martes, 24 de septiembre de 2019

Greta Thunberg, a Young Green Activist

Greta Thunberg is a 16 year-old girl who has become worldwide famous for her campaings to raise awareness against climate change and other environmental issues. She is very articulate in English and an excellent communicator.

Above, you can watch the emotional speech that she gave at the Climate Summit at the UN, which she reads slowly and clearly, but has no subtitles (C1) and below, you can see an interview on the Daily Show where her discourse becomes more natural and colloquial, even humorous at times, which can be accessible to B2 students.

martes, 17 de septiembre de 2019

Domestic Violence Outcry in Turkey

Gender violence is a growing concern all around the world.  This NPR story reports on the state of affairs in Turkey, where feminist groups are leading the protests in the streets against male violence, they are fighting for women's rights in the courts and they are volunteering to create more women's shelters to protect the victims of domestic violence.
This report could be classified as C1for its extension and vocabulary.

martes, 9 de abril de 2019

Grit: The Key to Success

Angela Lee Duckworth left a high-flying job in consulting for a more demanding job as a 7th Grade Maths teacher in a New Yourk public school.  Then, she left the classroom to go to graduate school and study the best predictor for success in students, rookie teachers, West Point Military Academy cadets, competitive sales people, and she found that the best predictor for success was not social intelligence, good looks, physical health or IQ, it was grit.  Grit is "the passion and perseverance for very long-term goals", it is "having stamina". "Grit is living life like it is a marathon, not a sprint".
This short TED Talk video (06:12) with subtitles can be seen by B2 learners.

domingo, 7 de abril de 2019

Men's & Women's Brains

Are there gender differences between men and women or are we just talking about sterotypes? Are there biological differences between men's and women's brains or are the differences social and cultural? Many English coursebooks for adults use this topic to raise debate in the classroom:  Gender or individual differences? Nature or nurture?

Here you can find a selection of materials to teach a lesson about gender issues, which I have used to expand the reading "How Men and Women Argue" on p. 64 of Christina Latham-Koenig's & Clive Oxenden's, English File Upper-Intermediate, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press:

"Men & Women", a set of controversial statements which students can discuss, first in pairs and then, as a class.

Some links to TED Talks videos that could be given for listening/oral homework (students are assigned one video, they watch it at home, take notes and in the first 15 minutes of the next class they share the information in pairs):

1) John Gray, the author of the book "Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus" at TEDxBend

2) Daphna Joel at TEDxJaffa: Are Brains Male or Female?

3) Paul Zak, at TEDxAmsterdamWomen: The Differences Between Men and Women. This video contains more technical words, so it is more suitable for C1 or C2 students:

3) Finally, Mark Gungor, a male comedian, uses men's and women's stereotypes to make a wide audience laugh about the misunderstandings that frequently occur between men and women:

domingo, 24 de marzo de 2019

Happy Nowruz, Persian New Year!

It's Nowruz, Persian New Year, a celebration of Spring for more than 300 million people around the world, including Iran, Tajikistan, Russia, Turkey, India and Iraq.
Find out more about the celebrations, Persian style, in this short BBC video with subtitles which is accessible from B2 level.

viernes, 15 de marzo de 2019

British Comedy: "A Bit of Fry and Laurie"

This short video is a perfect example of British comedy at its best, with Stephen Fry (Peter's Friends, etc) and Hugh Laurie (Dr. House) in "A Bit of Fry and Laurie", a BBC production.
Humour is always very difficult to understand for learners of a foreign language, so this video is classified as a C2 link, even though the end of it is slapstick comedy.

viernes, 8 de marzo de 2019

Women's Day (1): RBG "We Can Do It"

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the second woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in history.  She was a brilliant Law student who had to face work discrimination in her youth, before she turned into a staunch advocate for gender equality and women's rights.  She has earned deep respect from her colleagues at the Court and in recent years, she has become a popular icon for her refusal to step down, despite her age, her serious health problems and her minority position in the Supreme Court.  She is known as "Notorious R.B.G."  In this B2 text from Inc. magazine you can read some of her most inspiring quotes.

You can read more about her life and career on this Wikipedia link.

Women's Day (2): Theresa May

Theresa May has served as Prime Minister during the stormy times of Brexit in the UK.  She has often been dismissed as a weak leader, but she has grabbed the helm of the country with determination to survive defections in her Cabinet and a no-confidence vote in Parliament and to sail over her political rivals in the opposition and in her own Conservative party. This article from Fox News talks about her political career, her gritty character and her upbringing as the daughter of an Anglican vicar. 
The rich vocabulary of the text and the references to the ins and outs of British politics make this report a C1 reading task.

Women's Day (3): Nancy Pelosi

Nancy Pelosi is the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the most powerful female politician in the USA now, and the leader of the opposition. She has fought long and hard to get respect and power from her fellow male colleagues in the Democratic Party "Nobody gives you power, you have to take it away from them", she says.  She lives in San Francisco, she is rich and this makes her "the quintaessence of California limousine liberalism", an easy target for Republicans to caricature. But she is one of the toughest, hardest working and shrewdest politicians in Capitol Hill.  Nancy Pelosi is also the mother of 5 children.  Here you can listen to a long NPR interview (36:59) to New York Times Magazine journalist Robert Draper who is an expert in Washington politics.

Although this radio interview is scripted, the complexity of American politics makes it a C2 listening task.

jueves, 28 de febrero de 2019

Best Tech of World Mobile Congress 2019

The World Mobile Congress in Barcelona whirled around 5G technology -which won't be widely available until 2020- while it showcased the latest in mobile phones, foldable smartphones like the Samsung Galaxy S10, the Huawei Mate X or the Nokia 9 PureView -with more rear cameras than any other. But there were other gadgets on the Fira Gran Via floor:  Microsoft presented its HoloLens 2, a light mixed reality headset only available for enterprises right now.  The best camera zoom was the Oppo 10x and the biggest microSD card was the ScanDisk Extreme with 1TB of storage capacity.  Huawei launched a faster and more powerful laptop, the MateBook X Pro (2019). The prices of these devices match their top-notch quality, as you can read in this link to Mashable, which opens the door to the technology you will be using in the future.

Although the Mashable report above is short and it illustrated with photos, the density of the information and the technical vocabulary makes this text a C1 reading task.

If you still want to find out more about the organization of the WMC -the exhibitors, the speakers, the seminars, the programmes, the networking  possibilities and much more- you can click here on the official web page of the congress.  Reading this long and technical text could be a C2 task.

domingo, 24 de febrero de 2019

From Astray Cat to Local Celebrity

This story from Animalkind, a USA Today video franchise, talks about Pip, a cute street cat that was adopted by a family in the summer resort of Ocean City, Maryland, and has become a local celebrity.  Pip is a restless, adventurous cat that has helped some people overcome loss and sadness and has put a smile on the face of those who have seen him playing around. 
The speed of delivery in the speech and the vocabulary are challenging, so, this short video can be classified as C1, although the subtitles can make it accessible to lower level students.

jueves, 7 de febrero de 2019

Crazy Rich Asians: a Hollywood Hit or a Flop?

Crazy Rich Asians is the first Hollywood release featuring an Asian and Asian-American cast since 1993's The Joy Luck Club.  It has been a box-office hit worldwide, making $230 million (Warner Bros invested $30 million in the movie). Film critic Richard Lawson describes it as a "fairy-tale romp, full of direct Cinderella references that has some muddied messaging about wealth.  Mostly it just whisks us away on a whirlwind tour of an almost fantastical world.  Crazy Rich Asians is breathless fun -but rather weightless too" (Vanity Fair). The richness of the language and the style make reading  this review a C2 task.

But in mainland China, the reception of the film has been quite different.  Katrina Yu, writing for Aljazeera, explains that Crazy Rich Asians has been a box office flop in China, it has only made $1.5 million, an "atrocious performance" according to independent China film industry consultant Jonathan Papish.  The film is not seen as "a celebration of Asian culture, but a demonisation of it", according to popular reviews on Chinese movie websites. This Arts & Culture report can also be recommended for C2 students.

Finally, you can listen to NPR and read a Fresh Air interview to Kevin Kwan, the writer of the best selling novel that the film is based on, where he talks about his upbringing in a wealthy family and his gradual exposure to Bohemian society in Singapore, and where he also responds to the criticism of the movie for starring Henry Golding, a half British, half Malay actor and model. This radio interview with a script could be accessible to C1 students.

lunes, 21 de enero de 2019

Bangladesh Garment Workers Strike

Workers in the garment industry in Bangladesh went on strike over low wages for more than two weeks.  One worker was killed and 50 were injured in clashes with the police. International retail giants like H&M, Walmart, Primark, Tesco or Aldi are among the main buyers of clothes made in Bangladesh.

Here you can read a report from The Times of India about the unrest and the clashes with the police (Jan. 9th, 2019).

And here you can read another story from Channel News Asia (Singapore) that reports about the sacking of hundreds of workers after the protest ended and strikers returned to work (Jan. 16th., 2019).

domingo, 20 de enero de 2019

In Praise of Boredom

Boredom has very bad press these days. People seem to fear boredom and try to live fast and multitask. So, it is striking to hear somebody mounting a full-blown argument in defense of... creative, detoxing boredom! This is what Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser, an Anglican priest, does in the recording below, which was broadcast on 17/09/18, on the BBC Radio 4 programme "Today".  It is an episode of the slot "Thought for the Day" ,where thinkers of different faiths reflect on people and issues in the news.

You can find a link to a Google Drive download of the recording of Rev. Dr. Giles Fraser's reflection on boredom, here (The BBC website only keeps podcasts of past programmes for 30 days) and a transcription of the words, thanks to P.A.

Do you agree with Rev. Giles Fraser? Should you allow yourself 10 or 15 minutes of "creative, detoxing, boredom" everyday? Should you stop learning English right now, and get bored for a little while?