martes, 30 de septiembre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Unusual gifts

In our Madrid Teacher series this week, four teachers talk about unusual presents they have given or received. Their conversation gives us a chance of revising some features of spoken English they use.

First of all, watch the video through, so that you can get the gist of what the conversation is about.
Now watch the video again paying attention to the following features of spoken English:
  • Use of so as a linking word.
  • Fillers to gain thinking time: erm; you know; like
  • Use of really to emphasize the verb
  • Reacting to what the speaker has just said: You received that?; Oh, that s fantastic
  • Showing agreement: Yeah, yeah; Yeah, I think so too; Yeah, that’s right; That’s a good point.
  • Use of vague language: or something like that; or something; like; things like that
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said

Now it's over to you. What’s the most unusual gift you’ve ever given or received? Do you like giving and receiving gifts? Do you find it difficult to think of the right present for your friends or relatives? Have you ever heard of unusual or extravagant presents? Have you ever been given one? What's your take on giving money as a present? Discuss these questions with a friend or relative and don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised with this video.

Thomas: So, we’re fresh back from the holidays, erm, that makes me wonder. What’s the most unusual gift you’ve ever given or received?
Louise: I got once, erm, I really think gift giving has become, it’s out of control, you have to buy a present, it’s so commercial, but I got a charity gift one year which was a card telling me that, erm, my gift was a packet of seeds and a goat for a family in Vietnam.
Thomas: You received that?
Louise: I received the card saying that…
Thomas: Oh, that s fantastic.
Louise: …that the money had gone there to buy those things for the family in Vietnam, which was nice. I didn’t really need anything and, you know, most of us don’t need anything and so it made you feel good.
Joyce: Sometimes you have like also like plant a tree for somebody.
Louise: Yeah, yeah.
Joyce: You know, these types of gifts or even a, or even not adopt a child but, what’s that Sophia and… Thomas: Sponsor
Joyce: …sponsor a child or something like that.
Louise: Those kinds of things are much nicer than extravagant gifts for people who already have everything.
Sophia: Everything.
Louise: I think.
Thomas: Oh, yeah, I’ve heard of some wild, wild gifts from people who already have everything.
Louise: Yeah.
Thomas: If you happen to already have enough money for a private beach, why not invest in a, I think, a four-meter high giant plastic structure that’s both a water slide on one side and then varying degrees of difficulty climbing walls, climbing. I, I mean it sounds fun but maybe…
Joyce: It’s like they have these big plastic icebergs or something.
Thomas: Maybe they’d be better off buying a few goats for families.
Louise: Yeah, I think so too.
Joyce: Or donating money to protect icebergs.
Louise: Yeah, that’s right.
Thomas: That’s a good point.
Louise: That could be good too. Yeah, there’s so many, there’s so many strange gadgets these days as well, there seems to be no end to the things they come up with.
Thomas: Weird things that you can affix to your body and some place to get a massage in that one little area.
Louise: Yeah.
Thomas: Have you seen these? Like you sit in a chair and it basically envelopes your whole body and has rollers going up and down your arms and your legs.
Sophia: Oh, I’ve been in something like that but using water but erm
Thomas: Oh yeah, I’ve seen those. Maybe this is just only United States obsession but we’ve got lots of chairs that rub us.
All: Ha, ha, ha.
Joyce: Or vibrating chairs, those vibrating chairs you put coins in.
Thomas: Kind of a variation on that.
Louise: It’s one of the good ones I’ve heard of recently is this alarm clock you can buy that wakes you up naturally, it’s, it’s an alarm clock with a light built in.
Thomas: Oh, like a sunrise in your room.
Louise: And the light comes up gradually and simulates the sunrise. I think, get a window.
All: Ha, ha, ha.
Thomas: Get a window. Just knock a hole in your wall.
Louise: Yeah.
Joyce: Well, depending what the time you get up, you know.
Louise: I suppose.
Joyce: Sometimes it’s still dark.
Louise: For shift work and things like that it might actually be useful.
All: Yeah.
Thomas: Probably.
Sophia: Yeah, if you work at night.

lunes, 29 de septiembre de 2014

Listening test: Greatest Olympian ever?

You will hear two people talking about the best Olympian ever during the London Olympics. Read the notes below and listen carefully to the recording. In each of the spaces provided, complete the information required with up to FOUR WORDS. 0 is given as an example.

Greatest Ever Olympian

0. Michael Phelps has won ...NINETEEN MEDALS.     

1. Sir Steve Redgrave won …………….………… in rowing.   
2. It took Hungarian Aladar Gerevich ………………………. to win seven gold medals.
3. The  ……………………… stopped Aladar Gerevich from winning more medals.
4. The kayaker who is mentioned in the conversation was East German and eventually she competed for ………………...………        

5. It’s easier for swimmers to win more medals because there are ………………..........……… .       

6. A swimmer can win as many as ………………………. in an Olympic Games.       

7. A fencer or a kayaker can win no more than ………………………. in an Olympic Games.

So Michael Phelps is being hailed in the British press as the greatest Olympian of all time with (0) nineteen medals and I’m delighted to say that he’s here today to speak… no, it’s only Susana.
Michael Phelps, greatest Olympian ever. True or false?
Everyone knows I don’t really know about the history of Olympics.
Well, he’s won (0) nineteen medals, not all gold, because he’s beginning to…
And you’ve got to admit nineteen is not… is quite a lot.
Yeah, but he’s beginning to lose now. The only gold he’s won this time is in a relay event, so he had people helping him. He’s won a silver and stuff. But for me, Sir Steve Redgrave, from the UK, won (1) five golds over five Olympics in rowing, which is a power event. So, for me he’s a little bit better because he went to five Olympics. Phelps only has been to four.
Well, let me just mention that there is an Olympic athlete called Aladar Gerevich from Hungary and he won, I think, seven gold medals in six Olympics.
Yes, I’ve read about him. He did it over (2) thirty years.
Yes, the first Olympics were…
And the last one in 1960.
Plus, he missed the two Olympics because of the (3) Second World War, 1940…
Everybody missed.
Yeah. 1940, 1944, so he could’ve actually gone from seven to nine…
…if he had been given the chance. Unbeliavable.
And there’s also a… Birgit Fischer, a kayak, kayaker woman from Germany and she won, I can’t remember…
Eight, eight.
Eight gold medals in six Olympics.

Six games.
But she was an East German to begin with and in the end she was rowing for (4) the unified Germany (answer for question 4: two countries).
And also, don’t you think for a swimmer like Michael Phelps… because there are (5) [so] many swimming events, that it’s easier for a swimmer because they do all the same, free style, breast stroke
He has the chance in every Olympics. Every Olympics he has the chance for about (6) forty-seven medals.
Exactly, but a fencer or a kayaker…
(7) One or two.
Yes, exactly, so it’s, he has it easy really.
Yeah, so we need to think about the stars of the past. Is Aladar Gerevich the greatest Olympian ever?
Of course.
And in our lifetime Sir Steve Redgrave.

domingo, 28 de septiembre de 2014

Extensive listening: Liam Neeson’s story of success and sorrow

Liam Neeson is one of the highest paid movie stars in Hollywood. He  spoke about his wife's accident and death, his childhood and how his age is beginning to conflict with his action star roles for CBS's 60 Minutes early this year.

This is the way CBS reporter Anderson Cooper introduced the segment:

"Liam Neeson at 61 years old has become one of the highest paid movie stars in Hollywood. You may remember him as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg's movie “Schindler’s List” or in dozens of other classical dramatic roles, but today he's best known as one of the most sought after action stars in the movie business.
Neeson's success is bittersweet. Five years ago his wife, the actress Natasha Richardson, fell while skiing and died from a traumatic brain injury. He's said very little about her death, until tonight.  We decided to start this story about Neeson where he was born. In Ballymena, a simple town, just outside Belfast, Northern Ireland."

You can read a full transcript of the interview here.

sábado, 27 de septiembre de 2014

Reading test: The death of the US shopping mall

In this week's reading comprehension activity we are going to read a BBC article by Jonathan Glancey about the decline of shopping malls in US, The death of the US shopping mall. It will help us practise the multiple choice kind of task.

Drop by the BBC website by clicking on this link and read the article The death of the US shopping mall. Say which option a, b or c best completes the sentence or answers the question 1-7. 0 is an example.

0 Many shopping malls look
a) frightening because they don’t have enough light.
b) like Romero’s film set.
c) sinister after Romero’s film.

1 Which sentence is true, according to the text?
a) Ghost malls are thriving all over the US.
b) Shopping malls are victims of changing shopping patterns.
c) The economic recession is the reason for the decline of the mall.

2 The first US malls
a) had a kitsch design.
b) were intended to be in city centres.
c) were thought to be the heart of new communities.

3 Gruen’s Southdale Center in Edina
a) started a new concept of the shopping centre.
b) was built in a momentous year in  American history.
c) was surrounded by homes, schools, lakes and parks.

4 The Cloverleaf Mall in Chesterfield
a) closed down because it lost its appeal for customers.
b) was closed down for purely economic reasons.
c) was the first one to close down in almost one and half centuries.

5 Many Americans
a) are in favour of knocking down the malls.
b) are worried about abandoned shopping malls.
c) have a hedonistic approach to life.

6 Which sentence is true according to the text?
a) St Peter’s in Rome is bigger than the King of Prussia Mall.
b) The cost of living in the US is higher than in Bangladesh.
c) The location of large malls is unpredictable.

7 Ghost malls
a) are the result of social and economic trends.
b) have been used to set books and films.
c) will be visited by tourists one day.

Source: BBC and

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

viernes, 26 de septiembre de 2014

Turtle hospital

A sea turtle rescue center in North Carolina cares for and rehabilitates injured sea turtles, and returns them to the ocean.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate student.

1 How long have sea turtles existed?
2 How many sea turtles survive into adulthood?
3 What are loggerhead (sea turtles) genetically programmed for?
4 Note down two injuries sea turtles suffer.
5 How many sea turtles has the hospital put back in the sea?
6 How long can a turtle stay at the hospital?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

Jean Beasley
Sea turtles are the canaries of the ocean. If this ancient creature who has existed since before the age of the dinosaurs (1), who survived all the cataclysmic events that reshaped the planet. If they are in trouble, we are in bigger trouble.

How the sea turtle hospital came to be. Well, we didn't do it, a turtle did. One little tank in a volunteer's backyard was the start of the sea turtle hospital.
Kenneth Lohmann
Very few hatchling turtles survive to adulthood. Most of the estimates are somewhere between 1 in a 1000 and 1 in 10,000 (2) but historically, those turtles that did survive to adulthood were able to live for a number of years and produce many, many offspring. 

What turtle hospitals do is take some of those older individuals. that would otherwise be lost, and return them so that they can fulfill their natural function of replenishing the population. 
Turtles are profoundly affected by pollutants, in particular, plastic debris. Loggerheads seem to be programmed genetically to bite anything that is floating in the ocean (3). Before the ocean was littered with debris, that was a very good strategy for survival.  
Jean Beasley
I see plastics constantly in this hospital. A balloon floating on the water looks like a nice tasty jellyfish to them and they're going to eat it. You get enough of those inside and they're going to clog up the intestinal track and it may die. 
Injuries are very diverse. We do get things like shark bites, prop cuts, turtles caught on hook and line, we have the net fishing. The turtles get entangled in the net (4). 
Somewhere around 90% of our turtles survive. Which is an incredible thing for rehab. 
Every turtle that we release takes away a piece of all of our hearts. It's a wonder anything's left with going over 400 (5) with this latest release but it is very important to put a creature of the sea back in the sea, because with all the dangers involved, that is where they belong and I had to reconcile myself to the fact that we might spend years (6) and a lot of time and energy and effort and love getting that animal ready to go back home, and it might not last past the first wave. 
I had to struggle with that and then I knew, that to be a real sea turtle again, even if it's only for minutes, or a day, of a week or a year, is what it's all about. 
You feel that surge of exuberance from the turtle that is pushing away from you, you that have cared about it for so long, and it's gone.

jueves, 25 de septiembre de 2014

Five Minutes With Paul McKenna - NLP Life Training

Matthew Stadlen interviews hypnotist Paul McKenna for Five Minutes with... . He speaks about his attitude to hypnosis, whether it made him feel powerful, his skill at having fun, and the ability of people to become more intelligent.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and note down the questions Matthew asks Paul McKenna.
Watch the video again and note down the main ides in Paul McKenna's answers.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 student.

Paul McKenna, five minutes. I’m going to ask you to count us down once I’ve put the battery in. Any views on the clock?
I think we should’ve gone with a watch, but, you know, it’s, it’s part of your character, isn’t it? Speaks a lot about you.
They wouldn’t help you with hypnosis.
I’m, I have difficulty swinging that.
Here we go, batteries going in. Here we are.
Five, four, three, two, one.
What do you think your biggest skill is?
Well, professionally, I think it’s my ability to help people change, improve, therapy. I mean really, I’d say I can cure most psychological problems and some physiological ones as well. Recently, a friend of mine who is a life coach, we were doing one of these processes at a seminar that we were working on together and we looked at things that you’re rubbish at, things that you’re okay about and then what’s the thing that you’re utterly brilliant at? Because everybody is brilliant at someone. One of the things that I listed was having fun and I actually really believe that I have a lot of fun, in fact, more fun than most, you know? And so I put that down as one of my skills.
How do you help people change?
Well, I do it through modern psychological techniques and indeed some, you know, old fashioned esoteric ones. I would use anything that works. I take a very mechanical view of it, so I look at the mind as similar to a computer and I’m helping somebody to reprogram that computer. But you know, I’m always learning; I’m always developing and learning from those people who are better than me.
And you use hypnosis?
Absolutely. Yeah, hypnosis is something I use a lot. I find it a very powerful tool for what it is I want to accomplish.
Can you summarise hypnosis very succinctly for me?
Well, there are many different schools of thought but I’m going to say it usually involves fixation of attention. It’s often synonymous with deep relaxation and imagination, and in this, some people think of it as a special state; some people don’t, but certainly in the procedure, it allows us to move beyond the limitations that we might normally have in our sort of conscious mindsets and see things from different perspectives; get access to resources that are unconscious.  And so it’s a very, very powerful technique for really bringing out the best in us. All the things that we can achieve with hypnosis, I believe we can achieve in other ways but I particularly like it.
Can anyone become a hypnotist?
Yeah, absolutely. In fact, you know I think to some extent, you know, I look at the everyday hypnotists as sales people, cult leaders, politicians, even parents. The things parents say to their children, you know, particularly in the formative years, they have a power of a hypnotic suggestion, so you know, we’re all hypnotists in a sense.
How did you become a hypnotist?
I was working as a radio broadcaster and I went to interview the local hypnotist and I was very stressed that day and he said, “Look, I need to hypnotise you,” and I was open minded. I was into yoga and meditation. I felt very relaxed, quite euphoric afterwards; I borrowed some books from this guy and I began hypnotising my friends to help them lose weight and quit smoking, and it worked most of the time. Then I would be at a party and everyone would say, “Oh, turn someone into a ballerina,” or something like that and we’d fall about laughing. So I started doing shows where I got people to do daft things when they were hypnotised and at the same time, I was working with people one-to-one, helping them to improve their lives. And in the end, I decided really that was what I wanted to do and that’s what my life is dedicated to.
How long does it take you typically to hypnotise someone?
Well, it depends. I mean, the hypnotising isn’t really the important thing for me. That’s a tool. It’s what you then do with it. So it depends on the person; it depends on the skill of the operator. There’s so many variables. You know, I mean it doesn’t work every time for everything. In fact, we have a saying: anyone who says they’ve got a 100% success rate doesn’t have enough clients.
Does it make you feel powerful to be a hypnotist?
Yes, it can do. I suppose some people have that association, you know: men with goatee beards, black shirts buttoned up to the top, you know, all powerful but the modern view is that it gives you greater communication capabilities with somebody. And so I would say more important than power to me is the feeling of euphoria I get when I help somebody make a change, particularly if it’s been one that’s really dramatically impaired their life.
Have you been hypnotised?
Of course.
What’s it like? Can you describe it?
Yeah. For me, well, every trance is different but it’s very relaxing. It’s kind of like that moment just before you fall asleep at night, you know; you’re not really asleep, you’re not really awake; you’re in this lovely sort of dreamlike state. However, sometimes you can be, say, fixated on a television programme or a public speaker and you can lose your sense of time and everything around you and become totally engrossed in it. That’s equally as hypnotic.
You’ve written another self help book, I Can Make you Smarter. Can you really make people smarter?
Ten seconds.
Yeah. Absolutely. Overwhelming scientific research says that we can all become smarter. It’s not just genetics; it’s environmental.
And that, Paul McKenna, is five minutes. Thank you very much.
Thank you.

miércoles, 24 de septiembre de 2014

Talking point: Dancing

This week's talking point is dancing. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that you can think up ideas beforehand and the conversation flows more easily when you get together with your friends. You will also be able to work out any vocabulary problems.
  • What different types of dancing can you think of (ballet, tap, disco, salsa, etc.)
  • Think of two adjectives to describe each type of dancing, v.g., disco is fun but tiring.
  • Which type of dance do you prefer? Which have you tried? Which would you like to try?
  • How often do you go dancing?
  • How do you rate yourself as a dancer?
  • When and where was the last time you went dancing? Who did you go with? What was it like? What did you do before and afterwards?
  • Which songs do you like dancing to? How do they make you feel?
  • Have you ever taken dancing lessons? Would you be willing to pay to learn how to dance?
  • Why are ball dances so popular these days?
  • Do you know any really good movers and clumsy dancers?
  • What dancing TV shows do you know? Do/did you watch them? Why (not)?
  • How many different benefits (physical and psychological) of dancing can you think of?
To illustrate the topic, listen to the Elllo activity Are you a good dancer? where six people answer the question.

Remember that at Elllo you will find comprehension questions about the listening as well as a full transcript and a selection of some of the vocabulary items used by the speakers.

martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Wacky workouts

In this week's Madrid Teacher video, four teachers discuss the latest physical exercise trends and the way some gyms are offering funnier and funnier ways of keeping-fit methods. As usual, the teachers' conversation gives us an opportunity to get acquainted with some features of spoken English.

First, watch the video through so that you get the gist of the conversation.
Now watch the video more carefully, paying attention to the following:
  • Fillers to gain thinking time: Yeah; erm; you know; well
  • Rephrasing what we have just said to make ourselves clear: I mean
  • Use of really to emphasize the adjective or the verb
  • Use of like as a connector
  • Use of vague language: or something like that
  • Use of so as a connector
  • Introducing a new topic in the conversation: talking about
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; That's right; Exactly
  • Reacting to what the other person has just said: Oh really? God; I’ve heard of that; Really? Do you think…?; No, obviously
  • Use of just to emphasize the verb

Now it's over to you. Have you heard of any odd methods people use to keep fit? What do you think of the methods the Madrid Teachers have described? Do you know anyone who's a sports freak? What sort of routines do they get involved in? Get together with a friend or relative and discuss these questions. Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English that we have studied today.

Yeah, the other day, I go to the gym a lot and I, erm, I was, you know, talking to some people and they were telling me about these wacky, you know, workouts and, I’d heard of one, I mean, well, I don’t how wacky it is, but it’s called the Bikram yoga, you know, where you do yoga in a really hot room, like at about 40 degrees, so you sweat a lot, except that some people think that it’s not good for you because you could faint or dehydrate or something like that, you know.
Well, it’s the same as doing yoga in a hot country. I mean, in Asia, it’s where I suppose yoga was born, it generally is 35 degrees and incredibly humid, and people would do yoga, so it can’t be bad for you.
Yeah, well, that was one of them but then it gets wackier like, Stiletto Strength, so…
That’s nuts.
Women doing aerobics with stiletto heels, you know.
And it’s like going clubbing, isn’t it?
Practice for the discothèque, you know, so that was one of them but then again I mean, you know, you could like twist your ankle or something like that and…
But what’s their thinking, they’re trying to make exercise more attractive, more enticing by making it more wacky…
I think it’s just market, marketing gimmick, you know, it’s like, erm, our gym offers this and it’s like something that’s different…
Oh, I’ve never done stiletto karaoke squats before.
Actually, talking about karaoke…
That’s right. There is another one that’s called, you know, your typical spinning where you’re on those static bicycles… And you know, you’re doing it in a class environment, but you have to sing karaoke at the same time.
Oh really? God… That’s really difficult…
I would like to do that but that would be so difficult.
But enjoyable at the same time, singing.
That’s funny.
Maybe it takes your mind off the pain.
I will, erm, survive, erm.
As you’re going uphill. And then there is also like the fact like some people want to lose weight or be in shape and not do any, any exercise so they wrap themselves up in cling film.
I’ve heard of that.
I’ve heard of that, yeah.
You know, or these vibrating chairs, or you see on television advertising all these sorts of things, erm, oh, do abdominals without having to, you know, actually having to do the abdominals, and you just put this like belt around you…
I used to… That vibrates. I used to, I used to have one that’s similar but didn’t vibrate but like give you tiny electrocutions… Tiny electric shocks. I call it the Buzzy Belt, it’s really good.
Really? Do you think…?
It doesn’t do anything for your cardiovascular…
No, obviously.
Functions, obviously it doesn’t help your heart, it doesn’t make you healthier but it really, really, really is the equivalent of doing about 700 sit-ups when in reality you can’t do 10.
Really? So it does work, erm.
I thought that once you stop using those, though…

lunes, 22 de septiembre de 2014

What makes tattoos permanent

What makes tattoos permanent is a TEd lesson by Claudia Aguirre in which she tries to give a scientific answer to the question 'how do these markings last?'. She also details the different methods, machines and macrophages that go into making tattoos stand the test of time.

Self-study activity:
There's quite a lot of scientific name-dropping in this video, which might make it a bit difficult for learners to understand. Don't be deterred by the jargon and just focus on the task at hand, which is quite general.

Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.

You may also want to go to the original TEd-ed lesson and do the activities suggested there. Remember that you will find more comprehension questions in the Think tag, suggestions to explore the topic further in the Dip deeper tag and some topics for discussion in the Discuss tag.

1 No tattoos have been found in human remains before Christ.
2 Human skin falls off like that of snakes.
3 Thomas Edison invented the electric tattooing machine.
4 The tattooing process is similar to causing a wound to the body.
5 Sun exposure and swimming help tattoos to fix.
6 With time tattoos become paler.
7 In most cases, tattoos stay fixed in a person's skin for life.
8 With the help of a laser, tattoos can easily be erased.

Tattoos have often been presented in popular media as either marks of the dangerous and deviant or trendy youth fads, but while tattoo styles come and go and their meaning has differed greatly across cultures. The practice is as old as civilization itself. Decorative skin markings have been discovered in human remains, all over the world with the oldest found on a Peruvian mummy dating back to 6000 BCE.
But have you ever wondered how tattooing really works? You may know that we shed our skin, losing about 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells per hour, that’s about a million per day. So, how come the tattoo doesn’t gradually flake off along with them. The simple answer is that tattooing involves getting pigment deeper into the skin than the outermost layer, that gets shed. Throughout history different cultures have used various methods to accomplish this, but the first modern tattooing machine was modeled after Thomas Edison’s engraving machine and ran on electricity.
Tattooing machines used today insert tiny needles loaded with dye into the skin at a frequency of 50 to 3,000 times per minute. The needles punch through the epidermis, allowing ink to seep deep into the dermis, which is composed of collagen fibers, nerves, glands, blood vessels, and more. Every time a needle penetrates it causes a wound that alerts the body to begin the inflammatory process, calling immune system cells to the wound site to begin repairing the skin and it is this very process that makes tattoos permanent.
First, specialized cells called macrophages eat the invading material in an attempt to clean up the inflammatory mess as these cells travel through the lymphatic system, some of them are carried back with a belly full of dye into the lymph nodes, while others remain in the dermis, with no way to dispose of the pigment the dyes inside them remain visible through the skin. Some of the ink particles are also suspended in the gel like matrix of the dermis, while others are engulfed by dermal cells, called fibroblasts.
Initially ink is deposited into the epidermis as well, but as the skin heals the damaged epidermal cells are shed and replaced by new dye free cells with the top most layer peeling off like a healing sunburn. Blistering or crusting is not typically seen with professional tattoos and complete epidermal regeneration requires two to four weeks during which excess sun exposure and swimming should be avoided to prevent fading.
Dermal cells, however, remain in place until they die. When they do they are taken up ink and all by younger cells nearby so the ink stays where it is. But with time tattoos do fade naturally as the body reacts to the alien pigment particles, slowly breaking them down to be carried off by the immune system’s macrophages.
Ultra-violet radiation can also contribute to this pigment break-down, though it can be mitigated by the use of sun block. But since the dermal cells are relatively stable much of the ink will remain deep in the skin for a person’s whole life, but if tattoos are embedded in your skin for life is there any way to erase them. Technically, yes.
Today a laser is used to penetrate the epidermis and blast apart underlying pigment colors of various wavelengths. Black being the easiest to target, the laser beam breaks the ink globules into smaller particles that can then cleared away by the macrophages, but some color inks are harder to remove than others, and there could be complications; for this reason removing a tattoo is still more difficult than getting one, but not impossible.
So, a single tattoo may not truly last forever, but tattoos have been around longer than any existing culture, and their continuing popularity means that the art of tattooing is here to stay

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

domingo, 21 de septiembre de 2014

Extensive listening: Wild Russia-Siberia

This is the way the National Geographic introduced the Wild Russia documentaries:

"Sprawling over 11 time zones and two continents from Europe to the Pacific, and beyond the magnificent cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg, this huge country contains a wealth of unspoilt natural wilderness.
Through unprecedented access we showcase the spectacle that is Wild Russia. From east to west, via mountains, volcanoes, deserts, lakes and Arctic ice, this breathtaking six-part series uses stunning cinematography to chart the dazzling natural wonders of this vast country."

And this is what they say about Siberia:

"Accounting for around 10 per cent of the world’s dry land, Siberia is famous as a brutally cold place. Yet it is home to a diverse range of habitats and animal life – including musk deer, camels, gazelles and the extraordinary Siberian salamander, which can spend years encased in -40°C ice and still survive. Exploring from the frozen north to the southern steppes, this is the real Siberia."

You can read the transcript for the first twenty minutes of the documentary here.

sábado, 20 de septiembre de 2014

Nobuna: The listening game

Nobuna is a site designed to help English learners improve their listening skills. Learners watch a short video videos and  fill in the blanks in the transcript.

In the tag 'How it works', it is explained the way the site works and the benefits learners can get from Nobuna. Similarly, they offer advice on how to best play this 'listening game':
  • Watch and listen to the entire video without interruption and try to understand the dialog. If you don't understand, don't worry. Just do your best!
  • Watch and listen to the video one more time and try to fill in the blanks. Don't worry about making mistakes. Again, just try your best.
  • When you are done with the exercise, click 'Finish' to view your results and check them against the video to understand any mistakes and look up words you didn't understand in the dictionary.
The video below explains everything about Nobuna .

    H/T to The English Blog.

    viernes, 19 de septiembre de 2014

    Jennifer Lawrence, her Mom and the Oscars

    Jennifer Lawrence tells a funny anecdote on the Ellen Show that involves the Oscars and her mom.

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

    The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

    1 What does Kentucky refer to?
    2 What's exciting for every actor?
    3 What hilarious thing did Jennifer's mom do?
    4 What did Jennifer fear after what her mom did?
    5 Why did Jennifer herself have to do the same thing again?
    6 What did Jennifer and her mom disagree on?

    You can self-correct the activity by reading the transcript below.

    Where you from originally (1)?
    Kentucky. And how is your mother enjoying your success?
    Oh, she is very happy. She has more fun than I do. She called me one time. Recently I’ve just got into the academy, which was really exciting for me, that’s exciting for any actor (2). And then my… I get a call from my mother while I was in England and she goes, ‘I did something hilarious’. And I was like, ‘what?’ She was like, ‘I voted’. And I was like ‘you voted for what?’ ‘The Oscars’ (3) And I was like, ‘you voted for the Oscars, what do you mean?’ She was like, ‘the ballot came here, and I voted’. Because she thought I’d be like, that’s a hilarious, I’m gonna get kicked out of the academy (4).
    Fortunately, she did a wrong, and mailed it. I think she mailed it back to herself (5). So, I got to do it again.
    That’s… it’s horrible. So, she just thought anybody who receives the ballot can vote? Like it’s the People’s Choice Awards, or something like that.
    Exactly. But I’m one of the people.
    You have to be in the academy.
    Wow. So, did you see who she voted? Did you do agree with who she awarded for (6)?
    No, I didn’t

    jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2014

    See Britain through my eyes series updated and Patient care in the UK

    Four years ago now, back in 2010, when we started out this blog, one of the first series of videos and activities we came up with was See Britain through my Eyes, based on the videos created by the Foreign Office to help people get to know what modern Britain is like in preparation of the 2012 London Olympic Games. In the videos, foreigners who have settled in Britain talk about their lives, their professions and the way the UK has helped them to enhance their careers.

    The See Britain through my Eyes YouTube account was subsequently cancelled, but chance has had it that we've come across them on the UK Government's National Archives, where all the videos in the series are hosted and can be watched. Here is a list with the twelve videos we have published in the series so far.
    And let's add one more video to the series, Patient Care in the UK, where Dr Claudia Bausewein tells us about palliative care in the UK.

    Self-study activity:
    Watch Dr Claudia Bausewein talk about patient care in the UK and say whether the statements below are true or false.

    1. Palliative care started in the UK.
    2. The key to palliative care is focusing on the disease.
    3. There is not success in looking after dying patients.
    4. Looking after the ill and disabled is not part of the UK culture.
    5. When she was a student in Germany Dr Bausewein didn't really believe the information she was reading about palliative care in the UK.
    6. The Cicely Saunders Institute was created by dame Cicely Saunders.

    My name is Claudia Bausewein.  When I first came as a medical student, there was no palliative care setting in Germany at all. So, it was very clear to go to the place where it originated, where it started and where the best expertise was. And this is the UK obviously.
    Britain is the country where the modern hospice movement started with Dame Cicely Saunders in the mid-60s. It was Dame Cicely who really put the patient in the center. And she taught us a lot regarding listening, how to deal with the patient, how to focus on their situation, seeing them from a holistic point of view, not only seeing them from their disease or illness.
    As a researcher in palliative care, I work with other specialists and we try together to improve the care of the patients. We are not focusing on any diagnostic tests. We are focusing on the patient and their views, their experience.
    Today we're going to be meeting one of my patients, Kim, who I've been doing some work with to help manage her breathlessness.
    People often say there's no success if you look after dying patients. And I say it's always a question of how I define success. If success only means somebody needs healing or somebody has to be cured from a disease, then obviously we might not be successful.  But if success is that if somebody is coming in pain, maybe for weeks or months, hasn't slept well, and hasn't been able to be in contact with the family, [Are you practicing that at home as well regularly?] and if you are able to help them and to relieve the pain, breathing techniques that I've taught Kim and that she's been putting into action and if somebody is saying after a week, "Oh, I'm much better. I can sleep well, I've got my energy back," this is a huge success.
    And hold. Okay. So relax those shoulders.
    So for me it is very satisfying work, focusing on the human being that is sort of my partner.
    And back, that's it.
    Health care in Britain is much more seen as part of the community and of society. I think looking after people is very much in the hearts and minds of people in this country. And really caring for people who are disabled, who are very ill, who are very old is very much part of how people want to be cared for. And also how people want other people to be cared for.
    As a medical student in Germany, I was reading about palliative care or the hospice movement in the UK, and I thought, oh this sounds nice and this is really almost unrealistic. It sounded so wonderful. But when I came here and realized that this is really working. This is reality. This is not only a vision in a book, but I experienced it myself and became part of it. Becoming part of this hospice family was a great experience for me.
    When Dame Cicely started this hospice movement, I think it was always her vision to have a center, a beacon for research for patient care and for education. This building, the Cicely Saunders Institute, really emphasizes that Britain is always ahead regarding research in palliative care. And now there is a building which is saying that palliative medicine and palliative care is important. We need them.
    And now I would like to see that we not only do research here in the UK, but that we do high-quality research in Germany as well.

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

    miércoles, 17 de septiembre de 2014

    Talking point: Alternative medicine

    Our talking point this week is alternative medicine. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that you can think about the answers with plenty of time and ideas flow more easily when you get together with your friends. At the same time, you'll be able to work out vocabulary issues well in advance.
    • Here are some common types of alternative medicine. Do you know what they are and what they are used for? Homeopathy, osteopathy, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, chiropractic, reflexology, hypnotherapy, acupunture.
    • What forms of alternative medicine are popular in your country?
    • Why do you think some people are sceptical about them?
    • Have you ever used any alternative medicine, or do you know anyone who has?
    • What was your/their experience like? Would your recommend it?
    • Do you agree with these ideas?
    - Traditional medicine is far more effective than alternative medicine.
    - Some forms of alternative medicine can actually be harmful.
    - Alternative medicine does more than traditional medicine to prevent illness.
    - The state should pay for alternative medicine treatments.

    To illustrate the point you can watch this video about  the practice of knife massage in Taiwan.

    It looks horrifying but people who have tried Taiwan knife massages say it’s so relaxing that they can fall asleep to the experience. But don’t expect aromatherapy oils or relaxing music, here it’s just a customer, the therapist and two kitchen cleavers. 
    The knife massage is not some crazy idea thought up by Sadist. It actually dates back more than two thousand years to China, where they originated. Back then, people who suffered from so-called strange diseases, those that can’t be easily cured by traditional Chinese medicine, would seek the help from Douist and Buddhist monks or nuns, and they would massage them with knives.
    Although it almost died out in 280, knife massage has had a revival in Taiwan in recent years. Knife therapists say it’s become more popular because of the increased stress in modern society. According to the World Doula Association, there are around 2009 therapists in Taiwan.
    How does knife therapy help people? Why use knives?
    Knife therapy is different from other types of massage which is shallow. Knife therapy is more penetrating. We use steel knives as a conduit of energy. This helps our muscles relax and helps stimulate the normal functioning of our blood circulation and metabolism. So it can help us sleep better and reduce our muscle soreness, and it’s very good at releasing toxins, so it’s also very helpful in our beauty care and weight loss.
    What kind of qualifications do knife therapists have to have?
    In the early days, more than 2,000 years ago, knife therapy was performed by monks and nuns in temples. Nowadays knife therapists must go through strict training. They have to eat vegetarian meals every day, meditate and practise knife therapy. The reason we eat vegetarian meals is because we want to get rid of the toxins in our body and use the best energy we have to help the customers do knife therapy to bring about the best results.

    But don’t even think about trying this at home. These are not ordinary cleavers. Professional massage knives with dull edges that don’t cause cuts.
    Knife therapist also must undergo half a year to three years of training. They focus on the body’s acupuncture points in …, the passages to which the energy travels throughout the body and they avoid hitting the bones. The knives are also blessed by Buddhist or Douist masters.
    How do you get first-time customers to calm down?
    People who come here for the first time are nervous, so in the beginning we massage them by hand to calm them down.
    Has anyone ever been hurt by this?
    No one’s ever been hurt. It’s very safe.

    I’ve just had massage. It feels really good and very relaxing. The reason why I came here because I’m a housewife and taking care of my baby and all of the housework makes me feel really tired and also very stressful.  I’ve tried many different massages and it doesn’t work, so I came here and now I feel really relaxing and it also boosts my immune system. Now I can sleep well.
    I’m working in the high power high tech company, a lot of big pressures, I’ve got a high blood-pressure problem. The … will help me to lose my weight efficiently, it could thin my blood, go very smoothly all around the body.
    Now the only way to know if it works is to give it a try. Now I never thought I would put myself on a chopping wood, but here we go. Now I’ve gone to a lot of massages before but never one with knives. I must admit after getting over the initial fear is rather relaxing. Unlike with any massages, I worry about how I’ll feel the next day. Still, I think I can get used to this.

    martes, 16 de septiembre de 2014

    Madrid Teacher: Spend away

    In this week's episode of Madrid Teacher, three teachers discuss spending habits and consumerism. Their conversation gives a great opportunity to study some features of spoken English.

    First, watch the video through, so that you get the gist of what the conversation is about.
    Now, pay attention to the following elements that the speakers use in their conversation.
    • Fillers to gain thinking time: Erm; you know; Well
    • Reacting to what the speaker is saying to show that you're paying attention: Yeah; Oh, really; Oh wow
    • Use of so as a linking word.
    • Use of and as a linking word.
    • Use of really to emphasize the adjective.
    • Use of just to emphasize the verb
    • Use of vague language: or whatever;
    • Showing agreement: Absolutely; Exactly; Of course, yeah; Of course, that’s true; Yeah, yes, you’re right
    • Use of actually to introduce a piece of surprising information

    Now it's over to you. How do you feel about buying brands and expensive products? Are you a person who is always careful with money and tries to get the best bargains? Do you know any spendthrifts? How good is consumerism for the economy of a country? And for the environment?

    When you discuss the topic with your friends, try to use some of the features of spoken English which have come up in the video.

    Erm, the other night I was at a dinner with some friends, and they had just gone shopping…
    …and so they were talking about what they had just bought and showing things off. And they were actually bragging about how expensive the jeans that they bought were. It was ridiculous prices. And I just thought it was really interesting because, when I brag, I generally brag about a bargain, a deal, you know. I got this for fifty cents, you know. I just thought it was interesting, the difference.
    Yeah, for me… the thing about buying something really cheaply and it is really good…
    And that, that makes you feel really good.
    Getting a really great deal, yeah.
    And the opposite is terrible. When you spend loads of money and then you realise you don’t like what you got.
    Which is horrible.
    I revolt on it, yeah.
    And every time you see it you think oh, I spent four hundred pounds on that…
    And never use it, yeah.
    But it’s curious, how for example, in different cultures, how we show our wealth…
    …or how we share how much we’ve spent is different in different cultures…
    Because I remember once I was travelling in China, and if you had something that was a name brand, or whatever, sometimes they would leave the stickers on the bottom so that everyone else would know how much was spent.
    Oh, really?
    Absolutely. And also they would ask, how much did you spend on that? They were always asking different prices, but again it’s not considered a rude thing. Because in another culture that might be considered something quite like you would never ask.
    Well, there are some cultures where they wear their wealth in gold…
    … and I always found that really interesting as well.
    Yeah, yeah.
    Well, then you hear about these famous people who just spend ridiculous amounts of money on, you know, things like spending millions of euros on a car…
    …when you can probably just get a nice you know, good car for half the price…
    …or tenth of the price. Or like the erm, people, famous people spending millions on parties…
    On parties, yeah. Dropping five hundred thousand euros or dollars on…
    But doesn’t everybody?
    Oh yeah.
    Did you hear about the um, party with erm, Mittal, when he was, they did things like send out an invitation, and in the invitation box there was a diamond, just like…
    Oh wow, I want an invite!
    Yeah. Just send the invite and keep the diamond.
    That’s what I would call a bargain.
    Some people say that it’s actually good for the economy. Think about it.
    Of course, yeah.
    Spending all that money, it does help the economy in some way.
    Of course, that’s true.
    So, you know, if you go out and you spend too much, you’re not being selfish. No, no, you’re just giving it, you’re sharing it.
    Our economy depends on people…
    …buying things, and then factories can produce things. And that’s a whole other question, whether that’s good or not, isn’t it?
    There was a point in time that the president was saying: Go out and buy, spend!
    Yeah, and he is supposed to be environmentally-friendly president.
    That goes against the environment in a way, doesn’t it? Because the more you produce, the more pollution.
    Depends on what you’re buying.
    There are pros and cons to all of it, isn’t there?
    Spending too much, spending too little.
    Yeah, yes, you’re right. If you don’t spend, people lose jobs I suppose.
    Of course, yeah.
    Then, none of us would have money to spend at all.
    I think we should all get rid of our bank accounts and spend all our money.
    Exactly, well let’s go now!
    Not that we have any money, but...

    lunes, 15 de septiembre de 2014

    Listening test: Romance across cultures

    In this week's listening test we are going to practise the multiple choice task. Listen to this radio programme about a writer and choose the option a, b or c that best completes the sentence or answers the question.

    1) How is Mary George known in the publishing world?
    a. Marcy Markusa
    b. Mary George
    c. Elizabeth Thornton

    2) Mary George switched to writing historical romance because ...
    a. her Jane Austen-like style was acclaimed.
    b. she wanted to make a living as a writer.
    c. she was really keen on comedy.

    3) What sentence is true, according to the text?
    a. She expects to sell 2,000,000 copies of her book.
    b. She learnt how to write novels while doing another job.
    c. Her education was not helpful in her job as a writer.

    4) When Mary wrote her first historical romance, her family was ...
    a. happy.
    b. not sure what to think.
    c. sad.

    5)  What sentence is true, according to the text?
    a. She published her first novel at 40.
    b. She has three careers.
    c. She has enjoyed her professional life.

    6) What does Mary think her heroine would want for Valentine’s Day?
    a. Nothing material.
    b. Not a very big gift.
    c. She doesn’t know.

    Marcy: Hi I'm Marcy Markusa. Well, did you happen to celebrate Valentine’s Day on February 14th?  On Information Radio we marked the occasion by interviewing Mary George, a Manitoba novelist who writes historical fiction under the pseudonym Elizabeth Thornton.  In this interview, Terry McLeod finds out how Mary became a writer.  He also asks her what she thinks her latest romantic heroine, Faith McBride, would want for Valentine’s Day.
    Terry: How did you become an historical romance writer?
    Mary: Um, well I first started off um 1987, my first little book was published.  It was a sort of Jane Austenish book, because of course I’m a great fan of Jane Austen, and it was a comedy of manners.  But it didn’t take me long to figure out that I could not make a living writing these small books and my editor, she suggested a historical romance and I loved the history. And then the history moves the plot.
    Terry: So ah how did you come to learn to write these things, starting out as a lay minister, and especially good ones that would sell two million copies around the world?
    Mary: Um, I always was good with words.  My education in Scotland you know prepared me for this kind of thing. All the papers we had to do, the the analysis, that’s what I was good at. And even the sermons I had to do at the church occasionally when Bruce Miles was away, my Minister. But even that prepared me because I was good at putting words together and I had a family who are writers, and they kept saying, my son and my husband, you’ve gotta write a story, you’ve gotta write one of these murder mysteries you love so much. Y’know, you’d be really good at it, you’re good with words.  So when I wrote my first romance they were bitterly disappointed.
    Terry: You started in your, in your forties to write?
    Mary: Yes, forty-six. 
    Terry: You’re kind of like a Carol Shields, a, you know, a latish bloomer?
    Mary: Yes, oh yes, I’ve had three wonderful careers.  I was a teacher, I was a lay minister and now I’m a novelist.
    Terry: Now tomorrow’s Valentine’s Day, and many men wonder what women really want as a gift. What would Faith McBride want?
    Mary: Well, I can’t, I don’t really know, on Valentine’s Day?  I don’t think she’d want very much for Valentine’s Day but for every day of the week she would want a man who cherished her, and loved her and respected her. And that’s what you want for Valentines.
    Terry: Thanks so much for coming in. Great to meet you.
    Mary: It’s been a pleasure.  

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

    domingo, 14 de septiembre de 2014

    Extensive listening: Why reading matters

    A few years ago, in a BBC documentary, science writer Rita Carter told the story of how modern neuroscience has revealed that reading, something most of us take for granted, unlocks remarkable powers.

    Carter explains how the classic novel Wuthering Heights allows us to step inside other minds and understand the world from different points of view, and she wonders whether the new digital revolution could threaten the values of classic reading.

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

    [BBC documentary] Why Reading Matters from International Dimensions of Tech on Vimeo.

    H/T to Larry Ferlazzo.

    You may also like to know that Ross Hailpern has devised a Ted-ed lesson based on the first ten minutes of the documentary.

    sábado, 13 de septiembre de 2014

    Reading test: Advice for foreigners on how Britons walk

    This week's reading test is taken from a BBC article by Mark Easton published in mid-July, Advice for foreigners on how Britons walk.

    We are going to use it to practise a kind reading task students particularly dislike, because they see it basically as guess work. To complete the task, you will have to read the article carefully several times. Think about the part of the speech that is needed in each blank (noun, verb, adjective), collocations, the grammar of specific words, the surrounding language.

    Fifteen words or phrases have been taken out of the article. Choose from the list below that word or phrase that best fits into each gap. There are two words or phrases you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

    We drive on the left, but which side do we walk on?
    Some friends from Australia (0) … me this question as we battled down London's Oxford Street the other day, weaving our way through determined shoppers, (1) … office workers and ambling tourists.
    The answer is we don't. The British have little sense of pavement etiquette, preferring a slalom approach to pedestrian progress. When two strangers approach (2) … , it often results in the performance of a little gavotte as they double-guess in which direction the other will turn.
    The British are ambulatory anarchists. We are oblivious to the Rules for pedestrians helpfully published by Her Majesty's Government. There are 35 in total but, frankly, who knew and who (3) … ?
    Rule Number One tells us we must "(4) …  being next to the kerb with your back to the traffic" which implies we ought to walk on the left of the pavement. Such (5) … is blithely ignored, as any stroll down a busy high street will confirm.
    An attempt to bring order to this (6) … was suggested in 2000, amid reports of rising "pavement rage". The Fast Lane Campaign proposed designated coloured lanes for pedestrians walking along Oxford Street in London - a fast lane for those rushing to get from A to B and a (7) … lane for window-shoppers and dawdlers.
    Inevitably, the idea was laughed away. One group representing the rights of pedestrians dismissed it as anathema to the anarchic spirit of British walkers.
    The British are bemused by countries which police pedestrians - treating those who don't use designated crossings as criminals.
    There are (8) … against jaywalking in the US, Singapore, Poland, Serbia, Iran, Australia and New Zealand among other countries. But in Blighty, the state leaves it up to the individual to make their own judgement. The only exception is in Northern Ireland where, occasionally, a pedestrian may be prosecuted for jaywalking if it is deemed to have caused an accident.
    Telling people how to walk is simply not British.
    We may have a reputation for orderly queuing but I suspect that stems from foreign bewilderment that such organised behaviour, where it still exists, is voluntary. There is no rule that says you have to  (9) … at the bus stop. Residual affection for the queue is explained by a general belief in fair play, first-come first-served and good manners.
    The accepted autonomy of the pedestrian, free to ignore the demands of pelicans and zebras, is in contrast to views on the (10) … of cyclists. The shift from foot to wheel, from kerb to street, changes everything. The sight of a bicycle rider happily free-wheeling through a red light inspires a fury never inspired by a walker who won't wait for the green man at the crossing.
    The rule of law may be a fundamental British value, but we recoil at legislation that might impact on our right to roam free in the public realm. A (11) … demanding that we Do Not Walk On The Grass is often seen as an invitation for rebellion. A legacy of the enclosures which robbed people of their village greens and common land, perhaps, Brits fight for such freedoms.
    At some busy UK railway stations, I have seen one-way systems for pedestrians - staircases and walkways emphatically marked with arrows and "no entry" signs to regulate foot traffic. While tourists obediently (12) … the instructions, the locals seem almost to take (13) … in walking up the wrong side.
    On London tube escalators there are instructions to walk on the left and (14) … on the right, some with feet symbols to ensure everyone knows the form. People do obey these (15) … , for the most part, suggesting that different rules apply underground.
    But on the street? No, we don't walk on the left or the right. We are British and wander where we will.

    asked - Example
    each other
    line up

    Photo: BBC and getty images

    1 rushing 2 each other 3 cares 4 avoid 5  advice 6 chaos 7  slow 8  laws 9 line up 10 behaviour 11 sign 12 follow 13 pleasure 14 stand 15 requests