Archive | December 2014

18/12/14 Your Personal 2014 Review List

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5 Lists to Make Before the End of This Year

Look at this vocabulary and check that you understand it before you listen to and read the article:

mixed bag: something composed of diverse elements, characteristics, people, etc

roller coaster: a small railroad, esp. in an amusement park, with open cars that moves along high, sharply winding tracks

fluttered: rapid heart beat esp when someone is in love

to grab: to take something quickly or opportunistically

unavoidable: not possible to prevent or ignore

to sift: to filter, seperate, organise

to acknowledge: to express gratitude for something

Listen to the audio and read the text (refresh the page if it’s not visible).

Time flies doesn’t it? Hard to believe it’s December already. It’s a nostalgic mixed bag for many — a roller coaster of highs and lows. Some succeeded in work, others failed, some hearts fluttered, others broke. Families joyfully said hello to little additions, and tearfully bid farewell to loved ones passing.

It’s a time when reflection and contemplation is unavoidable. Coming to the end of anything causes us to look back on the journey. But it can be a powerfully therapeutic practice if we’re intentional. We’re the sum total of our experiences – reflection allows us to sift the good from the bad, to be thankful, and to grow and transform.

As you grab a glass of wine and some chocolate, here are five lists to make and reflect upon:

1. A “People” List

New friends and old — networking connections that turned out to be so much more. Think through the people who really impacted your life this year, those who encouraged you, those who believed in you, those who gave you a massive break — acknowledge them. Once you have your list, let them know how thankful you are, take them out for lunch, send a card, an email, write a letter or make a phone call.

As we reflect on how others have poured into our lives, we’ll think of ways we can pay it forward.

2. A “Personal Achievement” List

Whether it’s professionally, spiritually, physically, intellectually, or relationally, write down the ways you’ve succeeded in these areas. Perhaps a promotion at work, or finally breaking free from your job; becoming more committed to your beliefs; increasing your fitness levels; spending more time with your partner.

You’ll be surprised at how much you were able to accomplish in one year. It’s healthy to give yourself a pat on the back, and it’ll be fuel and motivation to progress in your goals.

3. A “Mistakes And Lessons Learned” List.

The only failure is in failing to learn from the experience. Everyone’s a little bruised and battered from falling flat on our faces throughout the year. Make a list of mistakes for the sole purpose of drawing a valuable lesson from each one. Our trials can be our greatest teachers, if we take the time to sit and listen.

4. A “Laughter” List.

Humour is incredibly healthy. Laughter is not only a unique human experience, but something we can never have too much of. No doubt there were plenty of incidences that would’ve gone viral had you caught them on camera. At least you can put them on paper. This will be a difficult list to put together as you’ll keep interrupting yourself with a good ol’ belly laugh.

More than just releasing happy chemicals, it’ll remind you not to take life, or yourselves too seriously.

5. A “Contribution” List.

This list is typically the most difficult to put together, because it often uncovers the extent of our selfishness. But, no pain no gain right? Make a list of ways that you’ve given without any expectation of return: a random act of kindness, a generous donation, or helping someone out at work.

The good news is, the year isn’t over yet, and this is one list we all want to grow.

Something to chat about

  • Who did you make friends with this year? Are there any old friends you should get in touch with again?
  • What were your personal achievements this year? What are you proud of?
  • Did you make any mistakes in 2014 which you need to correct in 2015?
  • How much did you laugh this year? What did you laugh at?
  • How have you helped people this year? Have you done something for nothing?


Adapted from Huffington Post:


11/12/14 Korean nuts and Spanish portraits

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

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Look at the vocabulary below and check you understand it. Then listen to and read the two news stories.

to remove: to take away from somewhere, to dismiss a worker from their job

to fail: to not do something correctly

bound: in the direction of

(to have) backing: to support another person’s actions

flight attendant: the person who helps you on a plane

a delay: when something is late or postponed

nude: wearing no clothes, naked

to struggle: to have difficulty with something

on display: to show to the public

Listen to the audio and read the text (refresh the page if it’s not visible).

A Korean Air executive has been forced to resign after she delayed a plane because she was unhappy with the way she was served nuts

Heather Cho demanded the removal of a crew member from a flight last Friday for failing to serve nuts on a plate. Ms Cho, a vice-president of the firm, forced the Incheon-bound flight to taxi back to the terminal in New York.

The airline said checking service standards was part of her job, and she had the pilot’s backing. But officials insisted that she was simply a passenger at the time.

Local media reports said that a junior attendant had offered Ms Cho macadamia nuts in a bag, instead of serving the nuts on a plate. Ms Cho, daughter of company boss Cho Yang-ho, then questioned the chief flight attendant over in-flight service standards and eventually ordered him off the plane.

Korean Air said the plane arrived in South Korea just 11 minutes late, and that the decision to expel the senior flight attendant had been made in consultation with the pilot.

The airline told Korea Times that checking of quality of service was one of Ms Cho’s jobs, as she was in charge of in-flight service for the carrier.

The transport authorities are investigating whether Ms Cho’s actions infringed aviation law. “Even though she is senior vice president at the company, she was a passenger at that time, so she had to behave and be treated as a passenger,” a South Korea transport ministry official told reporters.

A portrait of the Spanish royal family which took two decades to complete has been officially unveiled at the Royal Palace in Madrid

“In this case the delay was probably excessive,” Spanish realist painter Antonio Lopez joked of the delay to the painting officially unveiled at Madrid’s Royal Palace last Wednesday.

In 1994, Lopez was commissioned to paint the Spanish royal family, which then consisted of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia and their three children, the Princess Elena, Princess Cristina and Prince Felipe.

Much has changed in those 20 years: Prince Felipe is now King Felipe and all three children are married with families of their own.

Lopez is a celebrated artist both in Spain and internationally, who is known for his nude paintings. He told El Pais that the area he had struggled with the most was the clothing.

“Queen Sofía was portrayed in a pink dress…that at one point wasn’t working for me. I asked her to repeat the photos…and she came to my house with three different ones in a bag. She posed again and I restarted the portrait…But later on I decided to return to the original dress, the one you can see in the painting.”

The delay could also be explained by the fact that Lopez usually paints with the subject sitting in front of him, whereas with the Spanish royal family, he worked from a set of photographs.

The painting, at a size of 3 x 3.4 metres, is the largest ever completed by Lopez and cost over €300,000. It was commissioned by Spain’s National Heritage agency. ‘Portrait of the family of Juan Carlos I (1994-2014)’ is on display to the public as part of an exhibition of other royal portraits at Madrid’s Royal Palace until April 19th next year.

Something to chat about

  • Do you think Ms. Cho over-reacted?
  • Why do you think she did what she did?
  • Have you ever witnessed – or had – any problems on a flight?
  • Do you think Antonio Lopez took too long to paint the portrait?
  • What would you have done in the King’s place? Would you have complained? Would you have asked for your money back?
  • Have you seen the portrait? If so what do you think of it?


Adapted from:

05/12/14 James Blunt Finds His Own Song Annoying

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The successful singer finally decided to admit the truth about ‘You’re Beautiful’

Look at the following vocabulary before you read and listen to the story:

topped charts:  was at the top of lists

leading: causing

over-emotional: too emotional

appeal: be attractive

dudes: (colloquial) men

slow jams: slow, romantic songs

quit:  leave, abandon, give up

career:  profession

former:  ex- (previously)

come under fire: to be heavily criticized

posh:  upper class, elegant

upbringing:  how your parents treat/instruct you in childhood

widely:  by a lot of people, in a lot of places

mocked: imitated, laughed at, criticised

The track, which featured on the singer-songwriter’s 2004 bestselling debut album Back to Bedlam, topped charts in ten countries, sold more than four million copies around the world, received a Grammy nomination and won an Ivor Novello award.

But Blunt has at last admitted that it was “force-fed down people’s throats”, leading music fans to think of him as an “insanely serious person” and get bored, damaging his reputation.

The accompanying music video for “You’re Beautiful”, in which Blunt appears sad, shirtless and shoeless in the snow, only made things worse.

“I have a couple of over-emotional miserable songs that I’m known for, but I think it’s turned that corner now,” he told Hello! magazine, adding that his music was first marketed to appeal to “women during Desperate Housewives commercials” when “dudes also love slow jams about lost loves and things being beautiful”.

Here are some of the lyrics:

My life is brilliant.

My love is pure.

I saw an angel.

Of that I’m sure.

She smiled at me on the subway.

She was with another man.

But I won’t lose no sleep on that,

‘Cause I’ve got a plan.

You’re beautiful. You’re beautiful.

You’re beautiful, it’s true.

I saw your face in a crowded place,

And I don’t know what to do,

‘Cause I’ll never be with you

Blunt temporarily quit the music business in 2012 because he wanted to “take more time for himself”, stop writing songs and “chill out” in Ibiza, before returning to resume his career with last year’s Moon Landing.

The 40-year-old former Harrow student and NATO soldier had come under fire for his “poshupbringing and was widely mocked on social media.


Let’s chat!

  1. Have you heard James Blunt’s famous song?
  2. What do you think of it?
  3. What about the music video?
  4. What do you think are the consequences of making a public apology like this?
  5. Why do you think people dislike Blunt’s “poshness”?
  6. Have you ever sung a song in public?


This story was adapted from:


Go to ‘iLook iThink Speak’ to see some funny ‘tweets’ about James Blunt


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