sábado, 30 de abril de 2016

Radio Praha

Radio Praha is a radio station that allows us to listen to the news from that part of the world in English.

All the audio files are downloadable in MP3 format and a lot of the news items come together with their transcript.

As you can well imagine, most of the programmes on Radio Praha have to do with Czech society and its problems. Here, the avid English learner in the intermediate-to-advanced level will find stories on the arts, books, current affairs, business, interviews with interting Czech figures, travel, and so on.

As an example, here's the link to the interview with bilingual translator Lucie Mikolajková.

viernes, 29 de abril de 2016

Does grammar matter?

It can be hard sometimes, when speaking, to remember all of the grammatical rules that guide us when we’re writing. When is it right to say “the dog and me” and when should it be “the dog and I”? Does it even matter?

Andreea S. Calude dives into the age-old argument between linguistic prescriptivists and descriptivists — who have two very different opinions on the matter.

Drop by Does Grammar Matter? at Ted-Ed for Andreea's full lesson, which includes comprehension questions, additional resources on the topic for you to explore and topics for discussion.

You're telling a friend an amazing story, and you just get to the best part when suddenly he interrupts, "The alien and I," not "Me and the alien."
Most of us would probably be annoyed, but aside from the rude interruption, does your friend have a point? Was your sentence actually grammatically incorrect? And if he still understood it, why does it even matter?
From the point of view of linguistics, grammar is a set of patterns for how words are put together to form phrases or clauses, whether spoken or in writing. Different languages have different patterns. In English, the subject normally comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object, while in Japanese and many other languages, the order is subject, object, verb.
Some scholars have tried to identify patterns common to all languages, but apart from some basic features, like having nouns or verbs, few of these so-called linguistic universals have been found. And while any language needs consistent patterns to function, the study of these patterns opens up an ongoing debate between two positions known as prescriptivism and descriptivism.
Grossly simplified, prescriptivists think a given language should follow consistent rules, while descriptivists see variation and adaptation as a natural and necessary part of language.
For much of history, the vast majority of language was spoken. But as people became more interconnected and writing gained importance, written language was standardized to allow broader communication and ensure that people in different parts of a realm could understand each other.
In many languages, this standard form came to be considered the only proper one, despite being derived from just one of many spoken varieties, usually that of the people in power.
Language purists worked to establish and propagate this standard by detailing a set of rules that reflected the established grammar of their times. And rules for written grammar were applied to spoken language, as well.
Speech patterns that deviated from the written rules were considered corruptions, or signs of low social status, and many people who had grown up speaking in these ways were forced to adopt the standardized form.
More recently, however, linguists have understood that speech is a separate phenomenon from writing with its own regularities and patterns.
Most of us learn to speak at such an early age that we don't even remember it. We form our spoken repertoire through unconscious habits, not memorized rules. And because speech also uses mood and intonation for meaning, its structure is often more flexible, adapting to the needs of speakers and listeners.
This could mean avoiding complex clauses that are hard to parse in real time, making changes to avoid awkward pronunciation, or removing sounds to make speech faster.
The linguistic approach that tries to understand and map such differences without dictating correct ones is known as descriptivism. Rather than deciding how language should be used, it describes how people actually use it, and tracks the innovations they come up with in the process.
But while the debate between prescriptivism and descriptivism continues, the two are not mutually exclusive.
At its best, prescriptivism is useful for informing people about the most common established patterns at a given point in time. This is important, not only for formal contexts, but it also makes communication easier between non-native speakers from different backgrounds.
Descriptivism, on the other hand, gives us insight into how our minds work and the instinctive ways in which we structure our view of the world.
Ultimately, grammar is best thought of as a set of linguistic habits that are constantly being negotiated and reinvented by the entire group of language users. Like language itself, it's a wonderful and complex fabric woven through the contributions of speakers and listeners, writers and readers, prescriptivists and descriptivists, from both near and far.

jueves, 28 de abril de 2016

Journey to Canada Stories of Refugees – Fatima

Fatima, a former Afghani refugee and now proud Canadian citizen, shares her inspirational journey.

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

1 How long did Fatima live in Afghanistan?
2 Why did she find it difficult to continue school in Afghanistan?
3 Where did her family go when they left Afghanistan?
4 Where did she live in this new country?
5 What did she do to make some money at the age of 18?
6 What academic interests did she mention in her application to Canadian universities?
7 How does she feel as a Canadian citizen?

I have great memories from Afghanistan. I lived there for about 15, 16 years. I have parents that were both well educated and I grew up in an environment that was fostering education there. And then the war started and it was really difficult to continue school. And after that it was really difficult for women to live on their own in Afghanistan. There was security threats and really basically you always need a man’s support to get around the society. So that was how we had to leave and started all over in Peshawar Pakistan.
When I went to high school, in the afternoons we went to an English-language school. It was valued and really... if you wanted to get further. The point was that you want to go ahead in your life and you don't want to be in the refugee camp all the time. And so the goal was to immigrate to Canada, US, Australia once that program was done. There was a teacher training course for 3 or 6 months or so and I completed that and then was able to, you know, make money and get a salary for two years. Yeah. So I felt really independent at the age of 18 or so.
The way they have organised the program that you can assimilate to… integrate to Canada... Canadian society easily and also help you get where you want. So you write your bio, your interests, and all that, and depending on that whatever you have written in your application they will send your resume to different universities. And my interest was engineering and mathematics and computer science. So they sent me to school that offered that program and I… and I could get into what I wanted to.
I mean Canada is my home now and I feel so much connected to Canada than any other part of the world. So it was a great way to know that you can now vote, you can participate in a whole range of activities in Canada as a citizen and be part of Canadian society. So it was great. It was a privilege.

miércoles, 27 de abril de 2016

Talking point: Power

This week's talking point is power. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Do you agree with these statements?
There should be greater openness about what local councils do with our taxes.
Many local politicians try to do a good job for people in their area.
Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

If you had the power to change something in the world, what would it be?
How can ordinary citizens express their views in today's society?
Do you think that ordinary people wield more power than before?
In your opinion, what are some of the worst decisions made by the powers that be in recent years where you live?
Have you ever been the victim of abuse of power?
Who would you prefer to work for, a female boss, a male boss or neither? Why?
Which of these factors do you think have the most power over people today? And in the past?
Religious institutions - Social and digital media - TV and radio - financial institutions - politicians

To illustrate the topic you can watch this Eric Liu's video for TED-ed.

Every day of your life, you move through systems of power that other people made. Do you sense them? Do you understand power? Do you realize why it matters?
Power is something we are often uncomfortable talking about. That's especially true in civic life, how we live together in community. In a democracy, power is supposed to reside with the people, period. Any further talk about power and who really has it seems a little dirty, maybe even evil.
But power is no more inherently good or evil than fire or physics. It just is. It governs how any form of government works. It determines who gets to determine the rules of the game.
So learning how power operates is key to being effective, being taken seriously, and not being taken advantage of.
In this lesson, we'll look at where power comes from, how it's exercised and what you can do to become more powerful in public life.
Let's start with a basic definition. Power is the ability to make others do what you would have them do. Of course, this plays out in all arenas of life, from family to the workplace to our relationships. Our focus is on the civic arena, where power means getting a community to make the choices and to take the actions that you want.
There are six main sources of civic power. First, there's physical force and a capacity for violence. Control of the means of force, whether in the police or a militia, is power at its most primal.
A second core source of power is wealth. Money creates the ability to buy results and to buy almost any other kind of power.
The third form of power is state action, government. This is the use of law and bureaucracy to compel people to do or not do certain things. In a democracy, for example, we the people, theoretically, give government its power through elections. In a dictatorship, state power emerges from the threat of force, not the consent of the governed.
The fourth type of power is social norms or what other people think is okay. Norms don't have the centralized machinery of government. They operate in a softer way, peer to peer. They can certainly make people change behavior and even change laws. Think about how norms around marriage equality today are evolving.
The fifth form of power is ideas. An idea, individual liberties, say, or racial equality, can generate boundless amounts of power if it motivates enough people to change their thinking and actions.
And so the sixth source of power is numbers, lots of humans. A vocal mass of people creates power by expressing collective intensity of interest and by asserting legitimacy. Think of the Arab Spring or the rise of the Tea Party. Crowds count. These are the six main sources of power, what power is.
So now, let's think about how power operates. There are three laws of power worth examining. Law number one: power is never static. It's always either accumulating or decaying in a civic arena. So if you aren't taking action, you're being acted upon.
Law number two: power is like water. It flows like a current through everyday life. Politics is the work of harnessing that flow in a direction you prefer. Policymaking is an effort to freeze and perpetuate a particular flow of power. Policy is power frozen.
Law number three: power compounds. Power begets more power, and so does powerlessness. The only thing that keeps law number three from leading to a situation where only one person has all the power is how we apply laws one and two. What rules do we set up so that a few people don't accumulate too much power, and so that they can't enshrine their privilege in policy? That's the question of democracy, and you can see each of these laws at work in any news story. Low wage workers organize to get higher pay. Oil companies push to get a big pipeline approved. Gay and lesbian couples seek the legal right to marry. Urban parents demand school vouchers. You may support these efforts or not. Whether you get what you want depends on how adept you are with power, which brings us finally to what you can do to become more powerful in public life.
Here, it's useful to think in terms of literacy. Your challenge is to learn how to read power and write power. To read power means to pay attention to as many texts of power as you can. I don't mean books only. I mean seeing society as a set of texts.
Don't like how things are in your campus or city or country? Map out who has what kind of power, arrayed in what systems. Understand why it turned out this way, who's made it so, and who wants to keep it so. Study the strategies others in such situations used: frontal attack or indirection, coalitions or charismatic authority. Read so you may write.
To write power requires first that you believe you have the right to write, to be an author of change.
You do. As with any kind of writing, you learn to express yourself, speak up in a voice that's authentic. Organize your ideas, then organize other people.
Practice consensus building. Practice conflict. As with writing, it's all about practice. Every day you have a chance to practice, in your neighborhood and beyond. Set objectives, then bigger ones. Watch the patterns, see what works. Adapt, repeat. This is citizenship.
In this short lesson, we've explored where civic power comes from, how it works and what you can do to exercise it.
One big question remaining is the "why" of power. Do you want power to benefit everyone or only you? Are your purposes pro-social or anti-social? This question isn't about strategy. It's about character, and that's another set of lessons. But remember this: Power plus character equals a great citizen, and you have the power to be one.

martes, 26 de abril de 2016

Latinos learning Spanish in the US

With almost 40 million speakers, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the US, just after English.

Watch this Guardian video clip which shows how a growing number of latinos are trying to come to grips with the language and culture of their parents.

My dad has a story he loves to tell about how I came home on the first day of kindergarten and he was speaking to me in Spanish and I said: "Don't speak to me in Spanish any more". There was a time in my early teens when I didn't want to be identified as Hispanic. The only person that I spoke Spanish with was my mother, and when she passed away that was it, I didn't speak.
When I was in college, I had all these classmates and because my last name is Moreno they all assumed that I spoke perfect Spanish so they were like: "What are you doing here? Why are you learning Spanish? Don't you know Spanish?"
I was born in San Antonio, Texas and I'm Mexican-American but I didn't grow up speaking Spanish. My grandparents spoke predominantly Spanish but when it came to us, my parents actually decided to speak to us in English. They didn't want us to have accents. They wanted us to be acculturated. They wanted us to fit in. They wanted us to be successful, and to them being successful meant English.
You just talk to any latino who went to elementary school or high school in their 30s or 40s or 50s, and one thing that you'll encounter is that many will tell you that when they spoke Spanish in school, they were punished for speaking Spanish. Often we're getting messages like "Speak English because it's important", and "be American". Of course, the 1960s changes all of that and we're in a much different period today.
I never considered what my identity was as a Mexican-American but then when I went to university they had all these amazing classes like Chicano literature classes and Spanish classes and that's when I decided that I really wanted to really discover my heritage and really reclaim it for myself and that's when I started studying in Spanish.
Robyn had this urge to communicate. She has a full command of the language in English and she wanted to do that in Spanish but she couldn't. Teaching latinos is a little bit more challenging because we have to deal with the feeling that they should have known the language and they don't know it. There is a lot of emotional stuff going on when they learn the language and that could be a little bit detrimental to
their learning.
I was raised speaking Spanish until I started kindergarten. I saw the other kids speaking English, there were no other kids speaking Spanish and I didn't want to be a different person.
Even among English-speaking latinos, more than 90 per cent say that it's important that future generations of latinos speak Spanish. I think that this emphasis on pride and heritage, and Spanish is an important part of that heritage, is something that's going to keep Spanish alive in a way that maybe for previous immigrant groups just wasn't possible.
It's really important to me that my kids speak Spanish because I want them to know their latina culture.
Oso (bear)! He's cute! Hi oso!
I feel like as you get more and more Americanised you start to want some of that nostalgia. I even miss my mum's weird accent or the fact that she loves cheesy novellas. I want them to know that they are proudly latina, they're proudly Mexican-American, and know who their grandparents were, who their great-grandparents were, who their family is. And so Spanish is a part of that.

lunes, 25 de abril de 2016

Listening test: Breathwalking

Listen to a short report on breathwalking and answer the questions below by choosing the best option A, B or C.

1 What is breathwalking a combination of?
A. Meditation and walking.
B. Unconscious breathing and walking.
C. Walking, conscious breathing and meditation.

2 What is breathwalking designed to reduce?
A. Stress.
B. The working day.
C. Weight.

3 Where was breathwalking developed?
A. India.
B. The United Kingdom.
C. The United States.

4 What is Michelle Risa’s job?
A. A breathwalk instructor.
B. A business consultant.
C. A Psychotherapist.

5 When does Yogi Bhajan believe people should do to breathwalk?
A. After work.
B. In their everyday life.
C. When they are in an outdoor space.

6 What does Risa look at in people when teaching them breathwalking?
A. Smoking and eating habits.
B. The person as a whole.
C. Work and home life.

7 What does eastern spiritual philosophy teach?
A. Everything is interconnected.
B. Nothing is everything.
C. The future is promising.

Breathing and walking are two of the most natural things that we do in life. Normally, we don’t spend much time thinking about how exactly we perform these actions. Breathwalking brings together conscious breathing, walking and meditation. Instructors teach how to integrate routines of improved breathing and movement into today’s stressful lives.

Breathwalking comes out of Kundalini yoga. This was taught by the late Yogi Bhajan, who was probably best known for his range of ayurvedic teas. The technique was then developed and popularized by his pupil Gurucharan Singh Khalsa. He was the spiritual leader of the Singh community in the US, in addition to working as a psychotherapist and business consultant. Michelle Risa is a breathwalk instructor based on Park Avenue in Manhattan. She says that breathwalking is perfect for modern city life.

Yogi Bhajan basically said: “Let me give you tools. You don’t need to be a Tibetan in a cave up in the mountains and I don’t want you to leave the city, I don’t want you to leave your job. I want to give you tools that you can use easily every day, whenever you need them, to improve the quality of your life,” which is perfect for us because we basically all say: “I don’t have time! I don’t have time!” You know, and so the beauty of his yoga, as well as breathwalk, I feel, is that: that while you’re walking to work, or walking home from work, there are many ways you can place this in your life without... and overcome the obstacle, the proverbial obstacle of: “I don’t have any time. I’m too busy.”

Michelle says there are five parts to every breathwalk: Awaken, Align, Vitalize, Balance and Integrate. You learn about long breathing, short breathing, segmented breathing and ratio breathing; and how to work with your body’s meridian points – and sounds, too. Michelle says that, in addition to breathwalking on your way to work, you can also do breathing exercises at your desk. In her work as a breathwalk instructor, Michelle also looks at people’s lives: what holds them back at work and at home, at addictions like smoking and at clients’ nutrition. This follows the philosophy of Eastern spiritual teachings: everything is connected with everything. Another ancient idea, that prevention is better than a cure, is now becoming popular with big corporations, too, and so Michelle is taking breathwalking into the boardrooms. It would appear that breathwalking has a promising future ahead of it.

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

domingo, 24 de abril de 2016

Extensive listening: The reporting system that sexual assault survivors want

We don't have to live in a world where 99 percent of rapists get away with it, says TED Fellow Jessica Ladd.

With Callisto, a new platform for college students to confidentially report sexual assault, Ladd is helping survivors get the support and justice they deserve while respecting their privacy concerns.

"We can create a world where there's a real deterrent to violating the rights of another human being," she says.

Jessica Ladd is using technology to advance sexual health in the US.

You can read the full transcript for Jessica's talk here.

sábado, 23 de abril de 2016

Reading test: Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary

Todays the literary world is commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. We would like to join this momentous occasion by making Shakespeare the topic of today's reading test.

The task is based on The Guardian's article Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary: 'man of Stratford' to be celebrated in 2016, by Maev Kennedy. Read this text and choose the best sentence (A - K) for each gap. Two of the sentences do not correspond to any of the blanks. 0 is an example.

A - has never been filled 
B - if his friends and fellow actors had not gathered together 
C - it is more a mount with a hole where the birthplace should be
D - North Korea is still holding out 
E - The world has not agreed with him 
F - to open as a permanent visitor attraction 
G - under which the writer is said to have sat and worked 
H - when Shakespeare and his fellow actors dismantled a theatre
I - where he died on 23 April, the same day as his birth 
J - where he lived and read and thought – 0 Example
K - which are all slightly different

The world shares him and London claims him, but Stratford-on-Avon intends to spend 2016 celebrating William Shakespeare as their man: the bard of Avon, born in the Warwickshire market town in 1564, and who died there 400 years ago.

Stratford remained hugely important throughout Shakespeare’s life, argues Paul Edmondson, the head of learning and research at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. “People have seen Shakespeare as a Dick Whittington figure, who turns his back on Stratford and his family, goes to London to earn his fortune and only comes back to die,” he said. “[But Stratford is] where he bought land and property, where he kept his library, (0) … . We are going to spend the year re-emphasising the importance of Shakespeare, the man of Stratford.”

The 17th-century diarist, antiquarian and gossip John Aubrey, born 11 years after Shakespeare died, was at pains to point out there was nothing so very special about the bard. Aubrey, university educated unlike Shakespeare, said that he acted “exceedingly well” and that “his Playes took well”. (1) … . The anniversary of the death of the man from Stratford, the most famous and the most performed playwright in the world, will be marked across Britain and the globe.

Macbeth is about to open in Singapore, Romeo and Juliet in Brussels. Shakespeare’s Globe is completing the first world tour in the history of theatre, in which it has taken Hamlet to almost every country –(2) … . The production will arrive back in London for the anniversary weekend of 23-24 April. They are also creating a 37-screen pop-up cinema, one screen to showcase each of Shakespeare’s plays, along the South Bank.

For a man famous in his own lifetime there is little documentary evidence for Shakespeare’s life and times. The plays would scarcely have survived (3) … every scrap of every play they could find – drafts, prompt scripts, scribbled actors’ parts, and 17 plays not known in any other version – into the precious First Folio published in 1623, seven years after Shakespeare’s death.

Some of the most precious surviving documents will be gathered together in an exhibition at Somerset House in London, opening in February and jointly organised by the National Archives and King’s College London, including four of his six known signatures, (4) … .

The outgoing Globe director, Dominic Dromgoole, recently jokily claimed Shakespeare as a true Londoner – albeit conceding “some spurious claim” by Stratford-on Avon. Stratford, however, will be insisting that the town made and educated Shakespeare His old school room is being restored with a £1.4m Heritage Lottery grant, (5) … .

Shakespeare bought the splendid New Place, the second best house in the town, (6) … . “You don’t buy a house like New Place and not live there,” Paul Edmondson said. “The general public and many academics have consistently underestimated the importance of Stratford to Shakespeare.” Edmondson believes that after Shakespeare bought the house in 1597, all his thinking time was spent there, and that the late plays, including The Tempest, were at least planned in his library and probably written there.

Shakespeare’s house was demolished 300 years ago, and the house that replaced it, probably incorporating some of the original fabric, was flattened in 1759 by an irascible clergyman, Francis Gastrell, in a row over taxes. He had already cut down Shakespeare’s mulberry tree, (7) … , because he was irritated by all the tourists peering into his garden.

The gap in the Stratford streetscape (8) …, but a five-year archaeology project has peeled back the years, and the news that Shakespeare’s kitchen had been found in the partly surviving cellars went round the world. The whole site is being redisplayed for the anniversary, with the foundations marked and the garden restored.

“Without Stratford,” Edmondson said, “There would have been no Shakespeare.”

 Portrait of Shakespeare, 1598
Photograph: Alfredo Dagli Orti/The Art Archive/Corbis
from The Guardian

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

viernes, 22 de abril de 2016

Start-ups changing the food delivery business

A group of British start-up companies are trying to disrupt the food takeaway business, by making it easier for restaurants to deliver, that wouldn't normally consider it.

We’re changing what people think about takeaway.
I’ve got a six-month-old baby asleep upstairs.
We’ve got to be at Nando’s in two minutes.
For over a decade now we’ve been able to order takeaway food with the click of the mouse button. It’s a popular and lucrative business, but recently some new kids have arrived on the block offering a new twist to the formula and doing rather well. They want to bring you food from places that wouldn’t normally not takeaway, whether it’s Nando’s or your favourite Little Italian.
The biggest of these companies in the UK is Deliveroo. To get a 360 view of how this kind of companies works, I took my camera along to hang out with one of their top drivers during the lunchtime rush, not forgetting to stick a camera on his helmet. And I also met up with the boss who came up with the idea.
In our platform, restaurants all they have to do is cook the food and we take it and bring it to people, which means we can work with A) a higher class of restaurant and B) the delivery times are much faster.
The rider I’m shadowing is certainly pretty fast as he pedals down his patch in London Islington. I’m struggling to keep up even though we are both on electric bikes. When the electric bike kicks in, it does help. Luckily our first assignment isn’t too far away. I’m curious to see what kind of customer uses this service.
With Deliveroo you have the ease of a takeaway and I know there’s good restaurants on there. I’ve got a six-month-old baby asleep upstairs in his cot, so I couldn’t leave the house.
I used to work in New York after university and I worked there for three years and I was in investment banking where I had to order food late all the time, but the options were very good. When I moved to London in 2004 I found there to be a lack of quality, you know, takeaway. Yet London actually has amazing restaurants.
So you’ve got an order in, it’s Nando’s in Islington…
Nando is quite a popular one.
We’ve got to speed in Nando’s in two minutes.
The helmet camera lets me see what’s going on inside the restaurant. Somewhere there’s a tablet computer coordinating the booking with the courier’s smart phone. Restaurants pay a commission to Deliveroo for the service.
You got the stuff?
Our customer actually only lives a two-minute walk-away from Nando’s and it’s a glorious day.
That’s sly customer?
Very much.
Apparently she was working at her desk at home and didn’t want to break her concentration. Meanwhile, our activity has called the attention of a neighbour who quite likes the Deliveroo idea.
My friend who is… is house-bound so it’d be good for him, you know.
Who’s actually using the service?
It’s really… depends on the neighbourhood you’re in. In Mayfair it’s a lot of hedge-funds, people like that. In Shoreridge it’s a lot of single people. You pay the exact same prices as you would in the restaurant plus a ₤2.50 delivery fee.
Our final job involves a visit to the kind of restaurants that Deliveroo really wants to attract, a local Italian that doesn’t normally deliver food.
It’s time for our longest journey yet, ten minutes towards Hackney. It’s a bit of a maze, but we find the flat eventually. It’s another person, Raffal tells me who’s discovered the joys of working from home. Raffal is a man of few words but I feel we’ve bonded during our short time working together. He’s just one of over 700 delivery drivers hard at home in London. Will their pedal power change the way we think about takeaway food?

jueves, 21 de abril de 2016

Trends in Australian tourism

Watch this ABC Australia video on the development of the tourism industry in recent years.

Australia's big ticket, world-class tourist attractions may be priceless, but getting to see them can cost the Earth. So when the Global Financial Crisis hit, one of the first sectors to feel the effects was the $90 billion tourism industry.
Nobody will be celebrating the end of 2009 more, more heartily than the Australian tourism industry tomorrow night.
International tourist numbers dropped a 0.5% this year. It would've been much worse if not for a global airline price war and surprisingly strong tourism out of the United States and China. Next year, growth is predicted of about 4.5%.
It's certainly not double digit. It's a... it's a positive recovery, but certainly not a... we're not back to boom times - as yet at least.
Demographer Bernard Salt is the chairman of Tourism Australia's forecasting committee. It combines things like forward airline bookings, visa applications and arrival figures to come up with its predictions. Bernard Salt says short-term visits, particularly from China, indicate a growing commercial relationship.
This is not so much Chinese people coming out to go to the Gold Coast. This is very much business people coming out for resources deals, manufacturing deals. All sorts of relationships that are now forming and forging between Australia and China is really fuelling this very strong traffic between the two countries.
Attacks this year against Indian students in Melbourne and Sydney are being blamed for a projected 20% drop in students visiting Australia to study for a year or less. That'd cost this country $78 million next year. Student representatives say they thought the figures were going to be much worse.
It's surprising that the drop is only 20%. But we have to understand that the marketing that Australia has done - there were eight trips. And I think the Prime Minister's trip was fairly successful.
As Prime Minister of Australia, I am deeply disturbed and disgusted by attacks of violence against any foreign students studying in our country as our guests.
There were several visits to India this year by senior Australian politicians, but the students say Kevin Rudd's public commitment in the Indian media to take responsibility for what was happening softened the anger.
He was one person who went out to India and has stood up to a billion people and told them that 'I am ultimately responsible... for, you know, everyone's safety in Australia. Now, I may not have the full authority individually to do something, but I am responsible.' And I think that has a huge impact. So that's why we are seeing that the trend is about 20%.
We're going to need a year and a half of good times, of good figures, of sustained growth, for Australian tourism businesses to be profitable and to get out of the difficulties that they find themselves at the moment.
But if you look closely, the news isn't all bad, particularly for operators catering for tourists who don't want to open their purses too far or too often.
We're not feeling it here because we're at the, sort of, lower end of the tourism spectrum. So we get a lot of the budget travellers and a lot of the family travellers that can't afford that higher-end holiday away.
This picturesque caravan park, the closest to Sydney's central business district, is enjoying boom times.
What we're finding is that it tends to be our demographic is shifting to family groups and more professional people, particularly from the eastern suburbs of Sydney where, although they're affluent, they're looking at their money, they're looking at the mortgage rates that they're paying and they're looking at their expenditures.
The park is so popular, campervans line the road outside. At the other end of the spectrum, the Australian Tourism Export Council says it's the top end of the market which is feeling the pinch worst. But it says tourism operators across the board are hoping for a break of their own.
We've fought so hard over the last year. We've reduced our profits, sometimes down to zero, just to keep people ticking through the gates, and we're looking forward to these figures becoming true, because nobody deserves a strong year more than the Australian tourism industry.

miércoles, 20 de abril de 2016

Talking point: Celebrations

This week's talking point is celebrations. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

How often do you attend celebrations?
What are the reasons for the celebrations you usually attend?
When did you last attend a celebration?
Do you prefer formal or informal celebrations? Why?
Have you ever been the protagonist of a celebration?
Describe how people with bad manners behaved in a celebration you attended.
Talk about how to behave at a wedding in your country. Think about the following points:
-what to wear
-what topics to avoid in polite conversation
-how to greet people
-table manners

To illustrate the topic you can watch this video on table taboos.

Hello, I'm Nancy Mitchell, the owner at the Etiquette Advocate and today we're talking about dining etiquette. We will now talk about what are some of the things you do not want to do when you are seated at a dining room table.
First and foremost, when you arrive at the table and you have found your place, it is extremely rude
to change place cards. The host/hostess has worked very, very hard on finding an arrangement at the table that will facilitate conversation. There is mixing and mingling of people and corporations and agendas. Don't make the mistake of moving a place card. Find your place and sit where you are assigned.
Other things not to do at the table are taking medications. It makes other people very uncomfortable to see you taking a medication even if you need to do that before a meal. It should be very, very unobtrusive. It should be something that you do not do when other people are watching.
Hygiene. Don't assume that after a meal you can apply lipstick. You cannot use a toothpick at the table. You cannot use your finger to get something out of your teeth at the table. All of those things are very offensive and will disturb the other diners.
Using your cell phone. The cell phone should be under the table. It can be in a briefcase, it can be in a handbag. If it rings, reach down, turn it off, saying to your dining companions, I'm so sorry, I thought I had turned that off. Don't look at the display, don't answer the call to say, I'm sorry I can't talk right now, I'll call you back. You are saying to your dining companions that whoever is calling you is more important than they are. This should be out at the picture.
Other things to remember are… it's your responsibility to talk to your guest on your left and your right. If you’ve come to the event with someone from your business, from your family, it's your responsibility to talk to other people at the table and not just to the person with whom you've come.
Other things to avoid are taking away doggie bags. If you're at a business event or any event where you care about your image, don't ask for doggie bags, don't share bites of your food with other people of the table. Don't ask for a taste of someone else's. These things reflect very poorly on you.
Next we're going to be talking about how to navigate a place setting.
To watch the other segments in this video series or for how-to videos on almost any other topic, visit monkeysee.com.

martes, 19 de abril de 2016

What’s the buzz with wild bees

Mark Bittman visits the organic Full Belly Farm in Guinda, CA with UC Berkeley's Claire Kremen, a conservation biologist and faculty co-director of the Berkeley Food Institute. She is an expert in pollination and diversified farming techniques.

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

1 Bees are essential for farming.
2 Bees load the pollen on their head.
3 In the pollination process, pollen is transferred from the female parts to the male parts of the flower.
4 Bees are the only pollinators.
5 Californian farmers have enough native bees for their farming industry.
6 Farming techniques are harmful for bees.
7 Wild bees are beneficial for farming.

I don't get to see many bees walking the streets of Manhattan. But out here in California, I've had the opportunity to see many of these hardworking insects up close. Without bees, our grocery stores, farmer's markets, and dinner tables would be pretty barren.
UC Berkeley conservation biologists Claire Kremen and I take a trip to Full Belly Farm in Guinda to see what they're doing to bees and other pollinators happy.  This is a very…
So this is…
…pretty field, obviously.
Yeah, really gorgeous.
It's really quite varied compared to…
Yes, it's so varied.
…1,000 acres of hay. You're going to catch us some bees?
Yeah, I'll catch some bees.
That's pretty exciting.
And you can see them kind of buzzing around.
There's a couple little ones in here.
Bumblebees are social. Isn't that a handsome creature? And you can see the large pollen loads on the back of its leg.
Oh, yeah. I can.
Isn't that cool?
I think of this farm as native pollinator central.  And it's really because of the way they farm that they grow so may different types of crops to attract the pollinators out here.
Let's define a pollinator. And let's talk about why they're important.
A pollinator is any animal that visits a flower and transfers the pollen from the male parts to the female parts of the flower, or from one flower to another. And by doing that, fertilizes the plant and allows the plant to reproduce, and create a seed or fruit. And why they're so important to us is because about 75% of the crops that we enjoy and rely on benefit from animal pollinators visiting them.
So pollinators doesn't just mean bees? Or are there other pollinators too? Do moths pollinate?
Yeah. All kinds of organisms pollinate. Bees are the ones we think about the most when we think about crop pollination, because in general, they are the most important.
In California, farmers have enough bees to pollinate apples, avocados, cherries, and other produce every year. But they import nearly 1.5 million honey bee hives to pollinate the state's biggest export, almonds.
The critical thing is to think about the honey bee as one species that we brought to this country from Europe. And it has a number of health issues. And it's been termed colony collapse disorder. We now rely practically exclusively on honey bees. But it's kind of crazy. You know, we have to transport our pollination service for 3,000 miles when we have 100, 150 native bee species that visit crops and pollinate them.
Obviously, colony collapse disorder is a big deal. But it sounds like it's more of a big deal because just as we've become dependent on monoculture, we've become dependent on this sort of mono-pollinator.
When they transport these bees across the country, there's large numbers of hives that are interacting with one another. That's a great place for them to transmit diseases from one to another. They're being exposed to pesticides on the fields where their foraging. And often, there are a few other form of resources for them. So they're also experiencing sort of a very simplified diet. I mean, you wouldn't want to just eat almonds all day long.
We're using bees in the same way that we use soil, and in the same way that you use fertilizer. It's all very one dimensional.
Yeah. So simplified. Studying pollinators kind of opened my eyes to our whole farming system. Why do we have this farming system when we can see…, you know, this is beautiful. I love being here. You being here. It's a healthy environment. You know, why do we have so much monoculture? We have created the government and economic structures that seem to have made it a necessity.
This is fundamentally unsustainable. And the only way to maintain your livelihood is to start using techniques of sustainable agriculture. That requires that fundamental understanding. And to do it before the environmental catastrophe.
Will farms take the necessary steps to support bees? Some start out simply and plant hedgerows-- an assortment of plants that flower at different times and provide a rich source of food for pollinators year round. Farmers that welcome wild bees through diversified farming techniques will gain a valuable and natural ally in growing their crops.
We have some fresh egg pasta from eggs from our farm, and then a little salad as well. So yeah, enjoy.
Thank you.

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

lunes, 18 de abril de 2016

Listening test: Entertainment news

Listen to some entertainment news and match headings A-H with the corresponding news item. There are two headings you do not need to use.

A - A sad story on screen
B - Event goes ahead as planned
C - Family matters
D - Last-minute cancellation
E - Later than initially planned
F - Professional dispute to be settled in court
G - Singer finally finds happiness
H - Well-known actor to wear a suit

It was supposed to be the grand European launch of one of the year’s biggest blockbusters, but the blasts in Belgium which killed at least 30 people made the organisers of the Batman v Superman premiere rethink the carpet. Warner Bros., the film’s distributor, released a statement, saying: Our hearts go out to the victims of recent terrorist attacks, their families and communities impacted around the world. Rather than yield to terror, we’ve decided to join the film’s fans and move forward with the London premiere of Batman v. Superman this evening. However, they had one condition - that television crews and radio journalists were excluded from the event, but that photography could still go ahead. This left European television presenters at a loss around London’s Leicester Square, while the stars did their usual meet-and-greet with fans.
Pop star Kesha has appealed a court decision that ties her to a recording contract with companies owned by music producer Dr. Luke. A judge in February declined to release the “Tik Tok” singer from her six-album recording contract. But in court documents filed on Saturday, Kesha’s attorney Mark Geragos appealed the February decision. Although it recognized that slavery was done away with a long time ago and that you can’t force someone to work in a situation in which they don’t want to work, the court’s ruling requiring Kesha to do work for Gottwald’s companies, purportedly without his involvement, does just that. Dr. Luke’s attorney, Christine Lepera replied with a statement: her attorneys can continue manufacturing even more false and outrageous claims, but the fact remains that her time would be better spent in a studio than wasting time having her lawyer and mother spin lies in the media.
The latest big name actor to inhabit Batman’s suit is Ben Affleck. He’s playing the caped crusader in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but it doesn’t mark the first time Affleck has donned latex. He also appeared in the poorly received 2003 film, Daredevil. Affleck follows in the footsteps of Michael Keaton, George Clooney, Val Kilmer and Christian Bale. But while Affleck has put a stamp on his character, his co-star Henry Cavill, who plays Superman, feels he still has a way to go. I’m still waiting to put my official stamp on this character. This is still the development stage of Superman and I’m adding my little bit of flavour here and there trying to get as much of the human psychology present in this superpowered alien through his development stages. We’re not seeing the final finished product of Superman which we see in the comic books, we’re seeing the guy making his mistakes. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice opens internationally from March 23.
The stars of new movie Demolition hit the red carpet in New York for a special screening of the intimate story of grief and how people deal with it. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a New York investment banker coming to terms with his wife’s sudden death. An unexpected connection with a vending machine customer service employee, played by Naomi Watts, eventually helps him express his grief. A scene in which Gyllenhaal demolishes his home is getting plenty of attention, but the star said he enjoyed his dancing sequences much more. Demolition will be released in US theaters on April 8.
A British judge made a fresh plea on Monday for Madonna and Guy Ritchie to work out an amicable solution to the custody battle over their teenage son. The Material Girl singer is in dispute with her film-director ex-husband over where 15-year-old Rocco should live. After they divorced in 2008 it was agreed that their son should live with the pop icon. Rocco has been living in the British capital with Richie since last year, and in December ignored a court order to return to the United States to stay with his mother. Hearings have been held in New York and London, but Madonna recently asked for the English proceedings to close. Judge Justice Alistair MacDonald granted the singer permission to end the proceedings in Britain at Monday’s hearing, which neither Ritchie nor Madonna attended. The pop star wrapped up her Rebel Heart world tour with shows in Sydney over the weekend.
Very soon the sound of the Rolling Stones will echo around Havana. The Stones added a free show in Cuba to the end of their Latin American tour, becoming the first major international rock stars to play in the country. That show’s been delayed by five days because of the coincidental arrival of another foreign visitor - US President Barack Obama. The scale of the show is unprecedented for Cuba. The Stones have brought in 61 shipping containers with 500 tonnes of equipment including a stage, lights and video screens.

1B 2F 3H 4A 5C 6E

domingo, 17 de abril de 2016

Extensive listening: Uber's plan to get more people into fewer cars

Uber didn't start out with grand ambitions to cut congestion and pollution. But as the company took off, co-founder Travis Kalanick wondered if there was a way to get people using Uber along the same routes to share rides, reducing costs and carbon footprint along the way. The result: uberPOOL, the company's carpooling service, which in its first eight months took 7.9 million miles off the roads and 1,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide out of the air in Los Angeles. Now, Kalanick says carpooling could work for commuters in the suburbs, too. "With the technology in our pockets today, and a little smart regulation," he says, "we can turn every car into a shared car, and we can reclaim our cities starting today."

Watch Travis Kalanick's talk for TED in Vancouver this year. You can read the transcript here.

sábado, 16 de abril de 2016

Chalene Johnson podcasts on healthy living

Chalene Johnson is a New York Times best-selling author and fitness trainer who tries to help people live their life to the full and succeed in their professional and personal life.

She publishes a podcast three days a week with tips and suggestions on lifestyle and professional life that advanced English students may find helpful to improve their English. The podcast includes a transcription.

viernes, 15 de abril de 2016

Stephen Fry welcomes you to Heathrow

Heathrow Airport has teamed up with Stephen Fry to welcome arriving passengers to the UK!

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

1 How do the British call the island?
2 How often do the British talk about the weather?
3 What do the British love?
4 What may happen if you embark on a conversation?
5 How long can loops last?
6 What is the one golden rule?

Oh, there you are! Oh, well, I'm glad you could make it. Now that you've landed at Heathrow let me be the first to welcome you to this happy island we call "home".
Very soon, you'll be free to enjoy the many things that made the UK such a great place to visit. The majesty of our countryside, the majesty of... of her Majesty. The Scottish Highlands, the Giant's Causeway, St. Paul's cathedral, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwll-llantysiliogogogoch. You can look it up if you don't believe me. And you can spell it. All these await you.
But first... Remember that a staggering 91% of all verbal exchanges in the United Kingdom concern the weather. Bear in mind, however, the "agreement rule". Bit nippy out.
It's not too bad.
How dare you?
Oh, we Brits do love a queue. It's reassuring for us to know that the thing we've decided to do is so popular that we are unable to do it immediately. Nevertheless, if the queue should start to move particularly slowly, it may become necessary to turn to your companion and display your displeasure in the strongest possible terms.
I'm sorry that you had to see that.
I've no idea why we do that.
Who's next?
No, look what's happened here! By foolishly embarking on a conversation, the structure of the queue has broken down. This may well lead to the "after you" loop.
After you.
Uh...no, no, no, after you.
Please, after you.
See? These loops can sometimes continue for several hours. And that can call for desperate measures.
No, please, I insist.
I know we look like an easy-going bunch, but...well, sometimes it feels like we've got more rules of etiquette than...a Japanese tea room. But you should be fine if you recall the one golden rule: make yourself at home.

1 home
2 it is the topic in 91% of the conversations they have
3 a queue
4 the queue may break down
5 several hours
6 make yourself at home