lunes, 31 de agosto de 2015

Listening test: Interview with Donna Leon

In this week's listening test we are going to listen to seven excerpts of a BBC interview with American crime writer Donna Leon. Listen and match each of the headings A to I with its corresponding extract. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - Attitude to life
B - Describing a hero
C - Family life
D - Not in control of everything
E – Discussing a project
F - The story of a failure
G - True character
H - Two jobs
I - What a town is like

… is a Venitian, Venitian, Venitian whose, I’d like to think, intelligent, articulate, humorous, well-educated, well- read in the classics, whose job it is to investigate crimes of some importance that are committed in these books supposedly in Venice but crimes like these seldom happen in Venice.

He’s married to a nice, intelligent woman. He has two decent kids. He lives well. He eats well. His wife is a university professor. They talk about books, they talk about literature, they talk about art, they talk about painting, not because these are snobbish people but because this is what people at that level of education talk about, I think.

I think that cynical is too strong a word. I really do. I think that they are resigned and accept, because Italians are very good at this, they’re resigned to accept human nature as it is. They have no illusions about human nature or human society or human politics, so they are distressed to find that things don’t work, but things don’t work.

I still believe that the bulk of the Italians that I’ve, I know that the bulk of the Italians I chat with are decent, hard-working people and I believe that that is true of most of the people in the country, but I believe that Pollyana-like of most people. I think most people are basically good, otherwise we wouldn’t, we wouldn’t be able to wake up every morning safely in our beds. I think that Italians just don’t have illusions about human behaviour, and they don’t attempt to perpetuate them.

I think, what I provide, I like to think what I provide is a view of Venice that is not romanticized, that is not transmuted into some Disneyland idea of the magic fairy city, the beauty, beauty, beauty place. Venice is a small provincial town where people gossip, they gossip about people’s grandfathers, they gossip about people’s fathers. Everybody knows everybody. There are no secrets. It’s really a small town, 58,000 people, that is disguised as a cultural hub and a sophisticated modern city. It’s none of those things.

It’s probably easier to write a detective novel because you just sit in your desk and you go on until it’s done. But with an opera first you have to decide which one. Then you have to figure out who to sing the different parts, and then who to play in the orchestra and then you have to find out who of them is free. Then you have to find the place to record, you have to find the recording company, and then you have to find places that will agree to take it as a concert because in order for any opera recording today to be made it must be able to defray some of the cost by a concert tour which will get back some of the money spent for the recording.

I had lunch with people from the BBC yesterday. We’ve been talking with increasing agreement for the last couple of years and I’m reasonably optimistic that this will happen in the next couple of years, that the BBC will produce them, and I’m very enthusiastic about that.

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

domingo, 30 de agosto de 2015

Extensive listening: Medieval Lives- A Good Birth

Medieval Lives is a BBC documentary series in which historian and author Helen Castor explores how the people of the Middle Ages handled the most fundamental moments of transition in life - birth, marriage and death.

For a medieval woman approaching the moment of labour and birth, there were no antiseptics to ward off infection or anaesthetics to deal with pain. Ms Castor reveals how this was one of the most dangerous moments a medieval woman would ever encounter, with some aristocratic and royal women giving birth as young as 13. Birth took place in an all-female environment and the male world of medicine was little help to a woman in confinement. It was believed that the pains of labour were the penalty for the original sin of humankind - so, to get through them, a pregnant woman needed the help of the saints and the blessing of God himself.

sábado, 29 de agosto de 2015

Reading test: Tips to plan your trips

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the heading-matching kind of task. Read the travelling tips 1-8 below on how to plan your trips and choose from the headings A-K the one that goes with each. There are two headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

You know how you check the price of a flight, then go back a day later — and the price has gone up? That seems to happen less often if you use the Incognito function in Chrome. I also love Kayak, because it gives you advice on whether to book your ticket or wait for a better price. Kate Torgovnick 
Try You put in a destination, and get emails with updates on fares so you know when there are deals. Geneva is my spot, and I get excited when I see a round-trip flight for $650 instead of $1,200. Hailey Reissman

I always Google Map the place I’m going, to see the streets. Then I switch to Earth view, so I can look at the topography, understand nearby towns and see if there are any blue spots that might be secluded beaches. I also see if National Geographic, Outside or The New York Times Travel has written anything and jot down all the stuff I want to do. If it’s a city, I also see if Anthony Bourdain has eaten anything cool there. Thaniya Keereepart

Sitting down for two hours to figure out what you want to do really can improve your trip 30 to 40%. If you’re too busy, post on Facebook asking about things to do and places to eat. Everyone loves to recommend their favorites. Tom Rielly

Research your hotel. Look on TripAdvisor to see which rooms people prefer, and make requests. If you need help before you arrive, don’t speak to a reservations office that might be in a call center — always ask for the front desk. My trick: if someone asks if I’m calling about a reservation, I say, ‘No, I have a question for the front desk. Tom Rielly

I found out about the Global Entry program last year, and knew I needed to sign up. It’s like TSA PreCheck for international travelers. Instead of standing in line for a customs officer after an international flight, you use an ATM-like machine to process re-entry. It takes your photo, scans your fingerprints and prints a receipt in minutes — and you don’t have to fill out those little declaration cards on the plane. Isaac Wayton

You can never be sure if you’ll have the Internet on your trip, so research this ahead of time. I like Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum for transit tips, but you can also just type in ‘how to get from X to Y’ in Google. Sometimes you’ll end up with a bus or train schedule, or sometimes you’ll land on some blog post that tells you to grab the van at the corner of the market and wait until it’s full. Either way, write down the names of the companies that operate the transportation — along with a few sentences in the native language on how to ask for directions. Thaniya Keereepart

If you are traveling with friends, especially for the first time, have a conversation in advance about how you like to do things. For example, I hate being rushed at art museums, but other people get really bored, so we make a plan to meet later. Ask how long people like to stay at the beach, what their budget preferences are for meals. And make a pact that if one of you is frustrated, you talk about it right away. It can save so much drama. Tom Rielly

Watch a movie or read a book based in your destination. Preferably fiction. It makes the place feel romantic. Anyssa Samari

A - Crowdsource suggestions
B - Do your research
C - Follow local Instagrammers
D - Go beyond booking your hotel online
E - Hype yourself up
F - Know how to get around
G - New town? Plan but keep your options open
H - To receive a quick go-ahead upon arrival
I - Talk it over before you set off
J - To stop your browser keep a record of the websites you visit – 0 Example
K - Track prices with fare watcher alerts 

1K 2B 3A 4D 5H 6F 7I 8E

viernes, 28 de agosto de 2015

US students head to Germany for free degrees

BBC's Franz Strasser looks at the increasing number of Americans who are taking advantage of German universities.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 What qualifications does Anna Mass have?
2 How much do university students in Germany pay to attend university?
3 Which was Hunter Bliss’s main motivation to go to Germany to study?
4 What does Hunter spend his 600€ monthly expenses on?
5 What three reasons are given to justify the benefit of admitting foreign students at German universities?
6 Why hasn’t Katherine returned to the States?

In a suburb of New Jersey Anna Mass is getting her papers in order. After receiving (1) a bachelor’s degree in the US she decided to do her masters in Germany and save a lot of money.
Initially I was kind of thrown off because I thought there wasn’t any tuition for any of the universities and I thought maybe there’s a catch because I’m American and I always think that.
(2) Universities are free of charge in Germany, for German citizens and for everyone else. Thousands of Americans have heard the call and have enrolled overseas.
Hunter Bliss made the move last fall. At first, because the 19-year-old from South Carolina had never even been outside the US.
I heard things like I would be able to drink, have health care, I would get education, which is great. (3) My main motivation, of course, was saving money.
There’s about thirty or so students sitting inside listening attentively to this lecture being held in English, and that’s important because the University President has his wish that within five years every graduate programme at this university will not just be offered in English but in English school of symphony.
How is everything going?
Pretty good.
In the meantime, Hunter’s mother is glad. She can finance his education and living expenses without having to take on any loans.
Each month it costs about 600€ to live here: (4) My room, train tickets, school, gym, food, phone, health care.
But how long can it last?
The president of Hunter’s university says it’s almost inevitable that foreigners will have to pay in the future.
If we ignore the question of how to finance an outstanding university, the future reveal not continue of having outstanding universities in Germany.
But in the capital Berlin, the top destination for US students, politicians insist that college education should be a right, and not a privilege. And experts say there’s economic benefit for Germany too. If 40% of graduates stay in the country for five years, Germany recovers its costs.
Keeping international students who have studied in the country is the ideal way of immigration because (5) they have certificates which are needed, they don’t have a language problem at the end of their stay and they know the culture.
Katherine is one of those already paying back into the system. After finishing her master’s degree last year she’s still in Berlin living in a hip neighbourhood and working for a German start-up association.
I still could have gone but I know there’s some sort of comfort here, there’s, (6) there’s so many young people all thinking, believing that Berlin is this sort of dream world where anything is possible after you graduate.
For a country worried about an aging population, not charging young foreign talent could prove to be a smart long-term strategy. Franz Strasser BBC News Germany.

jueves, 27 de agosto de 2015

London calling - Highgate cemetery

Seva Novgorodsev takes in the gothic majesty of London's Highgate Cemetery.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 Where in London is Highgate cemetery?
2 What happened in 1883?
3 What happened in 1933 in Germany?
4 How did Russian defector Alexander Litvinenko die?
5 When did the cemetery open?
6 How can you visit the Lebanon Circle?
7 What can you see on the ceiling of the mausoleum of Julius Beer?
8 Why is Highgate cemetery grade-one listed?
9 What’s the relationship of Lucinda Hawksley with Charles Dickens?
10 Who was Tom Sayers?

Highgate cemetery sits on a hill in a leafy suburb of (1) north London. Entering it feels like stepping foot in the Victorian age. The gothic grandeur seems to be everywhere. Highgate cemetery is famous as the final resting place of political philosopher Karl Marx. When (2) Marx died in 1883 just a handful of people attended his funeral. Now thousands of people visit his memorial every year. Marx lived in London. It’s where he wrote Das Kapital. Today there’s a library dedicated to his memory.
He was a man who walked among Londoners, a true citizen of the world. So it’s that inspiration that calls the library to be created and it was created in 1933, also because (3) that was the year of the Nazi book burnings. So these walls became safe haven and today it flourishes, it serves academics, researchers, teachers and writers from all around the world.
There have been many attempts to destroy Max memorial at Highgate.
When the bomb went off from underneath it, quite appropriately it tilted to the left. You can still see the scars, the battle honors that the bronze wears on its nose.
Many other political thinkers, writers and artists are buried at Highgate like painter Lucien Freud and Victorian novelist George Elliott. Six years ago a Russia defector was buried here.
His name was Alexander Litvinenko and he was murdered, he was highly radioactive because (4) he’d been slipped a radioactive substance, so when he was buried, he was buried twelve feet deep and in a lead-lined coffin.
The west side of the cemetery is the oldest part. (5) It opened in 1839 with its decaying tombstones and ivy-covered vaults, you can see why it was the setting for a classic hammer horror film about Dracula.
The Victorian fascination with ancient Egypt is clear to see here at the Egyptian avenue, where the richest families were buried. At the end it’s the Lebanon Circle, named after the cedar tree which sits atop the graves. This part of the cemetery is so fragile now (6) it can be seen only on a special tour.
This is the mausoleum of Julius Beer and it’s all about the death of a little girl called Ada, who was 8. Her father was very, very distraught and it is the most expensive piece of real estate in the entire cemetery. If you look at the ceiling as you go inside, you know, there’s (7) gold leaves and semi precious stones, that’s where your 3m pounds will go.
This imposing mausoleum is at the highest point of the cemetery. It’s one of the many buildings that are protected because of their national importance.
Highgate is quite unique. Buckingham Palace is grade-two listed, (8) Highgate is grade one, that means it’s the most important architectural site of its kind.
Away from the most extravagant Victorian tombs are the graves of a very well-known English family. (9) Lucinda Hawksley is the great, great, great granddaughter of writer Charles Dickens. Her relatives are relatives are forever immortalized in his novels.
Some of the characters in Charles Dickens’ work are actually inspired by people who are buried here at Highgate, most famously his father John Dickens was the inspiration in David Copperfield for Mr McCawber.
In Victorian times Highgate cemetery wasn’t just a place for the wealthy or upper-classes. This is the grave of working class hero Tom Sayers, one of the most famous men of his day.
In those days, you see, there was no sport for the ordinary person. Football hadn’t been invented, so the working class loved (10) this bare-knuckled fighting and this guy was the great champion because he beat everybody and became a hero. Forget Karl Marx, six people, I mean 10,000 people turned out here at his funeral.
The sanctuary and peace of Highgate cemetery allows one to reflect on the history that is written upon the many graves and tombs here and offers an inside into London’s past.

miércoles, 26 de agosto de 2015

Talking points: Secrets

This week's talking point is secrets. 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.
  • What kind of secrets do people let you in on?
  • Have you ever let anyone down by revealing a secret?
  • Has anyone let you down by revealing a secret you had told them?
  • Are you good at keeping secrets?
  • What kind of secrets do you find it hard to keep? Why?
  • How secretive are you?
  • Who's the most secretive person you know?
  • Have you ever had a secret or planned something secret?
  • Who is better at keeping secrets, men or women?
  • Do you think that remarks like 'this is just between you and me' or 'please don't tell anyone' are a sure-fire way for the other person to spread the secret?
  • What family secrets do you know?
  • What secrets would you like to discover about your country?
  • Which of these secrets would you find hardest/easiest to keep? Give your reasons.
-You have won the first prize in the lottery
-You see your best friend's partner with someone else
-You have been diagnosed with a serious illness
-You have been demoted at work for your poor performance
-One of your children is on drugs. 

To illustrate the point you can watch the Speakout video Secrets, where passers-by answer these questions:
Are you good at keeping secrets?
Is it ever a good thing to keep a secret from someone?
Do you have a secret talent that your friends or family don’t know about?

I’m a really open person. I don’t keep secrets from my friends or family. I suppose I have things I wouldn’t tell everyone, things I’m a bit embarrassed about, but that’s true for most people. Are you good at keeping secrets?
I think I’m very good at keeping secrets, yes.
I’d like to think so. Um, people come to confide in me and I do the same, so I think it’s a mutual thing.
I’d say it depends on the secret. Erm, sometimes and, yeah, it depends who’s telling me the secret.
Yeah, I believe so. I think sometimes it’s, it’s according to how important the secret is and what it covers. But, um, I’ve kept some secrets in my life, trust me!
No. I’m terrible. I, somehow, and I don’t know if it’s a Canadian thing, but there’s nothing that seems really private to me. I just kind of blurt out everything.
I’ve got to admit I’m not very good at keeping secrets. If it’s a close friend and it’s something I know that erm, they don’t want to ‘get out’ then I will, I will be quite good. But, I am a bit of a gossip and I do like to spread news. Erm, I’m quite an open person with my own secrets so with other people’s I kind of follow the same pattern. It’s not very good. It’s got me in trouble a few times.
Yes, I think I’m pretty good at keeping secrets. Erm, I work in television so there’s quite a few secrets one has to keep professionally.
Uh, depends what they are. If it’s important, I guess so. If it’s gossip, not so much.
Is it ever a good thing to keep a secret from someone?
It depends on what the secret is. I think some tiny secrets are better kept secret but if it’s really having an impact on another person, I don’t think you should keep it away from the people.
I think it’s absolutely essential sometimes to keep secrets from people. Erm, I wouldn’t like to overdo it, I wouldn’t like to be too secretive but occasionally, yes, you need to.
I’m the kind of person who, if I think it’s better for the other person not to know, then I will keep the secret, although er, a lot of people will say that’s being dishonest. But er, I, I think deep down I’m quite an honest person, I always try and be pragmatic, and sometimes to be pragmatic you have to keep secrets.
It’s according to how much that person matters to you. If it’s to their benefit for you to keep it or to tell, you know what I mean? Sometimes you have to make that decision as a person: what’s important.
Oh, yes, absolutely. Yes, some things you shouldn’t tell people because, you know, it hurts their feelings.
If you’ve promised someone else that you’ll keep a secret, then definitely.
I think it is, because um, in the past there’s been times when I’ve revealed too much because I thought that keeping secrets wasn’t a good idea but that can lead to hurt feelings, so I do think that sometimes it’s necessary to, because if the person doesn’t know, it doesn’t necessarily hurt them. So, keeping a secret can be good.
Do you have a secret talent that your friends or family don’t know about?
Not many people know that, er, I used to play rugby. I was in the national Malaysian women’s team, so ... But I don’t play any more. I should do, but no. So, yeah, there’s a secret.
Well, I don’t know if it’s a talent but er, it’s definitely secret and it’s something that I usually bring out at parties and so on. It, it scares people, but it’s the ‘90 degree thumb’. [demonstrates] And it goes all the way back, from there right to the back. Sorry to freak people out, but ... That’s my secret talent.
I like to write stories but I don’t tell a lot of people about that because I think they’re not good enough to be told about, so I just keep them for myself, and maybe some close friends but, that’s it.
I used to like to cook. But in, like, the environment I grew up in you could never go to cookery classes in a mixed school. But as I’ve got older, you know what I mean, I do like to cook.
Well, I like to think I can actually sing, but all my friends and family think I can’t and I’m not sure why that is!
I don’t think so. I, I’m quite an open person so if I discovered a secret talent, I think people would know, so …
Sadly, when you get to my age, very few of your talents remain secret. You’ve tried most of them and tried to expose as many as you’ve got.

martes, 25 de agosto de 2015

10 Questions with Barbara Ehrenreich

Activist, atheist and best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich talks about religion, work and partners in this Time interview.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and note down the questions Barbara Ehrenreich is asked.
Watch the interview again and note down the gist of Barbara Ehrenreich's answers.

The activity is suitable for advanced students.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe from Time. I’m here today with best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich. She has a new book, Living with a Wild God. Ms Ehrenreich,welcome.
Good to with you.
So you say that yourself, you often say that you come from four generations of atheists. But reading this book I wonder, do you still describe yourself that way?
Oh, yes. I would be in big trouble if I didn’t.
You do have a sort transcendent experience, an encounter with the other? What, what form did your mystical experience take?
There were no visions, no hallucinations, no voices, no instructions. Nothing like that. It was the only way I could finally find to put it after all these years. It was as if the world came to life, everything came to life, the whole world was inflamed. Inflamed not in a frightening way that you’re going to be burned, but it wasn’t a peaceful thing, it was comforting. It wasn’t like a glimpse of any benevolent creature or deity or whatever you wanna call it. It was kind of ecstatic and kind of terryfing.
Are you worried that people are going to think that you’ve gone off the reservation with this kind of writing about the other?
I was a little more worried people would say I was crazy. You may yet say that in this conversation, I don’t know, but my response would be to say I was educated as a scientist, and one of the things I learned in my… well little career as you know, I got my PhD, that’s where I stopped, was that we do not discard anomalous results. If you have some kind of result that doesn’t fit your theory, that falls way off the curve in your graph, I’m sorry you don’t get to erase that. You have to figure what’s going on with that, and it was in that spirit that I came back to these questions in middle age.
Have you completely dismissed the idea that you could ever go back to the sort of ‘one God’ idea of…?
Never had it. Can’t go back.
Well, that you would explore that idea?
No, I would explore out many kind of religions but not monotheistic religions.
So like pan…? Like many gods? Like…?
No, no. You know, what kind of religions impress me? Not that I’m gonna become a participant. It’s those in which involve ecstatic communion with a deity or a spirit, like voodoo, like Candomblé in Brazil. And people don’t say you have to believe in these spirits. I guess that’s what they’re communicating with, not a god. You’ve known the spirits, you’ve come into contact with them. I like that better than belief. I have respect for that. But as I said I’m not looking for anything, and I’m not going to church.
Your body of work is very big and one of the works you’re most famous for is Nickel and Dimed, which is your attempt to live on minimum wage. Connecticut just announced that it’s going to raise the minimum wage to, I think, 10 dollars and 10 cents per hour by 2017. Is that high enough?
No, no that’s not.
So what do you say to people that say that even at 10 dollars and 10 cents, you know, unemployment is going to soar up? Businesses cannot afford to hire people at that level.
Well, part of me says, I don’t care. This is a moral issue. If you have people working for you who cannot make enough money to live on, that, you don’t have much of a business plan. Your business plan is really exploiting other people’s pain and suffering.
What do you think of the sort of latter day women’s movements, like Lean in  or 50:50 the European campaign, to get women in leadership in 50:50.
Well, it’s obviously directed at the more the people higher up in the hierarchy, in the corporate hierarchy, for example. If you’re low, lower down in that hierarchy, let’s say you’re stocking shelves in a big box store or something, you don’t come up with a big idea and push it. You know, that’s crazy, nobody’s listening to you. And if you get, you know, sort of overly involved in your big idea, you’re going to be judged to have a bad attitude. You don’t do things exactly as it’s supposed to be done.
You write in your book that you… one of the reasons that you had moved on your last gentlemen caller, you moved him out. Are you still interested in finding another life partner or is that part of your life not interesting you anymore?
You know, I think that I like living alone. I’d be happy to have, you know, some fella who came over but it’s as long as he was out of the there by 9pm.
9pm, that’s your line in the sand?
Oh, yeah, absolutely yeah. So wait a sec. You aren’t, have you got a cat?
No, I’m allergic.
Oh, well, there you go. Because, otherwise, you know you start bleeding and things we can’t see. And you don’t … anymore.
Alright. I’m a very active hands-on grandma. I’ve two grandkids and I can’t say that keeps me sane, but it keeps me in somebody else’s lunacy.
Ms Ehrenreich, thanks very much.
Oh, you’re welcome. Nice talking to you.
You too.

lunes, 24 de agosto de 2015

Listening test: On the move

Listen to Ely talking about the way she has spent all her life moving from country to country and complete sentences 1-7 below with up to three words. 0 is an example.

0) Ely has spent all her life living in other countries.

1) When you are young living away from your own country is great because you manage to ____________________________  .

2) Eli first went to Africa when she was ____________________________  old.

3) She lived in ____________________________  for 9 years.

4) Eli has never been able to speak the local languages because she’s always attended ____________________________.

5) When she was 8 Eli’s parents sent her to boarding school in England to receive ____________________________.

6) Eli envied her school friends because they had had their friends since ____________________________.

7) Eli thinks it's hard not to ____________________________  you can call your home.

I am totally English but I spent my whole life basically living (0) in other countries, well, my parents spent most of my life living in other countries. I've actually been at school in England for quite a while of it.
Living away from your own country is great. I guess it's really good when you're young you get to (1) see different countries. I stopped off in Africa and Nigeria. I was actually born in England, but I went there (2) fifteen days after I was born so, my first plane flight was 15 days old, and I can't really remember obviously that much of that but then we went to (3) Holland for nine years, which is great and it's, you know, I'm very lucky to have grown up in a different culture, although very embarrassingly I can't speak the language cause I always went to (4) an English school, but it's kind of difficult ‘cause you, wherever you go, you make friends. You get close to people and then suddenly you have to move, and move house, go on to somewhere else, and I found this to be the sort of hardest thing.
When I was 8, I went off to boarding school in England ‘cause my parents thought I'd get (5) a better education that way than moving around to different schools all over the world, and this was you know, it was good it was fun, but something like I always envied was the way, all the other kids at school, their school friends were just their friends in term time, but their real friends were friends that, you know, they had known since (6) they were little, since you know, since they had been born or, you know their early school friends and they still knew them and you know even when I was 18 years old, still, my friend's from school had their real friends at home who they'd known all their lives, and I've kind of always envied that because we've always been moving around and as I say, you know, I'm very lucky, we've been in Holland, Scotland, and Africa, and I've very lucky to have seen all of these places but it's kind of hard as well, not having a root, not (7) having [have] a place where you can actually call your home, somewhere to go back to at the end of the day and have all of your family and friends around you.

domingo, 23 de agosto de 2015

Extensive listening: Alive and kicking

Alive and Kicking is a CBS 60 Minutes segment aired early this year. This is the way reporter Lesley Stahl introduced the segment.

A show opened in New York recently that didn't get a whole lot of attention, but it features some of the most powerful singing voices you've never heard. You haven't heard them because for most of the performers, this is their first time on the stage. They've been singing their whole lives -- in church, in amateur groups, in the shower -- but like so many who had dreams of making it big, life somehow got in the way.

The show was created by a theater producer and former disc jockey named Vy Higginsen, who has made it her mission to preserve a special part of American culture: African-American music, both gospel and popular music like soul and R&B. She found a pool of untapped talent, men and women in what she calls their "second half of life" just waiting for their chance to shine.

The show is called "Alive: 55+ and Kickin'," and while that certainly fits the men and women who fill this Harlem stage on Saturday afternoons, "Alive" also refers to the music, and that is just how Vy Higginsen wants it.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 22 de agosto de 2015

Test your vocab

TestYourVocab is part of an independent American-Brazilian research project to measure vocabulary sizes according to age and education, and particularly to compare native learning rates with foreign language classroom learning rates.

TestYourVocab functions by means of a quick three-part test: the first part with a handful of words to determine the general vocabulary level, a second part with a larger but narrower selection of words to determine the vocabulary level with greater precision, and a final (optional) survey to collect statistical information.

TestYourVocab provides accurate results for virtually everyone, from very small children (with answers input by parents) to professional linguists. It can calculate vocabulary sizes from less than 100 words to more than 40,000 words.

viernes, 21 de agosto de 2015

My City Havanna

Cuba is one of the last communist strongholds in the world, and its capital, Havana, is where politics, sport, religion and music combine to create a place like no other

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

1 What happened in 1959?
2 What is the favourite pastime in Havanna?
3 What's the alternative to taking a taxi?
4 Why do people make offerings to saints?
5 What makes havaneros so special?
6 What does the rapper Raúl Collazo raps about?

One of the last communist strongholds in the world, despite all its struggles, the people remain upbeat and proud of their city. Hi, I’m Lilieth and this is my city.
Famous for its mojitos and cigars, it was (1) the 1959 communist revolution of Fidel Castro that transformed the lives of everyone here. Little has changed since I grew up. At every school, children still swear an oath to communism. But it is not just politics that concentrates young minds. Pelota, everyone is (2) baseball crazy, from games on the streets to organised matches, it is the pastime of choice. Along with health and education, sport is one of the success stories of the revolution.
When I grow up I want to play for Cuba's national team and go to the World Baseball Classic.
Getting around in Havana is unpredictable but always an adventure. Most of the old American cars you see around here are taxis. But havaneros, the locals, can't really afford them, so this is the alternative: (3) Hitchhiking.
Communism means that this is a secular society. For decades, religions were banned, but Afro-Cuban beliefs, along with Catholicism, have always been part of our culture. Now, ceremonies like this one have become widespread. Offerings are made to saints in the hope of (4) protection and good health.
In every house of every Cuban family there are at least one or two followers that believe in the Yoruba religion and whenever someone is in trouble they turn to those family members for help.
There is one ritual that all true havaneros follow religiously, and that’s socialising.
So what makes havaneros so special? Whether you are from just around the corner, or the other side of the world, (5) making friends is always easy.
… to the beats of salsa but it’s not all about twisting and turning.
Many here dream of a freer Cuba. Raúl del Collazo raps about (6) the failures of the government, so he is banned from radio and TV. His music is spread by word of mouth. Raúl believes his rapping has revolutionised the way people think.
When I look at my city, I still adore it with that same childish innocence I once possessed. I see a place that is evolving, it is slowly opening up. Its lust for life, never fading. Havana is my city.

jueves, 20 de agosto de 2015

Children New billionaires

BBC's Regan Morris speaks to some of America's youngest entrepreneurs. Meet the youngsters starting and running their own businesses.

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

1 What does Thomas create and sell?
2 What does he want to revolutionise?
3 What does '10 times' refer to?
4 What are Ahmat, Logan and Tay's business plans?
5 How old is Kiowa?
6 Why does she like to be an entrepreneur?

Is this a future billionnaire? At 15 (1) Thomas creates and sells apps for smart phones and Googleglass. That’s what he’s wearing, by the way.
They’re recording too?
And that’s how he’s filming us with these glasses. And Thomas has big plans for his summer. (2) He wants to revolutionise 3D printing technology.
Recently I applied for a patent on 3D-printing, trying to make 3D printing faster and more reliable. The key is their speed and (3) we are trying to print ten times faster than current generation 3D printers.
Thomas is self-taught when it comes to business and coding.
This school is trying to create entrepreneurs starting from age 11.
For advertising, we had to advertise, I used social media as a device. And then we have, up here, this is a profit-share plan.
At the Incubator School kids are encouraged to start companies on school time.
Hi, my name’s is Ahmat Ismael. I’m CEO of I Supply.
Hi, my name is Logan Fisher. I am the CFO and the Director of Marketing at I Supply.
Hi, my name’s Tay Trademan. I’m the head of sales at I Supply.
These twelve-year-old captains of industry (4) plan to sell school supplies to their classmates. They say kids have a big advantage when it comes to creating the next big thing.
Kids personally are more creative because they haven’t been boxed in by the world yet, and haven’t, you know, you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that, you’re going to do this. Kids, you know still have that mind where for example, I’m going to be superman when I grow up.
How did you come up with the idea?
I never liked Band-Aids and I didn’t want people to see that I had something ‘cause look at the board…
This pint-sized CEO is the youngest ever to dive into reality TV Shark Tank. (5) At 7 she considers herself a lifelong inventor.
I feel like being an entrepreneur, (6) you don’t have to follow somebody else’s orders, you can just be more free.
Good girl! That peach was juicy, wasn’t it?
Kiowa’s dream is to become a zoologist while making Boo Boo Brands into a household name.
Kids are still kids even if they are entrepreneurs.
Sage advice for a new generation of business leaders. Regan Morris, BBC News Los Angeles.

miércoles, 19 de agosto de 2015

Talking point: Different kinds of businesses

This week's talking point is businesses. 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.

If you could set up a business, what kind of business would it be? Why?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of running your own business?
Would you be willing to ask a bank for a loan to set up your own business?
Which of the following do you think are important if you want to succeed with a new business?
have an original idea - research the competition - have a lot of capital -
 think long-term - think short-term
Is it easy to set up a business in your country?
What steps do you have to follow?
What financial help can you get from institutions?
How important is the new technology and social media in setting up businesses today?
Imagine you are going to set up a business with your partner. Consider the options below and think about their pros and cons. Then try to agree on the one that would be most likely to succeed.
hair salon
pound shop
psychology clinic
estate agent
car repair shop
car dealer
internet café
Private security firm

To illustrate to point you can watch the BBC video how to do business in India.

Rajini Vaidyanathan: More and more people are coming to India to do business, but this is a country which is steeped in custom and tradition. So, what do you need to know to make sure you seal that deal? Well, we’ve enlisted the help of a corporate grooming expert to go through some of the dos and don’ts of doing business in India.
Suneeta Kanga’s on hand to help to guide us through some of the dos and don’ts. Nice to meet you Sunita, thank you for joining us. So, I’m greeting you in a first-time-I’ve-met-you business context. What was wrong or right about that?
Suneeta Kanga: OK, the handshake was good, Rajini, that’s good. A little less movement, just about that much. But, we can do away with the kisses and the embraces because that is not appropriate in India, it’s not required. Just a handshake, a little more eye contact with a larger smile to show that you’re happy to see me and maybe bow a little forward when you’re shaking hands.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  Let’s try that the right way then. Hi, Suneeta, nice to meet you.
Suneeta Kanga: Nice to meet you.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  So we’ve got the introductions out of the way. What next?
Suneeta Kanga: It’s important to create the right image through your attire, so even though India is a tropical country, nothing should be too revealing, too tight, too short. Perhaps a jacket, a formal jacket on what you’re wearing. A lighter shirt is always nicer. A pearl string would look nice and formal if you had matching earrings. Your trousers are too casual, maybe tailored your pants, and again, yes, though we could wear open-toed sandals, I think closed shoes always add an aura of formality, and perhaps something that has a heel, one to one and a half inch heel.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  So, how does this look?
Suneeta Kanga: Very nice.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  Now I’m ready to do business.
When it comes to high-level discussions, it’s often a good lunch or dinner where the real business is done. So, Suneeta, what are the dos and don’ts of an Indian business dinner?
Suneeta Kanga: OK, Rajini, in India most people at home would probably eat with their hands, but in a business dinner at a restaurant you should use spoons and forks. And the way to use it is that you take a little bit of rice and you mix it with a little bit of curry, push it with the fork onto the spoon, and then bring it to your mouth.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  Some people aren’t used to eating curry or don’t like spicy food. How do you get through that without offending anyone?
Suneeta Kanga: You know, Indians are very proud of their culinary skills, so it would be nice if you could compliment on their food, but if you don’t like something, try and keep it to yourself, don’t show it on your face.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  So we’ve had a good dinner and I’d really like to stay in touch with you Suneeta, so here’s my business card.
Suneeta Kanga: Thank you. Uh, Rajini, in India business cards are exchanged at the beginning of a meeting not at the end.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  I did that wrong.
Suneeta Kanga: Yes, and also when you’re handing over a business card, take it out of your card holder, turn it around so that the writing faces the person you’re handing it over to. Either hold it with one hand or two hands and give it as if you’re giving a gift.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  So let me do it the right way. Here’s my business card.
Suneeta Kanga: Thank you. When you receive someone’s card, look at it for some time, nod your head, say thank you and then put it away.
Rajini Vaidyanathan:  Thanks Suneeta, and I think I will be getting your business card because it looks like I still have a little bit of work to do on my business etiquette.

martes, 18 de agosto de 2015

10 Questions for Robert Reich

The former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich discusses the movie Inequality for All, his thoughts on  the minimum wage and the Obamacare, and details of his date with Hillary Clinton when they were both university students in this Time Magazine interview.

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

1 The United States has the most equal distribution of income of all developed nations.
2 The US gets pragmatic and makes changes at the last minute.
3 In the US only  the poor don’t have enough purchasing power to buy what the economy’s capable of producing.
4 Professor Reich estimates that $50 per hour is a fair minimum wage.
5 A lot of citizens blame themselves for their lack of success in society.
6 Inequality is a problem which just affects American society.
7 Good public policies in education and health mitigate inequality.
8 Professor Reich had a date with Hillary Clinton recently.
9 Hillary Clinton likes to have an inordinate amount of butter on her popcorn.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe from Time. Robert Reich is the former Secretary of Labour under President Clinton. He’s also the star of a new movie, Inequality for All, and he’s here taking questions from us today. Professor Reich, welcome.
Thank you, Belinda.
Of all developed nations, the United States has the most unequal distribution of income, and we’re surging toward even great inequality.
So I have to say that after watching this movie I kind of felt I’ve got to, I’ve got to leave America. Are we that doomed?
This is an optimistic message, Belinda. I think that as Winston Churchill is reputed to have said, America always does the right thing after exhausting all other alternatives. So I think that, you know, our history is one of doing the right thing, rolling up our sleeves and being very pragmatic when the going gets very tough and when we recognize, we have to actually make changes.
Isn’t income inequality just part and parcel of the capitalist system, I mean, isn’t it actually good?
But you come to a question of how much inequality then becomes detrimental to society. We’re getting to that tipping point because when so much of the income and the wealth of a country goes to the very top, the vast middle class and the poor don’t have enough purchasing power left to buy what the economy’s capable of producing, which means that you are almost necessarily subject to very anemic recoveries booms and busts as the rich speculate and a very high chronic unemployment.
Can you give us a dollar figure on per hour what you think the minimum wage should be?
I would say that a rule of thumb ought to be taken the minimum wage in 1968, adjust for inflation to today. But then, also adjust for productivity because, of course, the economy is much larger. Per person, productivity is much higher. If you adjust for productivity as well, you get to a minimum wage of around $15.
There’s a moment in the movie when you’re talking, you’re at a union meeting, about whether or not a mine should deunionise or unionize. And there’s a gentleman there who, who feels like the unions would be not in his interest. Now, how do you reach somebody like that?
Well, it was even more poignant. If you remember in the movie, he says, look, I’m not intelligent enough. I don’t have the education, I, you know. And at the time, I... just my heart went out to him because he… a lot of people who are not doing well in our society blame themselves. Hopefully, he and others who will see the film will understand that an economy is simply a bunch of rules. How we can change the rules and make them work so that the economy works for more of us, not just for a select few.
You could almost argue that as America has become more income unequal, the rest of the world has been catching up. The jobs that Americans used to do have made people in developing countries richer, is this not just more like an international imbalance that’s being redressed?
Not really, inequality is widening all over the world. I mean, China is surging towards inequality. Japan, a notoriously egalitarian society, is becoming more and more unequal as well. But different societies and different nations have mitigated the, the trends towards greater inequality more or less successfully. You can mitigate inequality by providing a very good education for all your young people. You can provide public investments in infrastructure that enable everybody to get to work relatively easily and afford housing. And we can go through issue after issue after issue in which the effects of inequality are reduced by good public policies. In the United States, we don’t, we do very little, we do little if anything.
Which sort of brings us to universal health coverage because that’s the sort of ultimate expression of we’re all in this together. How do you feel that the Obamacare rollout is going?
Well, it’s a little bumpy but I think that once people that they have healthcare, that they don’t have to worry about it even if they have pre-existing conditions and their children don’t have to worry about it, I think that they will embrace it.
Is it true you went on a date with Hillary Rodham? This is what the internet tells me.
Well, I didn’t remember it. When she was running for president or for the Democratic nomination for president, I got a call from the New York Times reporter, and he said, we found this collection of letters and apparently she had a date with you Then he asked, is there anything you can remember about that date which might shed some light how she would be as president? Now this is he, this is exactly what he said. I didn’t laugh. I, I was about to laugh because it was such an absurd, but I didn’t even remember the date at first. And then I said to the reporter, well, I do remember she wanted an inordinate amount of butter on her popcorn.
Is that true or did you just make that up for the reporter?
I made it up because I thought it was such an absurd question he asked. And then I heard nothing on the other end. And then, two days later in the New York Times, they have this little gossip column, I don’t remember. I don’t know that you remember it. During the election, it, it had my quote.
That she had an inordinate amount of…
She, she wanted an inordinate amount of butter on her popcorn. She had been president of her freshman class at Wellesley. I was president of my sophomore class at Dartmouth, and I had apparently suggested, I was very, very shy, you know, and I didn’t wanna ask her for a date but I hear that I had suggested a president summit to see a movie. That was how, that was how.
Secretary Reich, thanks very much.
Thanks very much, Belinda.

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

lunes, 17 de agosto de 2015

Listening test: Ideal homes

Listen to Jackie and Steve talk about the best homes they have lived in and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

0 Steve ……………. in many different places around the world.
A. has lived
B. hasn’t lived
C. would like to live

1 Steve’s flat in Cairo
A. had great views.
B. was very big.
C. was very long.

2 On his balcony Steve had
A. a table, two chairs and a bar but no plants.
B. two tables, chairs, a bar and lots of plants.
C. two tables, two chairs, lots of plants and lights.

3 At night Steve
A. played Arabic music and danced with his friends.
B. sat on his balcony with friends.
C. took a boat and cruised up the river.

4 Jackie was surprised by her home in Malawi because
A. it was bigger than expected.
B. it was very basic.
C. it was very small.

5 Jackie
A. lived alone.
B. shared the house with someone else.
C. didn’t like the house she lived in.

6 When talking about the garden Jackie says
A. it made the house special.
B. it was impossible to grow anything there.
C. she looked after it.

7 When Steve lived in Ghana
A. he didn’t do the washing.
B. the wind used to blow away all the washing.
C. there were monkeys in the garden.

8 In Greece Steve
A. decided to buy a traditional house.
B. lived on the islands.
C. stayed for three years.

Hello Steve.
Now, I know that you have lived in many different places around the world…
Yes, that’s right.
Could you tell me which is the nicest place you have lived in.
That’s very difficult to answer because I’ve been lucky enough to live in several really interesting countries and in really nice houses in those countries. But I think I would have to say my flat in Cairo, in Egypt, was the one that stands out.
Why is that?
Why is that? Because it was right on the river Nile and had an enormous balcony looking right over the river.
How big was the balcony?
Absolutely huge! It was probably about… ooh… I don’t know, maybe… twenty metres long?
Wide enough to have two… two sets of… furniture, two tables and chairs around and it had a bar at one end that was built for me and lots of plants, and at night the boats would cruise up and down on the river, playing Arabic music with all the Egyptians on the upper deck dancing and having a really good time and it was really nice just to invite friends around and to sit on the balcony and have a drink and look out at this really nice scene. So that was, that was fun.
That sounds lovely!
Jackie, you’ve lived in lots of places abroad as well, where’s the nicest place you’ve ever lived?
I think the nicest place I’ve lived in was when I was a volunteer in Africa. I lived in Malawi for three years and I was very surprised when they said that I was living in a three bedroomed-bungalow in a very small town. I had expected something quite basic, I suppose, and I got this lovely bungalow which I shared with another volunteer and the nicest thing about the house was the garden. It was a huge garden and although we had a gardener who tried to grow things, it really looked after itself and it was full of wonderful exotic trees like pawpaws and hibiscus and bougainvillea and lots of trees that I didn’t know the names of. And lots of strange animals, including monkeys as well and baboons we had living in the garden so that made the place very special for me. So that was the nicest place I lived in.
That sounds really nice, I’m really envious actually. I stayed in Ghana in West Africa for three months and also had a really beautiful garden but no monkeys. The maid used to do the washing and hang my clothes to dry on the bushes so sometimes I would come home and the whole garden would be covered in shirts and trousers all over all the bushes. That was very nice.
Could you describe what would be your ideal home.
I went to live in Greece for three years and I used to travel to the islands quite a lot, it was very cheap in those days, and I think ever since then I’ve had this sort of dream of having a little white-washed traditional stone house on an island in the Aegean very plain with a terrace outside flooded with sunshine, wooden floors, very little furniture and that’s really it. Just this very nice little house flooded with the light of the Aegean. Maybe one day I will still do something about that, I don’t know.
That sounds lovely, thank you very much Steve.

1A 2B 3C 4A 5B 6A 7A 8C

domingo, 16 de agosto de 2015

Extensive Listening: The price of shame

In 1998, says Monica Lewinsky, “I was Patient Zero of losing a personal reputation on a global scale almost instantaneously.” Today, the kind of online public shaming she went through has become a constant. In a brave talk, she takes a look at our “culture of humiliation,” in which online shame equals dollar signs — and demands a different way.

In her TED talk in March this year Monica Lewinsky advocates for a safer and more compassionate social media environment, drawing from her unique experiences at the epicenter of a media maelstrom in 1998.

You can read a full transcript for her talk here.

sábado, 15 de agosto de 2015

Reading test: A selfie with a weapon kills

In this week's reading test we are going to practice the kind of 'insert a sentence' kind of task. Read The Guardian article A selfie with a weapon kills: Russia launches campaign urging photo safety and choose the best sentence A to J for each gap. Two sentences do not correspond to any blank. 0 is an example.

A selfie with a weapon kills: Russia launches campaign urging photo safety

Russian police (0) have launched a campaign urging people to take safer selfies after accidents caused by high-risk poses (1) ……………… this year.

“A cool selfie could cost you your life,” the interior ministry warned in a new leaflet packed with tips such as “a selfie with a weapon kills”.

That warning comes after (2) …………. . In May, a 21-year-old woman accidentally shot herself in the head in Moscow while taking a selfie holding a pistol. She suffered injuries but survived. In January, two young men died in the Urals while taking a selfie holding a hand grenade with the pin pulled out. The mobile phone (3) ………. . In May, a teenager in the Ryazan region died while attempting to photograph himself as he climbed on a railway bridge and accidentally came into contact with live electrical wires.

“Unfortunately we have noted recently that the number of accidents caused by lovers of self-photography is constantly increasing,” said Yelena Alexeyeva, an aide to the interior minister. “Since the beginning of the year we are talking about some hundred cases of injuries for sure.” She added that the phenomenon had also led to “dozens of deadly accidents”. “The problem really exists and(4) …………… .”

The campaign includes leaflets, a video and advice on the ministry’s website, and uses warning signs in the style of road signs (5) …………….. . In one image, a figure holding a selfie stick wanders on a rail track. “A selfie on the railway tracks is a bad idea if you value your life,” the leaflet says. In another of the warning signs, a figure climbs on an electricity pylon while taking a selfie.

The public safety video produced by the ministry includes spectacular images shot by “roofers” – a subculture based (6) ……………… buildings and taking photos from the top, their pictures often going viral on social media.

“Before taking a selfie, everyone should think about the fact that racing after a high number of ’likes’ could lead someone on a journey to death and (7) ……………………… could turn out to be posthumous,” Alexeyeva warned.

A - a string of recent selfie-related accidents
B - around illicitly sneaking into high-rise
C - brought about by careless individuals
D - have launched a campaign – 0 Example
E - have resulted in about 100 injuries and dozens of deaths
F - his last extreme photo
G - leads to very unfortunate consequences
H - to get its message across
I - who inadvertently pulled the trigger
J - with the selfie survived as a record

1E 2A 3J 4G 5H 8B 7F

viernes, 14 de agosto de 2015

Inside some of the UKs most eco friendly homes

In the UK and throughout much of Western Europe, housing alone generates more than a quarter of all CO2 emissions. So builders and architects in Chichester are embracing new technology to make houses both greener and more attractive to buyers.

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

1 How many sustainable homes will be built?
2 Where do the homes get hot water from?
3 What was Graylingwell originally?
4 What are the economic benefits for homeowners?

These sustainable homes may not look so different but the carefully selected systems and appliances combine to minimize emissions. (1) Over 800 will be built in and around the solid red brick buildings of an abandoned hospital. Developers Linden Homes work with social housing providers Affinity Sutton and the UK Homes and Communities Agency.
The site’s CO2 saving secret is that every home gets hot water fed (2) from the landmark tower in the middle. Emissions are minimized in each home and further offset around the entire development.
We try to tailor it so that, um, so that the technology we use – it is a direct benefit and it’s not something which is purely, um, giving us that zero carbon credential but not necessarily something that the customer would notice or…or be a direct reason to buy a property here at Graylingwell. (3) This site was originally a hospital. So that, this is the original water tower that supplied the-the water to the hospital. Uh, we’ve now utilized it as the-the chimneys for the, uh, energy center.
Well I’ve come right into the energy center and this is the old idea of district heating brought up to date. And this is…all people will have in their homes. It runs on hot water, where you control your central heating and hot water for your baths and taps. It’s powered by these vast boilers, I mean, like you’d have in your home only very much bigger. The hot water runs through these pipes and pumps here to this accumulator tank. Uh, there’s room for even more of these and more plant here which, eventually, will allow this entire area to generate electricity which can be sent back to the grid.
And (4) homeowners get lower monthly bills. The house holds its heat extremely well so there’s not much concern to have the central heating on and the hot water supply is consistent at a safe temperature and a good pressure, too.
Until now it’s all regulation which has forced most of the climate saving measures but sites like this show that eco-friendly homes be cost effective.
Nigel Cassidy, BBC News on Britain’s South Coast.

jueves, 13 de agosto de 2015

Holiday the eco way

Do you want to go on a guilt-free holiday? Then consider taking an eco-holiday. This might be a trip with a difference and it's more than likely to have a low carbon footprint. Judging by recent trends, getting back to nature without contributing to atmospheric pollution seems to be all the rage.

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

1 Which sport is in vogue on the South Coast these days?
2 What does the phrase 'one in five people' refer to?
3 And 16%?
4 What used to be the backbone of the region's economy?
5  How high is the population on the coast each summer?

We're all being encouraged to reduce our carbon emissions, and now the growing green movement is changing the way we holiday. This summer on the South Coast, holidays with a low-carbon footprint are in vogue.
It's a slow and at times challenging way to get about. But the South Coast is becoming a mecca for paddlers of all ages.
(1) The big thing down here is kayaking. Kayaking has gone through a major surge.
Not particularly comfortable in the sea when I started, so it was a challenge of getting comfortable.
This summer there's a new type of watercraft doing the rounds. Glass-bottomed sea kayaks are proving popular to view the rich marine life.
I think it's something that appeals to a lot of people once they get a little older, because the limbs start to give out, the other adventure sports like the skiing and the bushwalking get a bit hard on the joints.
On the South Coast (2) one in five people work in the tourism industry. (3) Last year visitors spent 420 million, an increase of 16%. This year the industry says environmental awareness is driving the surge in popularity of kayaking, surfing and mountain biking.
I think that the carbon footprint factor has a lot to do with it.
Visitors today are looking to be responsible in their approach to holidays and to tourism.
(4) The commercial fishing industry was once the backbone of the region's economy. Businesses say new marine protection is helping to foster eco-tourism.
With the new Batemans Marine Park here we've got a lot of areas that are sanctuary zones and no more commercial fishing, so I think there's real potential.
(5) The population on the coast quadruples each summer, but there are few green alternatives to the highway gridlock. Adrienne Francis, ABC News, South Coast, New South Wales.

miércoles, 12 de agosto de 2015

Talking point: Turning points in life

This week's talking point is turning points in a person's life. 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.
  • Talk about a time when your life took a turn for the better or for the worse.
  • What are the most important decisions you have made in your life?
  • Have you ever made a decision that turned your life around?
  • Have you ever regretted (not) doing something in your life?
  • What are some of the turning points in your country’s history?
  • What (bad) habit(s) would you like to get rid of?
  • Describe how the habit started and developed.
  • What bad habits do you find annoying in other people?
To illustrate the point you can watch this video on Heleen, who was living happily in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but decided to leave everything behind and move to a farm upstate New York.

Leaving Williamsburg from Charles Schwab on Vimeo.

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.
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. 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.
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, so she was essentially alone for a lot of the time. Eventually they separated because they were living two very different lives.
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.
Now that I live in LA, 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, it gives her so much joy.

martes, 11 de agosto de 2015

10 Questions for Chris Kyle, American Sniper

In early 2012 Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who earned two Silver Stars in Iraq, explained the sniper's point of view for Time Magazine right before the film Sniper was released and one year before his death.

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

1 Special operations soldiers don't usually talk about their job.
2 Chris Kyle has written the book to let the public know about the sacrifices soldiers make.
3 160 refers to the number of people Chris Kyle has killed.
4 Chris Kyle is worried about the legal consequences of his actions.
5 Chris Kyle's first victim was a child.
6 Chris Kyle is accident-prone when he's at home.
7 The reports journalists wrote on the Iraq war didn't help the American soldiers at all.
8 Killing people is the thing Chris Kyle is best at.

Chris Kyle is a former Navy Seal. He’s also quite possibly the most lethal sniper in American military history. And he’s here today to face a little smattering of friendly fire with 10 Questions from Time Magazine. Mr Kyle, thanks for coming.
Thanks for having me.
So, you’ve got this new book, American Sniper. Isn’t it kind of not done amongst you, special operations guys, to talk about your, your stuff?
Yes, it’s kind of frowned upon.
So why did you decide to do the book?
I wanted to be able to get it out about not the sacrifices that the military members make.  But the sacrifices that their families have to go through. About, the, the single mothers now, raising the children and doing all the day-to-day house chorus. But then also stories about my guys who deserve to be out there. They didn’t get the Medal of Honour, so you don’t know about them. But they died heroes and people should know about them.
I believe that the number is 160. Is the sort of number of confirmed [Yes, madam.] sniper kills? Can you tell me what, explain what it is to have a confirmed sniper kill?
Alright, well, while you’re on your sniper rifle, you take a shot and the guy goes down, and you have, you have to have witnesses verify that he is dead.
And does it get recorded as part of the battle damage assessment or…?
Every time we come back we have to fill out an assessment of what happened throughout the day. The time, the place, the caliber used, the distance he was, what exactly he was doing, where he was standing, what he was wearing. It’s all in the detail.
So… and there’s that somewhere that we can’t get more than 80, but somewhere there’s 160 of those forms with your name on them.
Yes, madam.
What goes through your mind when you’re shooting a, a guy, it’s usually a guy? 
The first time of killing someone, you’re not even sure you can do it. I mean, you think you can, but you never know until you’re actually put in that position and you do it. And then you double think in yourself, my God, will I do this? Am I gonna be okay? And then you’re asking your leadership, am I cleared hot to be able to do this? Am I gonna be in trouble? You know, this guy’s really bad. And then you’re worried when you get home. All the politicians are gonna hang you out to dry and put you on trial for murder.
But the first kill that you write about in the book, you actually kill a woman, and she has in one hand, the hand of a toddler and in the other hand she has a grenade. Was that the hardest of all the kills you had to do?
Yeah, I had to do it to protect the marines. So, do you wanna lose your own guys or would you rather take one of them out? You have two sets of kind of heads in that you have, I’m back in America head and I’m at war head. You’re two different people. You turn it on and turn it off. You’re a little more aggressive when you’re at work, and when you come home you relax and try to be the different person. And my wife always said that when I came home from work, I’d take my cap off and put on the dork ‘cause I stub my toe or break my toe or something at home. But at work I was fine.
Does your wife still have to say your name before she gets back into bed?
It’s not as bad. But that was even before I was in the military. I’ve always been extremely jumpy when I’m asleep.
And the reason your wife has to say your name before she gets back into bed?
I will come up swinging. So, depends on how tired. If I’m out cold, then you can ring the doorbell and I will be asleep.
I have to ask this question but are there any kills you regret? 
No! Not at all.
Because they… you feel like it was either you killed them or they killed other Americans?
Yes, madam.
You know, you... in your book, actually the most I think, I’m quoting, that most Americans can’t handle the reality of war. And the reports, they, they sent back, the reports being the journalists, didn’t help us at all, which actually sounds a lot like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men. Did you realize that? You can’t handle the truth. Is that, is that how you feel that Americans just can’t?
Yes, madam.
So we should just, you’re on Jack’s side in this one.
Yes, madam.
You, you do not think…
For the most part, the public’s very soft. You live in a dream world. You have no idea what goes on on the other side of the world. That, the harsh realities that these people are doing to themselves and then to our guys. And there are certain things that need to be done to take care of them.
Now if people, if people did start out with the impression, before they have read your book, that you were that person who had killed upwards of 150 other people was a violent person, maybe a bloodthirsty person. I’m not sure that the book would free them of that feeling.
I really don’t care what they think of me. I mean, I’ve got my family. I’ve got my friends. I’m not trying to make new friends. And the people who…, if you actually spend time with me, you’ll find out, I’m just a fun-loving guy. Now, I, yes I have been trying to be a little more aggressive if I need to be, but I don’t go around dumping people.
If you never have… got to kill another person, would you be okay with that?
I’m fine. I don’t have to kill to live.
But you were good at it.
I was decent at it.
What if killing people turns out to be the thing you were better at than anything?
I know it’s not true. I’m a better husband and father than I was a killer. I mean, I’ve got a job now I’m good at. I’m pretty comfortable with not having to kill anyone.  Now, don’t take deer hunting away from me.
Chris Kyle, thanks so much.
Thank you.

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

lunes, 10 de agosto de 2015

Listening test: Car ads

You are going to hear some car radio advertisements.  Match the headings A-H below with their corresponding advertisement 1-6. There are two extra headings you do not need to use. You can only use each of the headings once.

A - A present included
B - Cutting edge design and performance
C - For very limited budgets
D - If safety is your top priority
E - New technology to help you in unexpected moments
F - Sale before new models arrive
G - Save money and be protected all the time
H - Save money and enjoy your trip to work

Ad 1
This is Tammy Taylor, owner of Taylor Motors. If you're thinking of buying a new car, now's the time! We have an outstanding selection of new vehicles, and thanks to government incentives, prices have never been better. You can get $900 off a brand new pickup truck, or drive home in a new four-door sedan for only $12,500 after a $2,000 government rebate. That's right, up to $2,000 off hundreds of new cars and trucks! But you'd better get a move on. Prices this low won't last long. We're on Tri-Cities Motorway near the junction of Interstate 40. Right now we're open 9 to 9 Monday through Friday, and 8-10 on Saturday and Sunday. Tell them Tammy sent you, and we'll give you your car's first oil change for free.

Ad 2
Do you need a new car but feel like you can't afford one? Well come on down to Hawkins, where you can buy a new or used vehicle for just $30 down. You heard right: Not $3,000, not $300, just $30 down lets you drive off the lot in your very own vehicle. We have hundreds of new and used compacts, sedans, SUVs or pick-ups to choose from, and a variety of financing options to meet your needs even if your credit's not too hot. Come on down to Hawkins Motors, at the intersection of Highway 5 and State Route 99.

Ad 3
Are you paying too much for car and home insurance? Call SureCo today and find out. A fifteen-minute phone call could save you hundreds a year on insurance for your car, home, and other vehicles. With features such as good-driver discounts, bundled auto- and home-insurance rates, and an accident forgiveness policy, you're bound to find protection that meets your needs, AND saves you money. New SureCo customers last year saved an average of $330. But that's not all. At SureCo, our experienced and friendly representatives are available 24-7 to answer your questions and settle claims quickly and efficiently. And with more than 1,000 offices nationwide, we're always nearby. Don't you owe it to yourself to call SureCo and compare? Call today: 888-555-2121.

Ad 4
It seems like flat tires come at the worst possible times. Like the middle of a crowded freeway. Or a deserted road late at night. But now a flat tire doesn't have to ruin your trip. Due to revolutionary new technology, Ruble Tires let you drive up to 100 miles after a flat, so you can change the tire in a safe, comfortable environment. Ruble's new Rugged Wear tires are side reinforced, so the rubber on the side of the tire supports a car's weight even when the bottom of the tire loses air. Rugged Wear tires are the latest in a long line of Ruble innovations. At Ruble, we make driving safer. For more information on all Ruble Tires, visit our website at

Ad 5
What do you want in a new car? Great gas mileage? Reliability? Versatility? Modern styling? No pressure sales and easy financing? If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, then you need to visit Starwood Kyoto. I'm Patty Mahre, owner of Starwood Kyoto, and right now we have bargains on hundreds of vehicles as we clear our storeroom to make way for this year's new models. Kyotos are famous for their high quality and fantastic resale value, and we have 10 different Kyoto models that average more than 30 miles per gallon. We need to make space for new models, so come visit us today, on Highway 909 in Starwood, just south of the city center off exit 191. Come to Starwood, and drive home happy

Ad 6
Are you stuck in traffic as you listen to this? Wouldn't you rather be sitting in a plush seat, reading a good book or sipping a cold drink while you wait? You could, you know, if you were riding a County Transit bus or light-rail train. Light-rail trains run twice daily north-south and east-west during rush hour periods, with 12 convenient stops along the way. And there are now more County Transit buses, and bus routes, than ever before. Recent studies show that taking a bus or train, instead of driving, could save you up to $10,000 a year. Studies also show that trains and buses, on average, get you to work and back quicker than cars do. So what are you waiting for -besides that car bumper just ahead of you to finally move? Climb aboard a County Transit bus or light-rail train. Then relax, and leave the driving to us. For more information, call 1-800-TRANSIT, or visit us online at

Ad 1 - A present included
Ad 2 - For very limited budgets
Ad 3 - Save money and be protected all the time
Ad 4 - New technology for unexpected moments
Ad 5 - Sale before new models arrive
Ad 6 - Save money and enjoy your trip to work