Archive | November 2012

WEP 221112

(Click on the image to download this week’s Weekly English Practice)

November 21st is World Television Day.

Could you live without TV?

How do you use your television set? Do you use it to watch programmes you have recorded or downloaded? To play games on? Or just as background noise?

Do you use a computer, tablet or phone to watch TV programmes?

Do you think that adverts on TV influence your decisions?

What would you do with your free time if you didn’t have a TV?


Is it time to turn the TV off? (Simple text)

This article have been adapted from –

Look at the vocabulary before you start!

trigger: to cause an event to start

twice: two times

likely: probable

healthy: good for your health (your physical condition)

  1. Television is one of the greatest inventions of all time. However TV produces more problems than inspiration. Often, when we start to watch it we can’t stop. Why do we do this, even when the content is boring?
  2. We have a primitive instinct that makes us pay attention to rapid movements. It is called the ‘orienting response’. It alerts us to possible predators.
  3. The colours and contrast of the TV screen trigger this instinct and the TV captures all our attention. We sit on the sofa in front of the TV for long periods of time. This isn’t healthy.
  4. Men who watch television three or more hours a day are twice as likely to be obese than men who watch for less than an hour.
  5. TV decreases our ability to pay attention. It also makes us less imaginative. We sit on the sofa eating unhealthy food and we don’t do any exercise.
  6. TV stations are used to sell products and services. We can be exposed to thousands of adverts every year. Many of them are for low-nutrition food.
  7. TV promotes consumerism. Maybe we should turn it off and think about doing other activities, practicing English for example!

Is it time to turn the TV off? (Advanced text)

This article has been adapted from –

Look at the vocabulary before you start!

ensnare: to trap 

regardless: without consideration for something

banal(ity): no imagination, boring, obvious

forebears: ancestors

shift(ing): to change position

transfix: to stop moving because something captures all your attention

end up: to finish, to end a process

munch: to eat with a continuous (and audible) motion

burst: a short, rapid period of action

  1. Television is one of the greatest inventions of all time. Nowadays however TV produces more problems than inspiration. The first problem is that once we start watching, it is so easy to become ensnared by its hypnotic power to keep us watching regardless of the banality of the content. Why do we do this? Aren’t we intelligent enough to switch the damned thing off?
  2. Unfortunately there is a primitive, natural instinct that we have inherited from our forebears called the ‘orienting response’. This means that sudden movements grab our attention. The purpose of this instinct is to alert us to the dangers of possible predators. It makes you jump when you suddenly see a person that you didn’t expect to see.
  3. The ever changing colors and shifting contrast of the TV screen have the same effect. TV captivates and transfixes us. We end up watching the box for much longer than intended and this leads to less healthy habits.
  4. According to a 1989 study by Larry Tucker at Brigham Young University, “Men who watch television three or more hours a day are twice as likely to be obese than men who watch for less than an hour.” We are more likely to sit on the sofa munching junk food than spend time in the kitchen actually cooking with fresh ingredients or getting a bit of exercise.
  5. TV decreases our attention span – we get used to quick, short bursts of information – and it weakens our imagination – we just sit back and observe someone else’s imagination. Books are just the opposite. They increase our attention span and help to develop our imagination. Groucho Marx (1895 ~ 1977) said, “I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on I go into another room and read a good book.”
  6. TV is not made to entertain or educate us. It is used by those who own and run stations and networks to sell products and services. According to Dr. George Gerbner, Dean of the Annenburg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, “Living with television means being exposed to about 22,000 advertisements a year, 5,000 of them for food products, more than half of which are for low-nutrition sweets and snacks.”
  7. TV is at the heart of consumerism. Maybe it’s time to regain control of our leisure time by hiding the remote control and opening our eyes and minds to other possibilities. Just imagine how much more time you would have for practicing English!

Tell me what they are advertising!

Look at the pictures. Can you describe what these TV advertisements are about? First make some notes, then speak about your ideas, and finally write it all in an email to your ECP coach. Why not record your explanations and use the recording with your ECP coach to improve your pronunciation?

Learning Strategies – Using the TV to practice your English

3 ways to use TV to practice your English


What do I need? A pen and notebook, a bilingual dictionary.

What do I do? When adverts interrupt your favourite TV programme don’t get annoyed, get a pen and paper! Write down all the different types of products and services that are advertised (in your own language) and then look for the translation in a dictionary. You can do the same with typical expressions that are used – use an online translation service or ask your ECP coach to help you.


What do I need? A subtitles page on the internet and a printer.

What do I do? Before you start watching the latest episode of your favourite series, download the subtitles and print them (obviously you can watch them too!). Use the printed subtitles to find and practice typical expressions and words (e.g. “No way!”, “You gotta be joking!”, “Gimme a break!”). You can also use the printed subtitles to identify different tenses, learn new vocabulary and practice pronunciation.


What do I need? A pen and notebook, a bilingual dictionary.

What do I do? Watch the news on the TV channel you normally use but instead of simply watching, why not make some notes about what is happening in the world (in your own language)? Then write a summary in English and use it with your ECP coach as conversation practice. You can also look for the same news items on websites in English such as the BBC, CNN etc. As you already know something about the story, reading about it in English will be easier!

WEP 151112

The end of language classes?

Can computers understand us and TRANSLATE for us?

Click on the image to download this week’s Weekly English Practice from English Coaching Projects.

Microsoft demos instant English-Chinese translation

This article has been adapted from –

Look at the vocabulary before you start!

sounds like: has the same sound as another person or object

breakthroughs: an important, dramatic advance or discovery 

accuracy: to be correct or precise

research: investigation

improvement: to get better

further: more

cut: to reduce, make less, decrease

Now read and listen to the text

Microsoft has demonstrated software that can translate spoken English into spoken Chinese almost instantly. The software preserves intonation and cadence so the translated speech still sounds like the original speaker.

Microsoft said that breakthroughs in research have reduced the number of errors made by the instant translation system.

The system works the same the way as brains work and this improves its accuracy. Microsoft’s Mr. Rick Rashid explained that this translation became possible thanks to research done in Microsoft labs that built on earlier breakthroughs. The new system uses statistical models that do a better job of capturing the range of human vocal ability. 

Previous improvements in computer technology meant that programmes could process data faster but error rates were still about 20-25%. In 2010 Microsoft researchers working with scientists at the University of Toronto improved translation further by using networks that learn to recognise sound in the same way as brains do. Applying this technology to speech translation cut error rates to about 15%, said Mr Rashid. With time the systems will ‘learn’ more and error rates will decrease even further.

During the presentation, the audio of Mr. Rashid’s speech was translated into English text. Next, this was converted into Chinese and the order of the words was changed so that the Chinese sentence made sense. Finally, the Chinese characters were entered into a text-to-speech system and the PC spoke with an intonation that was similar to Mr Rashid’s.

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