Monthly Archives: November 2010

B2.2 – FCE Writing – Essay

This post summarises our class discussion which prepared the essay writing task about criminal sentences and the crime rate.  It also includes some extra vocabulary suggestions related to this topic.

Essay question:    Stronger criminal sentences would help reduce the crime rate.  Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of stronger criminal sentences and say whether you agree with the statement.

Topic vocabulary:

Categorize the following crime related verbs according to whether they talk about criminal activity or law and order:

to break the law        to arrest a criminal       to punish a criminal     to tackle crime    to convict someone for a crime    

to commit a crime/an offence         to combat crime            to reach a verdict        to appear in court           to act as a deterrent

to sentence someone to prison/4 years (in prison)/life imprisonment      to serve a four-year sentence      to enforce a law

to bring someone to justice

Adjectives:  The following adjectives talk about prison sentences.  Order them according to how strong the sentence is:

(The criminal was given…)            a tough sentence      a light sentence       a life sentence      a harsh sentence     (…by the judge).

 What kind of sentence is the criminal likely to get if they committed (a)  petty crime?   (b)  a serious crime?

Nouns:  some useful expressions:  crime figures / the crime rate (data which shows how many crimes are committed)  / a crime wave (to talk about a sudden increase in crime).

Essay plan:

Ideas generated in class (Essay plan):

Arguments in favour of stronger sentences Arguments against stronger sentences
They act as a deterrent and would make people think twice before committing a crime. Evidence does not always show that stronger sentences mean that crime rates fall.  Example – U.S.A.?
Longer sentences in prison would mean criminals spend more time in training, educational and rehabilitation programmes – helping them reintegrate into society in the long-term. Prisons would be more overcrowded
Stronger sentences for criminals would mean they would be off the streets for longer.  As a result they would not be able to commit more offences and people would feel safer on the streets. The cost of the prison service would go up – especially problematic during a period of financial crisis/recession etc.

Linking expressions to give your essay more cohesion:

Adding ideas Contrasting ideas… Ordering ideas… Explaining cause (what the reason is) Explaining result
In addition…


 What is more…

Besides this…


 On one hand…

On the other hand…

 In contrast…

 By way of contrast…

While some people think….others argue that…




First of all…

First and foremost…*

To begin with…




This / That is why…

This/ That is because…

This is due to…


As a result…


As a consequence of this…

(* ‘foremost’ is used to say ‘this is the most important idea’)


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C1 Professional English – Presentations proposing a solution to a problem.

Here are some reformulated versions of the presentations given in class in October.  I have included some activities with the various texts too.

Example One:  Improving the information flow and clearly communicating strategies

Nowadays there’s no question that many people don’t really know what the strategies of the company they work for are.  Let me give you an example.  It happens many times that your boss tells you to do something that you don’t usually do and because you don’t really understand why you’ve been asked to do this, you don’t really perform this task with all your motivation.  So the main point that I want to make is that the guidelines of the company should be communicated in the best way from the top management level to workers in a company.  One way of implementing this is by establishing an information flow, for example an email sent by your boss to you each week in order to explain what the guidelines of the company are.

Activity:  substitute the words in italics in the text above for the more natural sounding / concise phrases below:

a weekly email           carry out       more clearly         to the best of your ability        far too often     

objectives / goals

Comments:  There’s a key difference in meaning between guidelines and objectives/goals – guidelines are kind of unofficial rules that suggest a way of doing something whereas objectives and goals can be used to imply the reasons for doing something.  For example, companies might produce guidelines which state what employees are expected to wear without producing an official dress code or there might be guidelines for the best way to give a presentation.  Objectives and goals are the aims/ideal outcomes and can be short-term (as in ‘the objective of this meeting is to decide on a pricing strategy for our latest product…’) or ongoing and long-term (as in ‘The company’s purpose is to advise and provide our clients with the most cost-effective IT solutions best suited to their business needs.”)

Example Two:  Why smoking should be banned

There is no doubt that many people who smoke during their working day spend a lot of time going downstairs, smoking cigarettes and talking to other people whereas those who don’t smoke stay at their desks working.  From my point of view this is unfair on two counts.  Firstly, it leads to an imbalance in the amount of break time smokers have compared to their non-smoking colleagues and secondly, it is a bad example to set.  Let me give you an illustration of this.  Take hospitals.  You’ll often find doctors smoking outside.  How can they then tell ill patients to give up when they are guilty of this vice?  It’s hypocritical and sets a bad example to the next generation.  So, that leads me to my main point, we should ban ashtrays outside workplaces.

Example Three:  Improving efficiency and productivity

Following on from what’s been said before, I’d like to take things a bit further.  Cigarette breaks, coffee breaks, chats with co-workers.  There’s no doubt that we waste a lot of time not doing our work!  As a result there’s not enough time to finish what we are supposed to do.  In order to control these things I think we should look more closely at the number of hours that we spend at work and how we use that time.  The solution, as far as I see it, is to use cards which we can sign in on arrival at our workplace which will show us exactly how many hours we’ve really spent working and not on taking breaks.  We can then evaluate our productivity and company’s can monitor how much work is getting done.

Example Four:  Reduced working hours to achieve greater productivity and a better work-life balance.

The main idea I want to put forward also concerns time wasted during the working day.  In some companies, for example in my case, we work long hours and if you add to this the time spent getting to the office and having lunch, which can be up to two hours, then the result is that you don’t have enough time for yourself, your hobbies or to see your family or friends.  Our great-grand-parents and grand-parents  fought hard to reduce the number of working hours during the industrial revolution so why are we heading back to a situation where so much time is spent working?  So, solutions…  Maybe these aren’t applicable to every situation but here are some ideas… With modern communication technology maybe we could reduce the number of meetings held with a lot of people because normally these are not very productive.  Or maybe we could reduce the lunch break and the culture of long, filling lunches because this often means you only want to have a siesta rather than getting back to work.  If we could do this, we’d have more free time for our own well-being.

Example Five:  The benefits of greater transparency

If I say the word “transparency,” what does it mean to you?  Clear?  Something you can see through?  But also transparency can be related to information.  Information can be for strategic purposes, human resources or even something to motivate staff.  But in many cases most businesses there is a lack of information.  What I means is that most of the time information stays at the top of the hierarchy rather than being spread down to the workers who need it in order to achieve their objectives.  It’s like a river and a mountain.  A dam is placed in the middle and the water, or the information doesn’t flow down.  The solutions are very simple.  For example, general meetings could be held where directors communicate with their employees.  These could be followed up with briefings summarising what was said.  Overall, a greater sharing of information would help everyone understand their role in an organisation better and help them perform more effectively.


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B2.2 Vocabulary – Word Formation – Prefix ‘over-‘ (1)

Words formed with the prefix  ‘over’ (1)

1)  Test:  match the following words with the prefix over- with nouns to make meaningful collocations

1 to overcome a A flight / a restaurant / a hotel
2 Overjoyed (adjective) b A singer / writer / film / place
3 to overbook / overbooked (adj) / overbooking (noun) c An illness / an injury / an opponent (in a sporting match/event) / difficulties / problems / prejudice / a fear
4 Overcrowded (adj) / overcrowding (noun) d an opponent (in a sporting competition e.g. a Formula one race) / a competitor company in business – especially in sales figures
5 To overtake e Train / school / prison / bar
6 Overrated (adj) f to hear the good news / supporters (celebrating a victory etc.) / a lottery winner

2)  Now check your ideas with the examples below…

Ecstatic Spanish players have spoken over their joy at overcoming a “rough” Dutch side to claim a historic 1-0 World Cup final triumph while coach Vincente Del Bosque said it was a win for “beautiful football.”  ( – July 2010)

Chile overjoyed at miners rescue – Chileans continue celebrating the amazing rescue of 33 miners who survived 70 days in a gold and bronze mine in the Atacama desert  ( – Oct 2010)

 May holiday flights to Spain overbooked – Tourists agencies have sold more tickets on charter flights to Spain than there are seats on the planes, according to figures from the State Civil Aviation Service ( – Apr 2002)

A Native’s Guide To Madrid – Does Madrid have an overrated tourist attraction?  Another tough question as local people see the tourist attractions all the time so we do not see them as overrated.  Unless you’re an avid lover of art, you may be disappointed by the Prado Museum.  (

Catalan Prisons overcrowded – Today´s Que (p.4) reports that Catalan prisons are currently accomodating some 8,200 prisoners, though the supposed capacity is for no more than 6,500.  (

Schumacher recieves penalty for overtaking Alonso (, May 2010)

3)  Answers:  1 = C, 2 = f, 3 = a, 4 = e, 5 = d, 6 = b)

4)  What do you think?

  • Which TV show / film / album / website do you think is really overrated?
  • Think of someone successful who you admire.  Did that person have to overcome  a particular difficulty to achieve their success?  What was it?
  • Did you receive a piece of news which has made you overjoyed this year?
  • Have you ever been the victim of overbooking?  What happened?  What would you do if you were due to travel somewhere and the airline told you your flight was overbooked?

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C2.2 Vocabulary – Cashing in and selling out

A few notes following on from our discussion about films which cash in on the success of books and lead us to brainstorming more expressions related to money.

Typing “cash in on” into google I came across an article about Elena’s least favourite film of the year, Eat Pray Love which tells us that there’s an official film related range of jewellery products available to buy – for just $152 you can get your very own Eat Pray Love bead necklace.  It’s kind of the best definition of cashing in on I could have hoped to find.  You can check the article out here.

The article includes another money expression:

‘”Has Liz Gilbert (author of the book) sold out?”  asked various book blogs last week…’

The question the bloggers were asking was not whether all the copies of the books had been sold but relating the ideas in the book to the marketing campaign surrounding the film.

Here are some more examples of sell out.  Try to guess the meaning from these headlines to news stories if you don’t know it already.  The examples include sell out as a verb and as a noun.

Google accused of selling out as it submits to Chinese censorship  (The Independent, Jan 2006)

Bob Dylan sell out – Fans condem his deal with Starbucks (BBC, June 2005)

(Musical Group) Faithless deny selling out by collaborating with Fiat for ‘promercial’ (New Musical Express, Aug 2010)

Clegg sold out to get power say voters – 4 in 10 supporters say they wouldn’t have voted for him if they’d known about coalition (The Independent, Sept 2010)

FBI spy who sold out to Russia ‘did megaton damage’ (The Telegraph, Feb 2001)

Did President Obama sell out out the American people to BP for an oil spill media blackout and money?  ( June 2010)

Gibraltar in uproar at UK ‘sell-out’ – The people of Gibraltar last night took to the streets in noisy protest, accusing Jack Straw of betrayal after he revealed that the UK and Spain had come to an agreement over the joint sovereignty of the British colony (, July 2002)

The Strike in Spain – “…A spirit of indignant victory has accompanied late afternoon marches through the country’s major cities, with the crowd shouting vicious insults directed against the ruling Government and, above all, Socialist president Rodriguez Zapatero.  The strikers are chanting demands for his immediate resignation while calling him “Judas” and accusing him of having “sold out.””  (, Sept 2010)

Spain:  Striking Metro workers face military intervention and union betrayal – “…at mass meetings, workers have been regaled with bombastic speeches from trade union bureaucrats demanding “unity” at the same time as they are organising a sellout along the lines of that imposed on Madrid garbage workers a couple of weeks ago.  After workers protested a May 26 announcement that Madrid authorities would slash their conditions—including cutting 200 jobs, an unspecified wage cut and modifying work patterns—the UGT and CC.OO called for an indefinite strike starting on June 21. The unions then negotiated a last-minute sellout to avert the strike, which included a wage freeze and postponing the job losses for two years.”  ( – World Socialist Website, July 2010)

You can check your theory with the Urban Dictionary:

During my search for examples of sell out I realised that a large proportion of examples came from texts about the passionate subjects of music and politics.  The word is often used to express strong feelings, often in an accusatory way.  It’s often the same with cash in on – people accuse others of making money on things that for some reason they feel should not be overly commercialised.

Definitions and similar words:  The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary lists to sell sby out as informal.  It means to not do what you have promised to do or what you should do because there are more advantages for yourself if you take a different action.  When Trade Unions sell out their members to companies or governments it might be because they are put under immense pressure to do so.  In this case they are often said to cave in to pressure – they have collapsed under pressure – think of a cave collapsing.  If you go back on your principles and disagree with something you were previously against because of threats you can also be said to have floundered under pressure or to have given way to pressure.

Cash in on something is to get money or an advantage from an event or situation.  This is often done in an unfair way.  Here are some examples of cash in – you could try ranking the situations in order of unfairness/greed/cynicism…

Spanish balcony owners attempt to cash in on Pope Benedict XVI’s visit – Many residents of the two cities which Pope Benedict XVI will visit this weekend are trying to cash in on his trip by renting balconies with views of the sites of services for hundreds of euros.  (The Telegraph, Nov 2010)

Jermaine Jackson:  ‘I’m not trying to cash in on Michael’s death’  – Jermaine Jackson has blasted claims that he is trying to cash in on his brother Michael’s death by planning a series of tribute concerts.  (, Oct 2009)

Princess Diana’s death car for sale – The limo company that owns the wrecked Mercedes involved in the carsh that killed Princess Diana wants to cash in on its history.  Owners have put the car up for sale hoping to get £1 million for it.  (, Sept 2008)

Twitter allows advertising to cash in on its success – Twitter has unveiled an  advertising service called ‘Promoted Tweets,’ that will allow businesses and organisations to highlight their messages to a wider group of users — and thereby help Twitter cash in on its expanding popularity.  (, Apr 2010)

I’ll leave you with some ideas to think about and respond to if you want…

Moral dilema – you are the leader of a political party.  The election is one week away.  The result is still in the balance.  The leader of the other party has made some allegations in interviews that the values you say your party stands for are not visible in your private life.  He has accused you of using your position to prioritise the interests of certain companies in exchange for money.  Your rival is basing his campaign on the importance of the family and is always accompanied by his wife and children.  Your election campaign manager has discovered that your rival had a secret affair 10 years ago and has a son he has never seen.  What do you do?  Would it be playing dirty to leak this information to the media?  Are you willing to cash in on this information?  It might make the difference between power and opposition.

Musical sell outs – have you ever felt disappointed because a group or artist you liked allowed one of their songs to be used to advertise something?  Does doing this lessen the band’s artistic integrity?

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