jueves, 30 de julio de 2015

English teacher who earns $500k

When it comes to education in South Korea, the demand is so strong it accounts for 12% of all consumer spending.

Parents push their children relentlessly, with classes in the evenings and at weekends. It's led to some teachers earning very high salaries, particularly to teach English. The BBC's Steve Evans, in Seoul, met one of them.

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

1 How many students does Gwen Lee teach in a classroom?
2 And online?
3 Apart from teaching how does Gwen Lee manage to make so much money?
4 What is Gwen Lee as a teacher?
5 Where are Gwen Lee’s offices?
6 Why do Koreans work so hard?
7 Why does Gwen Lee think it is important to keep fit?

7.30 in the morning, the start of a working day. For Gwen Lee’s job appearance is important, so this is essential preparation for the classroom. She earns half a million dollars a year teaching English to students who pay for her lessons, and they expect her to look smart.
My yearly income is around $500,000 and I think I can do that because I can manage a big-sized classroom. Of course, the more numbers of students that I have in my classroom, I earn more money, but part of my income is coming from online.
Every month, she teaches (1) a thousand students in an actual classroom but another (2) 200,000 online.
Hello everyone, it’s me Gwen…
(3) She has a radio programme and she writes textbooks, all adding up to that half a million dollars.
This is very driven teaching. (4) She’s very animated, moving energetically along the pre-arranged strips. And these kids, they want to learn, they’re paying money or their parents are paying money
And teacher Gwen Lee has the accoutrements of business, like a chauffeur. Her day is so tightly packed that she needs to use every moment. Her headquarters from where the teaching is organized are (5) in Seoul’s business district. Lunch is a business meeting, with her assistants, who deal with online requests. This is work at hyper-speed.
Koreans work hard. We work around the clock and, you know, they make best effort because… I don’t know why but(6)  it’s coming from their parents’ generation, you know. We saw our parents, they went to war, you know, era and they thought that in order to survive they had to work, you know, hard.
South Korea is a pressurized country, with pressure on students to achieve and pressure on teachers to deliver grades. Gwen goes to the gym, but even this is part of work. (7) She reckons that keeping fit is a way of fending off illness. When you have 200,000+ students, you can’t afford to take time off.
Steve Evans, BBC News, Seoul.

miércoles, 29 de julio de 2015

Talking point: Risk

This week's talking point is risk. 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.

Talk about a time when you had to pluck up courage to deal with a difficult situation.
What's the most dangerous thing you have ever done?
Have you ever done any of these extreme sports? What was it like? What were the dangers involved?
If not, would you like to? Say why.
bungee jumping
scuba diving
highwire walking
mountaineering with ropes
base jumping
whitewater rafting
Some people are addicted to taking risks: why do you think this happens?
Which risk would you never take?
Which of these jobs is the most dangerous, in your opinion? Give your reasons.
firefighter - bomb disposal expert - high-level window cleaner - war journalist - aid volunteer - police officer
You work for a company that has decided to organise a weekend away to develop team-building skills among the staff. Discuss with your partner(s) the risks involved in the activities below, say which ones most/least appeal to you and choose one to do all together:
volcano walking
gorilla watching
show jumping
kite surfing

To illustrate the point you can watch The Nikon short film Why. It is most a very difficult clip to understand, but the sheer beauty of the film is something worth watching, and whatever Dane Jackson, Rebecca Rush and Alex Honnold say about kayaking, mountain-biking and solo climbing is secondary, although I have included the transcript.

Nikon - WHY from Corey Rich on Vimeo.

Nikon Why
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
I think I learned how to kayak long before I’ve learned how to talk and walk, that’s for sure…
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
I’m not sure I agree with the quote that it’s all about the journey, because for me it’s all about the competitive aspect, I’m a racer and I love to win.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
“I wouldn’t say that I try to prove something to people. Or that I’m trying to prove something to myself really… But I’m sure there’s a little bit of both.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
When I was growing up and we lived in an R.V. and we were always parked by a river ‘cause we would just go, wherever my Dad wanted to kayak. I was born directly in the sport of kayaking.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
I specialize in long distance mountain biking. What it means is that I ride my bike for a really long time and a 10 hour race would be a short race for me. A race or event where I get to sleep in my own bed that night is a sprint…”
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
Basically, soloing is just rock climbing without a rope, without protection. It’s basically the most distilled type of climbing. I think the beauty of soloing is so simple, you just go by yourself, put your shoes in your track bag and you climb it.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
In my world the only constant thing is that there is no constant. When I’m at a rapid or water fall I may pick my line but it’s never the same, it’s always changing.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
I grew up with suffering skill, my nickname is ‘The queen of pain’. I cannot put my head down, turn the voices inside my head off. It takes hours and days, it kind of strip away all the exterior that kind of find out who you are.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
Yeah, there’s no real ritual, seriously for someone, I just put on my shoes, I chalk up and I rock climb.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
For me, the definition of ‘the zone’ is when you don’t feel the burning of your legs, you don’t hear your heart race, you’re basically just on autopilot, and everything seems easy.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
When all of the movement just feels so crisp and precise and perfect. You don’t feel pain in your fingers as much you could really like torque super hard. I mean, you just feel stronger a lot of time.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
Whenever I’m coming up the lip of a big waterfall, everything else just goes blank and I just focus on what I need to do.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
It’s a big question ask why I solo. Then part of it is the challenge like the fact that it’s hard, the fact that it demands a lot from you. And part of it it’s just the simplicity of soloing is really appealing too, it’s just you, and the route, and climbing. I don’t think there are that many things in life that require the 100% focus that you get out of soloing. You know, it’s kind of like the most pure form of climbing.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
One of the main reasons that I kayak is just the awe of finding new beautiful places. It’s a feeling of being somewhere new nobody else has ever been or you’ve never been, and just the beauty of what’s happening around you. I kayak because it allows me to do what I want to do. I’m always afraid at some point, without the fear it wouldn’t be the same. Overcoming the fear is what really makes kayaking amazing.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
If people ask me why I do this over and over again, the best thing I come up is because I have to, I don’t know how to live my life any other way. I do this because I love it and I’m inspired by the places that I go, I feel it’s the need to explore and to be somewhere new, see what’s around the next corner.
Alex Honnold, solo climber:
Yeah, I guess every once in a while you have those moments when you say it’s really magical, this is awesome, you know.
Dane Jackson, kayaker:
Without kayaking, I don’t know where my life would be, definitely it wouldn’t be the same, it just drives my life.
Rebecca Rush, mountain biker:
Tapping in on who I am as a person is something I need to do on a regular basis because you never really get to that place on a normal life, and that’s the point when it’s perfect, it’s nirvana.

martes, 28 de julio de 2015

10 Questions For Damien Hirst

Hi. I'm Belinda Luscombe I'm the editor-at-large at Time Magazine. Damien Hirst is one of the world's most successful, most famous and wealthiest artists. He's currently filling 11 of Larry Gagosian’s galleries with paintings spots and we’re here to ask 10 questions about that. Mister Hirst, welcome.
So 11 galleries around the world filled with your spot paintings. What about this idea interested you?
I was looking at Larry's gallery uptown and he has on the wall, always been, has an exhibition. He has every gallery that he owns with the different artists that are on that printed on the wall. And when I first saw it I thought I could do, you know, the only artist in the world probably is me and then the only body of work I could use is the spots to fill all the galleries. So I guess it was a sort of perverted megalomania idea.
You had actually only painted five, is that right, of the spot paintings yourself?
Actually, looking around the show I think it was probably closer to 25.
25! How far can you go with the whole kinda outsourcing idea of getting, you know, it's not like you're the only ass that does that. It’s familiar but well, could you take me to Sri Lanka, could you train people in, you know, like American corporations too?
Well, you know, as an artist you've always got to believe you can train anybody to make them, because if  you’re harnessing other people’s, you know, talents, you know, I mean I paint from photographs as well very realistically, and I've always been very careful to not hire somebody who’s an absolutely brilliant painter in their own right because then you kind of have to rely on their own time whereas it’s much better to just, you know, believe that anybody can do this. You have to train them.
So you’re saying you hire numskulls? Somebody paints you something good and you say, sir, you are way too good…
You’ve got to be a painter. I think just basic skills, you know. You just want people with basic skills.
The security guard over there asked me what do the circles mean? And I was like, oh, well I can actually find out for you if you…
Well, if you say the red ones mean love, the white ones mean purity, the black ones mean death, the blue ones about the blues, the green ones are about jealousy.
Are you making this up as you go or is this actually something you thought about?
You know, any kind of art is like, you know, I make art you know. Words are not really…
What it’s about?
…adequate to describe it. What does it mean to you and actually I suppose in a way they are about that human edge to, you know, make order out of chaos, or to make order out of the world, you know, it’s like why we, you know, like a grid but really, you know, the things that we’re trying to put into grids won’t be put into grids and I mean, that’s what the whole human life’s about.
I guess in the same way a lot of your work, not the spots, but it deals with sort of decay and death and squalor. Where does this come from? Where do you think of this?
Well, I always have to go for both sides of the story, really, you know, it’s like when I make a book of fly painting, I always think, you know, I don’t wanna be to seem to be too sloppy, so I’ll do a fly painting for that. Just think, oh my God, you know, love is an amazing thing, but children are being murdered in Africa as we speak, you know. It’s like that’s the world, isn’t it? You’ve got these massive polarities and extremes all the time and I try to make that, it reflects that.
You talk about having an impact on how your worst fear is to be forgotten or overlooked, which is not going to happen and in fact some of your work has been sort of incredibly controversial and discussed and one of them, I guess, is The Skull, I believe. I see you’re wearing a lot of skulls today, Love of God.
Which is the diamond encrusted platinum skull and there is a sort of showmanship to that that is sort of reminiscent, people have said to me, of the kind of thing you see on, say on television today in shows like Pimp My Ride or Cake Boss, you probably have them in England where…
Yes, I love Pimp My Ride.
…where people are making these sort of amazing creations.
Now I mean you want…
Well, I wanted where you saw the division?
Well, I think you know, I mean I think anything done well really is you know super well is art. I mean, I don’t believe in God, but I think you know my belief in art is kind of a bit religious. You know, I always think it’s like a mathematical sum where you, you know, miraculously make one plus one equals three. You can do something like a diamond skull  and it can be, it can be one plus one equals two and that’s not good enough, where it can be one plus one equals one, you know, and you can wish you never did it and it never comes out of the studio. But, you know, for the diamond skull I think it is an artist makes an art form what’s around them. We just had to be, you know, with all these boom times and everybody buying lots of money. I mean it’d be my wildest dreams and I had no money when I was a kid. So to be in that situation was kind of nuts and really as the time goes by anything I could come up with to make, you know, kind of scared the hell out of me, but it dawned on me that, you know, I was in the position of imprisoned kings, you know, where you spend millions on fabricating something, you know, I hate to say it, but I think it’s probably, it’s a lot harder for artists to make money to make art when you have money really.
Oh, I was gonna ask you that.
Yes, it’s funny how that looks. I hate the idea of the Van Gogh starving artist, you know, so I think, you know, money should always be a key and not much of any factor, something to enable you rather than something to drive you, you know, it’s very complicated. I think money is as complicated as love.
This from a man who’s worth conservatively 300 million dollars, right?
Who knows.
Pounds, or is it pounds? Oh, you don’t know?
Well, I mean it changes, you know, worth is like, you know, I’ve got , you know, I’m okay, I’m sure. I mean, I was speaking to my accountant about my kids basically and he said, don’t worry about the kids. and I was like I said, but you know, he can’t. If you don’t have that kind of background, if you’re not born into money, you always worry, you know. You can’t help it.
So you’re not gonna bull-pocket from me?
300 million dollars?
Dollars? Not pounds?
Pounds, maybe. Pounds or dollars, that’s always good, isn’t it? The pounds-dollars switch.
It’s kind of the same thing really these days. It depends if you gotta sell everything in a fire stat sale, isn’t it?
Mr Hirst, thanks very much.

lunes, 27 de julio de 2015

Listening test: Going home for Christmas

Listen to Gary and Melissa talking about Christmas traditions and choose the option a, b or c which best completes each sentence. 0 is an example.

0 Example:
a) has just returned from her Christmas holidays.
b) is going to spend two weeks in the US.
c) will leave in two weeks’ time.

1 This year Melissa is most looking forward to
a) her family seeing her new-born baby.
b) seeing a new member of the family.
c) seeing her mom again.

2 The time Melissa is going to spend in US
a) will be relaxing.
b) will be busy.
c) is long enough.

3 Melissa
a) always goes to US for Christmas and sometimes in summer.
b) doesn’t always manage to travel to US every year.
c) visits the States once a year.

4 In Melissa’s family
a) they leave the Christmas presents in a special place.
b) they open the most important present on Christmas Day.
c) they open most presents on Christmas Eve.

5 For Christmas
a) her mom used to leave oranges as a gift.
b) her mom used to leave pineapples as a gift.
c) they have duck or ham for their Christmas dinner.

6 Melissa teaches … in Barcelona.
a) teenagers
b) young kids
c) English and Catalan

7 Melissa
a) comes from a small town.
b) doesn’t really find the time to enjoy Barcelona’s cultural life.
c) feels intimidated by big cities.

Today I’m talking to Melissa, who is from the United States but lives in Barcelona. In a couple of week’s time she’ll be flying back to the USA for Christmas. I asked her why she thought it was important to go home...
Well I think it’s important to be with family, I mean that’s what the holiday season is about, is to be with the people that you care about and the people that you love. At least for me anyway.
And what are you looking forward to the most?
Actually, this year, I mean, other than, apart from seeing my mother, I’m really excited I get to see my new baby niece this year, my first niece, so I’m super-excited about that.
And how long will you spend back home?
In total it’ll be eleven days back in the States.
Do you feel that’s not quite long enough?
Well, for the things that I want to do it’s – I’m going to be running, you know trying to see everybody and do everything. It’s not going to be relaxing it’s going to be run run run.
The whole time.
How often do you try to get back home to the States?
Ideally, I like to do it one...twice a year. Usually I only get to do it once a year, either at Christmas or in the summer, and whenever it’s not ideal at all I don’t get to go for two years so...
Tell me about some of your traditions back home in the States.
For Christmas? Well my family is actually a little strange because my father’s family came from German background, and they always did Christmas on Christmas Eve, and my mother came from an English background, and her family always celebrated on Christmas Day. So my family, usually on Christmas Eve we get to open one present – in my immediate family we get to open one present – and then the next day we get to open the rest of them, and enjoy it that way. And also, something that I notice that, you know, that is not done here in Spain is that we have Christmas stockings and my mother really enjoys finding gifts to put in the Christmas stockings. One year for example, she always gave oranges, and the oranges would always end up back in her kitchen and she asked, “Why doesn’t anybody ever eat the oranges?” And we said well they were hard to peel and you know we just don’t really – it’s just not – we don’t enjoy the oranges. And so the next year she tried to put a pineapple, because I like pineapples so much, she tried to put a pineapple in my stocking! And so that was a Christmas tradition that she started and now every year for Christmas I get a pineapple instead of an orange! So that’s a family tradition that we have, and usually we have Christmas dinner of course, and depending on the family – my family we do turkey, but other families do ham or duck or, you know, different things, but my family we do, we do turkey.
So you live in Barcelona.
Yes I do.
So what do you do?
I am an English teacher at a bilingual nursery school.
OK what does that mean? What do you do?
Basically I go to the nursery school and my job is to help the children learn English by doing everyday routines, you know, putting on their shoes, washing their faces; we do activities in English such as, you know, painting or storytelling, in English and in Catalan, so my job is to do the part in English.
And how do you feel about living in Barcelona?
I enjoy living in Barcelona. I come from a very small town, so for me Barcelona is the big city. And all the museums and all the cultural events that they have – it’s very exciting for me to get to see that, and get to go and enjoy that.
OK. Melissa thank you very much.
You’re welcome very much.

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

domingo, 26 de julio de 2015

Extensive listening: The hidden reason for poverty the world needs to address now

Collective compassion has meant an overall decrease in global poverty since the 1980s, says civil rights lawyer Gary Haugen. Yet for all the world's aid money, there's a pervasive hidden problem keeping poverty alive. Haugen reveals the dark underlying cause we must recognize and act on now.

You can read a full transcript for the talk here.

sábado, 25 de julio de 2015


Storybird is a platform that lets anyone make visual stories in seconds. Storybird  selects artwork from illustrators and animators around the world and inspires writers of any age to turn those images
into fresh stories.

It's a simple idea that has attracted millions of writers, readers, and artists to Storybird. Families and friends, teachers and students, and amateurs and professionals have created more than 5 million stories—making Storybird one of the world's largest storytelling communities.

You can read the stories in the Read section of Storybird and write stories in the Write section, although you will have to sign up to do so.

viernes, 24 de julio de 2015

Will I lose my memory when I get old?

Our brain is like plasticine. It bends and adapts when faced with mental challenges, and we can keep it in fit shape by staying mentally active.

Self-study activity:
Watch this Brit Lab video on memory and age and complete the gaps in the transcript with the missing words. The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 and Advanced 1 students.

Will I lose my memory when I get old?
Your brain is (1) ... . Well if you're over 30 it is. After that, on average, you lose a bit less than 0.5 percent of your brain volume every year. Reach ninety and you may have lost over (2) ... ... of your hippocampus, the seahorse-shaped bit of the brain vital for making memories, and you’ll have said goodbye to 14 percent of your cerebral cortex, the (3) ...  ...  responsible for useful things like thinking, emotions and speech. Worse still, scientists used to believe the adult brain’s fixed and unable to change like (4) ... . So losing some was a serious matter.
In 2000 researchers began to investigate a group of London taxi and bus drivers. The bus drivers trained for six weeks and then rode the same (5) ... every day, whereas the taxi drivers had trained for up to four years memorizing some 25,000 streets. The researchers took MRI scans of both bus and taxi drivers but it was the (6) ...  brain that showed something incredible: Their brains contained far more gray matter in the back part of the hippocampus than the bus drivers.
Here is what scientists think was going on. Inside our brains are trillions of synaptic connections, chemical and electrical (7) ... , that transfer messages between the body and the brain like millions of cabbies taking millions of (8) ... to different destinations. In memorizing and using their mental matter, the cabbies’ brains adapted and changed creating more synaptic connections. So it turns out the brain isn't like concrete but more like putty or plastic, able to adapt to (9) ...  ... . Scientists call this adaptability neuroplasticity. This new discovery is great news because while you might not be able to stop your brain shrinkage it seems you can compensate by building new connections if you stay mentally active, (10) ... your brain like a London cabbie.
To discover more about your plastic brain go to you www.hellobrain.eu.

1 shrinking 2 a third 3 grey matter 4 concrete 5 routes 6 cabbies’ 7 impulses 8 patrons 9 our demands 10 challenging