martes, 28 de junio de 2022

Terry Gross, America's National Interviewer

 

Terry Gross is much more than a radio host, she is, problably, the most respected radio journalist in the USA today. She has run and presented "Fresh Air" on NPR for over 45 years, where she has interviewed the very best American actors, directors, musicians, authors, journalists, doctors, naturalists or international relations analysts. Stephen Colbert defined her unique interviewing style as a combination of  "a conversationalist, a therapist, and an oral historian" when she was presented with the Peabody Institutional Award (the Pulitzer of radio journalism) on June 6th, 2022. She also received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama in 2015 together with Louise Glück, Wynton Marsalis, Isabel Wilkerson or José Andrés. 

"Fresh Air" is a model for oral American English.  Personally, listenting to Terry Gross' conversations with her guests has helped me to keep my English alive and kicking here in Spain since digital radio podcasts started to be available 12 years ago or so. Many of its programmes are suitable for experts and teachers (above C2 level), mainly because they require some cultural background knowledge that most Spanish students do not yet possess, but I often select programmes for my C1 students, who truly start enjoying "Fresh Air" interviews, with the support of the script that NPR offers. If you want to listen to her, you just have to download the NPR app on your phone or just click on any of the links to "Fresh Air" on this blog.

Here below, you can find a 4':24" video which was published by WHYY in Philadelphia to celebrate the 35th anniversay of Fresh Air and the Peabody win. This video with subtitles can be suitable for B2 students and above and you will hear words like a full-time staff member, gruelling, an intern, a joy, to condense the brew, a national [radio] show, [our tastes] to overlap [very nicely], to edit the show, to boil [something] down to its essence, to go on tangents, to edit it out, a local [radio] show, to be carefully crafted, to fill in [for somebody else], to get her on invitations [to national shows], the highlights [of my career], the recipients [of an award], an impressive crew, a whole bunch of people, the ribbon, to put work into [the show].

Below, you can also find Stephen Colbert's presentation when Terry Gross and Fresh Air were awarded the Peabody Institutional Award. This 9':03"video with subtitles is accessible for B2 students and above, and you will come across words like WHYY, a national broadcast, an NPR staple, a playwright, a showrunner, a talk show host, to open up [about their work], a sultry [voice], an impish [laugh], effortlessly, to bring out [the unexpected], an attentive probing [and not] intrusive [listener], to display interest, to set [Fresh Air] apart, to eavesdrop on [a cocktail party conversation], to sympathize, to pick on [you], medical care, to strap on, a bulletproof vest, [a bomb] to go off, to fire [shots], worship [of god], to call up [somebody], to have a chat, to cry [my way to the grave], to lie face down, [on the ground], to tie [somebody] up, to beg for [your] life, the epitome [of the coolest], to hit [the mic], a rapper, the dopest Ethiopian, to be honoured, on behalf of [our team], worthy of [an award], a [calm] steady [person], a licensed [therapist], to learn on [the job], incredible terrific [staff], to sweat the details, transcripts, a juggling feat, the roll call, to single out [one], a [total] mench, to give [us] the confidence, to go off script, a caring [colleague], 

If you still want some more, here is an in-depth interview to Terry Gross for the BBC Radio 4 documentary "Archive on 4" (2021), where she talks to Dolly Alderton about her interviewing skills, her family background and about some of the most funny, poignant and revealing interviews she has had in her long career. This 57 minute-long radio programme without script is recommended for C2 students.

martes, 21 de junio de 2022

Another Day of Sun


"Antother Day of Sun" is the opening scene of the Oscar-winning musical "La La Land (2016)", directed by Damien Chazelle, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. The scene was shot "on location in three shots edited with hidden cuts to give the illusion of a single six-minute take", according to Wikipedia. "Another Day of Sun" is a a song of "hope, struggle and pursuing the dream", the story of a provincial girl who leaves her hometown and her boyfriend to chase her dream in Hollywood.  The scene begins with a raucous routine traffic jam on the highways of L.A., that the magic of Hollywood turns into an explosion of energy, dynamism and joy of life with a jaw-dropping choreography by Mandy Moore that celebrates racial and cultural diversity at start of a new day in Los Angeles.

Here you can find a lesson plan with a fill-in-the gap listening task which can be used with B2 students and above.  The full lyrics of the song are found here, to use as a key.

Some of the interesting words that appear in the lyrics are: a Greyhound [station, bus], a sweet [boy], to sink [into our seats], to dim out [all the lights], a nickle, to hop [on a bus], brave, insane, a sleepy [town], he'll [sit], [the lights are] down, the heights, to chase [the lights], to let [you] down, to get up off the ground, to roll around, canyons, to fade away, ballads, barrooms, to bang [on every door], [money] runs low, dusty, mic, neon, glow.


Enjoy the summer!

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2022

Ellen MacArthur, Winner of the Princess of Asturias Prize for International Cooperation

Ellen MacArthur has recently won the Princess of Asturias Prize for International Cooperation, The Majorca Daily Bulletin reported last week. In 2005, Ms MacArthur became the first woman to break the world record as a solo sailor around the world and later she started the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to promote the circular economy and design a more sustainable future for the finite world resources.  As a result of their campaign, in March 2022 the UN adopted a resolution to negotiate a legally-binding treaty on plastic pollution, which is hoped to be drawn and signed by the end of 2024. 

Dame Ellen MacArthur was invited to the BBC Radio 4 programme Desert Island Discs back in 2009. In this 45' interview she talks about her background, her achievement in sailing, and her charity work. Her English is a perfect model for C1 and C2 students, because it is rich, but not pompous; there are technical terms, but it is not packed with jargon; the colloquial expressions fit naturally in the context because they are genuinely used to clarify ideas, unlike the florid attempts of some C1 and C2 students who force the one or two expressions they have recently learnt in their textbooks to try to impress their examiners.  The interview has no script, so it is recommended for C2 students, but this vocabulary list can also be used as a rough listening guide to help C1 students follow the interview:

Castaway, to sail solo, limitless passion, iron-will [to triumph], upbringing, to pour over, to skip [school lunches], dinghy, the finish line, relief, it's over, dock, pitch black, to stumble upon, odd scene, crammed, loo, toilet seat, to step off [a boat], to crave [for normalilty], track, outcast, voyage, to get [somebody] through, multitasking, to fix [the engine], chafing, kettle, a gas stove, gas cilinders, to pour in [the water], fuel, an intolerance [to bread], appetite for [a pint of beer], difficult to be around, a feeling of achievement, adrenaline, to wear off, to have a knack [for fixing things], to grow your own vegs, to go karts, lawnmower, a girly girl, a Cindy, a tomboy, to whittle wood, caring, to change the path, to see [me] off, to wish [me] well, scholarship, to make sure [her children went to university], canteen, an inspiration [to me], dinghy, a cabin, a chart table, a bunk, [my] nan, an instrumental force, to dismantle [my bed], barn, a sleeping bag, sewing machine, a set [of sailing trousers], pocket money, income, school dinner money [change], mashed potato & gravy, meniscus, to pile [the money], the money box, a building society, to hand over [the cash], a pet chicken, reservoir, to make do [with playing in the garden], obsessiveness, achiever, obsessive, break times, focused, [I like] being around people, time runs, survival, a moneyed pastime, Derbyshire Education Committe, a wetsuit, a tracksuit, a pakamac, to make it through [to the end of the week], properly equipped, to pack it in, a telling look, brutally selfish, to spread the wings [and fly], poignantly, a massive challenge, to come your way, to take each day as it comes, to be out there, the sunset, the highlights [of your life], in terms of, to smash the daggerboard to pieces, to sum it up, sponsorship, amassing funds, to cobble together [money], the stakes are higher, miniature, Boots, there is room [for relationships], a beanbag, a net, to flush right through, a fleece blanket, waterproofs, to doze, freezing cold, emotional, cheery [song], to recapture [a solo record], an astounding lap [of the planet], to jar [inside me], everything is looked after, precious, to take [something] for granted, kitchen roll, to tear a square, to hit home to me, an adventurous place, resources, [a moment of] epiphany, to eclipse, to draw a line [on that part of your life], leukemia, a new understanding, to maroon, shelter, to have a good shot [at something], a trust, a luxury, bearable, a worm, slinky, fluffy, goggly eyes.

In the Majorca Daily Bulletin report you will find interesting words like: yachting champ, social entrepreneur, to sail solo, to play a key role, to bring about [a move], to be hailed as a watershed moment, an [environmentalist] campaigner, prestigious, the circular economy, to head, to bear [her name], the jury, a statement, to outlast, to outpace, demanding, to advocate, a sustainable model [of production and consumption], to forge a major legally-binding [international agreement]. 

Here you can also watch a TED Talk she gave in March 2015 about her sailing experience and what she learnt about the scarcity of resources in the global economy. The talk lasts 15':47", and it has subtitles, so it is accessible to B2 students and above.

If you are still interested in Ellen's sailing, you can watch the documentary "Taking On the World:  The Official Story" about her participation in the Vendée Global, 2001. There are no subtitles available, but the little density of the words might make it accessible for C1 students with the help of the images (1h. 10m, 12s.).

lunes, 6 de junio de 2022

Rafa Nadal Wins his 14th Roland Garros

Rafa Nadal has made history again. Last Sunday he won his 14th Roland Garros title and his 22nd Grand Slam title, two in a row in 2022. Here you can read the BBC News report on the RG victory, which is suitable for C1 students, and the NPR story, which uses shorter sentences and easier words, and could easily be read by B2 students. If you are keen on tennis, you can watch the highlights of the Roland Garros Final here (11':41"). Some of the most interesting words you can find in the BBC News report are: to beat, back-to-back, to reclaim, straight [sets], [eighth] seed, clay, in a row, to surpass, left-hander, to drop his racquet, to hamper, the rib, nous, a miscue, to take his serve, a vicious forehand winner, a double fault, discomfort, a long-standing [foot problem], groundstrokes, a wide backhand, to target, to save [three break points] to hold, a break point, to pummel, to punch, to hand over [a two-set lead], ruthlessly, to wrap up [the third set], the hallmark, to unleash [his forehand], a runner-up.

This is a short video report called "A day with Rafael Nadal. Roland Garros 2022" (3':47") which is suitable for B2 students, although there are technical words, and this is an extended video of Rafa's Press Conference after RG 2022 final (41':16"), which can problably be followed by B2 students and above, where he talks about the pain he has suffered in his foot, his passion for tennis and for competition, about the match (he talks in Spanish and in Catalan in the second half of the interview). You can also click to listen to Rafael Nadal's interview to CNN (19':04") here, which can be problably understood by B2 students because of Rafa's accent, even though there are no subtitles available.

Rafa Nadal is not only a great tennis player, but a gentle and caring guy.  This video, Why We love Rafael Nadal (9':34"), shows why so many people around the world adore him, and below you will find another video "Rafa Nadal: Funny Moments" (10':04"), which shows Rafa's great sense of humour.


viernes, 3 de junio de 2022

Queen Elisabeth II, the Fashion Influencer

Queen Elisabeth II's Platinum Jubilee celebrates 70 years of service to the United Kingdom. Many stories are being written about the longest reigning monarch in the history of the U.K., but this fashion article from BBC News, "Power dressing: The Queen`s unique style", is particularly interesting, as it analyses the role of the current queen as a fashion influencer in the 20th and 21st centuries. 

The article contains many technical terms for clothes and fashion, so, it is suitable for C1 students and above. Some of the most interesting words you are going to find in the text are: trendsetting, daring, iconic, brightly coloured [dresses], to pair with [a matching hat], to be accessorised, a signature [square handbang], to be honed, to be steeped, legacy, dazzling, intricate, full-skirted dresses, a nipped in waist, couture, a [fur] stole, a [diamond] tiara, to dazzle [her way through state banquets], a royal tour, tull and satin gowns, to be embelished, seed pearls, crystals, beads, to be down to [necessity], embroidery, workroom, outfit, a crisp understated look, to tailor, day clothes, eveningwear, a flurry, chiffon, floral prints, bow, [to produce] in-house, a bespoke [item of clothing], a [royal] engagement, to sparkle, to step out [in public], fabric, to drape, to stand out [in a crowd], to highlight [her face], sensible block-heeled shoes, handmade, to be worn in, a trim, on standby, the unpredictable [British weather], to get in her way, a uniform-way of dressing, a consistent [presence], to delight, wellies, to be off duty, shampoo and set, the throne, to embrace, a wave curl, firm structured  [curls], to host [a crown or a hat], to set [a hair style], [hair] rollers, under a dryer, fashion conscious, trends, gentleness, a top-handled [handbag], the [royal] seal, the ultimate [influencer], to retail for [1,500 GBP], jubilee, no mean feat, pins, brooches, brand statements, a jewelled [gown], a tweed [skirt], a figurehead, a curator, to walk the line, worthy [of  royalty], to bedazzle, a subtle nod, an allegiance, a celebrity branding [expert], to stand for, boldness.

martes, 24 de mayo de 2022

Art and Feminine Power


The British Museum has recently opened the exhibition "Female Power: the Divine to the Demonic" which shows how women have been represented throughout history in various mythologies around the world.

Here you can find a 3 hour lesson plan about Art, which complements unit 7B of English File C1.1, O.U.P.  The first lesson includes some speaking activities to discuss Art, exhibitions and Public Art; a power point presentation of local Public Art in Zaragoza and an intensive listening comprehension task, based on a clip of Today programme on BBC Radio 4 (17/05/22), which is more suitable for C2 students.  The second lesson is focused on Street Art and it includes some conversation questions about Art, education etc., and another power point presentation about Street Art in Zaragoza. You can access the list of key words below in Word format here and the 5' recording of the Today radio report here.

Some of the key words you will come across in the recording are: a goddess, a she-devil, a saint, a witch, to be betrayed, a blood-thirsty warrior, divine, demonic, to be installed, a gargoyle, a bronze sculpture, to crawl, about to pounce, attached to [the wall], [female] defiance, to refuse to submit to [Adam], the Garden of Eden, happily ever after, to rebel, depiction, faiths and mythologies, a painted terracotta dating from [500 BC], snake-like hair, fangs, to stick [her] tongue out, to have [someone] round for dinner, to reassess [things after Me Too], a survivor of rape, female rage, a statement of power, to be rageful, to be sexually assaulted, a male-dominated [industry], an all-boys club, gratitude, to put up with [a lot of stuff], to range from, an orgasm machine, to impress my bosses, [everyday] sexual harassment, micro-aggressions, an admission price [to being a woman], stepped into my rage, bulbous eyes, [to die in] childbirth, to be engaged in a battle, to long for [children], yearning and shaped [by her lack of children], to open up [about a personal failure], universal resonance, my soul, millennia of patriarchy, to strive against [that], a cohesive narrative to [this exhibition].

If you want to read some stories of fascination and fear of the deites shown in the exhibition, you can check this article from BBC Culture and learn about Sulis (England), Minerva (Rome), Sekhmet (Egypt), Kali (India), Kannon (Japan), Coatlicue (Mexico), Inanna (Mesopotamia), Athena (Greece), Venus (Rome), Lamashtu (Sumeria), Cihuateteo (Mexico), Lilith (Israel), Persephone (Greece), Shri-Lakshmi (India), Sati (India) and Circe (Greece), 

jueves, 12 de mayo de 2022

Londongrad: How the British Money Laundering Machine Works

Journalist Oliver Bullough has recently published the book "Butler to the World" where he describes how the City of London has become a safe laundering machine for the Russian oligarchs, who stash their fortunes in "Londongrad" with the help of bankers, lawyers, accountants and public relations managers and with the complacency of the British "hilariously under-funded" law-enforcement agencies. In this 44-minute "Fresh Air" interview, Terry Gross discusses with Mr Bullough the ins and outs of the banking and legal system that allows the so-called Russian "kleptocrats" to enjoy a luxury life in the financial heart of Europe. 

Although the interview can be followed with a full script, the description the financial and legal procedures to protect the oligarchs' dodgy business transactions from public scrutiny, will raise the level of this task to C2. An "extended listening" exercise can be set for homework with a simple speaking mini-task that can be found on this link.

In the interview you will come across interesting words like: accountant, kleptocrats, oligarchs, to launder money, to stash [money], ill-gotten [gains], layers of shell companies, to come down to [a pretty basic calculation], chunks, high-end [property], a [giant] safety deposit box, a looting [machine], to dip into, an incredibly tightly controlled dictatorial kleptocratic system, to wage war, the purse strings, the checks and balances, penalties, a state-run business, a knockdown price, to undervalue, to speak out against [Putin], an asset, to stand up to [Putin], unwise, real estate, [to have money] offshore, saving money for the rainy day, to put [money] aside, a current account, a deposit account, to step up, to look hard enough, courtiers, an [information] leak, astonishingly [wealthy], to call on [the wealth of the oligarchs], to scramble around for [funds], [skilled sanction] busters, [Iran has been] tapped, tough [sanctions], severe [sanctions], to circumvent [the sanctions], to end up with, to be reckoned, the sheer [volume], to upend [this calculation], bling, the law-enforcement [system], [shell companies] and trusts, [Putin's] enablers, to poison, to bring legal proceedings [against journalists], to cut [them] off [from the system], to whack-a-mole [individual enablers], to name and shame, to freeze [their wealth, their assets], to seize [money, wealth], to confiscate [money], to be heartened, embargo, boycott [of Russian oil], a [huge] hardship [for their economy], a [real] game changer, revenue stream, to undermine, to rely on [oil for their wealth], budget, to trace back [to 1956], disruptive, a [real] nadir [of British influence], [death] throes, [heavily] indebted, the legacy, [a huge] overhang [of debt], to stand its ground, to stagger along [in a very] diminished way, to thrash around, regulations, to open a hole in the global financial architecture, scrutiny-free, to bypass the onerous system, to single out [an individual oligarch], to sue [journalists who look into the wealth], to repurpose, at the forefront [of my mind], [really] niche, to abide by [certain regulations], [very] perilous, libel laws, to defame [someone], guilty, defamation, data protection grounds, to be on the hook [for millions of dollars worth of costs], to settle [cases against oligarchs], colossal [costs], to face up against [oligarchs], [the costs are] peanuts, vexatious [lawsuits], scary, a chilling [effect], to shut up, to pick [a fight], the cutting room floor, to be hacked, to warn me off, to tarnish [the oligarch's] reputation, a [fairly]-well trodden path, a philanthropist, a high-profile [oligarch], litigious [reputations], risk averse, to shield [oligarchs], to bolster [the system], the feds, dodgy [business], [hilariously] underfunded, to crack down on [dodgy practices], to be outmuscled [by the oligarchs], a scanty measure, offshore shell companies, gimmicky [measures]. 

lunes, 2 de mayo de 2022

Kimpton May Festival

Kimpton, Hertfordshire, claims to hold "the biggest village festival in the country". Here you can listen to a short radio interview (2':54") to Emma Rice-Oxley, one of the top organizers of the 2022 festival, on Today, BBC Radio 4.  And here you can find a lesson plan for B2 students.

The interview has no script, but with this list of interesting words as a guide, it can be suitable for B2 students and above: live events, to host [a village festival], to raise the flag to mark the start of the festivities, blessed [with the weather], brilliant, [quite] a claim, to proof your credentials, [a two-year] hiatus, the highlights, the procession, to parade, [up] the high street, moving, dressed up, floats, a Jubilee related [float], a cannon, to fire, rainbows and brownies dressed up as fireworks, a scout group, to bang pots and pans, theme, the UK Garrison, a charity group, Darth Vader, stormtroopers, Maypole dancing, a fun run, a hog roast, you name it.

You can check the full 2022 Kimpton May Festival programme here. 

Below, you can watch a homemade video of the Procession of the 2019 edition of the festival:

And, finally, you can read a couple of local newspaper reports on past editions of the festival, one from The Herts Advertiser in 2019 and another one from the Welwyn Hatfield Times in 2018.

viernes, 22 de abril de 2022

Earth Day


Earth Day is a worldwide initiative to raise awareness and take action to help the environment. Here you can find a lesson plan for a speaking and listening class for B2 students, which discusses environmental issues based on some of the materials published on the website of earthday.org.

In this class students are likely to activate words like: climate change, greenhouse effect, waste, pollution, overpopulation, ozone-layer depletion, consumerism, extinction of endangered species, deforestation, destruction of habitats, nature reserves, breeding areas, conservationism, fossil fuels, renewable energy, non-renewable sources of energy, harmful, toxic, overfishing, to raise awareness, water management, landfills, solar panels, wind turbines, to tackle the problem, threats to the environment. Whereas in the video "Plogging Paul" below, they will come across words like trash, plogger, windy (winding) roads, country lanes, bushes, to make the biggest impact, to create a ripple [effect], to start a conversation, to inspire. 


domingo, 17 de abril de 2022

Rejuvenation of Human Skin Cells to Reverse Ageing

Professor Wolf Reik from the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, has led a group of scientists to find a technique that rejuvenates skin cells by 30 years. BBC News recently reported about this breakthrough, a step forward in regenerative medicine research, which eventually might help in the treatment of diabetes, heart disease or neurological disorders, although there is still a great deal of work to be done, because some of the chemicals involved in the process of cell reprogramming can cause cancer, and clinical application are still "a long way off", according to Prof. Robin Lovell-Badge of the Francis Crick Institute in London.  

The BBC News article and the video below are suitable for C1 students and above.  You will find interesting words like: to tackle, ageing, tissues, age-related disease, disorders, to build on [a technique], to clone, super [exciting], to stress that, [scientific] issues to overcome, a critical step forward, to stem from, embryo, [human embryonic] stem cells, worn-out [body parts], to be regrown, to prove difficult, to cut short, a chemical bath, to be confident that, the [human] health span, the lifespan, to speed up [healing], to [part-]fund [the research], the long-stalled [benefits], immune cells, [immune cells become less] responsive, to boost [people's response to vaccination], [a method] of whole-body regeneration, an elixir of youth, an anti-ageing pill, fart-fetched, [scientific] hurdles, a trivial [process], chemicals, a long way off.

You can also watch this short BBC News video with subtitles (2':20"), which tells the story in, perhaps, slightly more colloquial terms:

Finally, if you are an expert in Biology, you might enjoy watching this 4':49" video from Golahura You Tube Channel, which is more technical, and could be assessed as beyond C2 level, that is ("Level Ex" for experts) in the classification of this blog.

domingo, 3 de abril de 2022

The War in Ukraine

The invasion of Ukraine has lasted for over a month now. On March 2, the BBC reported on the ongoing battles for Kharkiv, Kherson and Kyiv: the chaos, the rubble, the dispair of peaceful Ukrainians in the bomb shelters, the tears of refugee families parting into exile...  This distressing report, which is introduced by Clive Myrie, an experienced BBC foreign correspondent and TV presenter, is suitable for B2 students and above.  

You will come across interesting expressions like: "in broad daylight, to leave a trail of destruction, the aftermath of a deadly missile attack, the target [is] an airbase, in the rubble, to keep myself together, shooting, to have captured, sirens wail, [deserted streets] echo fear and dread, [the children made] pistols [to kill the enemy], as war closes in, to put on a brave face in, the national anthem, hit by sustained rocket fire, airborne troops, [planes] shot down, distressing images, [calm] in the wreckage [of people's homes], to hide in basements and bunkers, made a dash, to make it onto a train, to go back and forth, to refuse to be cowed, shoving forward, chaos, desperate to get on board, to swear at [all those who have caused the suffering], to flee abroad, to break down".


In the next BBC News report (29/03/22), Iryna Babich, a refugee English teacher,  explains how she has found peace of mind in a Romanian monastery "Only here, at the monastery, I stopped hating.  Last Sunday, I even prayed for Putin", Iryna says while she sadly misses her husband who is delivering fuel back in the besieged city of Kharkiv. This short interview can be followed by B1 students and above and you will find expressions like: "a place of retreat, prayer, meditation, my [lovely] van, just to smell [my husband, my house], stayed behind [...] delivering fuel, [a city] under Russian siege, [they can stay] as long as they wish, [I wished Putin] to become wiser, to feel sympathy to Russian troops, sunflowers in the yard, to breathe [this beautiful mountain air], they fled Ukraine, they might be home by Easter, their best hope is by summer".

martes, 15 de marzo de 2022

Marina Ovsyannikova Interrogated for 14 Hours

Russian Journalist Marina Ovsyannikova has been released after being interrogated for 14 hours without a lawyer, for two consecutive sleepless nights, and after paying a fine of €250.  She was detained for disrupting a major Russian TV news programme with a placard that read "Stop the war, don't believe the propaganda, they're lying to you", BBC News reports.

Previously, she had recorded a video with a statement explaining her protest, which can be seen below, thanks to The Guardian.

Some interesting words you can find in this story are: to be fined, to be released, a live TV news programme, the set, to plead not guilty, a charge, to call on [the Russian people] to protest, to be prosecuted, to ban, the court hearing, to be denied access [to a lawyer], to stress, to come up with an idea, the courthouse, her whereabouts, the placard, to be ashamed, the television screen, this inhumane regime, a blog run by former BBC journalist, to praise her for telling the truth, to launch an effort, hooliganism. This text is suitable for B2 students.

jueves, 6 de enero de 2022

20 Best Movies of 2021

BBC Culture  publishes the list of the 20 Best Movies of 2021, which includes Almodovar's first film in English, "The Human Voice". 

In this dense article, which is full of simple and composed adjectives and adverbs you will find interesting words and expressions for C1 students like: "[a] suspenseful, action-filled [film], wiliness, the film's themes [...] resonate profoundly with social justice movements today,  to feature, damsels in distress, [a] dreamlike film, a callow knight, to behead, to stroll, to gasp, bewildering, a smart-mouthed comic sidekick, swirl, stunningly shot, to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction, to reel back, to capture [the novel's] nuance, an entrancing work of art, over-the-top entertainment, giddy,  to mess up, a spellbinding drama, endless grievances and yearnings, grief, barrage, bone-crunching violence, grip, to boast, strait-laced, brooding, creepy, sprightly, chilling, a grief-racked, a pared-down drama, a stunner, haunting, a heart-wrenching scenario, a run-down prison, griots, roaming free, to veer into myth, chatty, a heart-rending film, a visually dazzling film, the film is loosely based, from defiant pride to pleading to resilience, a glamourous vermilion gown, outrageous, an uproarious celebration, a piquant warning, subtlety". 

If you prefer to hear the flow of oral English, you can listen to NPR's list of the 10 Best Movies of 2021 which includes Almodovar's "Parallel Mothers". The audio comes with a script, which can be helpful for C1 students. 

lunes, 11 de octubre de 2021

Abdulrazak Gurnah Wins the Nobel Prize for Literature

Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, the first black African to win the prize for almost two decades.  

He was born in Zanzibar (Tanzania) but he migrated as a teenager to the UK, escaping from ethnic persecution and eventually became a professor of Post-colonial Literatures at the University of Kent in Canterbury. His novels talk about the experience of colonialism, refugees, migration and individual dignity. In this three minute interview NPR's culture reporter Neda Ulabyis talks about his life and works. You will come across interesting words like: shortlisted, fate, to flee, civil unrest, scholarly work, to be batted around, to track, marquee names, overdue, sprawling, to reconcile cultural chasms with their dreams, a clip, linen, a chubby face, uprooted [people].

Below, you can also watch a 6 minute BBC interview to Mr. Gurnah himself after he learnt he had won the Nobel Prize, which can be heard with subtitles. Both recordings are suitable for C1 students and above.


sábado, 4 de septiembre de 2021

Almodovar's "The Human Voice"

Pedro Almodóvar released a short (30') film in English, "The Human Voice" in 2020 which was acclaimed by critics all over the world.  It is a free and personal adaptation of Jean Cocteau's classic "La Voix Humaine", where a barroque Almodóvar is interested in showing the boundaries of artifice and the connection between cinema and theatre, deceit and sincerity, lies and truth. 

The movie is, basically, a monologue, where Scottish actress Tilda Swinton, in a riveting performance, displays her vocal versatility to disclose all the feelings of a woman who has been abandoned by her ex-lover and receives a last telephone call to sort out the last mundane details of their separation: she pretends to be cool and casual at the beginning of the call, until she can't stand her own lies any longer, loses controls and admits to her ex-lover -who is a "dweeb", in Tilda's words, ("an idiot", in Spanish "un memo, un baboso"), that she is just a nervous wreck. 

The drama of the monologue is set in the unique atmosphere of Almodóvar's films which is created by the music of Alberto Iglesias and the photography of José Luis Alcaine, the paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi, Vargas, Man Ray, Isabel Quintanilla, Giorgio de Chirico and all the loud colours, objects, circles, shapes and squares of Almodóvar's personal universe.

Below you can watch a facetime interview to Pedro Almodóvar and Tilda Swinton when they presented the film in the the New York Film Festival at the Lincoln Centre in September 2020.  The video is very long (1:04:19), but it is interesting to listen to Almodóvar's English, although at some points he turns to Spanish to be translated by a consecutive interpreter (for example when he starts talking about the sets and the scenery of the film at 29:01 and continues talking about the lockdown during the pandemic). 

A highlight of the interview is Tilda Swinton's long answer to the question about her character who is in a world that is a mixture of a theatre stage and a cinema set (36:00- 42:11).  She explains that the telephone helps her character to create a fabrication of reality, a performance to deceive her ex-lover on the phone, in contrast to the first minutes of Almodóvar's film, where she is silent and we can see her true feelings. Although you can watch the video with subtitles, Tilda Swinton's complex and metaphorical answers are recommended for C1 students and above, whereas Almodóvar's answers in English can be easily understood by B2 students.


In the six minutes of Tilda Swinson's answer you can notice her richness of expression, for example: deception, to dissemble, the predicament, painful, a dignified goodbye, to fall apart, a fabrication, inarticulacy, articulacy, a pose, utterances, the script, an axe, to smash [a glass], frankly, it's overacting, to overdo something, incredibly moving, a trope, a cliche, a soap opera, a set, to fake [it], to throw open your heart, to spill your guts, it's not good taste, a massive meltdown, a dweeb, a twist and turn, to twiddle with [something], vulnerability, fakery.

If you are very interested in "The Human Voice", you can watch the trailer here, you can also watch this interview to Tilda Swinson by Mark Kermode on BBC Radio 5 which is shorter and very precise (07:39) with or without subtitles, or another interview to Ms. Swinson at the 77th Venice Festival (6:03), where she was awarded the Honorary Golden Globe for a lifetime achievement.

"The Human Voice" can be watched on Movistar TV beginning on September 3rd, 2021. Recently, Almodovar presented "Parallel Mothers", his latest film, at the Venice Film Festival.

jueves, 8 de abril de 2021

Goya's 275th Birthday Brings Aragon into the Spotlight

The 275th anniversary of Goya's birth has become an opportunity to bring the underpopulated county of Campo de Belchite and the village of Fuendetodos back to the map.  

The Guardian recently reported on the "Territorio Goya" project, which aims to exploit the 200th anniversary of Goya's Black Paintings to "stem the decline of a region where there are just 4.8 inhabitants per square kilometre". In this article, which is suitable for C1 students and above, you can come across words like: to summon, to stem [the decline],  to devour, a witches's sabbath, to drown, a printmaker, [to be] appalled, slumber, to cling [to the map], a curator, a resident, [annual] income, a profound pull, to empower, the plight [of Campo de Belchite], the hollowed [Spain], a demographic challenge, [to be] squeezed, to have a project underway, to mark [the 275th anniversary], demolished, [to be] stripped out, canvas, a mock-up [image], to commission, to reintepret, the reworked [paintings], an installation, a casualty, boom-and-bust [cycle], the [perfect] venue, artworks, [to be] displayed, to make the pilgrimage, [the project] is about [ensuring that...], to receive [his] dues, to undertake [a commission], Follies [series], rough [landscape], to be keenly aware of, a lighthouse.

The Metropolitan Museum in New York is currently offering the exhibition Goya's Graphic Imagination, which, according to The New York Times, "offers a vital tonic from an artist with (to our eyes) all the right political commitments: horrified by violence, revolted by unearned priviledge, standing up for freedom and knowledge and rights for all". If you want to read a review of the exhibition catalogue written by Mark MacDonald, you can follow this link to Enfilade, the blog of the Historians of Eighteenth Century Art & Architecture (HECAA) society. This text is suitable for C2 students and above.

Finally, you can also watch this 20':24" video below, which is a virtual tour of the exhibition with subtitles in Spanish, so, it can be accessible to C1 students and above.  The video is a fantastic visual lesson on Goya's artistic production by the curator of the exhibition, Mark MacDonald.



viernes, 2 de abril de 2021

10 Good Friday Traditions in Ireland

 

Good Friday and Christmas were the only days of the year that pubs closed in Ireland until legislation was passed in 2018 to allow pubs to open.  In this The Irish Times story, you will learn about some of the old traditions associated with Good Friday, a text which is recommended for C1 students and above.  

The report also includes a short 2':55" video where some publicans and local customers talk about the closing of pubs on Good Friday in the village of Drumconrath in Co Meath. The video, without subtitles, and with strong local Irish accents is recommended for C2 students.

In the article you will come across words like: to liven it up, uneventful, a foreboding, guilt-ridden [religious observations], the Stations of the Cross, a retreat, repository, a cluster of [interesting observances], to guard against [headaches], to draw [blood], a bald patch, drips, a rafter, disrespectful, to unhook, fltches [of salted bacon], to nail to the timber, blacksmiths, carpenters, idle, a saw, a hammer, to drive a nail, to cleave [cleft], shrubs, bushes, to thrive, to dig [potatoes], seed, to set [their seed potatoes], spud, the cuckoo, cabbages, turnips, to sow, oats, to rot, cattle, tapeworm, to cast off, [to go] barefoot, thorns, bleeding, a sore, clergy, Maundy Thursday, to ward off [sickness], Lenten [fast], [to lay] laid [eggs], to rub, best-before date, to go off, a plea, to have [a plea] granted, the congregation, the altar, black fast, dairy, Lent, cradle, Ash Wednesday, Spy Wednesday, sowens, to soak, oatmeat, mashed potatoes, drab, gruel, nettles, herring, seaweed, shellfish, to carve, carrageen, laver, limpet, droves of [children], the swallow, the heron, the robin, a switch, a remnant, tax returns, to be submitted, liminal, to grab, a spade, verruca, corn, to queue up, a collation, heritage.

domingo, 21 de marzo de 2021

Migrants in the Canary Islands

The radio programme "All Things Considered", has recently reported about the African migrants that are temporarily being sheltered in hotels in the Canary Islands.  Here you can find a link to the audio (3':42") and the transcript on NPR's webpage
And on this link, you can download a lesson plan which includes a listening comprehension exercise, the key and some questions for discussion which can be used as oral exam practice for a monologue or an interaction at C1 level.

The vocabulary is not particularly difficult, some of the words you will come across are: pandemic, to halt [global travel], to host, a wave [of visitors], a surge, packed with [tourists], the occupancy, to be down to [COVID restrictions], to soak up [the sun], asylum seekers, [to play] draughts, apprehensive, to flee [conflict], risky, to starve, to scrape a living, the mainland, to bounce back.

miércoles, 17 de marzo de 2021

St. Patrick's Day

With social restrictions in place because of COVID19, St. Patrick's Day is going to be celebrated differently again in 2021, but, it is still going to be a worldwide online celebration.  To join in the fun, and feel the spirit of Paddy's Day, here you can watch a selection of videos and a quiz.

The first video comes from The Economist, and it explains the history and relevance of St. Patrick's Day as a celebration of the brand "Ireland" and "Guinness", Ireland's main export to the world. The video is only 2':22" long, the pace of the narrator's voice is not fast, and there are good subtitles, so it is suitable for B1 students and above.


For a more institutional version of the "Ireland" brand, you can watch this serious 2021 video produced by the Irish Foreign Ministry, which lasts 3':06", and has subtitles, but whose language and background music, make it more suitable for B2 students and above.

SmarterTravel shows a tourist view of St. Patrick's Day celebration in the streets and pubs of Dublin back in 2018, in this 1':13" video with big, simple text and no voice, which is also suitable for B1 students.

C1 students and above can visit the webpage of the Irish Times and do a general knowledge test about Irishology.

And finally, to rejoice your heart, you can tap your foot to the catchy rhythm of an Irish song and enjoy this cute video by Jess Glynn, published in 2014, which can be recommended for B1 students and even for lower levels. Happy Paddy's Day!

lunes, 8 de marzo de 2021

Women's Struggle Around the World

On International Women's Day, Rappler, publishes the video "In Contested Cybercrime Laws, Activists and Women Are in Danger" (6':49") about the repression of women's activism around the world.  Authoritarian regimes and dictatorships have passed cybercrime laws that punish feminist activists and other dissidents with imprisonment like Loujain-Al-Hathloul in Saudi Arabia, but also in other parts of Asia, like Myanmar, Thailand, Fiji, or the Philippines, where María Ressa, the CEO of Rappler and winner of the 2021 Nobel Prize for Peacehas been accused of "ciber libel" and has been jailed for writing critical articles against President Rodrigo Duterte's brutal anti-drug policies. At the end of the video, three women activists leave a final message: Momoko Nojo (Japan), Marine Maiorano Delmas (France) and Frida Guerrero (Mexico). 

This video with subtitles contains a lot of legal vocabulary, but the subtitles can allow even B2 students to follow it.  In the video you will find less frequent words to enrichen your vocabulary like: released [from prison], to be jailed, to fast-track, the lifting of prohibition, the male guardianship system, counter-terrorism law, [sexually] assaulted, a travel ban, vague [laws], dissent, a bill, a military takeover, [a law] to be in place, to stop [the state] from intervening, impinging on [public order], online abuse, a Trojan horse, uncanny [similar provisions], to engage in acts, cyber libel, a conviction, [an act] hotly contested, rendered, a tradeoff, chilling, most targeted groups [for harassment and attacks], [cases] recorded, perpetrated, intimidation, oftentimes, to defame, to rape, outspoken [women], submissive, domesticated, hate speech, sexist remarks, utilized, to assassinate their characters, divergent tactics, crackdowns.

If you are interested in the topic, you can read the article Women in South Asia: Hostile Encounters, published by Dawn (Pakistan), and International Women's Day: Plight and  Right of Nigeria Women, published by Vanguardngr.com (Nigeria). You can also listen to this 36 minute NPR radio interview where, María Resa talks to Terry Gross in Fresh Air about the crackdown on the press in the Philippines, a long interview with a script for C1 students and above.

lunes, 1 de marzo de 2021

Genevieve Bell, a Leader to the Future of Artificial Intelligence

Professor Genevieve Bell is a cultural anthropologist, a technologist and a futurist. She is the head of the 3A Institute (3Ai), at the Australian National University, where she is building a new branch of engineering to explore the impact and the management of artificial intelligence, data and technology on human behaviour. She previously worked for 20 years at Silicon Valley, leading a team of 100 scientists at Intel, as The New York Times reported in 2014

Genevieve Bell has recently presented the line of research in the 3Ai, which brings together experts in the fields of culture, technology and the environment, with the TED Talk below, entitled "6 Big Ethical Questions About the Future of AI". In this 14':48" video with subtitles, professor Bell speaks with a vey clear, educated, Australian accent and she uses academic words which might be transparent to a Spanish learner, but the cultural and engineering concepts she explains make the talk suitable for C1 students and above. I would like to thank my former student Mai L. for sharing this video with us.


Some of the words you can find in the video are: algorithm, to make sense of [something], AI, system.level scale, mechanization, automation, digitization, deceptively, sustainably, to research into existence, to theorize into existence, critical thinkers, critical doers, collaboratively, to frame the questions, to decolonize our imagination, work in progress, a glimpse, to gather, [fish] traps, fish holding pens, remarkable, an inspiration, meaningful, to sustain [systems], [our] legacy, a sense of purpose, a [clear] framework, an approach [of problem solving], question framing, to open up, challenges, autonomy, agency, assurance, interfaces, indicators, intent, to wander [down the street], controls, limits, a keyslot, to override [the system], trust, liablility, explicability, manageability, policy, regulation, the electrical grid, productivity, efficiency, sustainable, to articulate [a conversation], decommission, a [new] path, to draw the boundaries, to convene, a banner, cybernetics, a holistic [system], to reclaim, to accommodate, a physicist, a heady mix, expertise, diverse, to launch, a cohort [of graduates], to range, backgrounds, committed, a lone [inventor], a shared sense of purpose, owners, ceded, sacred, to pay my respects to, to dwell on [what they mean], a protracted [period of time].

If you are interested in AI and education you can listen to this podcast which includes a conversation with Professor Genevieve Bell and Dr. Amy McLennan, a research fellow at the 3Ai Institute from the New South Wales Department of Education. You can use the transcript, if you do not understand parts of the conversation.

domingo, 14 de febrero de 2021

Happy Valentine!

 

Love is the driving force that moves our hearts and inspires our mind. There are thousands of songs and poems that talk about the miriad of emotions love can arouse.

Here you can find a short text about heartbreak and hope, written by Teresa M., who won one of the awards in the 2021 Valentine Competition at the E.O.I. nº 1, Zaragoza, and below you can find two very different love songs: the video "Break My Heart" by Dua Lipa released in 2020 and a 1960 hit by Etta James, "A Sunday Kind of Love".

The vocabulary is quite easy and the songs can be heard with subtitles, so this post is suitable for B1 students and above.  The less frequent words you will come across are: skylight, a letdown, to grip [my heart], relief, serenity, to get it wrong, to know for sure, letting you go, love at first sight, on the square, scheming, to enfold [someone] in my arms.

I hope you can feel Cupid's arrows deep in your heart. Enjoy Valentine's Day!


IS A MATTER OF TIME
by Teresa M.

It is dark now...
I will open an skylight in my head
to let the black clouds out.
You hurt me.
You lied to me.
A deep letdown gripped my heart.
The further you go, the closer my happiness gets.
Spring is coming.
Relief, serenity.

Dua Lipa's "Break My Heart" (2020) ...

... and Etta James's "A Sunday Kind of Love" (1960).


sábado, 6 de febrero de 2021

5 Celeb Stories

The C1.1 students became gossip reporters last week, when they had to find a story about celebrities, their relationships and personal lives.  Five stories were voted in the four mini-groups as the best: 

María B. presented "Did Kanye West Cheat On Kim with Jeffree Star?" after reading the story in Dazed Digital

Vera R. talked about Dora Maar, Picasso's lover, muse and "a major surrealist photographer" in her own right, and then she wrote her story "When Love Creates Art and Tragedy", based on two stories from The New York Times and The Guardian.

Adriana R. wrote a piece on Heather Mills and Mike Dickman, after compiling information from three stories in The Sun "Who is Heather Mills' Fiancé Mike Dickman?", the same story on January 14th, and "The Most Staggeringly Expensive Celeb Divorces Ever" and after reading a fourth text from Heather Mills' Profile in Hello Magazine.

Rafaela S. wrote a short text called "Gossiping About Meghan Markle and Prince Harry", reporting news from Hollywood Gossip, The Telegraph and People Magazine.

Coral d J. shared with her classmates the biography of Adele in Hello Magazine. 

These texts are suitable for B2 students and above.  You will find words like: to cheat on [Kim], to file for [divorce], to be done, the bar exam, shit, to storm [the US Capitol], a coup attempt, to be unfaithful, alledgedly, a [beauty] guru, to hook up, to claim, to fuel the fire, to tweet, a make-up artist, celebs, the [eternally] spurned mistress, a long-running affair, to break off [an affair], a thrill, the scruciating [Weeping Woman], to depict, an atrocity, politically engaged, to be devastated, [to suffer] a breakdown, to be overlooked, portraits, [to get] engaged to, a toy boy, paparazzi, a bitter divorce, to have a jinx, an earthquake. 


viernes, 29 de enero de 2021

Dubai's World Islands Private Mansion Tour!

 

Australian social media celebrity Supercar Blondie shows us round a luxury villa in Dubai with a snow room in the extreme heat of the desert. Check it out! If you have $24 million, you may consider buying it! This short video below (9':15") can be watched with subtitles and it is suitable for B2 students and above.

The language is cool and informal, and you will find few difficult words: to hang out, a desalination plant, sustainable, an irrigation system, stitching, the hustle and bustle, I feel like a million dollars, soak it up!, an infitity pool, tidal, super VIP, to wave [hello], inspirational [neighbours], a villa, solar power, the groceries, the mainland, make it happen!, a [Swedish] bunker, a sauna, a gym, a massage room, no way!, "glitzer" (a German word which means "glitter" or "purpurina"), ridiculous, layers.



viernes, 22 de enero de 2021

Dating

Dating is an art, a communication game where you want to show your feelings, but you do not want "to seem too eager". 

In this post you can find two articles from The List, a "women's news and lifestyle site with a twist": Texts to Send After a First Date and Things You Should Never Do on a First Date.

These two texts are recommended for C1 students, as the vocabulary is very rich in colloquial American slang.  Some of the less frequent words you will find in the dating and texting article are: nerve-wracking, to feel a spark, super cheesy, flirty, cute, to ghost your date, to hang out with friends, to hit it off, to get the hint, whereas in the second story you will read frazzled, tardiness, phubbing (which is a new coinage), a self-fulfilling prophecy, to feel upbeat/ over-the-top, to moan about, to whine, to brag, a faux-pas, daunting etc. A full list of the most interesting words in these two articles can be found in the "Glossary of the Blog".

You can also read a recent history of dating since the 1970's in 25 Ways Dating Has Changed in the Last 50 Years, published on Stacker.com, a website that "transforms expert analysis into digestible stories": the contraceptive pill, feminism, the romantic mixtape, LGBTQ+ rights, new technologies, speed dating or even the "Engagement Chicken" recipe have shaped dating into what it is today, so, if you want to find out, please click on the link above and you may add some dating words to your own personal lexicon, like "a hook-up", "catfishing", "ghosting" or "breadcrumbing". This reading can also suit C1 students.

domingo, 10 de enero de 2021

"I Have a Dream" & the American Civil Rights Movement

"I Have a Dream", Dr. Matin Luther King's speech, has inspired several generations of civil rights activists to fight peacefully but unyieldlingly for justice and against any kind of discrimination. American Rhetoric.com ranks "I Have a Dream" as number one in the list of the most influential speeches in the USA, it is powerful, moving, rich in literary and biblical references and very rhythmical -a well-crafted mixture of political speech and Baptist sermon.  You can also watch the whole speech on the YouTube video below. 

The speech needs a certain historical introduction, as it contains numerous references to the struggle against segregation laws in the 1950's and 60's, which students will problably miss otherwise. This lesson plan for a two-hour C1 class includes some reading, speaking and vocabulary tasks (1h 30'), based on extracts from the Wikipedia's page on the Civil Rights Movement, with a slide presentation to illustrate the major events of the movement and a clip from Bob Dylan's song "The Death of Emmett Till", which is mentioned in the Wikipedia texts. The second part of the class is a  simple listening and reading task with a fill-in-the gap exercise on the transcipt of Dr. King's speech "I Have a Dream" (20'- 25'). The online file includes another document with further examples of Jim Crow laws. The lesson is hard at times but hopeful.

The text contains a lof of legal terms in American English.  Some of the less frequent vocabulary students will come across is the following: facilities, [a court] to rule, literacy, to file a suit, a plaintiff, to overturn a decision/ a court ruling, a melting pot, to flirt, to dispose of, casket, to rally support, to acquit of a crime, double jeopardy, outrage, to spark, a standoff, a [lunch] counter, to pledge, bail, a restroom, to flee, to cram, turmoil, a stance, to enforce [a law], to skip school, restraint, upheaval, to gather, to fulfill [a requirement].


If you want further information on the March on Washington you can watch this Time Magazine short documentary (6':05") or just browse on Google or YouTube.  The rally ended with some memorable musical performances by Joan Baez, The Freedom Singers, Peter, Paul & Mary, Mahalia Jackson, Bob Dylan, Odetta, or the Eva Jessye Choir, which are worth watching. Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday in the USA which is observed on the third Monday of January (the 18th of the current month in 2021), as Dr. King's birthday was on January 15th.

jueves, 31 de diciembre de 2020

The Best Songs, Books and Movies of 2020

This year has been particularly tough, but if you look back you will surely remember wonderful moments, lessons you had never learnt before, and, perhaps, a song, a book or a film that will stay with you long after 2020 has gone by. It's time to take stock, and here you can find several lists of the best in 2020: the 100 Best Songs of 2020 by NPR,with their official video and an extract from a review, and NPR's Best Books of the Year 2020, with a mini review at one click.

The New York Times is another renowned and respected source of cultural information. Here you can find the Best Movies of 2020, the 10 Best Books of 2020 and if you are into music, the Best Albums of 2020.

Finally, for a more European viewpoint, you can check the BBC's Best Albums and Songs of 2020 (text only, no direct links to the music, sorry!), the BBC's Best Films of 2020 and the BBC's Best Books of the Year 2020.

The vocabulary of cultural reviews is incredibly rich: literary, technical and slangy at times, so it is very suitable for C2 students, but C1 and even B2 learners can still enjoy the music of the songs and understand the gist of the texts. Here is some of the less frequent vocabulary you will find:  

In the first 5 entries of NPR's 100 Best Songs: whopper, a mixtape, to drop, crappy, shred, jam, at a loss for words, buoyant, to be stuck, [the] forseeable [future], [silver] lining, to craft, relentless, chart-topping, juggernaut, hashtag-ready [exclamations], truly sublime, damned it, to work wonders, desperado, sounds at home, bluegrass, string band album, sardonic, trippy, cryptic, an [ambitious] go-getter, to pray, to live lean, to come off as a fluttering, ethereal ode to newfound [love], a lens, to shed light on, self-confidence, gaze, debut, thereafter, cataclysmic [events], [an eight-year] hiatus, to feature, [the] sole [appearance], [the] grim [theme], uplifting [beats], the soundtrack, a funk-rock house party, to throw [a party], [its] opening [song], a mildly psychedelic welcome mat, bassist, to settle into a groove, wandering [voice], off-kilter synth riffs, to hum etc.

In the NYT's Best Movies of 2020: the screening rooms, blockbusters, in storage, to bleed, to doomscroll, to prompt, to put down [my phone], to tether [me to the world], our preferred [movies], first- and second-run cinemas, art houses, cinémathèques, sightlines, moviegoing, it was instrumental to, texture, to clock [many hours], unmoored, classy, shades, to tape [shopping bags], to figure out, to soak up, the stream [of faces], devastating [Trump] performances, skateboarding, sneezes, coughs, to settle [into a new home], to march [for Black lives], to mourn [the deaths], joyous, enlivening, to grow fond of [people], well-being, [a] shameful [day], discrete [pleasures], [the] seemingly [endless], fleeting [Instagram stories], GIFs, to bypass, to blur [time], respite [from the clock-and-capitalism-determined flow of everyday life], every so often, I haven't a clue, [my] conviction, to weather [the crisis], streaming, to morph, to outlive, time will tell, [a brilliant] take, to embrace, bootstraps, sow, rambunctious litter [of piglets], [a] one-legged [chicken], to roam blissfully, exhilating genre-buster, to upend, weird, deeply [political], a rebuke to rugged [individualism], rage, to waft [off the screen], gripping, to track the aftermath, a floundering playwright, to stake a claim, wit, rap, a burst [of glorious colour], dazzingly, a heartbreaker.

In the BBC Best Books article: [a] bumper [year], dystopian [fiction], a memoir, to round up, [BBC Culture's] picks, to deliver, to burrow down, his outlook, the hotly-anticipaped sequel, to embark on [a new quest], vaults, to be hooked, a playful [viewpoint], afterlives, hyperreal, surreal, a mind-bending [collection], multifaceted [scariness], her struggles [and dilemmas],[to be] relayed, revealing [moments], poignant, to unpick [society's racist structures], hidden [histories], to home in on [the role of white patriarchy], to uphold [a system], to disenfranchise etc.

A simple lesson plan for a distance class: There is plenty to read, listen and learn on this post. If you want to activate some of those words, and you already have your "distance speaking partner", you can give them a call or make a videoconference and talk about what you have discovered in these lists, or just anwer these simple questions:

  • What is the best song you have heard in 2020? Why do you like it?
  • What is the best book you have read in 2020? Why do you like it?
  • What is the best film you have watched in 2020? Why do you like it?
It is really hard to choose one song among 100, as the best of 2020. #69 Joy Oladokum's "I See America" captures this year's spirit of despair and hope; #56 Steady Holiday's "Living the Life" oozes simple beauty; # 75 Mireya Ramos' version of "Angelitos Negros" is just amazing; #63 Lido Pimienta's "Eso Que Tu Haces" discovers the power of the new Latino woman; #43 RMR's video is really striking with its blend of images and melody; #39 Dua Lipa's "Break my Heart" is so much fun to celebrate the coming of the New Year; #38 singer-songwriter Soccer Mummy's "Circle the Drain" is a matter-of-fact description of the pains of mental illness which chills your heart; #37 Sun-El Musician's "Uhuru" brings some authentic African flavour to this year's music crop; #28 Stephanie Lambring performs in "Joy of Jesus" a beautifully-crafted Christian country song; #24 Fiona Apple "I Want You to Love Me" is fresh, original, bold and perfect in its rendition; #19 Joshua Reman's, Brad Mehldan, Christian McBride and Brian Blade's "Right Back Round Again" shows that the jazz tradition is alive and kicking; #7 Bob Dylan's "Murder Most Foul" is a tour de force and a musical master-class by the old bard and #4 Mickey Guyton's "Black Like Me" is a distressing and compelling anthem about the everyday racial tensions in a small American town.  

There are many other wonderful tunes which haven't been included in this shortlist (#98, 36, 33, 22, 17, 16, 13, 12, 10, 9, 6, 2, 1 among others), but to top the list of the best song of 2020, I would like choose #55 Shemkia Copeland's blues"Walk Until I Ride" 'cause it has the beat, the lyrics and the faith to touch my heart, my brain and to move my feet. Keep healthy and happy in 2021.