miércoles, 4 de mayo de 2016

Talking point: Art

This week's talking point is art. Before getting together with the members of your conversation group, go over the questions below so that ideas come to mind more easily the day you get together with your friends and you can work out vocabulary problems beforehand.

Are the pictures below all examples of art? Describe them.
How do you react to them?
(When you finish, you can find out what these pictures really are at the bottom of this post entry)

What paintings, photographs or posters do you have at home?
Which do you prefer painting, photography or sculpture? Why?
Do you have a favourite work of art? A painting? A sculpture? A piece of music? A building?
Where and when did you see/hear it? Make notes describing it and saying why you like it.
When you go to another city, do you usually visit an art gallery or museum there? Why (not)?
When did you last visit one?
What are you supposed to do in a museum?
What is the purpose of art? Or does it, by definition, have no point?
Is it important for governments to promote culture among citizens and invest taxpayers’ money in it? Why (not)?

Everyone is creative in some ways. What creative skills do you have?
In which of the creative arts do you think your country excels?
What performing arts and visual arts can you name?
What is the difference between 'street art' and 'grafitti'?

To illustrate the point you can watch this video on Banksy.

Mother and child by Henry Moore
La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat
Tracy Emin’s bedroom
Film still from Casablanca
A photograph of an Afghan girl by Steve McCurry
The TGV station at Avignon

martes, 3 de mayo de 2016

The Next Generation of Yuengling Beer

D. G. Yuengling & Son has been a family-run brewery for five generations, Now its chief, Dick Yuengling, is struggling to pass the baton to his four daughters.

Watch the video and say whether the statements below are true or false.
1. Dick Yuengling bought the business in 1958.
2. Dick Yuengling is about to turn 71.
3. Dick Yuengling is not an easy person to get on with.
4. Dick Yuengling wants his daughters to show initiative.
5. Dick Yuengling is known for working very long days.
6. Dick Yuengling sometimes doesn't have enough time to devote to his family.
7. It's Dick Yuengling's daugher's birthday the following day.

I started to work here in 1958 with my grandfather. I bought the brewery in 1985 and we weren’t doing nearly the business we are doing today. We’re trying to compete with Budweiser, Miller and Coors at a pricing level where we really shouldn’t be able to accomplish, but if we can do it efficiently we can play with these guys. I’m 71. I don’t know how many years do I have left. I drop dead, and what’s going to happen? Very few family businesses they can say that they have the next generation stepping forward. It’s good to have the whole flock here.
I think our employees really appreciate that we are such a long-term family business. They’ve got a good support system to rely on for the next generation. In terms of succession and planning, it’s surprising in many respects that we’ve gotten as far as we have.
You can’t send Billy up here for a loan! They don't have it on the floor yet.
It’s been his company for so long and his way of doing things. It’s his way.
Yeah, alright, okay. Good-bye.
Takes time for him to have a comfort level with anybody, even if it’s his daughters. He holds things very close to the vest. You’re really guessing what’s on his mind and what he wants to do.
You are what you are, how you’ve been taught and grown up. Chipping away at the wall to get information out of me is probably a very good assessment, that’s okay, but they have to do it. I can’t read their minds. I want them to learn and if you don’t ask questions, you try to do new things, you don’t learn anything. I don’t want them just being followers. They have to learn to lead.
Yes, we make mistakes, we’re supposed to make mistakes, but he’s seen our commitment, he’s seen that we’re willing to work at it.
We need to regroup on what style seasonal we're going to produce next.
You want to stay away from that IPA thing. Every craft beer is full of hops.
But I think that’s in some ways what the consumer wants and I don't think, I mean, our Octoberfest is not like now like that, Summer Wheat is not necessary like that. So if you want it to try and appeal to that consumer, maybe an IPL is a good option.
Just so it's a good, palatable brand, it’s not overwhelming with hops and that’s what I’m talking about.
So we don't have an answer, but we have a direction. It helps.
Okay, can I go now?
Yes, you’re excused. Oh! What’s are the chances that he’ll be back by 10?
You pick and choose your battles. There’s things I would do differently, you know, I do fight for it now and you can potentially alienate him and I don’t want to create that. That’s not my nature.
I think for a while there we were just sort of here. And we were employees, and it was still my dad running the show and I think people have started to recognise that we are stepping up and we’re doing more. It’s our future.
The commitment that you have to make, if that bothers you, then you shouldn’t be here. I love it. I thrived on it. The busier I am the more I like it. I’m slowly gonna put my 10, 11, 12 hours in, but they're just ripping fun to me. I don’t think I’m in too bad a shape for my age and I’m trying to keep myself together. I wanna live to be a 100.
He’ll never make the decision to step away from the business. When he’s no longer here it’s gonna be because he’s gone.
I devoted my life to this basically. My kids, they all played some kind of sports and I’d get to their home games when I could. Kids want to see their parents at the game, but I don’t get there all the time.
I have a tremendous amount of respect for where the company is. I understand his choices and I can see now why he did those things. I’m okay with it all, but it’s not the way that I would choose to do things. I work a lot but I don’t know if I’ll ever work as much as my Dad.
You didn't get things done here. What’s going on?
You know, this is his life and that’s not how I approach it.
I’m leaving. I’ll see you on Monday.
What’s the matter with tomorrow?
I won’t be here.
It’s my birthday. Did you know that?
Oh, happy birthday…
Did you know that?
She’s 39 tomorrow.
Certainly you’re committed to your children but you’re also committed to your business, if you’re gonna be successful.
Alright. See you later.
Alright. I love you.
Love you. Good-bye.
Whether I sacrifice something with my children, I don’t know, but some day they’ll come to realise here’s what we got because of that, and I’ll be judged accordingly. And maybe they won’t do as much as I did but they’ll do it better.
How you feeling, Coop, all right?

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

lunes, 2 de mayo de 2016

Listening test: Family photos and divorce

Listen to a BBC radio programme where American journalist and writer Anna Lee Rufus talks about the relationship between childhood photos and divorce and complete the gaps in the sentences below with up to THREE WORDS. 0 is an example.

0 If you smiled in your childhood photos, you’re less likely to get divorced.

1 According to Anna, the study found that _____________________ had a much higher rate of divorce.

2 Optimists usually ____________________ people better.

3 Traditionally, in a marriage women are usually __________________ , but husbands are not used to that.

4 There are more divorces among dancers and choreographers than among __________________ .

5 Contributing factors to divorce are ______________________ , stress, illness and time apart.

6 Although the study just shows numbers, it is interesting because it starts conversations and makes people thing about ______________________ .

7 Anna has been with her husband since ______________________ .

8 Anna’s husband ______________________ and vacuums at home.

Now did you smile in your childhood photos? Because if you did apparently you're less likely to get divorced than for those people who are caught frowning at the camera. This amazing finding comes from Anna Lee Rufus, an American journalist and writer. What she's done is she's scoured academic journals to distil from the wealth of data out there a list of factors which correlate with divorce or a reduced chance of a successful marriage. I asked her if marital success really could be traced back to an innocent childhood snap, probably taken decades earlier.
It's scary isn't it? Because you can't go back and change your childhood photographs. They did a big study where they researched yearbook photos and childhood photos of all these participants and gauged them with the current marriage status of these people and they found out that yes, the non-smilers had a much, much higher rate of divorce. And I talked to an expert about this who suggested that it was because smiling in childhood indicates optimism and if you're an optimistic person you're able to withstand hard parts of a marriage, you're able to get along with people better, so that might be why.
Quite a few of the factors are what one might call gender related really, aren't they? The level of basal testosterone in a man, a higher level makes it more likely he'll get a divorce.
Forty-three per cent they say, and a really interesting one is a wife who gets diagnosed with cancer or multiple sclerosis is six times more likely to be abandoned by her healthy husband than a husband. Why is that? I talked to another expert who suggested this was because women are traditionally the caretakers and husbands, who aren't used to caretaking, don't know how to do it, freak out, panic and leave. It's pretty scary too though.
Then you've got a number here which are really to do with your race or your career choice, the most frivolous I suppose you might say is that if you're a dancer or choreographer you're more likely to get divorced than if you're a mathematician, but, you know, more fundamentally Caucasian women are more likely to get divorced than Asian women but less likely than African Americans.
Who knows why? And I have talked to a lot of experts about this, some said some populations get married earlier. Across the board the earlier you get married, the more likely you are to get divorced, youth is a real contributing factor, as are other things, as are stress and illness and time apart.
Well, perhaps this is the slight weakness, because these are not in a way all fully controlled studies, they don't meet the sort of kosher social studies' statistical tests, do they?
Absolutely, in every case you have to say well who is their study group, and when was this done, and how long ago and where? These are numbers, they're just numbers, but they're interesting because they start conversations and they help you think about the bigger picture like what in general are factors that even have to do with relationships breaking up.
I'd love to know what your own risk factors are and whether they've turned out to be true in your case.
I have been married to the same person since 1989 and we've been together since 1979, but then again none of us has ever gotten a catastrophic illness, which I'm, you know, grateful for that.
You don't know what his basal testosterone level is?
You know we've never had it tested, but he does do the dishes so it's probably not super high, he vacuums also.
Anna Lee Rufus, thank you very much.

1 non-smilers
2 get along with
3 the caretakers
4 mathematicians
5 youth
6 the bigger picture
7 1979
8 does the dishes

domingo, 1 de mayo de 2016

Extensive listening: Electronic wasteland

Where does some of our electronic waste go? Watch this CBS 60 Minutes segment and find it out.

Here's how the reporter introduces the segment:

60 Minutes is going to take you to one of the most toxic places on Earth, a place that government officials and gangsters don't want you to see. It's a town in China where you can't breathe the air or drink the water, a town where the blood of the children is laced with lead. It's worth risking a visit because, as correspondent Scott Pelley first reported last November, much of the poison is coming out of the homes, schools and offices of America.

This is a story about recycling, about how your best intentions to be green can be channeled into an underground sewer that flows from the United States and into the wasteland.

You can read a full transcript here.

sábado, 30 de abril de 2016

Radio Praha

Radio Praha is a radio station that allows us to listen to the news from that part of the world in English.

All the audio files are downloadable in MP3 format and a lot of the news items come together with their transcript.

As you can well imagine, most of the programmes on Radio Praha have to do with Czech society and its problems. Here, the avid English learner in the intermediate-to-advanced level will find stories on the arts, books, current affairs, business, interviews with interting Czech figures, travel, and so on.

As an example, here's the link to the interview with bilingual translator Lucie Mikolajková.

viernes, 29 de abril de 2016

Does grammar matter?

It can be hard sometimes, when speaking, to remember all of the grammatical rules that guide us when we’re writing. When is it right to say “the dog and me” and when should it be “the dog and I”? Does it even matter?

Andreea S. Calude dives into the age-old argument between linguistic prescriptivists and descriptivists — who have two very different opinions on the matter.

Drop by Does Grammar Matter? at Ted-Ed for Andreea's full lesson, which includes comprehension questions, additional resources on the topic for you to explore and topics for discussion.

You're telling a friend an amazing story, and you just get to the best part when suddenly he interrupts, "The alien and I," not "Me and the alien."
Most of us would probably be annoyed, but aside from the rude interruption, does your friend have a point? Was your sentence actually grammatically incorrect? And if he still understood it, why does it even matter?
From the point of view of linguistics, grammar is a set of patterns for how words are put together to form phrases or clauses, whether spoken or in writing. Different languages have different patterns. In English, the subject normally comes first, followed by the verb, and then the object, while in Japanese and many other languages, the order is subject, object, verb.
Some scholars have tried to identify patterns common to all languages, but apart from some basic features, like having nouns or verbs, few of these so-called linguistic universals have been found. And while any language needs consistent patterns to function, the study of these patterns opens up an ongoing debate between two positions known as prescriptivism and descriptivism.
Grossly simplified, prescriptivists think a given language should follow consistent rules, while descriptivists see variation and adaptation as a natural and necessary part of language.
For much of history, the vast majority of language was spoken. But as people became more interconnected and writing gained importance, written language was standardized to allow broader communication and ensure that people in different parts of a realm could understand each other.
In many languages, this standard form came to be considered the only proper one, despite being derived from just one of many spoken varieties, usually that of the people in power.
Language purists worked to establish and propagate this standard by detailing a set of rules that reflected the established grammar of their times. And rules for written grammar were applied to spoken language, as well.
Speech patterns that deviated from the written rules were considered corruptions, or signs of low social status, and many people who had grown up speaking in these ways were forced to adopt the standardized form.
More recently, however, linguists have understood that speech is a separate phenomenon from writing with its own regularities and patterns.
Most of us learn to speak at such an early age that we don't even remember it. We form our spoken repertoire through unconscious habits, not memorized rules. And because speech also uses mood and intonation for meaning, its structure is often more flexible, adapting to the needs of speakers and listeners.
This could mean avoiding complex clauses that are hard to parse in real time, making changes to avoid awkward pronunciation, or removing sounds to make speech faster.
The linguistic approach that tries to understand and map such differences without dictating correct ones is known as descriptivism. Rather than deciding how language should be used, it describes how people actually use it, and tracks the innovations they come up with in the process.
But while the debate between prescriptivism and descriptivism continues, the two are not mutually exclusive.
At its best, prescriptivism is useful for informing people about the most common established patterns at a given point in time. This is important, not only for formal contexts, but it also makes communication easier between non-native speakers from different backgrounds.
Descriptivism, on the other hand, gives us insight into how our minds work and the instinctive ways in which we structure our view of the world.
Ultimately, grammar is best thought of as a set of linguistic habits that are constantly being negotiated and reinvented by the entire group of language users. Like language itself, it's a wonderful and complex fabric woven through the contributions of speakers and listeners, writers and readers, prescriptivists and descriptivists, from both near and far.

jueves, 28 de abril de 2016

Journey to Canada Stories of Refugees – Fatima

Fatima, a former Afghani refugee and now proud Canadian citizen, shares her inspirational journey.

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

1 How long did Fatima live in Afghanistan?
2 Why did she find it difficult to continue school in Afghanistan?
3 Where did her family go when they left Afghanistan?
4 Where did she live in this new country?
5 What did she do to make some money at the age of 18?
6 What academic interests did she mention in her application to Canadian universities?
7 How does she feel as a Canadian citizen?

I have great memories from Afghanistan. I lived there for about 15, 16 years. I have parents that were both well educated and I grew up in an environment that was fostering education there. And then the war started and it was really difficult to continue school. And after that it was really difficult for women to live on their own in Afghanistan. There was security threats and really basically you always need a man’s support to get around the society. So that was how we had to leave and started all over in Peshawar Pakistan.
When I went to high school, in the afternoons we went to an English-language school. It was valued and really... if you wanted to get further. The point was that you want to go ahead in your life and you don't want to be in the refugee camp all the time. And so the goal was to immigrate to Canada, US, Australia once that program was done. There was a teacher training course for 3 or 6 months or so and I completed that and then was able to, you know, make money and get a salary for two years. Yeah. So I felt really independent at the age of 18 or so.
The way they have organised the program that you can assimilate to… integrate to Canada... Canadian society easily and also help you get where you want. So you write your bio, your interests, and all that, and depending on that whatever you have written in your application they will send your resume to different universities. And my interest was engineering and mathematics and computer science. So they sent me to school that offered that program and I… and I could get into what I wanted to.
I mean Canada is my home now and I feel so much connected to Canada than any other part of the world. So it was a great way to know that you can now vote, you can participate in a whole range of activities in Canada as a citizen and be part of Canadian society. So it was great. It was a privilege.