jueves, 8 de octubre de 2015

Which country has the biggest obesity problem?

A new study says nearly 1 billion adults in the developing world have a weight problem. That's nearly 4 times the number recorded in 1980.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 Which countries are researchers particularly alarmed about their 'expanding waistline'?
2 What three characteristics of the middle classes are mentioned in connection with obesity?
3 What diseases are we risking if we don't follow a healthy diet?
4 What are trans fats used for?
5 Why is South Korea mentioned?
6 What two things do Koreans do as far as diet is concerned?

Eating to excess. Chances are many of us overdid it over the festive period. But there are fresh concerns over our globally expanding waistlines. Researchers say it´s particularly alarming in (1) the developing world where people are choosing to spend their increasing disposable income on fatty sugary foods. The future diet report analysed existing data on global obesity rates. It found in 1980 one in five people were overweight or obese. In 2008 it has risen to one in three. The report also found that in the developed world countries like the UK and US rates went from 321m to 571m. But in developing countries like Egypt and Mexico, numbers almost quadrupled, from 250m to 904m.
Well, the explosion of overweight and obese people in the developing world is largely down to the emerging economies, those that have gone through a transition from the low-income economies to middle-income economies in the last generation. And that has produced a large middle class of people who have (2) rising incomes, and they can buy the foods they want and they are undertaking more sedentary lifestyles.
It’s these sorts of greasy, fattening, processed sugary foods that are causing the problem. This glass of coke has more than the daily recommended maximum limit of sugar, around 13 teaspoons of sugar in that. Get through enough of this sort of food and drink regularly enough and you are risking things like (3) heart disease or strokes, certain types of cancer and diabetes, all increases. It’s already putting a huge strain on health systems right across the world.
Denmark banned trans fats which are used (4) to extend shelf life but have no nutritional value back in 2004. The report also cites  South Korea’s large scale training scheme to teach women about preparing traditional low-fat meals as a success story in (5) how government policies can help fight obesity.
I’ve never worried about my weight because I've always enjoyed eating porridge like this. I would never eat fatty foods. I like to eat vegetables and fruit. (6) Koreans prefer vegetables whereas westerners seem to eat more red meat. Also, Koreans tend to eat less in general. People are quite weight-conscious here.
The report says more governments need to start introducing taxes on sugary, fatty foods. Much of the food and drinks industry isn’t keen, though, and argue that the only thing that will get lighter is people’s wallets.
Tulip Mazumdar, BBC News.

miércoles, 7 de octubre de 2015

Talking point: The gender gap

This week's talking point is the gender gap. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • What examples of sexist behaviour and language can you think of?
  • How do you feel or react in those situations?
  • What are the main differences between women and men's roles in today's society?
  • In what aspects of life have men and women achieved greater equality?
  • What areas still need improvement?
  • Do men and women have equal rights in your country?
  • Do you think the situation of gender equality is looking up in your country? And in the world?
  • How does the situation compare to 50 and 100 years ago?
  • Have you ever felt discriminated against for gender reasons?
  • Do you know anyone who has?
  • Which jobs are typically done by men and which ones by women these days?
  • Why is that?
  • Do you think boys and girls should be treated differently? Think about the topics below:
single sex schools
other issues (example: more freedom for boys than for girls) 

To illustrate the topic you can watch this BBC news item on the pay gap between men and women in top-ranking jobs.

The gender pay gap has been highlighted and condemned before now. Men in the same sort of jobs as women being paid more. Today we learnt that’s been made worse by the gulf between bonuses paid out to executives. A survey by the Chartered Management Institute shows that men earned average bonuses of more than £6,400 last year compared with just over 3,000 for women. In the most senior roles, male directors got bonuses of £63,700 on average whereas their female counterparts received just over 36,000. The group says there are several factors behind this.
Women are perhaps less adept than their male counterparts at negotiating for pay rises in bonuses. The second is, of course, that women leave the workforce to have children and often return with less confidence than they need. And lastly at the top it’s a very male-dominated culture, that can put women off.
If there’s discrimination over pay, women can take legal action, but experts say that’s not always straightforward.
It can take many months if not year to get a full hearing. A tiny proportion of claims get to a full hearing. And inevitably I think some employees may be reticent about bringing claims because of the impact it may have on them in the market.
Today’s report comes at a time of intense debate about how to increase female representation at senior levels across the business world. Of the top one hundred companies just 17% of directors are women. Although that’s upped over the last year, there’s widespread recognition that more needs to be done to boost that number.
Just three of the top one hundred have female chief executives, and business organizations acknowledge that while progress is being made, there’s still a long way to go on boardroom diversity.
The honest truth is that we need to do a lot more and we need to do… we need to move faster, so we need to look at the pipeline, how can we stop women from leaving businesses, perhaps when they have children, and we also need to look at other schemes like mentoring schemes and networking schemes that encourage women to stay in the workplace and get women networking with other women in a similar position.
Ending the agenda pay gap and ensuring equality in the workplace remains a major challenge for employers and the government.
Hugh Pym, BBC News

martes, 6 de octubre de 2015

10 Questions for Javier Bardem

Spanish actor Javier Bardem was interviewed by Time Magazine a few years ago.

Self-study activity:
Watch the interview and say whether the statements below are true or false. The activity is suitable for Intermediate and Advanced students.

1 Bardem still goes to acting school.
2 Only one per cent of actors are wealthy.
3 Bardem is a very instinctive actor.
4 Bardem used to sing.
5 Bardem played rugby for twenty-three years.
6 Rugby taught Bardem how teams work.
7 Bardem played rugby professionally.
8 Someone helps Bardem prepare his roles in English films.
9 Bardem knows how to drive.

An Oscar-winner for his chilling performance as Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, Javier Bardem stars as the romantic lead in Woody Allen’s latest film, Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Today he’s taking questions from Time.com readers. Do you think you’ll ever explore your acting abilities to their furthest limits?
Well, I start going to my acting school when I was 18 years old and now that I’m 39 I’m still going every year. And I go there for several reasons. One of them is to find the pleasure of acting, which sometimes you could lose it, and you have to go back there and get a hold on . . . of what it was that when you were young that made go ahead and be an actor. Acting is not an easy choice. I mean, people usually think that actors are people that work constantly. That’s not true. That’s one percent of the actors in the world. Most of them are unemployed, and it’s a hard job. So if you choose that it’s because you really love, and you really need to do it. And I felt that way. And I’m lucky enough to make a living out of that.
How do you make sure your performances are distinct from one film to the next?
When you read something, if it hits you in a very instinctive way, then it’s something that you feel like it’s worth to do. The body doesn’t lie, and when you are an actor or someone that is theoretically creative, you have to give more room to the instinct. So when I’m performing, it’s because I feel that I have to do that and only that because the body said so. And once it’s done, it’s done. It happened in that very moment, and I don’t want to see it again. And that’s the great thing about performing, that it’s something that happened in that moment, and only that moment. And when you see it on screen, for example, if it’s a movie, it’s weird to see it, because it’s not… most of the time it’s not what you tried to do, it’s something that happened there. It’s something that it [sic] came out naturally and you are surprised and you don’t never know if it’s good or not. It’s the people who is going to tell you if they like it or not.
You have a unique voice, do you sing?
Well, thank you for that. I don’t know what this person means by unique. It can be a unique horrible voice or unique beautiful voice. I don’t know. My voice comes from my big neck. I have a big neck. I played rugby for a lot of time so I had to reinforce my neck muscle. No, I don’t sing.
Well, since you brought up rugby, we did have a rugby question from James Sho in Beverly Hills who says, are you still an avid rugby player?
I’m a huge rugby fan, yeah, European rugby. I started playing rugby when I was nine years old and I played until I was twenty-three so it was fourteen years, and I live it. I think it’s a sport that taught me a lot of things, among all of them one that is very helpful if you’re doing movies, which is to have the sense of a team, to know that you are only one piece in the whole thing, that you have to do what is needed to be done, no more than that. There’s no room for anything more than that. There’s no room for the ego.
Do you miss playing at all?
Yes, but I’m old, I’m old for that and the rugby nowadays is so different from when I was playing because now it’s professional and you can tell. When I was playing rugby I was like a little fat man, yes, holding the ball and going through the field. Now they run like, like gazelles, and it’s spectacular the rugby nowadays.
Is rehearsing for an English-speaking role any different for you compared to rehearsing for a Spanish-speaking role?
Totally. You need to work hard in order to own the language, own the words. I’m always saying that this is like surgery. You have to put emotion and sensations into the words that are, otherwise, blank, emotionally blank to you because you haven’t had the experience in your life to use those words, to live with those words. So it’s a matter of really sit down with a great dialect coach and work little by little until you own those dialogues, and that takes time, but I love that work, I’m not lazy, I can be everything, but I’m not lazy.
Lucy Dagastino in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, asks, Javier, have you learned how to drive yet?
Yes, and if you see the movie from Woodie Allen you will see me driving one of the most… one of the nicest cars I’ve ever seen in my life, so good… I don’t know the name because I don’t like cars but it looked good and with Scarlett on the side looked amazing. And that’s me driving. It took me hours to learn to drive. One little thing from here to there but finally I did it. I don’t drive. I don’t have a driving licence and, you know what, I’m scared of cars. I don’t like cars. I don’t care about planes, I don’t care about helicopters, I don’t care about ships but I care about cars and… I don’t know, I never had an accident but I guess… I think it’s like… they’re like bullets, speeding bullets, going like that, I don’t know. It’s like in No Country for Old Men I had to drive this huge pick-up, and I learned, it’s fine, I didn’t kill anybody. My colleagues were always like action, I said, come on man, but I don’t have a driving licence. One day, I guess, I[’ll] have to go to the school and learn how to drive.
Are there any actors you’re dying to work with?
Well, I’m always saying that I don’t believe in God, I believe in Al Pacino and it’s true. For me Al Pacino… it’s, I mean, I don’t know, I get crazy about his performance, I learn so much what he did, what he does, so yes, if I ever have a phone call saying, do you like to work with Pacino, I’ll go crazy.

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lunes, 5 de octubre de 2015

Listening test: Plastic pollution

Listen to two BBC reporters discuss plastic pollution and complete the gaps in sentences 1-8 with up to three words. Numbers count as one word. 0 is an example.


0 At the beginning of the programme Dan asks Kate whether she has heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

1 The patch was discovered in 1997 and basically consists of a big …………………….. of plastic garbage.

2  The patch is 600,000 …………………….. .

3  Every year, pollution kills a million sea birds and ……………………..  mammals and turtles.

4  According to Jan van Franeker, what biologists are finding in the stomachs of sea birds is ……………………..  and parts from fishing nets and ropes.

5 It seems that 80% of all the plastic litter in the sea has been ……………………..  on land originally.

6 According to marine ecologist Richard Thompson, 40% of the plastic products made every year are ……………………..  that we then discard.

7 The three R’s Dan mentions stand for ……………………..  , ……………………..  and ……………………..  .

8 Kate thinks she’s very lucky because she has all her plastics and glass collected …………………….. .

Dan: Hello. I’m Dan Walker Smith and today I’m joined by Kate.
Kate: Hello Dan.
Dan: Now today Kate and I are talking about pollution. So I’m going to start the show today with a question, Kate; have you ever heard of the ‘Great (0) Pacific Garbage Patch’?
Kate: No, I’m afraid I haven’t; I’ve never heard of that.
Dan: Well let me explain: Garbage is an American word for something we’ve thrown away. What we in the UK might call rubbish. And the Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of the Pacific Ocean where rubbish has collected. It was discovered in 1997, and is essentially a (1) big floating soup of plastic garbage and bits of rubbish that have been thrown away on land and have ended up in the sea.
Kate: Ooh that sounds absolutely horrible. I had no idea that anything like that existed.
Dan: Well this is the bit which is really scary: we don’t actually know the size of the garbage patch, but some people say it could be 600,000 (2) square miles across –which is twice the size of France.
Kate: What? Twice the size of France? That’s absolutely huge!
Dan: And it could be bigger.
Kate: That’s very frightening. Now plastic pollution in the seas kills over a million sea birds and (3) 100,000 mammals and turtles each year.
Dan: So here’s the Dutch marine biologist Jan van Franeker talking about the effects of plastic pollution on birds.

Worldwide, there’s so many bird species that have litter in their stomachs. It varies from pieces from (4) bottles or toys, parts from fishing nets, from ropes. Any sort of plastic really that is broken up and is floating around the ocean.

Kate: OK, so the plastics they’re finding aren’t just things that might have been thrown into the sea, like fishing nets and ropes, but are actually things that have come from the land, like pieces of bottles and children’s toys.
Dan: Apparently 80% of all the plastic found in the ocean is actually litter that’s been (5) thrown away on land.
Kate: And part of the problem is that most plastics aren’t biodegradable.
Dan: And some plastic bags could last in the environment for up to a thousand years.
Kate: Let’s hear the marine ecologist Richard Thompson talking about plastic packaging.

I think we need to think very, very carefully about the way that we use plastics in society. If we think that 100 million tonnes of plastic products are made every year, 40% of those are (6) packaging materials that are mainly used once and then discarded.

Dan: OK, so 40% of the world’s plastic is used as packaging material and then discarded. To lower the amount of plastic waste, scientists recommend the ‘three Rs’ for packaging. We can (7) reduce the amount of packaging used on products; we can re-use packaging more than once, and we can recycle the materials used.
Kate: Do you recycle, Dan?
Dan: I’m actually very lucky, because where I live in London has a great recycling programme. So essentially every week we’ve got someone who comes round and collects all the paper and all the plastic and all the glass that I’ve used that entire week, which is fantastic.
Kate: Oh that sounds great, you’re really lucky. Actually I’ve got the same thing: I have all my plastics and glass picked up (8) outside my house, so I think certain places in the UK are doing quite well on the recycling front.
Dan: And even if you can’t recycle, just try and reuse or reduce the amount of waste that you’re going to be producing. So from all of us here, thanks for listening, and goodbye!
Kate: Goodbye!

domingo, 4 de octubre de 2015

Extensive listening: The little problem I had renting a house

Fifty-three years ago, James A. White Sr. joined the US Air Force. But as an African American man, he had to go to shocking lengths to find a place for his young family to live nearby. He tells this powerful story about the lived experience of "everyday racism" — and how it echoes today in the way he's had to teach his grandchildren to interact with police.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 3 de octubre de 2015

Everyday conversations

Practice everyday conversations with these short lessons from ShareAmerica, a site managed by the Bureau of International Information Programs within the U.S. Department of State.

Everyday conversations offers sixty lessons plus through around everyday situations (making suggestions, greetings, invitations, advice, expressing opinions) and topics (the environment, recycling, hobbies).

The lessons all follow the same format: Learners listen to a short dialogue (from one to three minutes) the transcript of which is available. Some of the vocabulary items and phrases in the dialogue are highlighted because an explanation of their meaning and use is given.

Everyday conversations is a wonderful site for students at elementary and early intermediate level, although stronger students will also benefit from some of the vocabulary and idiomatic expressions that come up in the conversations.


viernes, 2 de octubre de 2015

How To Travel On A Budget

Watch this Time video with tips for getting a great deal on a summer vacation and bringing down your holiday cost.

Self-study activity:
Before watching the video, read the statements 1-6 below and from your experience say if you think they are true or false.

Watch the video and check your answers. The activity is suitable for Intermediate 2 and Advanced students.

1 Taking a direct flight is cheaper than if you have to change planes.
2 Having specific dates to travel is likely to result in higher prices.
3 Travelling to the Caribbean in December is cheaper.
4 A right choice of credit card is key.
5 We should try to avoid credit cards with rewards.
6 Very often travellers get a cheaper deal if they book flight and hotel separately on their own.

We're here today with Jackie Gifford, senior editor at Travel & Leisure, and we just wanted to get some tips for budget travel where in the last few years it's been hard to get a good deal and certainly now that people are trying to go on their summer vacation they're wondering, you know, what, what are some first steps they can take to really get a great deal for their summer fun.
Right. Everyone's looking for a great deal, so one thing to consider is flying with a low cost carrier such as Norwegian Air or Wow. They're flying to Europe. Something to consider is maybe not doing a non-stop flight, those are going to be more expensive. If you do a stopover, yes, it may take longer but at the end of the day you're saving money.
What if you have some flexibility, saying your dates, or even the destination where you want to go.
Flexibility is absolutely key and here's why. When you lock yourself into certain vacation dates,
you’re locking yourself into whatever prices are coming up for those days. So in general Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays are some of the cheaper days to fly. So just being flexible about the time that you’re  going to take for vacation can really save you money in the long run.
Great and if you're planning far ahead does the season matter?
The season absolutely can matter so, for example, consider travelling during the shoulder season so
from about May through August that's the shoulder to low season in the Caribbean so you have more flexibility when it comes to negotiating a great hotel rate.
Are there any other tips that you would recommend?
One thing to consider is to pick a credit card that doesn't have a foreign transaction fee, so many cards actually will charge a fee for use abroad so consider take… getting a card that doesn't have those fees.
We always care a lot about, you know, making sure there aren’t any hidden fees and that you get not only no foreign transaction fee but you get travel rewards, right, if you’re a frequent traveller.
Absolutely. Rewards are a huge perk of many credit cards. Another thing to consider is going with an online travel agency that actually bundles their fairs, so sometimes you can get a better deal by booking with the companies such as Expedia and they’re able to bundle the airfare and the hotel together. It's cheaper than if you were to book those separately on your own.
Thanks so much for joining us, Jackie. For more travel tips go to money.com and travelandleisure.com.

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