domingo, 19 de abril de 2015

Extensive listening: Lance Armstrong BBC interview

Early this year BBC Sport aired this interview with Lance Armstrong, where he looks back on all the events leading up to his famous confession with Oprah Winfrey two years ago.

The BBC offers a 10-minute summary of the interview here with the transcript available.

sábado, 18 de abril de 2015

Sound Grammar

A few weeks ago Jeffrey Hill informed on The English Blog about Sound Grammar.

This is a site that offers grammar lessons (so far 31) in an original way. The grammar point is introduced in a short dialogue at the beginning. A listening comprehension check follows together with some short explanations about the grammar point in question. Finally there's a grammar practice activity.

Most of the lessons come complete with a video where the grammar point is also explained and Sound Grammar allows you to download the audio file of the conversation. A transcript is also available.

The layout of Sound Grammar reminds us of elllo, which is always a guarantee of quality and originality.

Intermediate students will greatly benefit from the site, although some of the lesson are also within the grasp of lower level students.

viernes, 17 de abril de 2015

The Simple Psychological Trick To Exploit When Bargaining

This video can show you how psychology can help you when bargaining.

Haggling is hard. It’s uncomfortable too. But whether you’re buying a house, a car or just some over priced souvenir, you can’t afford to shy away form it. So, how can psychology help you get a better deal?
Well, it turns out. There is a powerful subconscious process, you can exploit. And while it’s happened to everyone, it’s hardly mentioned. It’s called anchoring. Now, anchoring states that in unfamiliar situations our minds rely too heavily on the first piece of info we see. All thoughts and information that comes afterwards are interpreted based of that initial info. Normally, this gives us a good estimate, but the problem arises, when the first piece of info is irrelevant or wrong.

To show you, imagine you’re eyeing the hottest pair of shoes, you check the price tag and unfortunately its $300, which is too expensive, but at that exact moment, a sales person approaches you, telling you the shoes are marked down to a $150. That’s a bargain, right. You’re probably tempted to buy it. Okay, now, imagine the same scenario. But this time, that pair of shoes starts off at $150. No markdowns. Suddenly, it’s not a bargain and you more hesitant to buy it. And yet, this is completely irrational because this is the exact same final price. What’s happening is in the first example; your mind is anchored to the $300 dollar and when you compare it to $150, it just feels more reasonable.
In fact marketers constantly exploit you with this cognitive flow because it’s powerful, undetectable, and almost unavoidable. For instance, in a study published by the American Marketing Association, the supermarket tried a new tactic to sell cans of soup. They told everyone that there was a 10% discount off the cans of soup and then forced a limit of 12 cans per customer. Now, you might be thinking, I wasn’t going to buy 12 cans anyway, but that wasn’t the point; the point was to secretly anchor you to the number 12. And sure enough with a limit of 12, shoppers bought 7 cans on average, twice as many as they bought when there were no limits. That’s simple science, double profits. So, how can you use anchoring in negotiations?
Well, the first trick is to make the initial offer. An analysis of 16 different studies found that regardless of what’s you’re haggling over, you are always better off offering first. This is because the initial price sets the playing for you for negotiation. By offering first, the other party is anchored to your initial price, not the other way around.
The second tip is to make a precise offer. Unfortunately, you’ve already fallen for this trick. Ever wonder why you’d never see car sale for a round number like $17,000, it’s always $16,995. Well, researchers from the University of Florida found that a precise offer anchors people to a precise scale. What this means is? If you sell a toy for a round number like $30, people might place that on a scale of 10’s of dollars. So when they adjust the anchor, they will take larger steps and maybe counter off for $20, but if its $29.75, they’ll subconsciously consider the cents and adjust in smaller steps. Therefore, they stay closer to your bid and you get a better deal. Overall, a great negotiation tactic is simply to make a precise first offer. So be cautious of anchoring, the next time you’re doing business.

jueves, 16 de abril de 2015

The London Tube

This is a National Geographic video on the London Tube. Follow Richard Ambrose and Jonny Phillips on an underground journey as they explore the London Tube and learn how to drive a tube train

The London Underground is one of the largest urban rail services in the world. Its passengers make more than 1 billion journeys every year. Opening in 1863, it was the first underground system of its kind.
And it was a hit from the start. By 1880 the London Tube was carrying over 40 million passengers a year.
And surprisingly for something that's called the underground, 55% of today's network is actually above ground. But it's the tube-shaped tunnels that have made it famous. And their depth varies greatly. The oldest are just below street level, whereas newer sections are typically at least 20 metres below the surface. It operates 600 trains 7 days a week. So, what does it take to be a tube driver?
Unfortunately they wouldn't let me loose on a real train, but we've got the next best thing.
This million-pound state-of-the-art simulator is normally used to train London Underground's finest. But today they're letting Jonny loose behind the wheel. Except it isn't a wheel. His trainer is Matt Shelley.
Right, so just push this forward and I'll start moving.
And the train will go.
And back to break?
And back towards you to break.
Right. Oh, here we go.
And, as any tube driver will tell you, the secret to a smooth ride lies in the wrist action.
Are there speed limits?
There are, on the display in front of you.
Oh yes.
You see the train speed in the yellow.
The red hand, as we all it, to the right hand side. That's your maximum speed.
And that'll tell you when you need to slow down.
Obviously I want to be concentrating on the track, not looking at that.
That's quite tough.
Once you're up and running on a clear stretch of track it's a bit of a doddle.
 It's a lovely day.
On this simulator it's possible to drive anywhere on the London Underground network, under any weather conditions.
Look at that, the snow's settled. And what about the trees? And lightning and - [the plague].
Not yet. We haven't got lightning on the progs yet. Trees on the track we can do.
Trees are one thing. Just don't mention the wrong type of leaves. Right, now all Jonny has to master is stopping.
Right, so now you're going..
A 400 metre break, you need to be at zero.
OK. Just wait for that red hand to get closer and do a bit more breaking.
Pretty good.
To help the driver stop accurately, every station has a board at the end of the platform. The trick is to land in the green. Miss it and you're in trouble, because these trains have no reverse. So will Jonny make the grade?
Not quite. A little bit more.
Sorry that was a little bit vigorous.
Goodness me.
The system's telling us because you haven't stopped accurately enough.
You aren't allowed to open the doors.
Oh no! So I've got a lot of irate passengers.
Mind the gap

miércoles, 15 de abril de 2015

Talking point: The natural world

This week's talking point is the natural world. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • Would you describe yourself as an animal lover?
  • Have you ever had a pet?
  • What do you like/dislike about pets and pet owners in general?
  • Are there any endangered species in your country?
  • Is anything being done about it?
  • Has global warming affected your country? If so, how?
  • Have you ever heard any stories about animals being traded or cruelly treated (vg. hunting, overfishing, fur, exotic pets, animal fighting for sport)?
  • What else are organised gangs involved in?
  • Do you know any environmental groups that are trying to protect animals?
  • Would you ever consider joining one?
To illustrate the point you can watch this video, where you will get to know everything there is to know about dogs and how to feel safe around them.

martes, 14 de abril de 2015

Madrid Teacher: Ridiculous requests

In our weekly Madrid Teacher series, a group of teachers discuss some ridiculous requests people sometimes make.

I read in the newspaper the other day the English asked the postal workers to walk more quickly in order to, to deliver more letters.
That’s ridiculous.
Have you ever heard any ridiculous requests?
Well, when I was a student I worked at this fast food place and they made me wear a chicken suit and stand in front of the fast food place.
To bring customers…
Well, basically to give out flyers with discounts and, yeah, attract more customers.
I’m sure that they did, yeah.
Well, yeah, a was a bit of an attraction, standing there, cold weather, hot weather, warm weather, standing…
Yeah, the same happened to me but I had to be a part of birthday parties at a fast food place so I was with a big suit, enjoying the children, I was like what…
You know what I mean
… how hot is inside.
Last weekend I saw a man in a funny children's outfits skiing, you know, drawing the kids’ attention [Yeah.], it looks like fun.
For a while maybe.
I had to dress up one year as a jester. I was in a catering business and they made us dance down this aisle during one of our events and sing Christmas carols to all the people.
So you were singing?
Singing and dancing in a costume.
I had the same thing.
And what did you do if you didn’t know the words?
You’re supposed to memorize them.
You are.
So it’s part of the job, yeah.
But they were classical novels, carols I mean.
Yeah, yeah, like Jingle Bells and things like that.
That’s all dressing up, though. Have you ever had any other requests?
Well, there was this company and they decided they were cutting back so it’s a big company and so instead of, for example, cutting back on the executives, different important things, they decided they would take out this washing liquid in all of the company…
Did everyone get sick?
You know, that's an excellent question because, of course, after that I just thought it wasn’t a good environment to work in.
That was, that was.
Who knows.
So we are all washed up.
We’re all happy now.

lunes, 13 de abril de 2015

Listening test: Casual food

Listen to this radio programme where casual food is being discussed.

Listen to the first part of the report and find out what fast casual food is.

McDonald's is probably the best-known fast food restaurant in the world. Listen to the second part of the report and answer these questions about McDonald’s.
1 What is McDonald’s slogan?
2 How much did McDonald's net income drop by in the last quarter of 2014: $50, $150 or $300 million?
3 For how many months in a row had McDonald's worldwide sales dropped in January 2015?
4 In January 2015, where did McDonald's run a big advertisement to try to get customers back?

Listen to the third part of the report and circle the correct options in these statements:
1 On its first day of trading, Shake Shack shares went from $21 to just under $26 / 36 / 46.
2 Ted Mistretta describes Shake Shack’s hamburger as a tasty / quality / juicy hamburger.
3 Mr. Mistretta says he rarely / never / sometimes goes to fast food restaurants.
4 Bonnie Riggs says one reason Americans like fast casual food is because it’s fresh / cheap / new.

Listen to the fourth and final part of the report and answer the questions.
1 How many visits to restaurants did Americans make last year?
2 How many visits were to fast food restaurants like McDonald’s?
3 How big is the percentage of visits to fast casual restaurants?
4 Who are Millennials?
5 Where do Millennials like to eat?
6 What are some of the new eating trends?

“Plain Cheeseburger. Give me two of them."
That is Ted Mistretta ordering food in Washington D.C. before boarding a train with his daughter Kim. They were heading home to New York City. But, first they stopped at the Shake Shack restaurant to get a bite to eat.
“Any fries? Anything to drink? Are you dining in or to go? Go.”
Shake Shack is a new kind of restaurant becoming more popular in the U.S. The restaurants are not “fast food.” They are known as “fast casual.”
Observers say Americans want more choices and fresh food when choosing where and what to eat. This trend is one reason why the fast food restaurant McDonald’s has struggled financially.
McDonald’s is one of the best-known restaurants in the U.S. and even around the world. Their ads say “I’m lovin’ it.” But these days the company leaders are seeing numbers they probably do not like.
In the last quarter of 2014, McDonald's net income dropped by about $300 million. The January earnings report brought more bad news. Worldwide sales dropped for the eighth month in a row and even more than expected.
McDonald’s is working hard to get their customers back. In January, the company ran an advertisement during the Super Bowl. The football game is the most watched TV event every year in the U.S. McDonald's wanted to reach those viewers.
While McDonald's is struggling to get their customers back, Shake Shack, is doing well financially. The New York-based burger chain had a very successful IPO, or initial public offering, of shares at the end of January. On its first day of trading, Shake Shack went from $21 a share to just under $46 a share.
Ted Mistretta wishes he had bought the stock that day. He explains why he likes Shake Shack:
“It’s a quality hamburger. It’s you know, they make it well, great taste. It’s better than most. It’s certainly better than, it’s fast food, but not ‘fast food’ food.”
And, Mr. Mistretta added, he never goes to fast food restaurants.
Being part of the “fast casual” trend has helped Shake Shack. Other fast casual restaurants in the U.S. include Chipotle, and Panera.
Bonnie Riggs is a restaurant expert with NPD. She has followed Americans’ restaurant habits for almost 30 years. She says one reason Americans like fast casual food is because it’s new.
“They are creative, they are innovative, there is something different and we like to try new things.”
Ms. Riggs says Americans made 61 billion visits to restaurants last year. Three out of four visits were to fast food restaurants, like McDonald’s. “They’re holding on,” she says, but traffic has stayed at the same level. Fast casual is still a small percentage of restaurant visits. She says it’s “growing by leaps and bounds,” because they meet consumers’ needs.
“They know it’s being prepared while they wait, it’s fresh, fresh ingredients, quality food, good tasting food at what they say are reasonable and affordable prices.”
Many Americans still like their fast food, Ms. Riggs says, they’re just not going as often. And, she says, Americans are finding other ways to have a meal.
Some people buy prepared foods at stores and take them home to eat. Others like to cook at home, especially the millennials. Millennials are people born between 1981 and 2000 and this year they are expected to become the largest group of Americans.
Ms. Riggs says that half of this generation is cooking at home, and loving it. Some of the new eating trends include farm-to-table restaurants and gluten-free food.