domingo, 31 de enero de 2016

Extensive listening: Could a robot do my job

Britain is on the brink of a technological revolution. Machines and artificial intelligence are beginning to replace jobs like never before.

In this BBC Panorama episode reporter Rohan Silva looks at the workplaces already using this new technology and asks whether we should feel threatened by it, or whether it will benefit all of us.

Are we ready for one of the biggest changes the world of work has ever seen?

sábado, 30 de enero de 2016

Reading test: I found my identical twin on YouTube

In this week's reading test we are going to use the article I found my identical twin on YouTube from The Guardian's feature Experience to practise the multiple choice reading comprehension task.

Read the text and choose the option A, B or C which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

I found my identical twin on YouTube

I’ve always known I was adopted. I was born in Busan, South Korea, but raised in France by parents who look nothing like me, with blond hair and blue eyes. My adoption records say I was born an only child to a very young, unmarried woman.

In December 2012 I was in London, studying fashion, when another student posted a YouTube video of me on my Facebook page. But I’ve never made a YouTube video in my life. When I watched it, I realised it wasn’t me at all, it was an American girl who looked exactly like me. I watched the video over and over again, looking for differences, but we were identical, except for her clothes and her accent. Her name wasn’t on the video, so I had no idea how to contact her.

A month later, I was on a bus in Hackney when a friend told me there was a new video online of my doppelganger. I immediately watched it on my phone. It was a trailer for a film, so I looked up the cast and finally had her name: Samantha Futerman. I found out she was also born in Korea and her birthday was 19 November 1987, the same as mine. I was so shocked I had to get off the bus. I called my mum and she said the words I’d been afraid to even think: “Do you think she might be your twin?”

I spent a long time composing a message to Samantha, telling her to check out my Facebook photos. When she wrote back, she sent a picture of her adoption records. We had been born in the same clinic. Sam wrote, “Dude, we’re totally twins!” We started exchanging photos and then had a conversation on Skype. I was so nervous. We had the same mannerisms, the same laugh, even our hairstyle was similar. We talked about everything and nothing for three hours. After that, every morning I’d check her Instagram feed to remind myself she was real.

Dr Nancy Segal, a specialist in twin studies at California State University, contacted us when Sam started working on a documentary about us. She offered us DNA testing, so we swabbed our cheeks together on Skype, and we agreed to meet.

Sam, her parents and two brothers came to meet me in London last May. I took my mum and some friends for support. I was incredibly nervous. When I first saw Sam, I was trying not to stare, but she just started laughing. I went over and awkwardly poked her in the head – I just wanted to make physical contact. I didn’t know what to do. I wasn’t aware how small I was. Her feet looked tiny and I realised mine must be, too, and suddenly I knew how I looked from behind.

We wanted to be by ourselves, so we went to have lunch, and on the way we kept stopping to look at our reflections in shop windows. It was like a parallel universe: she reacts to things the same way I do. We’re both awkward and have the same strange sense of humour. She doesn’t have to explain herself to me and she understands me perfectly, too. That night, we had a Skype call with Dr Segal, who gave us the DNA results. She said, “You should hug, you’re identical twins!” So we did. Around us, it was like somebody had won a football match. Everyone was cheering.

I would like to know why we were separated, but we still have no idea. Sam had tried to contact our birth mother before she knew about me, but the woman named on her adoption papers said Sam had the wrong person. I’m not worried about that, as I was never anxious to find my birth mother, and now I have Sam anyway. Sam lives in LA and I’m in France, so we meet when we can, spending special occasions together. We have discovered a love of surfing, so when I visit we often head to the beach. Our parents have become great friends and all say they have a second daughter.

I had a very happy childhood and never felt anything was missing, but there was one thing I wanted: to look like someone else in my family and to have that physical connection to someone. But what could be better than an identical twin? I’ll always have her in my life now.

0 Example:
Anaïs found out she was adopted
A because she made her own deductions.
B through the adoption records.
C through her adoptive parents.

1 In December 2012
A An American girl posted a video of Anaïs.
B Anaïs posted a video on YouTube.
C Anaïs was told about her online video.

2 In Hackney
A Anaïs discovered all the details about her sister.
B Anaïs’ realized that she might have a sister.
C Anaïs saw a film where her sister played.

3 Anaïs
A didn’t take the initiative to contact her sister.
B received a document of her sister’s adoption records.
C sent her sister photos eventually.

4 When the two sisters finally met Anaïs
A hugged her sister.
B kept staring at her sister.
C realized what she really looked like.

5 On their first day together the two sisters
A behaved similarly.
B didn’t want to be alone.
C were at ease.

6 Anaïs
A has made a dream come true.
B is still trying to find her biological parents.
C sees her sister very often.

                  Photograph: John Francis Peters for the Guardian

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

viernes, 29 de enero de 2016

Interns fight back after unpaid work experience

Many young people have taken on unpaid work experience or internships in order to get ahead in the jobs market. These have proved controversial, as some say that employers are getting their work done for free.

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

1. What does 'four-month internship' refer to?
2. What job was Lucy really doing during her internship?
3. Why did Erica van Rabenswaay sue her employer?
4. What does '12 and a half' refer to?
5. What salary are the interns at The Nation magazine paid?
6. What adjective does the reporter use to describe what competition for jobs is like?

Before Lucy Bickerton started studying to be a doctor, (1) she wanted to produce films, but her first taste of the business, a four-month internship working long hours and getting paid nothing, left her questioning her career choice.
While I was doing my internship, it didn’t really occur to me that I am really doing the work of a (2) production assistant, not this unpaid job, you know, whatever that really means, and… so after I graduated and started getting paid work as production assistant, that I realised that what I’ve done before was really that of a production assistant, what is normally a full-time position with a TV show.
So she sued and won.
I think, yes, you should do work for free sometimes but more like it is a real student situation and a lot of internships these days they are not, they are just entry level positions that are unpaid.
(3) Erica van Rabenswaay should know. She won a legal action against her employer, a New York fashion designer after months of unpaid work.
Exacerbating the trend of unpaid internships is the sheer number of young and jobless. (4) The unemployment rate for those between the ages of 20 and 24 is about 121/2 per cent, five per cent higher than the rates for adults, meaning there is a steady stream of young people that are willing to trade pay for work experience.
In terms of become a kind of disposable cheap labour workforce, many companies simply use them to kind of, you know, fill in at particularly busy times or an extra project, and I think there’s a kind of, there’s been a sort of disingenuous use of interns that has cropped up and, you know, companies and certain industries in particular realise that they can take advantage of young people.
As a result of the litigious interns, some companies are abandoning their unpaid programmes altogether, but not here. (5) These interns at The Nation magazine are the first to earn a minimum wage. Instead of legal action, their predecessors published this letter to their own editor, successfully convincing their boss to pay them more than just a stipend.
We should be addressing the problem of young people, pathways to opportunity and offering internships which are educational and opportunity-driven but have at their core a fairness of a certain set of payments commencing with the work.
Competition for jobs is (6) fierce, particularly for the young, those entering the workplace want to find a job, just one that actually pays.
Simone Hussein, BBC News, New York.

jueves, 28 de enero de 2016

America's 11 million

This New York Times video shows the true picture of illegal immigration in the US.

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

1. When did the majority of undocumented immigrants arrive in US?
2. What's the ration between men and women?
3. What will immigrants receive and not receive if they have children born in US?
4. What record figure does the state of Nevada have?
5. Why are immigrants settiling in Maryland?
6. Which sector have most undocumented immigrants traditionally worked in?
7. How many undocumented immigrants hold health insurance?
8. Which two requisites are necessary for undocumented immigrants to be protected by President Obama's plan?

We have 11 million people living illegally in this country.
11 million undocumented immigrants…
We don’t have the capacity to deport 11 million people.
11 million undocumented people currently live in the United States. Here’s a look at who they are.
According to the Department of Home Land Security, the majority have been here for more than 10 years. 54%, 6.1m, arrived (1) between 1999 and 2004. 61% are between the ages of 25 and 44, and overall it’s about (2) 50-50 men and women. The Pew Research Center estimates 4m have children born here, in the United States. These people are among the 5m expected to (3) receive protection from deportation and permission to work legally, but not full citizenship under President Obama’s executive action.
Everybody agrees that our immigration system is broken.
Most states with the largest populations are also home to the most undocumented people. California has 2.45m, followed by Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. (4) But Nevada has the largest percentage of illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, immigrants are settling across the country now with populations rising in (5) Maryland, where there’s near-universal health care in DC. In Pennsylvania, Virginia and Nebraska, which each offers growing economic opportunities.
Immigration makes America stronger. Immigration makes us more prosperous.
Nearly all men here without papers, 87%, are working. Most women, 82%, are also employed or home-caring for children. (6) The construction industry has long been a source of jobs for the undocumented. Now south-eastern states with expanding metropolitan like Nashville, Tennessee, and Charlotte, North Carolina, are now attracting immigrants.
And finally a few interesting thirds to note. A third of undocumented adults live below the federal poverty level, but also nearly a third on homes and (7) a third carry health insurance.
Overall the vast majority, 5.8m, are Mexican-born. While the number of people coming from Mexico is declining, the number seeking refuge from gang violence and poverty in Guatemala, El Salvador and other Central American countries is rising. (8) But unless these people have been here for more than five years and have US-born children, they are unlikely to be protected by President Obama’s immigration plan.

miércoles, 27 de enero de 2016

Talking point: Numbers

This week's talking point is numbers. 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 are important numbers in your life? (vg. '2' the number of children you have)
  • Do you have a head for numbers?
  • Do you find maths fun and easy?
  • What do you use numbers for in your everyday life?
  • Do you know anyone who's hopeless/excels at numbers?
  • What do you remember about your maths teachers at school?
  • Why do you think maths is often unpopular as a school subject?
  • How would you make the subject more accessible and popular?
  • Have you got a lucky number and why is it lucky?
  • Talk about a time when an ability or lack of ability to do maths helped you or caused problems for you.
  • Do you agree with Benjamin Disraeli's idea that "There are three types of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics"?
Answer these questions which all have idiomatic expressions with numbers:
1 On what occasions do you go out dressed to the nines?
2 Do you often leave things to the eleventh hour, or do you prefer to be well-prepared?
3 Do you know anyone who only looks after number one? Describe them.
4 Do you really think life begins at 40?
5 Can you think of real-life examples for the expression 'a stitch in time saves nine'?

To illustrate the topic you can watch this BBC report on the latest trend of maths tuition in the UK.

martes, 26 de enero de 2016

10 Questions for Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie talks with TIME about his book Luka and the Fire of Life and describes his life after the fatwa calling for his death.

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

1 Salma Rushdie has written Luka and the Fire of Life for his two sons.
2 Salma Rushdie objects to a specific area of literature for young readers.
3 For Rushdie 'crowd' is the word that best summarizes India.
4 The main problem Rushdie is finding to write his memoirs is that he has to ask permission to too many people to mention specific events.
5 In 1999 the fatwa calling for Rushdie's death was ended.
6 Rushdie still has heavy security procedures around him.
7 He's written the screenplay for Water, Fire, Earth.

I’m Tim Morrison for Time Magazine, and this is 10 Questions with author Salma Rushdie, The new book is called Luka and the Fire of Life. Thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you, nice to be here.
We can just start with the first one, which is about your new book. Eugene Hong is a reader in Normal, Illinois, wants to know how is Luka and the Fire of Life different from your earlier work.
Well, the one of my book set it has a lot of common with is Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In fact, the two are kind of paired because they are the two books that I wrote basically for my two sons, and in that sense they are different from all the others because they have this desire to be… to talk to younger readers and not just to grownups, but the thing that I found when I wrote the first one, it was 20 years ago when my older son was 12, 13 years old, was that there’s this very interesting area I think in fiction now which is, exists on this kind of blurred boundary between books for adults and books for younger readers, you know, and obviously Harry Potter’s the most famous example of that, but there are, Philip Pullman’s works, there are lots of other books and I thought that’s a very interesting place to try and put a book, where a young person  can read it and get one kind of pleasure and an adult can read and get a different kind of pleasure.
Now you were born in Bombay, which is now Mumbay…
… in India. We have a question from a reader who asks, it’s often said that it’s impossible to describe India in one word, could you please try?
Well, I think the thing that I felt when I started writing about India way back when I was writing Midnight’s Children, if you go to India, you are immediately struck by the crowd. The crowd is the great fact, you know, and so my question that I ask myself was how do you represent in a book, on a page, how do you represent that multitude, you know, how do you represent a crowd, and so I thought the answer is  that you tell a crowd of stories, that you’ll literally overcrowd your narrative on purpose, overcrowd your narrative with too much incident, too many people, too much going on, so that your main story kind of has to push its way through the crowd, you know. So I think the one word would be crowd or multitude.
Now you’ve recently said that you were working on your memoirs. Do you find it harder to write about your life than it is to write fiction, or easier or about the same?
Well, it’s very different, that’s what it is. It’s easier in some ways because you know the story. It’s harder in other ways because you’re dealing with living people and so questions of appropriateness and taste come in because you’re not only dealing with your own private life, you’re dealing with other people’s private lives, and so the question of what is right to talk about and what is wrong is the thing which comes up every sentence more or less. You know, you have to make those decisions more or less instinctively but you do have to make them all the way along. That’s very different.
And the story you’re telling here is your entire life?
You know, because this event happened in my life after the publication of The Satanic Verses, that became, of course, a very large kind of global event.
It’s been a while, I mean, just to add the chronology the book The Satanic Verses came out in 1990… 89…
That year, well, 88 in England, 89 here.
In 89 the ayatollah of Iran declared a fatwa calling for your death and it was 10 years really before the the Iranian government…
It was 9… 1998, it’s over. Yes, it’s when it sort of ended.
It’s when it sort of ended.
Yeah, but the truth is that an enormous amount of what happened has never come out in public. A lot of it was just undercover, you know, and so there’s a bit of me, there’s the writer bit of me which is sitting on this good story, and if you’re sitting on it, at a certain point you have to tell the story. So the starting point was that, tell the story of that event, which was about 9 years, start to finish 10 years. But, of course, in order to tell that story properly you have to go back and tell earlier stories, how did this person become the person who wrote that book…
... and where did it come from.
After this entire sort of ordeal, is going back to normal really an option? Can that really happen?
Well, I mean, as you know, it has happened. I mean, it’s what I have been for the last dozen years meeting and more, I mean, put it like this, my younger son, Milan, for whom I wrote Luka and the Fire of Life, really for him, that was the a period that has not, it’s not been part of his life. You know, he’s had a more or less normal childhood which has not been involved with security procedures and so on, you know, and his older brother, of course, grew up through those years and had a very different experience.
But are sort of security precautions, aren’t really much part of your day?
No, they’re not, not at all, really. In fact the subject only comes up when I’m talking to journalists.
I’m sure it does. Which, if any, of your books would you like to see made into a movie?
Well, actually, we have… there’s a project right now to make a film of Midnight’s Children and I’ve actually, I’ve written the screenplay and it’s going to be directed by the Canadian-Indian director Deepa Mehta who made… she filmed the film Water, Fire, Earth, you know that trilogy, but Water, of course, it was Oscar-nominated and so on, and that’s you know, we’re in the process of setting that up, so hopefully we can make that.
Our last question comes from a reader in Sao Paolo, Brazil, who wants to know what will you do the day you decide you’re no longer interested in writing?
That, I don’t foresee that day. I mean, the question is a very good question because what would I do. You know, well, I can’t think of anything else I would do, so I’d better do this.
Alright, Salman Rushdie, thank you very much for joining us.
Thank you.

KEY: 1F 2F 3T 4F 5F 6F 7F

lunes, 25 de enero de 2016

Listening test: Bilingualism

In this week's listening test we are going to practise the heading matching kind of task.

Listen to a person talking about her experience of bilingualism and match headings A-I with the corresponding extract. There is one heading you do not need to use. 0 is an example

A - A multi-sided issue
B - How you raise a bilingual child
C - Only advantages?
D - Personal background – 0 Example
E - Playing a part to make a better world 
F - Promoting more than bilingualism
G - The expert’s take on bilingualism
H - What being bilingual means
I - Why encourage bilingualism

Personal background - 0
Being the mother of two potentially bilingual children (the youngest is only three months old) and the teacher of French and English bilingual children, the subject of bilingualism is very important to me. In fact we have recently moved to China and are now considering multilingualism.

What being bilingual means - 1
The way I see it, being bilingual means being able to communicate almost perfectly in two languages and also knowing something about both cultures. If I take the example of my daughter it’s about being able to understand when someone is speaking another language and being able to switch automatically into speaking it with them. At two and a half she has already grasped the concept of ‘Daddy speaks French and Mummy speaks English’. She has even picked up that Bai Yuoine speaks Chinese! I think it’s very important for her to know that the cartoon character Noddy is also called Oui Oui by her friends at playgroup and that Marmite and Cadburys chocolate exist as well as croissants. This is what makes it possible for her to communicate with the people around her regardless of whether they are French or English.

Why encourage bilingualism - 2
In our case it is logical that with an English mother and French father our children should be able to speak both languages to communicate, not only with us, but with their grandparents and extended family. On a wider scale, learning two or more languages helps children to accept cultures other than their own. If speaking their mother tongue(s) at home and at school is encouraged they are more likely to enjoy their difference and view difference in general as a positive thing.

How you raise a bilingual child - 3
There may be a dominant language and this will normally depend on the country you live in or the language your child uses most at school. However, it will also depend on what language is spoken in the home. We lived in France and spoke French at home but I always speak to my children in English. It’s imperative that the child has consistency. They know that their English auntie will always speak to them in English and that for her to understand them they should speak to her in English.

Only advantages? - 4
It can be very difficult for people around you to support what you do. Grandparents can be upset if they don’t understand what you’re saying to their grandchild and worry that they will never be able to communicate with them. This is of course highly unlikely and you should stick to your guns. Another problem we have encountered was when our daughter refused to listen to either of us. A psychologist advised us that as there wasn’t a common language at home between the parents and child and so I should stop speaking English and spend the weekend speaking only in French. Thankfully I decided to ignore this piece of advice and persisted with my English! I also know of one child who had problems at school because his friends made fun of him. His parents eventually gave up speaking English to him.

Promoting more than bilingualism - 5
21st February 2000 saw the first Mother Language Day celebrated internationally. However the importance of this date originated in Bangladesh where in 1952 a handful of students, now known as language martyrs, were killed in demonstrations defending Bangla, their mother language. In 1999 UNESCO decided to take this cause onto an international scale in order to encourage cultural diversity and worldwide tolerance.

A multi-sided issue - 6
Each year the celebration is devoted to a different aspect of language. This has ranged from how children learn their literacy skills at school to how to preserve some of the 6000 languages that exist worldwide. One year was about developing the teaching of mother languages and in 2002 the celebration helped raise awareness of linguistic and cultural traditions around the world. Yet another year the International Mother Language Day was dedicated to Braille and Sign Language, two non-verbal languages that are an invaluable source of communication for many people around the world.

Playing our part to make a better world - 7
It’s essential that we limit alienation throughout the world. By speaking other languages as well as your own, or having two or more mother languages, you can contribute to the creation of a global community. My contribution to this multilingual community is exposing my children to varied cultures and languages, maintaining their mother language, while trying to learn the language of the people around me. Although with my ten or so words of Mandarin I am far from being multilingual!

KEY: 1H 2I 3B 4C 5F 6A 7E

domingo, 24 de enero de 2016

Extensive listening: What makes a good life?

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of a 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction.

In this TED talk, Dr Waldinger shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

You can read the full transcript here.

sábado, 23 de enero de 2016

Nature is speaking

Conservation International, a charity which “empowers societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity and the well-being of humanity”, has developed a number of very high-quality videos in the series Nature Is Speaking to make us aware of the importance of nature and the way its destruction means our destruction.

The videos are narrated by well-known personalities who include Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, Liam Neeson, Harrison Ford and Kevin Spacey among others.

Here’s the video Mother Nature, narrated by Julia Roberts. But drop by Nature Is Speaking to watch the full collection of videos in the series.

Some call me nature.
Others call me “Mother Nature.”
I’ve been here for over 4.5 billion years.
22,500 times longer than you.
I don’t really need people.
But people need me.
Yes, your future depends on me.
When I thrive, you thrive.
When I falter, you falter. Or worse.
But I’ve been here for eons.
I have fed species greater than you.
And I have starved species greater than you.
My oceans.
My soil.
My flowing streams.
My forests.
They all can take you.
Or leave you.
How you choose to live each day,
whether you regard or disregard me,
doesn’t really matter to me.
One way.
Or the other.
Your actions will determine your fate.
Not mine.
I am nature.
I will go on.
I am prepared to evolve.
Are you?

viernes, 22 de enero de 2016

Destination Spain

Destination..., the popular National Geographic video series on popular tourist destinations, travels to Spain.

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

1 How many tourists visits Spain every year?
2 What happened in 1875?
3 What happened to the Royal Palace in Madrid in 1734?
4 When is the expected date for the completion of Sagrada Familia cathedral?
5 When do Spaniards usually have dinner?
6 Why do people protest against bullfighting?
7 Which three elements can be found in flamenco?
8 Where are gypsies orginally from?
9 What is the Alhambra?

If you’ve got an appetite for a vacation filled with gorgeous beaches, sangria under the sun, and a vibrant urban scene, then there’s one choice that’ll fit the bill, Spain.
Hi, I’m Patty Kim. (1) More than 50 million people visit Spain every year, to gulp down the sunshine, the music, the art, the bold architecture, and the platefuls of paella that make up Spain’s contagious passion for living.
(2) In 1975, after 35 years of General Franco’s Fascist regime, King Juan Carlos I took power and propelled Spain into an era of freedom and democracy. Today, cities like the capital, Madrid, and Barcelona are cultural centers, buzzing with life day and night.
And at over 2,000, Madrid is Europe’s highest capital. Located here, is the Royal Palace, the largest in Western Europe. It became the royal residence in 1561, was rebuilt after (3) a fire in 1734 and today, is used only for ceremonial purposes. Spain’s rich history can be seen all over Madrid; from the Plaza de Cibeles to Don Quixote to the Museo del Prado, where you’ll find works by Velasquez, Goya, and El Greco.
Northeast of Madrid is Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain as well as the capital of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia. In the streets of Barcelona, not only will you hear Catalan as well as Spanish but you’ll also be surrounded by the work of artists like Miró, Picasso and Gaudí. Architect Antoni Gaudí’s buildings can be seen all throughout the city. His last project, Sagrada Familia, is a massive church that has been under construction since 1882. Some people expect it to be completed (4) around 2041.
One of the most delectable ways to get a sense of Spain is through “tapas,” traditional appetizers that keep you going until dinner, (5) which rarely happens before 10 pm.
Bullfighting is a fiber deeply woven into the Spanish cultural tapestry. With origins dating back thousands of years it is both ritualistic and ceremonial. While protested by some as (6) a cruel pastime, brave souls who wish to experience bullfighting firsthand should venture to a Plaza de Toros, or Bullring, the most famous of which are in Madrid and Seville, where only the best matadors are allowed to flaunt their artistry. That’s right. For fans, bullfighting is not a sport but an art.
Another deeply Spanish cultural performance is Flamenco. Flamenco is a form of (7) song, guitar playing and dance that embodies the complex soul of Andalucia, a region in southern Spain. If you listen closely, you can hear Arab, oriental and gypsy influences blending together to produce this world renown sound. And if you’re really lucky, you might catch a dash of flamenco not on a stage but in its rawest, most authentic form as a spontaneous outburst late at night in a backstreet bar. Most experts believe Flamenco originated between the 9th and 14th century when (8) gypsies arrived from north India, via Egypt, and Eastern Europe and fused their music with cultural arrivals from North Africa.
In addition to influencing Spanish music, the North African Moorish presence in Spain has shaped Andalucian architecture. In Granada, Alhambra, derived from the Arabic for "red” is (9) a palace and fortress complex built for Moorish monarchs.  The Mosque, in Cordoba, though now a Catholic Cathedral, once stood as the second largest mosque in the world.
Wherever your travels may take you in Spain, most likely at every turn, you’ll encounter that Spanish spirit, a passionate force, with a flair for drama.

jueves, 21 de enero de 2016

The right cup

The Right Cup tricks your brain into thinking the water you are drinking is flavored. Simply pour pure water into the cup and enjoy the taste, without all the bad stuff: No preservatives, no additives, no carbohydrates, no sugar, zero calories.

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

Let's face it. Water can be lots of fun until we need to drink it. Sure, we know it's healthy but it just doesn't taste as exciting as all those (1) ...  drinks, which means we drink a lot less water and a whole lot more of that (2) ... .
And that's a problem, a very big problem.
So, we decided to put some fun into drinking water with The Right Cup. It's the world's first ever fruit flavored cup designed to get people drinking more water. Sure, it might look simple but it actually took six years of (3) ... and patented technologies to get where we are today. And we believe it's gonna be a real game (4) ... . So, how does it work?
For starters, our brain identifies flavor using two main sensors, taste and smell. That's why we inserted innovative, FDA approved fruit (5) ... and flavor directly into The Right Cup. So, when you drink water from it your nose picks up the (6) ... aroma. Your tongue senses the hint of a sweet taste. And your brain yells…
Orange flavored water!
When in fact, you're only drinking natural water.
Oh wow! It sounds great! But does it work?
Well, we asked ourselves that very same question. So we put The Right Cup to the test with our orange flavored prototype.
Whoa! OK.
You're kidding me, right?
What's in this?
It's not just water. It tastes like something else.
Just water?
It's crazy.
Brilliant, just brilliant.
Now that we know that it works let's meet the team behind the idea.
For years I've been researching and (7) ... about sense marketing, showing how easy it is to manipulate the brain with smell. When I was thirty, I was diagnosed with diabetes and my doctors told me to drink only water but I hated the taste. That's when I came up with the idea for The Right Cup.
After years of research and development, we’ve reached the (8) ... where we need your support to turn the Right Cup into reality.
The Right Cup is great for anyone who wants to cut down on (9) ... drinks and drink more water, which is, basically, everybody. Please help us change lives of millions of people by supporting our project and Indiegogo. Together, we can make a real difference and turn the world into a better and healthier place, one cup at a time. Let’s make drinking water fun again.

1 flavored 2 junk 3 research 4 changer 5 scent 6 fruity 7 lecturing 8 stage 9 sugary

miércoles, 20 de enero de 2016

Talking point: Helping others

This week's talking point is helping others. 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 kind of situations do you help other people?
When do you receive help?
How good are you at accepting help?
Are you happy to accept it? Or do you feel it is a sign of weakness?
Have you ever been in a situation where your hands were tied and you felt frustrated because you couldn't help?
In what ways do you lend a helping hand to friends and family?
What kind of help from the government do you think is essential?
To what extent does your country have an infrastructure to help people in need?
Are some charities more worthwhile than others? Which type of charity appeals to you? Use these charities as a reference:
1 anti-gang culture
2 helping the elderly
3 anti-bullying
4 homeless shelter
5 help for seriously ill young people
6 rehabilitation of wounded soldiers
7 animal rescue
8 children’s creative arts theatre

What would you be more willing to donate?
1 money to organisations
2 blood or an organ
3 clothes or furniture
4 your time as a volunteer

To illustrate the point you can watch the BBC video Suspended Coffee.

The idea of suspended coffees originated in Naples, in Italy, and it’s kind of grown worldwide. Suspended coffee is where someone buys a coffee for somebody else who is in need, which can be, they could be homeless, they could be really hard up on their luck or it could be collaborated in the refugee center down the road, and the coffee is already paid for. They just come in and ask for what they would like and it’s also can be carried off from there.
The people who donate can really vary. It can be business people who just grab a coffee on their way to work. It can be mums with young kids. We get a lot of our regular customers who donate regularly.
Good morning
Hi there
Can I have a double-shot latte, please and I’ll buy a suspended coffee as well.
I think the scheme is a good idea. We were asked about it as regulars, it’s not intrusive.
We have two ways of doing it, so we hand out cards to some of the local communities are around here, specifically their refugee project, we hand those out to service users who they think can benefit from having someone to come and get a coffee.
May I take a suspended coffee?
And then there are the ones who come in and book in so we have a tally on the wall of how many bookings we have available to someone coming off the street and just say, ‘I’ve heard about suspended coffee, can I have one?’
Would it be possible to have a suspended coffee, please?
Of course one minute.
I’m not getting a lot of money myself at the moment, so there are times when you need a coffee or you want a coffee and just don’t have enough money to get one, and it’s always a place like this you can go and get one thanks to the generosity of other people. It’s good for the community, just ask people to come out with themselves a bit, maybe you’re not stuck in your own little world, and you’re not staring in the same four walls all the time. If I was stuck in the house all day 24/7 I’d be going crazy, and now I can come up here and that makes things a lot easier.
This is more of a local scheme. This is sort of a community café, so I know the people here, they know me. I know the person who runs the asylum project, the renewal programme. I trust everybody. You see your contribution actually working in a direct and local way rather than going off to some international charity.
There are a lot of people who say, oh, you know, this is business making money. Yes, we do profit from it but at the end of the day that profit is always going into building the community. We trust our customers, our customers trust us and I think it’s a really good way of embracing the community’s spirit and for people to feel good.

martes, 19 de enero de 2016

10 Questions for Sir Ken Robinson

Time Magazine interviews the British author and educationalist Sir Ken Robinson after the realease of his book Finding your Element.

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

1 What features of an individual does mass education kill?
2 Apart from homemakers and carers, what three other professions does he mention?
3 Why is it even more difficult to get to know oneself these days?
4 What do we have to find ourselves at some point during our day or during our week?
5 What does the US have one of the highest rates of in the developed world?
6 How can we make school more attractive to children?
7 What does Ken Robinson say about teachers in Finland?
8 What does 'eight' refer to?

Ken Robinson, or as he’s known in some circles, Sir Ken, is an educator, an author, a speaker. He’s got a new book called Finding your Element. And I’m delighted to say that he’s here with us today. Sir Ken, welcome.
Thank you, Brenda, it’s a real pleasure.
I believe this passionately. That we don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it.
Your TED talk was a kind of grand vision on how education systems were killing children’s creativity. And this book, Finding your Element, it’s more kind of self-help. Did you scale down your ambition?
No, part of the argument of that TED talk was an attempt really just to say that there are features of mass education which militate against (1) individuality and, and creativity. So at the heart of my argument for what should happen in education is the different conception of talent and ability and what drives people. And that’s what book is about.
Explain for people who, in our way, what, what is this thing called ‘the element’.
There are some people who don’t enjoy the work they do at all. But I also meet people who love what they do, and they couldn’t imagine doing anything else. If you said to them, why don’t you try something else for a change?, they wouldn’t know what you meant. They’d say this isn’t what I do, it’s who I am. And they could be anything. They could be homemakers, they could be carers, (2) they could be veterinarians, they could be cabinet makers, teachers, name it. If you think of any occupation that anybody could do or life they could lead, some people will love it and other people couldn’t bear it for five minutes. And the common expression we use for that is that they are in their element. It’s, what it is that chimes so strongly with your own sense of who you are, that you feel you’re at your most natural when you’re doing it.
So, how do we find our element?
I have no idea.
Good, well, we’re done.
We’re all finished. It’s really a two-way journey. It’s an inward journey. You have to learn more about yourself. A lot of people don’t know themselves very well, I think, and, and I think it’s possibly even a greater risk now than maybe previously because (3) there’s so much clutter out there. There’s so much distraction. There’s so much, so many demands on your time and attention. So part of the book is to encourage people to look inwardly and to learn more about their talents and themselves, and what it is that, that ignites their energy. But it’s also an outward journey. It’s finding out things, more things about the world around you. Taking opportunities.
What about, I mean, there are jobs that people just have to do. They have to be done but would not seem to be inspiring anybody’s passion.
My argument is not that you have to do this sort of thing for a living but that you owe it to yourself to find some point in the week or the day, in your life, where (4) you do things that really fulfil you, that you find are speaking to you in a different way than the things that you just have to get done.
It seems to me that what you are describing should be something we learn at school like this is what education is for. Why aren’t schools doing this?
Well, that’s my point, really, that part of the transformation we need in education is to think differently about talent. On international comparisons, the US has (5) one of the highest non-graduation rates from high school in the developed world despite spending more money on education than many countries. And one of the reasons is that kids at school don’t find it engaging, interesting, fulfilling, relevant.
So how do we improve that?
I think we improve it (6) by making education a much more personal process. We individualize it. I can’t imagine there’s a student in America who gets up in the morning wondering how they can improve the state’s test scores. They are like you and me. They get involved in education if it is interesting, if it speaks to them.
Is there a country that’s doing it better than America, that we, that we, you could observe?
The one that’s most often quoted, and you have to be careful how you quote it, but it’s worth referring to, Finland. And Finland has attracted attention globally as having one of the most successful education systems. What’s interesting about Finland is, they don’t have any standardized testing. They don’t promote competition between the schools, they promote collaboration and cooperation between them. It’s not a command-and-control system, head teachers have massive discretion over the school, and (7) teachers that are respected professionals, they’re paid well, it’s hard to become a teacher, and they’re well supported when they become teachers. At almost every point, it’s different from the way we do things in America. 
As a child, you were stricken with polio. How has affected the direction that your life has moved.
Completely. My father had been a semi-professional soccer player, and he used to say to me, apparently, he’s gonna be the football player in the family, because I was very fast and strong. Then there was this polio epidemic that swept across America and Europe. I got it. So (8) I was in hospital for eight months and I came out on two braces and crutches, and my dad was quite clear about it. He left school when he was 14. He said, it’s perfectly clear, he said, that you’re not gonna be able to make a living doing manual work. You’re gonna have to use your head. So, you know, it wasn’t an easy context overall, coming from. Nothing seemed less probable when I was lying in hospital in 1954 that I’d be doing what I’m do now.
Sir Ken, thank you so much.
It’s a pleasure.

lunes, 18 de enero de 2016

Listening test: Life at university

Listen to a BBC radio programme where two reporters talk about what students’ life is really like and complete the blanks in the sentences with up to three words. 0 is an example.

Life at university

0 Example:
At university Neil made fantastic friends and went to great parties.

1 If you look at a situation through rose-tinted spectacles you think that things are __________________ they really are.

2 At university Neil felt __________________ because he missed his friends and family.

3 At first Kirsty was trying  to balance both academic and  __________________.

4 In Dr Ruth Caleb’s opinion it is helpful for university students to know how to do __________________ like household chores.

5 Neil was and is still bad at __________________ .

6 A survey at Imperial College London found out that __________________ four students suffer stress during their time at university.

7 And 9% of them feel __________________ .

I'm Alice…
… and I'm Neil. Hello.
Hello, Neil. You went to university, didn't you?
Yes. University – the best days of my life. I made fantastic friends, went to great parties…
Did some work?
Well, yeah, I did some work, but probably not enough.
Well, the subject of today's show is student mental health. So, Neil, do you think you're looking back at your university days through rose-tinted spectacles? And that means looking at a situation as being better than it really was.
I did feel out of my comfort zone when I arrived. Yes, everyone seemed to know everyone… knew where to go.
Yes. Well, did you talk to anyone about your feelings, Neil? Did you get any counselling?
What? No, not me. I'm one of those men who isn't good at talking about their feelings, Alice. I just felt a bit homesick that's all – I missed my friends and family.
Now in the UK, there has been a rise in students using counselling services.
Why's that, Alice?
Well, let's listen to Kirsty, a student at Exeter University, talking about why she has had problems. Did she enjoy her first days in college?

Kirsty McMurron, student at Exeter University
No. The thing is… it… is a real balancing act. When I first got to university I don't think I'd really realized that I'd forgotten how to make friends you know, I'd been with the same school friends for seven years, and so I was trying to balance, you know, social success with academic success whilst learning how to look after myself at quite a young age. And I think that's the experience of a lot of young people. And people really struggle with it.

What's a balancing act, Alice?
It's where you try to give your attention to two or more things at the same time. So here,  Kirsty is trying to balance making new friends with doing her academic work and learning to look after herself.
OK, let's listen to Dr Ruth Caleb of the counselling service at Brunel University in London talking about what practical stuff students could learn before leaving for university that might make life easier for them.

Dr Ruth Caleb, Head of the counselling service at Brunel University, London
Certain things that I think it would be very very helpful for students to have put in place are an ability to do the practical things of life – to do the washing, to do the cleaning and so on – being able to cook. Budgeting is extremely important in university life. And also spending time on your own comfortably.

Yes, that's excellent advice. I couldn't boil an egg when I arrived at uni.
Oh, really? Can you do it now, Neil?
Just about, just about.
Yeah? Great. And what about budgeting? This means planning how much money you have and how you will spend it.
I'm still pretty bad at that. However, I am very good at spending time on my own comfortably.
Yes, I can believe that – feet up, watching TV with a takeaway.
Takeaway, of course a takeaway cause I can't cook anything…
… not even an egg. You know me so well. So how about the answer to today's quiz question, Alice?
Alice     Alright then. In a survey of students at Imperial College London, how many said they suffered from high levels of stress or a mental health condition during their time at college? Was it…  a) 1 out of 4? b) 2 out of 4?  or c) 3 out of 4?
And I said c) 3 out of 4.
Yes. And you are correct – well done, Neil! The survey, completed by over a thousand students, also found that almost 70% of those that suffer from stress do so at least once a week, and 9% of students feel stressed constantly.
Well, I feel anxious just thinking about all that stress. That brings us to the end. Good-bye!

1 better than
2 homesick
3 social success
4 (the) practical things
5 budgeting
6 three out of
7 stressed constantly

domingo, 17 de enero de 2016

Extensive listening: Fatal distraction

60 Minutes Australia released Fatal Distraction in June last year about a father who forgot that his baby was in the back seat. This is the way the channel, 9 Jumpin, introduced the segment:

"They are intelligent, hard-working, upstanding parents who made one fatal mistake. They are responsible for the death of their own babies by leaving them in the car, usually on a hot day. Busy lives, a change to the daily routine, or being forgetful for just a moment – that is all it takes to cause tragedy and suffering that will stay with these parents for a lifetime. They have faced the most serious of charges, however experts say they are not criminals but victims, and it could happen to anyone. How could you leave your child in the car? A warning for every family."

You can watch the clip by clicking on the picture below or on the links above.

You can watch part two here.

sábado, 16 de enero de 2016

Reading test: 8 Tips to enjoy and survive La Tomatina

In this week's reading test we are going to practise the heading matching kind of task. Here are some tips to 'enjoy and survive' La Tomatina, taken from Hostel World.

Match one of the headings A-J with the corresponding tip. There are two headings you do not need to use.

8 Tips to enjoy and survive La Tomatina

A - Better in groups
B - Capture it… sensibly
C - Doesn’t go on for ever
D - Don’t bring your Sunday best
E - Don’t forget your goggles
F - Find out about the origins
G - Hardware is best
H - If something goes wrong
I - Not everything goes
J - The early bird catches the worm

Are you an adrenaline junky? We might have just the festival for you! Here’s a hint: August, Buñol and thousands of tomatoes. Of course it’s one of the craziest and juiciest festivals (truth be told) in the world: La Tomatina in Buñol. This year's festival takes place on August 26 and for us it’s unmissable! Here are our top 8 tips to help you make the most of the world famous tomato battle.

Tip 1
If you’re a first timer, then you need to know what the festival is all about! The event is held every year as part of the festivities of Buñol (Valencia) and it dates back to around the year 1945, when some local youths went down to the town square to see the parade Giants and Big-Heads figures. Apparently, one of them inadvertently stumbled and dropped a participant, thus giving rise to a fight between neighbours, who started throwing tomatoes at each other. The following year the group of kids staged a fight back and the rest is history. Today the Tomatina attracts young people from around the world, who gather in the streets of Buñol and hurl the fruit at each other.

Tip 2 
Remember that in August the province of Valencia is not exactly chilly, so we recommend that you take shorts to beat the heat. Of course, choose old clothes that you will not use afterwards! The tomato washes off easily from skin, but clothes are a little more stubborn...

Tip 3
If possible make sure that your shoes are old. Although at first glance it may seem that the sandals are more comfortable and cool, just think of the amount of stomping you will be exposed to throughout the day!

Tip 4  
Considering ripe tomato is the star of the party, who wouldn’t want to protect their eyes? The perfect solution is a snorkel mask. Yes Yes; you read that right. Get ready to show off your authentic look of La Tomatina 2015 (don’t worry, you won’t be the only one).

Tip 5  
It is very important that you make sure the tomatoes you throw at other participants are ripe. While the city council usually distributes ripe tomatoes, it never hurts to check them to avoid harming anyone. Safety first!

Tip 6 
La Tomatina festival is very popular so it is advisable to book your accommodation early. Since Buñol is a fairly small town, it is common for travellers to stay in Valencia, just a half hour from the site of the battle. The good news is that Valencia is full of hostels in which you can continue the party after the event! Some hostels offer special packages that include accommodation, transport, clothing and tickets for the festival After Party.

Tip 7  
A waterproof camera is a necessity if you want to treasure memories of the event in years to come. Alternatively, the disposable camera could work but leave your nice expensive cameras at home to avoid any tears.

Tip 8  
Of course we all wish it could go on all night but, but sadly all good things come to an end. So you'll have to watch out the announcement of the final release of tomatoes. In any case, by then you’ll have probably launched and received your fair share of fruit.


1F 2D 3G 4E 5I 6J 7B 8C

viernes, 15 de enero de 2016

How stress affects your body

Stress is designed to gives us alertness and energy needed to perform our best. But stress isn’t always good. When activated too long or too often, stress can damage virtually every part of our body. In this Ted-Ed lesson Sharon Horesh Bergquist gives us a look at what goes on inside our body when we are chronically stressed.

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

1. The hormones cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine travel all over the body.
2. Adrenaline results from hypertension.
3. The feeling of butterflies in the stomach is a symptom of stress.
4. Stress makes us lose weight.
5. Having cuts that take longer to heal might be a symptom of stress.
6. Anger is another symptom of stress.
7. A stress-free life is the best course of action.

Cramming for a test? Trying to get more done than you have time to do? Stress is a feeling we all experience when we are challenged or overwhelmed. But more than just an emotion, stress is a hard-wired physical response that travels throughout your entire body. In the short term stress can be advantageous, but when activated too often or too long your primitive fight or flight stress response not only changes your brain but also damages many of the other organs and cells throughout your body.
Your adrenal gland releases the stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine also known as adrenaline, and norepinephrine. As these hormones travel through your blood stream they easily reach your blood vessels and heart. Adrenaline causes your heart to beat faster and raises your blood pressure, over time causing hypertension. Cortisol can also cause the endothelium, or inner lining of blood vessels, to not function normally. Scientists now know that this is an early step in triggering the process of atherosclerosis, or cholesterol plaque build-up, in your arteries. Together these changes increase your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
When your brain senses stress, it activates your autonomic nervous system. Through this network of nerve connections your big brain communicates stress to your enteric, or intestinal, nervous system. Besides causing butterflies in your stomach, this brain gut connection can disturb the natural rhythmic contractions that move food through your gut leading to irritable bowel syndrome and can increase your gut's sensitivity to acid making you more likely to feel heartburn.
Via the gut's nervous system stress can also change the composition and function of your gut bacteria which may effect your digestive and overall health. Speaking of digestion, does chronic stress effect your waist line? Well yes. Coritsol can increase your appetite. It tells your body to replenish your energy stores with energy dense foods and carbs, causing you to crave comfort foods. High levels of cortisol can also cause you to put on those extra calories as visceral or deep belly fat. This type of fat doesn't just make it harder to button your pants. It is an organ that actively releases hormones and immune system chemicals called cytokines that can increase your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease and insulin resistance.
Meanwhile, stress hormones effect immune cells in a variety of ways. Initially they help prepare to fight invaders and heal after injury. But chronic stress can dampen the function of some immune cells, make you more susceptible to infections, and slow the rate you heal. 
Wanna live a long life? You may have to curb your chronic stress. That's because it has even been associated with shortened telemeres. The shoe lace tipped ends of chromosomes that measure a cell's age. Telemeres cap chromosomes to allow DNA to get copied every time a cell divides without damaging the cells genetic code, and they shorten with each cell division. When telemeres become too short a cell can no longer divide and it dies.
As if all that weren't enough, chronic stress has even more ways it can sabotage your health, including acne, hair loss, sexual dysfunction, headaches, muscle tension, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, and irritability. So, what does this all mean for you? Your life will always be filled with stressful situations, but what matters to your brain and entire body is how you respond to that stress. If you can view those situations as challenges you can control and master, rather than as threats that are insurmountable, you will perform better in the short run and stay healthy in the long run.

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

jueves, 14 de enero de 2016

Climate Change with Bill Nye

Climate Change is a real and serious issue. In this video Bill Nye, the Science Guy, explains what causes climate change, how it affects our planet, why we need to act promptly to mitigate its effects, and how each of us can contribute to a solution.

Self-study activity:
Listen to the video (don't watch it, please, as some information is shown on screen) and answer the questions below.

1. How much temperatures have risen in the last century?
2. Which have been the 10 warmest years on record?
3. Which have been the negative consequences of modern humna activities?
4. Why are oceans important?
5. How much has ocean surface acidification increased since 18th century?
6. How much have sea levels risen in the last century?
7. What's the consequence of the glaciers melting?
8. Why does eating less meat help the environment?

We hear it so much that it feels like a buzzword, but it is far from it, Climate Change is a real and serious issue. But isn’t the climate always changing? What exactly is Climate Change and why should we care? Earth’s climate has changed throughout history. Most of these slight changes are caused by small variations in the earth’s orbit. But climate change as we know it today is characterized by an abrupt increase of the earth’s overall temperature, estimated at (1) 1.2 to 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer in just the last century. While humans have only been recording temperatures for the last 150 years, (2) the 10 warmest recorded years occurred in just 12 years through 2014. 97% of climate scientists agree that this new tendency is not caused by the variations of the earth orbit but rather very likely caused by human activities.
That means you and me….
Since the Industrial Revolution we have come a long way. Humans built airplanes, faster cars, developed incredible technology, and learned how the natural resources around us can be used for our benefit. Although this has led to many wonderful inventions and advancements, like the device you are using to watch this video, or the ability to take a plane halfway around the world, it also means we have increased our consumption of natural resources and in turn, released a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases occur naturally, but in excess can be dangerous to our planet. (3) Modern human activities have increased the release of non-naturally occurring greenhouse gases because we have stepped up our demand for burning fossil fuels. Greenhouse gases’ chemical composition trap heat radiated from the sun. The more heat they trap, the warmer our planet gets.  And as our planet gets warmer we begin to feel the effects: One of climate changes’ biggest victims, our oceans.
(4) Oceans regulate the earth’s temperature and provide 50% of the Earth’s oxygen. Climate change has increased the global temperature of oceans by more than point-3 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969. Although a warmer ocean might seem inviting to a beachgoer, it actually has devastating consequences for supporting life at sea. One of those consequences is ocean acidification, a direct effect of increased dissolved CO2. (5) Since the late 18th century ocean surface acidification has increased by 30%
A higher acid content means calcifying species like oysters, clams and shallow water corals are at risk, putting the entire ocean food web at risk. This is bad news for the 1 billion people relying on the ocean as its primary source of protein.
Climate change has also caused the sea level to rise. (6) Just in the last century sea levels have risen 6.7 inches. But the rate in the last decade has nearly doubled. Sea levels have risen because as world wide temperatures go up, glaciers, and ice sheets have seen their overall mass melt significantly. Antarctica lost 36 cubic miles of ice between 2002 and 2005. And since 1994, each year on average, the earth has lost 400 billion tons from its glaciers. When all that ice melts, it fills up our oceans, and just like filling up a bathtub, the shores can’t hold all that water, and (7) coastal regions get flooded.
A troubling sign of Climate Change are increased extreme weather events. Natural disasters, like floods, tornadoes, and deadly heat waves are more obvious to humans because of their immediate impact and the sharing of their images in the media. 
Climate change, as we know it today, is change in our Earth’s overall temperature with massive and permanent ramifications. Although its consequences can be planet threatening, scientists still believe there are things we can do on a personal level to help: Recycle and reuse things. Walk or use public transportation to get to work. Turn off your electronics when you are not using them. (8) Eat less meat, roughly 18 per cent of greenhouse gases are caused by livestock farming. While you are at it eat more locally grown vegetables and foods. And last but not least, spread your knowledge and concerns about climate change with others.
When it comes to Climate Change, the main takeaway is that it's real. And although we were part of the cause, we can also be part of the solution.

miércoles, 13 de enero de 2016

Talking point: Intelligence

This week's talking point is intelligence. 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.
  • Being good at school subjects like languages and maths is a sign of true intelligence.
  • How should parents and society treat very intelligent children?
  • Brains or beauty? Which brings greater success in life?
  • Can you tell us about a time when you acted intelligently, or wished you had?
  • Which animals do you think of as being intelligent? What about birds and sea creatures?
Do you … ?
1 have to solve unexpected problems on a regular basis
2 control your behaviour after learning from past bad experience
3 act intelligently, doing every day what you are supposed to do
4 think studying is a wise choice
5 regret not acting more wisely in a particular situation

Classify the statements into advantages and potential dangers of using technology, machines and robots. Add your own ideas.
  1. Machines can’t interpret feelings, so interaction is more dehumanised.
  2. We are too dependent on computers and technology, which is problematic if a machine breaks or crashes.
  3. Machines don’t make mistakes, people do.
  4. Workers are replaced by machines, which increases unemployment.
  5. People stop thinking about how to solve problems because machines can do it for them.
  6. Technology means more people have access to education, health care, etc.
  7. Artificial intelligence can benefit society in numerous ways but it must be controlled.
To illustrate the point you can watch this EuroNews video on gifted children.

martes, 12 de enero de 2016

10 Questons for Randy Pausch

One month after Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon professor, was diagnosed with terminal cancer he made a stirring speech (Achieving your childhood dreams -transcript here) which has become an Internet sensation and the basis for a book, The Last Lecture.

Randy Pausch takes questions from Time Magazine readers in this interview.

This is 10 Questions.We’re here with doctor Randy Pausch. Thank you doctor Pausch for spending the time with us today.
My pleasure.
In New Orleans Katherine wrote in and asked if you believe that you, somehow, were chosen to be this messenger, to be, what she said, a messenger of hope.
Gosh. I've never really thought about that. You know, to me it's… you know, I attributed it to bad luck and nothing else. Certainly if I had the choice I'd give it all back if I could, you know, give the cancer back with it. I mean I'm glad I'm, you know, making the best of a bad situation but I'd certainly rather not have been in a bad situation start with.
From Tokyo, a reader wanted to if there's a kind of music or a type of music that you sort of turn to for comfort. They were looking for specific songs. What's on your iPod?
Well, my kids and I love to listen to Sergeant Pepper and certainly when you're going through chemotherapy you can’t listen to the theme from Rocky too many times.
Muhammad in Saudi Arabia wanted say that Einstein once said ‘It’s a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.’ What would you say to that?
That reminds me of Mark Twain: ‘Don't let your schooling get in the way of your education’. One of the things I always tell all of my students is that they should spend their time in whatever way helps them learn and that I'm perfectly happy if they cut my class because they were doing something that was a better use for their time. I mean, there've been times when there was some guest lecture on campus and I would, you know, I would very happily tell my students, “look this guy's better than me”. And sometimes I would cancel my class and say “we should all go listen to other person”.
In Lagos a writer had written in about something that you also talk about in your book, which is the idea of your wife remarrying. I think his wording was, if you've given permission in some way, emotional permission to do that.
 Well, first off it's not my permission to give and the second thing is that I want my wife to be happy and if she finds that happiness through remarriage, that's wonderful. If she finds that happiness without remarriage, that's wonderful. I mean, it's not my place to have a role in that decision other than to tell her that if it's something that’s somehow emotionally overhanging for her, then whatever she does is fine by me and that, you know, that's certainly a specific message that I have and will leave for my children, which is that, you know, if the time comes we're Jay should remarry, you, kids, may have a lot of mixed feelings about that. You're entitled to them all. But if you're wondering how dad felt, dad wants mom to be happy.
What hopes do you have for your children?
I'm a college professor. I see the train wrecks that arrive in my office when a child has desperately been trying to fulfil the dreams that their parents wanted for them. I don't have specific dreams for my children. I have a tremendous hope that they will have dreams, that they will work hard, that they will chase them, and they will try to do something worthwhile with their lives. But I personally believe that the worst thing you can do for your children is say, “my dream for you is to do X”, because, boy, if you aren’t lucky enough to pick what would have been their natural inclination,  desire, you just set up a situation of tremendous tension that may not work out well.
Someone, who's facing brain a cancer, and he says here wanted to be an artist but ended up in IT has, by his account, three or so months to live and his basic question was “what the hell do I do?”
Everybody's situation is unique. From his description, I’d bet on art school.
Your father is really… he's a big character in the book in a lot of ways. And the things you say about him are pretty remarkable. I just wonder if you just tell me, you know, what your take away from him is and what you've tried to emulate from him.
Oh, that you ought to be trying to have fun with every single thing that you do and you ought to be thinking hard about what you can do that helps others. It's such a simple observation. I mean, I love the movie Groundhog Day, you know, this Bill Murray throwaway comedy is a perfect metaphor on life, and he goes through all the stages. You know, he goes through self-pity and self-absorption. And then, over time, he realizes that spending his time helping other people is what provides him with satisfaction. And, you know, I just love that. It’s just a lovely comedic metaphor but it it's absolutely true.

lunes, 11 de enero de 2016

Listening test: Biking the Big Apple

Listen to a report on the growing trend of biking in New York and answer the questions by choosing the correct option A, B or C. 0 is an example.

0) Why is it surprising that NYC is a good place for a relaxed bike ride?
a) Because the city is dangerous.
b) Because the city is very hectic and full of traffic.
c) Because the city has an excellent subway system.

1) How does the NYC subway promote bicycling?
a) By allowing cyclists to take their bikes on the subway all day.
b) By banning bikes from the subway.
c) By having a path for cyclists.

2) Why are cars not a problem for cyclists in the city?
a) Because cars are banned in areas where bikes are ridden.
b) Because cars are used to having people and vehicles in the street.
c) Because there are strict laws that protect cyclists.

3) Why does McDonough think cycling is a good form of transport?
a) Because it's better for the environment.
b) Because it's good exercise.
c) Because it's reasonably safe.

4) Why is NYC making it easier for cyclists to bike in the city?
a) To attract more people to the city.
b) To reduce the use of public transport.
c) To reduce traffic as the city grows.

5) When do the Bike the Big Apple tours take place?
a) At any time of the day.
b) During non-peak traffic hours.
c) During the times when you can see the most people.

6) Why isn't being in good shape necessary to go on the Bike the Big Apple tours?
a) Because neither elderly people nor children participate.
b) Because the city isn’t hilly.
c) Because there are frequent stops.

7) What does Jesse McDonough say at the end?
a) He doesn’t read the metro section of the newspaper any more.
b) He gets to know the city better with the tours.
c) He would have liked to study History.

New York City is well known for its fast pace of life, busy streets and heavy traffic. Of all the places in the world, the Big Apple seems an unlikely starting point for a leisurely bicycle ride. Yet New York was listed in a recent survey as the third-best city in the USA for cycling. This is also the only place in the world where bike riders have 24-hour access to the underground transport system. As the number of cyclists increases, New York's drivers become more aware of them, which means fewer accidents. The city is much more bike friendly than many people realise, says 24-year-old Jesse McDonough, a guide with bicycle tour company Bike the Big Apple.
Jesse McDonough: You know, you can get anywhere on a bike in certainly less than an hour, usually a lot shorter. The cars are used to having people stepping out in the road, used to having carts and trucks and things like that in the way and in most cases they're not going fast enough to really harm you anyway. So yeah, it's... as long as you, you know, assert yourself and own the road, it is a very bike-friendly city. And also I think the system of... of bike paths... is improving a lot, as well. There's a great organization called Transportation Alternatives that really pushes a lot for a bike-friendly city.
There are already an estimated 100,000 cyclists riding through New York each day. By the year 2030 the city's population will have grown to around nine million and, without a big increase in public transport and bike lanes, the streets will be unable to cope with all the additional traffic.
Manhattan is already increasing the number of bike lanes on its busy streets and currently has around 40 kilometres of bike paths totally free from motorized vehicles. Avoiding the worst traffic and rush hours, Bike the Big Apple takes advantage of the freedom for cyclists to offer visitors a unique, close-up view of the city's culture and people.
Most of the regular tours take four to five hours and begin at one of two different bike shops in Manhattan. Led by an experienced guide, visitors cycle along quiet roads and bike paths, through different neighborhoods and parks, along rivers and over bridges.
Fortunately, New York is a fairly flat city with very few hills. And the average speed is only six kilometres an hour, so you don't need to be particularly fit to enjoy the trip! The average age of riders on Bike the Big Apple tours is around 40 years old, but children as young as 10 and pensioners in their 70s have enjoyed the rides. Most importantly, in seven years of cycle tours, no one has ever got hurt.
Bike the Big Apple proves that finding your way around New York can be easier on two wheels, rather than four - especially with a guide who knows the shortcuts and history of this fascinating city.
Jesse McDonough: I love it. I mean, you know, I love being on a bicycle and I was a history major in college and New York's got some really great history and some interesting history. And then its current events... always changing, it's hard to keep up, reading the metro section of the newspaper every day. And I personally love it. And as I do the tours myself, I see things change and develop each time, you know, I'm at the same location. So I mean it's great for me, you know, I just learn more each tour myself and then get to pass that on to the riders.

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

domingo, 10 de enero de 2016

Extensive listening: Blood and Gold- The Making of Spain

In Conquest, the first of this three-episode BBC Series, Simon Sebag Montefiore explores Spain's early years, its emergence as the battleground of empires and its golden age under the Cordoba Caliphate.

We are in Andalusia, following Hannibal as he arrives in Cadiz to raise an army and conquer Rome, complete with elephants. Then past the early Christians, keen for martyrdom, and on to the Umayyad dynasties, who built gorgeously (the Mezquita in Cordoba) and treated those who opposed them equally extravagantly – the punishment for unwilling concubines is gleefully described. On the way, we meet musicians and poets, and it all looks quite stunning: places like Italica and Madinat al-Zahra should expect an immediate jump in visitor numbers.

sábado, 9 de enero de 2016

34 experts offer their tips for English fluency

How to speak fluent English – 34 experts give their tips on Jason R Levine's Fluency MC.

A number of the world’s leading language learning experts like David Deubelbeiss, Larry Ferlazzo, Nik Peachey or Scott Thornbury give their opinion on how learners can become more fluent English speakers.

viernes, 8 de enero de 2016

China's ketamine craze

The drug ketamine is mainly used as an anesthetic, particularly in emergency medicine. But in some countries, it's become popular as a recreational drug. China is one, where the authorities there say its use is soaring among young people while its price continues to drop.

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

1 What do users feel when they are inhaling ketamine?
2 What lasting damage can ketamine bring about?
3 How many people were arrested in a recent raid in Boo-Xua? 
4 Where do drug gangs manufacture ketamine these days?
5 Why are the drug prices dropping?
6 What does '60%' refer to?
Night time in the southern Chinese city of Xan-Jing. Those with money and energy to burn are out to play.
With a secret camera we recorded young men inhaling ketamine, a drug that is soaring in popularity here. Users say ketamine (1) makes them feel like they can fly, but many can’t handle the consequences.
This rehabilitation clinic has seen a leap in the numbers struggling with ketamine. Just three weeks before, this former police officer couldn’t function without it.
The craving was really strong. Every morning I wanted to smoke ketamine. At night the drug kept me up, totally screwed up my life.
Many experience (2) lasting damage to their brains and also their bladders. Some have had their bladders removed, a heavy price to pay. We wanted to know who was profiting.
Ketamine can be made almost anywhere, but there’s one village in China that is notorious for making all kinds of narcotics: Boo-Xua.
This village made headlines when 3,000 paramilitary police swept Boo-Xua, (3) arresting 182 people. But the drug trade lives on, despite repeated raids. We wanted to see the village for ourselves, but it’s a risky trip.
I really feel like we’re being smuggled into this village.
Streets strewn with rubbish. Rising above them, Boo-Xua’s millionaire row thought to be financed with drug money. The land is polluted, littered with by-products of drug production.
Ketamine is technically difficult to make, but Chinese drug gangs cracked the code. Now (4) underground labs manufacture large batches of cheap katemine.
Meeting in an abandoned factory, this villager tells us the drug trade will continue in the shadows. He insists he’s not involved in actually making drugs, but many of his relatives have been arrested.
Drug prices are dropping because (5) they are easier to make. Too many know how to manufacture them now.
Ketamine is becoming a significant illegal export. (6) 60% of the world’s ketamine seizures take place on the narrow boundary between mainland China and Hong-Kong. Unless the Chinese authorities crack down on this drug, many worry it will spread even further beyond China’s borders.
Celia Hutton, BBC News, One-Doon.