domingo, 31 de agosto de 2014

Why Do We Talk?

Talking is something that is unique to humans, yet it still remains a mystery. Why Do We Talk? meets the scientists beginning to unlock the secrets of speech - including a father who is filming every second of his son's first three years in order to discover how we learn to talk, the autistic savant who can speak more than 20 languages, and the first scientist to identify a gene that makes speech possible.

This BBC's Horizon documentary also hears from the godfather of linguistics, Noam Chomsky, the first to suggest that our ability to talk is innate.

You can read the transcript for the first ten minute of the documentary here.

sábado, 30 de agosto de 2014

Reading test: A Guide to Study Abroad in Greece

In this week's reading comprehension activity we are going to practise the heading matching kind of task. I have adapted the original article A Girls Guide to Study Abroad in Greece from the blog to suit our typical exam task.

Read the following paragraphs with tips foreign students need to know before studying in Greece and then decide which heading (A - I) corresponds to each of the tips 1 - 7. You can only use one tip for a paragraph and one of the tips is not needed. Tip 0 is  an example.

0. Example: B
The Greeks know how to eat and how to create divine, mouth-watering food. Make sure you learn what it means to sit at a traditional Greek taverna and spend two hours eating a meal. It is so cheap to eat out you might never cook at home.

Taking the time to enjoy a coffee is an essential part of Greek culture. It is also used as an excuse for being late to class or needing to leave class halfway through. Soon you won’t even remember how you used to dash in and out of a coffee shop in 15 minutes!

In Greece, time can be a slippery concept. I learned the hard way that meeting at a certain time is often only a rough estimation. People can be anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours late to a party and it’s not a problem. In fact, don’t be surprised if your fellow study abroaders ask if a meeting time is on ‘Greek time’ or ‘normal’ time!

Greece is packed with history from ancient and byzantine time periods so don’t miss an opportunity to learn as much as you can. Ruins and monuments are often incorporated into fast developing cities with new construction built around old ruins. Even if museums are not your thing, simply taking a walk through your neighbourhood will lead you to history’s front door.

From the stunning rocky Greek islands of the south to the mountain-filled north to the famous Peloponnese, Greece is filled with natural wonders. Make sure you get out and explore them. The islands might be your first thought, but don’t forget to branch out and also explore where tourism has not left its mark yet and where people live like they have for decades. Here you will start to really understand the roots of the Greek culture.

Greek is not an easy language to learn. Not only is there a whole new alphabet to learn for us English speakers, but there are also new sounds and it can all seem a little bit complicated. Greek is also one of the oldest languages in the world. Make an effort to learn a few words – it will help you to gain insight into Greek culture.

There is a saying in Greece along the lines of ‘relax, do it tomorrow, today we enjoy life’. Things may seem slow and even the simplest task convoluted and you will never be sure as to why. Relax, this is all part of being in a new country. In some ways, Greece will force you to learn to slow down.

Most universities will offer on campus dormitory style accommodation for students but many people also choose to live in apartments. Accommodation in most Greek cities is quite cheap and you can easily find shared apartments or possibly even afford to rent your own. Apartments can come furnished with basic items like a bed and desk but you may need to purchase things like crockery and pots and pans.

A - Be Prepared to Wait
B - Better out than in
C - Beware of strangers!
D - For intrepid souls
E - It has lots of advantages
F - It’s All Greek?
G - Relatively speaking
H - Soak it all in
I - Where to Get Your ZZZ

Photo: GoAbroadBlog

1E 2G 3H 4D 5F 6A 7I

viernes, 29 de agosto de 2014

How to milk a cow

This National Geographic video explains the process of milking a cow in this day and age.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 What substance makes finish off the cow's digestion in the fourth stomach?
2 What does '18' refer to?
3 How safe is it to drink milk straight from the cow?
4 How much time does an Automated Milk Harvester operate during the week?
5 How are the cows identify once they walk into the box of the Automated Milk Harvester?
6 Will the machine milk a cow that has 8 litres of milk?
7 What does '10,000 pounds' refer to?
8 How beneficial is for the cow's health this milking system?
9 What three elements are necessary for Neil Rowe to fix whatever problem in the Milk Harvester from anywhere in the world?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript.

This time, we're looking at something which has been consumed by mankind for thousands of years. We're talking about milk.
But first, how is milk created?  Well, in fact a cow has four stomachs.  The first stomach begins to break down the grass before it passes through the second and third stomachs where nutrient absorption begins.  Eventually, in stomach number four, gastric juices (1) finish off the digestion process and nutrients extracted from the food are absorbed into the blood stream.  In the udder, the blood passes through very small blood vessels, surrounding groups of secreting cells called Alveoli.  It's these that actually produce the milk using the nutrients carried in the bloodstream.  Aside from the food they eat, cows must also drink plenty of water. 18 litres of it produce just 4.5 litres of milk (2).
And the traditional way of milking a cow was of course by hand using a stool and a bucket, and I'm gonna give it a go.
Farmers going back to the Iron Age milked cows in this way.
Jonny is that the first time you've done that?
Yeah.  She's obviously very full because that's coming out without much encouragement, but, it's not as easy as it might seem.
There you go, girls.
The average cow produces about 27 liters of milk a day, but it has been known for cows to produce more than a 100 liters in a day.  And you can drink the milk straight from the udder (3), as I am about to demonstrate.  There we go whisky. There we go. That is absolutely delicious.
Technology has entered the world of the Moo Cow.  Richard and Jonny have come to one of the most modern dairy farms in Britain where a laser-guided robot milks the cows.  It's called an Automated Milk Harvester and it operates 24/7 (4), allowing the cows to enter of their own free will.
So talk us through the process, how does it work?
Okay, the cows walk on from this side.  Come into the box and stand there.  They're identified by a microchip (5), which they have in a collar on their necks.  The computer will then decide whether it wants to milk this cow or whether to let this one go and take the next one.  So it's trying to be as efficient as it can.  It's always looking to harvest the maximum amount of milk every 24 hours.
Why would it let a cow go then, why would it not milk one?
If she doesn't have enough milk in her udder, it won't invest six and a half minutes of its time for a small amount of milk, it's looking for a cow with about 10 litres of milk (6).
And sorry, just explain Neil, how does it know whether it's worth milking her?
It keeps a running total on every cow in the herd.  It can then calculate to within half a liter how much milk is in the cow before it starts to milk her.
And how many cows a day is it milking?
It'll milk 70 cows, 3 times a day.  It can do about 200 milkings over the 24 hour period.
And what's the most say, a cow can yield?
We've had cows on here that have given 100 liters in a 24 hour period.
Goodness me.
Which is extraordinary isn't it.
That's massive.
Once the robot has committed to milking a cow, a brush system first cleans and sterilizes the teats with hydrogen peroxide to prevent any infection being passed on.  The orange brush then massages the cow's udder to encourage the production of the hormone oxitocin, which is needed to stimulate the milk flow.
The milk comes down through these tubes, goes through this electronic box and there's 10,000 pounds worth of sensors in there which monitor the quality of the milk (7).  It can see watery substances, cow muck, dirt, blood.  Anything which isn't normal in the milk, it will see it, and then it separates that milk out into these buckets and then when the process is finished, it takes about uh, 4 seconds to chill the milk down from 37 degrees down to 2 degrees.
Goodness me.
And it's not just the milk that's chilled.  This system can prove much less stressful for the cows.  In fact on this farm they're actually living an average of 30% longer than those on farms where they use more traditional milking methods (8).  But what happens if something goes wrong with milking when the farmer is not around?  Well, this technology is so advanced the robot just contacts him over the phone (9)!
The system actually automatically contacts you if there's a problem?
It does, yeah.  It will ring me immediately, within seconds of identifying a problem.  There are about 100 sensors on here that can all detect whether it's working correctly or not.  Any one of those finds a problem, rings me straightaway, gives me a message to tell me what the problem is.  I can then text back codes to try and fix the problem from where I am, or even if I've got my laptop (9) and a wireless broadband connection (9), I can connect on anywhere in the world, using the cameras I can see what's going on and I can use my keyboard to sort the problems out.

jueves, 28 de agosto de 2014

10 Questions for Alicia Keys

This is Alicia Keys interview for Time Magazine a few years ago. I know it's not easy at all for (strong) intermediate students. However, Alicia Keys is a really interesting figure in the music world and I feel we can all benefit from both her ideas and her music.

Self-study activity:
Watch  the video through and note down the questions reporter Gilbert Cruz asks Alicia.

Watch the video again and note down the main ideas in Alicia's answers.

If you really find Alicia's English beyond you, read the transcript below in the first place and then try to do the activities as indicated.

I’m Gilbert Cruz for and we’re here with Grammy award-winning artist, Alicia Keys. Alicia, thank you for being with us today.
My pleasure.
Our first question is from Courtney Jones, who is from Houston, Texas. Courtney asks, ‘What’s one song that still hast the ability to move you when you sing it?’
Every song has the ability to move me when I am sing it, which is something I’m very grateful for, because the songs that I write, they are very personal and they are very like emotional and I can understand them, you know, I can understand them even if the time has passed already, I can understand it. I have to say I’d probably say ‘Falling’ is the song for me. Obviously I’ve sung it a lot, but there’s a magic about that song that is just unbelievable (…) and the way it signifies the beginning of, you know, kind of my career and my life as I know it in this world. It’s like, you know, it gives chills every time (…).
Our next question is: Do you think it’s important for inner-city children to be exposed to classical music? When were you first exposed to classical music?
Wow, I do think it’s important to hear all kinds of music, you know. When I was introduced to classical music I was, I guess, you know, six or seven, which was because I wanted to study piano so badly and when we found the teacher that would help to teach me, who lived in my building, she taught classical music. So I didn’t… I wasn’t exactly looking for classical music but it found me and I found that it really opened me up to become, you know, just more… understand things even better.
Our next question: I’m amazed with how effortlessly you play the piano while singing. Who is your favourite pianist and why?
I love Nina Simone. She's definitely one of my favorites. I love here very, very much. So she's, she's probably my, my favorite (...). I love that she's a very, extremely creative, powerful, don't hold her tongue back for anyone woman who sits at the piano and will play you underneath the table. She will play anyone under the table (...).
Our next question is from Ahmo Mehmedovi. Because so many of your songs are about female empowerment, do you consider yourself to be a role model to young women?
I do. I do. I think that we all are, you know, role models to each other and have that ability to affect someone in a positive way. And I think that that, that's more my goal is to affect people in a, in a positive way, in a way that can possibly take their thoughts and, and turn them into something that could really fuel them and I find that I really wanna give people ah, something powerful and empowering and possible to think about and live for 'cause I think we see all the other stuff way too often.
Last two questions: What or who inspired you to start playing piano?
I'm not sure exactly how it happened. All I know is that I had this incredible fascination with pianos and when I would pass them I would wanna play them and I would wanna learn how to play them and if I heard people who could play I'd wanna learn how ya play like them and how could I get this music? How could I make it sound like that? It was like this feeling that just made me wanna learn. And thank God for me I had a, a supporter, a mother who was OK with that, you know, who could've probably said, please go to school leave me alone. But she said OK if that's doing that to you then let's see what we can figure out. So, I'm really grateful for that.
Our last question is about the Keep the Child Alive Foundation.
Good because if you didn't ask me I was gonna tell you.
Well, can you tell us some of the, some of the, sort of more moving things that you've seen in, in all the years you've worked with this foundation?
I sat down with this women named Mama Carol and she is mother to I would say now over a thousand children who have lost their parents or at least one parent or most of them both from, due to aids and she is now their, you know, caretaker, their advice giver, their person they can go to, to ask for help. And so I, I sat with these kids in Soweto and we just sat in a circle on the floor and I just listened to them and we spoke and it was, you know, the sun was up and then the sun was down and it was just so beautiful to hear how through all that they have experienced which would break any spirit, any strong spirit could possibly be broken by that. They are still so motivated and ready to change the world and want people to understand them and how they are humans and, you know, emotional young people but still that they're not gonna wait for anyone to come get 'em or save 'em or help 'em. They're gonna figure it out and they're gonna make it and they're gonna take care of their brothers and sisters and they're gonna make sure they're OK. And, you know, that type of strength and that type of determination that makes me very proud because it shows me what's possible. And it's possible when we just put our effort towards it.
Alicia, thank you very much for talking to us.
Thanks a lot. I really appreciate it.

miércoles, 27 de agosto de 2014

Talking point: Animal rights

This week's talking point is animal rights. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily the day you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • How well are animals treated in your country?
  • What animal rights movements are there in your country?
  • Do you agree with them?
  • What sort of things do they do?
  • Is it right to kill animals such as foxes, wolves, bears because they annoy people or kill cattle or there is overpopulation of them?
  • How necessary are zoos?
  • Should all children have a pet so that they could develop a liking for animals?
  • Should dogs, specially big ones, be allowed to live in (small) flats?
  • Do you think that the resources and time spent on fighting the cruelty to animals are well spent? Are there any more important issues in the world?
Read the list of activities that animal rights movements campaign against.
1) Can you think of any other activities that animal rights activists find unacceptable?
2) Which of these activities do you think are
   (a) acceptable and necessary
   (b) acceptable in certain circumstances
   (c) totally unacceptable
  • Testing cosmetics on live animals
  • Testing new drugs and medicines on live animals
  • Farming animals to make fur coats
  • Selling exotic animals as pets
  • Transporting live animals  thousands of miles before slaughtering them
 To illustrate the topic, you can listen to BBC's 6 Minute English episode Shark's fin soup.

martes, 26 de agosto de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Pampered pets

In this week's episode of our Madrid Teacher series four teachers discuss pets and the way they are indulged by their owners.

First, watch the video through to get the gist of what the conversation is about.

Now, pay attention to the following features of spoken English the teachers use:
  • Use of so as a linking word and to begin conversations
  • Showing surprise and reacting to what the speaker is saying: Yes?; Really?; Oh?; Interesting
  • Use of vague language: or anything; and all this stuff; or something like that; or something; and stuff
  • Showing agreement: Yeah
  • Conversation fillers to gain thinking time: erm; you know; well
  • Use of actually to introduce a piece of surprising information
  • Paraphrasing information you have just given to make yourself clear:  I mean
  • Use of really + adjective to emphasize what we are saying
  • Use of honestly to emphasize what we are saying

Now, it's over to you. Get together with a friend or relative and discuss pet owners' attitude to their pets. Do you agree with the teachers that some owners overindulge their pets? Can you think of any examples? Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have seen in the video.

So, does anybody know or have any friends who own pets and treat them like humans?
I do.
I don’t dress them or anything but…
I talk to my, my cats.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it’s a bit silly, isn’t it?
No, but talking to them is one thing…
We’re talking about, erm, I know, I know a girl who’s got this cocker spaniel and she, everyday she puts a different coloured bow, you know… on his ears… and all this stuff but the thing is she treats the animal as if it’s a child…
And, erm, and actually, one day I was at their house and, erm, I was just sitting on the sofa and the dog was next to me on the sofa, and all of a sudden just woke up and saw me and bit me right in the face.
I had never been bitten by a dog before.
Yeah, yeah, and, and somebody was explaining to me, who was a dog trainer, that if you have the dog, for example, at the same level as a human like on a sofa or something like that, then the dog thinks, you know, that you’re invading, I was invading territory…
His space.
Yeah, they’re very territorial.
I think it can’t be good to, to indulge these pets…
With, with expensive gifts and fancy clothes and, and, and gourmet meals and I mean sometimes they eat better than the humans and... I know.
Erm, I used to live, erm, in a gay community and it was the latest fashion accessory, that was like, so, erm, you’d, you’d see these dogs, I’d see dogs dyed pink… I’d see dogs with, with Burberry coats and…
It’s crazy.
And you just, and they’re always like this size and…
Yeah, they’re always Chihuahuas or poodles or something
Or French bulldogs. I’ve seen millions and millions and millions of French bulldogs recently. You know which ones they are?
Yeah, they’re ugly kinds of…
Yeah they’re like the wee ones with the really squashy face…
And they have a pointy nose and they look like they’re…
That’s what they say. They’re so cute, though.
Well, I’m not sure.
I saw one the other day, honestly, it was the funniest thing, erm, I saw a wee French bulldog dressed in a neon pink coat with leggings, like leg, leg body jacket thing and it looked like this… And the guy who was walking it was enormous, I mean, a buff guy, just thought…
Yeah, you would think it would be a woman walking the dog…
Your wife has made you go out with that, ha, ha, ha and that dog looks like it’s going to bite you.
No, I’m sure one day there will be revenge of the pampered pets.
I know.
As far as the food goes in Asia and stuff, the dogs and the cats, all the strays at least eat rice, wheat whatever leftovers are available.
Like pigs or something.

lunes, 25 de agosto de 2014

Listening test: My first job

You are going to hear some people talking about their first job. Match speakers 1−6 with descriptions A−H. There are two descriptions you don’t need to use. You will hear the recording twice.



A     The speaker developed a liking for outdoor activities.
B     The speaker had to deal with difficult people.
C     The speaker has always worked in restaurant and cooking jobs.
D     The speaker worked with a female relative.
E     The speaker learnt what jobs she didn’t like.
F     The speaker met a very important person in her life.
G     The speaker mentions two jobs.
H    The speaker has always worked in the media world.

Extract 1 Betty White
Well, my first job was actually I was doing a, a, a guest shot on a talk show on television. It is when television first started. It was in New York. But when it first started in Los Angeles, I got a guest shot. And we did a little interview. And it taught me that whatever else I did for the rest of my life, I wanted to stay in that business. And I have. I am 90 and I am still in that business and loving it.

Extract 2 Darienne Page
My first job was at the Sports Authority in Laurel, Maryland, and I was a cashier for a year or so. And there I had the opportunity to work with my brother and I learned a lot about managing money and dealing with different personalities. And I really gained an appreciation for all types of sports. And for me it was really interesting, because I really learned to love fishing and camping. So now it has become one of my interests just because it is something that I picked up while I was there.

Extract 3 Hilda Solis
My very first job was as a recreational aid at my community center back home in Los Angeles County. I remember leading student activities and even delivering free lunches for kids in poor neighborhoods. I also worked in the school library; stacking and cataloging books, and helping my classmates select which ones to read. I remember feeling very important. Looking back, those were really my first steps in public service.

Extract 4 Julie Rodriguez
My first job was actually when I was 13 years old, and it was, I was technically a volunteer but I did get a pay check of five dollars a week that made me really proud and just gave me a sense of kind of responsibility at a good age. I worked with my cousin. And we were actually responsible for answering phone calls for people that were interested in more information about the impact that pesticides was having on farm workers and farm worker children.
And so we would send them out a little information video and for me it was again the sense of responsibility, but also I think I got a little excited and felt like I was in charge. And would try to boss my cousin around all of the time which she didn't really like since we were the same age, but she was much taller than me. And so everyone thought that she was obviously older than I was.

Extract 5 Rosye Cloud
My first job was actually in my freshman year of high school. I started working in a doctor's office on weekends managing weekend patient flow. And I remember it perfectly because I remember it taught me how to be organized, make sure things ran on time, make sure records were maintained. It also really taught me a lot about how to deal with people -- people that were in pain, people that were nervous and suffering, and it gave me an appreciation of how important that first contact was. And so, I remember that that was a very important experience for me. And it's something that I've remembered since then.
It also taught me how to manage strong egos --doctors have very strong personalities and are definitely out to make sure they take care of the patients, so wanting to manage and understand their needs and working together in a collaborative space that sometimes could be very stressful. So I remember that very, very well.

Extract 6 Cris Comerford
My very first job, you might want to know, is that, you know, back in Chicago, when my family moved here from Manila in 1983, my first job was a salad bar girl. And at that time when I was working it wasn't one of those glamorous job or anything that, you know, you might really aspire for, but being a culinary laureate now and looking black I've learn so many things from that very first job.
I've learned how to organize myself. I've learned how to work with other people and I've learned to really love what I do. So even though like you know at the time being it might not seem very important, every job is important.
You know, like as a chef right now I rely on this salad bar girl, really take care of my needs, take care of everything that I need to have to ensure that, you know, an event that I have or a menu that I have worked very nicely. So you know, looking back it was a very great experience for me.

1H 2A 3G 4D 5B 6 C

domingo, 24 de agosto de 2014

Extensive listening: Addicted to Pleasure: Opium

After sugar, tobacco and whiskey, Addicted to Pleasure: Opium is the last and final episode of this BBC documentary series presented by Brian Cox. This is the information that the BBC gives about the episode.

"Scotland is plagued with over 50,000 drug addicts and one of the roots of this addiction is the opium poppy. In this episode, actor Brian Cox travels to China to discover how the seeds of this modern-day addiction were planted during the height of Britain's trading empire. Since then opium has fuelled the world's largest drug-smuggling operation, earned vast fortunes, triggered war with China and inspired medical breakthroughs. Brian Cox reveals how Britain unleashed the most dangerous of addictions on the world, and how the consequences still haunt us today."

You can watch the documentary by clicking on this link or on the picture below.

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

sábado, 23 de agosto de 2014

Dig into English

This is the way  Ben, the person behind Dig into English, introduces the site:

"Dig into English is a website and a podcast for intermediate to advanced learners of English. It will help you improve your vocabulary and grammar knowledge by listening to natural, everyday English.

Whether you are taking classes or learning English all by yourself, Dig into English can help you.

The free podcast episodes and the free PDF scripts will help you get used to hearing and reading English.

If you listen often, you will become more comfortable when understanding or speaking English because you will learn many new words and expressions. The best part is that you will have a lot of fun!"

I also have to add that Dig into English will help us to get familiar with Australian English.

viernes, 22 de agosto de 2014

Seeking Gun-Friendly Territory

Gunmaker PTR Industries is moving from Connecticut to South Carolina, as tightening restrictions drives the firearms industry to gun-friendly states.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 PTR has 15 employees.
2 Connecticut state legislator passed senate bill 1116 in April.
3 The Connecticut bill gives more flexibility to gun manufacturers.
4 Forty-three states have made PTR a relocation offer.
5 Most PTR workers will move to South Carolina.
6 Some other gun-making companies are moving to South Carolina.
7 TPR has orders for $60m.

From some of the southern-western states we heard. ‘Hey, we love industry and we love guns. Get on down here.’
The debate over guns is spilling into business, intensifying competition for jobs between red and blue states. Bristol Connecticut-based PTR industries manufactures assault rifles. It is also thirty miles from New Town. Why I truly respect the constitutional guarantees that the second amendment provides. We, as legislators, must determine and regulate the appropriate level of self-defense that an individual is guaranteed.
PTR’s fifty employees watch closely as the Connecticut state legislator passed senate bill 1160 in April. Both, critics and supporters, called it the strictest gun control bill in the country. It restricts high-capacity magazine and assault rifles while mandating background checks for gun buyers.
What we found reading through the actual text of the law was that there really were not sufficient exemptions for the industry.
That’s where PTR saw the opportunity to develop the rifle gun buyers had been searching for.
When the company started looking at potential relocation sites, forty-three states came calling. Company officials said the one the employees chose was a staunch supporter of the second amendment.
Miles of lands inspect buildings are available in nearly every county, all ready and waiting to be developed. Companies of all sizes from all around the world have found the support they need, here, in South Carolina.
Nearly two thirds of the company’s workers have agreed to move to South Carolina, while the rest must find new jobs. Most of the workers are excited about the move.
Honestly, I can’t wait to move though awesome opportunity, if I was trying to stay here, there is literally nothing that I can do to make the same amount of money.
Technically is home to me, all my family is here, so… but at the same time I love what I do so it’d be kind of dumb not to take up that opportunity here, you know.
If a law is going to stop us from prospering at the point where I’m at in my life, you know, the water a little bluer down south so I’ll take that and see how it goes.
It isn’t clear how many companies are moving to gun-friendly states, but PTR is being joined by major gun-makers like Beretta and smaller gun-makers like Kahr Arms.
We were forced into a situation where we had to decide based on two such a criteria, you know, which basically were, you know, shut down this company or make an entirely different product line, or move and, you know, we just had to make a decision, and the decision with 60 million dollars in sales orders on the backlog it’s pretty easy. Let’s move.

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

jueves, 21 de agosto de 2014

Deadliest outbreak of Ebola virus: What you need to know

How do you know if you have Ebola?
How do you catch Ebola?
Why is this outbreak more serious than other outbreaks?
How can this outbreak be stopped?
What can the rest of the world do to help stop the spread of Ebola?

These are the questions Dr Sanjay Gupta explains in this CNN video clip.

Self-study activity:
Before watching the video clip, go over the questions above and check what you really know about Ebola right now.

Then, watch the video and see the way Dr Sanjay Gupta answers the questions about Ebola. You can check the answers with the transcript below. The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

How do you know if you have Ebola?
Ebola can start off very vague. You might have a headache, you might have fever. People often develop some redness in the eyes, some rashes. Ultimately it starts to get progressively more severe. They may have abdominal pain, they may start to feel really tired, unable to even get up out of bed. That’s one of the signs that really raises people’s suspicions.
Many times they have what is known as a clotting disorder, where they start to bleed because their blood is not clotting. They way they you end up knowing for sure is doing a blood test. This is happening in many places right now in West Africa.
The thing with Ebola is you might feel symptoms very quickly, within a day or it could take up to three weeks. We do know people who were fine early in the morning and by the end of the day they were dead.

How do you catch Ebola?
Ebola likely came from some wild animal and after all these years they’re still not sure which, although they suspect it came from food bats. Once it infects human beings, and human beings can start to spread it from person to person. And that’s not transmitted through the air, not something we breathe in like the flu, but it’s something that can be in a small amount of body fluid and if that is contaminated with the Ebola virus, then it can infect other people.

Why is this outbreak more serious than other outbreaks?
It could be that people travel more than they used to. When they go to capital cities with big airports, there’s a lot of people in those places. It could also be that there is a distrust or at least some mistrust of a lot of the medical establishment, so people may be less likely to go get care, less likely to admit that they have symptoms, and less likely to get diagnosed as a result, until it’s too late so. I think there’s a lot of things that play here, but we live in a globalised world, where these infectious diseases can spread more rapidly than ever before.

How can this outbreak be stopped?
We know that when somebody starts to become sick any, even miniscule microscopic amount of body fluid from that person could infect other people. This just got to be a no-tolerance policy with regard to that. You have stories of family members cleaning the body even after a love one has died and getting infected that way. Those types of things have to absolutely be stopped, and that’s part of education campaigns, not only by these doctors who going, doctors without borders, but also the local doctors in these areas, who are sometimes much more trusted.

What can the rest of the world do to help stop the spread of Ebola?
As far as the rest of the world goes, they, they, within airports and in other places of travel, they implement policies where they check people’s temperatures, ask them questions before they get on a plane to try and reduce the risk of someone with Ebola gets on an international flight, but that’s almost impossible to make ironclad. It is likely we’re going to see people with Ebola travel to all sorts of parts of the world, including the United States. That will likely happen in the world in which we live, but it is a question of making sure it doesn’t continue to spread after that.

miércoles, 20 de agosto de 2014

Talking point: Hobbies and passions

In this week's talking point we are discussing hobbies. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, think about the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary issues beforehand.
  • Do you have an unusual hobby? What does it involve? How often do you do it? What equipment do you need? How did you get interested in it?
  • What's the most enjoyable hobby you've ever tried?
  • What's the most unusual hobby you have ever heard of?
  • Do you know anyone with a strange or unusual hobby?
  • Why do some people take up unusual hobbies?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of spending time and money on a hobby?
  • Can you imagine any of your hobbies becoming so important that you earn your living from it?
  • Do you know anyone who earns their living from their hobby?
  • Talk about the hobbies below. Do they appeal to you? Would you like to try them to see what they are like? Try to agree with the members of your conversation group on a hobby to do together.
Collecting memorabilia from the Star Wars or the Lord of the Rings films
Following your favourite football team in their away matches
Collecting autographs from famous people
Learning ball dances (salsa, merengue, tango, waltz, cha cha, paso doble, foxtrot)

To illustrate the topic, you can listen to Darren and Dai from Elllo discussing the benefits of fishing as a pastime.

martes, 19 de agosto de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Painting the town

In this week's Madrid Teacher video three teachers discuss the problem of graffiti in our cities. Once again, we can use the video as a springboard to get familiar with some features of spoken English.

First of all, watch the video through to get the gist of what the conversation is about.

Watch the video again. This time, pay attention to the following characteristics of spoken English we can hear.
  • Giving emphasis to the information we give: quite; really
  • Use of fillers to gain thinking time: erm; er; sort of
  • Hedging our opinion so that we don't sound so categorical: I guess
  • Showing the speaker that you're paying attention: Yeah; Was it a nice fountain?; Oh, OK; Oh , I didn’t know that; Right
  • Use of actually to introduce a piece of surprising information
  • Use of so as a linking word

Now it's over to you. Get together with a relative or friend and discuss your take on graffiti. Is it art? Is it vandalism? Don't forget to use some of the features of  spoken English we have heard on the video.

Have you both heard about Keith Herring?
Erm, rings a bell.
Yeah? He was a very famous artist, no longer living, he was a graffiti artist, and a lot of people were quite impressed with his work and he would leave a lot of erm… works, I guess you could say, all over the streets, on subway cars etcetera. And then it was something that sort of created an art movement, and different people were, also thought it was really cool and then of course I’m sure you’ve heard of tagging, for people, then to write codes in different places, to communicate. But then of course, erm… in different countries, different kids for example they wanted to be bad, so instead of smoking, they decided they’d get out their spray can and write, I don’t know…
… I don’t know “ Pepe loves Wilma”.
The other day I was in, I was in the park, and I was there with my dog and I saw these two people, a father and a son… doing something. I said, “What is that?” And they had a spray can, and they were... graffiti, putting graffiti on the fountain, and I was shocked, and I said to all the people around me, “Shouldn’t we do something just other than watch them?” It didn’t phase anybody else….
Was it a nice fountain?
It was a nice fountain. It was a nice park! It’s upsetting.
I would, I would take issue. No it’s funny but the way graffiti is an actual legitimate art form, it’s actually, yeah, branched out of the delinquency factor… Because nowadays it’s actually quite a worthwhile investment, if you have, if you happen to own a piece of art by someone like Banksy, who’s a graffiti artist of renown in London and Birmingham.
Oh, OK.
And actually, recent er, recent acquirers, celebrity, erm, fans of his include Cristina Aguilera and Angelina Jolie.
Oh , I didn’t know that.
And they have works of his in their own homes, so, I don’t know if that means they have bits of wall all around.
But yeah it’s worth really quite a substantial amount of money.
So then… artists should start branching out!
Yeah, I suppose so.

lunes, 18 de agosto de 2014

Do You Know Where Your Roses Come From?

Northern Ecuador has the ideal conditions for growing roses. Supplying nearly a quarter of the roses sold in the U.S., the rose industry in Ecuador is providing thousands of jobs to local residents and keeping families together.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

We (1) ... from the farm on Friday night, gets on a plane on Saturday morning, goes to Miami and then from Miami it’s (2) ... all over the United States, and it takes anywhere between one to four days to get to the destinations all over.
We get it here and you’ll see we (3) ... , we cut them, and then put them in the water, then they start drinking and growing.
At this shop we will sell about 4,000 roses on Valentine’s Day itself. It’s the single busiest day of the year for our shop, in terms of dollar volume and stress.
Most of them come from Ecuador.
Last year we export to the United States around $660 million of fresh cut flowers. I would say that from that amount, $100 million are roses. Almost one of every four roses are coming from Ecuador.
It’s just the perfect place with eternal (4) ...-... weather.
Ecuador is one of the very few South American, Latin American countries that export organic roses and (5) ...   ...  roses to the United States.
Well the industry is very important to Ecuador, it creates a lot of employment, a lot of jobs. The industry (6) ... that they provide about 60,000 jobs in my country, in the northern part of Ecuador which (7) ... with Colombia. Particularly for myself, this industry is very close to my (8) ... because 50% of the job creation is for women.
In my 25 years of working in the flower business I’ve seen a tremendous social and economic change in the counties that have flowers. I like producing something in the countryside and having people stay in their own culture with their own families.
I’ve always enjoyed them. They’re kind of (9) ...  . Really brings this...a magic to an interior.

1 ship 2 trucked 3 process 4 Spring-like 5 Fair Trade 6 claims 7 borders 8 heart 9 addictive

domingo, 17 de agosto de 2014

Extensive listening: Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett was interviewed for the CBS programme 60 Minutes earlier this year.

Cate Blanchett tells CBS reporter Lesley Stahl about how her first attempts at playing her role in Blue Jasmine were called awful by the film's director, Woody Allen. The actress also says that watching Ruth Madoff's 60 Minutes interview helped her feel the sense of shame she infused into her portrayal of the socialite Jasmine French.

You can read the transcript of the interview here.

sábado, 16 de agosto de 2014

Reading test: Are you a workaholic or simply hard working?

Are you a workaholic or simply hard working? is a BBC article which we are going to use to practise the kind of reading comprehension task that focuses on vocabulary and grammar.

Read the text and for questions 1-15 choose the option a, b or c which best completes each sentence.
0 is an example.

Working hard can win you acclaim and promotions. It can (0) … hurt your health and family life. How do you know when to stop?
There are (1) …  differences between being a high performer and a workaholic. If free time leaves you feeling anxious or you are never satisfied with your work, you may just be working too hard.
Several LinkedIn Influencers weighed in this week on how to identify if you’re a workaholic, and how to stop. Here’s what two of them had to say.
Jullien Gordon, Founding Partner of New Higher
“High performance and workaholism are similar on the outside. They both (2) … hard work. The BIG DIFFERENCE is how the individual feels on the inside about who they are in relationship to their work,” wrote Gordon in his post High Performers vs Workaholics.
First, there is a difference between doing business and being busy. “A workaholics' No. 1 goal is to be busy,” wrote Gordon. “Workaholics fill any space in time with busy work (3) … they feel insecure doing nothing. The insecurity comes from not knowing their value. They believe that the busier they are, the more important they must be.
High performers know when they have succeeded at a task or project. Workaholics, (4) …, don’t know when to stop, Gordon explained. “A workaholic doesn't know what enough is,” he wrote. “I'm not good enough. This isn't good enough… they don't really know what success means to them.”
Gordon wrote that while high performers know their self-value, workaholics constantly (5) … outside cues of validation. “They wait for external evaluations such as mid-year or annual reviews done by others to understand how well they are doing.”
Last but not least, Gordon (6) … that workaholics can’t differentiate between what they can or cannot control. “A high performer focuses on their effort — inputs and outputs,” he wrote. This is quite different from someone who focuses only on the outcome and their income. “Their desire to compare (7) … them to judge themselves using common metrics of success which aren't always directly correlated to effort.”
Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue Airways
Sometimes, the biggest challenge in being a workaholic is that you simply don’t know you are one. Peterson points out some signs in his post 10 Signs You’re Working Too Hard and How to Stop.
“An editor at the Chicago Sun-Times once said that he couldn’t take time off. He was afraid the place would (8) … without him — and he was terrified it wouldn’t,” wrote Peterson. “If you think the universe depends on you, you’re headed for a high-stress (9) …  . (10) … people who will do a better job than you ever could, and then celebrate their successes, get out of their way and recharge your batteries regularly.”
Another sign? “Your favorite phrase is ‘you’ve got mail’,” wrote Peterson. “Email… (is) a two-edged sword. If you’re disciplined, it’s a time-saver. But if your use of it goes unchecked, it morphs into a constant interrupter, a pestering reminder of all you’re having a hard time responding to. So (11) … your email,” he advised.
If you’re always running late, this could also be (12) … to slow down. “Make  (13) … that you’ll be five minutes early to every meeting and every event… This will rarely reduce the quality of your thinking or your work, and it will usually help you re-frame your priorities and focus on your accountability and deliverables.” That way, you can take the mental break you need.
Another sign you’re a workaholic — and an annoying one at that: “You’re impossible to please. The food isn’t good enough, the hotel’s not (14) … enough, your income isn’t high enough,” Peterson wrote. But there’s a solution. “Turn inward and change your mindset. One of my mantras… has become, ‘I have all I need’.”
Peterson also (15) … that most workaholics live in the past or future. “You reminisce, telling stories of past glories. Or you await the future, unable to really start living until a certain goal is behind you. Both of these are signals that you’re living outside the present, a habit that only brings about more stress.” Learning how to focus on the present is just as valuable as looking forward.
Do you self-identify as a workaholic? What are some key signs you’ve seen in you or your colleagues? To comment on this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Capital, head over to our Facebook page or message us on Twitter.

0 Example:
a) also   b) too   c) as well

a) subtle   b) striking   c) noticeable

a) look   b) look like   c) seem

a) so   b) because   c) so that

a) on the contrary   b) though   c) on the other hand

a) trust in   b) rely on   c) turn at

a) supported   b) told   c) claimed

a) leads   b) makes   c) manages

a) come down   b) go to ruins   c) fall apart  

a) shock   b) collapse   c) breakdown

a) Hire   b) Contract   c) Get

a) turn on   b) turn off   c) turn down

a) some advice   b) a warning   c) an announcement

a) a commitment   b) arrangements   c) out

a) central  b) convenient   c) suitable

a) recommended   b) considered c) pointed out

Photo: BBC and Getty images
1a 2b 3b 4c 5b 6c 7a 8c 9c 10a 11b 12b 13a 14b 15c

viernes, 15 de agosto de 2014

10 questions for Sting

Watch this Time Magazine interview with Sting for their feature 10 Questions for.

Self-study activity:
Answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for strong intermediate 2 students.

1 How old was Sting at the time of the interview?
2 What does '25' refer to?
3 What does Sting have a problem with?
4 What physical feature did he share with his dad?
5 How long ago did his father die?
6 What does Sting say in his book about commitment and being committed?
7 What do we learn about his marriage?
8 What upsets people about him and Trudy?
9 What kind of album is he going to release next?
10 What job have two of his children chosen?

Hello, I’m Belinda Luscombe. I’m an editor-at-large at Time Magazine. Today we are interviewing a sixt-ish (1) white male, father of six, has written a few songs, plays the guitar, arguably saved a couple of acres of rain forest, goes by the name of Sting. Mr Sting, hello.
Good day.
Now, we are here actually to celebrate your 25 years, just as a solo career (2), that doesn’t even count the stuff with Police [Yeah.], and you have this book. You say in the book that when asked your religion, you write devout musician, which is kind of interesting. Does that mean you pray to Angus Young every day or how does that work out?
It’s not a frivolous answer, you know, my spiritual path involves music. I’m essentially agnostic, which I think means I don’t know. And I’ve chosen to live my life without the circle of certainties of religious faith. I think they’re dangerous, actually. I don’t have a problem with God, I have a problem with religion (3). And so I think being a devout musician is a serious answer. I think it’s something that gives my life value, and it does give me spiritual solace.
You write in the book… something that your father said to you on his deathbed that you said was devastating.
Well, well, my Dad and I had the same hands, had exactly the same hands (4). And I hadn’t really noticed that before until he was on his deathbed and I mentioned this to him. And then he said to me, well, you used your hands better than I did. My Dad was a milkman. And I realized that that was probably the first compliment he’d ever paid me and that was kind of devastating to me. Timing was amazing. And I suppose I include it in this book because I, I wanted to reassess whether, in the 25 years since my father died (5), whether I’d actually used my hands well, you know. So I was forced to have a retrospect of my own work and was pleasantly surprised by what I heard. Some of the musical decisions I made as a younger man impressed me. I didn’t think I was that smart. I think maybe I was smarter then, I don’t know.
Another thing you say in the book and this is, you know, as a woman, this is obviously something that spoke to me, it’s that commitment is not human nature. It’s not an advantage to be committed (6), and but you say that it’s better than human nature. It’s learned in the same way that, I guess we learn…
Did I say that?
You do. I mean, I was shocked too, ‘cause it seems kind of atypical thing to say for a rock star, we all missed the point of being a rock star here?
You know, I think commitment, to one person is not easy, from either side of the relationship, and yet the effort to do that is important. It’s an important one to make. And I think it’s a daily meditation. You know, I I’ve been married to Trudy for 30 years (7)…
Which in rock star years is like a thousand.
In rock star years it’s impossible. But I, I’m glad that, you know, we’re married and we have a good relationship. You know, she’s my best friend, and I like her. You know, I could say  I love her, of course that’s a given, but I actually like her. I actually like, I enjoy her company (7). So I want to maintain that, I want to sustain it for as long as possible. I don’t, I don’t take it for granted. I think that’s a mistake.
One thing that really seems to upset people the most about you and Trudy is that you talk about your sex life (8). Now, is that a policy that you do that or is it, is it unusual, or is it just us journalists talk about it a lot.
We have fun. We have fun. And I think journalists are obsessed, people are obsessed by sex. Everyone’s obsessed by sex. I think it’s the strongest impulse in human nature. And we just have fun with it, you know, I mean, it’s silly.
There’s a lot of people who would like to hear you release another rock record. Is that something you consider?
It’s a kind of nostalgia that you are talking about, which I don’t really wanna pander to. I’ll do what I choose to do, what interests me, what intrigues me. It may well be rock and roll (9). But I don’t believe that there is a, there is a massive amount of people going I wish they would do a rock and roll record. They don’t exist.
Two of your kids, so far, have gone into professional music careers (10).
Not, not because I encouraged them at all.
Is it, it’s a very different world out there now from when you started... some Police, you know, galvanized so, so many people drew so many it was able to become this mass enjoyment phenomenon. Those kinds of bands are rarer now. It’s hard to, to do that with, with the, so many different, the way the music industry has fragmented. Does that concern you that they’ve gone into the music industry at all.
I don’t play music to become rich and famous. You play music because it feeds your soul. Whether or not you become famous, or you sell lots of albums, or you sell lots of concert seats, is completely beside the point. And, my kids would say, well, that’s easy for you to say because you are rich and famous, and you do sell records. I say, that’s true but I’m, I’m still telling you the truth. 
Do you think you’ve got another 25 years of music left in you?
I’ve got 25, years of learning in me, definitely.
Right. Thank you very much.

jueves, 14 de agosto de 2014

The time value of money

We’ve all heard the phrase “Time is money.” But what do these two things actually have to do with one another? In this Ted-ed lesson German Nande explains the math behind interest rates, revealing the equation that will allow you to calculate the future value of your money (if you wisely put it in the bank, that is).

Self-study activity:
I think the video is pretty easy to follow, although they concepts German Nande is trying to instil aren't that easy to grasp.

To fully check your understanding of the ideas in the video, drop by the Think section of this ed-ed lesson, where you will have to answer four multiple choice questions and apply the ideas to practical problems.

They say, 'Time is money,' but what does one really have to do with the other?
Meet Sheila! She just got her first big bonus. Sheila knows exactly what she wants to do with that money. She's had her eye on a nice convertible for a while now. Yes, Sheila, that's a nice car!
Oh, looks like Sheila is a little short. But wait! She has an idea. Sheila is a smart cookie. She knows that if she deposits the money for a year instead of buying the car today, she will earn interest. Then she'll be able to afford the car. Sheila knows that the value of her deposit one year from now will equal the money deposited today plus the interest earned.
We call Sheila's money deposited today the present value of money. And the value of Sheila's deposit next year is the future value of money. What connects one to the other? The interest rate, also known as the time value of money.
Now, with a little bit of rearranging, we can figure out the future value of Sheila's money with this equation. So in a year, the future value will be $11,000.
Well, it's been a year! And there's Sheila, with enough money to buy the car. Sheila really understands the future value of money. Now, I just hope she understands the speed limit!
Now, meet Timmy. He's also gotten his bonus. The money seems to be burning a hole in his pocket. Yes, Timmy, that's a nice car that will surely impress people.
Oh! Looks like you're a little short. Maybe you can follow Sheila's example. You see, Timmy, just like Sheila, after the first year, you'll have $11,000. But Timmy, that is still not enough to buy that fancy car. Why don't you leave the money deposited for another year?
Let's see how your deposit will be doing in two years. With a little bit of rearranging, it becomes the value of your money next year, times one plus the interest rate. We can then convert the future value one year from now to the present value times one plus the interest rate. We can even simplify this further by just squaring the value of one plus the interest rate. Sorry, Timmy, you'll have more money after two years, but you still can't afford the car!
I don't know how many more years you'll have to wait, but I can tell you one way we can figure it out. Do you see that little number two in the equation? Any number that you put in there is the number of years that you are waiting, also known as the period.
Sure, Timmy, we can see how much you'll have in five years. Let's connect future value and present value across five years. Let's watch the period increase from two to five. After 5 years, you'll have $16,105.10. Sorry, Timmy, you have to wait a little longer.
10 years? Yeah! Let's see if you'll be able to buy the car then. Not quite. Well, Timmy, it looks like you'll need 26 years to afford this car. You should ask Sheila for a ride to the beach. Maybe a bicycle will suit you better? I hear the bus is pretty cheap!