kinds of coral may occupy a single acre of ocean.
Molecule by molecule, coral animals gradually extract calcium carbonate from the surrounding water to form minute stony cups around each animal’s soft crown of tentacles.
Some coral live in solitary splendor, but most are built with hundreds, sometimes thousands of individual animals, linked together to form a single coral mound, plate or cluster of branches.
Some are like little pink trees and shrubs. They provide food and shelter for thousands of other forms of life.
Corals get the credit for most of the reef structure, but much of the construction is done by fast-growing encrusting red algae. They act like pink glue, cementing fragments of shell, sand and coral with sheets of calcium carbonate.
The reef is home to more than 4000 kinds of mollusks, from tiny sea slugs – nudibranchs – to giant clams.
Green sea turtles travel thousands of miles in the open sea to reach the sandy beaches of some of the Barrier Reef’s islands, and there, to lay their eggs. Hatchings head straight for the sea. They will travel thousands of miles over the years, and eventually, return to lay their own eggs.
Established as a national park in 1975, the Great Barrier Reef was designated as a World Heritage Site six years later (1981). Today 33 per cent of it is fully protected, and efforts are underway to deal with pollution, over-fishing, and the consequences of climate change.
The Great Barrier Reef appears to be about 20,000 years old, but geologists using deep coring techniques have found evidence of ancient corals there that are half a million years old. With care, the future of Australia’s living treasure will be at least as enduring as its magnificent past.

jueves, 29 de mayo de 2014

10 questions for Taylor Swift

Last year Taylor Swift gave an interview for Time Magazine for their 10 questions series.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video through and note down the questions Taylor is asked.
Watch the video again and note down the gist (general idea) of Taylor's answers.

The activity is suitable for strong intermediate 2 students.

I'm Rebecca Keegan with Taylor Swift, who is taking questions from Time readers from an RV on Hollywood Boulevard. Hey, Taylor, how are you?
I'm doing great, how are you?
I'm good. I have a bunch of questions for you from Time readers from all over the world. This first question comes from Stacy Clementine in Johnsburg, Illinois, who asks how long does it take you to write a song it.
It depends. I've written songs in 15 minutes and also on the other end of the spectrum I've taken a year to finish a song, but most of the time songs that I write end up being finished in 30 minutes or less, you know, all the songs that have been singles like Love story, I wrote that on my bedroom floor in about 20 minutes, so usually when I get on the role when something is really hard for me to put it down unfinished.
How do you manage to appear so genuinely happy when according to your songs you've suffered so much heartbreak?
I have ways of channeling the heartbreak that I’ve gone through at the right moments. A lot of times you don't allow yourself to feel things to their full extent because you have to go on with things but there are moments when I'm writing songs that's why I let myself feel it the most. So it's all about really knowing when you gotta feel those things and that knowing, when you gotta just go about your day in spite of it. Also it has been a really awesome year. There's been a lot to be happy about, so I get so excited when I go to an award show and I get to perform and I get to do a performance I've always wanted to do since middle school, and I get so excited when the song that I wrote about something really personal to me goes number one and I looked down and I see people singing the words back to me. That makes me so much happier then on than anything could really ever bring me down, so it's like you've got some channeling that hurt when, when it's the right time to and also just the fact that life has been really good.
Where do you find the inspiration for your songs?
I find inspiration in human emotion. The way that we treat each other, the way that we make each other feel and the pattern of it and how you know it repeats itself so often but we never learn from it, just all the different things that you learn from relationships, whether it be friends or family or love, mostly love. I just love watching people and how we react to feelings, so I think love is always gonna be a number one contributor to the inspiration department for me.
This question comes from Katmandu.
And the reader asks, I grew up listening to heavy metal and rock, yet I find your songs very catchy. What sort of music do you listen to?
I love Def Leppard. I've always loved Def Leppard on ever since I was little. My mom has always listened to Def Leppard, so they were my favorite band from the time I was a little kid to now.
My little Victor in the Philippines asks what advice do you have for young and aspiring songwriters?
I would say my advice to songwriters is to write your songs, not for a specific demographic or for getting on the radio or for anything commercial like that. Write your songs to the person that you're writing that song about. That's the mindset that I going into when I sit down to write a song. I think to myself, okay, who is this about? Fill in the blank and then I think, what would I say to him right now if I could and if I had the nerve to, what would I say. And then you think of some rhymes and you put it all together .
Earl Worthington in Chicago wants to now what other artists would you like to do a duet with?
I would like to do a duet with Taylor Hanson because I have loved Hanson since I was eight and it’s like never gonna end, I'm never gonna stop loving them, and Taylor Hanson has an amazing voice and also, you know, we’re both named Taylor.
You did have great hair.
Thank you.
You share the blondeness.
Thank you so much. I love John Mayer, but I, but I said it in another interview, I say that in like every interview, so I figured I'd switch it up.
Mix it up. We wanna have the Hansons scoop people.
I love Hanson.
How do you find balance between your personal and professional life?
Finding balance between my personal and professional life is kinda interesting because they bleed together, you know, I, I write songs about the guy that sat next to me in class 10th grade or the person that I saw yesterday that we made eye contact for a split second, but it was enough to inspire a song.
And for me I just try not to get too territorial about what's personal time and what's professional time because if I'm sitting at home in my hometown and it's my one day off in three months and I'm sitting there and I'm at a restaurant and a line forms in front of my table, that winds around the entire restaurant, I'm not gonna say ‘this is my day off, I won’t sign your autographs’, because  this is what I've asked for my entire life. This is the one thing that I wanted, and the fact that I actually get to do that one thing that I've always wanted, I don’t think I'm ever gonna wanna complain about it.
Katie Rutherford in Washington DC wants to know, do you plan on getting your college degree? If so what are you interested in studying?
College is something that I always thought I was gonna do and then I discovered music and I still thought I was gonna go to college because I never really actually thought I'd get to do this, you know, I worked really hard for it but I did never expect that it was gonna be a possibility for me and then I started getting further with it. Later on I would love to take college classes and getting the college experience is something I'm planning on doing pretty soon because I'm gonna go visit my friend Abigail in college and see what that's like, but, you know, no matter what path you choose, you're gonna miss something and I wanna miss this

miércoles, 28 de mayo de 2014

Talking point: Being a parent

Today's talking point is being a parent. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas flow when you meet up with your friends and you can deal with vocabulary issues beforehand.

•    Do you have any children yet?
•    If yes, how old are they? If no, would you like children in the future? Why/Why not?
•    What do you think are the hardest things about being a parent nowadays? Explain your answers.
•    Do you think parents should be strict with their children? Why/Why not?
•    What did you learn from your parents about bringing up children?
•    How have your parents influenced your life?
•    Do you think parents would benefit from lessons on how to be a good parent? Why/Why not?
•    What are the key ingredients of being a good parent?
•    Which of these things you think should be
a) controlled strongly by parents; b) controlled a little by parents; c) left to the child to decide
- watching TV
- playing computer games
- practising a musical instrumet
- going out to play with friends
- doing homework
- choosing what subjects to study at high school
- choosing extracurricular activities

To illustrate the point you can watch this video where President Obama wished a happy Mother's Day to all the moms last year.
He talks about the way his mom and grandmother have influenced him, and how the model of strong, responsible, and loving women have been great role-models to him and his daughters.

I think it's important to recognize that moms come in a lot of different shapes and sizes.
You know, my mother was the single most important influence in my life. I saw her struggles as a single mom. She taught me the values of hard work and responsibility, but also compassion and empathy; being able to look at the world through somebody else’s eyes and stand in their shoes. She was somebody who recognized that those of us who have some talents, or have been given opportunities, that we’ve got to give something back, and I’ll always be indebted to her for that.

My grandmother — she was very different than my mother. Much more sort of stoic and, you know, very much displayed her Kansas roots, but was a constant source of strength for all of us. She was a woman who grew up in the Depression, never had the opportunity to go to college, worked her way up as a secretary to become a vice president of a bank, and frankly, if there hadn’t been a glass ceiling, she probably could have taken over the bank.

Michelle is the best mom I know. And she cares deeply about family.

This is my wife Michelle.

Hey, I’m his date.

She combines the ability to make the kids feel completely loved with a real sense of being able to provide the kids limits. And she’s very good at it. And the proof is in those girls, who are magical. And I’d like to say that I had something to do with it, but I think in fairness, I’ve got to give her most of the credit.

I’m saddened I have to let you go.

That model of strong, responsible women but also incredibly loving women has been a great gift for my girls, because they can see every day the contributions that women are making in their own family and I think that gives them an enormous amount of confidence as they go forward.

The issues that mothers face – those are the issues that matter to all of us. So families count on women having equal opportunity. That’s the reason why something like the Affordable Care Act was so important because a lot of times women are paying more for their health care. That’s why I signed the Lilly Ledbetter Act to make sure that people got an equal day’s pay for an equal day’s work because when we do that, that’s not just good for women, that’s good for our country and that’s good for families everywhere.

Happy Mother’s Day to every single mother out there

martes, 27 de mayo de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Disastrous defeats

In this new installment of our Madrid Teacher series, three teachers discuss how important winning at sports is.

Once again, the short video clip gives us a wonderful opportunity to get to know the different strategies native speakers of English use to express themselves orally.

First, watch the video through and enjoy it.

Now watch the video again. This time pay attention to the following features of spoken English:
  • Use of really to emphasize some adjectives: really important; really competitive; really long way; really impressive
  • Use of well to gain some thinking time when we're talking
  • False starts: the speaker corrects themselves in mid-sentece: I used to,,, I didn't use to
  • Faltering, when the speaker doesn't have a clear idea of what he/she is going to say: I, did...; Did they, did they
  • Use of you know to gain thinking time and to check that listeners understand
  • Use of you see to introduce your ideas.
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; exactly

It's over to you now, How important is winning at sports (or at any kind of competition, for that matter) for you? Try to get together with a friend and talk it over, and don't forget to use some of the features of functional language we have seen in the video.

I have a question for both of you. Do you think that it’s really important to always win at sports?
Well I’m not… with sport I’m not particularly competitive. I just like participating. For example, when I was younger I used to… I, didn’t use to like football because when you’re a kid lots, you know, lots of people are really competitive with football. But then as I was older and I started playing with older people who, who aren’t too concerned with winning and then I really started enjoying it.
You see, I always was competitive. But I think it’s good to have both in a team, you know. Some kids just participate and have fun and others are more driven and keep trying until they, they improve. I think it’s good to have both.
Ah, well I remember a little girl once. She, she was five and she was competing with other kids that were older.
Was her name Sheila?
No. And so for this little girl, the most important thing that I told her was not necessarily… and no, it wasn’t me.
It sounds like you’re telling a story about yourself.
No, it’s not. But the most important thing was to realise that older kids because they’re bigger, of course they could run a lot faster. And so for other children her age she was doing just right. And so then later when actually she was able to run faster she said, “You know, you were really right” and “look how fast I was able to run.”
Oh, well, then also boys versus girls… I remember when my football team went co-ed and that was frustrating ‘cause you went from all girls where you were the… well, I was doing well, and then with boys it was a whole new ball game… literally.
I, did you hear about that ski, British skier? We don’t have a lot… well, in England, we don’t have any mountains where you can ski. But there was this guy called Eddie…
That’s a challenge.
Yeah. He entered the Olympics and he came in last by a really, really long way. But he became famous as a result because people admired his courage and the way he tried and…
Keeping at it…
… Yeah, he kept at it.
That’s like the Jamaican bob sled team. There was a movie made about it as well and I found that to be really impressive.
Did they, did they come last?
I think the first year they might have, but it ends as a good story.
Yeah, it’s a good story, yeah.
But then again the most important thing is to participate, right?
Have fun, yeah.
Not to be too competitive.
Maybe Leigh wouldn’t agree with that.
Well, I mean, it depends.  Again, each to their own.

lunes, 26 de mayo de 2014

How to protect yourself from wasps

Self-study activity:
What are the best weather conditions for wasps to proliferate? Do wasps have any useful purpose? How can we protect ourselves from wasps? Make a list of all the ideas that come to mind to answer the questions.

Then watch this short extract from a BBC programme and check whether any of your ideas come up. Note down any new information that you hear.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

I’ve noticed sitting outside enjoying a nice cool drink there are wasps all over the place and I didn’t… with this didn’t happen last summer, I’m sure it didn’t, they didn’t bother me as much, why?
There are a few more wasps around this year than there were last year. The weather is warmer. Everyone’s noticed that and I think we’re gonna have a bit of a heatwave next week as well, which is great because I’m on holiday again, but we actually think this year will be an increase in wasps but not massive increase. If we have a really good summer this year and consistent temperatures next year, we’re gonna  get a massive year next year.
We talk about them as pests, but are they? I mean do they serve any useful purporse, wasps?
Well, yes, I suppose everything has its, has its place in the, you know, in life. They feed on aphids, they are prime predator, they do destroy some very, some garden insects, so they do have their own place. They’re perhaps not as beneficial as bees, though, perhaps.
How do we… last year then we had fewer, is that because it was a colder winter or how did that happen? Because I guess it’s all about stopping the queens before they start a new community.
We’ve had fewer and fewer wasps because of a succession of wet summers that has washed away a lot of the food source such as pollen and nectar. So less food equals less population.
That, vicious little creatures though aren’t they.

I mean when you hear of people being, having multiple stings by wasps and wasp nests. I mean, look at this one! This is horrendous. I’d be petrified if I saw that. I had one in a wall, that’s a wasp nest. I had one in my roof at one point. What should people do… and here’s one in a boiler. What should people do? Where should they be conscious of looking or, you know, avoiding something like this?
If wasps are coming into your house, you’ll normally see them going in and out, in and out…
… if it’s a tiny little hole…
…through a tiny little hole either on (the), a tile on the roof or through an air brick or something along those sort of lines. That means there’s a nest, nest activity inside, and that means that depending on the time of year it’s either going to be a small nest, and again it depends on the temperatures because insects are temperature-dependent, then, or it’s going to be a large nest. And that’s the one that you can see in the photo, the whopper.
Can you prevent yourself from having one or is it just pure luck?
I think, we really think it’s luck of the draw.
And should you get rid of a wasp nest if you’ve got one and if so, briefly, how do you do that?
Ok. If it is in a place where it isn’t causing you any problems at all then you could leave it alone. I would tend to, I would tend to get rid of it because of the dangers that they can bring.
Who do you ring, you ring the council, you ring pest control, where do you go to?
Councils are doing less and less pest control nowadays with, with cutbacks. The British Pest Control Association has accredited members who professionally know how to do these things.

domingo, 25 de mayo de 2014

Extensive listening: Britain under water

 As Britain is battered yet again by extreme weather, reporter Richard Bilton investigates the causes of the flooding that has devastated so much of the country in the last winter.

He meets the families whose lives have been ruined and asks whether more could be done to protect our towns and villages. Or should the government now be making tough choices about which places to save?

sábado, 24 de mayo de 2014

Reading test: Horoscopes can be bad for you

For our bi-weekly reading activity we have selected a Telegraph article on the negative effect of horoscopes on people.

Seven sentences have been taken out of the text. Insert them in the corresponding gap in the article. There is a sentence you do not need to use, and 0 is an example.

Astrology may seem like harmless fun , 0… .
Consumers who read their horoscope daily were found to be more likely to exhibit impulsive or indulgent behaviour when their zodiac was negative, the research suggested. The reason why is  1…  . The study, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, showed that those who believed their fate could change were more prone to erratic decision-making following bad news in their zodiac.
It has long been thought that reading your star sign can improve mood and encourage people to undertake selfless activities. However, 2… . A number of participants were presented with unfavourable star sign readings and asked to choose between either going to a party or cleaning their home.  Participants who selected going to a party were seen as having made an indulgent decision and those who chose to clean their home were categorised as having made a virtuous one.
The study found that 3… were more likely to choose going to the party over the more virtuous activity.  Researchers had expected participants to choose a more virtuous action to prevent the unfavourable outcome presented in their horoscope.
“Conventional wisdom might suggest that for people who believe they can change their fate, an unfavourable horoscope should result in an attempt to improve their fate,” the authors of study, Hyeongmin Kim of Johns Hopkins University, and Katina Kulow and Thomas Kramer of the University of South Carolina, said.  “Our results showed that 4… .”  The researchers found that those who believe they have a fixed fate 5… and instead remained focused on their day ahead.
Earlier this month, Arch Crawford, a former Merrill Lynch trader who earned the nickname “crash Crawford" after predicting the “flash crash” of 1962, revealed that he has used astrology to guide his trades.  A study released in November this year suggested 37 per cent of the public read their horoscopes before making big decisions. The same study revealed 6…
The psychic industry in the United Kingdom is worth an estimated £100 million a year.  Madonna is said to be a keen advocate of horoscopes and psychics, 7… .  Naomi Watts, who played Princess Diana in the recent film adaptation, has also spoken about using psychics and claimed she had received permission from the late princess to play the part.

Example: 0-C

A although they seem to be reluctant at first and have to be helped in the process.
B because reading a poor outcome in your star sign makes you more susceptible to temptation, it is believed
C but a new study suggests following your star sign could be bad for you
D having been said to have consulted a psychic before adopting her daughter
E reading an unfavourable horoscope actually has the opposite effect on a person
F scientists at the University of South Carolina and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, found the opposite effect
G showed little change in their decision making
H those who had read a negative horoscope before making their choice
I women were also found to be twice as likely to visit a psychic than men

Star signs  Photo: Alamy

0C; 1B; 2F; 3H; 4E; 5G; 6I; 7D

viernes, 23 de mayo de 2014

Vending Machines Will Be Required to Post Calorie Information

Watch this short ABC news clip about new regulations in the US about vending machines, which are to give information about the calories in their products.

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

The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

Now to a food story of an entirely different and slightly safer variety. If you are considering a New Year’s resolution that involves changing your diet, listen up, there are big changes coming to a vending machine near you and ABC's Reena Ninan is on the story.
Hi, guys, good morning, so Dan and I raided our  ABC News vending machine, I have Pop Tarts, Hot Fudge Sundae Pop Tarts, Doritos for Bianna. But the good news is if you like your Frito Lays, you can still keep your Frito Lays, but now you'll know how many calories are in the bag before you buy it.
Problems with Healthcare.gov said that covers back  by over (1) ...  but now there is a new charge about to drop. According to an FDA $25.8m estimate could soon be spent to encourage Americans to make healthier choices. Yes, vending machine choices.
Vending machines are often the last (2) ... for people. And so if you're trying to eat healthy you can't even read the (3) ... of what's trapped behind the glass.
To help curb (4) ...-... costs owners of an estimated 5.4 million snack and soda machines will now be required to post calorie (5) ... on all of their products. How bad can it be? We grabbed our smoothest dollar bills to check it out.
Potato chips, Trail Mix, how about these hot Buffalo Wing Pretzels, (6) ... calories. Might as well eat the Buffalo chicken wings.
But would you punch the same numbers if you knew these numbers?
And not all candy is created equal. Pretzel M&Ms, 150. 3 Musketeers, 240. Snickers, 250.
Many chains have already started posting calories next to their menu items. In New York City it’s a (7) ...  .
They found that people were choosing 100 fewer calories when they knew the calorie counts. Over the course of a year, every day, that (8) ...   ...  to ten pounds.
Ten pounds of weight is a lot to lose.  The final (9) ... on vending machines are expected early next year. But companies right now will have a year to comply. Dan and Bianna.
I have to say, not just because it's ABC, Dan, but we also have a healthy vending machine downstairs as well. Food, vegetable, Pretzel, Hummus.
Hummus, yeah, I use it actually once in a while, I would want to know the calorie count.
I would too. You are actually quite intrigued by some of those stats.
Yes, I was, I was. I am a huge dork... though that would put me outside of the norm.

1 $400m 2 resort 3 labels 4 obesity-related 5  counts 6 280 7 requirement 8 adds up  9 rules

jueves, 22 de mayo de 2014

New York City Guide

Watch this short Lonely Planet travel video on New York City and fill in the blanks in the transcript with the missing words.

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

New Yorkers like to think their home is the (1) ... of the world. And who can (2) ... them? Home to over eight million people, the city is (3) ... and fast and pulsates with energy. America's biggest city can be overwhelming for visitors, but you'll find street names make (4) ... easy. And those yellow cabs are a great way to get around.
Manhattan is the (5) ... and soul of ‘the big apple’, and within its neighbourhoods there's a distinct style and (6) ... . Lower Manhattan, the city's financial district, bustles from Monday to Friday. The neon of Times Square and Broadway (7) ... bright in midtown while dominating the Upper-East and West sides, are Central Park, (8) ...  boutiques and those famous brownstone homes.
Make your way down to New York (9) ... , and jump on a ferry to Liberty Island. Take in the views of the statue of Liberty, a (10) ... from France commemorating the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. It's been the beacon of freedom to immigrants arriving in New York since (11)  ...  .
New York is one of the cultural hubs of the world. Don't miss the city's famous art museums: the Museum of Modern Art, or "MOMA", the Solomon R. Guggenheim museum, and the Metropolitan museum of Art. And look to the South Bronx and Queens, where a new (12) ... of artists are making their mark on the street.
New York has always been a thriving home for music. Check out the beach in the Bronx, the (13) ... of hip-hop, or (14) ... to Greenwich Village, for New York's jazz (15) ... . From jazz clubs to Broadway extravaganzas, and the (16) ... Chelsea bars, in the city that never sleeps there are plenty of reasons to stay out late well into the night.

1 center 2 blame 3 loud  4 navigation 5 heart 6 pace 7 burns 8 high-end 9 harbour 10 gift 11 1886 12 wave 13 birthplace 14  head 15 scene 16 latest

miércoles, 21 de mayo de 2014

Talking point: Money

This week's talking point is money, and we will be dealing with it from different points of view, so don't be put off by the number of questions that you can see in the questionnaire. In addition, the questions can also help us to learn the vocabulary related to a specific topic.

Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that you're not at a loss for ideas when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • When do you buy lottery tickets? Have you ever won anything? 
  • What numbers do you pick when you buy a lottery ticket? Why do you choose these numbers?
  • If you won a lot of money, what would you do with it?
  • Do you know anyone who has won a lot of money?
  • If you were down to the last of your money, what would you spend it on? 
  • 'Money can't buy you happiness.' Do you agree? Why/Why not? 
  • What is more important than money? Why? 
  • Do you like finding bargains in the sales?
  • When do you prefer to pay by cash, and when do you prefer to pay by card?
  • Has a cash machine ever ‘eaten’ your bank card? If so, how did you get it back?
  • Have you ever given money to a charity, like Caritas or Oxfam?
  • What kind of things do you normally buy online? Why don’t you buy them in a shop?
  • Does anybody owe you money? Do you owe anybody money?
  • Have you ever taken out a loan from the bank? Why?
  • Is there anything you’d love to buy but can’t afford at the moment?
  • Have you ever bought something you couldn’t really afford?
  • What’s the most expensive thing you’ve ever bought?
  • Have you ever bought something and then regretted it?
  • Have you ever inherited money or property, or something more unusual?
  • Have you, or anyone you know, ever been robbed of money? If so, what happened?
To illustrate the topic, you can watch this video from our Speakout series Does money make you happy?, where the people interviewed answer these three questions:

Do you think money makes you happy?
What things are more important than money?
Should wealthy people be taxed more to support the poor?

You can read the transcript here.

martes, 20 de mayo de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Cycling cities

In our Madrid Teacher series, three teacher discuss the advantages, and some disadvantages of cycling.

Watch the video through to get the general picture of  what they are talking about.
Watch the video again. This time pay attention to the following features of spoken English:
- Active listening to show the person who is talking that you're paying attention: yeah; that's nice; oh, yeah
- Use of so as a linking word to connect ideas.
- Showing agreement: Yeah, exactly; absolutely
- Making yourself clear: I mean
- Checking that your interlocutors have understood: you know
- Showing surprise: Really?
- Giving yourself thinking time while you're talking: you know
-Vague language: And things like that

It's over to you now. Talk about the advantages and disadvantages of cycling for you, of any other means of transport for that matter. Try and use some of the features of spoken English which have come up in the video.

Erm, at Christmas I was in Chicago, and we went to a sandwich shop…
And as I was sitting there, in front of the window, I kept watching the food delivery cyclists coming and going, grabbing food and going to someone’s home and then another person. And I just thought, what a great job to have when you’re young and studying and...
So they were delivering the food by bike to people’s houses?
By bicycle, yeah.
So people phoned..., it’s like a takeaway.
Yeah, exactly. It was a sandwich shop, but  they, the delivery people, would put it, the sandwiches, on their backs in a little hot pack, and... I thought it was great.
That’s nice.
For me that would be horrible, no? I’m not so athletic. I mean, the last time, as far as a bicycle, I had a job, hopefully I still do, when I was fifteen. The job I had, I had to get there by bicycle. So it was eighteen miles, bicycling, and there was…
Uphill, both ways.
absolutely. There was a strip where there were these mean farm dogs, and they would wait for me every morning. So during that section of course, I went really, really fast whenever the dogs came by,
Oh yeah.
I’d pick up my legs, you know...
Yeah, it’s nice when your cycling and some got a dog and they hold the dog because they know that quite often dogs chase cyclists.
When I was a little girl my parents had tandems. So I would go in the back of a tandem. And if there was, it was my job if a dog came to squirt water at it. So I don’t know why...
Does that work? Does that frighten the dog?
Yeah, they run away, yeah. They don’t generally like to be...
For me cycling is the best form of transport.
I don’t like cycling as a sport, but I... like, for me going from A to B and then back to A again by bike is best.
I used to live in erm, Bournemouth which is, it’s one of those cities in England that’s quite big. If you don’t have a bike and you don’t go get the bus you can walk, you know, it can take you a half an hour to walk into the centre and things like that. But on a bike it’s like five minutes.
That’s actually really good for parking.
My ideal is to live in a city that had bike lanes and…
Oh yeah, like Amsterdam.
Oh I love that city.
There are quite a few cities in England like Cambridge where they’re quite bike-friendly…
…they have bike cycle lanes and whenever they build new roads they always take that into consideration…
Yeah, separating it from the traffic,
Yeah, because there are some cities that it would be quite, like, scary actually to...
Well when I lived in London I cycled a bit there, and they do have some bike lanes, and it’s becoming more bike friendly, but it’s…
It’s busy.
Yeah, it’s... dangerous sometimes.
But besides that, bicycling is really good for the environment,
That’s true, fewer cars.
Sweat, but, it’s good for you, more sweat but good for the environment.
It makes you healthy, and fit as well.
Saving money on that gym.

lunes, 19 de mayo de 2014

3 things I learned while my plane crashed

Ric Elias had a front-row seat on Flight 1549, the plane that crash-landed in the Hudson River in New York in January 2009. What went through his mind as the doomed plane went down? At TED, he tells his story publicly for the first time.

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

1 What explanation did the flight attendant give to Ricky about the noise?
2 How far was the plane from New York?
3 What three things happened at the same time?
4 What three things did Ricky learn that day?
5 What are the important things in his life now?
6 What gift was he given on that day?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D. I was the only one who could talk to the flight attendants. So I looked at them right away, and they said, "No problem. We probably hit some birds." The pilot had already turned the plane around, and we weren't that far. You could see Manhattan. Two minutes later, three things happened at the same time. The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudson River. That's usually not the route. He turns off the engines. Now imagine being in a plane with no sound. And then he says three words -the most unemotional three words I've ever heard. He says, "Brace for impact." I didn't have to talk to the flight attendant anymore. I could see in her eyes, it was terror. Life was over. Now I want to share with you three things I learned about myself that day. 
I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things we want to do in life, and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out to that I didn't, all the fences I wanted to mend, all the experiences I wanted to have and I never did. As I thought about that later on, I came up with a saying, which is, "I collect bad wines." Because if the wine is ready and the person is there, I'm opening it. I no longer want to postpone anything in life. And that urgency, that purpose, has really changed my life.
The second thing I learned that day -and this is as we clear the George Washington Bridge, which was by not a lot - I thought about, wow, I really feel one real regret. I've lived a good life. In my own humanity and mistakes, I've tried to get better at everything I tried. But in my humanity, I also allow my ego to get in. And I regretted the time I wasted on things that did not matter with people that matter. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people. And after, as I reflected on that, I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It's not perfect, but it's a lot better. I've not had a fight with my wife in two years. It feels great. I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.
The third thing I learned -and this is as your mental clock starts going, "15, 14, 13." You can see the water coming. I'm saying, "Please blow up." I don't want this thing to break in 20 pieces like you've seen in those documentaries. And as we're coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It's almost like we've been preparing for it our whole lives. But it was very sad. I didn't want to go; I love my life. And that sadness really framed in one thought, which is, I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up. About a month later, I was at a performance by my daughter -first-grader, not much artistic talent ... yet. And I'm bawling, I'm crying, like a little kid. And it made all the sense in the world to me. I realized at that point, by connecting those two dots, that the only thing that matters in my life is being a great dad. Above all, above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.
I was given the gift of a miracle, of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently. I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane -and please don't- but imagine, and how would you change? What would you get done that you're waiting to get done because you think you'll be here forever? How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them? And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?

domingo, 18 de mayo de 2014

Extensive listening: Vancouver Island

Wildest Islands is a documentary series that explores the wildlife on different islands or archipelagos around  the world, showing all the diversity that they boast. The islands (Zanzibar, Caribbean, Galapagos, Sri Lanka, Hebrides) are in different oceans and conditions, and in them wildlife, human populations and  geology often interact significantly with insular and/or continental neighbours. 

This episode of the series deals with Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver Island is a vast and wild island with mountains running its length. The largest island off the west coast of North America, its glaciers fuel the flow of some of Canada's tallest waterfalls and an endless network of rivers and creeks make it the ideal habitat for the Pacific salmon. Turkey vultures gather for the migration south as they head for warmer weather in winter.

sábado, 17 de mayo de 2014

Sample writing for your exams

One of the sections of My That's English! we are more proud of is the series Writing workshop, where we followed a step-by-step guide on how to improve students' writing skills with a view to improving their performance in exams.

At the time we considered it unsuitable to provide samples for the different types of composition tasks that we were dealing with because we felt some students might fall into the temptation of using those samples for their school work. That is the main reason why we have very much been debating whether to post about Sample writing for your exams, a blog created by  Johanes Djogan which focuses on providing samples for the different types of tasks English students may come across in different kinds of exams (Cambridge, IELTS, TOEFL).

This is the way Johanes Djogan introduces his blog:

"Examwriting is a blog focused on delivering free material for self-preparation. If you need to take IELTS, FCE, CAE or TOEFL, you have come to the right place. Plenty of essay examples, formal or informal letters, reports, descriptions are at your disposal.

The most important factors that can affect your overall score are your expressions, vocabulary and sentence structures. It is crucial that your ideas are logically organised and with sufficient argumentation. Read our sample essays and descriptions to improve your performance and use them as a means of maximizing your results."

So, Examwriting will help you get out of the box for a while and get a wider picture of the different types of writing tasks you might come across in exams, together with samples which might throw some light on the way you should tackle them.

viernes, 16 de mayo de 2014

Butlering at Buckingham Palace

Find out about Lindsay Steele, who has become the first person in the UK to obtain an NVQ Diploma in Butlering.

Self-study activity:
Watch this two-minute video and answer the questions about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 How many people will be attending the luncheon honour of the Lebanese president?
2 Which word is used as a synonym of butlers?
3 Which two events did Lindsay have to deal with in the same week?
4 What has Lindsay been a pioneer of?
5 What five qualities she mentions are necessary to be a good butler? (You may need to stop the video to note them down.)
6 When and where will students be able to obtain the diploma to become a butler?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

The Duke of York is due to host a luncheon honour of the Lebanese president. A table is being set for 27 guests in the State Dining Room at Buckingham Palace and everything has to be perfect.
I’m just… doing a final check of the table and everything, all the plates are straight and in line, make sure that the napkins are folded correctly, there's no cutlery missing.
Lindsay Steel has been a footman or butler here for two years. It is her dream job.
When I first started I was definitely a little star-struck, I tried not to show it but it's just natural, you can’t help it, but now I am, I think I can handle it pretty professionally. Lately we had a Mexican state visit where I had to look after it directly, they were very pleasant, very nice people, but during that week we also had the G20 summit, where they all had state in one reception, it was quite [an] intense week.
At 27 and female she's a long way from the stereotype of Jeeves the butler. She is the modern face of the profession and has a certificate to prove it. Lindsay has just become the first person in the country to pass her butler's diploma, a nationally recognised qualification that was designed by her boss at the Palace.
What does it take to be a good butler?
It takes dedication, passion to just provide a good standard of service, no matter who you're serving, organization skills, discretion and good communication skills, all those things.
Not everyone can train within the grand corridors and staterooms of Buckingham Palace but they can now learn what it takes as this course brings royal standards to the masses. From September the diploma will be available nationwide, and students will become adept at coordinating travel plans as they will at setting a tea tray. The aim is to nurture a new generation of elite butlers who provide service fit for a queen.

jueves, 15 de mayo de 2014

10 Questions for Stephenie Meyer

This is an interview of Time Magazine with Stephenie Meyer, the author of Twilight, for their feature 10 Questions for last year.

I know it is a difficult video clip for intermediate students, even strong ones, but I also think the interview gives us a chance of getting to know one of the best-selling writers of the moment. Let's use this interview to show ourselves that we are able to understand some of the main ideas when we come face to face.

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

1  Stephenie Meyer only writes about vampires.
2  Stephenie doesn't participate in the films based on her books.
3  Stephenie prefers writing about young women.
4 Stephenie uses her characters as role models.
5  Religion influences the way she writes.
6 Stephenie is fascinated by Jane Austen.
7 Stephenie  wrote 50 Shade of Grey.
8 She misses The Twilight world.
9 There won't be a sequel to The Host.

Stephanie Meyer is the author behind the mega phenomenon known as Twilight, but she doesn’t just write about vampires. In her bestselling novel The Host, an extraterrestrial soul struggles to find the balance with a human whose body it inhabits.
Human bodies take a lot of getting used to. They’re not like the others we’ve inhabited. Their emotions are powerful. If their will has survived along with their memories, she may resist from within.
The movie of The Host is in theatres March 29th and Stephanie Meyer is here to talk to us about it. Thanks for being here, Stephanie.
Thank you for having me. I liked that description, I may have to write that down.
So in addition to being the author of The Host, you’re also the producer of the movie as you were on the last two Twilight movies. How much creative input do you get on the movies?
On this one, a very great deal. We didn’t have a studio, and so it was basically me and one other producer, and the director, making all the creative decisions. That was a new experience for me to be that involved, and it was very cool.
Your heroine in The Host is a young woman and… so you’ve written a lot about young people and teenagers. What draws you to them as characters?
I write a book based on the story I want to tell, the ages in the book are usually, really shaped because of the story and what age the character needs to be to make things happen in a certain way. With Bella I wanted someone who was falling in love for the first time. So you can’t be too old. I mean, if you’re in your 20’s you probably had your heart broken a couple of times and you don’t throw yourself into relationships the way you do when you’re, it’s the first time and then with Melanie, I liked the hardship of her being young, and being a mother, and a survivor at the same time, you know, kind of having to take care of her brother that way, when she should be a kid and be able to, you know, live a happy normal life. There’s a little extra element of tragedy that she’s so young, and things she has to sort of tries to.
So when you have a book or movie about young people, I’m sure the question of role models comes up. And I know with Twilight some of the criticism we heard was about whether Bella was a pushover or Edward was sort of too aggressive. How do you think Melanie holds up as a role model for young women?
You know, I like to write about stories that I think are interesting. I never stop and think, you know, oh this is a role model for people. It’s fiction. The main character’s an alien. The main character isn’t a teenage girl. It’s an alien who is in a teenage girl’s body. I don’t really feel like we should be looking for our role models in fiction. That being said, Melanie is a pretty tough person. And I find Wanda, the alien, pretty aspirational. She’s a very good person, she’s kind of who I would want to be, if I always did the right thing and always thought of other people before myself. So I think they’re both really good people, but I still don’t think you should be using fictional characters as role models.
But if you have to have an alien in your body, you probably want Wanda.
Wand would be a good choice.
So also in The Host, the universe you’ve created is one in which the earth is just one of several inhabited worlds, and that reminds me a lot of sort of the Mormon view of cosmology. How does your faith influence the worlds that you create?
I think that being a religious person, sort of seeps in unconsciously into what you’re writing. I think that the way it comes out the most is that my characters think about what comes next. I think I find it kind of shallow in a character if, and it feels like they’re very much on the same page if they don’t have that kind of wonder and, and idea about the world and where they belong and where they’re going to go, because it’s something that I think about, so I think the people do, but that’s just my own specific thing. And so that’s where I think about mostly in what I write.
So another project you worked on recently was Austen Land, which was a big hit at Sundance, and that’s a movie about a woman who is obsessed with Jane Austen. Do you see any commonalities between obsessive Jane Austen fans and Twihards?
Well, the reason that I was drawn to that story is because I’m the obsessive Jane Austen fan so I never really looked at it from, oh, that reminds me of my fans, it was always that’s like me. I’m the crazy fan girl who would, I would love to go and stay at a regency theme park, where I got to dress up all day and ask like a Jane Austen character. That would be perfect as far as vacation goes for me. So, it’s I’m the crazy fan. So that’s why that movie resonates for me.
So I have to ask you about 50 Shades of Grey. How does it make you feel that E.L. James took something that you sort of created and used it as inspiration for something that’s pretty raunchy and made her a lot of money.
Well, I mean, for one thing it doesn’t, I don’t, I don’t think they’re like connected to me. I haven’t read it so I don’t know. I’m glad that she is doing well and succeeding and that’s cool. The raunchy part I wished that wasn’t attached to Twilight, just ‘cos I don’t like to think of it that way but, you know,  it doesn’t, doesn’t hurt Twilight. Twilight is its own thing and it’s separate and it’s fine.
Is it weird for you that the protagonist, Christian, shares your husband’s first name?
I hadn’t even thought about that. I guess not. You pointed that out, that’s kind of weird.
Do you think you’ll ever return to the Twilight universe, and maybe pick up midnight sun?
You know, when the Twilight saga movies ended I kept thinking I was going to be really sad and I just felt nothing but relief. And I don’t miss that world at all, there’s so many other worlds that I’m excited about and I’m more interested in.
And what about The Host? You have sequels in the works for that, don’t you?
I’m working on the sequel, well not while I’m doing this, but that’s my plan when I get home is to shut myself in and lock the door and work on that.
Do you know what’s going to happen already or…?
Oh, yeah. Yeah. I’ve had the outline for that for literally years, that they’ve been sitting there waiting to be done.
Thanks so much, Stephanie.
Thank you.

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

miércoles, 14 de mayo de 2014

Talking point: Golden moments

This week's talking point is golden moments, which refers to the way we celebrate big events in our life. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • How often do you get together with family and friends to celebrate events?
  • What are the reasons for the celebration? (Think about the following, but you can add your own ideas: birthdays; moving to a new home; getting engaged/married; anniversaries; getting a new job or being promoted; graduating from university; the birth of a child; retirement)
  • How do you prefer to celebrate big occasions?
  • Do you usually exchange presents?
  • Have you ever been the protagonist of a celebration?
  • Choose one of the following: A moment in your life when you won something; or a day you will never forget; or an embarrasing moment; or the best day in your life. What happened?
To illustrate the point you can watch the video a birthday party taken from the MacMillan Inside Out web page  from our Anecdotes series.

1 Whose birthday party was it?
2 How old did he turn?
3 What was special about the party?
4 What kind of party was it?
5 What was the theme of the party?
6 Why?
7 What fancy dress did she wear?
8 Where was the party held?
9 How many people turned up at the party?
10 Did she know everybody?
11 What did they eat?
12 What did they do all night?
13 Who did she dance with at the end of the night?

1 Her brother’s 2 Nineteen 3 It was a surprise party 4 A fancy dress party 5 The letter G 6 Her brother’s name is Ges 7 Lady Gaga 8 At her sister’s house 9 Forty-five 10 No, just a handful. All of her brother’s friends were there 11 Pizza, burgers and chicken wings because they had a barbecue 12 They played music and danced 13 A twenty-one-year-old 

martes, 13 de mayo de 2014

Madrid Teacher series: Tell me about your last vacation

Two Madrid teachers are discussing the last holiday of one of them.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video through and note down the questions the boy asks the girl.
Watch the video again and note down the girl's answers.

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

You can read the transcript below to check your answers.

Tell me about your last vacation.
Well, my last vacation was in Vietnam. I was in Vietnam for three weeks.
And how was it?
It was fantastic. It’s a beautiful country.
And what did you do?
Many things. Vietnam is a country that is very diverse, so the south is very different from the north. In the south, you can go to the beach and I went swimming in the ocean. It’s very hot. In the north, I went to the mountains where it’s very cold and I went hiking.
And how was that?
It was beautiful. It was the scenery was beautiful, and they have many different ethnic groups in the north. So, it’s very interesting to meet all the different people.
Did you go alone?
No, I went with a friend.
And, what, who did you meet along the way?
We met many families and children. We met many people who were farmers. They were working in the rice fields. We also were lucky to have a tour guide, who was from the local area and could show us all of the sites of the local area.
So, did you pay a guide?
Yes, yes we did.
And how did you do that?
He gave us, he gave us a standard rate of how much we had to pay. And so, we went to the, to the cash machine and we took out the money and we paid it to him.
And was the entire trip very expensive?
No, Vietnam is not an expensive country. I think for a three-week holiday we only spent around one thousand five hundred dollars, US dollars.
One thousand five hundred?
Plus transportation to get to and from Vietnam?
Plus, yes, yes, plus the cost for the flight.
And where did you stay at night?
It’s very easy to find accommodation in Vietnam. So, each time we arrived in a new city, we asked at the bus station or the train station, and someone took us to a, to a hostel.
You always stayed in a hostel?
We, we always stayed in a hostel or, or a, a, a cheap hotel.
And did, did you eat the local food?
Yes, we did. It was delicious. They have very fresh ingredients. And, I like the Vietnamese food, I liked the Vietnamese food very much because it’s not very fried, it’s very fresh. We ate a lot of salad and these kinds of things.
Did you get sick?
No. Both of us were very lucky. We didn’t get sick, and we ate a lot.
Do you recommend it?
Yes, I thoroughly recommend it. It was a wonderful trip.

lunes, 12 de mayo de 2014

Diwali or the Festival of Lights

This is a National Geographic video on Diwali, or the Festival of Lights, in India. It's a five-day celebration that includes food, fireworks, colored sand, and special candles and lamps.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 When is Diwali held?
2 What does Diwali commemorate?
3 What is the best moment of the day to experience Diwali?
4 What's the problem if you visit the temples late in the day?
5  What does the lotus blossom represent?
6 What do families usually do on this day?
7 What do you find in Indian cities to celebrate Diwali?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

At any time of year, a visitor to India can be overwhelmed by its beauty and color. But a visitor in late fall is especially fortunate. The temperature will have cooled down, the monsoons will have not yet begun, and Diwali – the festival of lights –is at hand.
Diwali is to many Indians what Christmas is to Christians. In essence, it commemorates the victory of the forces of light over the forces of darkness.
To experience it fully, get up before dawn and head for the flower markets.
Here, flower vendors work feverishly to create garlands of fragrant jasmine that Indians will use to adorn their homes. By dawn they’ll be sold out.
Next head for one of the temples, but go early…later on in the day, they’ll be packed.
On your way over, you may see a curious sight: People hunched in front of their doorways, pouring colored sand on the ground. The sand takes the shape of a lotus blossom, a symbol of welcome. And today, millions of symbols of welcome will grace the nation’s doorways.
Indeed, Diwali is all about sharing. If you’re staying in a private home, don’t be surprised if the neighbours show up with plates of delicious holiday treats.
It’s also customary for families to go to the temples together on this day. They often dress in fine new outfits purchased especially for Diwali.
And if their outfits inspire you, head for a Sari shop. Shops are open on Diwali, and Indian silks are justifiably famous for their beauty. They’re just one of the ways India spruces up and gets into the holiday spirit.
This is an occasion for all of us to rejoice and be with the family and enjoy all the good things in life. So we buy good clothes and make good food.
And everywhere, there are lights! If you head to major commercial districts throughout India, you’ll find colorful displays, comparable to Christmas lights in western cities.
Some cities also put on spectacular public displays of fireworks, like this one in Delhi.
But no matter where you are, there are smaller, more intimate fireworks displays.
A long day of celebrations is coming to an end.
And it’s going out with a bang!

domingo, 11 de mayo de 2014

Extensive listening series: Scandimania

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall starts his three-episode series on Scandinavian countries in Sweden.

In this episode, he meets a member of ABBA and they go hunting in the woods. He also visits the Ekstedt restaurant in Stockholm, where everything is cooked over a wood-burning fire.

Over 70% of Sweden is covered in forest and the Swedes love to spend time in the outdoors, so Hugh flies north to Umea, to join an elk hunt, where he cooks the hunters elk liver for dinner.

In Gothenburg, Hugh sees an IKEA flatpack house being assembled in just one morning and meets a group of stay-at-home dads.

Hugh visits the ABBA museum, where he meets Bjorn Ulvaeus, one of the men behind the music, who explains the concept of 'lagom', which means 'just enough', and sums up how Swedes approach life.

But is the 'Swedish model' of equality and prosperity at risk? Hugh visits the set of the country's number one sitcom, which mocks the materialistic aspirations of a new breed of wealthy citizens.

And at the end of journey, Hugh visits an end of summer crayfish party in Stockholm's archipelago.

sábado, 10 de mayo de 2014

Reading test: 7 Ways to Ensure Your Emails Get Read

In today's reading test we are practising the heading matching type of task.

It is based on a blog post by Tom Searcy, 7 Ways to Ensure Your Emails Get Read, who contacted email expert Jonathan Borge  to get some tips on how to master the art of getting emails answered.

Match headings A-H with their corresponding paragraph 1-7. There is an extra heading you don't need to use.

A Be careful with the timing 
B Do your homework
C Email content
D Give them time
E Mind your image
F Sound accessible
G What the recipient actually sees is essential
H Your sign-off

Remember that only 20 percent to 40 percent of your emails will actually get opened, though most of your subject lines will be seen. To boost your open rates, think of short, catchy, and informative subject lines. You should try to dangle compelling information ("The future of sales emails"), and you can even try adding some mystery ("Strange question"). We also recommend personalized subject lines, if possible ("Hunter Sullivan suggested I contact you").]

Portray yourself as someone that other people can connect to. You'll want to show your recipients that you care about hearing back from them... so you can't simply sound like you're just sending another mass email. Never use "Dear sir or Madam," and stay away from overly formal language.

 Make your emails short, simple, and easy to quickly digest. Your leads are busy people with jobs, too, so you need to maintain their interest. Do your research and find out what resonates for your prospects. Try to get an introduction to them or, if that's not possible, figure out in more detail what they or their company do. Tell them why you're emailing them, specifically. Talk about how you can solve a problem for them.

End your emails with a definitive, clear call to action. Make it dead simple for your recipients to say yes-;whether it's to a meeting, phone call, or product demo. Don't ask them for permission. If you want a phone call, then say "Call me right now at X for more details."

Reach out to your leads when they're not too busy. Make sure you avoid heavy traffic times like Monday mornings. Based on our tracking data, we recommend the middle of the week, mid-day, as the best time to send emails.

First impressions are important both in person and online. The tone and formatting of your email is all your recipients have to judge you by. Make sure you are being professional, clear, and easy to understand. Stay away from over-formatted emails that look gimmicky, but don't hesitate to call out important information in bold or bullet points.

Send yourself a sales email. Put yourself in your leads' shoes. If you were them, would you open this email? Would you spend more than two seconds reading it? If so, what would you do next?

1G 2F 3C 4H 5A 6E 7B

viernes, 9 de mayo de 2014

Tsunami 101

Find out how a tsunami is born and how it destroys with this short National Geographic video.

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

The warnings are few. The signs are sudden.
The ground shakes. The (1) ... goes into reverse. A thunderous roar fills the air.
And then it strikes. Wave after wave of crashing, crushing water. And when it is over, nothing is left.
A tsunami.
The word in Japanese means “(2) ...   ... .”
Japan has been hit by many tsunamis in its history, as a result of its location. It (3) ... across the edges of 4 tectonic plates, where most earthquakes -the principal cause of tsunamis- are born.
When two tectonic plates push together, the resulting earthquake sends an enormous (4) ... of energy up through the ocean, displacing enormous quantities of water.
A series of waves expands in all directions. In deep water, these waves travel fast – up to 500 miles an hour – but only reach a height of a few feet. A (5) ...   ... might not even notice.
But as the waves enter (6) ... waters, friction with the ocean floor lowers the waves’ speed and raises their height, until at landfall they can engulf a 10 (7) ... building.
Unlike ordinary waves, a tsunami wave doesn’t (8) ... and (9) ...  . Instead, it advances like a wall of water that crashes over the coastline and everything in its way, reaching even as far as a mile inland.
The initial impact is only the first blow. More damage is caused when the wave recedes, (10) ... everything in it back underwater.
And most tsunamis have multiple waves, each arriving anywhere from 10 to 60 minutes after the first strike, just when survivors think the danger is over.
The deadliest tsunami ever recorded occurred in December of 2004. An earthquake off the coast of Indonesia triggered a tsunami that (11) ... across the Indian Ocean and reached as far as the coast of Africa.
Whole sections of cities were destroyed. More than 200,000 people died.
Most had no way of being warned.

1 tide 2 harbor wave 3 lies 4 burst 5 passing ship 6 shallow 7 storey 8 crest 9 break  10 dragging 11 surged

jueves, 8 de mayo de 2014

Sherpas Shut Down Everest

Sherpa guides have decided to boycott Mount Everest in honor of of their colleagues killed in an avalanche in mid April.

Self-study activity:
Watch this Al Jazeera news item and answer the questions below.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Why are sherpas necessary to climb Mount Everest?
2 How many sherpas were killed in the avalanche?
3 What three demands are sherpas asking for to continue their work?
4 What does '3 million dollars a year' refer to?
5 Is Edmund Hillary's son a climber?
6 What does '60' refer to?

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

Getting to the summit of Mount Everest is still one of the toughest physical challenges known to man, but many don't do it alone. They need the help of Nepalese guides or sherpas. They help show the way and carry supplies that puts them constantly at risk.
Friday’s avalanche struck while the sherpas were trying to make the way safe for international climbers. 13 were killed and three more are unaccounted for.
It is a terrible tragedy, a great loss of life and of course the families and villages that will be hugely impacted by this loss.
The guides are now refusing to go up the mountain until certain demands are met. They want a bigger insurance payout for those killed, more financial aid for the victims’ families, and new regulations to ensure the guides’ rights.
Nepal's government said it will meet some of those demands but for the sherpas it doesn't go far enough.
We decided to establish a Himalayan rehabilitation fund to assist the victims’ children with food, education, etcetera, and with rehabilitating those injured and disabled.
The government makes more than three million dollars a year through Everest climbing fees alone. The sherpas themselves make a very small fraction of that, up to six thousand dollars a year, but for them and the community, mountaineering is a key source of income.
The son of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man ever to reach the top of Mount Everest, and who’s been to the top of the mountain twice himself says it's a difficult choice to make.
But what are the options? Well, unfortunately, the only options when you’re playing Russian roulette ascending a place like the Khumbu Icefall is to find alternatives, and then may I think the employment of local people. It's a tough situation.
Until there's a way to make climbing Everest safer, the 60-year history of reaching the world's highest peak hangs in the balance.
Erica Wood, Al Jazeera

miércoles, 7 de mayo de 2014

Talking point: Dreams

Today's talking point is dreams. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • Do you have any dreams you'd like to come true? What are they? 
  • How often do you dream at night? 
  • When do you daydream? 
  • When you daydream, what do you usually daydream about? 
  • Have you ever had a nightmare? Can you remember what it was about? 
  • Do you believe that your dreams are a window into reality? Why/Why not?
  • Have your dreams ever come true? What happened? 
  • What would be the perfect dream for you?
To illustrate the point and get more ideas about it, you can watch (the beginning of) the Nova documentary What are dreams?

What are dreams was first aired in NOVA in November 2009.

What are dreams and why do we have them? NOVA joins leading dream researchers as they embark on a variety of neurological and psychological experiments to investigate the world of sleep and dreams. Delving deep into the thoughts and brains of a variety of dreamers, scientists are asking important questions about the purpose of this mysterious realm we escape to at night. Do dreams allow us to get a good night's sleep? Do they improve memory? Do they allow us to be more creative? Can they solve our problems or even help us survive the hazards of everyday life?

NOVA follows a number of scientists, including Matthew Wilson of MIT, who is literally "eavesdropping" on the dreams of rats, and other investigators who are systematically analyzing the content of thousands of human dreams. From people who violently act out their dreams to those who can't stop their nightmares, from sleepwalking cats to the rare instances of individuals who don't seem to ever dream, each fascinating case study contains a vital clue to the age-old question: What Are Dreams?

You can read the transcript here.

martes, 6 de mayo de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Driving test

In our Madrid Teaher series, three teachers talk about the driving test and how difficult it was for them to pass it.

The teachers are very polite and respectful of turn-taking, so they don't really interrupt each other while they're talking. However, we can find some examples of functional language and communication strategies that can come in handy when we speak English.

- Reacting to what a person is saying: Oh! That's interesting! Oh dear! I bet. Oh no! Oh wow! Yeah, absolutely
- Fillers: Well; er
- Use of so as a linking word
- Involving listeners in the conversation: Do you think that people...

Now it's over to you. Get together with a friend and talk about your experience of getting your driving licence. What the test difficult? Did you find it difficult?

Try and use some of the functional language the Madrid teachers used.

I’m about to move overseas.
Oh that’s interesting.
Yeah. Exciting! But I have to take my driver’s test again. OK, to get a new licence.
Oh dear.
And I’m nervous.
I bet. Do you remember taking your driving tests?
I took mine quite recently actually and it took me two years to complete.
Oh no! I hope it doesn’t take that long.
Well, just to, not to worry you too much, but I was I was living in France, and I was studying in England. And I’d started my driving test in France and so every summer or spring break or autumn break I had to go back and I had to start again. And, er, I was, I was a terrible driver and that didn’t help.
Well, and you were driving on different sides of the road?
No, I couldn’t drive in England. I was just driving in France with an instructor…
Oh, safer.
…which was very expensive and er, I stressed them out a lot.
Mm, but in the end you have your driver’s licence...
I was happier the day I got my driving licence than the day I got my degree.
Oh wow!  Such an accomplishment.
Yeah. Absolutely.
For, yes, I remember a long, long time ago. A hundred years ago. We had Driver’s Ed. So, with Driver’s Ed, afterwards, of course, I passed my driver’s test, the first time. And… But it was, it was quite easy.
For me as well. But I hear overseas it’s different. And I think the driving is different than in the States.
Do you think that people are better drivers after such an intensive preparation for getting the exam?
I think the statistics don’t necessarily show that.
Because in France, for instance, the driving test is notoriously difficult, but the accident rate is one of the biggest concerns, especially on motorways. Serious accidents happen a lot.
Well, the key is practice.
Practice, practice... Makes perfect!