jueves, 18 de diciembre de 2014

Should tipped workers make a higher minimum wage?

In the United States the federal minimum wage is $7.25 (£4.31) per hour. Tipped workers, such as waiters and bartenders, are paid on a different standard, the so-called "tipped minimum wage". In New Jersey, for example, restaurant owners are required to pay a minimum of $2.13, with customers' tips providing the rest.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.



1. Elizabeth Henry has been a waitress for 15 years.
2. Elizabeth took some time off work in the previous weeks.
3. Most of workers who are paid under the work-for-tips scheme are female.
4. The hotel owner implies that a tipped minimum wage is sometimes synonymous of poor service.
5. Tipped workers are beneficial for the employers.
6. A lot of tipped workers agree with this system.

Elizabeth Henry has been a waitress since she was 15 years old. Most of her money comes from tips, which her boss takes into account when he pays her. It's called tipped minimum wage.
So these are my last couple of paychecks, but I had to take a day off here and there ‘cause like I said before I was going through an eviction, so I had to take some time off to find out what I'm doing. So this is where it says are hourly rate, which is 2.25. And then this is what they claim we make an hour 9.50 in tips, so they say that we make twelve dollars an hour about which isn’t, which is not true.
3.3 million people in the US work for tips. The vast majority are women. Many employers say they can't afford to pay more than the tip to minimum wage. Others disagree.
It's never affected our bottom line. It really it's not going to make or break us.
This hotel owner is paying more than the minimum because he wants to keep his skilled service. New Jersey has the lowest tipped minimum wage. Washington, on the other side of the country, is the state with the highest.
If I don't make minimum wage an hour, then yeah and they're supposed to reimburse me for that but I've never been at a place that does that and like I said I've been doing it for 10 years.
For employers tipped workers are cheap to hire but when more staff are hired the workers can get even less money.
If I had to split my tips three ways behind the bar instead of just having myself in the bar back I’m making third of the money that I can make, that I'm capable of making, capable of doing a good job.
But many, especially bartenders, prefer tips because in the high season they can make more money. Higher minimum wage with no tips? Probably not. In the winter it's kinda slow but in the summer, I mean, we’re average, you know, upwards of anywhere for forty-five, fifty dollars an hour at times on a really good night.
President Obama supports an increase to the basic minimum wage but that won't help people like Elizabeth Henry as the tipped minimum wage isn't likely to change.
Guess that's life right. It’s life.

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

miércoles, 17 de diciembre de 2014

Talking point: The senses

Today's talking point is the senses. 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 issues beforehand.
  • What are the five senses?
  • What memories/sensations do you associate to specific senses? V.g. The sheets feeling really cold or rough (touch); the smell of meat in my butcher neighbours' house.
  • Which sense do you think is most important to you in your everyday life?
  • Which sense would you be able to cope best without?
  • Which sense brings the best memories to you?
  • Have you ever lost the use of one of your senses temporarily?
  • Do you know anyone who has one sense especially well-developed?
  • Do you know people without a sense, either totally (someone who’s deaf) or partially (someone who’s colour-blind)?
  • Do you remember any famous films or books where one of the senses plays an important part?
  • Do some people have a sixth sense? If so, how does it manifest itself? 
  • Does 'female intuition' really exist? If so, how does it manifest itself?
  • Do you have a good 'sense of direction'? And a good 'common sense'? And a 'sense of humour?' And a 'sense of ridicule'? Can you think of any more senses?
To illustrate the point, you can listen to BBC's Six Minutes English segments Smells and Memories and Synesthesia, about people confusing senses.

martes, 16 de diciembre de 2014

Madrid Teacher: Horrible weather

In this week's Madrid Teacher video four teachers talk about horrible weather conditions they have witnesses. As usual, we'll be using their conversation as a springboard to go over some of the features of spoken English they use.

First of all, watch the video through to get the gist of what they are talking about.

Now watch the video more carefully paying attention to the following:
  • Showing surprise and reacting to what you hear: Really?; Oh yeah; Wow; Oh, lord; OK, right, yeah
  • Conversation fillers to gain thinking time: Well, you know, like
  • Use of reallypretty  and quite to emphasize the adjective
  • Use of vague language: like an hour; and everything; like the sky opens
  • Use of I mean to paraphrase what you have just said and make yourself clear.
  • Use of actually to introduce a bit of surprising information
  • Showing agreement: Yeah; Of course!; Exactly!




Now it's over to you. If possible, get together with a friend or relative and talk about any weather anecdotes you have gone through or heard about. Don't forget to use some of the features of spoken English we have revised in this post.

I was once in a, in a tornado.
Really?
On one side it demolished a church, and on the other side, it destroyed a . . . a truck stop. Then a little bit further on it, it just demolished a little town.
So it just went around you?
Well, no, it went, like, over me. It, it . . . you know these bounce sometimes
Oh yeah!
There was, this was a little tornado, it was small, but really destructive.
I’ve seen videos of that tornado bounce . . .
Yeah.
…that you’re talking about.
That type of, yeah. That, that can be pretty destructive…
That’s wild.
The interesting thing is that it crossed an entire city and only destroyed one church . . .
Wow.
In the whole city, but then - was it - at the edge of the city it destroyed a truck stop, and then went on to destroy . . .
Was it a wooden, a wooden church, or just a . . .
It was a wooden church, just like a big quonset hut, you know just a rounded building. So it’s just asking for problems.
Were you, were you personally frightened, or . . .
Yeah, because it . . . it was, it was frightening.
And was anybody injured?
Yeah, it killed people. It killed people in the truck stop, then it killed . . . it’s like, near a highway. And that was about . . . maybe a mile from me, half a mile to a mile.
Well, my, my most frightening weather experience was, I was skiing once and got to the top of the mountain and suddenly just went completely white, complete white-out. And it was like a snowstorm . . . couldn’t see anything, and started skiing down, stupidly, I mean, we should have just stayed. And suddenly, just like, not knowing exact…, not knowing where, where I was and, just like, it was, like, quite frightening because it was like an hour, just being stuck on the top of a mountain…
It’s risky, too. You never know if you’re going to ski off the edge of something, or . . .
It was snowing. . Couldn’t see a thing . . .  Yeah that’s why I stopped because you can’t even, you couldn’t even see where the ski run was, and it was… It was in Switzerland right on the top of a mountain. You know, when you’re in the mountains in Switzerland, you can, you can go on for six hundred kilometers and not see another house.
Wow! Were you really cold?
No, I was, I, I had some good, you know, some good clothing and everything.
That’s good.
It was just, like a snowstorm. It was just the thing of not being able to see where you were . . .
Of course!
…and just like snow everywhere .
But the encroaching freeze could really add to the fear.
Yeah. Well, there was that fear of, you know, you could get trapped up there at night…
Yeah, yeah.
…don’t get out.
Oh, lord.
So you’ve been . . .
Oh yeah, actually, I was, I was driving from the north of Spain into Madrid. And we were driving up the mountain and there was a little sign for a snowflake. And my father looked at me and said, “snow?” And I said, “of course, we’re in the mountains!” I was teasing . . . until a few went by the window, a few snowflakes, and I looked at him and he looked at me and we’re like, “are we really seeing this?” And then, boom – another whiteout, like you were talking about.
Just like mine, yeah?
…could not see anything. This was at the end of, like, and eighteen hour drive and I was determined to get to Madrid and stop. And we ended up just going for about two hours at about six kilometers an hour, driving by while lines of cars followed plows and skidding along the road yelling at each other: “stop! I’m doing this!” I had never seen weather like that in Spain.
That’s incredible. You don’t expect it here.
Exactly! I was totally unprepared. We were in a Peugeot.
I’m from a hot place so I haven’t got any snow stories, but . . . I, I used to live in Southeast Asia and there you have the most incredible monsoon rain. I mean, all day long you sit and you sweat. And it’s, and the heat builds up and builds up and builds up and then three o’clock in the afternoon it’s like the sky opens . . .
Wow!
And these rain, raindrops, I mean, huge raindrops . . . fifteen minutes of the heaviest rain you could possibly imagine, and then it stops.
And that’s every day?
Every day.
And it’s only fifteen minutes?
Usually fifteen minutes to twenty minutes, sometimes only five minutes. It’s like the sky just can’t hold any more water and it just, it just drops down.
Do you go, do people go out and like, you know, use it as a shower, because it’s so hot? Or no, everyone just stays inside?
It’s funny, everybody tries to stay out of it actually.
OK, right, yeah.
All the cars, all the motorbikes, everyone pulls off the road and tries to find shelter and . . .
Yeah. OK.

lunes, 15 de diciembre de 2014

Sapphire Hunting in Madagascar

BBC reporter Simon Reeve visits Ilakaka, a Madagascan island famous for its sapphires.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.





1 What do '10' and '100,000'  refer to?
2 What does Jean use the tube for?
3 What do '18', '10', and '1' refer to?
4 What's in the bags? What do they expect to find there?
5 What often happens to sapphire hunters who die in the holes?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below. 

We've come to Ilakaka. 10 years ago this place was so small it didn't even appear on most maps. Then sapphires were discovered, and a tiny rural hamlet exploded into a modern day wild-west town. An estimated 100,000 poor Madagascans have flocked here to dig their way out of poverty (1). Most take their chances in the ad hoc operations dotted all over the outskirts of town.
Bonjour. Bonjour.
Jean is from Fianarantsoa, 150 miles away. He's the captain of this mine, which is little more than a deep hole in ground, ventilated in the most rudimentary way imaginable.
Oh, my God! This is a breathing tube (2). Can you imagine how dangerous this is? This is just plastic sheeting with a little bit of tape around it to hold it together.
Jean descends down this 18-metre hole up to ten times a day. For this he will make about £1 (3).
God! He's already just disappeared. He's just vanished into the blackness! And this shaft isn't much bigger than a manhole and they've just cut it down, straight down through the ground, there's no bracing on the sides, there's no reinforcement to prevent it caving in. I can just see this tiny man and a shiny torch putting soil into the bag.
He's crawling down a hole under here, to somewhere under the ground deep below there, gathering the soil into bags and then he'll send it back. And each time they're hoping this is the big one, the sapphire they're looking for is in there (4).
Many workers have died down these mines. Often, their families are too poor to recover their bodies and they are simply left at the bottom of the dark holes (5). Here he comes.
Are you OK, Captain? What does your wife think of you doing this dangerous work?
We can only pray and rely on God. The main worry is Will I survive today? But that's the risk of the job, you need to survive, there's nothing else to do.

domingo, 14 de diciembre de 2014

Extensive listening: Animal Odd Couples

Animals that behave in ways we would never expect fascinate us. In recent years, the internet has been changing the perception that most species have evolved to stick to their own kind and to generally not get along. Videos, generating millions of hits, are showing different species interacting in ways previously not thought possible. These animals are displaying what looks like friendship, affection and even love towards one another. But what lies at the heart of these behaviours? Can science explain why these unusual partnerships take place? And if so, what can they teach us about how the animal kingdom really works?

Wildlife biologist Liz Bonnin sets off on a worldwide journey of discovery in this two-episode BBC documentary to find out why animals of different species make friends with each other. Why a cat would adopt some ducklings? Could an orangutan really keep a dog as a pet? Could two animals of different species even fall in love?

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

sábado, 13 de diciembre de 2014

British Council Verb Machine

The Verb Machine is an online game that we can find in the site of the British Council. It will be specially useful to language learners who are unfamiliar with the names of the English tenses and with concepts like active or passive (voice), continuous or simple, and perfect.

As you can see from the screenshot below, there are three options we can choose from to play. The practice mode gives us examples of the different tenses, voice, continuous and perfect mode by just clicking the coloured buttons at the top. It's a kind of theoretical background through examples.

In the tense game, the machines gives you a tense or verb form and an example sentence. You have to press the right coloured buttons at the top to match the verb form.

In the sentence game, you have to press the buttons to make the right verb form, but the machine only shows you a sentence.


viernes, 12 de diciembre de 2014

The lure of Tokyo's factories at night

Most tourists visiting Japan will tick off the usual sites and tours - a traditional shrine, a visit to the shopping districts of Tokyo and the obligatory ride on a bullet train, but here's an alternative destination.

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

The activity is suitable for intermediate 2 students.



1 What does the Japanese term 'Kojo Moe' refer to?
2 What day of the week did the reporter take a tour?
3 How many people are on the tour?
4 What means of transport are they using on the tour?
5 What smells can they smell?
6 What's the main attraction for many Kojo Moe enthusiasts?
7 What seems to be the ultimate purpose of the tours?

You can check the answers by reading the transcript below.

Kojo Moe in Japanese literally translates to factory infatuation and it refers to the growing popularity of bleak, industrial areas as tourist attractions (1). Kojo Moe tours are different to the traditional factory tours that take you inside a plant. Instead, these trips take people around industrial compounds and areas to admire their eerie, science fiction like quality, especially at night. Keen to experience the atmosphere myself, I decided to book on a factory night view tour to south of Tokyo.
So this isn’t how I would ordinarily spend my Saturday night (2), going on a factory tour in Kawasaki. And I must admit I thought I would be the only other person on this tour but I’ve been told there are at least 40 others (3). Here it goes.
There are various bus tours but we’ve booked on a boat tour (4) of the industrial zone that spreads along the Tokyo Bay. Our tour guide tells us that this isn’t Disneyland, so don't expect bright neon lights. Many people will bring their dinner or some snacks and make an evening of it, enjoying the reflections of factory lights on the dark waters.
Obviously, this isn’t your average boat tour. I can smell the salty air but it is also mixed in with smoke and oil and gasoline smells (5). I've been told it's great for taking photographs, I’ve brought my camera but I don’t really seem to be doing it justice.
But for many Kojo Moe enthusiasts, photography is the main draw (6)and from these pictures, it’s easy to see why.
It’s difficult to shoot still photos but I feel that the orange flares, the beautiful orange lights, are nice and just by looking at them, we are away from our daily lives and routines.
I'm sure most people like ordinary night views but some feel that some things people generally don’t like could be really cool.
For many of the people here, bleakness is a big draw but the movement does have its detractors. The tourism officials are making the most of this factory fascination and taking it to the mainstream.
I think many corporations want their consumers or the general public to understand what they are actually doing, so it’s a kind of company’s corporate image strategy because if consumers like the image of the factory or the product, then they may buy their stocks or they may buy the products (7).