Archive | November 2013

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


What’s London’s cheapest suburb? It’s Barcelona!

London’s Sam Cookney caused controversy recently when he argued that because of high property prices in the UK capital it would be cheaper to live in Barcelona and fly to work every day

to commute: to travel regularly over some distance.

lease (n): A contract granting use or occupation of property during a specified period in exchange for a specified rent.

to be upmarket: appealing or catering to high-income consumers; of high quality.

to factor in: to take account of (something) when making a calculation.

to latch on: to take hold of or attach to.

to price out: to raise or lower a price and drive someone or something out of the marketplace.

In his article, Cookney demonstrated he would save €387 (£330, or $530) a month by choosing to live in Barcelona and commuting with the low-cost airline Ryainair to London four days a week for work. To “compare apples with apples” he chose to line up Barcelona’s upmarket Les Corts district against London’s pricey West Hampstead.

Cookney’s search revealed he could secure the lease on a one-bedroom flat in West Hampstead for around €1,760 while a three-bedroom place in the Catalan capital would only set him back €680. For the commute, meanwhile, he found he could fly return from Barcelona to London’s Stansted airport with Ryanair in November for around €34 a day.

Even after factoring extra travel costs including a London rail pass and a Barcelona equivalent, the Spanish city still came out the winner. With total costs in Barcelona being €1,592, Cookney figured he would come out €387 a month by living in the Catalan capital.

The reaction has been astonishing with media outlets latching on to the story with its “surreal premise”. At the same time, plenty of commentators have taken Cookney to task over his sums, saying he hasn’t factored in variables such as changing airline prices, or the toll that all that travel would take.

But the social media manager says those people are not focusing on the key message of the article: “People are being priced out of this city and I wanted to highlight how property prices in London are not sustainable.”

Cookney said the origins of the idea to compare London and Barcelona could be traced back to when he lost his job in April. Soon afterwards, he found himself applying for work in Barcelona, a city where he lived and taught English for a year in the mid-2000s.

Cookney was also spurred on by the recent piece media debate about property prices in The New York Times about London becoming a home for the super-rich.

Recent figures quoted by the UK’s Guardian newspaper show property prices shot up 9.7 percent in London from July 2012 to July 2013.

And what advice would he give to the many Spaniards eyeing a move to the UK capital? “If you can get a decent job in London, the salary is great. But there are also lots of people working a lot of hours just to pay their rent,” Cookney warned.

Something to chat about

What is the main point the writer is trying to make?

What factors do his critics believe he has not considered?

Would this article put you off going to live in London. Why/Why not?

Do you know someone who commutes long distances to work everyday?

What would be the main advantages and disadvantages for you, living in Vitoria and working in London?

This story was adapted from:

“iLook, iThink, iSpeak” Express yourself better!

The World’s Most Outrageous Commutes

WEP 211113 iLook iThink iSpeak

(Click on the image to download it and see the pictures)

Look at the pictures and read about these crazy commutes. Compare how you travel to work/school with these people. Discuss how bad they are and decide which is the worst.

Tokyo rail system, Japan: There are plans to reduce Tokyo’s train capacity to 150 per cent in the next two years. Currently the Metro frequently operates at 199 per cent capacity and is called “tsukin jigoku”, which means “commuter hell”. White-gloved train pushers, known as ‘oshiya’, are employed to cram the rail network’s 8.7 million daily passengers into carriages.

Hussaini Bridge, Pakistan: If there’s one thing worse than navigating a rickety wooden suspension bridge, it’s doing it while looking at its broken predecessor dangling alongside. But that’s the routine of villagers in Hussaini, northern Pakistan, who need to cart (transport) firewood, crops and animals across the 635-foot-long structure to get to their farmland.

Los Pinos zip wire, Colombia: For the children of Los Pinos, a village in the Colombian jungle, the trip to and from class holds dramatic dangers. Cut off from neighboring communities by a 1,200-foot-deep gorge that takes two hours to walk around, the kids get across using 1,300-foot zip wires. Smaller pupils are put into sacks and tied to older children.


“iLook, iThink, iSpeak” Express yourself better!

Visionaries who created empires from nothing

WEP 281113 iLook iThink iSpeak

(Click on the image to download it and see the pictures)

Look at the photos and descriptions of the different visionaries. Match these names to the photos:

Warren Buffet, Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Edison, John Rockefeller

Talk about the impact each person has had on today’s society.

Discuss which person you most admire and why.

Write it all in an email to your ECP coach (and record your voice!).

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

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Collapse of Fagor tests the world’s largest group of co-operatives

Trouble in workers’ paradise

Read the vocabulary and then listen to the text.

appliance: (n) equipment designed for a specific task – e.g. washing machine, toaster

ridden : (pp) afflicted, affected or dominated

bastion: (n) place of strong defence of idea or principle

pleas: (n) a sincere request, appeal

retailer: (n) company or shop which sells to the public

bulk: (n) the largest part

a tall order: (exp) something that is difficult to do

to stand to (lose): (v) could (lose) – an indication that something is possible.

News that Spain’s largest appliance-maker is heading for bankruptcy will not come as a complete shock in the crisis-ridden country. Yet Fagor is a special case. It is part of Mondragon, the world’s biggest group of worker-owned co-operatives.

Nestled in the green hillsides of the town of the same name, in the Basque country, Mondragon has won many awards and much praise as a shining alternative to shareholder capitalism and a bastion of workplace democracy during its six decades of history.

Now, one of the group’s key principles—of solidarity among its 110 constituent co-ops—has found its limit. Fagor has lost money for five years and has run up debts of €850m ($1.2 billion). Its sales have fallen sharply because of Spain’s property bust and low-cost competition from Asia. Even pay cuts of over 20% have not been enough to turn it around. Its factories all ceased production three weeks ago.

In the past, losses in one part of the group have been covered by the others, but this time Fagor’s pleas for a €170m lifeline were rejected, even though the Spanish and Basque governments were ready to step in as part of the rescue. Eroski, another co-operative in the Mondragon group and one of Spain’s largest retailers, is also struggling in the face of stiff competition, and it and two other co-ops vetoed Fagor’s plan.

Politicians have accused both Fagor and Mondragon of doing too little, too late. Mondragon’s managers continue to defend the worker-ownership model, and insist that the bulk of the group’s operations are competitive. It employs 80,000 people in 27 countries in businesses that range from finance to car parts to high-end bicycles. The group’s most senior manager earns no more than eight times the lowest-paid worker in the co-operative.

Fagor, with 5,600 workers, is a relatively small part of the whole but could have an uncontrollable domino effect on the rest of the group with major social implications. Fagor’s liquidation could create a €480m hole at Mondragon, including inter-group loans and payments the group’s insurance arm would have to make on Fagor workers’ unemployment policies. Mondragon has promised to find new jobs or offer early-retirement terms for as many as it can of Fagor’s workers, but this is a tall order in a country with 27% unemployment. Besides their jobs, workers stand to lose the money they had invested in the co-op if it is liquidated.

Something to chat about

  • What are the reasons for the collapse of FAGOR?
  • What do these figures signify? 110 / 850 / 1.2 / 20 / 170 / 5,600 / 27
  • What could be the implications of the closure of FAGOR?
  • Do you know anyone who works in FAGOR or another Coop?
  • Could the closure have been avoided?
  • Do you have any Fagor appliances at home?

This story was adapted from:

Read about Mondragon Corporation:

“iLook, iThink, iSpeak” Express yourself better!

Cooperative learning

WEP 141113 iLook iThink iSpeak

(Click on the image to download it and see the pictures)

Cooperative Learning has been proven to be effective for all types of learners because it promotes learning and encourages respect and friendships among diverse groups of students. The more diversity in a team, the higher the benefits for each student.

Here are some golden rules for cooperative learning:

Contribute *  Stay on task * Help each other

Encourage each other * Share * Solve problems

Give and accept feedback from peers

Try to follow the golden rules when talking about the pictures. How can these activities be done in a more cooperative way?

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