Archive | March 2017

WEP260117 – The Right To Disconnect

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French workers now have ‘right to disconnect’ as France seeks to establish agreements that afford work flexibility but avoid burnout

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

burnout: exhaustion of physical or emotional strength or motivation usually as a result of prolonged stress or frustration

to tackle: to make an effort to resolve a problem

scourge: something that causes great suffering

to blame: to assign the responsibility for a bad situation

to switch off: disconnect from work

surge: a sudden strong increase

to commute: travel some distance between one’s home and place of work on a regular basis

boundaries: something that indicates bounds or limits


French companies are now required to guarantee their employees a “right to disconnect” from technology as the country seeks to tackle the modern-day scourge of compulsive out-of-hours email checking.

On 1 January, an employment law entered into force that obliges organisations with more than 50 workers to start negotiations to define the rights of employees to ignore their smartphones.

Overuse of digital devices has been blamed for everything from burnout to sleeplessness as well as relationship problems, with many employees uncertain of when they can switch off.

The measure is intended to tackle the so-called “always-on” work culture that has led to a surge in usually unpaid overtime – while also giving employees flexibility to work outside the office.

The measure was introduced by labour minister Myriam El Khomri, who commissioned a report submitted in September 2015 which warned about the health impact of “info-obesity” which afflicts many workplaces.

Some large groups such as Volkswagen and Daimler in Germany or nuclear power company Areva and insurer Axa in France have already taken steps to limit out-of-hours messaging to reduce burnout among workers.

Some measures include cutting email connections in the evening and weekends or even destroying emails automatically that are sent to employees while they are on holiday.

A study published by a French research group in October showed that more than a third of French workers used their devices to do work out-of-hours every day. About 60% of workers were in favour of regulation to clarify their rights.

But computing and work-life balance expert Anna Cox from University College London (UCL) said companies must take into account demands from employees for both protection and flexibility. “For some people, they want to work for two hours every evening, but want to be able to switch off between 3 and 5pm when they pick their kids up and are cooking dinner,” she said. Others are happy to use their daily commute to get ahead before they arrive in the office, she explained.

Furthermore, she said the world of work was changing as rapidly as the technology, with more and more employees working remotely or with colleagues in other time zones. “Some of the challenges that come with flexibility are managing those boundaries between work and home and being able to say ‘actually I am not working now’,” she said.

adapted from:

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

Give reasons for your answers.

  • What, in your own words, is the article about?
  • Are you a victim of unpaid overtime?
  • Do you believe such a law could be introduced successfully in your country?
  • In a resent survey, Spain was found to be second after Denmark in the world for work-life balance. Do you agree with this? Give reasons for your answer.
  • What times of day would you like to disconnect? 
  • What do you do to unwind after work?

WEP190117 – What’s Wrong With Charity?

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“The poor are always with us,” said Jesus allegedly. Does giving really help alleviate poverty?

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

charity: to raise money for those in need

stopgap: a temporary way of solving a problem

band-aid: material used to cover a wound, also a temporary solution

patch-up: to restore something that is broken or torn by replacing a part or putting it together

large-scale: big, extensive

self-defeating: meant to solve a problem but actually causing the same or another problem


Charities often target symptoms, not causes

The accusation is that charity helps the recipient with their problem, but it doesn’t do much to deal with the causes of that problem.

It certainly is true that some charities do stopgap or ‘band-aid‘ work, either exclusively or some of the time.

Combating cancer is a relatively simple scientific problem, while global poverty requires more than a scientific operation or finding a better way to manage world resources.

Combating poverty involves slow processes of political, cultural and social change, with many participants, significant opposition and serious issues of self-determination and coercion to be navigated.

Charity may become a substitute for real justice

The idea is that charity is wrong when it’s used to patch up the effects of the fundamental injustices that are built into the structure and values of a society.

Charity, from this viewpoint, can sometimes be seen as actually accepting the injustice itself, while trying to mitigate the consequences of the injustice.

Charity may not provide the best solution to a problem

Let’s agree that the purpose of giving to charity is to solve particular problems and choose the problem of world poverty.

Let’s also agree that we want to do the most effective thing to help reduce world poverty.

Charitable giving may not be the most effective way of solving world poverty. Indeed charitable giving may even distract from finding the best solution – which might involve a complex rethink of the way the world organises its economic relationships, and large-scale government initiatives to change people’s conditions.

If that is so, then the effort put into charity might be better devoted to pressuring governments to bring about needed change. And governments might be more likely to focus on dealing with poverty if they weren’t being helped by charities

Charity may benefit the state rather than the needy

It has been argued that charity can be self-defeating if it allows the state to escape some of its responsibilities.

Large-scale philanthropy to support ‘essential services’ is wrong: Charity to support essential services is bad because it switches provision from government to charity, rather than increasing benefits to the needy.

So, the next time you put a coin in a charity tin you may want to ask yourself: Am I just helping the government cut services and is there something more useful I can do to save the world?

Adapted from BBC Ethics

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • What issues do you feel strongly about?
  • Do you give money to registered charities? (e.g. Red Cross, Greenpeace, WWF?
  • Are you a member of an NGO like Oxfam?
  • Do you give money to people begging in the street?
  • Do you think having large charity organisations is a good idea? Why/why not?
  • Should charities be a substitute for essential services? 
  • Is it better to give time or money?
  • Should rich people and corporations be forced to give to charity?

WEP120117 – Five Pound Notes Worth £50,000

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British banks have issued new ‘plastic’ five pound notes. An artist has ‘drawn’ on 4 of them and now they could be worth thousands of pounds.

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

to issue: to emit or distribute

sterling: the official name for British money

Channel Islands: islands between Britain and France

unfamiliar: not known or with no experience of something

currency: the system of money in a country

face value: the value printed on a note or coin

elderly: an old person

to turn up: to appear, to be located or discovered

to deface: to vandalise, ruin, disfigure a surface


Here’s an interesting fact for you: there are eight banks and three islands that print money that can be used in the United Kingdom.

The Bank of England produces the notes and coins that will be familiar to most visitors to Britain but there are four banks in Northern Ireland and three in Scotland that issue local versions of sterling banknotes. The Isle of Man and the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey also have local designs produced by their respective governments. All of them have the same value as the Bank of England notes and are accepted by shops, businesses, post offices and other banks. However, many businesses in England will be suspicious of any unfamiliar notes from other parts of the British Isles even though they are legal currency.

Recently, the Bank of England (as well as the Scottish banks) started replacing the old paper notes with new plastic ones. They are made of polymer, a flexible plastic, and will last up to three times longer as well as having a variety of security features that make them extremely difficult to counterfeit. The new ‘fiver’ (£5) came into circulation in the autumn of 2016 and the ‘tenner’ (£10) will appear in the summer of 2017.

But not all the notes are worth the same. Four of the new fivers have been engraved with tiny portraits of novelist Jane Austen. The 0.5mm images were engraved by 70-year-old artist Graham Short as a private initiative and appear on four notes with consecutive serial numbers (AM32 885551/52/53/54). They also include quotes from the novels Emma, Pride and Prejudice and Mansfield Park.

The artist, who recently sold a portrait of the Queen engraved on a speck of gold inside the eye of a needle for £100,000, secretly spent the fivers in shops in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Midlands and South Wales. He likened them to “real-life equivalents of the famous Willy Wonka ‘Golden Tickets’,” and experts have speculated that they could be worth up to £50,000. Collectors regularly pay more than the face value for banknotes that are unique in some way. ‘James Bond’ notes, with 007 in the serial number, have sold for £5,000 on eBay.

The fiver in Wales has been found by an elderly art fan. She wishes to remain anonymous and has given it to her granddaughter as an investment. Another turned up in a Christmas card sent to a student in Scotland. The lucky recipient has framed it and hung it on a wall. The other two notes haven’t been discovered yet.

But Mr Short could be in trouble as it is technically an offence to deface a banknote. It is illegal to print or write words and symbols onto banknotes. In 1994 two members of the electronica band The KLF burnt £1m and nailed another million in £50 notes to a wall. They were allowed to burn the notes – as destroying currency is legal – but were fined £9,000 for defacing the money on the wall.

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • Do you think it is unusual that so many banks issue money in just one country?
  • Have you ever seen a Scottish or Northern Irish banknote? Or a ‘plastic’ one?
  • Would you pay more then the face value for a banknote? Why do some people do this?
  • What would you do if you had one of these specially engraved fivers?
  • Have you ever defaced money? Or seen some?


WEP221216 – Living Room Concerts

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Your Living Room Might Be Your Next Concert Venue. House concerts give singer-songwriters like Callaghan a way to earn a living, while bringing music to fans in the most intimate way.

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

jambalaya: a cajun rice dish

mindful of: thinking about

stock: to fill a storage space

due: expected

marvel: to wonder at / be amazed by sth

makeshift: temporary substitute

green room: for use by artists when they are not on stage

mighty: possessing great and impressive power or strength


At 5:58 on a warm and sunny spring evening in North Quincy, Massachusetts, Frank Sullivan is stirring a pot of homemade jambalaya on the kitchen stove with a smile on his face. “I love cooking,” he says. “It’s a gift – and a curse – from my father. He taught me you can never make enough food for a party.”

Frank’s wife, Maribeth Sayers, is having a rest at the kitchen table after setting out an array of crisps, dip (sauces) and vegetables. Mindful of the guests on their way, she and Frank have also stocked the indoor terrace with coolers filled with beers, their long, glass necks emerging temptingly from the ice.

About 40 people are due to arrive—most of whom are friends and family—at their home. But as promising as the aroma of jambalaya may be, they’re coming for something other than good food and drink. A sign on the back door reveals the nature of this evening’s festivities: “Performing Tonight: Callaghan. Cover: $20.”

This isn’t just a party for Frank and Maribeth. They’re putting on a concert. The kitchen will double as a record store, with the window sill as a makeshift merchandise table. One of the house’s three bedrooms serves as a green room, and the stage will be in the living room near the picture window. Later, when it’s all over, the kitchen will become the post-show meet-and-greet area for those holding a VIP pass, which in this case will be everyone.

House concerts aren’t new. In 2001, Pat DiNizio of the Smithereens logged 70 shows (and more than 65,000 miles) in his five-month “Living Room Tour.” Emerging bands supplement club dates with shows in quasi-professional DIY performance spaces and private homes, and veteran artists offer fans the chance to book living-room shows.

They’ve also become an increasingly common way for artists, mostly singer-songwriters, to make a viable living. Tonight, far from the lights and lasers of arenas that fit more than 20,000 fans, Callaghan is singing for approximately 40 people in a living room.

“I’ve been amazed, actually, at how many people have offered to host a concert in their home,” Callaghan marvels, especially at the fact that they traditionally offer artists a free place to sleep, making petrol one of the only major expenses of such a tour. Hosts like Frank and Maribeth are helping reshape the business of touring, if not music consumption entirely.

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

Give reasons for your answers

  • What would you enjoy most/least about a living-room concert?
  • Why do you think artists like Callaghan choose to perform in this way?
  • What kind of concerts have you been to and what did you like about them?
  • Would you ever consider hosting a concert in your living room? Why (not)?


Adapted from:



WEP151216 – Busting Back Pain Myths

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Back pain is a leading cause of disability worldwide, and one of the main reasons people miss work

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

to bust: to break

to arise: if a particular situation or problem arises, it begins to exist or to develop

insight: an accurate and deep understanding

to tackle: make determined efforts to deal with a problem or a difficult task

to remain: continue to exist

to manage: succeed in surviving or in achieving something despite difficult circumstances; cope

inroads: direct and noticeable effects on something


As with anything so common, myths have developed over time about what causes it and how best to deal with it.

It’s understandable why these misconceptions arise. Indeed, some would have been the accepted belief in healthcare circles before new evidence emerged to give us fresh insights.

Healthcare professionals have sometimes been guilty of perpetuating the myths; both with patients and in the media.

Why all of this matters is that they can cause fear among people with back pain that influences their behaviour.

We know that the best way to tackle back pain is to keep moving, but if fear stops people from doing that recoveries can be hindered, or even reversed.

Myth nº1: “Moving will make my back pain worse”

We have moved on from the time when total bed rest was believed to be needed, but there remains a fear of twisting, bending and moving in general.

This fear is understandable – it can be very painful – but it is essential to stay on the go.

Gradually increase the amount of activity you do, and try to avoid long periods of inactivity.

Myth nº2: “I should avoid exercise – especially weight training”

If you don’t normally lift weights, nobody is suggesting you head out today and get under a 100kg squat.

However, back pain shouldn’t cause you to stop doing exercise or the regular activities you enjoy.

Exercise is now accepted as the best way to treat back pain and this includes weight-training, where appropriate.

As with anything, gradually build up your tolerance and confidence but do not fear it.

Myth nº3: “Pain equals damage”

This is one that was always the established view, but recent research has led to greater insight on what causes pain and how best to manage it.

That’s why physios take a more holistic approach to help patients understand why they are in pain.

There may be physical reasons but there may also be psychological or even social factors at play, and it’s important to identify and address those.

The key again, as with all of these myths, is to overcome the fear factor to avoid a person’s condition worsening.

Of course, it should be pointed out that this advice is general in nature and will not apply to everyone. Anyone who experiences back pain that lasts longer than six weeks is advised to see a physiotherapist or GP.

But if we can begin to knock down these myths, we can start to make inroads on a condition that affects millions of us every day.

“Let’s chat about that!”

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • What, in your own words, does the article say about moving?
  • According to the article, should you give up exercising? Give reasons for your answer.
  • What, according to the article, could be reasons for pain? 
  • Does the article convince you enough to keep moving and exercise if you are suffering from pain? why/not?
  • Have you ever suffered back pain or other pain? Describe your experience.


adapted from:


WEP081216 – FRED Talks

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Running, Multiple Intelligences, Curling, And Learning Anything In 20 Hours (Or Less)

Last Friday we had a wonderful evening of FRED Talks at the ECP Hub. Three students and one ECP coach gave short talks about some fascinating and inspiring subjects. Food, drinks, music and conversation made for an entertaining evening in the ‘Molineux Lounge’ – our new space for socialising in English. Here are brief summaries of the talks (click on the links to watch the videos).


Why Is Everyone Running? – Aitor

Everywhere you go nowadays its seems that somebody is running. But not because they are late for a meeting, it’s because they like it. ECP student Aitor (who gave a great talk about travelling last year) is one of those people. He explained why more and more people are getting hooked on this activity (there are approximately 2.5m people who run in Spain). He mentioned the concept of ‘collective infection’ as one reason for it’s rapid expansion. More importantly perhaps, it is a cheap activity that you can plan around your family life and working hours as you don’t need a lot of time to do it. And don’t forget the feel-good factor as you set and meet personal goals!

Multiple Intelligences – Igor

Teacher, musician and ECP student Igor asked us all a question: “Do you consider yourself intelligent?” “Yes!” we all shouted 🙂 But then he asked us what type of intelligence we were thinking of. The psychologist Howard Gardner has proposed that we have ‘multiple intelligences’: linguistic, spatial, musical, mathematical, inter-personal, intra-personal and kinaesthetic ones. While scientists have a strong mathematical intelligence, writers are more linguistically intelligent. Many experts believe our education systems should be radically changed to take these differences into account so that we can help young people develop their strengths and be more successful in life.

F&Q About Curling – Iñigo

It’s surprising that a sport that involves sweeping can be so popular. Maybe not in Spain, but in Canada there are over a million players: the women world champions are Russian and the Scottish adore this game – probably because they invented it in the 16th century. The all-important stone weighs 20kg and to form a team you need to buy 16 of them at a cost of €9,000! Spanish international and ECP student Iñigo explained the history, the rules and the reason why he plays it – the winners are obliged to pay for the losers drinks in the ‘3rd half’. A great way to exercise and socialise at the same time!

Learn Anything In 20 Hours – Rob

ECP coach Rob showed everyone how it’s possible to learn something (a particular skill or ability) in 20 hours or less. The technique is to ‘deconstruct’ what you want to learn (the skill) into small components (sub-skills) and then dedicate your time to practising these abilities so that you can ‘reconstruct’ them into the desired skill. Eliminating barriers to learning and identifying and using H.O.T. moments of time to practise (and practise and practise) are key factors. To prove the technique really works, Rob learned to play the ukulele in 15½ hours and played an exclusive concert of three classic songs that everyone sang along to 🙂

Something to chat about

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂


  • Do you go running? If so, why?
  • Do you thing running can be bad for you?
  • Have you ever watched an event like a marathon or a triathlon?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of doing regular exercise and sport?


  • What type of intelligences do you think you are strong in? Why?
  • How do you think we could improve our education system at different ages?
  • What different subjects would you introduce at school?
  • Would you consider teaching your children at home instead of in the state system?


  • Have you ever seen curling being played on TV?
  • Have you ever done any activities on ice? Describe them. If not, what would you like to do?
  • Would you like to play a game of curling?
  • Describe the rules of one game you have played.


  • What skill/ability/activity would you most like to learn? (Work, personal life, sport etc)
  • Do you think you could learn the basics of it in 20 hours?
  • When could you dedicate a few short moments during the day to practise a new skill?
  • What could you help another person learn to do?



WEP 011216 Humans And Dogs

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Let’s talk about humans who have dogs. There has been a massive increase in dog ownership in Gasteiz over the last few years. Coach John gives a personal view on the phenomenon.

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:

bum: buttocks

howls: loud, sad cry made by a dog or wolf
hound: another word for dog. Also mutt

to bound: walk or run with long strides

to bear: to show or exhibit

arse (also ‘ass’): another word for bum

to anthropomorphise: to attribute human characteristics to animals


When I first came to Gasteiz I was relieved to get away from the UK where ‘the nation of dog lovers’ had been a nightmare for me.

As a paperboy in Gateshead, I had been bitten on the bum by a mad dog which had waited months to get its teeth into me. Every day, as I posted the newspaper through the letterbox I could hear the horrible howls of the hound from hell and sometimes I could even feel its hot foul breath on my scared teenage hand.

One day I posted the paper and heard nothing, but suddenly I could see the dog bounding towards me from the back garden. I tried to escape by jumping over a fence but it caught me. As I screamed in pain, the owner of the dog told me it was my fault as I had been running away!

Basque people, it seemed to me, had a sensible and realistic attitude towards dogs in that they had them in their house in the village where they could run free and play useful roles as hunters and guard dogs.

However, little by little I have seen people here become more like people in the UK as regards dogs.

Every time I go for a drink in my neighbourhood at night I have to walk the gauntlet of dogs who just know I am afraid of them. They snarl and bear their  teeth at me.

In the bar they run free and rub their arses up against my legs. They eat the remains of pintxos, smell each others’ bums then lick the hands and faces of kids.

One day I asked a dog owner why he had a dog. He told me he was single and lonely and that he loved to be greeted everyday after work by his only ‘friend’. Some ‘friend’ I thought – leaving the poor mutt alone all day in a small flat. I believe it is cruel to leave a dog alone all day in a flat while the owner is at work.

Some people even use dogs as offensive weapons and status symbols. Local police have to deal with numerous conflicts between neighbours over the behaviour of dogs.

It seems to me that a basic mistake dog owners are making is that they are anthropomorphising their pets. Dogs were one of the first animal species domesticated by humans but they are not people. They have worked for and helped humanity in so many ways and I am grateful for that but treating them like people is going too far.

I regularly see dogs wearing clothes in Vitoria. What’s that all about? They have fur! Something has to be done!

“Let’s chat about that!”

Here is my programme to improve the lives of dogs & humans in our town

What do you think?

Write your answers and send them by email to your ECP coach. Why not record your voice too? Listen to yourself speak and identify what you have to improve on 🙂

  • All potential dog owners should do a compulsory course BEFORE they are allowed to have a canine.
  • All dogs should be on a leash at all times in public places.
  • All dangerous dogs should wear a muzzle when out in public.
  • Dog owners who do not clean up their pet’s shit will be obliged  to clean up in the area where they live for six months.
  • People who want to have large dogs in a flat will have to justify why. Permission to have a large dog in a flat is not a right. 



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