viernes, 31 de octubre de 2014

Always must go

Always must go is a meditation on leaving, told through the experiences of Charles Andrew Bothwell (Astronautalis), a touring musician who has been on the road playing 200+ shows a year for the last decade.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.

The activity is suitable for (strong) intermediate 2 students.

Always Must Go from Charles Schwab on Vimeo.

1 Charles dislikes his apartment.
2 Charles plays shows away from home the twelve months of the year.
3 Charles initially moved to Florida to go to school.
4 He decided to start touring after an unhappy love affair.
5 He sometimes feels lonely when surrounded by a lot of people.
6 Charles describes the states in US as the neighbourhoods in his home town.
7 Riding his bike is his form of escape because it makes him focus on just one thing.
8 Charles started touring 20 years ago.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve forgotten how to be a normal person. When I’m home in my apartment I literally just bounce off the walls. And I like my apartment. It’s really comfortable. But I sort of just… I don’t even know what to do with myself. I do enjoy being home but I’m in my most comfortable when I’m gone.
For the last ten years I’ve been on the road about eight to ten months out of the year, playing anywhere between a hundred and fifty shows  to two hundred to two hundred shows. It’s always been pretty easy for me to leave things. It may take me a couple of months to realise that it’s time to leave, when it’s time to leave, it’s time to leave.
Moved to Florida because my family brought me there and I left Florida to go to Texas because of school and I left Texas to go back to Florida because I couldn’t afford to live anywhere else. Now I left Florida to go to Seattle for a girl and I felt like it was time that I leave to go somewhere that I just wanted to go for me.
I had just been dumped by my girlfriend. My best friend got dumped by his girlfriend and shortly after that my manager got dumped by his girlfriend and so all of us decided to hit the road together and we just stayed out on the road playing as many shows as possible, never taking any days off and that was really when my career started to form and the show started to become more real, and people started to learn words of the songs and it felt more like a life choice and less like a just a permanent vacation.
It’s an odd thing when you get, you do get really lonely being surrounded by a ton of people, and generally being surrounded by a ton of people who really love you and adore you. Often times I only get to see a person for thirty minutes after a show, but the loneliness that comes when I’m out on the road compares nothing to the nervousness that comes when I’m stationary.
America’s sort of my home town and all of the different states are just sort of different neighbourhoods that I may see, you know, once a month or every four months. I’m just sort of bouncing around between different neighbourhood bars and seeing my friends that live on the north side and my friends that live on the south side of America.
It got to a point where everything I did was for my work and so I’d never get comfortable taking time off, I take two days off and then I would start to panic.
The motorcycle literally saved my life. When you get on a motorcycle you leave everything. You can’t talk on the phone, you can’t text, you can’t look at the Internet. That kept me from going crazy, it kept me from losing my mind, and just follow down a rabbit hole on music. So now it’s a weird thing when I get from touring all I want to do is get on my motorcycle and leave home. The refuge that I’ve found from music and touring, is more leaving.
It’s been over ten years since I left, about 2,000 shows since I left, four continents I’ve explored since I left, couldn’t even tell how many countries I’ve seen because I left. Every night I would leave it again. Leave to make it to the next town. Leave it all on the stage. To leave them wanting more. It’s in my blood to leave. I was born to leave and I will never stop leaving, to make sure that no matter what I’ll leave behind I will never be left with regrets.

1F 2F 3F 4T 5T 6T 7T 8F

jueves, 30 de octubre de 2014

Germany's 'adopt a grandparent' scheme

In Germany, a scheme that roughly translates as 'adopt a grandparent' has been running with great success. It pairs older people with children who may not have or see grandparents of their own.

Self-study activity:
Watch the video and answer the questions below about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate 1 and intermediate 2 students.

1 What are the main advantages of the scheme for Paul?
2 What does 'three' refer to?
3 What does Therese do every Monday right after school?
4 What is the main reason why older people get involved in this scheme?
5 What are the benefits of the scheme for older people?
6 What are the two problems of the scheme that are mentioned?
7 Why did Therese's mother decide to join the scheme?

Ten-year old Therese goes for a cycle ride with her grandparents. Well, sort of. Paul and Charlotte are actually her adopted grandparents, part of a scheme to link young families with older couples who want grandchildren.
If you look at other older people, they’re just sitting in front of the television whereas I have this lively relationship. It gives me something to do (1), and when Therese is drawing a picture, and she draws three hearts and Paul, my name, is in one of them, that really touches me.
80-year-old Paul and his wife have been helping raise Therese since she was three (2). As well as cycling as gymnastics they taught her to swim and take her on holiday, acting like any loving grandparents.
Every Monday Charlotte meets me after school and we go swimming (3). Then we go home and have some food. After, I can either go home or stay the night with Charlotte and Paul.
The older people that get involved in the scheme are often driven by a desire to have children involved in their lives (4).
With an ever growing number of fit and healthy retired people, this scheme allows German pensioners to remain active to contribute, to feel valued even, as well as of course providing essential support to the young families they help (5).
There have however been problems. Relationships are broken down and two pedophiles have got past the checking procedures (6) over the scheme’s 25-year history. But the project remains popular, with positive feedback.
A lot of the grandparents say they feel much better, they’ve got something to do, it helps them with their health, it also helps them to better understand young people.
Back at the cycle park, Therese’s mother has joined Paul and Charlotte. Their help in raising her daughter, she says, has been invaluable.
I wanted to have a couple, and an older couple for, for Therese because that is normal I think to have parents and to have… grandparents and my, my parents are far away from Berlin (7).
A true bond has been developed between these one-time strangers, providing both young and old much needed friendship and support.
Michael Buchanan, BBC News, Berlin

miércoles, 29 de octubre de 2014

Talking point: Public speaking

This week's talking point is speaking in public. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below, so that ideas can flow more easily when you meet up with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.
  • On what occasions do people give speeches in your country?
  • What's the best speech you've ever heard?
  • What makes a good speech?
  • Have you ever given a speech or a presentation? If so, how did you feel?
  • What advice would you give to someone who had to make a speech or a presentation? 
  • Why is it that some people are terrified of speaking in public? How can they overcome their fears?
  • Have you seen the film The King's Speech? What is it about? To what extent do you sympathize with the main character?
  • Imagine you have to do one of the following activities. Rank them from the one you would be most willing to do (1) to the least (6). Then compare lists with your friends and explain your choices: sing in a karaoke bar; give a presentation in English to the class; appear on a TV programme as an expert member of a panel; play a role in an amateur stage play; give a radio interview about a recent achievement in your professional area; give a guided tour of your school or your place of work to the president of your country.
To illustrate the point you can watch Leonard Cohen's Prince of Asturias Speech in 2011. You can read a full transcription of the speech here.

martes, 28 de octubre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Talking about YouTube

In this week's Madrid Teacher video, three teachers discuss YouTube. As usual, that gives us an excuse to go over some of the features of spoken English they use.

First of all, watch the video through so that you can get the gist of what the conversation is about.

Now watch the video more carefully, paying attention to the following:
  • Fillers to gain thinking time: Well; you know; er
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; That’s right
  • Elliptical questions so as not to repeat everything that has been said before: Don’t you [get videos/links regularly?]
  • Vague language: more or less; kind of
  • Use of really to emphasize the verb and the adverb
  • Use of just to emphasize the verb
  • Asking for clarification: To watch the video clip, you mean? 
  • Use of pretty to emphasize the adjective
  • Use of actually to introduce a bit of surprising information
  • Reacting to what you have just heard: Oh wow; Incredible; It’s true!; OK
  • Showing surprise: Yeah?; Really?
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said. and make yourself clear
  • Use of so as a linking word

Now it's over to you. If possible, discuss YouTube with a friend or relative. Are you hooked on it? How long do you spend watching YouTube videos? Is YouTube your first source of information when you want to learn something? Have you ever uploaded a video? Do you have a YouTube account?  Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this video.

I laughed so hard the other day. My sister sent me a link to a YouTube video; just people doing stupid things, falling over.
Well, it’s full of that.
Yeah, it is.
There’s plenty of silly videos to make you laugh. I think I get one, a link every week. Don’t you?
Yeah, more or less, and there are times when my friends and I are a little bit bored and don’t really have any ideas of what to do, and we can just sit there on YouTube for hours watching videos people make in their houses, in the woods behind their houses. But, besides the sort of mindless entertainment value, it’s fantastic for discovering music.
Oh, yeah.
If ever a friend recommends an artist or a song, first stop is YouTube.
For the film clip? To watch the video clip, you mean? The live performance?
Well . . . those are all available. Sometimes it’s just a picture of the artist. The point is, well, in certain cases just to hear the audio clip. And almost every song you have ever heard, and then some, are uploaded.
Yeah, it’s pretty amazing. I like it if I need to know how to cook something. You can actually go on there and find . . .
Oh, yeah!
. . . find the cook making the recipe in front of you and you can follow through and make it at the same time.
Oh wow. Yeah, yeah.
That’s right. I just made Thanksgiving, part of Thanksgiving dinner and didn’t know how to roast chestnuts, looked it up on YouTube.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
It’s pretty educational.
There are how-to videos for just about everything.
Even dancing.
Dancing, stretching exercises.. .
Wow, I think I’m going to look up some stretching exercises just to see what’s out there.
Yeah, it’s incredible. Oh yeah it’s really well done, very professional.
And a lot of musicians will take the time to give a lesson on YouTube. Guitar players will say, this is how you play a basic blues chord.
Yeah, oh yeah.
Oh yeah.
Yeah, yeah. It’s good.
I found this on YouTube, this recorder.
Ah, so it’s kind of like an eBay thing too?
Well, no, I mean I didn’t… I, I found the idea.
Oh, OK.
I looked around on YouTube and I found a guy talking about a Zoom microphone the H2. So then I looked around and there was some more information on the H4n and . . .
So, even advertising?
And I could, I, yeah well it’s not advertising. It was just somebody that has a video channel on how to make better videos.
OK. Another how-to.
Yeah. So it was incredible. It’s like you learn everything on YouTube.
It’s great for nostalgia, too, because  . . .
Oh yeah!
People have industriously uploaded ever, every opening credit to every television program ever.
It’s true!
So if, just, you know, you want to go see the opening credit of Twin Peaks.
Or Thunder Cats.
Thunder Cats. You can.
No, and you can watch a lot of scenes, you know? The scene from Pulp Fiction, er…
Oh yeah, the scene . . .
The scene with Samuel L. Jackson and . . .
Or the scene with, erm, Bruce Willis . . . and the weapons.
Oh yeah.
It’s just, er, incredible. I mean, and then you see people taking some of these things and just creating something new from it, and, . . . but really well done.
Can you remember life before YouTube?
It’s like, was there life before YouTube?
Not that I know of.

lunes, 27 de octubre de 2014

Listening test: Jim's story

Listen to Jim telling us about an activity he's been doing in the last 30 years and choose the option a, b or c which best answers each question or completes the sentence. 0 is an example.

0 What has Jim been doing over the last 30 years?
a Cooking for friends and strangers on Sundays.
b Inviting friends and strangers to cook.
c Taking friends and strangers to a restaurant.

1 How does he select the people he gets together with?
a He calls or sends e-mails to 50 or 60 potential guests.
b The first 50 or 60 people who come round can come in.
c The first 50 or 60 potential guests to call him or e-mail him can go.

2 Which statement best describes the people Jim gets together with?
a People from any social and cultural level.
b People with knowledge of international cuisine.
c People with an interest culture.

3 What does he do each week before dinner?
a He finds out information about his guests.
b He makes a list with the people who are coming for dinner.
c He makes sure to remember some information about his guests.

4 What is his main motivation to travel?
a To know about other cultures.
b To meet people.
c To see sights.

5 What happened to some of the people who met through Jim’s guidebooks?
a They became friends.
b They got married.
c They travelled together.

6 What is said about English?
a A few guests can’t speak it.
b It is the first language of most guests.
c It is the language the Bosnian girl used.

7 The cartoonist and the painter are mentioned as examples of
a people who understand each other.
b people who would be rivals in other situations.
c the variety of guests Jim gets.

Every week for the past thirty years, I have hosted a Sunday dinner in my home in Paris. Every Sunday a different friend prepares a feast. Last week it was a philosophy student from Lisbon, and next week a dear friend from London will cook. 
People, including total strangers, call or e-mail to book a spot. The first fifty or sixty people who call may come— and twice that many when the weather is nice and we can overflow into the garden.
People from all corners of the world come to break bread together, to meet, to talk, to connect, and often to become friends. All ages, nationalities, races, and professions gather here, and since there is no organized seating, the opportunity for mingling couldn’t be better. 
I believe in introducing people to people. I have a good memory, so each week I make a point to remember everyone’s name on the guest list and where they’re from and what they do so I can introduce them to one another, effortlessly. If I had my way, I would introduce everyone in the whole world to one another.
People are the most important thing in my life. Many travelers go to see things like the Tower of London, the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and so on. I travel to see friends, even—or especially—those I’ve never met.
In the late 1980s, I edited a series of guidebooks to nine Eastern European countries and Russia. There were no sights to see, no shops or museum to visit; instead, each book contained about a thousand short biographies of people who would be willing to welcome travelers in their cities. Hundreds of friendships evolved from these encounters, including marriages and babies, too.
The same can be said for my Sunday salon. At a recent dinner a six-year-old girl from Bosnia spent the entire evening glued to an eight-year-old boy from Estonia. Their parents were surprised, and pleased, by this immediate friendship.
There is always a collection of people from all over the globe. Most of them speak English, at least as a second language. Recently a dinner featured a typical mix: a Dutch political cartoonist, a beautiful painter from Norway, a truck driver from Arizona, a bookseller from Atlanta, a newspaper editor from Sydney, students from all over.
I have long believed that it is unnecessary to understand others, individuals, or nationalities; one must, at the very least, simply tolerate others. Tolerance can lead to respect and, finally, to love.

1C 2A 3C 4B 5B 6A 7C

This activity is adapted from Inviting the world to dinner, which I spotted in  ESL Video.

domingo, 26 de octubre de 2014

Extensive listening: Why Ships Sink

In April 2012 Nova aired the documentary Why Ships Sink. This is the way they described the programme:

"Twenty million passengers embark on cruises each year, vacationing in deluxe 'floating cities' that offer everything from swimming pools to shopping malls to ice skating rinks. And the ships just keep getting bigger:

The average cruise ship has doubled in size in just the last ten years. Some engineers fear that these towering behemoths are dangerously unstable, and the recent tragedy of the Costa Concordia has raised new questions about their safety. Now, NOVA brings together marine engineering and safety experts to reconstruct the events that led up to famous cruise disasters, including the ill-fated Concordia, the Sea Diamond, and the Oceanos."

You can read a full transcript of the documentary here.

sábado, 25 de octubre de 2014

Reading test: The Top 7 Sightseeing Cities in the United States

In this week's reading test we are going to read the article The Top 7 Sightseeing Cities in the United States from We will be using the article to practise the heading matching kind of activity.

Read the text and match paragraphs 1-6 with their corresponding heading A-I. Only one heading corresponds to each paragraph. There are two headings you do not need to use. 0 is an example.

The Top 7 Sightseeing Cities in the United States

The United States has many fascinating destinations, from natural wonders to some of the world’s most vibrant cities. If you’re looking for a city with lots of sites, you have many choices, no matter what section of the country you visit. The following are the top seven cities for sight-seeing in the United States for the adventurous traveler who is ready to see the world.

0 New York: Heading A
New York is always changing, but one thing that remains the same is that this city is always a favorite for travelers, both domestic and international. From iconic tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty and Empire State Building to unique neighborhoods such as Chinatown, Soho and Greenwich Village, New York has something to offer people of all ages, tastes and preferences.

1 Miami
Miami attracts visitors for many reasons, such as its beaches, nightlife and warm climate. Many people flock to South Beach to get a glimpse of the shops, clubs and restaurants of this world famous hot spot. Miami is also close to many natural attractions, such as Everglades National Park and Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

2 San Francisco
San Francisco is one of the main attraction’s on the West Coast. It features a unique climate, picturesque streets with their unmistakable hills and trolleys, and, of course, the Golden Gate Bridge. The city by the Bay also has plenty of other things to see, such as an amazing diversity of restaurants and unique neighborhoods such as North Beach, Fisherman’s Wharf and Chinatown. Visitors also taking the ferry to the site of the well- known prison Alcatraz.

3 Chicago
Known as The Windy City and The Capitol of the Midwest, Chicago is one of America’s busiest cities and has an atmosphere all its own. This city has lots of museums and cultural attractions, such as the Shedd Aquarium, Art Institute of Chicago and the Chicago Children’s Museum. It also has some fantastic shopping areas, such as Southport Avenue, Wicker Park and Oak Street, which is near the famous Magnificent Mile.

4 New Orleans
New Orleans is one of America’s most distinctive cities. While it doesn’t have the skyscrapers of New York or Chicago, it does have a cultural heritage unlike any other city. In the French Quarter, for example, you can appreciate the architecture, sample the world famous seafood, hear live music at a jazz club and browse through art galleries. While Mardis Gras is the most popular time to visit New Orleans, this city is bustling every day of the year.

5 Las Vegas
A list of top cities to visit in the U.S. would not be complete without mentioning Las Vegas. This is one of the most stimulating cities in the world, with clubs, shows and casinos open 24 hours per day. Even people who aren’t into casinos can find much to enjoy here, such as the theme park Adventuredome at Circus Circus, world class shopping and shows of every kind, from stand-up comedy to musicals. There are also many exciting side trips you can take from Las Vegas, such as to the Hoover Dam or, if you venture a little further, to the Grand Canyon.

6 Los Angeles
Home to the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Beverly Hills, Disneyland, Universal Studios and the La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles is another of America’s premier cities. With its year round mild climate, nearby beaches and associations with the film and music industries, anyone who’s interested in American culture has to visit Los Angeles at least once.

A For all walks of life
B For lovers of peace and quiet
C For Silver Screen lovers
D For sophisticated people
E Full of noise and activity
F In large numbers to see this place
G Infamous residents
H Never go there on your own
I Not just for gamblers


1F 2G 3D 4E 5I 6C