sábado, 31 de octubre de 2015


Speechyard is a platform that allows English students, specially those at an intermediate and advanced level, learn English through films, series and books.

You have to sign up with your Facebook account or email address and then select your language, which will be used for translations.

Go to the content tab to choose either films or series or books. In the learning page you can learn the words and expressions that you have previously selected while watching a film or reading a book. And you can use the community page to practise your English with other learners.

There are thousands of full movies, series and books to choose from.

This video explains how Speechyard works.

H/T The English blog.

viernes, 30 de octubre de 2015

London calling: Shoreditch

The London Calling series of videos was released before the 2012 Olympics with an aim to the world discovering the quirk areas of London . In this episode, we explore Shoreditch in East London.

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

1 What can you find alongside the canal in Shoreditch?
2 How old is St. Leonard's church?
3 Why did people traditionally not want to live in Shoreditch?
4 How did Steve Edge go to work?
5 What does Steve Edge own today?
6 What does Shoreditch special, according to Steve Edge?
7 Why is living in Shoreditch like living in a village?
8 Where do the circus artists practice?
9 What is Korri Singh Aulakh scared of?

On the edge of the city of London is one of the most creative parts of the capital. It's a colourful and vibrant place, where even the canal is a prime location for (1) a house.
Welcome to Shoreditch. There's pops, clubs, bars and drugs, where yuppies rave till the morning, it's now an impossible to find this place boring, poets, bands, magicians and gangs are around here touring. Graffiti writers from all over the world come here squalling. Even the most sophisticated of chaps leave Shoreditch crawling. But, despite the night-life, there's another side: there's history, and mystery, to seek and find.  
St. Leonard's church is a Shoreditch landmark that's stood here for (2) almost 300 years. Remarkably, it survived the Second World War when much of London's East End was heavily bombed. The destruction made way for factories, warehouses and high-rises. They still dominate the skyline. For decades, Shoreditch was a place where no one wanted to live. Then, in the 1980s, young artists like Steve Edge moved in.  
My first impressions of Shoreditch was that (3) it was not very nice, it was a place that nobody ever visited, and it had been kinda left, you know, it was this part of East London where it was rough, it was only where all the gangsters used to live, so I'd start working at this design agency, and I'd get my first pay. I've never had so much money in my entire life, and I've always wanted a horse. I've always wanted a horse. Every day, (4) I used to go to work on my horse to the studio, and I used to gallop up into the studio car park, where there'd be the Aston Martin, the Jaguar, the Porsche, and I used to tie my horse up.  
These days, Steve has (5) his own design agency.  
Brands are about stories, these great stories. It's not about the logo, it's not just about the colour, it's about the emotion that a brand gives you. Hence why we look after all these fantastic brands, the Cartiers, the Diors... 
While Shoreditch's reputation as a hub of cutting-edge advertising and design remains, the growing number of technology companies has led to it being branded tech-city. Steve says (6) this continual re-invention is what makes Shoreditch special.  
You know, it's got that kind of madness that it is the future, but is also the past, which makes it very interesting. And now you've got this Silicon Valley moving in, they're all coming to this rough, dogged area, and now fashion, creativity, life, clubs, pubs, music, it's become a whole world within a world. (7) Everybody knows everybody, it's a real village, it's living in a village in one of the biggest cities in the world. It's truly very, very exciting, and, believe it or not, I dress for a party every day, and the party comes to me.  
This outlook on life is fitting in an area full of surprises. Behind the doors of (8) a former electricity station I discovered the next generation of high-fliers. Korri Singh Aulakh dreams of touring the world on his flying trapeze.  
I was twelve when I first came to circus space, I've spent pretty much five days a week here for the past eight years, and I'm actually like, quite (9) scared of heights. Unless I'm on my trapeze, on my trapeze I'm fine. But, like, up a ladder, it's not so good. There are so many different disciplines  that you can do, like, whether it's aerial or slack, there's aerial silks, which is like, it's like big sheets of material where they wrap themselves up roll down...  I particularly love the swinging trapeze, because sometimes you get the feeling of like, complete weightlessness, so it's literally like you're flying through the air. If you looked in the window here at circus space you'd see people in the air, people on the ground... After I've finished here at circus space my big aspiration is to hopefully get into a big touring show, something like Cirque du Soleil.  
It seems Shoreditch has always been an area of creativity, and that energy means it now has some of the best nightlife the city has to offer. When the bars and clubs close around here, the working day for the rest of London begins.

jueves, 29 de octubre de 2015

Creating life in miniature for 40 years

Best friends Caroline and Jane have got dozens of dolls' houses as a result of their passion for creating life in miniature over four decades.

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

1 How many dolls' houses have Caroline and Jane made?
2 Where did Caroline and Jane meet?
3 When did Caroline start learning about woodwork?
4 Note down two 'jobs' that you need to know how to do to build dolls' houses.
5 Which animal do Caroline and Jane 'argue' about?
6 What idea did Jane have?

There are (1) more than 70 different dolls houses, all of different shapes, sizes, styles and ages in this collection that has been built up over 40 years.
It’s the life’s work of friends Caroline Hamilton and Jane Fiddick, who share a passion for dolls houses and a talent for bringing the miniature world to life.
(2) We were both at university together reading modern languages but I’m a year older than Jane.
Not quite, actually.
By a few days.
(3) When my youngest child turned three and went to playschool I could get out of the house on Monday mornings and go to woodwork for beginners and I started building the house sits behind me now.
The idea that she was building a dolls house made me think, I could have a dolls house again too, and one thing led to another.
We don’t think that many people know just how sophisticated the hobby is. (4) You have to be an upholsterer, a curtain maker, a wallpaperer, painter, electrician, woodworker… and if one of us has made something that we think it’s particularly successful, it’s a question of, oh, one for me and one for her.
Yes, absolutely, very bad form to make something for yourself only.
Oh, yes.
A match made in miniature heaven, or is it?
You’re very rude about (5) my rat.
Yeah, they’re too big and too nasty. I don’t like them.
They are very, very nice rats.
Their creations have been exhibited all around the world and now they are on permanent display at Newby Hall in North Yorkshire.
I’d like to give all the credit for this to Jane, and it was her bright idea (6) that we would suggest to Newby Hall that they could have our dolls house collection as a wet attraction.
It was very nice to think that they are going to be shared and going to be on show.
It’s going to be possible for both of us to pop back and just keep an eye on it from time to time.
But they needn’t think that we’re going to do the dusting every year.
Each tiny room is shown in amazing detail and peopled by characters like real life back stories.
You need to know who lived there. She’s weeping because she’s discovered that her husband has left all his money to his mistress.
Though hugely popular since Victorian times, are they still relevant for children today?
Oh, it’s so hard not to play with them once you see what it is.
I found it interesting like how detailed they are.
Most have taken them a long time for them to do.
With the hare and the tortoise really I leaped ahead and made a mess of things and just botched my way through, and she is the meticulous one and gets everything right.
As I so often say she does talk an awful lot of rubbish.

miércoles, 28 de octubre de 2015

Talking point: Fame and fortune

This week's talking point is fame and fortune. 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.
  • Who do you think are five of the most famous people in the world? Try to think of people in a variety of fields (culture, sports, science, politics, royals, actors).
  • In your group try to agree on a common list of five people.
  • In what ways are the people you chose different or special compared to ordinary people?
  • Does being a celebrity mean the same as being famous?
  • Do you think all famous people are celebrities?
  • Not all famous people are equally popular. What categories of famous people can you think of? Give examples.
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of being famous?
  • Do you think personal problems are more or less traumatic  for people who are famous?
  • What problems do most famous people go through when their fame begins to dwindle?
  • Which famous person would you like to meet?
  • Think of someone you admire, famous or not, and say which you look up to this person.
To illustrate the point you can watch the video below where a group of teachers discuss Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt and how difficult it is for the rich and famous to keep a private life.

There’s a lot of fuss about Jennifer Aniston, no? The fact that she’s still single and she’s already 40, she hasn’t got any children, she’s, you know, Brad and her broke up and she’s not had a good relationship since. Does anybody care?
Not much to tell you the truth. Yeah, it’s just, well, well that’s true, that supposedly she broke up with Brad because she didn’t want kids and she wanted to get further in her career…
Oh, really?
And so, oh you didn’t know that one?
That’s the rumour.
No, I thought it was the other way around. I thought she wanted children and he didn’t. Strangely, he has now 7 and she doesn’t have any.
No, I think it was that way but, but she strongly denied that since I think.
And now she’d love a baby more than anything but, poor woman, she seems to find the worst men so…
Who was she going out with before? She was with Vincent Vaughan? Or something like that.
Yeah, yeah and then she was with that that John Myer.
Who is that, John Myer?
He’s a singer… and he’s, he’s well…
What type of music does he sing?
Oh, he’s been in the charts, he’s, he’s like a singer/song writer with a guitar…
Kind of soppy…
Erm, folky.
Folky, soppy kind of music but he’s, he’s not, not too nice, I don’t think.
Is he good looking?
Yeah, he’s…
Ha, ha, ha.
He’s, he’s kind of hot.
Ha, ha, ha. We are talking show business, you know, ha, ha, ha.
Well, it didn’t last very long I guess.
No, I think it was a bit, a bit of a tumultuous relationship. But it’s so unfair the way all of their dirty laundry is aired…
…in all the magazines.
It’s incredible.
I would hate to be famous really for the same reasons, you know.
But look, there are some famous people you don’t hear anything about them. Like, I think they also allow it, like, I don’t know, like, if they didn’t want to be in the magazines…
Do you think so?
Well, I think they’d be able to sue the magazine or something and say I don’t wanna, you know… I don’t want this information to be in the magazine.
Yeah, which they do sometimes sue for incorrect information published.
Like apparently Brad and Angelina are suing a British tabloid called The News of the World, well. Not really one of the best, don’t know if you know of it, erm, for reporting that they were about to divorce, that they were splitting up.
And supposedly it’s a rumour…
So they say. I don’t know, it’s really difficult, like they say at home if it’s in The Sun it must be true and the same applies to The News of the World.
I think it’s true. I heard, erm, that Brad and Jennifer are having secret rendezvous so, secret romantic dinners so, you never know.
Like then other people say they’re just friends, you know, they’re just good friends like, like many exes who become friends afterwards.
I guess we’ll never really learn the truth.
Unless they get back together again and remarry in Hollywood and splash it all over OK again.
That’s right.

martes, 27 de octubre de 2015

10 Questions with Jane Goodall

Some time ago Dr Jane Goodall was interviewed by Time Magazine for their '10 Questions with' section.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 Dr Jane Goodall feels the same empathy for people as for chimpanzees.
2 Chimpanzees are brutal animals that sometimes show compassion and love.
3 Dr Jane Goodall had stopped following the first chimpanzee she talks about.
4 The second chimpanzee, Flo, didn't trust Dr Goodall with her baby.
5 Dr Goodall feels that her feelings help her in her research.
6 Dr Goodall objects to chimps being kept as pets.
7 In general, an animal doesn't destroy the environment it lives in.
8 In Dr Goodall's opinion, money is the root of all evil.

I’m Andrea Sachs, from Time Magazine. We’re here today with Dr Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist, who’s known worldwide for her studies of chimpanzees in the Gombe Reserve in Tanzania. Dr Goodall has written a wonderful new book, Hope for Animals in their World: How Endangered Species are Being Rescued from the Brink. Dr Goodall, nice to see you.
Good to see you.
Kantesh Guttal in Pune, India, asks, how can you be so empathetic with the chimps?
I think one is either an empathetic person or not. Some people are very non-caring to other people and some people just seem to care about animals and not people. Unfortunately, I realized learning from the chimpanzees how we are a part of the Animal Kingdom. Chimpanzees teach us that there isn’t a sharp line dividing us. And so the kind of empathy that I feel for people is the kind of empathy that I feel for chimpanzees. Okay. Do they have a dark and brutal side to their nature? Yes, so are people, and it comes out in the most unexpected situations. But by and large, chimpanzees show far more frequently tendencies of compassion and empathy and love than violence and brutality.
Which do you like better, chimps or humans?
Chimps are so like us that I like some chimpanzees better than some humans and some humans much better than some chimpanzees. There’s no question.
Hyeok Kim in Seoul, Korea, asked, What was the most touching that… in your time with the chimps? Is there a particular…?
Well, there are two. One was when I was following the first chimp to lose his fear, following him through the forest in the very early days. And he suddenly veered through a very tingly, thorny clump of vegetation, I was crawling after him and, you know, getting thorns and like catching my clothes and everything. So, I gave up. I thought that he had disappeared, but when I got through, he was sitting there waiting until I sat near him. And there was a ripe red palm nut on the ground, picked it up because chimps love them, handed out towards them. He turned his face away, so I put my hand closer and he turned, he looked directly in my eyes. He reached out, he took the nut. He didn’t want it. He dropped it, but he very gently squeezed my hand, which is how chimpanzees reassure each other. So, that was like a communication that probably for us predates words. And the other one was when Flo, who also lost her fear quite early on, she has this little infant who’s just learning to walk, he’s about five months old, and she trusts me so much that when he totters towards me and reaches out she doesn’t snatch him away like he used to, but she keeps a hand protectively around him and she lets him reach out to touch my nose, and this was just so magic.
Specialist McKinzie Baker at Camp Taji in Iraq asked, how do you work with so many animals and not get overly attached to them?
Well, I’ve always been very attached to the animals I work with. And although a scientist is supposed to be subjective and lack in empathy, I’ve always felt this is wrong. Fortunately, there’s a growing number of other scientists who feel the same and it’s the empathy that you feel with an animal, not a subject but an animal, a living individual being that really helps you understand. The science comes in when you say, okay I think, because I feel this empathy so that behaviour must mean something. And then you can use your scientific training to ask the questions and find out if your intuition is correct.
What’s your position on people who have chimps as pets given the implications for violence such as the woman in Connecticut whose chimpanzee attacked her neighbour.
It’s absolutely wrong to have a chimpanzee as a pet or any of the primates for that matter, and most other exotic species, too. Chimpanzees, yeah, when they are little they’re cute and people have them as surrogate children, but by the time they reach early adolescence, they already are as strong as a human and chimpanzees are completely unpredictable. You cannot predict what will trigger a sudden anger or rage. And so, we’re… actually the Jane Goodall Institute is fighting very hard for legislation that will prohibit people owning other non-human primates as pets. Very rare can they give them a good life. Why should we sell our closest living relatives as a pet. It’s not a pet. It’s an individual. It has its own way of living and it’s not suited to live in our houses.
Now, Chet Kim in Birmingham, Michigan asks, you’ve chosen to spend more time with animals, yet you have hoped for humanity. What do you see in animals you don’t see in us?
Well, that’s a kind of loaded question, isn’t it? Animals, by and large, are not destroying their environment, although some of them would if they could, but they’ve developed a natural balance and typically when an animal species starts overpopulating an area something happens, as it used to with humans, to bring that down, to be in balance with the natural world. But now, because of modern medicine, human populations are spiralling, mushrooming out of control. So, the question I always ask is how does this most intellectual species that’s ever walked the planet, how is it that we’re destroying our only home, and I think that there’s a disconnect between the clever brain and the site of love and compassion, the human heart. And what we have to do is to link the heart with the brain again. And let us move forward, understanding that this life is about a lot more than just making money and we should not be living for money. We need money to live. So, that’s why I’m working so hard with youth, to create a critical massive young people with his philosophy. That’s my hope for the future.

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

lunes, 26 de octubre de 2015

Listening test: Danger

Listen to Sybil talking about a dangerous situation she once went through and complete the gaps in the sentences below with up to two words. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
Sybil was in Costa Rica when she went through a dangerous situation.

1 She didn’t check how …………………………. was running before getting into the ocean.

2 As well as a swimmer and a boarder Sybil is a ………………………….  .

3 When she got into the water, Sybil just …………………………. and the water quickly carried her out.

4 Sybil couldn't surf because of the ………………………….    .

5 Traditionally it is advised to move ………………………….  if you want to get out of a situation like this.

6 Because the sea was so rough, Sybil ended up drinking a lot of ………………….    .

Well Katie, here’s one. It really was, a very dangerous situation. I was in  Costa Rica and I was at the beach...and I had not checked before, to find out...how the current was running in the ocean that day. I am a very experienced swimmer, and er...a boarder and body surfer and I should have known better, Katie, but I...I think I got a little ahead of myself...and I got my foot in the water, and it was, absolutely lovely...and I saw that there were big waves out a little bit farther...but, I sort of just lay down in the water, and very very quickly, the water carried me out, into the current. And I found that I could not easily get back, into shore. And er, the waves were very...irregular, which means that I couldn’t body surf on them. So that meant, that I had to decide which way, I was going to try to make it back to shore. And the traditional wisdom, is to go diagonal ...out of the current. And er, I did that, a little bit, but it was a big...fight, and the waves were so big and so strong, and so...irregular, that I couldn’t predict them and it was very difficult to not...drink a lot of salt water which is really bad to do... So it took me a very long time to get out of it, I’m very lucky that I was er...a good swimmer and...I managed to get out if it, but that was a dangerous situation.

0 Costa Rica
1 the current
2 body surfer
3 lay down
4 irregular waves
5 diagonally
6 salt water

domingo, 25 de octubre de 2015

Extensive listening: First Lady Michelle Obama Commencement Speech

On May 9 this year Michelle Obama delivered the commencement address to the 2015 graduates of Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. She talked about growing into her official role, racism, her criticism of herself and her husband, motherhood and more.

Her speech starts at around minute 5 in the official video below.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 24 de octubre de 2015

Reading test: What I’m really thinking- The fitness instructor

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the kind of insert-a-word kind of task and to do so we are going to use an article from The Guardian feature What I'm really thinking, The fitness instructor.

Read the text and insert the missing word in the corresponding gap 1-12 from the list given below. There are three words you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

 What I’m really thinking- The fitness instructor

Early starts are a (0) downside but it never ceases to amaze me how many people are queueing to get into the gym every morning at 6am. The diehards who can’t start the day without their (1) … ; the city banker trying to de-stress before work; the retired pensioner who can’t get out of the (2) … of waking early; the fitness (3) … who will be back in the gym at 6pm.

The best part of my job is seeing someone who starts out very unfit and (4) … and goes on to become healthy and strong. They often say, “I couldn’t have done it without you”, but the truth is they have done it all by themselves. I can’t control how much they eat at the end of each day, or give them the (5) … to push that extra weight.

I have lost (6) … of how many people I have sent to their (7)… after finding high blood pressure during their first induction. Maybe I saved their life in the long run. I like to see trainee instructors who start this job with little confidence but go on to be brilliant personal trainers. Some are never going to make the mark – I’ll stop them before they (8) … someone because of their training techniques.

The bad bits are few: clearing up sweat from the cross trainer because someone feels entitled to leave their (9) … for someone else; the injuries when someone falls backwards off a moving treadmill (10) … trying to send a text; worrying about the anorexic who shouldn’t even be in the gym. But you can’t stop people (11)… they are adults.

The job is different every day and in a way we are (12) … hairdressers: we get to hear your life stories.

downside 0 Example
cross trainer

1 workout
2 habit
3 addict
4 overweight
5 drive
6 count
7 GP
8 injure
9 mess
10 while
11 once
12 like

viernes, 23 de octubre de 2015

Starving on the Streets in South Sudan

New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof travelled to South Sudan in summer, where a famine brought on by drought and civil war threatens millions of people.

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

1 What does '5 million people' refer to?
2 Where's Nyanjok's husband?
3 What's the price of staple food?
4 What does Dr Dut give some of his patients when they are released?
5 How many people are displaced in South Sudan?
6 Why do displaced people settle in swamp land?
7 What's the main problem South Sudanese people are facing these days?

This is Nicholas Kristof in south Sudan. Nyanjok Garang is (1) one of nearly five million people who cannot feed themselves here. We helped her into a government vehicle. She hadn’t eaten in three days, so she walked dozens of miles from her village to the nearest city, Aweil, hoping to find food or work, but she didn’t make it.
I felt dizzy and nauseous. Then everything went black.
She’s never been hungry before, she says, but with (2) her husband off at war and a drought that stunted her harvest, she was so desperate that she fled, leaving her two children with neighbours.
Will the neighbours feed them?
The neighbours won’t give them anything. They’re also struggling.
The city’s hospital offers images that President Obama won’t see on his forthcoming trip to Africa. South Sudan will be high on his agenda, though, because the US helped to establish this country and now it is collapsing at war, economic misery and hunger. Its leaders have badly mismanaged the country and their civil war caused this looming famine. (3) Stable food prices have doubled. The next harvest is several months away. Memories of the horrific 1988 famine here are on everyone’s mind.
Does it remind you of 1988 a little bit?
Yes, it’s going to be like that actually.
Dr Dut Pioth spent his career treating illness. Now his ward is overrun with casualties of war.
This is the worst you’ve seen it here?
Yes, I have never seen such cases like this actually and in the coming month even the mortality will increase, actually.
Does it ever hemoglobin level?
Wow, she’s almost dead, I mean…
If thirty-year-old farmer Abuk Ajou Bol  survives, Dr Dut will release her, but he predicts she’ll be back because the government is unable to address the starvation crisis. Starvation isn’t a medical issue, so all he can do when they are discharged is give them (4) petty cash from his own pocket.
We cannot solve this kind of problem, actually. Is it always [possible], you just can come and put your hand to your pocket? It’s very difficult, actually.
It’s common to see malnourished kids in such places.
Their every bit of energy goes into keeping their organs alive. They don’t cry, they don’t laugh, they don’t do anything.
But I’m always particularly alarmed when I see adults wasting away. That means famine is approaching. And if you’re wondering where are the men, well, the culture dictates they get first dibs on food.
In rural areas the crisis is much better. We took a series of helicopters to reach these internal refugees. They are among the (5) 1.5 million displaced south Sudanese lucky enough to have escaped massacres with reports of rapes and castrations. They settle near swamp land (6) because it’s one of the only places without fighting. It’s also without much food, unless you count the roots of water lilies which keep them alive.
UN agencies like the World Food Programme reach them with temporary outposts that end in airdrops. 1,100 bags that will last several months. Sure, food drops are life-saving, but what’s really needed above all is a major international effort to bring peace. I hope President Obama will push for that during his Africa trip.
When you see starving people, your impulse is to think that they just need food, (7) but south Sudanese can feed themselves if there is peace [=war].

jueves, 22 de octubre de 2015

London's supercar crackdown

Authorities in London are considering tough measures on noisy supercars around the exclusive district of Knightsbridge.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and complete the gaps in the transcript with the missing words. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 students.

Authorities in London are considering a crackdown on noisy supercars in and around the exclusive district of Knightsbridge. Every summer (1) ... car owners from the Middle East descend on affluent parts of the city with their prized motors but residents here say they're being driven to distraction by the revving engines and late-night (2) ... .
The noise that they create is an enormous problem. It's not so bad during the day although I do know that some of the (3) ... residents find it very difficult, but the real problem for us at night when they race up and down Sloane Street amongst other places, revving their cars at high speed and making really horrific noise and it’s quite impossible to sleep.
Now the local council is considering amending the law to ban revving engines, (4) ... and sudden acceleration.
There’s very (5) ... people, particularly from the (6) ... states, but possibly from other places as well in the UK and beyond, who drive these sports cars, these very, very upmarket models which have the facility to (7) ... into sports mode, which means that they can make an incredible amount of noise even when they’re (8) ... just by revving the engine and we know that people are racing the cars, they’re driving in convoy, very often there’s loud music attached and generally it's creating enormous (9) ... in the highly populated, highly residential streets.
But some drivers feel the criticisms levelled against them are unfair.
We come from a lot of different countries (10) ... there are local people here, there are super cars as well. Whenever you’re in a country that is not yours, you gotta respect the (11) ... in the end, so drive carefully, respect the people who live here, don't try to rev a lot, to make a lot of sound, in the end you don’t gonna be in their place. So… it’s not always Arabs who do this. A lot of Europeans do this as well.
Any (12) ... that are introduced for noisy drivers are likely to be too late to stop this summer's supercar assault. The proposed changes are under consultation and will (13) ... so until the autumn.

1 wealthy 2 racing 3 elderly 4 racing 5 wealthy 6 Gulf  7 switch  8 stationary 9 disturbance 10 plus 11 rules 12 penalties 13 remain

miércoles, 21 de octubre de 2015

Talking point: Globalization

This week's talking point is globalization. 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.

In what ways do these aspects of globalization affect our everyday life?
trade - human migration - communication
What other aspects of globalization can you think of?
Do you think they have mostly positive or negative consequences? Why?
Say which of these statements on globalization you agree or disagree with. Give your reaosns.
- It benefits economies.
- It destroys local cultures.
- It harms local businesses.
- It improves communication.
- It creates inequality.
- It only benefits multinational corporations.
How do you prefer to  shop: in a small local shop, in a large department store or online? Why?
What are the advantages of shopping locally?
What are the advantages of shopping in a big box store or department store?

To illustrate the point you can watch the video Globalization Easily Explained.

martes, 20 de octubre de 2015

10 Questions for Joss Whedon

Cult-TV-show creator turned big-shot movie director (The Avengers) Joss Whedon talks on athiesm, strong women and the hottest vampire on record in this Time interview.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and number the topics below in the order they are mentioned. The activity is suitable for Advanced students.

A failure
Admiration for a writer
Funny location to shoot a film
Ground-breaking work
My characters
My family
Romantic comedies
The love of culture for superheroes

Joss Whedon is a writer, director, musician, producer and figure of almost cult-like admiration. He’s probably best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Avengers movie, and he’s got a new project which is a natural outgrowth of those, Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. Mr Whedon is here with us today, welcome!
Thanks for having me.

You’re known actually as a writer. Why take on Shakespeare where you don’t actually have the control of the material?
Well, I don’t know many writers who don’t revere his works. I grew up listening to them, reading them, seeing them and you…, you know, it’s been a passion of mine for a long time. My friends go over at the house to read the plays, and, you know, it’s exciting to be able to have my time, my turn at interpreting his work.
As I recall, you shot this in your own home like only contractually on the break you were contractually obliged to have after shooting the event.
Actually, I’ve shot it in my own home on the break that I fought to the nail to get from the Avengers, which was officially one week. All I needed to do was get back to the roots of creativity and reconnect with the central passion of what’s first attracted us to this business.
You’re kind of known for you strong female characters, but there’s news of creating tension there because often the females in your creations, they meet a really ugly end. Is there a disconnect there?
When you’re known for creating strong female characters, people like to put that in a box and say, what’s what you’re gonna do. What I like to do is create human characters. I’ve killed off characters male and female , will-nilly I have a good reputation for it, one that I’m kind of quite tired of to be truthful. But the fact of the matter is that if you’re not putting people through the paces, if I’m not giving them real pain and real loss and real hardship and sometimes real tragedy, then I’m not a story teller.
You are the son of a TV writer and, I think, the grandson of a TV writer. So were family get-togethers, were they like, okay I’m not sure you quite found the comic sweet spot yet for that, Joe. I mean, was there a lot of this discussion of the latter?
No, you know, it really wasn’t. What it really was, was my dad and his comedy writer friends all milling about to all hours, just being incredibly funny, and me just hanging out with them waiting for the day that, you know, I would make them laugh. And, you know, every time you did, you scored a little hit, you just, Yeah! That’s right! I’m in the drive.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was kind of seminal in that it was kind of big before vampires were big, and it was kind of big before we had such strong female action heroes. Do you think it fell into that or were you sensing it in the side cast.
I had a need to see a girl fight monsters and not die. I had a need to see somebody’s high school journey written large. Vampires are a wonderful metaphor because the other, you know, the sort of monstrous isolated creature but that we all can relate to especially when we’re in high school, but they happen to be the most beautiful, sexy, perfect, usually sort of vaguely wealthy and well-dressed virgin. It’s not, you were not up there with the hunchbacks ringing the bells, you know, we’re not in…
The zombie.
Exactly, Phantom of the Opera. It’s like, no, vampires are, you know, a Frank Langella.
That’s who does it for you, Frank Langella.
I’m sorry, honestly. Frank Langella’s Dracula is still the hottest vampire on record.
Why has the culture, do you think, become interested in superheroes for so long? It seems like it hasn’t gone away even though it used to be considered kind of a small boy thing.
Well, those small boys grew up and, you know, and they had other small boys that they showed their comics to and all of them buy things or are running studios or are filmmakers. You know, for a long time, people sort of poked at the edges of comic books but they either didn’t have the money, they didn’t have the technology or they didn’t have the understanding of what it was they were trying to adapt. I think that really changed with Sam Raimi’s Spiderman, which was the first movie that absolutely got the essence of the book and turned it into a film.
Will it like other things reach its end? Are we close to that?
It felt to me when I saw the Dark Knight that, you know, it was like sort of we got past it, you know, it’s sort of like, okay, we understand the superhero movies, now I’m going to make Godfather with superheroes and, and sort of the post-superhero era and I was like, whoa, wait a minute, I still wanna see the hero part, you know, I feel like the great superhero movies are yet to be made and so it’s not deconstructing completely just yet.
When I asked our readers to, you know, what they would ask, one of the interesting things that kept coming up is your atheism and I wonder if the fact that you do not believe in the supernatural makes you more able to imagine these universes because you’re working with a blank canvass.
Since I don’t have a fantastical belief in my life, it is nice to create a world where there could be one. So I think it helps fuel my level of science fiction fantasy, but I wouldn’t say that it makes me particularly qualified to do it.
I have questions from readers. Wilson Vega asks, in retrospect is Fox cancelling Firefly the best thing that ever happened to your career?
No. It’s a terrible thing. It hurts like a wound every single day.
But it did free you up to do other things?
No, no, no. Boo.
Boo. Okay. So you’ve done Shakespeare, you’ve done horror, you’ve done superheroes, is there a genre that you, are you dying to do a rom-com and I know some of the work crosses over but…
Yeah, I mean, you know, I just did a rom-com and I did in fact the rom-com but…
Do you consider the rom-com more than the Taming of the Shrew?
I do. I think that it’s much more, I think Much Ado is really the, you know, the granddaddy of all modern romantic comedy. You know, I would love to do a straight up period drama, you know, some empire dresses and, you know, some swords and manners and stuff like that.
British actors.
Probably British. Probably mainly British.
On that note, Mr Whedon, thanks very much.
Thank you.


A failure - 8
Admiration for a writer - 1
Atheism - 7
Funny location to shoot a film - 2
Ground-breaking work - 5
My characters - 3
My family - 4
Romantic comedies - 9
The love of culture for superheroes - 6

lunes, 19 de octubre de 2015

Listening test: Driving ability and age

Listen to this news report on driving and age and choose the option a, b or c which best completes the sentences below. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
In the accident the reporter talks about the driver was
a) 68 years old.
b) a young girl.
c) reversing.

1 The man interviewed
a) hardly ever has problems to stay focused when driving.
b) sometimes mistakes the car pedals.
c) thinks old age is sometimes a serious problem.

2 This man
a) doesn’t drive unless he has to.
b) drives as much as when he was younger.
c) usually drives around 20,000 km (clicks) a month.

3 The interviewer
a) says the minimum age to get a driving licence is 16.
b) says the maximum age to get a driving licence is 80.
c) wants the minimum age to get a driving licence to be 18.

4 The man interviewed
a) knows his ideas are unpopular.
b) thinks drivers in their 60’s and 70’s are really dangerous.
c) thinks older people are usually the victims of accidents.

5 The first woman interviewed
a) considers elderly people know their limits.
b) says no senior drivers are involved in accidents.
c) thinks adults who drink are the real problem.

6 The second woman interviewed knows … who voluntarily gave up driving.
a) one person
b) two people
c) three people

7 The person with the … problem was angry about having to give up driving.
a) vision
b) leg
c) heart

Hi I'm Marcy Markusa. The question of how to best monitor the abilities of senior drivers is top of mind again, after a recent accident where an 86 year old man seriously injured a young girl. He was backing up in a parking lot. It’s a touchy subject because for many seniors, being able to drive is critical to their independence. We asked reporter Christopher Read to talk to senior drivers about senior drivers. Let’s listen to what he found out.
Do you think the issue of older drivers deserves as much scrutiny as it tends to get?
In some cases, yes. I know some older drivers for some reason don’t stay focused and when they do that, they forget that the brake pedal isn’t the gas pedal and invariably they get into trouble.
Do you mind me asking, how old are you?
How has your driving ability changed with age?
I wanna do it less. I travelled a lot in my time, sometimes 20,000 clicks a month and now, I only like to drive where I’m going if there’s a decent reason.
In our society we can’t get a licence until we’re sixteen, which you know is a kind of ageism, which is accepted, so why not do the reverse, you know, set an age at which everyone’s licence is automatically re-tested, like they do it in Ontario at 80, what do you think about that?
Well I feel a little bit like a traitor here but I do believe that when we get up around the 60’s and 70’s we should be tested because it’s not just our lives at stake here, we can do some very, very bad harm.
The attention should be on teenage drivers who are drinking or coming from parties. If you watched the news, the list of accidents, it was least with senior drivers.
Has your driving ability changed with age do you think?
No. But I recognize my age and if it’s stormy or late at night, I don’t go out. I think that older drivers have to recognize the weather and the conditions.
Do you know people in your own life who have had to get re-tested or who have had their licence taken away?
Yes, because of ill health. I have a friend who gave up her licence herself. She didn’t do it because of the doctor, because she lost her peripheral vision and so she just gave up her licence. I had another friend who had to give up her licence because her legs, they said her legs weren’t working properly for her to control a car. And I had another friend that had to give it up because of heart problems.
And how did they take that?
Two of them were fine and the other one was very angry. The person with the heart problem was the one that was angry about it.

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

domingo, 18 de octubre de 2015

Extensive listening: Before I kick the bucket

What would you do if you were told you only had months to live? In BBC's Before I kick the bucket, Rowena Kincaid, a terminally ill young woman with a wicked sense of humour, tries to figure out what best to do with the time that remains.

sábado, 17 de octubre de 2015

'Would rather' to express preference

The expression would rather means 'would prefer to' and is followed by the infinitive without to. The contraction 'd rather is commonly used.   

We use would rather when we are given a limited choice of things to decide on:

Would you rather stay here or go home?
'How about a drink?' 'I'd rather have something to eat.'
'What was all that about?' 'I'd rather not say.'

The preposition than is used if we explicitly mention the element which is not the case:
I'd rather see thrillers than romantic films.
I'd rather have coffee than tea.

However, would rather can easily be confused with some similar structures:
would rather like means would very much like:
I'd rather like a cup of coffee

We can use would rather to say that one person would prefer another or others to do something. In this meaning we use the structure would rather + subject + past tense.
I'd rather you went home now.
I'd rather you came next week.
My mum would rather we didn't see each other any more.

After this grammar introduction, let's practise the expression would rather with the meaning 'would prefer to'. rrrather gives us a great opportunity to orally practise this structure by presenting us with countless options to decide on. You can click on the tag 'categories' to choose the topics to discuss. Remember to give your reasons for your choice.

H/T to Talk to Me English.

viernes, 16 de octubre de 2015

The evolution of the commercial jetliner

The world's commercial aviation has greatly evolved since its early years.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 1 and Intermediate 2 students.

1 When did the first jet-propelled airplane make its first flight?
2 Why was the De Havilland Comet's reputation damaged?
3 How many passengers could the Boeing 707 carry?
4 How many engines did the Airbus A300 have?
5 How long did the Concorde take to cross the Atlantic in 1976?
6 When did the Airbus A380 enter service?

On this day (1) 66 years ago, the age of commercial jet travel began when the world's first jet-propelled
airliner made its first flight.
Built in Britain, it was called the De Havilland Comet and it first carried passengers three years later in 1952 on a flight from London to Johannesburg. The comet ushered in a new era in aviation, but its name was soon damaged by a string of (2) fatal accidents.
By the time newer, safer models came along, the jetliner market was in the grasp of American manufacturer Boeing.  In 1958, Boeing released the 707, a jetliner that could (3) carry around twice the number of passengers as the Comet. Boeing continued to dominate throughout the sixties and seventies with the 727, its short-haul workhorse, the 737, and the world's first wide body jetliner, or jumbo jet, the Boeing 747.
In the early 1970s a new competitor arrived on the scene in the form of European manufacturer Airbus. Its A300 series was the world's first (4) twin-engine [=2] wide-body jet and, later the success of the A320 made it a serious rival to Boeing.
In the late 1970s, supersonic air travel became a commercial reality for the first time. (5) Concorde halved the time it took to cross the Atlantic when it entered service in 1976. But a high-profile accident and the events of 9/11 ended commercial supersonic travel in 2003.
Two years later in 2005, the world's biggest passenger airliner, the Airbus A380, made its first flight. It entered service(6)  two years later [in 2007], and today is at the pinnacle of what's possible in commercial air travel.
The jetliner has certainly come a long way since that first test flight in 1949.

jueves, 15 de octubre de 2015

Poor man's crop, rich man's food

Cashews are expensive to buy, but Indonesian cashew farmers don't get paid a high price for them. So who gets the profits? Trace the journey of cashews from farm to market with some farmers from Flores who grow them.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and number the topics below in the order in which they are mentioned in the video. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

An idea being imitated
Another way of increasing the value of crops
Better quality of life for all the family
Buyers control the market
Farmer's cooperatives and actions
The market cost vs the money farmers get
Understanding how the market works

Cashews are a poor man's crop and a rich man's food. Australians can pay $28 for a kilogram of cashews, whilst the Indonesian farmer only receives $1. But things are changing.
I grow rice, banana, vegetables and corn. For cash crops, I farm cashews, copra, candlenut and coffee. I'm responsible for six people - my wife, Maria, and four children. I began farming in 2003. The buyers control the price and used a system of giving loans to farmers, who then paid back the loan with our produce at harvest time. However, this was very unfair because the buyers would give us a very low price for our produce.
From 2009, World Vision started working with the farmers on the eastern side of the island to expand their markets and increase their income. Together, we did a market analysis and identified the five products in greatest demand at the local markets - copra, or dry coconuts, candlenut, cashew nuts, tamarind and cacao. We then took ten farmers from their villages to follow the journey of their produce.  We drove them to Maumere, the capital of Flores, to see the larger daily markets where their produce was sold again. Next, we travelled together for three days by boat to Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia. Here farmers saw warehouses, and companies buying cashews to export overseas. They understood that cashews were processed, graded and used across the world. The farmers found their cashews had much greater value than they realised. We then worked with the farmers to improve the quantity and quality of their product, and improve their bargaining position with the buyers. This led the farmers to join together and sell their produce at a weekly auction.
Now all the local farmers bring their produce to the auction and sell our combined produce in bulk. Now the buyers have to come to our auction and bid for our produce. A contact in Maumere tells me the market price for cashews from the day before, and now we have better market information about a fair price for our product. This has increased the income for all our crops. For example, the cash we receive from a kilogram of cashew nuts has more than doubled, from 7,000 t0 16,000 rupiah.
I buy crops from village farmers and sell them later at markets in larger towns, like Larantuka or Maumere. With the farmers' cooperative market, the farmers now have a better life. They can get the better price and they feel that they get a fair profit from their work on the farm.
World Vision has also helped us add value to our crops. One example is that villagers are now shelling the cashews. This increases our income too. As the cashews are shelled, they're graded into two groups - broken and unbroken. We receive four times more money for the unbroken nuts. The more we do, the better we get.
The farmer's cooperative means that families can send children to school and university, which they couldn't afford to do before. I have graduated from senior high school and will go to university to study health. I would like to become a nurse or a midwife so that I can help other people.
The cooperative has meant that we're now working more closely together. This new market system means that we receive a better price that helps our whole family. I have been able to build a toilet and bathroom in our house. We can now save if our children get sick and need to go to hospital. We can also save each month for the children's schooling.
There are 1,500 farmers and 16 villages involved in the farmers' cooperative. This story is now being repeated in other rural areas of Indonesia. As local farmers get access to better market information, they're able to get a more just and fair price for their work.
I feel happy with this new system because we can now get a good price for our work. One day I hope we can go online, and my children will continue this work in the future.

An idea being imitated -7
Another way of increasing the value of crops -5
Better quality of life for all the family -6
Buyers control the market -2
Farmer's cooperatives and actions -4
The market cost vs the money farmers get -1
Understanding how the market works -3

miércoles, 14 de octubre de 2015

Talking point: Personal identity

This week's talking point is personal identity. 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.

Classmates, friends, teammates, workmates. Think about the groups you belong to and how important that group is to your identity. Choose the group you think has the biggest influence on you an explain your reasons.
The following factors can all influence our personal identity. Number them in order of importance to your identity (1 the most important, 8 the least):
clothes - studies - friends - interests - values - family - languages - job
Is family background important to your sense of identity?
What's the difference between family background and social status?
How might they be related to each other?
Do you and the people in your social group share the same life goals?
Is that important?
Do you think it is important 'to be yourself' at all times, even if sometimes it may upset people?
Have you ever felt out of place or that you didn't fit in?
Is your sense of identity connected to your language and culture?
Is your identity in your language the same as your identity when you speak English?

To illustrate the point you can watch the Speakout family history, where passers-by answer the questions:
Do you spend much time with your family?
Do you think you have inherited any family characteristics?
Do you know much about your family history?
Does your family history play a part in your sense of who you are?

A: Hi. My name is Andrea. I live and work in London though most of my family live in Brazil. I get on well with my sister when I see her but that’s only once a year. Do you spend much time with your family?
N: Spend quite a bit of time with my family. Obviously, er, less now since I left home and left university. Uh, but I go back every, kind of, every other weekend or every, say, three weekends. So yeah, I see them quite a bit.
D: Probably not as much as I could because the kids are busy and, er, I don’t have any parents any more and my husband’s family live a fair way away, so probably not as much as we’d like to.
To: I try to, yeah. I try and spend as much as possible. Erm … My ... I’ve got two sisters. My eldest sister lives in London (she lives on a houseboat actually, on the Thames – which is very nice). And my little sister lives in Tenerife with my parents.
Ti: I don’t, no. We’re geographically quite spread out.
R: Yeah, I do. I go to school in Toronto and they live there and I see them on weekends and whenever I can really.
A: Do you think you have inherited any family characteristics?
N: Well, er, often people say that I sound and look a lot like my dad, which I don’t see but, but everybody else does, so I guess, er, I guess I have done.
M: Yes, I do. A lot of people sometimes say I look like my aunt, erm, or my mother. But then there are a couple of my aunts and my cousins that when people see us they’re like, ‘Are you guys sisters?’
D: Unfortunately I think I have, but they’re probably not all bad. My family seems to all have fairly good personalities and it’s usually fun being around them, so, um, I think I might have inherited some of that.
R: Oh, absolutely. I get stressed very easily. I, er, I guess take things too seriously sometimes, but I really value spending time with my family and that’s probably a big thing that I’ve inherited.
Ti: Er, physically, yeah, definitely. Erm, yeah, I think I’m quite slender and quite tall which is like my mum. Er, but in terms of personality, probably not, no I don’t think so. No, no.
To: Yeah, definitely. I think, from my mum I’ve got the kind of bubbliness and chattiness – she’s very much like that. And, er, most of the time I’m like that, but then when I’m in a bad mood I get the dad side. And that’s er, he’s kind of, my mum used to call him ‘a volcano’ because he kind of just ‘erupts’. He’s really peaceful most of the time but then when you really make him angry he’ll erupt and that’s kind of how it is with me.
An: There’s this moment I think ... probably happens to all of us, where there was something our mum or our dad did which we hated and then we find that we’re doing it.
A: Do you know much about your family history?
An: Yes, I know quite a lot – um, group of eccentrics really. Um … my family was essentially, er, lived in Scotland and Argentina, different bits of Latin America. So I know, I know quite a lot about it.
M: We’re like, we’re great writers and historians so we do a lot of work with, you know, collecting that, we did a lot of work collecting that data of our family’s history coming from Barbados, um, and going to Liberia which is where I’m from originally.
D: A little bit. One of my aunties did a family tree and it appears that I’m about, I think, a third generation Australian. Originally, we came from County Clare in Ireland. So, that’s as much as I know.
To: Yeah, it’s quite interesting actually because my father and my mother were both Catholic missionaries from Spain and they met in Zimbabwe while they, while my father was a priest and my mother was a nun and they fell in love and they kind of left the church and decided to settle down in Zimbabwe and, um, have kids.
R: Yeah, I mean Canada is a country of immigrants, so my family’s from Scotland and France.
N: I remember conversations with my grandparents – them explaining but I wish I’d written more down because it’s amazing how much you forget. You think, ‘I’m sure it’s so vivid. I’m sure I’d remember more,’ but, er, I wish I did.
A: Does your family history play a part in your sense of who you are?
An: Yes, very much so. And part of that is that I was brought up in Latin America, speaking Spanish to my friends and English to my parents. So, in a sense, I was brought up ‘between two cultures’ and that, at the end, is part of who I am.
M: Definitely because family is a big part of me um, and, we just try to keep those connections going.
N: I guess it’s a difficult balance in my head to see what’s, how much is me and how much is my family. And knowing about my family history and knowing what I have inherited, which I’m sure there’s lots and lots of habits that I must have inherited, but I feel a lot of it’s ‘me’ but it probably isn’t.
Ti: Er, no, not really at all. Erm, I left home when I was about sixteen or seventeen so I think my sense of identity has been very much formed by my own belief systems and my own lifestyle rather than being particularly keyed into anything to do with my parents or my grandparents.

martes, 13 de octubre de 2015

10 Questions for Joshua Bell

Time interviewed violinist Joshua for their section 10 Questions for.

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

1 Basically, Joshua Bell plays the violin and conducts the orchestra at the same time.
2 Directing a film and conducting are two very similar activities.
3 Joshua Bell paid $2.5m for the Gibson Stradivarius.
4 Having a violin like this is like having a baby.
5 The thief who stole the Gibson Stradivarius didn't manage to play with it.
6 Violinists tend to play faster as they grow older.
7 Joshua Bell has starred in the film Chasing Ice with Scarlett Johansson.
8 Joshua Bell is not proud of his Washington experiment.
9 Joshua Bell has children.
10 Joshua Bell is addicted to gambling.
11 When Joshua Bell was a child he wanted to be a detective.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe. I’m an editor-at-large with Time. I’m sitting here with violin virtuoso Joshua Bell, who has just started a sort of a new career as a conductor with the Academy of St Martin the Fields. Mr Bell, welcome.
Thanks, thanks.
You’ve got your first conducting CD coming out. With the Academy of St Martin of the Fields, how do you play and conduct at the same time?
I sit in the first violin chair and I lead everything while I’m playing with the first. So it means sometimes I’m playing, sometimes I’m directing with the bow, sometimes it’s just facial gestures.
Is conducting like directing?
It’s very much like directing a film. The conductor has the idea of how they want to pace the piece, how the emotions they want at every moment. And that’s… it maybe sounds easy, but it’s, it’s not.
And is it like directing true that everybody who’s a performer secretly thinks that they would be a great conductor.
This is true, like me. I’ve been playing for years, concertos, playing with orchestras, watching conductors, and all along I’m thinking, I think I could, I could do that. I’ve been hearing these Beethoven symphonies my whole life and thinking, I want to hear it this way, you know? And someday I want to get up there and show my way of doing it, and that’s what I’m, I’m getting to do.
So, this violin, it’s… I think, you paid somewhere between $2.5m, that violin the Gibson Stradivarius, and it’s been stolen twice, right?, does it travel with its own security?
Well, I can’t give out my security my security secrets…
Oh, then you’d have to kill me!
… but it’s been the best investment I’ve ever made financially, although I’ll never see the, the profits from it because I will die with this in, in my hand. You know, the only way anyone can really understand travelling with a violin like this is that it’s like a baby, which is completely priceless and it is delicate and… but it’s been around 300 years. Still, still has its original varnish, much of it, and it will be around for hundreds of years after I’m gone.
And it survived that instant where it was stolen and covered in boot polish...
Well, it does have a bit of intrigue around it. It was notorious by then for having been stolen from right here in Carnegie Hall in New York. Eventually the thief confessed the theft, that he had stolen it. He was a violinist and he just played on it his whole life so, covered it in shoe polish to disguise it and then played on it his whole life, so… it’s kind of a neat story.
One cliché of musicians is that when they’re young they like to play really fast.
And then as they get older they learn to slow down. Is that, have you found that to be true of you?
That’s a little disconcerting when you’ve poured your heart and soul into a Brahm’s sonata and then you play a little flashy and afterwards people come back and say, I loved that, that … Paganini piece. God, I was moved by this like did you… I just poured my soul into the big piece before that.
So you are known for sort of experimenting a little bit. I mean, you’re obviously a classical player and the, the classical canon is your first love. But you’ve worked with bluegrass musicians, you’ve worked with Sting, you’ve worked with some Broadway people. Is there something you haven’t tried yet?
I look at music as just being music. And there’s good music and bad music as far as I’m concerned, so sometimes it takes me into bluegrass but… or because I met some amazing people like Edger Meyer and Sam Bush and Bellafleck and people like that and they just took me into this world and I follow that path and then next week, or actually just recently they asked me to do a song with Scarlett Johansson for a film called Chasing Ice, just a call out of the blue, and I said, why not, you know, and I didn’t know she sang, she’s got a beautiful voice, and now that song is nominated for, for an Oscar.
Six years ago you did this interesting experiment where, which is, you know, such an Internet meme now.
I don’t know what you’re talking about. No, no. Really?
Yes, you do… where you, you bashed in a Washington subway.
Right, right.
You did some difficult Bach pieces and nobody recognized you, hardly anybody stopped. One guy recognized you, few people stopped. Maybe this story’s been told wrong, and a video was taken of it. And that video, you know, keeps coming back, again and again. Are you sup… well, have I got the story wrong?
Sure, I mean, the story itself was about ten pages in The Washington Post.
Right, right.
I have mixed feelings about it. I, I… it’s probably the thing I get asked most about…
Which is like pouring your heart into the Brahms sonata.
A little bit, a little bit. You know, I have done other things besides. But you know what, someone comes backstage after a concert, after I’ve played the Tchaikovsky concerto and tells me, you know, I’d never been to a classical concert but I read that article, was intrigued and now I’m, I’m a fan of classical music. I mean, that’s, this is the audience I want to reach.
With family life, fatherhood. How do you juggle it all?
Well, I need balance. I need to get away from music. I’ll take two days off in-between concerts and then fly to Las Vegas and forget about music.
Are you a gambler?
I gamble a little bit, yes.
And do you like the tables? What, I mean…
For me the adrenaline of performance, of performing is like an incredible high. And I think when you’re used to having that high, you look for it in other things, so I’ve, I love, you know, watching sports and that, and getting that excitement, or going to a black jack table and risking, you know, losing money. It’s… it gets the adrenaline up, so it’s probably a little bit unhealthy but…
Well, as long as you, I mean, you seem to be comfortable.
Violinists, actually, historically are notorious gamblers.
Going back into… oh, really?
Yeah, Vaniasky and Paganini they all were known for having lost intru… lost their Stradivariuses in gambling tables.
What hand would…
It’s somehow a lot of… it runs in the family.
What hand would have to have to put the Gibson Strad down? You have to have a, would it have to be like a royal flush?
It would have to be a royal flush.
If you had not found the violin, or you know, music, if your parents had not been, you know, you said you had a fortunate childhood. Then, what, what would the alternative Josh Bell have done?
When I was home, around New Year’s time, my sister brought out a tape that I hadn’t heard for many years of my first, my very first interview when I was seven years old. I was playing my debut with the Bloomington Symphony Indi… in Indiana, playing Bach concerto, and they interviewed me for a kids’, kids’ radio station. And so my answer to that very same question, say, what do you want to be when you grow up, detective or scientist? Actually both things I could imagine myself doing even to this day. I love puzzles. I love figuring things out.
Josh Bell, thank you very much.
Thank you.

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