viernes, 31 de octubre de 2014

Always must go

Always must go is a meditation on leaving, told through the experiences of Charles Andrew Bothwell (Astronautalis), a touring musician who has been on the road playing 200+ shows a year for the last decade.

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

The activity is suitable for (strong) intermediate 2 students.

Always Must Go from Charles Schwab on Vimeo.

1 Charles dislikes his apartment.
2 Charles plays shows away from home the twelve months of the year.
3 Charles initially moved to Florida to go to school.
4 He decided to start touring after an unhappy love affair.
5 He sometimes feels lonely when surrounded by a lot of people.
6 Charles describes the states in US as the neighbourhoods in his home town.
7 Riding his bike is his form of escape because it makes him focus on just one thing.
8 Charles started touring 20 years ago.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be a normal person. When I’m home in my apartment I literally just bounce off the walls. And I like my apartment. It’s really comfortable. But I sort of just… I don’t even know what to do with myself. I do enjoy being home but I’m in my most comfortable when I’m gone.
For the last ten years I’ve been on the road about eight to ten months out of the year, playing anywhere between a hundred and fifty shows  to two hundred to two hundred shows. It’s always been pretty easy for me to leave things. It may take me a couple of months to realise that it’s time to leave, when it’s time to leave, it’s time to leave.
Moved to Florida because my family brought me there and I left Florida to go to Texas because of school and I left Texas to go back to Florida because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. Now I left Florida to go to Seattle for a girl and I felt like it was time that I leave to go somewhere that I just wanted to go for me.
I had just been dumped by my girlfriend. My best friend got dumped by his girlfriend and shortly after that my manager got dumped by his girlfriend and so all of us decided to hit the road together and we just stayed out on the road playing as many shows as possible, never taking any days off and that was really when my career started to form and the show started to become more real, and people started to learn words of the songs and it felt more like a life choice and less like a just a permanent vacation.
It’s an odd thing when you get, you do get really lonely being surrounded by a ton of people, and generally being surrounded by a ton of people who really love you and adore you. Often times I only get to see a person for thirty minutes after a show, but the loneliness that comes when I’m out on the road compares nothing to the nervousness that comes when I’m stationary.
America’s sort of my home town and all of the different states are just sort of different neighbourhoods that I may see, you know, once a month or every four months. I’m just sort of bouncing around between different neighbourhood bars and seeing my friends that live on the north side and my friends that live on the south side of America.
It got to a point where everything I did was for my work and so I’d never get comfortable taking time off, I take two days off and then I would start to panic.
The motorcycle literally saved my life. When you get on a motorcycle you leave everything. You can’t talk on the phone, you can’t text, you can’t look at the Internet. That kept me from going crazy, it kept me from losing my mind, and just follow down a rabbit hole on music. So now it’s a weird thing when I get from touring all I want to do is get on my motorcycle and leave home. The refuge that I’ve found from music and touring, is more leaving.
It’s been over ten years since I left, about 2,000 shows since I left, four continents I’ve explored since I left, couldn’t even tell how many countries I’ve seen because I left. Every night I would leave it again. Leave to make it to the next town. Leave it all on the stage. To leave them wanting more. It’s in my blood to leave. I was born to leave and I will never stop leaving, to make sure that no matter what I’ll leave behind I will never be left with regrets.

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

jueves, 30 de octubre de 2014

Germany's 'adopt a grandparent' scheme

In Germany, a scheme that roughly translates as 'adopt a grandparent' has been running with great success. It pairs older people with children who may not have or see grandparents of their own.

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

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

1 What are the main advantages of the scheme for Paul?
2 What does 'three' refer to?
3 What does Therese do every Monday right after school?
4 What is the main reason why older people get involved in this scheme?
5 What are the benefits of the scheme for older people?
6 What are the two problems of the scheme that are mentioned?
7 Why did Therese's mother decide to join the scheme?

Ten-year old Therese goes for a cycle ride with her grandparents. Well, sort of. Paul and Charlotte are actually her adopted grandparents, part of a scheme to link young families with older couples who want grandchildren.
If you look at other older people, they’re just sitting in front of the television whereas I have this lively relationship. It gives me something to do (1), and when Therese is drawing a picture, and she draws three hearts and Paul, my name, is in one of them, that really touches me.
80-year-old Paul and his wife have been helping raise Therese since she was three (2). As well as cycling as gymnastics they taught her to swim and take her on holiday, acting like any loving grandparents.
Every Monday Charlotte meets me after school and we go swimming (3). Then we go home and have some food. After, I can either go home or stay the night with Charlotte and Paul.
The older people that get involved in the scheme are often driven by a desire to have children involved in their lives (4).
With an ever growing number of fit and healthy retired people, this scheme allows German pensioners to remain active to contribute, to feel valued even, as well as of course providing essential support to the young families they help (5).
There have however been problems. Relationships are broken down and two pedophiles have got past the checking procedures (6) over the scheme’s 25-year history. But the project remains popular, with positive feedback.
A lot of the grandparents say they feel much better, they’ve got something to do, it helps them with their health, it also helps them to better understand young people.
Back at the cycle park, Therese’s mother has joined Paul and Charlotte. Their help in raising her daughter, she says, has been invaluable.
I wanted to have a couple, and an older couple for, for Therese because that is normal I think to have parents and to have… grandparents and my, my parents are far away from Berlin (7).
A true bond has been developed between these one-time strangers, providing both young and old much needed friendship and support.
Michael Buchanan, BBC News, Berlin

miércoles, 29 de octubre de 2014

Talking point: Public speaking

This week's talking point is speaking in public. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas can flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • On what occasions do people give speeches in your country?
  • What's the best speech you've ever heard?
  • What makes a good speech?
  • Have you ever given a speech or a presentation? If so, how did you feel?
  • What advice would you give to someone who had to make a speech or a presentation? 
  • Why is it that some people are terrified of speaking in public? How can they overcome their fears?
  • Have you seen the film The King's Speech? What is it about? To what extent do you sympathize with the main character?
  • Imagine you have to do one of the following activities. Rank them from the one you would be most willing to do (1) to the least (6). Then compare lists with your friends and explain your choices: sing in a karaoke bar; give a presentation in English to the class; appear on a TV programme as an expert member of a panel; play a role in an amateur stage play; give a radio interview about a recent achievement in your professional area; give a guided tour of your school or your place of work to the president of your country.
To illustrate the point you can watch Leonard Cohen's Prince of Asturias Speech in 2011. You can read a full transcription of the speech here.

martes, 28 de octubre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Talking about YouTube

In this week's Madrid Teacher video, three teachers discuss YouTube. As usual, that gives us an excuse to go over some of the 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 more carefully, paying attention to the following:
  • Fillers to gain thinking time: Well; you know; er
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; That’s right
  • Elliptical questions so as not to repeat everything that has been said before: Don’t you [get videos/links regularly?]
  • Vague language: more or less; kind of
  • Use of really to emphasize the verb and the adverb
  • Use of just to emphasize the verb
  • Asking for clarification: To watch the video clip, you mean? 
  • Use of pretty to emphasize the adjective
  • Use of actually to introduce a bit of surprising information
  • Reacting to what you have just heard: Oh wow; Incredible; It’s true!; OK
  • Showing surprise: Yeah?; Really?
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said. and make yourself clear
  • Use of so as a linking word

Now it's over to you. If possible, discuss YouTube with a friend or relative. Are you hooked on it? How long do you spend watching YouTube videos? Is YouTube your first source of information when you want to learn something? Have you ever uploaded a video? Do you have a YouTube account?  Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this video.

I laughed so hard the other day. My sister sent me a link to a YouTube video; just people doing stupid things, falling over.
Well, it’s full of that.
Yeah, it is.
There’s plenty of silly videos to make you laugh. I think I get one, a link every week. Don’t you?
Yeah, more or less, and there are times when my friends and I are a little bit bored and don’t really have any ideas of what to do, and we can just sit there on YouTube for hours watching videos people make in their houses, in the woods behind their houses. But, besides the sort of mindless entertainment value, it’s fantastic for discovering music.
Oh, yeah.
If ever a friend recommends an artist or a song, first stop is YouTube.
For the film clip? To watch the video clip, you mean? The live performance?
Well . . . those are all available. Sometimes it’s just a picture of the artist. The point is, well, in certain cases just to hear the audio clip. And almost every song you have ever heard, and then some, are uploaded.
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I like it if I need to know how to cook something. You can actually go on there and find . . .
Oh, yeah!
. . . find the cook making the recipe in front of you and you can follow through and make it at the same time.
Oh wow. Yeah, yeah.
That’s right. I just made Thanksgiving, part of Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t know how to roast chestnuts, looked it up on YouTube.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It’s pretty educational.
There are how-to videos for just about everything.
Even dancing.
Dancing, stretching exercises.. .
Wow, I think I’m going to look up some stretching exercises just to see what’s out there.
Yeah, it’s incredible. Oh yeah it’s really well done, very professional.
And a lot of musicians will take the time to give a lesson on YouTube. Guitar players will say, this is how you play a basic blues chord.
Yeah, oh yeah.
Oh yeah.
Yeah, yeah. It’s good.
I found this on YouTube, this recorder.
Ah, so it’s kind of like an eBay thing too?
Well, no, I mean I didn’t… I, I found the idea.
Oh, OK.
I looked around on YouTube and I found a guy talking about a Zoom microphone the H2. So then I looked around and there was some more information on the H4n and . . .
So, even advertising?
And I could, I, yeah well it’s not advertising. It was just somebody that has a video channel on how to make better videos.
OK. Another how-to.
Yeah. So it was incredible. It’s like you learn everything on YouTube.
It’s great for nostalgia, too, because  . . .
Oh yeah!
People have industriously uploaded ever, every opening credit to every television program ever.
It’s true!
So if, just, you know, you want to go see the opening credit of Twin Peaks.
Or Thunder Cats.
Thunder Cats. You can.
No, and you can watch a lot of scenes, you know? The scene from Pulp Fiction, er…
Oh yeah, the scene . . .
The scene with Samuel L. Jackson and . . .
Or the scene with, erm, Bruce Willis . . . and the weapons.
Oh yeah.
It’s just, er, incredible. I mean, and then you see people taking some of these things and just creating something new from it, and, . . . but really well done.
Can you remember life before YouTube?
It’s like, was there life before YouTube?
Not that I know of.

lunes, 27 de octubre de 2014

Listening test: Jim's story

Listen to Jim telling us about an activity he's been doing in the last 30 years and choose the option a, b or c which best answers each question or completes the sentence. 0 is an example.

0 What has Jim been doing over the last 30 years?
a Cooking for friends and strangers on Sundays.
b Inviting friends and strangers to cook.
c Taking friends and strangers to a restaurant.

1 How does he select the people he gets together with?
a He calls or sends e-mails to 50 or 60 potential guests.
b The first 50 or 60 people who come round can come in.
c The first 50 or 60 potential guests to call him or e-mail him can go.

2 Which statement best describes the people Jim gets together with?
a People from any social and cultural level.
b People with knowledge of international cuisine.
c People with an interest culture.

3 What does he do each week before dinner?
a He finds out information about his guests.
b He makes a list with the people who are coming for dinner.
c He makes sure to remember some information about his guests.

4 What is his main motivation to travel?
a To know about other cultures.
b To meet people.
c To see sights.

5 What happened to some of the people who met through Jim’s guidebooks?
a They became friends.
b They got married.
c They travelled together.

6 What is said about English?
a A few guests can’t speak it.
b It is the first language of most guests.
c It is the language the Bosnian girl used.

7 The cartoonist and the painter are mentioned as examples of
a people who understand each other.
b people who would be rivals in other situations.
c the variety of guests Jim gets.

Every week for the past thirty years, I have hosted a Sunday dinner in my home in Paris. Every Sunday a different friend prepares a feast. Last week it was a philosophy student from Lisbon, and next week a dear friend from London will cook. 
People, including total strangers, call or e-mail to book a spot. The first fifty or sixty people who call may come— and twice that many when the weather is nice and we can overflow into the garden.
People from all corners of the world come to break bread together, to meet, to talk, to connect, and often to become friends. All ages, nationalities, races, and professions gather here, and since there is no organized seating, the opportunity for mingling couldn’t be better. 
I believe in introducing people to people. I have a good memory, so each week I make a point to remember everyone’s name on the guest list and where they’re from and what they do so I can introduce them to one another, effortlessly. If I had my way, I would introduce everyone in the whole world to one another.
People are the most important thing in my life. Many travelers go to see things like the Tower of London, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and so on. I travel to see friends, even—or especially—those I’ve never met.
In the late 1980s, I edited a series of guidebooks to nine Eastern European countries and Russia. There were no sights to see, no shops or museum to visit; instead, each book contained about a thousand short biographies of people who would be willing to welcome travelers in their cities. Hundreds of friendships evolved from these encounters, including marriages and babies, too.
The same can be said for my Sunday salon. At a recent dinner a six-year-old girl from Bosnia spent the entire evening glued to an eight-year-old boy from Estonia. Their parents were surprised, and pleased, by this immediate friendship.
There is always a collection of people from all over the globe. Most of them speak English, at least as a second language. Recently a dinner featured a typical mix: a Dutch political cartoonist, a beautiful painter from Norway, a truck driver from Arizona, a bookseller from Atlanta, a newspaper editor from Sydney, students from all over.
I have long believed that it is unnecessary to understand others, individuals, or nationalities; one must, at the very least, simply tolerate others. Tolerance can lead to respect and, finally, to love.

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

This activity is adapted from Inviting the world to dinner, which I spotted in  ESL Video.

domingo, 26 de octubre de 2014

Extensive listening: Why Ships Sink

In April 2012 Nova aired the documentary Why Ships Sink. This is the way they described the programme:

"Twenty million passengers embark on cruises each year, vacationing in deluxe 'floating cities' that offer everything from swimming pools to shopping malls to ice skating rinks. And the ships just keep getting bigger:

The average cruise ship has doubled in size in just the last ten years. Some engineers fear that these towering behemoths are dangerously unstable, and the recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia has raised new questions about their safety. Now, NOVA brings together marine engineering and safety experts to reconstruct the events that led up to famous cruise disasters, including the ill-fated Concordia, the Sea Diamond, and the Oceanos."

You can read a full transcript of the documentary here.

sábado, 25 de octubre de 2014

Reading test: The Top 7 Sightseeing Cities in the United States

In this week's reading test we are going to read the article The Top 7 Sightseeing Cities in the United States from We will be using the article to practise the heading matching kind of activity.

Read the text and match paragraphs 1-6 with their corresponding heading A-I. Only one heading corresponds to each paragraph. There are two headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

The Top 7 Sightseeing Cities in the United States

The United States has many fascinating destinations, from natural wonders to some of the world’s most vibrant cities. If you’re looking for a city with lots of sites, you have many choices, no matter what section of the country you visit. The following are the top seven cities for sight-seeing in the United States for the adventurous traveler who is ready to see the world.

0 New York: Heading A
New York is always changing, but one thing that remains the same is that this city is always a favorite for travelers, both domestic and international. From iconic tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building to unique neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Soho and Greenwich Village, New York has something to offer people of all ages, tastes and preferences.

1 Miami
Miami attracts visitors for many reasons, such as its beaches, nightlife and warm climate. Many people flock to South Beach to get a glimpse of the shops, clubs and restaurants of this world famous hot spot. Miami is also close to many natural attractions, such as Everglades National Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

2 San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the main attraction’s on the West Coast. It features a unique climate, picturesque streets with their unmistakable hills and trolleys, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. The city by the Bay also has plenty of other things to see, such as an amazing diversity of restaurants and unique neighborhoods such as North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. Visitors also taking the ferry to the site of the well- known prison Alcatraz.

3 Chicago
Known as The Windy City and The Capitol of the Midwest, Chicago is one of America’s busiest cities and has an atmosphere all its own. This city has lots of museums and cultural attractions, such as the Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Children’s Museum. It also has some fantastic shopping areas, such as Southport Avenue, Wicker Park and Oak Street, which is near the famous Magnificent Mile.

4 New Orleans
New Orleans is one of America’s most distinctive cities. While it doesn’t have the skyscrapers of New York or Chicago, it does have a cultural heritage unlike any other city. In the French Quarter, for example, you can appreciate the architecture, sample the world famous seafood, hear live music at a jazz club and browse through art galleries. While Mardis Gras is the most popular time to visit New Orleans, this city is bustling every day of the year.

5 Las Vegas
A list of top cities to visit in the U.S. would not be complete without mentioning Las Vegas. This is one of the most stimulating cities in the world, with clubs, shows and casinos open 24 hours per day. Even people who aren’t into casinos can find much to enjoy here, such as the theme park Adventuredome at Circus Circus, world class shopping and shows of every kind, from stand-up comedy to musicals. There are also many exciting side trips you can take from Las Vegas, such as to the Hoover Dam or, if you venture a little further, to the Grand Canyon.

6 Los Angeles
Home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, Disneyland, Universal Studios and the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles is another of America’s premier cities. With its year round mild climate, nearby beaches and associations with the film and music industries, anyone who’s interested in American culture has to visit Los Angeles at least once.

A For all walks of life
B For lovers of peace and quiet
C For Silver Screen lovers
D For sophisticated people
E Full of noise and activity
F In large numbers to see this place
G Infamous residents
H Never go there on your own
I Not just for gamblers


1F 2G 3D 4E 5I 6C

viernes, 24 de octubre de 2014

Cat Saves Little Boy From Being Attacked by Neighbour's Dog

Self-study activity:
Watch this ABC news item about a cat rescuing a child who had been attacked by a dog and answer the questions about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Who's dog was it?
2 How old is Jeremy?
3 When did the parents find out that the cat was involved?
4 How long has the cat been with the family?
5 What did the cat use to do when Jeremy was a newborn?
6 What were the consequences of the dog's bite for Jeremy?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

And the eternal contest between cat and dog score a big one for cat tonight. A toddler on his bike was ambushed by a neighbour’s dog (1) and then a fearless fur ball came flying in at lightening speed, ready to rescue a little friend. ABC’s David Wright shows all of it caught on camera.
4-year-old (2) Jeremy Triantafilo was riding his bike minding his own business yesterday when a neighbour's guard dog appeared out of nowhere. The home security camera’s rolling as dog grabbed boy and cat came to the rescue. That’s right! Cat! Watch closely, that black flash on the right side of the frame is Jeremy’s kitty cat Tara, pouncing on the pouch, chasing him off, saving little Jeremy.
Until you looked at the video tape, you didn’t even know that the cat was involved?
No (3), we both, kind of, you know, kind of gasped and we’re like holly cow.
The cat adopted the couple five years ago (4) following them home from the park one day. When Jeremy was a new born she’d climb into his crib and curl up beside him (5), an unusual bond for a creature that nature tends to be barely aloaf.
To have her, with no regard for her own life, fly at the dog to protect him, I’ve never seen anything like that.
This was round one, round one to the kitty cat, huh?
Jeremy has some stitches from the dog bite (6) but he’ll be just fine, thanks to Tara.
She’s a hero.
David Wright, ABC News Bakersfield California

jueves, 23 de octubre de 2014

10 Questions for Andre Agassi

Former professional tennis player Andre Agassi was interviewed for Time Magazine late last year and he talked about his charity foundation, new snack product, and his "hate-love" relationship with tennis.

Self-study activity:
Needless to say that this is a difficult activity even for strong intermediate students and that it would be more suitable for advanced ones. Anyway, the interview can help us to get acquainted with situations where the difficulty of the language is beyond us but we can still manage to grasp some general ideas. Remember that the questions in the task are guidelines that should help us not to get lost and follow the conversation.

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

1 The necklace Andre is wearing was made for him by his daughter.
2 Andre seems to interested in educational issues.
3 Andre was lucky as a child and had an education.
4 Andre wrote a book called Open.
5 Tennis had a bad influence on Andre's family life.
6 Andre enjoys watching tennis now more than ever.
7 Andre was professional at 16.
8 Andre was already wealthy as a child.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe from Time. The man I’m with today needs no introduction. Andre Agassi, welcome.
Thank you.
Thanks for being here.
Now, we’re here to talk about your foundation and your snack food.
But first I’m fascinated by your necklace. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
My son made it for me when he was five. He was doing an arts and craft project and said, dad would you help me? And I said, sure what can I do? He goes, tell me how to spell something, and I go, what? And he goes, daddy rocks. So I helped him spell it out and I haven’t taken it off since.
So you are now getting into snack foods, which seems like an unusual direction for you.
Well, not, I wouldn’t say I’m getting into snack foods. What I would say is I’m extending my reach in, in ways of helping public education. I mean, I was approached by V-20 to do a, a for-profit venture that I had no interest in. And I said, wait a second, wouldn’t this be one heck of an opportunity to get the country involved? And giving to their future.
Do you actually eat applesauce?
I don’t, personally. Now careful.
It’s pretty good.
I don’t, personally. I wanted to make sure that…
That’s not bad!
Yeah, I wanted to make sure that it was a step in the right direction from an alternative perspective, meaning healthier than other things on the shelf.
Since you started your foundation you have focused in more and more and more on education. Why did that issue speak to you?
Because it was the only way I’ve eventually realized you can make systematic change, given the tools, was… what I realized needed to happen. These kids needed a future of their choosing. They need to have choice in their life, and the only way to have a choice is to have an education. I, I didn’t have a choice in my life. I, I didn’t have education. I was lucky and found myself good at tennis. But without that, I don’t know where I’d be. Then I look at the circumstances of these other kids. Without education, I know exactly where they’ll be, we’ll be building prisons instead of schools.
Is this a reflection of your own particular feeling about how you want to invest your money?
If you wanna treat a problem, I think philanthropy or even the government can treat some problems, but if you gonna cure it, I think that’s one thing we can still do in this country. We can think outside the box. We can bring the right players to the, to the table to create a win for everybody. And it’s, it’s, it’s social-minded investing, and that is key. And trust me, we wouldn’t have twenty-seven schools right now if this wasn’t a huge win for the operators. It’s a win across the board which is what makes it so exciting.
You famously wrote in your book Open that you have tennis, but you were very good at tennis, so I guess the question is do you hate philanthropy as well?
No, no. Actually philanthropy got me to not hate tennis. I, I don’t describe my relationship with tennis as a love-hate. It was, it, it started off, not my choice. It started off effecting my siblings, it’s, my relationship with my father. It started off with me being sent away of the academy at thirteen, feeling abandoned, and started off with me taking this rebellion that I was starting to express, and finding myself on a world stage, and, and being labeled, and you know, so it just kept growing into something that I was more, and more disconnected with. It felt like I was living in somebody else’s life. I would always be better off in a team sport, and tennis wasn’t a team sport, it was… it’s lonely, but I could create my own team. I could, in a sense, find myself showing up to work for somebody else. What I felt when I started my school, and when I started to use my fame, use my resources to make a difference in children’s lives, in a sense I felt like I finally had my team.
Do you watch tennis, still?
I do. I enjoy watching it probably more now than ever.
The money part doesn’t seem that hard to you. What do you say when you go to these kids at your school and you know, that is, that is a very hard path for them, like how do you speak to somebody who is, is in a very different position from you?
The same way I, I speak to the kids at Harvard. To be at Harvard you gotta be an absolute perfectionist. You have to live with unbearable amounts of pressure, whether you put it on yourself, or whether it’s put on for you. I was sixteen years old, and I was professional. Some people will say, well done, congratulations. I’m going, what do you mean? Now I gotta survive. Now I gotta… and then, all of a sudden, I’m getting to the finals of these grand slams, and a lot of people would say, hey, well done. I’m going, wait a second. I’m, I’m on the verge of being the greatest underachiever in the history of our game, you know, so I don’t have to look very far with the life I’ve lived to identify. You know, I’ve live with certainly a lot in my life. Lot of excess. Lot that I don’t need. But I’ve also, also been on the other side of it. I’ve also had to work myself through it. You know, when I was a child I didn’t have a lot. When I was on the… about to turn pro, and on the road I was, I knew what it was like to be one week away from broke, I mean, literally. When I look at those kids, there’s not an excuse in the world they can give me to make me think that they can’t succeed.
Andre, thanks so much.
Thank you.

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

miércoles, 22 de octubre de 2014

Talking point: Pirates

Today's talking point is pirates. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • The Goonies and Cutthroat Island, what do they have in common?
  • Do you know anything about the stories the films tell?
  • Why is Robinson Crusoe considered a pirate book?
  • Do you know any other films or books that tell stories about pirates and treasure?
  • When you were young, did you like stories about pirates?
  • Have you seen any good pirate films recently? Why were they good?
  • Why is it that stories about cruel villains catch people's imagination and seem romantic? What is the appeal of pirates to the general public?
  • Are there still pirates in the modern world? Are they romantic?
  • People are still searching for hidden treasures? Have you heard any recent news about it? Would such a task appeal to you?
To illustrate the topic, you can watch this BBC video clip about a treasure returned to Spain by US.

Flying in to claim its rightful property, these black parcels contain part of Spanish heritage, the most valuable haul of sunken treasure in history. Inside them, a nearly 600,000 gold and silver coins like these worth millions of dollars. That’s why the Spanish Navy has come to collect them.
The US Navy thinks like us in the sense that our sunken ships are these, as I told you before, these secret places they are cemeteries, and we don’t like that anybody go there to touch them, so the US Navy and us, we are in the same ship.
The treasure was found five years ago in the wreck of the Spanish galleon Our Lady of Mercy. She was sunk in the Strait of Gibraltar by the British in 1804. The treasure was taken from there by Florida-based marine explorers. They said it was a case of find its keepers and took it home, but US courts have finally decided the treasure was the property of the country of origin, and that’s why it’s on its way back to Spain.
This is historical heritage. This is not to be sold. This is to go to a museum. This is a graveyard at the same time. So, if there are agreements in the future, that will be acceptable, but we have to fight against those who go and salvage sunken objects.
Everyone wants to get their hands on this treasure, but more than 20 tons in weight, it’s taken some effort to get it home.

Tim Allman, BBC News.

martes, 21 de octubre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: The secret to exercise more

In our Madrid Teacher series this week, four teachers, Thomas, Vicky, Louise and Sophia, discuss physical exercise and fitness. This gives us an excuse to pay attention to the specific features native speakers of English use in their speech.

First of all, watch the video through, so that you can get the gist of what the conversation is about.

Now watch the video more carefully, and pay attention to the following characteristics of  spoken English the four teachers use:
  • Use of so as a linking word in conversation.
  • Use of fillers to gain thinking time: erm; er; well; You know
  • Use of vague language: kind of; and all this; and stuff; sort of; like; and these kinds of things
  • Involving listeners in the conversation: What, what seems to work for you guys or friends that you know?; What about you?
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what we have just said and make ourselves clear.
  • Use of like as a linking word.
  • Signalling the speaker that you are paying attention to what he/she is saying: Mm-hm; Oh, OK; Oh, no; Wow…wow
  • Use of just to emphasize the verb.
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; I agree with what you said about
  • Use of auxiliary do in an affirmative sentence to emphasize the information: I do give myself
  • Use of actually to introduce a piece of surprising or unexpected information: I actually need motivation
  • Use of actually to emphasize what you are saying: distracts you from what you’re actually doing
  • Use of actually for admitting something: I don’t know what they said actually
  • Use of really to emphasize the adjective.
  • Showing surprise: Really?

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with a family or relative and discuss your attitude to physical exercise and fitness. How regularly do you do sport these days? And in the past? Are you a fit person? What everyday activities may help you to be fit? Have you ever done a job which involved physical exercise? To what extent do the people around you motivate you or deter you from doing sport? Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this lesson.
Thomas: So, it seems to be a problem with a lot of people, erm, motivating, getting the motivation up to do exercise, to do sports. I read this article, where, that… er, related a study, erm, when you live with people who are athletic and fit, the motivation is almost inherent, and you kind of… gravitate toward that model. And the same is true in the opposite direction. If you live with people who are very lazy and just watch TV and all this, you just kind of become a lot more lax about your own fitness level. What, what seems to work for you guys or friends that you know?
Vicky: For me, it’s a lifestyle thing. I mean, like, I used to be very, very fit, but my job involved… well, my job involved diving, so I was carrying heavy equipment, I was swimming for hours every day. So, it was a very, very easy thing to integrate into my life.
Thomas: Mm-hm.
Vicky: Whereas now, I, I don’t know, I just feel like it’s difficult to find the time. It’s difficult to make the time to do things.
Louise: Yeah.
Sophia: Yeah.
Vicky: Luckily there’s a gym next-door to my house, so I’ve just joined that. But the only reason I’ve joined that gym, it’s a horrible gym, but… it’s there. It’s two minutes away.
Louise: Yeah, convenient.
Sophia: Yeah. Yeah.
Vicky: You know? It’s so convenient. I think…
Louise: I find I have to trick myself into exercising by making it part of my transport, er, routine. So if I know I have to be at work, I’ll walk or I’ll ride a bus.
Thomas: Oh, OK.
Louise: So that way it’s both practical and exercise at the same time.
Thomas: I was going to imagine you running down the street in trainers and stuff.
Louise: Oh, no.
Vicky: Yeah, do you leave deliberately five minutes later so you have to rush in the streets?
Louise: Mm, I do, I do give myself a short, a short period, it, it’s a very fast walk.
Vicky: Power walk, ha ha.
Louise: Yeah, it’s a power walk. Ha ha.
Thomas: OK. What about you?
Sophia: Yeah, I actually need motivation I don’t, I don’t do any exercise. My only exercise is commuting. But like, but like you, I, er, I walk fast. It’s a brisk walk, so sort of exercise. Not, not quite jogging but brisk walking.
Louise: Yeah.
Vicky: But they say brisk walking, I think, I think I read something the other day that if jogging burns off some, like, eight hundred calories per mile, per mile, per hour, I don’t know what they said actually. The equivalent if you’re walking briskly, you still burn off four hundred or six hundred calories.
Louise: It, it’s still good for you, especially if you’re going up and down hills and these kinds of things, stairs are good. So it’s OK. But what I…
Vicky: That’s another thing.
Louise: I agree with what you said about, erm, about having partners in crime. You know, you need, you need to have, er, the motivation of people around you wanting to do the same thing. I think it’s really important.
Thomas: [Yeah, yeah.] And it almost distracts you from what you’re actually doing. I remember the first time I ever went on a long run, I had no idea that I could do it and I could because the guy I was with didn’t shut up the whole time.
Louise: Ha ha ha.
Vicky: Really?
Thomas: So, for about three miles he talked incessantly and I didn’t even realize what we were doing.
Vicky: Wow…wow.
Louise: Yeah, it’s good. I think team sports are good, too.
Thomas: Oh yeah.
Louise: A good, good fast game of netball, it’s good exercise, and it’s fun.
Vicky: That’s it, when it’s fun and there’s adrenaline, it’s a lot more motivating than when it’s all on your own, off you own back.
Louise: Yeah, yeah.
Thomas: So I think we’ve come up with the perfect formula: it’s either partners in crime or get a job that requires you to be fit.
Louise: Yeah, ha ha ha.
Vicky: Ha ha.

lunes, 20 de octubre de 2014

The Parking Dance in New York City

Every day, drivers across New York double-park their cars as street sweepers pass by, a practice known as alternate-side parking.

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

1 Cars are allowed to return to their side immediately after the streets have been cleaned.
2 Some drivers set their alarm clock to remember to move their cars back.
3 Some drivers wait in their cars until the prohibition ends.
4 Drivers complain of damages to theirs cars.
5 If drivers fail to move their cars, they risk getting a ticket or heavier penalties.
6 A new bill was passed recently allowing drivers not to move their cars while the street is being cleaned.

Every day throughout New York City, it’s the high stakes dance of alternate side parking. When parking is prohibited on one side of the street so the streets can be swept, drivers double park on the other. It doesn’t matter when the street sweeper passes, cars are not allowed to return until the prohibition is over.
How many times do you estimate you move your car back and forth?
In a week or in a…
In your lifetime.
Oh, many thousand times, easily.
In my lifetime, in my lifetime? It feels like millions.
Some drivers leave their cars and return just before the prohibition ends to re-park legally.
I leave my car and set the alarm on my phone and come, come back and move it again.
I’m home during the day generally, so I feel that’s a relatively good deal if… to get your street cleaned.
Some choose to wait in their cars until the prohibition ends.
People come by, I’ve had my mirror taken off, I’ve had dents in my car, I’ve had scratches. Sometimes I leave it and just bite the bullet and get a ticket if I don’t have the time to move it, I’ve done that too.
Time it wrong, you get a ticket. Pay your tickets late, you get the boot, or you get towed.
But this might all change. City council member, Ydanis Rodríguez has introduced a bill that will allow drivers to return to their spot directly after the street sweeper passes by.
I’ve heard about that, so after the street is cleaned, we can move back, we don’t have to stay here for the hour and a half or two hours or whatever it is.
Yeah, what do you think about that?
I think that’s great, I would love to do, I would love that.
I thought, I thought that bill is passed already.
I don’t think that’s a good idea personally, because how do you know whether it’s come and gone, you have to keep looking outside. Sometimes they never come, and that’s really annoying.
Whether or not the bill actually passes, the dance of alternate side parking will continue.
So I’d really like to move my car back right now. Yeah!

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domingo, 19 de octubre de 2014

Extensive listening: Who do you think you are- JK Rowling

As Wikipedia points out, "Who Do You Think You Are? is a British genealogy documentary series that has aired on the BBC since 2004.  In each episode, a celebrity goes on a journey to trace his or her family tree."

The episode on JK Rowling belongs to the 8th season (2011), and we can see JK Rowling setting out to investigate her French roots. Jo has always been intrigued by her late mother's French ancestry, but knows very little about it. Beginning her journey in Edinburgh, Jo's search takes her from The Savoy in London, to once-bloody battlefields and the back streets of urban Paris.

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

sábado, 18 de octubre de 2014

Best story ever

Strombo is a Canadian talk show host. The 'Best Story Ever' video clips are part of his show. They are short videos featuring interesting and (mostly) funny anecdotes of well-known people, which might be of interest to the English language learner in the intermediate-to-advanced spectrum to develop their listening skills and which you can find here.

Here are a couple of examples of 'Best Story Ever' videos, showing American political activist Ralph Nader and Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin.

Ralph Nader
One day I came home from school and I was in the fourth grade to my mother, and I said, mom the boys are wearing long pants. I wanna wear long pants. I said if I keep wearing short pants, if I trip I'm going to cut myself and, you know, in cold weather it’s cold without long pants. And she smiled and said, Ralph, are you worried about being different? I was not to be persuaded so I unloaded my trump card. I said, mom their mothers let them wear long pants. And my mother looked at me again with her beautiful smile and said, well, they have their mothers and you have yours. And by the way, Ralph if you're ever gonna wanna be a leader, sometimes you have to turn your back on the pack. I never forgot that. I'm Ralph Nader and that was one of my best stories ever.

Ian Rankin
So I was at University, doing a PhD and suddenly got an idea for a crime novel. I, I thought how do I find out about the police? Went along to a police station and asked if I could speak to a couple of detectives. Sadly I’d been a student at the time, in the mid-eighties, I looked a bit like a tramp. Told them the plot of my novel and the two detectives said, well, we have a really great idea. Why don’t we pretend you're a suspect in an ongoing inquiry. What I didn't realize was these cops at this very police station were investigating a crime that was almost identical to the one I’d just told them about was going to be in my book. So they took me to an interrogation room. They interrogated me for an hour and a half. They got all the information online, on their computer. I didn't think anything of it. Went home that weekend, hadn’t got some great stuff from them, I thought. My dad said to me, you, you're crazy if they think you did it, and you were coming into the police station to play games with them. So I went back to the police station the Monday morning, asked for the two detectives and they said, yeah, you're the only suspect we have in an ongoing police inquiry. So that was a problem for me because what it told me was that when you do research as a novelist you tend to get into trouble. So for a while after that I didn't do any research, I didn’t look into the police, I didn’t get near the police because I did not want to become the only suspect in a murder inquiry. That's what happened to me when I was writing my first Inspector Rebus book. My name's Ian Rankin and that's my best story ever.

viernes, 17 de octubre de 2014

Leaving Williamsburg

Living happily in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Heleen left everything behind and moved to a farm upstate New York. Why did she go?

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

Leaving Williamsburg from Charles Schwab on Vimeo.

1 Why did the narrator's parents manage to find a building for a good price in Williamsburg?
2 What renovations did her parents do to the building?
3 Why is 1992 important for the girl?
4 Who moved out of the city?
5 Why did the narrator's parents separate?
6 How does the narrator describe her childhood?
7 Where does the narrator live now?
8 How does the narrator's mom make a living?

My parents found a building in south Williamsburg, right under the Williamsburg Bridge in 1982. They were able to get it for a fairly good price probably because the neighbourhood was so bad. There were gangs, and drugs and it definitely wasn’t a good area (1) .
They renovated the entire building. The backyard was really my mum’s project. They took out the cement. She made a pond. She put in plants and ivy. She really turned it into this incredible green space (2). Which was such a rarity in such a down-and-out gray neighbourhood and although I don’t remember it, I’ve seen so many photos of myself playing in the backyard and spending many days there in this beautiful oasis.
So in 1992 the City of New York was going to repair the Williamsburg Bridge, they needed to sandblast to get rid of all the lead paint. Unfortunately, they didn’t follow the proper precautions and all the kids in the neighbourhood got lead poisoning, including myself. My lead levels were through the roof. I needed to get out of the city as soon as possible (3).
She came here and she didn’t have a job, she didn’t have friends, she had a young child and she had to completely start over again. It was also difficult because my dad was still working in the city [the narrator and her mom (4)], so she was essentially alone for a lot of the time. Eventually they separated because they were living two very different lives (5).
Although it was really hard on my parents, I think my mom’s decision to ultimately move here was the best thing that could have happened for both of us. I had such an idyllic childhood. The countryside was my backyard. During the summer when I had time off from school, I would spend all day outside and I got to use my imagination, and I really got to be a kid a lot longer than I think I would have if I’d lived in the city (6).
Now that I live in LA (7), I just love coming back here. I come back as much as I can to see her so happy, to get fresh air and to just be in this incredible nature. Even though the garden in Williamsburg was so beautiful, what she has here is unparalleled: Giving riding lessons, breeding horses, going on trail rides (8), it gives her so much joy.

jueves, 16 de octubre de 2014

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What's going on? Anita Collins explains in this TED-ed lesson the fireworks that go off in musicians' brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

Remember that if you drop by TED-ed , you can do a number of tasks related to this video, which include comprehension questions (Think), additional resources to explore (Dig Deeper) and conversation (Discussion).

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 Tasks such as reading or doing math problems each have specific areas of the brain where they are carried out.
2 Listening to music has a specific area of the brain where it is developed.
3 Listening to music and playing a musical instrument are pretty much equivalent in terms of brain activity.
4 Playing a musical instruments makes the visual, auditory, and motor cortices stronger, which allows us to outperform in other activities.
5 Listening to music involves skills controlled in both hemispheres of the brain.
6 Playing a musical instrument makes the brain bigger.
7 Musicians make better planners and strategists.
8 Musicians usually have better memory.
9 Research has shown that learning to play a musical instrument shares a lot of aspects with learning other activities related to the arts.

Did you know that every time musicians pick up their instruments there are fireworks going off all over their brain? On the outside, they may look calm and focused, reading the music and making the precise and practiced movements required. But inside their brains, there's a party going on. How do we know this?
Well, in the last few decades, neuroscientists have made enormous breakthroughs in understanding how our brains work by monitoring them in real time with instruments like FMRi and PET scanners. When people are hooked up to these machines, tasks, such as reading or doing math problems, each have corresponding areas of the brain where activity can be observed.
But when researchers got the participants to listen to music, they saw fireworks. Multiple areas of their brains were lighting up at once, as they processed the sound, took it apart to understand elements, like melody and rhythm, and then put it all back together into unified musical experience. And our brains do all this work in the split second between when we first hear the music and when our foot starts to tap along.
But when scientists turn from observing the brains of music listeners to those of musicians, the little backyard fireworks became a jubilee. It turns out that while listening to music engages the brain in some pretty interesting activities, playing music is the brain's equivalent of a full-body workout. The neuroscientists saw multiple areas of the brain light up, simultaneously processing different information in intricate, interrelated, and astonishingly fast sequences.
But what is it about making music that sets the brain alight? The research is still fairly new, but neuroscientists have a pretty good idea. Playing a musical instrument engages practically every area of the brain at once, especially the visual, auditory, and motor cortices. And as with any other workout, disciplined, structured practice in playing music strengthens those brain functions, allowing us to apply that strength to other activities.
The most obvious difference between listening to music and playing it is that the latter requires fine motor skills, which are controlled in both hemispheres of the brain. It also combines the linguistic and mathematical precision, in which the left hemisphere is more involved, with the novel and creative content that the right excels in.
For these reasons, playing music has been found to increase the volume and activity in the brain's corpus callosum, the bridge between the two hemispheres, allowing messages to get across the brain faster and through more diverse routes. This may allow musicians to solve problems more effectively and creatively, in both academic and social settings.
Because making music also involves crafting and understanding its emotional content and message, musicians often have higher levels of executive function, a category of interlinked tasks that includes planning, strategizing, and attention to detail and requires simultaneous analysis of both cognitive and emotional aspects.
This ability also has an impact on how our memory systems work. And, indeed, musicians exhibit enhanced memory functions, creating, storing, and retrieving memories more quickly and efficiently. Studies have found that musicians appear to use their highly connected brains to give each memory multiple tags, such as a conceptual tag, an emotional tag, an audio tag, and a contextual tag, like a good internet search engine.
So, how do we know that all these benefits are unique to music, as opposed to, say, sports or painting? Or could it be that people who go into music  were already smarter to begin with? 
Neuroscientists have explored these issues, but so far, they have found that the artistic and aesthetic aspects of learning to play a musical instrument are different from any other activity studied, including other arts. And several randomized studies of participants, who showed the same levels of cognitive function and neural processing at the start, found that those who were exposed to a period of music learning showed enhancement in multiple brain areas, compared to the others.
This recent research about the mental benefits of playing music has advanced our understanding of mental function, revealing the inner rhythms and complex interplay that make up the amazing orchestra of our brain.

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miércoles, 15 de octubre de 2014

Talking point: Maps and geography

This week's talking point is maps and geography. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • Is geography an interesting subject for you?
  • How can studying geography help humanity?
  • How many names of famous explorers from the past do you remember? What did they achieve?
  • Do you have a good sense of direction?
  • Do you like using maps?
  • Do you find them easy to use?
  • How have Google Earth and Google maps improved the traditional two-dimensional maps? Do you know how to use them?
  • Have you ever used a navigator when driving? Do you find them easy to use?
  • Do you know how to use a compass?
  • Have you ever taken part in games like orienteering which use maps to reach a point?
  • Imagine that you are going to travel around the world on a sailing ship without electronic equipment or satellite help. What are the most important things you would expect from your map?
  • How would your maps be different if, instead of sailing, you are going to book a plane seat  to different countries on business trips?
  • Why do world maps have north at the top? How useful are they in countries like Australia?
  • When you see a map of the world, do you consider it an honest, factual representation of the globe? Why might a map not show the whole truth?
    To illustrate the topic, watch this video clip in which someone explains how to use a Tomtom One Satellite Navigation system.

    You can do a listening activity based on the video on this blog post.

    How to use a GPS
    Hello there. This is the Tom-tom One Satellite Navigation Unit. I’m going to give you a review about how to use it. You push the button up on the top and hold it until the screen lights up, and then it will track the satellites. So it’s… the blue arrow is where we are, and it’s showing us a map of the roads ahead.
    You push, you touch the screen and it brings up the main menu, and here you go navigate too. And then you if you’re going to an address that you’ve never been to before, you push “address” and then you can choose from these four. If it’s, you’re going to do it through a postcode, if you’re going to the city centre, and this is a street and a house number or crossing an intersection. I mostly use the postcode and the street and house number. Or if I’m going into a city, I just push city.
    So then I go to “press postcode” and it gives me the postcode. So if I press this one… The postcode is coming up up there. You don’t need the space, and then it will bring you up all the possible streets under that and you need to select them. If you can’t see it in the top two, you push that arrow, and it brings you up all of the once. And then you press “back” again. That’s Lower High Street, I know that because that’s where I live. I push it and it asks me for the number. I put the number… (16). And then it brings you up the choice of which route you want to go. The fastest route, shortest route, avoiding motorways, walking route, bicycle route or limited speed. I always go for the fastest route. I press “done”, it calculates the distance. Gives me a brief view of the map how I’m going to go. It says it’s going to take seven minutes, it’s 2.4 miles. Then I press “done”, and here it tells me which way to go. And down here it tells you the time that it is now, which is quarter past seven and the time that I’m going to arrive approximately. Here it tells you what’s the next turn, which in 170 yards. And down there it tells you the speed that you’re doing. And then I put it up on the… I plug it in to make sure…there it tells you there are satellites that are locating it, at the bottom right.
    If I push that, that’s for the volume, you just push that…
    Navigator voice: At the end of the road, turn right, then take the second right.
    …that’s the volume, and there it goes again, it goes back. If I press this, it gives me details of the route. There’s the address that I’m going to. That’s the battery there. It’s not charging now, because the engine is not on, and again it shows me the time it will take me and the distance. Press “done” and… if it says… if you’re driving in the night, you’ll want to change this screen to night vision, which is a lot softer (in your eyes) for your eyes. So you press “change preferences” use night colours, and it brings you out like this. Which I am, always use it like that. And you can add a favorite, navigate to, find alternative routes… That’s more of the menu here. That’s if you want to clear the route, so it says “no route plan” this you can leave it there until you know where else you want to go,… to prepare your route… That’s it.

    martes, 14 de octubre de 2014

    Madrid Teacher: TV Cruelty (Joe Millionaire)

    In our Madrid Teacher series this week, four teachers discuss reality TV shows that humiliate contestants. The teachers' conversation gives us an opportunity to revise and get acquainted with some features of spoken English.

    First of all, watch the video through to get familiar with the topic of conversation.
    Now watch the video more carefully, paying attention to the following features the speakers use in their speech:
    • Fillers to get thinking time: erm; well
    • Use of so as a linking word.
    • Reacting to information you have just heard: Oh; Oh, my God
    • Use of like for an approximating quantity instead of the precise number. 
    • Use of like to introduce an example.
    • Showing agreement: Yea; Yeah, that’s true; I think so too
    • Use of really to emphasize the verb.
    • Use of I reckon to introduce our opinion and not sound too categorical.
    • Use of quite to emphasize the verb.
    • Use of I mean to rephrase what we have just said and make ourselves clear.
    • Use of vague language: this kind of thing
    • Use of auxiliary verb in an affirmative sentence for emphasis: this guy does have

    Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with a friend or relative and discuss reality TV shows. What reality TV shows are popular in your country? What other reality TV shows do you know? Do some of them really humiliate contestants? If so, how? Do you agree with the ideas expressed by our Madrid Teachers? Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have dealt with today.

    Sophia: Have, have any of you seen Joe Millionaire?
    Vicky: I’ve seen an episode, I’ve seen one or two episodes I think.
    Sophia: It's a, it's a reality TV show, you have single women who are looking for the man of their dreams and they go on, on dates to, erm, find, well, they get introduced to a man that’s, erm, a millionaire…
    Louise: Aha.
    Sophia: …so, erm, so he, he meets these women and they get to know each other and, then at the end of the show you find out that he hasn’t got any money…
    Louise and Vicky: Oh.
    Sophia: …and then she has to decide whether she wants to stay with him or not.
    Thomas: Oh, my God.
    Sophia: Yeah.
    Vicky: But it’s worse. Aren’t there like 20 women all competing for the same man plus these 20 women have to live and eat, and…
    Louise: Yeah.
    Vicky: …be together all the time.
    Louise: And be filmed in their bikini in this bar and all this kind of thing.
    Vicky: Yeah.
    All: Ha, ha, ha.
    Vicky: And they’re trying to impress the same guy. Ha, ha, ha.
    Louise: Yeah.
    Thomas: But you can’t really run it for more than one season ‘cause nobody will be tricked after that, will they? Well, maybe like this guy does have a million dollars, I will stay on the show for it.
    Vicky: I reckon they earn money to go on, I reckon that every single contestant gets paid…
    Thomas: I’m sure.
    Sophia: Probably.
    Vicky: …quite a considerable…
    Louise: It s probably true.
    Vicky: …amount to do it.
    Louise: Other, otherwise what’s the incentive for going on those shows and humiliating yourself? I don’t quite understand.
    Thomas: Maybe it’s the, the possibility of becoming famous.
    Louise: Yeah.
    Thomas: I mean there really is a, now becoming a track record of people who become famous just for being on reality TV.
    Louise: Yeah, that’s true.
    Vicky: Yeah.
    Thomas: They have these shows in the States similar to, like, dating, finding the person out of the whole group and somebody can be really obnoxious, they actually, erm, make themselves really obnoxious. Then next year, they have their own show.
    Louise: Yeah, that’s true.
    Vicky: Yeah, yeah.
    Louise: That’s true.
    Sophia: But, but it’s very, it’s very cruel, it’s very cruel. I mean the way, the way the, hmm, the people are just pushed there and laughed at basically by the public.
    Louise: And the presenters can be so cutting the way they…
    Vicky: Oh yeah.
    Louise: …speak to them.
    Sophia: Let’s not talk about the X Factor then.
    Louise: Yeah, this kind of thing, Simon Cowell and nasty comments.
    Vicky: Yeah, there is such a thing as constructive criticism…
    Louise: Yeah.
    Vicky: …which is important for everyone in public situations but…
    Thomas: Ha, that’s not what the TV viewing public wants.
    Vicky: yeah, man.
    Sophia: It’s very nasty.
    Vicky: It’s just nasty, ha, ha, ha.
    Louise: Yeah, it is, it is. They switch, people are switching on the TV to see one smart-alec guy humiliate one poor person. It’s gotta be a fabulous scene. It’s awful.
    Thomas: It’s gotta be.
    Sophia: But some of them go on the show to audition and they, they should know that their voices are terrible
    All: Ha, ha, ha.
    Thomas: Oh, yeah.
    Sophia: Why hasn’t someone said anything?
    Vicky: But everyone has a bad day, sometimes.
    Louise: Yeah, that’s true.
    Sophia: But some, some of them are really awful so.
    Thomas: This is why I don’t own a TV.
    Vicky: Hmm, very sensible. Ha, ha, ha.
    Louise: I think so too.

    lunes, 13 de octubre de 2014

    Listening test: Magic

    Double, double, toil and trouble;
    Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the cauldron boil and bake;
    Macbeth – William Shakespeare

    Match each heading A-H with the corresponding extract 1-6. There is one extra heading that you don’t need to use. Extract 0 is an example.

    A But it’s fun to watch…
    B Do you believe in magic?
    C Types of magic
    D Have people always liked magic?
    E It’s a kind of magic! Extract 0
    F Magic books and silver screens
    G The magic of the future
    H What is magic?

    From the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, to Gandalf the Wizard in Lord of the Rings books and films, it is clear that the idea of magic has been around for many years. Both play and books / films use the idea of something mysterious to add interest and excitement to the story – but they also tap into something deeper…our fascination with magic. 

    The word ‘Magic’ has many different meanings. A man playing card tricks is the street is doing magic, just as a wizard in a story fighting with dragons is using magic. Magic is when something happens that we cannot explain or understand. Often forcing us to not believe our own eyes or even appearing to be breaking the laws of physics or nature! When a rabbit appears in a hat or when someone claims to see into the future – both can be called magic.

    In the past anything that people couldn’t understand was called magic – and many people were persecuted or even killed because they were thought to be witches or wizards. When a sick person suddenly became well or a well person (or even animal) became ill, magic was the cause. Unexplained events were blamed on people who were said to use magic. It was thought that the devil or strange forces allowed them to have these powers. However, accusing someone of being a witch or of having magical powers was often just an excuse to remove an unpopular person from the community or take someone’s property away. Unfortunately, thousands of people were executed for witchcraft over hundreds of years. The most infamous recent trials were the Salem witch trials in America, dramatised in Arthur Miller’s play, The Crucible. 

    Magic has always been used as a form of entertainment. People enjoy the mystery of working out which cup the little ball is underneath or how he knows which card I was thinking of. From early Egyptian times magicians and illusionists have entertained people, and there have been many great magicians. Harry Houdini was one of the first world famous magicians –famous for escaping from deadly situations. In more recent times magicians such as David Copperfield or David Blane have become household names for their illusions; such as making the Statue of Liberty disappear or levitating. 

    Not a lot of people would argue that David Copperfield has real magical powers – he is just a great illusionist. But there are some who believe magic really exists and can changes our lives. A few believe that a spell can make someone fall in love or a potion will protect you from danger. White magic is the idea that spells, or mixtures of certain herbs can have a positive influence on our lives. Black magic is the opposite of this, the idea that magical powers can be used to harm others. Dark magic is associated with the devil and evil powers, but white magic is more to do with the earth and nature. 

    Wizard, warlock, witch, sorcerer, enchantress. All names associated with magic, but made popular (and most created) through stories, plays or films. Shakespeare was not the first to add interest to a story with magic and the 20th Century saw a huge rise in stories about magic. The fantasy novel and film has created new universes where magicians fight to save the world, or something magical is the key to the story (like the ring in Lord of the Rings). T.H.White wrote about the most famous wizard of all – Merlin, in his books about King Arthur. The British author Terry Pratchett uses magic a great deal in his popular Discworld series of books, witches and wizards are often his main characters and there is even a ‘Unseen University’ of magic. A young wizard called Harry is also quite popular in books and films at the moment, so I’m told ...

    Magical rings and three-headed dogs may not be real, but does this mean nothing magical really exists? Can you always explain how the magician has done the card trick? Maybe it is better not to explain, but to leave a little magic and mystery in our lives. Pick a card any card ...

    0E   1H   2D   3A   4C   5F   6B    Extra heading G

    domingo, 12 de octubre de 2014

    Extensive listening: John Maynard Keynes

    In the documentary series Masters of Money BBC's former economic editor Stephanie Flanders explores the ideas of three influential thinkers who transformed international economics, and examines how their influence has shaped the 20th and 21st centuries.

    She begins by profiling John Maynard Keynes, the Cambridge-born economist whose ideas revolutionized the approach of Western governments to financial crises during the Great Depression and the Second World War, and explains why the world's leaders drew on his teachings as the global meltdown took hold in 2008.

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

    sábado, 11 de octubre de 2014

    Reading test: Love thy neighbour? We don’t even know them

    Love thy neighbour? We don’t even know them is an article published by The Independent in mid-August this year. We are going to use it this week for practising the vocabulary and grammar kind of task in the reading paper of the exam.

    Read this text and choose the option (a, b or c) that best completes each blank. 0 is an example.

    Avoiding neighbours (0) … the moment you leave or enter (1) … your home sounds like something Victor Meldrew might do, but more than half of people in the UK admit to the clandestine antisocial behaviour.
    The scale of (2) … in many of Britain’s streets has been revealed by YouGov polling, (3) … shows fewer than a quarter of people in the UK feel a sense of (4) … in the community and one in 10 have no interaction with neighbours. It also suggests that the notion of the North being friendlier is a myth.
    Those in the South-west are most likely (5) … a neighbour, with 63 per cent saying they had done it, while the Scots are much more friendly, with just 47 per cent taking steps to avoid (6) … those living next door.
    Though the North is typically (7) … as friendlier than the South, the east of England came out as the friendliest region. Half of people there invite their neighbours over for a cup of tea and 60 per cent keep an eye out for each other’s homes while they are away.
    The most likely reason (8) … interaction with neighbours is the delivery of an online order, with 57 per cent of people saying they receive parcels for others.
    Kate Fox, a social anthropologist and director of the Social Issues Research Centre, said: “Friendlier North is a myth. Leaving aside London, always a law unto itself, the differences between North and South are not significant. Southerners might as well know their neighbours by name, say hello to them and stop for a friendly chat. If anything, the East is the most neighbourly region.”
    Ms Fox believes the nation’s (9) … to get to know their neighbours is down to social awkwardness. “If anything, we’re just too polite,” she said. “We’ve created a long list of strict, unwritten rules around privacy that (10) …, making us a bit more socially awkward than other nations. We want a sense of community, but need a bit of a nudge first, to (11) … our inhibitions.”
    However, 65 per cent of Britons believe their neighbourhoods would be stronger if people (12) … to get to know each other better.
    Jim Maddan, chair of Neighbourhood Watch, the organization that commissioned the poll along with Compare the Market, said: “In an area where there’s good community cohesion the opportunities for crime are diminished because people are (13) … each other. It’s also better for older people as it means they can stay in their homes longer because neighbours collect their medication or respond if they need help.”
    Older people and parents tend to connect more. Less than a quarter of 18-34 year olds have invited their neighbours over for a cup of tea. And (14) … almost half of people aged 55 and over would classify their neighbours as friends, less than a fifth of 18-34-year-olds would do the same.
    Fox said of the generation (15) … : “A quarter of 18-24-year-olds have only been living in their neighbourhood for a year, compared with just 4 per cent of over-45s.”

    0 Example
    a) by delaying   b) delaying   c) to delay

    1 a) to   b) into   c) ---

    2 a) isolation   b) loneliness   c) solitude

    3 a) that   b) what   c) which

    4 a) belonging   b) insight  c) involvement

    5 a) avoiding   b) that avoid  c) to avoid

    6 a) bumping into   b) hanging out with   c) meeting with

    7 a) considered   b) seemed   c) portrayed

    8 a) for   b) of   c) to

    9 a) battle   b) fight   c) struggle

    10 a) hold us apart   b) hold us back   c) hold us down

    11 a) change   b) get rid of   c) replace

    12 a) were encouraged   b) would be encouraged   c) would have been encouraged

    13 a) looking into   b) looking out for   c) looking up to

    14 a) because   b) given that   c) while

    15 a) bridge   b) difference   c) gap

    Picture by AndBerlin from licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License

    1c 2a 3c 4a 5c 6a 7c 8a 9c 10b 11b 12a 13b 14c 15c

    viernes, 10 de octubre de 2014

    Self-driving car

    Centraal Beheer Achmea is one of Holland’s biggest insurance companies. They have come up with this funny ad for their 2014 campaign.

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

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

    Introducing the (1) ...-... self-driving car. It does the driving for you, so you (2) ...   ... on the more important things in life. It automatically takes the right (3) ... , (4) ... avoid (5) ... obstacles and recognizes red lights (6) ... in advance, (7) ... you a perfectly safe journey every time. The self-driving car, technology is ready for it and so are we.
    Centraal Beheer car (8) ... .

    Memory test:
    Watch the ad through and try to remember all the accidents in the video due to the distractions of drivers and passers-by when seeing the self-driving car.

    Talking of distractions when driving, watch the Volkswagen Eyes on the road ad. Stop the video at 00:58" and try to predict what's going to happen next.

    1all-new 2 catch up 3 turns 4 effortlessly 5 unexpected 6 farther 7 ensuring 8 insurance