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 goabroad.com/. 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

Photo: GoAbroad.com

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

viernes, 24 de octubre de 2014

Cat Saves Little Boy From Being Attacked by Neighbour's Dog

Self-study activity:
Watch this ABC news item about a cat rescuing a child who had been attacked by a dog and answer the questions about it.

The activity is suitable for intermediate students.

1 Who's dog was it?
2 How old is Jeremy?
3 When did the parents find out that the cat was involved?
4 How long has the cat been with the family?
5 What did the cat use to do when Jeremy was a newborn?
6 What were the consequences of the dog's bite for Jeremy?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

And the eternal contest between cat and dog score a big one for cat tonight. A toddler on his bike was ambushed by a neighbour’s dog (1) and then a fearless fur ball came flying in at lightening speed, ready to rescue a little friend. ABC’s David Wright shows all of it caught on camera.
4-year-old (2) Jeremy Triantafilo was riding his bike minding his own business yesterday when a neighbour's guard dog appeared out of nowhere. The home security camera’s rolling as dog grabbed boy and cat came to the rescue. That’s right! Cat! Watch closely, that black flash on the right side of the frame is Jeremy’s kitty cat Tara, pouncing on the pouch, chasing him off, saving little Jeremy.
Until you looked at the video tape, you didn’t even know that the cat was involved?
No (3), we both, kind of, you know, kind of gasped and we’re like holly cow.
The cat adopted the couple five years ago (4) following them home from the park one day. When Jeremy was a new born she’d climb into his crib and curl up beside him (5), an unusual bond for a creature that nature tends to be barely aloaf.
To have her, with no regard for her own life, fly at the dog to protect him, I’ve never seen anything like that.
This was round one, round one to the kitty cat, huh?
Jeremy has some stitches from the dog bite (6) but he’ll be just fine, thanks to Tara.
She’s a hero.
David Wright, ABC News Bakersfield California

jueves, 23 de octubre de 2014

10 Questions for Andre Agassi

Former professional tennis player Andre Agassi was interviewed for Time Magazine late last year and he talked about his charity foundation, new snack product, and his "hate-love" relationship with tennis.

Self-study activity:
Needless to say that this is a difficult activity even for strong intermediate students and that it would be more suitable for advanced ones. Anyway, the interview can help us to get acquainted with situations where the difficulty of the language is beyond us but we can still manage to grasp some general ideas. Remember that the questions in the task are guidelines that should help us not to get lost and follow the conversation.

Watch the interview and say whether the statements below are true or false.

1 The necklace Andre is wearing was made for him by his daughter.
2 Andre seems to interested in educational issues.
3 Andre was lucky as a child and had an education.
4 Andre wrote a book called Open.
5 Tennis had a bad influence on Andre's family life.
6 Andre enjoys watching tennis now more than ever.
7 Andre was professional at 16.
8 Andre was already wealthy as a child.

Hi, I’m Belinda Luscombe from Time. The man I’m with today needs no introduction. Andre Agassi, welcome.
Thank you.
Thanks for being here.
Now, we’re here to talk about your foundation and your snack food.
But first I’m fascinated by your necklace. Can you tell me a little bit about it?
My son made it for me when he was five. He was doing an arts and craft project and said, dad would you help me? And I said, sure what can I do? He goes, tell me how to spell something, and I go, what? And he goes, daddy rocks. So I helped him spell it out and I haven’t taken it off since.
So you are now getting into snack foods, which seems like an unusual direction for you.
Well, not, I wouldn’t say I’m getting into snack foods. What I would say is I’m extending my reach in, in ways of helping public education. I mean, I was approached by V-20 to do a, a for-profit venture that I had no interest in. And I said, wait a second, wouldn’t this be one heck of an opportunity to get the country involved? And giving to their future.
Do you actually eat applesauce?
I don’t, personally. Now careful.
It’s pretty good.
I don’t, personally. I wanted to make sure that…
That’s not bad!
Yeah, I wanted to make sure that it was a step in the right direction from an alternative perspective, meaning healthier than other things on the shelf.
Since you started your foundation you have focused in more and more and more on education. Why did that issue speak to you?
Because it was the only way I’ve eventually realized you can make systematic change, given the tools, was… what I realized needed to happen. These kids needed a future of their choosing. They need to have choice in their life, and the only way to have a choice is to have an education. I, I didn’t have a choice in my life. I, I didn’t have education. I was lucky and found myself good at tennis. But without that, I don’t know where I’d be. Then I look at the circumstances of these other kids. Without education, I know exactly where they’ll be, we’ll be building prisons instead of schools.
Is this a reflection of your own particular feeling about how you want to invest your money?
If you wanna treat a problem, I think philanthropy or even the government can treat some problems, but if you gonna cure it, I think that’s one thing we can still do in this country. We can think outside the box. We can bring the right players to the, to the table to create a win for everybody. And it’s, it’s, it’s social-minded investing, and that is key. And trust me, we wouldn’t have twenty-seven schools right now if this wasn’t a huge win for the operators. It’s a win across the board which is what makes it so exciting.
You famously wrote in your book Open that you have tennis, but you were very good at tennis, so I guess the question is do you hate philanthropy as well?
No, no. Actually philanthropy got me to not hate tennis. I, I don’t describe my relationship with tennis as a love-hate. It was, it, it started off, not my choice. It started off effecting my siblings, it’s, my relationship with my father. It started off with me being sent away of the academy at thirteen, feeling abandoned, and started off with me taking this rebellion that I was starting to express, and finding myself on a world stage, and, and being labeled, and you know, so it just kept growing into something that I was more, and more disconnected with. It felt like I was living in somebody else’s life. I would always be better off in a team sport, and tennis wasn’t a team sport, it was… it’s lonely, but I could create my own team. I could, in a sense, find myself showing up to work for somebody else. What I felt when I started my school, and when I started to use my fame, use my resources to make a difference in children’s lives, in a sense I felt like I finally had my team.
Do you watch tennis, still?
I do. I enjoy watching it probably more now than ever.
The money part doesn’t seem that hard to you. What do you say when you go to these kids at your school and you know, that is, that is a very hard path for them, like how do you speak to somebody who is, is in a very different position from you?
The same way I, I speak to the kids at Harvard. To be at Harvard you gotta be an absolute perfectionist. You have to live with unbearable amounts of pressure, whether you put it on yourself, or whether it’s put on for you. I was sixteen years old, and I was professional. Some people will say, well done, congratulations. I’m going, what do you mean? Now I gotta survive. Now I gotta… and then, all of a sudden, I’m getting to the finals of these grand slams, and a lot of people would say, hey, well done. I’m going, wait a second. I’m, I’m on the verge of being the greatest underachiever in the history of our game, you know, so I don’t have to look very far with the life I’ve lived to identify. You know, I’ve live with certainly a lot in my life. Lot of excess. Lot that I don’t need. But I’ve also, also been on the other side of it. I’ve also had to work myself through it. You know, when I was a child I didn’t have a lot. When I was on the… about to turn pro, and on the road I was, I knew what it was like to be one week away from broke, I mean, literally. When I look at those kids, there’s not an excuse in the world they can give me to make me think that they can’t succeed.
Andre, thanks so much.
Thank you.

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

miércoles, 22 de octubre de 2014

Talking point: Pirates

Today's talking point is pirates. 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.
  • The Goonies and Cutthroat Island, what do they have in common?
  • Do you know anything about the stories the films tell?
  • Why is Robinson Crusoe considered a pirate book?
  • Do you know any other films or books that tell stories about pirates and treasure?
  • When you were young, did you like stories about pirates?
  • Have you seen any good pirate films recently? Why were they good?
  • Why is it that stories about cruel villains catch people's imagination and seem romantic? What is the appeal of pirates to the general public?
  • Are there still pirates in the modern world? Are they romantic?
  • People are still searching for hidden treasures? Have you heard any recent news about it? Would such a task appeal to you?
To illustrate the topic, you can watch this BBC video clip about a treasure returned to Spain by US.

Flying in to claim its rightful property, these black parcels contain part of Spanish heritage, the most valuable haul of sunken treasure in history. Inside them, a nearly 600,000 gold and silver coins like these worth millions of dollars. That’s why the Spanish Navy has come to collect them.
The US Navy thinks like us in the sense that our sunken ships are these, as I told you before, these secret places they are cemeteries, and we don’t like that anybody go there to touch them, so the US Navy and us, we are in the same ship.
The treasure was found five years ago in the wreck of the Spanish galleon Our Lady of Mercy. She was sunk in the Strait of Gibraltar by the British in 1804. The treasure was taken from there by Florida-based marine explorers. They said it was a case of find its keepers and took it home, but US courts have finally decided the treasure was the property of the country of origin, and that’s why it’s on its way back to Spain.
This is historical heritage. This is not to be sold. This is to go to a museum. This is a graveyard at the same time. So, if there are agreements in the future, that will be acceptable, but we have to fight against those who go and salvage sunken objects.
Everyone wants to get their hands on this treasure, but more than 20 tons in weight, it’s taken some effort to get it home.

Tim Allman, BBC News.

martes, 21 de octubre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: The secret to exercise more

In our Madrid Teacher series this week, four teachers, Thomas, Vicky, Louise and Sophia, discuss physical exercise and fitness. This gives us an excuse to pay attention to the specific features native speakers of English use in their speech.

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, and pay attention to the following characteristics of  spoken English the four teachers use:
  • Use of so as a linking word in conversation.
  • Use of fillers to gain thinking time: erm; er; well; You know
  • Use of vague language: kind of; and all this; and stuff; sort of; like; and these kinds of things
  • Involving listeners in the conversation: What, what seems to work for you guys or friends that you know?; What about you?
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what we have just said and make ourselves clear.
  • Use of like as a linking word.
  • Signalling the speaker that you are paying attention to what he/she is saying: Mm-hm; Oh, OK; Oh, no; Wow…wow
  • Use of just to emphasize the verb.
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; I agree with what you said about
  • Use of auxiliary do in an affirmative sentence to emphasize the information: I do give myself
  • Use of actually to introduce a piece of surprising or unexpected information: I actually need motivation
  • Use of actually to emphasize what you are saying: distracts you from what you’re actually doing
  • Use of actually for admitting something: I don’t know what they said actually
  • Use of really to emphasize the adjective.
  • Showing surprise: Really?

Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with a family or relative and discuss your attitude to physical exercise and fitness. How regularly do you do sport these days? And in the past? Are you a fit person? What everyday activities may help you to be fit? Have you ever done a job which involved physical exercise? To what extent do the people around you motivate you or deter you from doing sport? Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this lesson.
Thomas: So, it seems to be a problem with a lot of people, erm, motivating, getting the motivation up to do exercise, to do sports. I read this article, where, that… er, related a study, erm, when you live with people who are athletic and fit, the motivation is almost inherent, and you kind of… gravitate toward that model. And the same is true in the opposite direction. If you live with people who are very lazy and just watch TV and all this, you just kind of become a lot more lax about your own fitness level. What, what seems to work for you guys or friends that you know?
Vicky: For me, it’s a lifestyle thing. I mean, like, I used to be very, very fit, but my job involved… well, my job involved diving, so I was carrying heavy equipment, I was swimming for hours every day. So, it was a very, very easy thing to integrate into my life.
Thomas: Mm-hm.
Vicky: Whereas now, I, I don’t know, I just feel like it’s difficult to find the time. It’s difficult to make the time to do things.
Louise: Yeah.
Sophia: Yeah.
Vicky: Luckily there’s a gym next-door to my house, so I’ve just joined that. But the only reason I’ve joined that gym, it’s a horrible gym, but… it’s there. It’s two minutes away.
Louise: Yeah, convenient.
Sophia: Yeah. Yeah.
Vicky: You know? It’s so convenient. I think…
Louise: I find I have to trick myself into exercising by making it part of my transport, er, routine. So if I know I have to be at work, I’ll walk or I’ll ride a bus.
Thomas: Oh, OK.
Louise: So that way it’s both practical and exercise at the same time.
Thomas: I was going to imagine you running down the street in trainers and stuff.
Louise: Oh, no.
Vicky: Yeah, do you leave deliberately five minutes later so you have to rush in the streets?
Louise: Mm, I do, I do give myself a short, a short period, it, it’s a very fast walk.
Vicky: Power walk, ha ha.
Louise: Yeah, it’s a power walk. Ha ha.
Thomas: OK. What about you?
Sophia: Yeah, I actually need motivation I don’t, I don’t do any exercise. My only exercise is commuting. But like, but like you, I, er, I walk fast. It’s a brisk walk, so sort of exercise. Not, not quite jogging but brisk walking.
Louise: Yeah.
Vicky: But they say brisk walking, I think, I think I read something the other day that if jogging burns off some, like, eight hundred calories per mile, per mile, per hour, I don’t know what they said actually. The equivalent if you’re walking briskly, you still burn off four hundred or six hundred calories.
Louise: It, it’s still good for you, especially if you’re going up and down hills and these kinds of things, stairs are good. So it’s OK. But what I…
Vicky: That’s another thing.
Louise: I agree with what you said about, erm, about having partners in crime. You know, you need, you need to have, er, the motivation of people around you wanting to do the same thing. I think it’s really important.
Thomas: [Yeah, yeah.] And it almost distracts you from what you’re actually doing. I remember the first time I ever went on a long run, I had no idea that I could do it and I could because the guy I was with didn’t shut up the whole time.
Louise: Ha ha ha.
Vicky: Really?
Thomas: So, for about three miles he talked incessantly and I didn’t even realize what we were doing.
Vicky: Wow…wow.
Louise: Yeah, it’s good. I think team sports are good, too.
Thomas: Oh yeah.
Louise: A good, good fast game of netball, it’s good exercise, and it’s fun.
Vicky: That’s it, when it’s fun and there’s adrenaline, it’s a lot more motivating than when it’s all on your own, off you own back.
Louise: Yeah, yeah.
Thomas: So I think we’ve come up with the perfect formula: it’s either partners in crime or get a job that requires you to be fit.
Louise: Yeah, ha ha ha.
Vicky: Ha ha.

lunes, 20 de octubre de 2014

The Parking Dance in New York City

Every day, drivers across New York double-park their cars as street sweepers pass by, a practice known as alternate-side parking.

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

1 Cars are allowed to return to their side immediately after the streets have been cleaned.
2 Some drivers set their alarm clock to remember to move their cars back.
3 Some drivers wait in their cars until the prohibition ends.
4 Drivers complain of damages to theirs cars.
5 If drivers fail to move their cars, they risk getting a ticket or heavier penalties.
6 A new bill was passed recently allowing drivers not to move their cars while the street is being cleaned.

Every day throughout New York City, it’s the high stakes dance of alternate side parking. When parking is prohibited on one side of the street so the streets can be swept, drivers double park on the other. It doesn’t matter when the street sweeper passes, cars are not allowed to return until the prohibition is over.
How many times do you estimate you move your car back and forth?
In a week or in a…
In your lifetime.
Oh, many thousand times, easily.
In my lifetime, in my lifetime? It feels like millions.
Some drivers leave their cars and return just before the prohibition ends to re-park legally.
I leave my car and set the alarm on my phone and come, come back and move it again.
I’m home during the day generally, so I feel that’s a relatively good deal if… to get your street cleaned.
Some choose to wait in their cars until the prohibition ends.
People come by, I’ve had my mirror taken off, I’ve had dents in my car, I’ve had scratches. Sometimes I leave it and just bite the bullet and get a ticket if I don’t have the time to move it, I’ve done that too.
Time it wrong, you get a ticket. Pay your tickets late, you get the boot, or you get towed.
But this might all change. City council member, Ydanis Rodríguez has introduced a bill that will allow drivers to return to their spot directly after the street sweeper passes by.
I’ve heard about that, so after the street is cleaned, we can move back, we don’t have to stay here for the hour and a half or two hours or whatever it is.
Yeah, what do you think about that?
I think that’s great, I would love to do, I would love that.
I thought, I thought that bill is passed already.
I don’t think that’s a good idea personally, because how do you know whether it’s come and gone, you have to keep looking outside. Sometimes they never come, and that’s really annoying.
Whether or not the bill actually passes, the dance of alternate side parking will continue.
So I’d really like to move my car back right now. Yeah!

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

domingo, 19 de octubre de 2014

Extensive listening: Who do you think you are- JK Rowling

As Wikipedia points out, "Who Do You Think You Are? is a British genealogy documentary series that has aired on the BBC since 2004.  In each episode, a celebrity goes on a journey to trace his or her family tree."

The episode on JK Rowling belongs to the 8th season (2011), and we can see JK Rowling setting out to investigate her French roots. Jo has always been intrigued by her late mother's French ancestry, but knows very little about it. Beginning her journey in Edinburgh, Jo's search takes her from The Savoy in London, to once-bloody battlefields and the back streets of urban Paris.

You can read the transcript for the first ten minutes of the programme here.