Archive | December 2017

WEP 231117 – Spain’s new football jersey to be delayed

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Critics say the official shirt for the World Cup resembles the flag of the Spanish Second Republic


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

to creep: to develop or occur gradually almost without being seen or noticed

to subside: to become less intense, less violent or less severe

row [rau] : a serious dispute or argument

to brew: (context – of an unwelcome situation) to begin to develop

fuss: unnecessary or excessive excitement

jersey: (context) a shirt worn by a player or competitor in certain sports

to red-card something: (sporting analogy) to dismiss or reject (an idea)

to rule out: to exclude something as a possibility



Spanish politics is creeping into football once again. The controversy surrounding Gerard Piqué’s place in the Spain squad; given his support of independence in Catalonia; may have subsided, but there’s another row brewing. This time, because of the national team’s new football shirt.

Last Tuesday, the interim president of the national football federation, Juan Luis Larrea, made this informal statement to a Spanish sports newspaper: “We have received complaints from the top,” he said. “The government does not like the fuss, or the shirt.”

A strip of blue rhombuses, printed on the jersey designed by Adidas for the Spanish team for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, has had an unexpected response. Some see the blue rhombuses against the red shirt as purple and have taken the choice of colour as a homage to the flag of the Spanish Second Republic – the country’s official flag from 1931 to 1939, before the right-wing dictator, Francisco Franco, came to power. The flag has long been a left-wing symbol in Spain, and the new jersey could therefore be seen as an implicit attack on the monarchy and the Constitution.

Politicians including Pablo Iglesias, leader of the anti-austerity party, Podemos, and Alberto Garzón, leader of the United Left, both celebrated the proposal. Garzón said he likes the “tricolour” design more than the “red and yellow” of the Spanish flag, because it incorporates “the purple of Castile.” When asked about the row, sports minister Íñigo Méndez de Vigo responded with a enigmatic smile: “The Spanish team has had more beautiful shirts than this one.”

But Larrea went into more detail. “The government has not officially said anything to us, but I have lines of communication and I know they are worried about this issue, specifically because there are people in parliament who have linked the colour of the shirt with the Republican flag. The Spanish World Cup jersey for the United States tournament in 1994 had a purple stripe and nobody said anything.”

Such is the concern that the official presentation of the jersey with the team due for last  Wednesday was called off. Both the German sports brand and the federation made the decision to red-card what would have been the beginning of the sales campaign.

“There is no easy solution,” said Larrea, who has ruled out a change of plans, “because the sale of the garments has already begun and there are already thousands distributed throughout shopping centres and sports stores in Spain.”

Adidas issued a statement describing the colour as a “petroleum blue” and stated that there is “no political connotation.” The German multinational explains that “players’ performance has always been its priority.” The team wore the new sweatshirts for the first time recently, at the first training session before they faced Costa Rica in Malaga last Saturday.

“Let’s chat about that!”

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

  • Do you like football or any other sport? Why / why not ?
  • Do you own a sports shirt/jersey? Why do you like it? 
  • Are flags important to you? Why? If not, why not?
  • In your opinion, what is the link between sports & politics? Why is there a connection? Should it exist? Could it be changed?


Adapted from: El Pais – In English




WEP 161117 – Extra holidays for non-smokers

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A Japanese company has decided to grant its non-smoking staff an additional six days of holiday a year to make up for the time off smokers take for cigarette breaks.


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

grant: to give, to permit

allowance: an amount of money paid regularly to someone

spokesman: an official (male) representative

staff: the people working at a company

following: after

matter: a question, an issue, a problem, a topic

scheme: a programme, a plan

quit smoking: to stop smoking, to give up smoking

tougher: stricter, more serious

across Japan: everywhere in Japan, in different places in Japan

ban: a prohibition

ahead of: before, prior to



Marketing firm Piala Inc. introduced the new paid leave allowance in September after non-smokers complained they were working more than their colleagues who smoked.

Hirotaka Matsushima, a spokesman for the company, told The Telegraph newspaper: “One of our non-smoking staff members put a message in the company suggestion box earlier in the year saying that smoking breaks were causing problems.”

Following the suggestion, the company’s CEO Takao Asuka decided to give non-smoking employees extra time off to compensate, Mr Matsushima added.

The matter has been taken seriously by the Tokyo-based company which is located on the 29th floor of an office block — making any cigarette break last at least 15 minutes because smokers take a few minutes to get downstairs and another few to come back up again, according to staff.

Mr Asuka hopes the scheme will create an incentive for the company’s staff to quit smoking.

Efforts to reduce the number of smokers and impose tougher anti-smoking regulations have been seen across Japan in recent months.

In July, Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike made plans to impose a smoking ban in public places across the Japanese capital ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics.

But the proposal is likely to encounter strong opposition from pro-smoking politicians, restaurant owners and particularly from cigarette-manufacturing giant Japan Tobacco, which is one third government-owned, and paid the state $700m in dividends in 2015.

The World Health Organisation ranks Japan at the bottom of the list in anti-smoking regulations in terms of the type of public places entirely smoke-free, and around 18 per cent of the Japanese population are believed to smoke.

“Let’s chat about that!”

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

  • Do you smoke or have you ever been a smoker?
  • Are you happy that smoking is no longer legal in public spaces here? Why (not)?
  • To what extent do you think smoking can interfere with a company’s productivity?
  • Do you think the company’s decision to give non-smokers six days off is fair?
  • What else could companies do to encourage their employees to quit smoking?


adapted from:



WEP 091117 – Alcohol helps you speak English better – but other factors are more important!

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A recent study looked at alcohol’s effects on speaking a second language. ECP’s exclusive survey asked students about other factors too.


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

researcher: a person who investigates (researches) things

to attend: to go regularly to a place / to be present at an event

to engage (in): to participate in an action

to record: to register an action (audio/visual/digital/written etc)

to review: to evaluate or assess something

survey: an investigation of people’s opinions and/or experiences

to boost: to help or encourage someone or something to improve



A small study published in October in the Journal of Psychopharmacology shows that a small amount of alcohol can help people speak a foreign language better. Researchers found that having a drink helped people speak a non-native language more fluently.

The study’s authors observed 50 native German speakers who were attending a university in the Netherlands, where classes were taught in Dutch. The participants, who had recently passed a Dutch proficiency test, were asked to engage in a two-minute recorded conversation with an interviewer in Dutch. Half of the volunteers were given alcohol before the chat, and the other half were given water.

The conversations were then reviewed by two native Dutch speakers, who weren’t told which participants had drunk alcohol and which hadn’t.  They ranked the alcohol drinkers as being more fluent in Dutch than those who drank water – specifically, when it came to pronunciation. On metrics like vocabulary and grammar, the native Dutch speakers said that the two groups were comparable.

That’s not exactly groundbreaking research you might say, and when the coaches at ECP heard about this article, we decided to do a little investigation of our own.

Taking advantage of our LIVE!English Pintxo Pote event in October, we asked people to complete a short survey about several factors that can influence how you perform in a second language – in this case English – in a social situation. We also included the survey in the Weekly English Practice newsletter. The results were quite surprising!

As you can see, drinking alcohol isn’t the most influential factor according to ECP students. Who you are talking to and what you are talking about are much more important. It would seem that although alcohol can help reduce inhibitions, the biggest boosts to self-confidence, and therefore fluency, are being knowledgeable about the subject matter and having the feeling that your interlocutors are going to be sympathetic listeners and are not going to negatively judge you or your level of English.

As part of this ‘Socialising in English’ study, ECP coach Rob volunteered to spend some time in Bar Carlingford chatting with expert barman Pol MacEochaidh. His advice to language learners is the following: “You have to find the right amount that will take away your inhibitions and the fear of saying something wrong. But be careful: drinking too much leads to a point where you can’t even formulate or pronounce the words!”

“Let’s chat about that!”

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

  • Do you agree with the study’s findings? Give reasons for your answers.
  • Give examples of situations where you have to speak English (except in class). Do you feel you speak better or worse in different situations? Why?
  • How can other people help you speak better in these situations?
  • If alcohol helps people speak more fluently, should your English teacher provide alcohol in class? Or any other type of drink? What about food?


Article written and survey carried out by ECP coach Rob Hextall


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