miércoles, 31 de diciembre de 2014

Talking point: Throw-away society

This week's talking point is rubbish and recycling. 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.
  • How often do you or your family throw away food?
  • What kind of food do you throw away?
  • How do you feel about it?
  • What three things could you and your family do in other to throw away less food?
  • Have you ever eaten anything that was past its sell-by date? Why (not)? Did anything happen?
  • What kind of things do you recycle? Do you ever feel guilty about not recycling enough?
  • Have you ever taken something that somebody else has thrown away? What was it? What did you do with it?
  • What do you do with clothes, books or furniture that you don't want but could still be used?
  • What do you do with your old mobile when you buy a new one? And with other electronic gadgets and appliances you no longer need?
  • What could you local council do to make it easier to recycle where you live?
  • What do you think restaurants, hotels or supermarkets should do with unused food?
  • What kind of things do you think have too much packaging? When do you think packaging is really necessary?
To illustrate the point, watch this short video from How Stuff Works where we are going to learn about a new movement which is gathering momentum is today's world, Freeganism.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a freegan?
Can you imagine ever trying that?

Very few people are aware of the benefits other than just that you are getting free food. But, few people think environmentally in our culture, I think and as a result, they don’t realize that there is really benefit for everybody.
Freeganism came from two terms. One is “free” and the other is “vegan”. So we end up with Freegan. So I talked with a number of students who also seemed to be interested in environmental concerns and we’ve started a student faculty group…
Freeganism is, ah, it’s a anti-consumerism movement trying to oppose the excessive consumerism that is a part of our society these days.
After attending his lecture, I went to go talk to him afterward and he invited me to go a freegan dive.
I think it was pretty awesome that he found lots and lots of bottles of beer a couple of weeks ago.
So pay attention, I’m going to now provide you with your first lesson on dumpster diving. You’ll find fruits and vegetables, you’ll find meat products. If the meat is frozen, you know it’s good. Frequently you’ll find sutff without labels, in which case we call “the mystery cans”. We have no idea what’s inside the mystery can.
This past week, we walked away with about $200 worth of produce.
I just go like this with bare feet.
What’d you find over here Justin?
Student coupon books.
Ooooo, I’ll take one of those actually.
We’ve got enough here so that we can put them in every pocket of every pants we got.
Freeganism in general is anti-consumerism. And it means that you'r supposed to reduce consumption whenever possible. That’s number one.
Oh, look what I just found, and umbrella! Now let’s see if it works.
Re-use anything that you do have, that’s number two.
And finally recycle it if you can.
Look at this, and absolutely magnificent mango.   Sometimes I wonder why they throw all this stuff away.

martes, 30 de diciembre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Swine Flu Pandemic

In our Madrid Teacher video this week, two teachers discuss pharmaceutical companies and the money that is involved in the business. The video is a bit different from what we are used to, as there isn't much interaction between the two teachers, they simply have their say about the topic, as if they were giving a presentation, and we won't be able to pinpoint very many features of spoken English.

First of all, watch the video through, so that we get familiar with everything that is being said.

Now watch the video more carefully, paying attention to the following:
  • 'As far as pharmaceuticals are concerned': We use the expression 'as far as ... is concerned' to specify which person or thing we are talking about. We can also use the expression 'as far as I'm concerned' to express our opinion about something, especially when it's different from other people's.
  • Use of 'as far as I know' to introduce your opinion about something, but allowing that there may be facts that you do not know, remember etc. You can also use the expressions 'as far as I can remember', 'as far as I can see.'
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said and make yourself clear.
  • Use of really to emphasize the verb.
  • Use of granted to admit that something is true.
  • Use of just to emphasize the verb.
  • Conversation fillers to gain thinking time: you know, like
  • Showing agreement: Granted; This is true
  • Use of so as a linking word.
  • Use of in terms of with the meaning of 'with regard', 'concerning', 'in relation to something'

As far as pharmaceuticals are concerned, they certainly command a lot of clout, and if you look at the amount of money spent annually in the United States, or at least as far as the United States is concerned, on pharmaceuticals, the numbers are staggering. I mean we drug ourselves up to a ridiculous level, and I really think that a lot of it is unnecessary, the majority.

Granted, I mean, it’s a huge of the part of the budget of the gross domestic product. I think it’s 15 or 16 percent of everything that is spent in America, for example, in United States I should say, is spent on the, the medical industry, hospitals, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, but I just don’t think in this situation what people are saying about, you know like there is some sort of a conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies to make a killing, to make a lot of money out of this, I just don’t think that exists. I think there’s been past cases of pandemics, serious, they’ve been serious enough to warrant investing in this type of research today.

This is true, but to address your first point, like I said, I do think that the word a conspiracy and total invention is going above and beyond what, what people like myself might believe. And what I want to clarify and say is that it’s clear that they have, these pharmaceuticals have a vested interest. In the same way the media has a vested interest in controversy. So, when you see things like interviews with Presidents or politicians they are always asking the questions to fuel fire, and doing things to gather attention of people that could in some way fatten their pockets, and in terms of the last pandemic, pandemic, the one that comes to mind is 1918. That was a horrendous killer. People were talking about the four horsemen of the apocalypse. When you consider that with the World War. However, if we look at the leaps and bounds that we made in medicine from then, it’s also as staggering as the numbers of people that died then. I recently read an account of a man’s experience in a hospital, this was I think after World War II or just before. So, another decade or two, after 1918, and the conditions were horrendous, open air surgery, doctors wearing business suits, medical students coming in and prodding people, entire communal rooms like we see today in travel hostels. I think that things are a lot more calmed down now, and I think that shows in the fact that as far as I know there has never been a comparable pandemic to what they are predicting could be happening this year, this time around. Certainly never in my life.

lunes, 29 de diciembre de 2014

California Smartphones to come with kill switch

Over three million smartphones were stolen in the US alone in 2013. Now, a new law means that smartphones in California will be required to come with a "kill switch" to make them useless if lost or stolen.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 What does 'half' refer to in the news item?
2 What other name does Senator Marc Leno give for 'technological deterrence'?
3 What will happen to retailers if they don't observe the new law?
4 What objection have manufacturers raised?
5 And the wireless industry?
6 What other concerns have been raised?

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

The San Francisco Bay, an area that lives and breathes technology. Smart phones are conspicuous emblems of the mobile boom, but their easy pickings in what has become a major street epidemic. These high-end handsets specifically targeted in more than half of all robberies (1). Now law makers have put thieves on notice. From next July all smart phones sold here will have to ship with anti-theft software rendering them completely useless if they are stolen. Marc Leno is the state senator who introduced the bill.
Clearly this is a crime of convenience. If we can end the convenience, we can end the crime, so this is making use of a technological deterrence, sometimes referred to as a kill-switch (2).
Many major smart phone makes already carry a kill switch or are planning to soon, but California now requires them to be turned on by default when the phone is sold, with retailers risking a fine if they sell non-complaint handsets (3). But even though the law enjoys overwhelming public support, some industry watchers are warning it’s not a silver bullet.
Even with the kill switch parts of the phone can be sold in the black market rather than just the phones themselves (4). So theft itself is going to continue as a public safety issue.
And the law has been criticized by the body representing the wireless industry. It argues state by state enforcement risks stifling innovation and the users are already protected by measures like a national stolen phone database (5).
And those aren’t the only concerns. Some critics worry the kill switch could be abused on a mass scale by hackers, and civil libertarians also say that the law itself could be open to abuse by police (6), who have the ability to activate the kill switch under extreme circumstances. But for the many victims of smart phone theft here, the law can’t come round soon enough, initial evidence suggesting that a kill switch does deter thieves from stealing their prized possessions.
Richard Taylor, BBC News, San Francisco.

domingo, 28 de diciembre de 2014

Extensive listening: The ascent of Alex Honnold

A couple of years ago CBS's 60 Minutes aired a segment about Alex Honnold, a 26-year-old rock climber from Sacramento, California, who scales walls higher than the Empire State building, and who does it without any ropes or protection.

You can read the transcript of the segment here.

sábado, 27 de diciembre de 2014

Macmillan pronunciation videos with Adrian Underhill

It's been a while since we last published a pronunciation-related post, so I guess a lot of blog readers will be glad to know about the new series of videos Macmillan has produced under the supervision of Adrian Underhill as part of their Life Skills series.

While the videos are primarily aimed at English teachers, I think learners of all levels can benefit from Adrian's pedagogical explanations about the phonemic chart and about how to distinguish and pronounce all the English sounds.

Five videos have been published in the series so far, and I think a few more are to come. They are regularly posted in the Macmillan Life Skills site here. or in their YouTube account here.

First video: Introduction

Second video: The chart, part 1

Third video: The chart, part 2

Do not forget that all English teachers and learners have at their disposal Adrian Underhill's interactive phonemic chart, where we just have to click on a phonetic symbol to hear it spoken.

viernes, 26 de diciembre de 2014

Hoping to strike gold in the California wilderness

Sarina  Finkelstein's book, The New Forty-Niners, documents the new wave of gold seekers she found living on the banks of streams throughout California and attempting to make their living as gold miners, just like the "Forty-Niners" of the original Gold Rush of 1849.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 What happened in 2009?
2 What is said about the price of gold?
3 How did Sarina find out about the new gold prospectors?
4 What two characteristics do we learn about Martin, the protagonist of the book?
5 What did Duane do with the gold he found?
6 What is the main appeal of looking for gold for most people today?

You can check your answers by reading the transcript below.

So it all started in May of 2009. That year the United States experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930’s (1), highly leveraged banks imploded, millions were off from their jobs, foreclosure rates  sky-rocketed and the saving of many retirees were wiped out, so the value of the dollar went down, but the average price of gold between 2005 and 2010 quadrupled (2).
I stumbled across a magazine article or newspaper article (3) about a small community of gold prospectors that were mining and looking for gold in the Angeles National Forests. One day I just bought a ticket and decided I was going to go out there and find them.
I happened to meet what I would call the protagonist of the book, Martin, who was this little guy, smaller than all the others but who worked obsessively (4), who would move this gigantic six-foot boulders out of the river just to try and find gold.
Mirela came out with her husband Jeff to California from Idaho, and here she is working with the classifier and sifting material into a bucket that Jeff had just dug out of the hole.
This is Duane and his dog Moses and their trailer in the Klamath National Forest, and Duane basically came out I believe in 2011, 2012 to the Klamath for just a week with very few materials and he prospected up and down the Klamath River, along the banks, and managed to get enough gold that he could bury his mother who passed away that year (5).
You know, in this day and age there’s still a sense of gold fever that existed in the 19th century of people going out in mass out west, but there’s also an interesting aspect in the modern age which is that I feel there’s a lot of people who want to abandon a cubical lifestyle, who don’t want to work in theoretical ideas in an office and who really want to work with their hands and to find something (6).

jueves, 25 de diciembre de 2014

173-Year-Old Whaling Ship Returns to Save Whales

The world's last remaining wooden whaling ship has sailed again.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

Where way does she lay in the aft and from the loft to points on our lay bow and about three miles off.
One big sweat

Rebuilding her is one thing, and learning how that works and how they built it and then how they rigged her but, these (1) ... were designed to do one thing and that  was to sail. They were never designed to be at the (2) ... , they had to do it, but that wasn’t their designation. So to learn what we’re learning from this (1) ... is a huge historical event.
She was built in (3) ... , umm started in the middle of winter, and launched in July of (3) ... . Umm amazingly she was built in under seven months by a group of about sixteen men and they even had a couple weeks (4) ... in there.
It gets better and better as far as our understanding and we’re getting as close as we’re going to get. One of the things that is amazing for us in the (5) ...   ... is the number of things that over the years we found out we were so (6) ...   ... about. We thought she was a slug. A slug is completely unfair, but much more sluggish in responding then she in fact is. Her ease of handling is phenomenal. You come to appreciate the design of this.
You don’t have a lot of feasible, (7) ... things anymore that kinda connect us to our history. A lot of people forget that we are a maritime nation, and especially with boats and  maybe traditional (1) ... like this as well, it gives us a (8) ... to our history, and I think that’s, I think  that’s important.
I think that there is something about her being the last one. The preservation of a time that we almost did this to the (9) ... , and we understand how precious the few are. It was the (10) ...   ...  that lubricated our industrial revolution. You keep the memory alive of I mean just the influence that, that (11) ... had on American history in general.

And its lower your boats boys and be of good cheers, get your tubs in your boats boys, keep your bow lines all clear. Now bend to your oars and make your boats fly. One thing we dread of, keep clear of his eye.

1 vessels 2 dock 3 1841 4 strike 5 demonstration squad 6 dead wrong 7 touchable 8 tie 9 whales 10 whale oil 11 whaling

miércoles, 24 de diciembre de 2014

Talking point: Photography

This week's talking point is photography. 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.
  • Do you like taking photographs?
  • Do you prefer taking photos of scenery or portraits of people?
  • What camera(s) have you got?
  • How are they/is it different from the first camera you owned?
  • Do you consider yourself to be a good photographer?
  • Do you know anyone who is?
  • Are there any basic tips or techniques you've learnt about taking photos?
  • What do you do with the photos you've taken?
  • Which of these do you usually do? Store them in a PC or table or mobile / back them up on a separate CD-Rom or hard drive / email them to friends and family / upload to an online photo site / print them out
  • How much do you spend on photos and photography in a year?
  • What outstanding photographers do you know? Why are they famous?
  • What's your favourite photo? If possible, bring it to your conversation session and show it to your friends.
  •  Talk about the following about your favourite photo: how old were you in the photo / who are you with? / What's happening? What happened before? What happened afterwards? / When and where was the photo taken? /  Why is it your favourite photo? / Where do you keep it?
To illustrate the topic, watch this Time video with an interview to American photographer Annie Leibovitz.

Hi, we’re here with Time.com and today's 10-question victim is Annie Leibovitz. Our first question is from Francesca Viola from the Bronx, New York, and she asks what for you is the interest in continuing to photograph celebrity portraits during a time when too many celebrities have their photographs plastered all over the place.
I don't feel like a part of that. I feel like, you know, I feel like I came in into early place, you know, when you know, working for Rolling Stone is sort of built, you know, who, who I am and I think I’ve learned at a very young age that, you know, what I did mattered.
So it must be difficult to get your models to trust you during a shoot. Who has been the most difficult to handle?
You know, it's usually not about the person that, that's the cool part of the shoot. It is usually about… it’s the weather is bad or it’s a bad hair day, bad, you know, bad hairdresser or you know, but that that being said I, it’s something that’s difficult subjects in entertainment, in showbiz or people have been in show business for a very long time I think they have no sense of reality, you know, it’s just, you know, like Sammy Davis Junior or even Michael Jackson, you know that, you know when they start very young everything is pretty distorted.
But hey, you're not necessarily easy to work for and would you agree with the statement? But then if you point out that he only asked because he’s trying to understand the temperament of the very successful. I've heard that too, actually that I’m not that easy to work for. The only… the only, and you know, I've been doing this, you know for a long time and it took me a long time to learn how to work with people. You know, I came from a place where I was working by myself and working with just my camera and myself and, and, you know, as I started to use, you know, assistance, some people helping me, I couldn’t understand why I couldn't see exactly what I saw at the time I exactly saw and I would be very frustrated. It took me years to learn how to work with people and I think I’m, you know, basically a nice person and then when I work, you know, you know I, I don't know who that person is. It just, it gets, you know it just gets very… it’s all in the details, you know, I mean everything becomes, you know, very, very important so…
From Paul Vegas in Hampton, Ontario, though which is how did you deal with the whole Miley Cyrus debacle ‘cause a lot of people thought that is another…  that your feeling should, you know, should’ve been different, so…
Well, I really do separate myself in some way, you know, when I go to work but you know, Miley, the Miley picture is a beautiful, strong, you know, simple picture. And we took all kinds of pictures that day and on and it turned out to be one of the strongest pictures. You know, I think, I think, you know it it's it's actually sort of innocent on some, on some level. But I feel like that you know she, she loved the pictures and she loved taken that picture and she was ready to take that, that picture I and it just, you know, her audience, you know, wasn't ready to take a picture, wasn't ready for that picture, and that the thing that I… it was just different. The picture, you know, it was really different of her. I I've said this now and in another place but basically I I think that if there was any mistake made is probably that she shouldn’t pose for Vanity Fair. You know, that’s, that's my reason, take on it. But, you know, I think she got very nervous after they had that reaction and she sort of, you know, she backtracked in a lot of ways, and, and I felt bad for her. I think she really did enjoy the shoot. I still, you know, probably believe in the picture and think it was fine, you know, like taken out of context.
Gina Lexbrick, Houston, who asks, ‘You know as a fan and fellow photographer, she'd like to know what you see in that aha moment that people talked about. Is it the subject, the composition, or something that's very exclusive to your eyes?
For example John and Yoko, you know, I only took a few frames, I mean, you knew it was good. I mean it was… you haven't seen anything like it before and it was beautiful and it had form and strength and it was simple and it told the story. So surely no one is not working, you know, it just doesn't feel, you know, great. It just… and and and over the years I've learned to just say ‘Okay, we just move on’ you know, it’s just trying to… it doesn't get better, keep, keep, you know, trying to work on something and I rather just come back to it, come back another day.
Have you ever been so frustrated with the photo shoot that you shut it down completely?
No, if anything,  if something goes wrong with the photoshoot, you know, it’s my fault. I, I really feel it's it's up to me, is my responsibility I'm supposed to make this thing work, you know, like you know. And there's like a lot of psychology involved in it and I, you know, you have to, you know, make it work, you know, whatever is going wrong. If I don't get a good picture I don't blame my subject, I blame me.

martes, 23 de diciembre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Chatting about Christmas

In this week's Madrid Teacher video, four teachers talk about Christmas. As usual, that gives us an opportunity to go over some of the features of spoken English that they use.

First of all, watch the video through, so that you can get familiar with their conversation.

Now watch the video more carefully, paying attention to the following:
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said and make yourself clear
  • Showing agreement: It’s true; Yeah; Yeah, no; I suppose; Exactly
  • Conversation fillers to gain some thinking time: Well, you know 
  • Use of vague language: kind of ; the same sorts of things
  • Use of so as a linking word
  • Showing surprise: Yeah?; Oh, they don’t set up Christmas trees?; Oh, even better!
  • Use of (wi)ll to express habits and repeated action in the present: they'll set up; they’ll have the, at least the traditional Spaniards will have a nativity scene; they’ll get presents 
  • Use of really to emphasize the verb
  • Use of anyway to add a statement that limits what you have just said

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with a friend and relative and discuss Christmas. How do you feel about them? How do you celebrate them? Has the celebration changed much over time? Has it been influenced by globalization? Is it too commercial these days? What do you know about the way Christmas in celebrated in other families, other countries or other cultures?

Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this lesson.

Because Christmas now is so commercial. I mean, you go to the shops in September and there’s Christmas trees and decorations, and you can visit Santa and tell him what you want, and . . .
It’s true. And have you seen the lights in London? The street lights in London? Every year they’re themed on some kind of film or product line…
All over the streets it’s selling something…
It’s, it’s almost criminal.
But at the same time, when you walk around and you see the Christmas lights, and you have that warm feeling that it’s nearly Christmas . . .
Not when Hollywood’s right behind them.
Yeah, no. I don’t like to be told what to do, and I feel like Christmas, you know...
…it’s all about telling you you’ve got to buy presents and every year you feel like you’ve got to buy more and it kind of snowballs and becomes [Yeah.] this huge thing.
That’s absurd.
It gets more and more expensive.
Of course, I don’t even celebrate it any longer. I, I’ve been living in Spain for a long time so it’s, I celebrate Three Kings Day.
Tell us about that, when, when is Three Kings Day?
It’s on the sixth, I think, the sixth of January.
Yeah and they have, instead of, instead of, setting up a Christmas tree, which they might do, they’ll set up a nativity scene.
Oh, they don’t set up Christmas trees?
Well, I mean now they do a little bit, but they more often they’ll have the, at least the traditional Spaniards will have a nativity scene. They get more excited.
That’s closer to the original reason so it’s better than a tree.
I suppose.
And are there, there’s presents that are exchanged?
Yeah, I mean, they, they, often they’ll get presents on both days.
Oh, even better!
Or even on Christmas Eve, so it’s like there… it’s lost all its meaning for me because I mean they don’t, associate it with the same sorts of things I associate it with. I mean the nostalgia, I mean Christmas past…
Exactly, that’s…
…or all, all the sorts of things that . . . all the symbols that make sense to me or . . . they just don’t make any sense here.
And do they leave milk and cookies out for the Three Kings?
I don’t think so, no. Not in my family, anyway. But we’re not, we don’t really celebrate it in a big way.
And do they believe in Santa?
No they don’t.
That’s such a shame! You remember thinking, Oh my gosh! Santa’s got my letter and he’s going to deliver my presents.
Oh yeah.
Yeah, I still kind of think that sometimes.

lunes, 22 de diciembre de 2014

Listening test: Vane Farm

In this telephone conversation, a woman phones Vane Farm, a centre for bird-watching near her home town in Scotland, to ask for details about the venue. Listen and complete gaps 1-7 with the missing information. 0 is an example.

0 The Vane Farm centre is open until 5pm.

1 It costs ...................................... for an adult.

2 A ...................................... costs £6.

3 Are there ...................................... for people in wheelchairs?

4 Some of the access would be ...................................... for people in wheelchairs.

5 The family only wants to go for a ...................................... and maybe have tea and a scone.

6 Did you say there is an OAP ...................................... ?

7 Members are allowed ...................................... and OAPs can come in for £2.


Hello RSPB, Vane Farm. Leon speaking.
Hi there. Um, I was wondering if you could help me. Uh, I'm planning on— on coming to the farm, possibly this weekend. Could you tell me— I’d like to know the opening times and how much it's going to cost to get in.
Okay. The centre is open from ten o'clock in the morning until five pm in the afternoon and the café is open until four o'clock in the afternoon. It costs three pounds (1) for an adult to ... uh ... go onto the RSPB reserve ... uh ... with fifty pence for children and two pounds for concessions. A family ticket (2) costs six pounds . If anybody who's visiting us is an RSPB member, then entry is free.
Oh right, that's great. Um, and so ... um ... I think m— my mum is a member. I'm coming with my family, my mum is a member and ... uh ... we're planning on bringing my grandmother, as well. Uh, she's in a—a wheelchair. Is there— A— Are there facilities (3) for people in wheelchairs? Would it be okay? Would we be able to walk around a bit w— with her?
There is limited access for people in wheelchairs. There would be no trouble in coming into the centre itself or going up to the café, but...

... obviously, because we are a nature reserve and there are trails that go up hills and down a number of steps, I'm afraid that ... uh ... some of the access would be restricted(4) and your grandmother wouldn't be able to ... um ... uh ... explore the entice reserve.
Okay, but— but there are some areas, 'cos I think we just want to come for a walk around (5) and, and have maybe a— a cup of tea and a scone ... um ... in the café. Uh, so if— if she could ... uh ... come that would— that would be great. Um, and— and sorry, did you say there is a— an OAP discount (6)?
Yes, there is. Uh, as I said ...uh ... members are allowed free entry (7) and OAPs can come in for two pounds.

domingo, 21 de diciembre de 2014

Extensive listening: Young and Jobless

The global youth unemployment crisis is one of the biggest problems the world faces today affecting millions of young people. Justin Rowlatt presents a series of reports from the BBC's correspondents around the World, meeting the young and jobless and those trying to help them into work

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

sábado, 20 de diciembre de 2014

Reading test: Budapest ruin bars

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the heading matching kind of activity. Budapest ruin bars is a post published in HostelWorld.com in August this year. Read the review of five bars in Budapest and match the headings 1-8 with the corresponding bar. One heading does not go with any bar, and at least one heading goes with each of the bars. 0 is an example.

Szimpla Kert
If I had to choose a favourite, it’d probably be Szimpla Kert. Since it first opened its doors in 2001, Szimpla Kert has moved location a couple of times and has changed a lot over the years, but it’s still the best. Today it’s found on Kazinczy utca and it has more to offer its visitors than ever before. The interior design is unique to say the least. No matter what time of day you visit, Szimpla Kert has got something on offer. Flea and food markets, film clubs, exhibitions and theatre performances are only a few of Szimpla's offerings, and the live bands at night ensure a brilliant atmosphere. A ruin bar definitely worth visiting.

Fogashaz is located at Akacfa utca, district 7 of Budapest. This ruin bar is a little tucked away, but still easily accessible from Budapest's city centre. First opened in 2009, Fogashaz strives to be a cultural hot spot for visitors to the city. Its interior shows the best cutting edge art the city has to offer, being filled with the works of local artists. Keeping with this creative theme, it also runs film clubs, exhibitions, workshops and alternative theatre performances. Fogashaz has expanded in recent years with the development of the outdoor garden space, which only adds to its character.

Close to Liszt Ferenc tér's row of bars, restaurants and Nagymezo utca's entertainment venues you’ll find Instant. Inside it’s like a labyrinth full of private nooks and crannies, with rooms filled with all sorts of weird and wonderful things, like a dentist chair and retro arcade offerings. Located close to tourist attractions, bars, restaurants, hostels and hotels, Instant very perfectly places a great introduction to the ruin bar.

Puder is in another tourist hot spot at Raday utca and neighbours one of Budapest's Michelin star restaurants, Costes. It also acts as an art gallery and is home to many cultural events. Exhibitions from emerging artists decorate the walls while creative theatre performances entertain visitors. Enjoy a few drinks and food while listening to DJs spinning quality music in the cosy indoors area or sit out on a warm summer’s night and watch the passers-by on the busy Raday utca.

Nyereg is in Budapest's City Park with all its beautiful surroundings. Most spectacularly, it has a beautiful view of the park and the lake from its beer garden. The seating area right next to the bar is pretty memorable too, visitors can sit on saddles mounted on bar stools right next to the bar area and enjoy homemade lemonade, a pint of beer or snacks. The crowd is a bit more diverse here as well, given its location. Families with children are not a rare sight during the afternoon thanks to the kids corner, while sports lovers can watch their favourite events on the big screen.


0 Example: Bar or playground? - Nyereg

1 If you want take a look at Budapest’s history
2 Not too easy to see 
3 Noticeable objects there 
4 The most modern and advanced examples 
5 You can buy second-hand objects 
6 You may get lost in it 
7 You’ll enjoy the location too 
8 You’ll feel relaxed in there 

Szimpla Kert, photo: Hostel World

1 No heading 2 Fogashaz 3 Instant 4 Fogashaz 5 Szimpla Kert 6 Instant 7 Nyereg 8 Puder

viernes, 19 de diciembre de 2014

An Imperfect Beginning

Vince Taylor and Rebekah Gordon moved slowly and deliberately from friendship to romance.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 What does Rebekah mean by 'baggage'?
2 In what ecological disaster did Rebekah and Vince meet?
3 What was Rebekah first impression of Vince?
4 What unexpected thing did Vince do?
5 How does Vince describe the divorce process?
6 What does 'the third person in the relationship' refer to?

People have baggage, people have past relationships, people have children, people have all these things that make them complicated (1), but at the same time those things that are complicated are what makes people real and I think it’s, you know, what has made our love and our relationship real is that it isn’t some picture perfect little story book.
We actually met during the heart of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (2) back in 2010.
I’m a coast guard officer.
And I was providing legislated affairs support to the coast guard. We basically spent two very long days preparing his cleaning officer to testify at this hearing. I remember thinking , god you know this guy is really, is very handsome, you know but I saw his wedding band and so it was kind of, oh, well, I guess we’ll just focus on the work and that will be that (3) . We kind of kept the correspondence over email and also instant messaging and, you know, and er really kind of enjoyed each other’s friendship.
What he did which was completely unexpected was that he brought me a birthday present (4). A sign that he had made, out of wood, of the Giant’s logo.
I was trying to do something that was just for me a very simple way of expressing a feeling that I didn’t have the ability to say at the time.
I think that was the night when we acknowledged that we had feelings for one another.
I just said you know, very honestly, you know, I’m crazy about you and that’s very, very hard for me to reconcile, you know, being married, you know, and she began to cry. I want to console her but I know there is this, you know, invisible boundary that, you know, that I’m not going to cross.
You know, love is one those things where it doesn’t always happen the way that you think that it’s supposed to happen. It was tough trying to figure out what the right way forward was.
Going through the divorce process was incredibly difficult (5). There would be days where I don’t even know if I could have got out of bed if it weren’t for Rebecca.
It was something that was too important and too meaningful to give up on uhh… or to not see through.
Hold on one second. You’re okay? You need help?
You need help? Okay.
Does he need help?
Yeah… Sorry.
At times you describe this as having, you know, like a, like a third person in the relationship.
And you know, that third person is, you know, Vince’s kids and his marriage (6) and through, you know, dealing with the pieces of that are still with us, and will be with us. You know, there’s a lot of, about, you know, just not giving up, you know, this is worth fighting for, you know your kids are worth fighting for, you know, being able to move forward as a family unit it’s worth fighting for.

jueves, 18 de diciembre de 2014

Should tipped workers make a higher minimum wage?

In the United States the federal minimum wage is $7.25 (£4.31) per hour. Tipped workers, such as waiters and bartenders, are paid on a different standard, the so-called "tipped minimum wage". In New Jersey, for example, restaurant owners are required to pay a minimum of $2.13, with customers' tips providing the rest.

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. Elizabeth Henry has been a waitress for 15 years.
2. Elizabeth took some time off work in the previous weeks.
3. Most of workers who are paid under the work-for-tips scheme are female.
4. The hotel owner implies that a tipped minimum wage is sometimes synonymous of poor service.
5. Tipped workers are beneficial for the employers.
6. A lot of tipped workers agree with this system.

Elizabeth Henry has been a waitress since she was 15 years old. Most of her money comes from tips, which her boss takes into account when he pays her. It's called tipped minimum wage.
So these are my last couple of paychecks, but I had to take a day off here and there ‘cause like I said before I was going through an eviction, so I had to take some time off to find out what I'm doing. So this is where it says are hourly rate, which is 2.25. And then this is what they claim we make an hour 9.50 in tips, so they say that we make twelve dollars an hour about which isn’t, which is not true.
3.3 million people in the US work for tips. The vast majority are women. Many employers say they can't afford to pay more than the tip to minimum wage. Others disagree.
It's never affected our bottom line. It really it's not going to make or break us.
This hotel owner is paying more than the minimum because he wants to keep his skilled service. New Jersey has the lowest tipped minimum wage. Washington, on the other side of the country, is the state with the highest.
If I don't make minimum wage an hour, then yeah and they're supposed to reimburse me for that but I've never been at a place that does that and like I said I've been doing it for 10 years.
For employers tipped workers are cheap to hire but when more staff are hired the workers can get even less money.
If I had to split my tips three ways behind the bar instead of just having myself in the bar back I’m making third of the money that I can make, that I'm capable of making, capable of doing a good job.
But many, especially bartenders, prefer tips because in the high season they can make more money. Higher minimum wage with no tips? Probably not. In the winter it's kinda slow but in the summer, I mean, we’re average, you know, upwards of anywhere for forty-five, fifty dollars an hour at times on a really good night.
President Obama supports an increase to the basic minimum wage but that won't help people like Elizabeth Henry as the tipped minimum wage isn't likely to change.
Guess that's life right. It’s life.

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

miércoles, 17 de diciembre de 2014

Talking point: The senses

Today's talking point is the senses. 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 issues beforehand.
  • What are the five senses?
  • What memories/sensations do you associate to specific senses? V.g. The sheets feeling really cold or rough (touch); the smell of meat in my butcher neighbours' house.
  • Which sense do you think is most important to you in your everyday life?
  • Which sense would you be able to cope best without?
  • Which sense brings the best memories to you?
  • Have you ever lost the use of one of your senses temporarily?
  • Do you know anyone who has one sense especially well-developed?
  • Do you know people without a sense, either totally (someone who’s deaf) or partially (someone who’s colour-blind)?
  • Do you remember any famous films or books where one of the senses plays an important part?
  • Do some people have a sixth sense? If so, how does it manifest itself? 
  • Does 'female intuition' really exist? If so, how does it manifest itself?
  • Do you have a good 'sense of direction'? And a good 'common sense'? And a 'sense of humour?' And a 'sense of ridicule'? Can you think of any more senses?
To illustrate the point, you can listen to BBC's Six Minutes English segments Smells and Memories and Synesthesia, about people confusing senses.

martes, 16 de diciembre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Horrible weather

In this week's Madrid Teacher video four teachers talk about horrible weather conditions they have witnesses. As usual, we'll be using their conversation as a springboard to go over some of the features of spoken English they use.

First of all, watch the video through to get the gist of what they are talking about.

Now watch the video more carefully paying attention to the following:
  • Showing surprise and reacting to what you hear: Really?; Oh yeah; Wow; Oh, lord; OK, right, yeah
  • Conversation fillers to gain thinking time: Well, you know, like
  • Use of reallypretty  and quite to emphasize the adjective
  • Use of vague language: like an hour; and everything; like the sky opens
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said and make yourself clear.
  • Use of actually to introduce a bit of surprising information
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; Of course!; Exactly!

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with a friend or relative and talk about any weather anecdotes you have gone through or heard about. Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this post.

I was once in a, in a tornado.
On one side it demolished a church, and on the other side, it destroyed a . . . a truck stop. Then a little bit further on it, it just demolished a little town.
So it just went around you?
Well, no, it went, like, over me. It, it . . . you know these bounce sometimes
Oh yeah!
There was, this was a little tornado, it was small, but really destructive.
I’ve seen videos of that tornado bounce . . .
…that you’re talking about.
That type of, yeah. That, that can be pretty destructive…
That’s wild.
The interesting thing is that it crossed an entire city and only destroyed one church . . .
In the whole city, but then - was it - at the edge of the city it destroyed a truck stop, and then went on to destroy . . .
Was it a wooden, a wooden church, or just a . . .
It was a wooden church, just like a big quonset hut, you know just a rounded building. So it’s just asking for problems.
Were you, were you personally frightened, or . . .
Yeah, because it . . . it was, it was frightening.
And was anybody injured?
Yeah, it killed people. It killed people in the truck stop, then it killed . . . it’s like, near a highway. And that was about . . . maybe a mile from me, half a mile to a mile.
Well, my, my most frightening weather experience was, I was skiing once and got to the top of the mountain and suddenly just went completely white, complete white-out. And it was like a snowstorm . . . couldn’t see anything, and started skiing down, stupidly, I mean, we should have just stayed. And suddenly, just like, not knowing exact…, not knowing where, where I was and, just like, it was, like, quite frightening because it was like an hour, just being stuck on the top of a mountain…
It’s risky, too. You never know if you’re going to ski off the edge of something, or . . .
It was snowing. . Couldn’t see a thing . . .  Yeah that’s why I stopped because you can’t even, you couldn’t even see where the ski run was, and it was… It was in Switzerland right on the top of a mountain. You know, when you’re in the mountains in Switzerland, you can, you can go on for six hundred kilometers and not see another house.
Wow! Were you really cold?
No, I was, I, I had some good, you know, some good clothing and everything.
That’s good.
It was just, like a snowstorm. It was just the thing of not being able to see where you were . . .
Of course!
…and just like snow everywhere .
But the encroaching freeze could really add to the fear.
Yeah. Well, there was that fear of, you know, you could get trapped up there at night…
Yeah, yeah.
…don’t get out.
Oh, lord.
So you’ve been . . .
Oh yeah, actually, I was, I was driving from the north of Spain into Madrid. And we were driving up the mountain and there was a little sign for a snowflake. And my father looked at me and said, “snow?” And I said, “of course, we’re in the mountains!” I was teasing . . . until a few went by the window, a few snowflakes, and I looked at him and he looked at me and we’re like, “are we really seeing this?” And then, boom – another whiteout, like you were talking about.
Just like mine, yeah?
…could not see anything. This was at the end of, like, and eighteen hour drive and I was determined to get to Madrid and stop. And we ended up just going for about two hours at about six kilometers an hour, driving by while lines of cars followed plows and skidding along the road yelling at each other: “stop! I’m doing this!” I had never seen weather like that in Spain.
That’s incredible. You don’t expect it here.
Exactly! I was totally unprepared. We were in a Peugeot.
I’m from a hot place so I haven’t got any snow stories, but . . . I, I used to live in Southeast Asia and there you have the most incredible monsoon rain. I mean, all day long you sit and you sweat. And it’s, and the heat builds up and builds up and builds up and then three o’clock in the afternoon it’s like the sky opens . . .
And these rain, raindrops, I mean, huge raindrops . . . fifteen minutes of the heaviest rain you could possibly imagine, and then it stops.
And that’s every day?
Every day.
And it’s only fifteen minutes?
Usually fifteen minutes to twenty minutes, sometimes only five minutes. It’s like the sky just can’t hold any more water and it just, it just drops down.
Do you go, do people go out and like, you know, use it as a shower, because it’s so hot? Or no, everyone just stays inside?
It’s funny, everybody tries to stay out of it actually.
OK, right, yeah.
All the cars, all the motorbikes, everyone pulls off the road and tries to find shelter and . . .
Yeah. OK.

lunes, 15 de diciembre de 2014

Sapphire Hunting in Madagascar

BBC reporter Simon Reeve visits Ilakaka, a Madagascan island famous for its sapphires.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.

1 What do '10' and '100,000'  refer to?
2 What does Jean use the tube for?
3 What do '18', '10', and '1' refer to?
4 What's in the bags? What do they expect to find there?
5 What often happens to sapphire hunters who die in the holes?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below. 

We've come to Ilakaka. 10 years ago this place was so small it didn't even appear on most maps. Then sapphires were discovered, and a tiny rural hamlet exploded into a modern day wild-west town. An estimated 100,000 poor Madagascans have flocked here to dig their way out of poverty (1). Most take their chances in the ad hoc operations dotted all over the outskirts of town.
Bonjour. Bonjour.
Jean is from Fianarantsoa, 150 miles away. He's the captain of this mine, which is little more than a deep hole in ground, ventilated in the most rudimentary way imaginable.
Oh, my God! This is a breathing tube (2). Can you imagine how dangerous this is? This is just plastic sheeting with a little bit of tape around it to hold it together.
Jean descends down this 18-metre hole up to ten times a day. For this he will make about £1 (3).
God! He's already just disappeared. He's just vanished into the blackness! And this shaft isn't much bigger than a manhole and they've just cut it down, straight down through the ground, there's no bracing on the sides, there's no reinforcement to prevent it caving in. I can just see this tiny man and a shiny torch putting soil into the bag.
He's crawling down a hole under here, to somewhere under the ground deep below there, gathering the soil into bags and then he'll send it back. And each time they're hoping this is the big one, the sapphire they're looking for is in there (4).
Many workers have died down these mines. Often, their families are too poor to recover their bodies and they are simply left at the bottom of the dark holes (5). Here he comes.
Are you OK, Captain? What does your wife think of you doing this dangerous work?
We can only pray and rely on God. The main worry is Will I survive today? But that's the risk of the job, you need to survive, there's nothing else to do.