Monthly Archives: April 2011

Topic – Football

Listening:  BBC preview of the forthcoming four classicos in 18 days…http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/9459483.stm

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Filed under Topic - Football

B2.2 Reading and vocabulary: Describing neighbourhoods

In class recently we were discussing different neighbourhoods in Madrid and various words you could use to describe them.

Here’s a challenge for you.  Can you find a text in English on the internet that describes your part of Madrid?  When you find the text, read it and decide how much you agree with the main points the writer makes.

Let me know what you find by reposting the link to the text and your comments on what you agreed or disagreed with.

Here are a couple of things I managed to find during a quick search:

Embajadores:  http://www.europeanvibe.com/noticia/887/

Lavapíes:  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/travel/destinations/spain/article6485732.ece

Salamanca:  http://guiriguidetomadrid.com/2010/09/neighborhood-salamanca/

Various:  http://kellycrull.com/madrid/best_places_to_1/

Chamberi:  http://guiriguidetomadrid.com/2010/08/living-in-chamberi/

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Filed under B2.2 - Reading, B2.2 - Vocabulary recycling

Topic – Technology – Newspaper Paywalls

Faced with falling circulation figures because of widespread free news options on the Internet and the rise of free newspapers in major cities, newspapers are worried about attracting sufficient advertising revenues and are looking at new ways of boosting their income.  One method is to make readers pay for online content.

The New York Times recently announced that it would be reintroducing a paywall for its online content.  Here is a link to a text which reports on this decision and some listening/reading/reaction activities.

New York Times Introduces Metered Online Paywall

Listening activity:  This news report gives details of how the paywall will work and opinions on the idea from media professionals. 

(a) Listen from the beginning to about 1 min 25 secs.  Make notes on how the system will work.

(b)  Match the opinions below to four of the speakers you hear (the options are not in the order that they come in in the text):

Speakers:   Janet Robinson, Arthur Sulzburger Jr., Jim Moroney, Emily Bell.

Opinions:

  1. The biggest challenge facing the New York Times will be that it is not unique in the range of its coverage.
  2. These days, people are open to the idea of paying for digital media that they regard as relevant and worthwhile.
  3. Newspapers have to cater to readers’ tastes which means making content available across a variety of media platforms.
  4. It’s unfortunate that paywalls are widely considered to be best means of generating income for newspapers in the digital age.
  5. Income generated from the paywall will enable the NYT to provide broader content than competitors who are cutting back on resources.
  6. Examination of the effects of paywalls on newspapers shows paywalls speed up the downfall of newspapers. 

Answers to (a) – check the accompanying article:  (http://www.npr.org/2011/03/17/134621239/new-york-times-unveils-metered-online-paywall)

(b)  1:  Jim Moroney, 2:  Arthur Sulzburger Jr., 3:  Janet Robinson,  4:  Emily Bell, 5:  Arthur Sulzburger Jr., 6:  Emily Bell.

If you are doing the Proficiency exam, notice how the options 1-5 try to paraphrase what the speakers actually say.  This is one of the skills tested in the Use of English summary task (part 5) and the sentence transformations (part 4).  Examples:  (Option 1) ‘The biggest challenge facing the New York Times will be that it is not unique in the range of its coverage.’  Moroney:  It’s difficult because the NYT “is in a business of producing a lot of content that a lot of other media purveyors are…are providing, whether they’re cable networks, whether they’re other national printed publications…”  (3:11 – 3:29).

Vocabulary:  Here are some useful words, collocation and expressions from the written text version of the story:  http://www.npr.org/2011/03/17/134621239/new-york-times-unveils-metered-online-paywall  Find any unfamiliar words or expressions on the page (you could use the “find on this page” function on your browser) and see if you can work out the meaning from the context.

  • unveiling
  • embrace (an approach)
  • (something) won’t count against (someone)
  • (have) longed for years to (do something) (to long for something/to long to do something)
  • a tortuous path
  • scrapped (to scrap something)
  • bristled at (the idea of doing something) (to bristle at the idea of doing something)
  • stringent
  • Conventional wisdom says…
  • plummeted
  • question that logic (to question the logic of something)
  • overwhelming majority of (visitor readers) / people
  •  to hasten
  • (readers might find it) off-putting
  • pursuing (an online) business strategy

Reaction:  So, what do you think?  Do you get your news fix online or via printed versions?  Would you be willing to pay for news content via digital subscription?  What else could newspapers do to safeguard their future?

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Filed under Advanced Professional English, C2.2 - Topics, C2.2 - Vocabulary, Topic - Technology

Topic – Technology: The future of Twitter

The future of Twitter

Here is a link to the listening text we worked on in class recently:  Twitter ‘could go the way of the dodo’  BBC Best of Today, 21st March 2011 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9431000/9431215.stm)

I’m not sure how long the link will work as the BBC might remove the content sooner or later so here is an alternative:  http://www.mefeedia.com/watch/37183366

This was the activity we worked on in class, based on the CPE listening test, part 2:

Twitter is five years old today, but will it go the same way as Bebo and Myspace and eventually lose the interest of the public?  Brent Hoberman, co-founder of lastminute.com and Aleks Krotsky, social psychologist at the Oxford Internet Institute, reflect on the past half-decade of tweeting.

1)  It tool Twitter three years to produce one billion tweets but the number is now ……………………………………………

2)  Twitter has grown incredibly in 5 years and it is now approaching …………………………………… users.

3)  Brent says that Twitter is now looking at revenue …………………………….. for the future.

4)  He says Twitter is a wonderful feed for ……………………………………………………… communication.

5)  In Brent’s point of view, Twitter will be part of the next ……………………………………………………………………..

6)  Aleks says that many Internet phenomena can be ………………………………………………………….

7)  She says that a lack of a ……………………………………. could mean that Twitter will not achieve longevity.

8)  She says that the web encourages ……………………………………………… so people might move en-mass to a different online service.

9)  Brent mentions that Twitter is selling a rich ……………………………….. to Google and Facebook.

10)  In the future, Brent says Twitter can make money from …………………………. the data it has about people.

11)  Aleks says that Twitter could be ……………………………………. by other companies.

12)  Brent describes Google as a “search” facility, Facebook as “social” and Twitter as …………………………………………..

13)  Aleks concludes by saying that if Twitter puts …………………………………….., there is the chance that it might die out.

vocabulary focus:

Categorise the following words and expressions according to whether they talk about:  becoming extinct / being popular for a long time / being popular for a brief period

  • to die out
  • to be a passing fad
  • be defunct
  • to be a short-lived craze
  • to stand the test of time
  • to have lasting appeal
  • be obsolete
  • to go the way of the dodo/dinosaurs etc.
  • to hold its own in the long run
  • in for the long haul
  • become passé
  • become outmoded
  • fleeting (adj)

Which of the expressions are more informal?

In class we also discussed the future of some common objects which have stood the test of time for many generations but might face an uncertain future:  books, petrol cars, offices, CDs, cinemas, newspapers etc.

We also revised the use of participle clauses to provide justification for ideas and expressions for talking about future possibility and probability:

Participle clause Expression of possibility / probability
Having seen how…Given that…Taking into account how/that…Considering how/that…

Knowing how/that…

Bearing in mind how/that…

Looking at this from a long/short-term perspective…

…it’s inevitable that……x (be) bound to……there’s a good/strong chance that……there’s only a slim chance that…

…I can’t really see…

…I would (n’t) bet on…

…it’s just a question of time until…

…and combined these using the pattern:  participle clause + justification for prediction + expression of probability/possibility + prediction

Here are some examples:

Knowing how paper dictionary sales are falling due to the popularity of computerised versions, I reckon it’s only a matter of time before we see the same happening with novels.

Considering that newspapers are losing out on advertising revenue as circulation figures drop, aren’t some of them bound to go out of business sooner or later?

Being old enough to remember cassettes I know how quickly old formats can become defunct so I wouldn’t bet on the CD being around in 50 years to come.

Textualising:

Imagine you are the chief executive of a large chain of cinemas.  What are the main threats facing your business?  What ideas can you think of to ensure that your cinemas will be alive and well in the future?  Write a short text (120 words or so) for a speech you are giving to your managers  at an Annual General Meeting which outlines some of the threats your business faces and ideas for overcoming them.  This text gives you the opportunity to use some of the language features which appear in this post.  There are some ideas below but you can add to these.

Strengths Weaknesses
Movies still as popular as ever.Sound and vision of cinema still beats home cinema technology.  Recession means fewer visits to the cinema. Buildings a bit dated.Public perception is that we’re overpriced.
Opportunities Threats
Appeal to wider audiences – e.g. Bollywood not just Hollywood.Show alternatives to films – e.g. live concerts in the USA screened live in Spanish cinemas / Opera from Milan / ballet from Russia screened live in the cinema at affordable prices / sports eventsUse screens and auditorium for company presentations.Use screens for gaming events with console technology. Home cinema technology improving all the time and getting cheaper.A generation of kids who have grown up with downloading films – cinema just not part of their lives.

Further reading:

For further coverage of the first five years of Twitter, check out:  Twitter celebrates its fifth birthday (BBC News, technology, 21st March 2011).

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Filed under Advanced Professional English, C2.2 - Topics, C2.2 - Vocabulary, C2.2 - Writing