domingo, 22 de enero de 2023

Shakira's Break Up Song

Shakira's break up song has been chosen as the current, most interesting story about relationships this year by my C1 students. Alejandro S. found this BBC report that compares and analyses several break-up songs by Shakira, Miley Cyrus, Adele or Beyoncé that have become hits in the past years.

In this article, which is suitable for C1 students, you will find interesting vocabulary like break-up, rage, grief, to cope, to binge, to unload [emotions], scorching, a diss track, sparks, raw [emotions], heartbreak, [to get] dumped, bitterness, revenge, to beg, [to be] scorned, to be over [this], a wink, a lump [in your throat], to drip, to smudge, tricky, to creep, to relapse, cleansing, to offload.

The other story that interested C1 students most, is this Daily Mail article about Juan Froilán de Marichalar y Borbon, which was presented in class by Paco A.

sábado, 31 de diciembre de 2022

Best Winter Sun Holidays & Places to Visit in 2023

Playa de los Cristianos (Tenerife) has been named the best winter sun holiday destination in Europe by Holydo, a holiday rental search engine in the UK. Spain tops the list of winter sun destinations, but other featured destinations are Agios Nikolaos in Greece, Siracusa in Italy, Luz in Portugal and Cala Rossa in France. A list of the sunniest cities in Europe has also been published by Holydo Magazine, and, surpisingly enough, Zaragoza ranks number 12 in Europe!

In this article, which is suitable for B2 students, you can find descriptive adjectives and other interesting words like: average, whopping, dreamy, charming, a coastal [town], to beat, to check out, waterfront [restaurants], nearby [abandoned castles], stunning [streescapes], breathtaking [beaches], impressive [cliffs], turquoise [waters].

If you are already looking for ideas to travel in 2023, or you just want to do a little bit of online travel while it is cold and foggy outside, you can read this article from, an experiential travel magazine from New York and San Francisco, with the 12 Best Places to Travel in 2023. The article comes with a video with subtitles (see below), which can be watched by B2 students, where you will see words like: to await, a seaside [village], to prevail, renovations, a hub, steamed [crabs], seasoning, freight, freshwater, to hop, glaciated, lobster rolls, heritage, to boast, to sit [on the shores], endangered species, vineyard, highlights, to debut, a flea market, entrepreneurial, the culinary [capital], pumpkins, meadows, to strech for [618 acres], to rewild, a cheetah, wetlands, grasslands, conservation, to figure out, to showcase, snow-capped [peaks], a thriving [art scene].

domingo, 25 de diciembre de 2022

The Magic of Christmas

Christmas is magic. This time of winter with short, gloomy evenings and eerie weather due to climate change, can still be transformed by the power of human imagination. An alternative Christmas commercial in the UK has caught the British people's imagination in the tough winter of 2022 and has become viral in the pre-Christmas season with a sad story, a melancholic song and a simple slogan. You can watch it here:

The video has no subtitles, but, thanks to my colleague Pablo A. you can find here a lesson plan with the transcript, which was originally published by Film English, and it is suitable for C1 students and above. In the commercial, you can find interesting words like: mate, poorly, [this one] is on me, cheers, get well soon, well wishes. Pablo A. has also passed me the script for the bacground song, Constellations by Ellie Holcomb, where you can find these words: to long for [you], underneath, a canopy [of stars], to collide, the mess [in my life], to see through, to lose your way, a desolate [place], to make a way, pinprick, and a transcript of the interview to Sam Teal, director of the add, and to young actor Ashton Sanders on BBC News, where you can find words like a portrayal, the cost of living crisis, to grip [the UK], a graveyard, a flashback, a go-kart, to refurb, a performance, the crew, amazing [presents], to take over [the world], to get wheeled in on [the go-kart], to make a bid on [the go-kart], to steer, smooth, bumpy, to marshal [local resources], to be on the telly positively, a barber shop, the landmarks, to get a go [at Christmas], the real thing, to whisper, crikey, tough, fancy [food], to deliver [a line], poorly, to pull [that] out, to focus on [that], to struggle, to get [it] wrong, to snap up [something], a by-election, to hire, a [creative] hub, to nurture [young talent], an apprentice, to mould, to get [a place] on the map, to deserve, best of luck, to smash [a record]. The BBC interview can be seen below:

Finally, you can read  here Time Out's list of the best 2022 Christmas commercial ads and watch the videos as well, for a full British TV Chistmas publicity experience.

miércoles, 7 de diciembre de 2022

"Goblin Mode" is Oxford Word of the Year

The Oxford Word of the Year 2022 has been chosen by popular vote for the first time in its two decades of existence from a short list of three finalists:  1) Metaverse; 2) #IStandWith; 3) Goblin Mode. The media has reported widely on the winning word, you can watch this video report by Al Jazeera, which is copied again below.

The video is short (2:41), and you can read the subtitles, so, it can be accessible to B2 students. You will find interesting words like: metaverse, #IStandWith, goblin mode, a short list, hashtag, unapologetically, self-indulgent, greedy, slovenly, to take off, a lockdown, usage, gleefulness, goblin, gargoyle, to burst forth, gaslighting, permacrisis, to vote with your feet, cold and miserable, pithy, thought-provoking, churros.

If you are a teacher or you are really interested in this topic, you can watch the Oxford Word of the Year Launch Event, a long video (57':56") with subtitles, where a panel of experts discuss the candidates for OUP Word of the Year. This video is suitable for C2 students and above. You can also take a look at the List of Oxford Words of the Year since 2004

Other dictionaries have also announced their own word of the year for 2022: "Gaslighting" has been chosen by Merriam-Webster, whereas "Permacrisis" was Collins Word of the Year and Cambridge Word of the year was "Homer". The senior body of linguists that started the first Word Of The Year competition (WOTY) is, apparently, the Amercian Dialect Society, and here you can check the ADS List of Words of the Year since 1990

viernes, 25 de noviembre de 2022

Walking Fast for 30 Minutes Can Reduce Dementia and Mortality


A recent study has proved that the intensity of exercise matters to reduce the risk of dementia and mortality caused by cancer or heart disease, according to CNBC reports. The article is suitable for B2 students, but there are links to JAMA Neurology and JAMA Internal Medicine leading to the scientific paper, Ahmadi et al, European Heart Journal, 2022, which is more suitable for C2 students and Medicine professionals.

In the CNBC article you can find some interesting words like: a step, to go about [walking], to keep up with a pace, to lower, to be committed to [a daily walk], burst, early death, to peak at [10,000 steps each day], to drop [risk of dementia], purposeful, to review the data, [to walk] briskly, [it] proved to be beneficial, a condition, a device, to monitor [phisical activity].

Time magazine also reports on a second study by Dempsey et al, European Heart Journal 2022, which also studied the intensity of the effort and the time spent. Tara Law explains in her report that "people who walked quickly for seven minutes instead of slowly for 14 minutes during that week had a lower rist of cardiovascular disease later on".  

viernes, 11 de noviembre de 2022

Mid-term Elections 2022

The Mid-term elections are the real test to gauge political trends across the USA every four years. In Washington, the focus is on the control of Congress, that is, the House of Representatives and the Senate, the legistative branch of the constitution. In 2022, the key political issues were democracy and abortion rights for the Democrats, and the economy and crime for the Republicans, but what was really at stake was the political fight to control key local offices across the country, like state attorneys and governors of swing states like Georgia, Pensilvania, Arizona or Nevada, which will oversee the fairness of the next presidential election in 2024, The New York Times editorializes in this opinion article.

The results of the Mid-term elections show a country that is split into two halves, with minimum gains for the Republicans in the House of Representatives (please, google "Midterm Elections 2022 Results" for the latest update). The Democrats keep control of urban areas and traditionally progressive "blue" states like Massachusetts, New York or California, whereas the Republicans win in conservative, rural areas like the Mid-West and the South, including large "red" states like Texas or Florida.  The case of Florida is particularly interesting because Ron DeSantis's landslide victory has placed him in a top position to fight for the nomination of the Republican party in 2024, as you can read in this BBC article. Other local political leaders that have gained international projection with their victories are Josh Saphiro governor elect of Pensilvania, according to NBC News, and stroke survivor, John Fetterman, who has been elected senator also for Pensilvania, BBC News reports.  The first open lesbian governor, Maura Healy, has won her race in Massachusetts AP News announced; the first native American senator since 2005, Markwayne Mullin, has won a seat from Oklahoma -this story can be read in Indian Country Today, and 25-year old Maxwell Alejandro Frost, has become the first generation-Z elected to Congress, NPR covered this generational change.

All these articles talk about local and national political issues which are sometimes hard to grasp for a foreign learner of English, so they can be suitable for C2 students and teachers. In these stories you will find interesting words like the following from the New York Times editorial: at stake, to resonate, to cast a vote, to overturn [the results of the 2020 election], claims of wrongdoing, to oversee, a bid, the ballot, to address the issues, to win control of Congress, to pledge, a showdown, debt ceiling, a bargaining chip, to crack down on [tax fraud], to repeal [a law], a cap for payments [for insulin], to roll back [benefits].

jueves, 27 de octubre de 2022

Halloween: 50 Costumes, 3 Stories and a Song

Halloween is right there, so if you are planning to go to a party and you want some ideas to dress up, you can't miss this Cosmopolitan link: 50 Cheap Halloween Costumes That You Can Easily DIY . This article is suitable for C1 students.

Halloween is an old tradition, whose origin can be traced to Roman and Celtic times, but it is deeply rooted in the Catholic tradition too, as Mary Reed Newland points out in her article, All Hallow's Eve (for C2 level). Halloween marks the beginning of winter, the season of cold and darkness, where misty figures stir people's imagination to inspire spooky tales of terror. You can find lots of Halloween folk stories, for example, on American Folklore there is a long list of creepy short stories that can be read in class to swop stories and do an information gap task. I have chosen Jack and the Devil and The Lady in the Veil , while other stories can be just played for fun, to listen to the sound effects the voice of the storyteller makes, like Sifty, Sifty San. These three stories can be downloaded in Word format on this link, and here you can also find a vocabulary matching task for "The Lady in the Veil" and "Jack and the Devil", with its answer key.

Halloween can be the right moment of the year to revise vocabulary about horror stories and fairy tales, so here you can find a Halloween Word List and a Halloween Cloze Activity with its answer key, to practice some of this literay vocabulary. These activities can be used with B2 students and above. Some of the key words you can find in the cloze task are: candle, mist, goodies, ghost, haunted, a wizard, a corpse, gruesome, spine-chilling, costumes, to carve, to hollow-out, ghastly, a jack-o'-lantern, a spider web, an imp, a broomstick, a troll, spooky, a coffin.

In the Halloween Word List, students may feel curious about some words like a bat, bizarre, the bogeyman, to cackle, chilling, a curse, doomed, eerie, elf, evil, fairy, fangs, ghoul, grim, grisly, hocus pocus, a magic wand, a prank, repulsive, revolting, to shiver, a shriek, sorcerer, a spook, a tombstone, wicked, witchcraft.

And finally, if you love music, you can listen to the traditional song "A Soul Cake", which talks about the ancient religious antecedent of the "Trick or Treat" game that children play now on Halloween. You can choose between Sting's jazzy version of A Soul Cake (2009), or, if you are a fan of melodic music, Peter, Paul and Mary's version, A Soulin' (1965). Here you can find a fill-in the gap listening exercise based on Sting's version, and its answer key.

miércoles, 12 de octubre de 2022

El Pilar Festival (Hispanic Heritage Month, Columbus & Indigenous People's Day)

El Pilar festival is in full swing after the pandemic. The streets of Zaragoza are packed with people enjoying the festive atmosphere, and relatives come to Zaragoza from miles away to celebrate October 12th and participate in the popular Offering of the Flowers to the Virgin of El Pilar, who is the patroness saint of Aragón and of the Hispanic countries.  

In America there are parallel celebrations around this date, like National Hispanic Heritage Month, from September 15th to October 15th; Columbus Day, held on the second Monday of October (10/10/22), which includes the famous Columbus Day Parade in New York City, broadcast live on ABC-7 New York, or the alternative celebration of  Indigenous People's Day, which conmemorates the history and contributions of Native Americans. If you are interested in reading further about the debate between Columbus Day and Indigenous People's Day in the USA, you can check the article What Indigenous Peoples Day is all about, and why it's gaining in popularity over Columbus Day, by Anna Deen in Grid News. If you want a comprehensive compilation of the stories that NPR has broadcast this month about Hispanic culture, you can check Hispanic Heritage Month: Somos NPR. These readings, podcasts and videos without subtitles are recommended for C1 students and above.

In Spain, El Pilar festival can be a good excuse for a conversation about Zaragoza and festivals at large.  Here you can find a lesson plan about El Pilar festival, which includes speaking, writing, reading and vocabulary tasks for B2 students and above. The reading texts in El Pilar Festival, come from, from City Life Madrid and from Wikipedia, and there you can come across interesting words like: to lead up to, parade, a patron saint, a trail, a lilly, an orchid, a gladiolus, to wind your way, to spread [Christianity], a marble pillar, a chapel, to be displayed, a pilgrim, to trace back to [1600s], the big heads,  papier mache figures, the carnival, to mingle [with the crowds], bull fighting, a gathering, to be spotted, to be packed with [bars and revellers], impressive [landscapes], picturesque [villages], gorgeous, [people] flock to the streets, endless [activities].

In the conversation class about El Pilar festival, the following words may come up: the opening speech, the flower offering, the trade fair, the crafts fair, the venue [of a concert], food trucks, the river waterfront, the beer festival, the bullfighting ring, a matador, a recortador, to jump bulls, to dodge [a bull], a street brass band, the giant puppets, the bigheaded, the fireworks, the glass rosary procession, the mass of infants.

If you want to find out what a village festival is like in the UK, you can go to Kimpton May Festival, where you will find a listening and a short conversation task for B2 students.

jueves, 6 de octubre de 2022

Cabaret (1972)


October 6th marks the 50th anniversary of the premiere of "Cabaret" in Spain.  This movie is not just a happy-go-lucky musical, but a dramatic story of how violence can shake the foundations of a free, democratic society when intolerance, defamation and poverty strike, as in Berlin in the1930's. 

It is worthwhile to watch Cabaret again, so here you can find a Worksheet and Viewing Guide with a Key, to help B2 students discuss some scenes in the movie (with subtitles), and here you can read a recent article from BBC Culture entitled "Cabaret: How the X-rated musical became a hit", where you will find interesting words like: a ground-breaking [film], to take on, a hit, a chilling [message], release, against the backdrop, uncompromising [hate], acclaim, packed audiences, in pursuit of, vibrant [gay scene], a misfit, the likes of [Sally Bowles], a supporting actor, a magnet, to barrel [into the abyss], to treble, to be purged, grim, prescient, doom, to pervade, on the fringes [of history], to debut, camp, debauched, to dim, grime, bewitching, an outsider, hedonistic, free-spirited, oblivious, a breakout [role], divergence, to be trapped, a gaze, taboo, creeping [fascism], to embrace, explicitness, matter-of-fact, depiction, queerness, a riot, a [Pride] parade, a portrayal, stuffy, [Iserwood's] alter ego, a glance, an utterance, to star [eddie Redmayne], to be cast, quaint, to underscore, a mainstream [film], androgynous, unapologetically, rake-thin, smothered, chalky, raucous, a drag, depravity, to strut [across stage], seediness, gleeful, abandon, to goosestep, to don [a military helmet] a fake [gun], to be embodied, buoyant, to hold [your] breath, [political] apathy, unwittingly, to facilitate, a sledgehammer, to pan out, a paean, to be enraptured, destitute, stark, to depict, to tackle, garish, sleazy, to be burdened, to dread,, burgeoning, an outcry, 

Below you can watch a clip with the song "Tomorrow belongs to me", which starts as a romantic lyrical song in the countryside, and ends up with a suffocating chorus, that compels the protagonists to flee the scene. There are no subtitles, but the close-up shots need no further explanation.

And here you can watch the famous song "Money makes the world go round".  No need for subtitles, again, because the choreography is quite revealing:

domingo, 2 de octubre de 2022

World News Media Congress, Zaragoza 2022

 Zaragoza has recently hosted the World News Media Congress, WAN-IFRA, where news corporation leaders, editors, journalists and academics have discussed the latest trends, innovations and challenges in the profession: disinformation wars, polarization, fake news, social media, trust, press freedom, female leadership, young readers, monetization of news services, audience engagement, financial sustainability, Web3, artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, metaverse, diversity and inclusion have been some of the subjects of debate in the different summits and seminars of the conference.

Here you can watch a short video clip (4':30") of the World Editors Summit "Resetting Newsroom Priorities" by Adriaan Basson, Editor-in-Chief of News24, South Africa, where he explains the successful transformation of the company. The video comes with a listening task entitled "A Successful News Website" and the answer key. This task is suitable for C1 students.

Some of the words you will find in the video are: to be up to, a breaking news website, payable, the hype, Afrikaans, aggregation, a wire, the motto, the lotto, UGC (User Generated Content), to shift, trusted, a slogan, era, disinformation, fake news, to pivot, freemium, a subscriber, a trade model, to reset, newsroom, a stream, a publisher, investigative [journalism], in-depth, a podcast, a sub-editor, a complaint.

During the conference, King Philip VI of Spain presented Piotr Stasinski and Joanna Krawczyk of Gazeta Wybcorza with the Golden Pen of Freedom for delivering independent journalism in authoritan contexts in Poland. The Women in News Editorial Leadership Award was given to Faith Zaba, editor of The Zimbabwe Indenpent, Diana Moukalled, editor of Daraj Media, Lebanon and Regina "Ging" Reyes, editor of ABC-CBN News, Philippines. And the Digital Media Awards Worldwide went to Spain, Philippines, Singapore, New Zealand and South Africa.

sábado, 24 de septiembre de 2022

What Would Kids Do If They Were Rich?

That is the question that some BBC reporters asked a few children back in 1979 for the programme Junior That's Life. The answer is this funny video clip about the perception of wealth by innocent children that can be found on BBC Archive

Some of the most interesting words you can come across in this video are: cabbages, lettuce, carrots, a platinum ball, a display cabinet, a pistol, miserable, a piggy bank, a booby, jolly [rich], to polish, silly me! This video with subtitles can be watched by B2 students and above.

This video can be used to end a class about the topic "Money" with a touch of humour.  Here you can find a speaking task to discuss "Attitudes to Money",  and you can add a split reading task about two historical figures of Capitalism in the USA, John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, which come with a simple vocabulary matching task with a key entitled "The Birth of Capitalism (... and Philanthropy)".  All these tasks are suitable for C1 students and even for B2 students.

Some of the most interesting words you will find in the Rockefeller biography are: a business trust, a partnership, [wealth] to soar, targeted [philanthropy], the hookworm, a trustee, a clerk, a janitor, [to feel] righteous, [transportation] rebates, pitiless, a grasping [monopoly], the boom and bust [of the business cycle], to rack up [profits], a well, a pipeline, to top out, a breakup, stock, to be broken up, [the companies' combined net worth rose] fivefold.

And in the Carnegie text: steel [industry], parlance, a bobbin [factory], a bill logger, [two companies] to merge, a pension fund, an oil derrick, a bond, a rags to riches [story], a dispute, unrest, to peak, staunch [anti-union sensibilities], to lock [the union] out, a lockout, to crush, a pivotal [demonstration], strikebreakers, to be tied in [for an assassination attempt].

viernes, 16 de septiembre de 2022

Elizabeth II (1926-2022)

Queen Elizabeth II died last Friday, September 8th, and was immediately succeeded by her son King Charles III. Her death started a mourning period in the United Kingdom, in the Commonwealth realm -the countries where the monarch is the head of state, in the wider Commonwealth of Nations, which includes republics like India, Pakistan, South-Africa, Nigeria, Kenya or Tanzania, and in the world at large.

The Queen's death has prompted a deluge of speeches and articles about the Crown. Former UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, paid tribute to her Majesty the Queen in the House of Commons, with a solemn, personal and emotional speech (8:25), which describes with brilliance and a touch of humour, the feelings of the British people towards their deceased monarch and her role in the British Constitutional system.  This memorable speech can be watched with subtitles and it is suitable for C1 students. Here you can find very rich English words and collocations like [cameras] start rolling, to choke up, to be moved to tears, to be overcome with sadness, countless [people], a sense of loss, changeless, unvarying, in a pole star radiance, to be lulled into [thinking], a keener [shock], to be globally trusted, currency, to dispense [justice], to pass [a law], to swear allegiance, to be pledged, to lay down [their lives], the figurehead, the keystone, to fulfill a role, to incarnate [the essence of the nation], sheer [duration], to see off [her 14th Prime Minister], the span, a statesman, to cheer up [the nation], a smash hit, indomitability, an outrider, an armour-plated convoy, a bodyguard, to bounce, a rambler, seamlessly, grief.

In Washington, Tom Nagorski, Global Editor of Grid News, reflected upon the popularity of the Queen and the future of the Monarchy in the article "Queen Elizabeth II was beloved. The monarchy isn't. What does that mean for King Charles III?". This long and reflective text is recommended for C1 students too. Here, you can find interesting words like: the newly minted [Prime Minister], [a subject] arises, frail health, policy, a reign, to greet, to prompt [a question], to approve of [the monarchy], to succeed [her] to the throne, profoundly unsettling, to bow, to assume the throne, to buffet, quaint [and dated], preposterous, scrappy, brass, [utterly] at odds, pageantry, the trappings [of royalty], to be battered, suffice to say, realms [of newsprint], to grasp [the moment], to shed tears, a vigil, [her] passing, a landmark, to ascend [to the thorne], at the helm, fixture, turmoil, steady, a daunting [crisis], a staple, the run-up [to the war], to throng [the celebrations], [the number of subjects] to dwindle, a diverse [country], to cheer [the monarchy], to mourn [the Queen], to struggle [to understand], to thrive [by dividing], a poll, skeptic [of the monarchy], to be born [into a family], disgraceful, to outrank, a survey, a runaway [winner], a much-revered [ruler], a few month's shy [of  Elizabeth's reign], to bring concerns [about the Thai monarchy], [concerns] to simmer [below the surface], a thread, an obituary, to deprive [Britain of a thread that wove a nation together], [flags] at half-mast, [ceremonies] to unspool, [a bell] to toll, unease, [political] upheaval, an outpouring [of tributes], to take heart.

If you want to hear more tributes to the late Queen, you can check this link on BBC Sounds, Reflections on Majesty, where major novelists, historians and scholars talk about Elizabeth II.

Finally, you can watch the full BBC News broadcast of the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II on YouTube in Spain (, but for copyright reasons, it is not possible to reproduce an operating link here. The video report is over 9 hours long (9:09:38), with voice over commentary and no subtitles, which makes it suitable for B2 students and above.

The setting, the rituals, the symbolism, the music, the solemnity of the processions make this visual document a truly awe-inspiring, mourning ceremony of the British Monarchy.

sábado, 10 de septiembre de 2022

Nasir and the KiNESIS Project in Fitero

Nasir is a Marketing student from Pakistan who has done an internship in the town of Fitero for a university project called KiNESIS. In the video below, Nasir explains what the project is about and what he has learnt in the project. 

In this entry you can find a listening comprehension task, and you can also find the answer key.  The vocabulary in the video (4': 41") is not really a barrier, and the video is divided into sections, which can help the learner to follow the narration, so the task can be recommended for B2 students, if they are familiar with the Pakistani accent. Otherwise, the task would be more suitable for C1 learners. The video has subtitles, which can be used after the listening exercise for consolidation. 

Some of the most interesting words you can pick up while watching this video are: rural development, an impact, mayor, brand, heritage, gastronomy, professors, municipal authorities, a monastery, monks, landscape, to be interlinked, to perform a project, to be stuck, to be interconnected, to implement, the target audience, social media stuff, exposure, traineeship, to grab this opportunity, to share your skills, net worth.

If you want further information about KiNESIS, you can click on this link from Tallinn University.

sábado, 3 de septiembre de 2022

Studying at Oxford University

You are going to hear Megan, a History student who works as a tour guide in the summer, talking to a group of tourists about the application process and student life in general at Oxford University. This homemade video lasts 5':35", and it comes with a listening comprehension task for C1 students and its answer key.

There is neither a script nor subtitles for the video, but you can use this list of interesting words to follow the speech, which is casual, humorous and fast at times, but also meticulous in word choice.  You should look at this vocabulary list, after you have done the listening task: application process, undergraduate study, postgraduate studies, All Soul's College, a top [university], so they say, [Oxford is] way, way [better], a college, stage one, to sit an entrance exam, unique, to my knowledge, a subject, a handful [of interviews], [it's pretty] intense, you guys, [so] rigorous, one professor, the lecturer, one-on-one learning, a tutorial, research, to thrive, [it'll] improve your chances, self-guided, self-motivated [study], to keep up with [the study], the dining hall, a college choir, a degree, to set the curriculums, to set the exams, to move onwards, the stats, to give [a bit ] of a flavour [of the student body], international students, to clear up [a little bit].

viernes, 26 de agosto de 2022

Meghan Markle Talks to Serena Williams about Ambition

Meghan Markle has recently launched Archetypes, an original podcast on Spotify.  In the first episode, the Duchess of Sussex has a casual chat to her friend and tennis champion Serena Williams about ambition in women.

The conversation, in very natural American English, is quite long (57:28), so it is recommended for C1 students and above. There seems to be no operating link to the script on the web page, so, you can use this list of interesting and salient words as a listening guide: a commercial, greasy, pots and pans, to belong in the kitchen, to reach out to, triumph, to have a ripple effect, an awakening, to box women, to make a difference, diva, the "b" word, slut, harsh, abrasive, to suck around, bitch, mortified, dumb, dragon-lady, household names, to bear the brunt of [something], label, to open up, competitive, an order [of nuns], the sisters, to renounce [their] vows, to behold to a system, to be raised [Catholic], to trickle down, limitless, to date [my now husband], to embody [the spirit of ambition], a trend-setter, a trail-blazer, to focus on [other passions], to pop in, a great vibe, super loyal, to show up, [the pain] I am going through, to check yourself, bossy, to fade, to be fearless, to be blanking, to be afraid of heights, a wound, a godly fear, unhealthy fear, to jump in [there], to call [the ball] out, [to have] a meltdown, a double standard, a stand-point, [pressure] to mount, [these] fellows, that was nuts, to be at fault, [to use] a curse word, to step away [from tennis], deleting, to dig [deeper on an idea], scenarios, [is] power hungry, a role model, it boils down to [antipathy], to come with a backlash, a climber,  a ripple effect, to be nurturing, a boost [in pay], careerwise, the mother-work balance, [I'm always] devil's advocate, breastfeeding, infamous [cat suit], that outfit, [she fell from] a high chair, [I felt so] guilty, a cast, to rock [her to sleep], [I'm] hard on myself, so emotionally drained, I took a lot on, to show up, an official engagement, a township, a nursery, to give [each other] a break, to swim in the shallow end, to betray that trust, a monumental decision, baseball cap, on vacation, to struggle with it, for one purpose, I can't wait [to wake up one day], it's new territory, to toil over [a decision], it takes [counselling, support], [the last] hurrah, the locker room, sad tears, to evolve [into something else], [some sort of] involvement, pregnancy, to wobble around, [I'm] fortunate enough, your calling, choosing a path, it takes [a lot of] courage, that's insane, classy girl, to tear up, this newness, it doesn't get better than that, to be messing around, stunning, it's the sweetest thing, a two-bedroom home, the most amazing ride, I'm getting emotional, to close things out, to hold a space, a perfectionist, thoughtful, compassionate, genuinely funny, a fully-fledged [human being], [I] have a voice, super-understanding, a mom, a marker of drive, a commitment to achievement, nuances, to have an agenda, whatever gets thrown at you, my little mermaid, to shut the door on her ambition, see you guys!

viernes, 19 de agosto de 2022

Brad Pitt, the Ultimate Star of the Century

Brad Pitt has just starred a new action comedy film, "Bullet Train", which has become a box-office success in Spain. Most film critics have panned the movie, though. Here you can read the review of "Bullet Train" in Esquire where Charles Taylor says that Even Brad Pitt's Endless Charm Can't Save Bullet Train. whereas Wendy Ide, in The Guardian, says that Brad Pitt Goes Second Class in a Brainless Action Movie

With a more positive perspective, Caryn James, in a BBC Culture article, revisits Brad Pitt's career and personal life and describes him as "The Ultimate Star of the 21st Century", "not an Instagram celebrity or influencer". In this long article, whose rich, descitptive vocabulary makes it suitable for C2 students, you will find many interesting words like: ultimate, to display, wry [self-referential] humour, to earn an enduring status, hunky, a toy toy, a heartthrob, lookalike, off-screen, tabloids, to overshadow, performance, to range over, genre, savvy, goofy, hitman, unflattering, a bucket hat, to fend off, a high-speed [train], to spout, self-help [lines], deadpan, an [action] extravaganza, distinguishing feature, sardonic tone, to make the case, a stuntman, to be infused, dry [humour], a smirk, mischievous, off-putting, scalper, plummy, a whiff [of humour], droll, a sweet spot, underappreciated, the ease, stressed-out, a powerful [performance], to defy, to plummel, alter ego, flat-out, hilariously, to chomp [gum], to set up [a character], to run away with [it], wit, the path, stature, to give up [acting], to cling to [his past], an endless string, a box-office hit, an earnest [dad], to pick, all over the place, a sly [cameo], canny, an on-screen persona, to be typecast, [to become] stale, to mock, to turn his back on [it], disarming, to show up, nerdy, rom-com, a fixer, kidnapped, stunned, [to answer] matter-of-factly, to dismiss [his looks casually], bemused, [the best] supporting actor, the lead, charisma, to steal [the film], a ranch, to squat, to pitch, concern, easygoing, awareness, scruffy, greased-back [hair], ruthless, uneasy, at close range, to set up [the murder], touchy-feely, to plead, [to make] a squeamish [face], to deliver the line, a tough [guy], a half-hearted [attempt], fate, free will, nice try, cartoonish, a megawatt [actor], to handle, a high-grossing [film], thoroughly [amusing], to tangle with, to go flat, a [sardonic] edge, to catch [viewers] off-guard, gung ho, to nickname, to lean, dashing, an undercover [agent], blatant, caricature, satire, arched [eyebrows], brow furrows, to squint, [a marriage] is on the rocks, an ongoing [custody fight], a lawsuit, a winery, shrewdly, flawlessly, attention-grabbing [fashions], red-carpet, rumpled, to be sober, to make a stir, wan, [eye] liner, a backdrop.

In the short YouTube video below (4:40) you can watch a GMA interview to the cast of "Bullet Train". The language is much more colloquial and simple and with the help of the subtitles, it can be accessible to C1 students and above:

sábado, 13 de agosto de 2022

Flamenco, Rock and Songs of Rebellion from Spain

Alt.Latino is NPR's music programme dedicated to alternative and rock music in Spanish, hosted by Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd.  

Last July 3rd, Alt.Latino summer intern, Vita Dadoo, hosted and produced the show "Flamenco, Rock and Songs of Rebellion from Spain", a monographic episode, which compiles interviews, songs and narrates the influences on alternative music from Spain, featuring Sylvia y Los Caminantes, Martirio, Pedro Iturralde (with Paco de Lucía), Antonio Lizana, Camarón de la Isla, and Ángeles del Infierno. This 32 minute radio show, which includes a bilingual interview to flamenco saxophonist Antonio Lizana, can be acessible to B2 learners and above, since the cultural references are close to Spanish listeners.  There is no transcript, but you can follow the show with the notes below of the most salient and interesting words, as a listening guide: 

Hiatus, to rethink, to dig around, 2017, 2014, 2011, to cover [music], earbuds, whether, to wrestle  with, to seep, to draw from [eachother], to feature, rule [over Spain], itinerary, repression, the analogues, Latin counterparts, to absorb [musical influences], Sylvia y Los Caminantes, to check out [this sound], the background vocals, doo-wop [influence],

A jazzy, blues break in the middle, to sip in, tiny bit [of musical influence], [pretty] revolutionary, franquismo, the rule [of Franco], to mobilize the masses, copla, the soundtrack [of franquismo], to incorporate, [jazz], [to be] eyebrow raising, explosion, Martirio, to reflect [on the influence of copla], 

I love Martirio, to trace [this political evolution], development [of Spain], [Martirio is] a character, a performance artist, the post-Franco era, [to dress in] elaborate [costumes], hair combs, dark sunglasses, Pedro Almodovar, fascinating, to go through [a similar period], brutal dictatorships, that creative energy and freedom, to wrap up, a tenor saxophone player, Pedro Iturralde, to record [a track], to be listed, Paco de Lucía,

so brilliant, how the saxophone [is] emulating [the flamenco vocals], Pedro Iturralde, underrated and unsung hero, the music scene, to think far ahead, 

Pedro Iturralde's music, a massive impact, to mingle with, persecution, repression, Antonio Lizana, to inspire [him]

Antonio Lizana, guest DJ, exposure [to flamenco], in flamenco roots, to copy the sound, to mix [flamenco and jazz], Jorge Pardo, a mixture, part of your identity, Camarón de la Isla, 

unmistakeable sound, goose-pumps, a tremendous power and emotion, like rock stars, Jorge Pardo, in the flute, pain, to be chased, to be kicked out, to be persecuted, the blues, an expression of suffering, 

Flamenco is a genre, synonimous to Spain, rock-and-roll, to set the scene, a record label, BMG Ariola, to be geared towards celebrating rock music [from Spain, Argentina, Mexico], to reverberate, heavy metal, basque culture, 

Within the umbrella of Latin alternative, Ángeles del Infierno, 

Which Felix is gonna come to work, techno-Felix, banda-Felix, devil, cursed be your name, the falsetto, crunchy guitar work, driving drums, a high-pitched voice, to bring something out, Ángeles del Infierno, on shelf, black T-shirts, basque, you are kidding, rock radical vasco, anti-establishment, euskera, consonants, made for heavy metal, pacts with the devil, to trick [all human beings], 

To draw from [influences], to tie to [sentiments and histories], shared language, conquest and colonization, appropriation, to be tied to [to my own musical memory], central to my upbringing, on loop, bending and blending [genres], [to produce] chart topping hits, to leave these questions with you, another dive [into the Alt.Latino archives].

martes, 9 de agosto de 2022


Summer, together with February, is Carnival season.  You may be out there, enjoying the carnivals of your hometown, or not.  In that case, perhaps you can make a virtual trip to the Caribbean and enjoy the colour and the fun here, in this National Geographic article about carnival in the Caribbean islands.

In the text , which can easily be read by C1 students, you will come across interesting words like: lesser-known [islands], to ring, lure, flamboyant, costumes, Lenten, Mardi Gras, debauchery, a masquerade ball, to enslave, to tap into, to drum, a [rebellious] chant, to mock, a [colonial] master, defiance, slavery, to spill [onto the streets], to bear [similarities], distinct [traditions], craftmanship, to honour [their ancestors' resistance], fellowship, a whopping [$124bn], performers, on display, iconic [carnivals], to be dubbed ['the mother of all carnivals'], to draw [visitors], to purchase, to join in, a parade, the entire [country], masqueraders, to gather, mud, sunrise, feather, glitter, jewelled [costumes], a steel pan band competition, fetes, themed parties, a trendsetter, to renact, a riot, emancipated slaves, to ban, to fuel up [on local foods], doubles, bake and shark, roti, pelau, pineapple chow, to add to [the experience], the launch, pan yaad hopping, a meet up, T-shirt mas, a reveller, a swimsuit, a casual cut-off outfit, J'ouvert, a powered-down [body], a wig, daybreak, to showcase, conch wate, souse, bakes, a distinct [feature], cowbells, car rims, infectious beats, to pack a [significant] punch, season festivities, ride parties, soca fetes, to sell out, value for {your] money, to wind down, [island] commute, the harvesting season, a long-running [carnival], to kick off, an elaborate [show], a skit, calypso music, to pass down to [the future generation], to feature, crafts, live performers, the highlight, to name after, a bounty [of spices], glistening [oiled-bodies], to take over, helmets, devil horns, to drag [chains], a smoked herring, to protrude, to lunge, in jubilance, a satire, Bacchanal Friday, Soca Monarch, Pantastic Saturday, Monday Night Mas, to stand out, to show up [at dusk], glowing paraphernalia, sticks, a fancy costumed parade, a last-lap [parade], a picturesque [waterfront], to check out, an off-the-beaten track [experience], a loser, whip, the sidelines, to host, startling [diversity], a vibrant [parade], the seafront [boulevard], island-hopping, a southernmost [island], Junior Pan Fest, a pristine [beach].

martes, 2 de agosto de 2022

Football's Coming Home!

After the Lionesses, England's female football team, won the European Cup last Sunday, there has been a national celebration of soccer and female empowerment. The media have reflected the historical moment by flooding the waves with words of praise and joy for the victorious women athletes. BBC Radio 4 programme Today is a good example of this shared communal enthusiasm, and on August 1st, Today devoted several slots to cover the different angles of the the story during the 3 hour programme (that podcast is available on line for 29 days, and it is suitable for C2 students). A compilation of the different interviews can be heard on Best of Today, a podcast that is only available on line for 6 days, also suitable for C2 students. In the podcast 5 Minutes On, you can hear a short summary of the story for a whole year (C1).

Below you can watch a Sky Sports News video, where the England players interrupt the press conference that coach Sarina Wiegman was giving by singing the song "It's Coming Home", the song that had been played before every single international competion and many English fans had already associated with the frustration of never winning an international football tournament, until the girls did the job last Sunday. Sarina Wiegman, a Dutch national, has been called "The Alchemist that has built England into a formidable team", by The Guardian, who wrote that "This Win Will Change Women's Football For Ever". Congratulations!

The article about Sarina Wiegman can be read by C1 students, and you will find interesting words like: an alchemist, formidable, an accomplishment, to sum up, austere, stern, the touchline, to imprint on, to flourish, sore, a feat, back-to-back, to play bad cop, to raise an eyebrow, a close-knit [England camp], to eke out, priceless, the dressing-room, to be forthright, the national team, a tall order, arduousness, surreal, contenders, to haul [them] over the line, to tie up, loose [ends], sleek, at the helm, to back up [a title], a stunning [win], deservedly, a letdown, a squad, akin to, [with] momentum, a fixture, a draw, the buildup, to bask, glow, on the pitch, legacy, a camper van [holiday], to eschew, glitz, glare, damehood.

In the article "This Will Change Women's Football for Ever" (C1), you can find interesting words like: a lioness, to capture [the country's] imagination, [girls and boys] alike, outrageous, to score, attendance, a turnstile, to top it off, a thunderbolt, to crack [into the net], [the clock] to tick down [towards extra-time], to backheel, a nutmeg [goal], stunning, cheek, to roar, an [advertising] hoarding, the pitch, coverage, a pundit, mainstream, watercooler talk, to flock, to stick around, for years to come, to reach [the final], funding, a squad, a [home/ away] leg, a day job, fixture, vile [weather], to set up, to aim [top], to pay off, to land [a trophy], to draw from [a diverse talent pool], to launch, to address [a problem], a grassroots [club], a step, an inspirational role model, to clear the path, legacy, to ensure [that], to go down in history, 

viernes, 29 de julio de 2022

The 50 Best Places to Travel in 2022

Travel + Leisure magazine
 has just published the 50 Best Places to Travel in 2022, for their affluent American readers, featuring Alaska (left) among other national and international destinations. 

C1 students can do some virtual travel with the article 50 Best Places to Travel in 2022, they can look at the beautiful pictures and pick up English words galore, as the text is packed with descriptive adjectives, nouns and verbs like: a far-flung destination, a thrill, travel restrictions galore, albeit, to cross off [destinations], the hospitality industry was hit hard, downtime, to venture, to reap [the benefits], valiant [efforts], to teem with [fresh-air activities], to be raring, to make up for, splashy, hard-hit destinations, buzzy, stateside, to hold back, wellness, farm-to-table living, to stretch, overlooked, unspoiled [villages], picturesque, stunning, sleepy, underdog, harbinger, an eco-lodge, glamping, a [food] hotspot, local produce, an eager [traveler], vast, towering snow-capped [peaks], pristine [wilderness], to roll out [itineraries], to launch [new ships], myriad, a gathering, easy-going, to resume [service], a fleet [of jets], a sprawling [resort], perks, butler, to debut, a shutdown, a compelling [reason], seals, heli-hiking, a craps table, to skip, crystal-clear waters, [50 miles] off the coast, a day pass, to be whisked away, to indulge [in local food], conch, stew, rock lobster, hiatus, to keep an eye for, junkanoo, an all-inclusive [stay], vibrant, a spa, hammam [treatment], vendors, to stroll down, a boardwalk, ocean-front [food], rainforests, diver, a barrier reef, abundance, casual [spots,], luxe [resorts], an oceanfront [villa], a nonstop [flight], charm, a shining [example], a rooftop [library], an oenophile, unassuming, a wine cellar, draped, a estate, resilience, on tap, hilltop [suites], to glimpse, glitzy, to unveil, [room] renovations, an outpost, a mogul, to snag [the term], a venue, a low-key [escape], stunning, white-washed [buildings], to lust after, cerulean blue, to peruse, to seek out, to hop [aboard], to wield [lightsabers], to brush shoulders with, to be slated, to encapsulate [a definition], a [steel] monolith,

to be buzzing [with energy], to bolster, to carve out a name, the [luxury travel] realm, riesling [wine], to knock, a lighter-bodied [red wine], a [foodie] draw, festival roster, to grasp onto its charms, quaint [downtown], chock-full, storefronts, lining, sidewalk, [race] riots, a winery, a rock quarry, a quirky-cool [enclave], brand-new, a lush [setting], rolling [hills], nourishing [food], to be raised, to be foraged, bustling, to tack on [to], a [presidential] decree, to seek [to combat], amenities, a carbon-neutral footprint, to kick its signature into high gear, a cue, to soak, hot springs, a speakeasy [bar], a budding [surf scene], a state-of-the art [wave pool], a [wave] lagoon, pending [city approvals], a splash zone, a craft beer hotspot, a [biking] trail, alum, to grab [headlines], to make strides, to showcase, jetty, wary [of travelling], solace, to hop on [a flight], to straddle [three regions of Zambia], a hot air balloon, a sundowner, a lofty [resolution], to commence, sparkly [new] digs, to [venture] off the beaten track, snorkeling, scuba diving, to top, to splash out on [dinner and a show], to wrap [a project], a racetrack, the attendees, a medley [of cultures], a smattering [of terrain], verdant [rain forests], to blend, hawker food stalls, a coveted [resort], turquoise, an overwater [villa], primed for [snorkeling], zip-lining, to meld, sleek,

available for charter, a slew of [hotel openings], a [cocktail] curator, to set sail, a tagline, a suspended bridge, an all-nighter, high-end, alluring, otherworldly, cloud-shrouded, an uptick, to partake, volcanic terroir, a grueling [hike], ample [opportunities], a humpback [whale], an orca, to spot, nuanced, a gateway, to tag [a turtle], a hideaway, to put [an area] on the radar, a hub, moss-draped [streets], slick, hazy [ales], sours, a taproom, luster, to garner, cooped-up [city dwellers], to be enthralled, vortex, stargazing, to follow suit, revamped, glitz, to flock, skijöring, snowkiting, tobogganing, to pop up, rugged [land], a penthouse [room], over-the-top [hotels], a flagship [hotel], a stretch [of a path], a hillfort, [gourmet Mexican] fare, boho-chic [lodgings], a beachcomber, to lift off, to ramp up, a jaunt, the edge [of space], a dealbreaker.

If you prefer urban travel, you can look at the pictures of the 25 Best Cities to Travel in 2022, also from Travel + Leisure magazine, which puts Oaxaca and San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) at the top of this inventory and Ubud (Indonesia) ranking 3rd. The Spanish city of Seville is also included in this year's list at number 11.