Archive | January 2014

WEP 230114

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

WEP 230114 Cover

WEP 230114 iLiTiS


5 factoids* about World War One

This year is the 100th anniversary of WW1, a brutal and horrific war. But much of what we think we know about the 1914-18 conflict is wrong. Read on to find out more.

Look at this vocabulary before you read and isten to the text:

* factoid: incorrect information that is repeated so often it is accepted as fact

to break out: to start suddenly (war, violence, infection etc)

to be likely to: to be probable

trenches: a long narrow excavation for troops in wars

rarely – rare: not often, infrequent

comradeship: friendship, brotherliness

casualties: people killed or injured

cloth caps: a textil hat

flame throwers: something that sprays burning fuel

wireless: using microwaves not cable (wires)


1. It was the bloodiest war in history to that point

Fifty years before WW1 broke out, southern China suffered an even bloodier conflict. Conservative estimates of the dead in the 14-year Taiping rebellion start at between 20 and 30 million. Around 17 million soldiers and civilians were killed during WW1.

2. Most soldiers died

In the UK around six million men were mobilised, and of those just over 700,000 were killed. That’s around 12%. As a British soldier you were more likely to die during the Crimean War (1853-56) than in WW1.

3. Men lived in the terrible conditions in trenches for months

Front-line trenches could be a terribly hostile place to live – often wet, cold and exposed to the enemy.

As a result, the British army rotated men in and out continuously. Between battles, a unit spent perhaps 10 days a month in the trench system, and rarely more than three days on the front line.

And for British soldiers there was meat every day – a rare luxury back home – cigarettes, tea and rum, part of a daily diet of over 4,000 calories. Many young men enjoyed the guaranteed pay, the intense comradeship, the responsibility and much greater sexual freedom than in peacetime Britain.

4. The upper class got off lightly

Although the great majority of casualties in WW1 were from the working class, the social and political elite was also hit hard by WW1. Their sons provided the junior officers whose job it was to expose themselves to the greatest danger as an example to their men.

Some 12% of the British army’s ordinary soldiers were killed during the war, compared with 17% of its officers. UK wartime Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son.

5. Tactics on the Western Front were a disaster

Never have tactics and technology changed so radically in four years of fighting. It was a time of extraordinary innovation. In 1914 generals on horseback in cloth caps charged the enemy that was only armed with rifles. Four years later there were steel helmets, flame-throwers, portable machine-guns and grenades fired from rifles. Above, planes carried wireless radio transmitters and took photos. Tanks moved from the drawing board to the battlefield in just two years, changing war forever.

Something to chat about

  • Where was a British soldier more likely to die, in WW1 or the Crimean War?
  • What aspects of life might have been better for a young man during WW1?
  • Do you believe these possible advantages were worth the risk of being in a war?
  • Did you do military service? If so, describe your experience.
  • Do you think humanity will ever achieve universal peace? If so, when and how?

This story was adapted from:

WEP 160114

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

WEP 160114 Cover

Plans for elevated ‘SkyCycle’ bike routes in London

The 135 mile network would be built above existing train lines

Look at the vocabulary before you read and listen to the story.

network: connected group

to unveil: to show or expose for the first time

throughout: in all parts of

storey: level/floor of a building

stretch: length or ‘piece’ of road

surrounding: near or around

to accomodate: to contain

to provide: to give, to make possible

to encourage: to promote, to make someone want to do something

approach: way of doing something

car-free: with no cars

commuter: someone who travels regularly

to develop: to expand and evolve

steepness: angle, inclination

Plans for a network of cycle routes high above the streets of London have been unveiled by one of the world’s most prominent architects.

SkyCycle is a 135-mile network of roads that would be constructed above existing rail lines to create new cycle routes throughout the capital and has been developed by cycling enthusiast Sir Norman Foster, who designed the new Wembley Stadium.

The three-storey high routes would be accessed via ramps at more than 200 points. The first phase is a four mile stretch from east London to Liverpool Street Station and would cost an estimated £220m.

The developers say almost six million people live within the surrounding area of the proposed network, half of whom live and work within 10 minutes of an entrance.

Each of the 10 proposed routes can accommodate 12,000 cyclists per hour and will improve journey times by up to 29 minutes, the developers added. They also say the project would be built over 20 years, providing capacity at a much lower cost than building new roads and tunnels.

To improve the quality of life for all in London and to encourage a new generation of cyclists, we have to make it safe.”, says Foster. “SkyCycle is a lateral approach to finding space in a congested city. By using the space above the suburban railways, we could create a network of safe, car-free cycle routes that are ideally located for commuters.”

Sam Martin of Exterior Architecture Ltd said: “SkyCycle is an urban cycling solution for London. A cycling utopia, with no buses, no cars and no stress.”

He adds, “We are incredibly excited at how, together with Foster + Partners, our idea has been developed and now more recently made into a truly world-changing scenario by Space Syntax for revolutionising cycling in London and possibly the world.”

However, cycling charity CTC has raised concerns over the wind exposure cyclists would face at such a height, and the steepness of the ramps required to reach the SkyCycle.

Something to chat about

  • How often do you cycle to work?
  • What other modes of transport do you use?
  • In your opinion, are cars a good thing or a bad thing?
  • What do you think of the transport services in your city?
  • What transport changes would you like to see in your city?

This story was adapted from:

“iLook, iThink, iSpeak” Express yourself better!

SkyCycle by numbers

Click on the image to download it.

WEP 160114 iLiTiS

Look at the two lists below:

  • 29
  • 12,000
  • 15 mph
  • 5.8 million
  • 10 mph
  • £220 million
  • 20
  • 135
  • the average cycle speed in London
  • the estimated speed after SkyCycle
  • the number of years it would take to build
  • the number of minutes by which it would reduce journey time
  • the number of miles it would cover over existing railway
  • the number of cyclists it would accommodate per hour
  • the number of people who live close to the proposed route
  • how much it would cost to build the first four-mile stretch

1. Say the numbers out loud.

2. Write the numbers using full words.

e.g. 315 = three hundred and fifteen

3. Match each number with its description on the right.

4. Check the text on page 1 for the answers.

5. Discuss which numbers are the most surprising.

6. Decide whether or not you think SkyCyle will be a success and why.

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

WEP 090114

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

WEP 090114 Cover

Foreign Language Syndrome, Really?

A 21-year-old Australian wakes up from coma speaking fluent Chinese

Look at this vocabulary before you start to read and listen to the article.

to manage (v): To succeed in doing something, especially something difficult.

hazy (adj): describes air or weather that is not clear

anchor (n): broadcaster, presenter a TV show.

rendition (n): performance or version of a song

Danny Boy: A song –

to shun (v): To ignore someone and not speak to them.

An Australian university student who slipped into a coma after a horrific car crash, awoke to find out that he was now able to speak Chinese fluently. Ben McMahon suffered serious head injuries after the accident, which occurred near his home in Melbourne, Australia, last year. The 21-year-old was in a coma for a week, but when he managed to recover the first words to his nurse were in Mandarin.

Ben stated, “Most of it’s hazy, but when I woke up seeing a Chinese nurse, I thought I was in China. It was like a dream. It was surreal, it was like my brain was in one place but my body in another.”He went on to add, “I just started speaking Chinese, they were the first words that left my mouth.”

Mr McMahon had studied Chinese in high school, but despite the fact that he never  managed to perfect the language he has adapted it as his native tongue since the car crash 17 months ago, to the point that he now uses it daily in his profession. Ben is now the anchor of a Chinese variety talk show that will air in Australia next year. Au My Ga, which translates to Oh My God, has filmed twelve episodes in Mr McMahon’s home town and is aiming to bridge the “relationship” between the two cultures.

Watch: Aussie wakes up from a coma speaking only Mandarin

And if “Foreign Language Syndrome” wasn’t enough, how about “Foreign Accent Syndrome”…

Well, a man from Yorkshire England claims to have started speaking in a broad Irish accent after waking up from a brain      operation. He’s never even visited Ireland, but when Chris Gregory came round from brain surgery he reportedly started speaking like a native.

Mr Gregory had spent three days on a life-support machine after surgery. When he came round he sang a stirring rendition of Danny Boy from his hospital bed, much to the surprise of staff and his family. His strange behaviour is thought to be the result of a very rare condition called Foreign Accent Syndrome (FAS). People who have it start speaking in an entirely different accent.

Doctors believe it is triggered following a stroke or head injury, when tiny areas of the brain linked with language, pitch and speech patterns are damaged.

There has been an estimated 50 recorded cases since the syndrome was first identified in the 1940s. One of the first reported cases was in 1941 when a young Norwegian woman developed a German accent after being hit by bomb shrapnel during a World War II air raid. She was shunned by friends and neighbours who thought she was a German spy.


Something to chat about

If what happened to Ben, happened to someone you know, how would you feel?

Do you believe Ben’s story is true? Please give a reason for your answer.

Regarding “foreign accent syndrome” what effect would it have on you life?

What word would you use to best describe how the Norwegian woman would have felt when she was shunned by her family and friends?


This story was adapted from:  &


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