Archive | July 2014

WEP 260614

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

WEP 260614 Cover


This is the last WEP until October. We hope you find these posts useful. If you have any suggestions, opinions or ideas don’t hesitate to contact us. Have a great summer!

John, Darren, Ali, Kez and Rob.

The Team at English Coaching Projects S.Coop.

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Coin shows Cleopatra’s ugly truth

Antony and Cleopatra, one of history’s most romantic couples, were not the great beauties that Hollywood would have us believe.

Read and check the vocabulary before you read and listen to the article:

coin: a circular metallic piece of money

bulging: protruding, sticking out

hook: a shape curving downwards

to seem: to appear

tellingly: in a way that gives more information

seductress: a woman known for her ability to seduce

denarius: old Roman type of silver coin

mint: the place where money is made

bearing: displaying, carrying

vanquished: conquered

caption/inscription: quote or sentence written on stone, coins etc.

Antony and Cleopatra, one of history’s most romantic couples, were not the great beauties that Hollywood would have us believe, academics have said.

A study of a 2,000-year-old silver coin found the Egyptian queen, famously portrayed by Elizabeth Taylor, had a pointed chin, thin lips and sharp nose. Her Roman lover, played by Richard Burton, had bulging eyes, thick neck and a hook nose.

The tiny coin was studied by experts at Newcastle University. The size of a modern 5p piece (18mm or 0.7in), the artefact from 32BC was in a collection belonging to the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle, which is being researched in preparation for the opening of a new Great North Museum.

Clare Pickersgill, the university’s assistant director of archaeological museums, said: “The popular image we have of Cleopatra is that of a beautiful queen who was adored by Roman politicians and generals. “Recent research would seem to disagree with this portrayal, however.”

The university’s director of archaeological museums, Lindsay Allason-Jones, said: “The image on the coin is far from being that of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Roman writers tell us that Cleopatra was intelligent and charismatic, and that she had a seductive voice but, tellingly, they do not mention her beauty. The image of Cleopatra as a beautiful seductress is a more recent image.” 

The silver denarius coin would have been issued by the mint of Mark Antony. On one side is the head of Mark Antony, bearing the caption “For Antony, Armenia having been vanquished. Cleopatra appears on the reverse of the coin with the inscription “For Cleopatra, Queen of kings and of the children of kings”. 

Something to chat about

  • Were you surprised by the article?
  • Can you describe the popular image of any other famous person from history?
  • How important is the image and/or inscription on a coin?
  • Do you have any coins from other countries? Describe them.
  • What coins do you have in your pocket right now?
  • Do you think we could live without money? How?
  • “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” What is your concept of beautiful?

Write your answers in an email and send it to your ECP coach!


This story was adapted from:


WEP 190614

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

WEP 190614 Cover

The Pintxo: The Fast Food of the Basque Country

There is no doubting the attraction to a good pintxo, but are they flawed?  (asks ECP coach Darren Lynch)


many moons ago (exp): a long time ago, many years ago

a craze (n): something fashionable that everyone is doing

a sight for sore eyes (exp): a thing that is extremely pleasing to see

finger food (exp): food that is easily eaten with just your fingers

array (n): an impressively large number of objects

spin (n): (in this context) style, way of presentation

bite sized (adj)): small enough to eat in one mouthful

mouth watering (adj): delicious, very tempting

to blow your mind (v): to impress somebody very strongly

finicky (adj): a person who is demanding, difficult to please

to be put off by something (v): when something seems attractive

uneasy (adj): anxious, uncomfortable

bar crawl (exp): to go from bar to bar (normally drinking)

tummy (n): stomach, abdomen

On my first trip to Vitoria-Gasteiz, many moons ago and long before the current craze of looking up everything online, I must admit that I didn’t really know what to expect when I walked into a pintxo bar. When I finally did, I was not disappointed. I was met with a genuine sight for sore eyes. A vast counter display of tasty finger food. As impressed as I was to see such an array of inviting food in front of me, the pintxo has certainly moved on to become something even more special.

Pintxos were originally a slice of baguette bread piled high with food of any kind and an example of this brings me back to eating pintxos in the famous Calle Laurel in Logroño. A street layered with pintxo bars, Calle Laurel has its own spin on the pintxo culture. Each location has an item unique to their menu and perhaps one of the simplest pintxos of all still remains one of my favourites. Three garlic mushrooms piled on to a slice of bread and held together with a cocktail stick. Delicious.

But that traditional idea has evolved into today’s miniature haute cuisine, flavours elaborated and concentrated into bite sized, mouth watering experiences to blow your mind. Added to this, presentation has become ever more important with chefs creating real works of art, designed to make your eyes pop out with excitement.

However, not everything is rosy in the kitchen. If, like me, you’re a little finicky it’s sometimes possible to be put off having a pintxo with your glass of wine. For instance, the pintxos are often left on the counter top for long periods of time, neither refrigerated nor covered, allowing them to be frequently touched and spluttered all over by chatty customers.

Northern Europeans can feel a little uneasy at the sight of a Spanish omelette looking like it has been sitting there for hours and on top of that they are often topped with mayonnaise and seafood, the latter a precarious food even in the best of conditions.  So, it raises the question. Is MacDonald’s fresher than Basque fast food? Which would Usain Bolt choose for dinner the night before an Olympic 100m final? (The Jamaican champion only ate in MacDonald’s during the Beijing Olympics to avoid problems with unusual food.) 

But now I’m on a pintxo bar crawl. I see a gorgeous looking pintxo. Chupa chups of foie with mango. Next to that there is a shrimp, smoked salmon and egg pintxo. My tummy starts to rumble. Any silly notions of there being a lack of hygiene go out the window. It’s time to enjoy one of the worlds exceptional culinary experiences. Long live the pintxo!

Something to chat about

  • Do you have any favourite pintxos? Describe them.
  • What do you think ‘fast food’ really means? And ‘junk food’? Are they the same?
  • What do you think the most international food is?
  • What would you recommend as the best food from your region?

Write your answers into an email and send it to your ECP coach!


How can you explain what a Gastronomic Society is to a foreigner?

Look at the the picture and read the text. Then chat about the questions

It’s a private club with a large seating area and a complete fitted kitchen where members of the society prepare lunch or dinner for their friends and/or families. They also organise cultural activities that are central to the social life of the town, and are key participants in any  of the town’s festivities.

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When you go to a gastronomic society (which you can only do if you are invited by a member) the cooking is usually done by 2 or 3 of the members who bring their own food for the purpose. Basic ingredients and drinks are generally available in the society kitchen pantry and are bought in bulk by the society.

After eating, the costs are calculated and divided between everyone eating at the table. These costs include items like the right to use the kitchen and its utensils, a symbolic charge per attendee, and the cost of all products taken from the pantry or cellar. All of the documents and cash to pay the bill are placed in a special box before leaving the society premises.

Given that this is a system based on trust and self-management, gastronomic societies have a very strong family feel to them. The friendly atmosphere often means that lunches and dinners often end with games of cards or singing, either with fellow diners or with people at other tables.

  • Are you a member of a ‘Sociedad’? If not, would you like to be?
  • Do you think they should they recieve public money?
  • Do you think systems based on trust can work in other situations?

Write your answer in an email to your ECP coach!


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