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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

Vocabulary

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

 

 

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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.

Vocabulary

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: www.independent.co.uk/news/

 

 

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.

Vocabulary

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

 

WEP 021117 – The Brazilian women using football to escape the favelas

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For decades, women’s football was banned in Brazil. Now ex-drug traffickers are tackling prejudice in the game by training future soccer stars from the favelas

Vocabulary

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

ridden: excessively full 

stray: not in the right place; separated from the group or target

dodge: avoid (someone or something) by a sudden quick movement

impoverish: make (a person or area) poor

shootouts: a decisive gun battle

lack: the state of being without or not having enough of something

council estate: area of houses built and rented out to tenants by a local council

to cope: (of a person) deal effectively with something difficult

 

 

The Astroturf on the football pitch in Rio de Janeiro’s Penha favela complex is torn and covered with litter, while graffiti on the bullet-ridden walls vows “death to the police”.

Stray bullets are part of my life here,” says Jessica, a 17-year-old football coach. “Sometimes you have to jump into a house to dodge them.”

The conditions for the girls playing football in this favela in northern Rio could not be more different to those facing Brazil’s national men’s team. Yet the coaching that goes on here is perhaps just as important for Brazil’s future generations. Favela Street, is a project that trains ex-drug traffickers to coach football to youngsters at risk from the drugs trade.

There is a high risk for some girls who grow up in impoverished favelas and see joining the drugs trade or becoming the girlfriend of a drug dealer as the only way to earn money or prestige in communities where educational provision is often erratic or interrupted by shootouts.

Jessica started living on the streets after receiving death threats from the drug traffickers she worked for. She returned to Penha only after the Ibiss foundation, the non-profit organisation that funds the Favela Street soccer schools among other projects, negotiated her return with the drugs lords.

Despite the national passion for football and success of the men’s team, the women’s game has been slow to establish itself in Brazil. Between 1941 and 1979, a law – originally imposed by the then-ruling military dictator – prohibited girls and women from playing football as it was considered “incompatible with the female form”. Women’s teams have lacked sponsorship, support and media attention.

However, Favela Street is helping to change perceptions about the young women involved, as well as building up their self-esteem.

Arsenal and England footballer Alex Scott was invited to visit the Brazilian girls’ team in Rio. It is a long way from Penha to east London, where Scott grew up, but for girls in the favelas and those from Scott’s council estate, similar experiences could still be shared. “I don’t know what would have happened to me if I hadn’t got into football,” says Scott. Being picked up by Arsenal aged eight gave her a lifelong sense of direction and confidence.

Whether in London or in Rio, the Arsenal defender believes the sport can offer ways to cope with living in tough urban environments. “Football helps you because you have to learn how to channel your aggression. If you let it overwhelm you, you risk letting down the whole team. Developing that discipline helps you in the rest of your life.”

“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 🙂

  • How do you think football can help these girls from the favelas?
  • Do you really believe they have a chance to better their lives?
  • What emotions do you think these girls feel everyday?
  • Do you know any inspirational story about a woman from very humble beginnings who became highly successful? 
  • Are women’s sports well supported in your country?

 

adapted from: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/feb/17/brazilian-women-football-escape-favelas

 

WEP 261017 – Ten Days That Shook the World

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A summary of the eyewitness account of the Russian Revolution by American journalist John Reed

Vocabulary

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

palpable: a strong atmosphere, plain to see

stream: a continuous flow

to blag: to get something by lying or exaggeration 

whirl: move around and around quickly

dread: anticipation with great apprehension

rife: widespread, everywhere

close quarters: close or near. For example, hand to hand fighting

armistice: an agreement between both sides to end a war

 

Day 1 The Coming Storm: Autumn 1917 and Petrograd under the Provisional Government is in chaos. American journalists John Reed and Louise Bryant arrive to find the tension between factions is palpable and it’s only a matter of time before the situation explodes. But in which direction?

Day 2  On the Eve: The confusion in Petrograd continues as the new delegates to the Congress of Soviets stream into the city. Reed gets a brief interview with Trotsky and overhears Lenin calling for a Bolshevik insurrection. But isn’t Lenin meant to be in hiding to avoid arrest?

Day 3 The Winter Palace: Reed and Bryant blag their way in to the Winter Palace and meet the frightened government troops defending the building. As gunfire starts in the street, the Palace falls surprisingly easily to the victorious revolutionaries but the journalists are caught in a dangerous encounter.

Day 4 Plunging Ahead: The Bolsheviks have taken the Winter Palace and seized control. In a whirl of excitement, dread and rumour, Lenin abolishes all private ownership of land.

Day 5 Chill Winds: Ex-Prime Minster Kerensky has joined forces with the Cossacks and is advancing on Petrograd, and there is fighting in the streets in Moscow: rumour is rife that the Revolution cannot survive.

Day 6  The Revolutionary Front: Kerensky and the counter-revolutionary Cossacks are making gains and threatening Petrograd. Reed visits the Revolutionary frontline with the Bolshevik commander-in-chief who seems less than organised.

Day 7 Counter-Revolution: Bryant is caught up in a vicious street battle and witnesses the bloody violence of the Revolution at close quarters. Counter-revolutionary government troops holding the telephone exchange are captured by Bolshevik sailors – who then have to learn to man the switchboards.

Day 8  Victory: Trotsky has claimed victory over the Cossacks and Kerensky is asking for an armistice. Reed sets out once more for the front line with a driver who takes a negative view of American democracy.

Day 9 Moscow: Despair at the rumour that the revolutionaries’ own bombardment has destroyed the historic Kremlin. Reed and Bryant set out to Moscow to see for themselves but find not everyone in the city supports the Bolsheviks.

Day 10  The Conquest of Power: The Bolsheviks have defeated the counter-revolution and are getting on with the business of government despite the threat of civil war. The abolition of all private ownership of land has won over the peasants and, for a moment, the Revolution seems to have accomplished its goals.

Written by John Reed, adapted by John Hird.

“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 🙂

  • Have you read John Reed’s book?
  • Do you have a positive or negative view of the 1917 Revolution?
  • Why do you think the Russian Revolution happened?
  • Do you think we need more revolutions in the 21st century?
  • Have you ever participated in anything ‘revolutionary’?

 

WEP 191017 – How well do you know your ECP coach?

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And how good are you at spotting fake news stories?

Vocabulary

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

toddler: a young child who is just beginning to walk

braces: a device fitted into the mouth to straighten teeth

aka: also known as

barcode: a code in the form of numbers and lines, used to identify products

to punch: to strike or hit someone with a closed hand (fist)

jaw: the upper and lower bones which form the mouth and contain the teeth

bottom: a person’s gluteus maximus or rectum

nickname: a familiar or humorous name given to a person or thing

 

As you may know, we love talking about ourselves in class. But have you heard all of our stories? Which ones have you heard before and which ones aren’t true? Get to know your ECP coach a little better and try and find the deliberate lie in each story!

Ali: Alison Keable, known as Ali to her friends, was born near London and has a German grandmother, who only spoke English. Ali broke her nose as a toddler when another baby pushed her down the stairs.  She loves playing computer games in her spare time, but didn’t learn to ride a bike until she was 12, and didn’t learn to swim until she was 30. When she was 15, she had to wear braces, and two years later, she cheated in a Sociology exam (and passed it!)

Rob: Robert Kieron Hextall, aka Rob, had a variety of jobs before he became an English coach. He has been a librarian, a door-to-door salesman and a pizza restaurant manager. He was also a successful athlete, winning both the long-jump and triple jump in his home town of Wolverhampton, before winning the badminton federation championship in Vitoria, twice! To get up in the morning, he needs an alarm clock that makes him go to the kitchen, open his fridge and scan the barcode of the mustard jar! He claims that he has never punched or been punched by anyone in anger, although he has a secret life defending the residents of Gotham City.

John: Until he was seven, John Andrew Hird lived in flats which neither had hot water nor an inside toilet. A vegetarian – with a hatred of boiled eggs – before he came to Gasteiz, has written a play, spoken at a meeting in front of 1/4 million people and loves everyone. As a youth, he had both his jaw and cheekbone broken, and also had to go to hospital to have his teddy-bear’s eye removed from his bottom! He cooks very fast, he hardly sleeps but is rarely tired and has seen Frank Sinatra in concert, twice.

Darren: Darren Lynch loves smoked salmon, chocolate and is obsessed with washing his hands. He always has a bar of chocolate in his fridge and could eat smoked salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even though he has false teeth. He once fell asleep in the cinema watching “the Lord of the Rings” and has a fear of rats. While at a party, a friend took 3 rats out of a cage, and Darren had to run out of the house and call a taxi to take him home.

Me: Darren Kurien, also known as Kez, got his nickname because he looked like the character from a book. He has lots of scars and has had just under 100 stitches. In New Zealand, he sky-dived from a plane, and more recently, has flown in a 2-seater microlight. He loves music, plays the guitar and deejays occasionally, and once sang “Angie” in front of a crowd of 20,000 people at the Azkena Rock Festival. He goes to church every Sunday, writes poetry and is learning to swim.

Written by: Darren “Kez” Kurien with help from his friends at ECP. For more info about ECP click here.

Answers: Ali: was born IN London (not near) / John: had his teddy-bear’s eye stuck up his NOSE / Rob: ISN’T Batman / Darren: DOESN’T have false teeth / Kez: DOESN’T go to church

“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 🙂

  • Could you write a list of things people don’t know about you? Would you be embarrassed/shy telling them to people?
  • Did you spot the lies? (Answers on page 2) Talk to your friends, classmates and/or coach about them.
  • Are you good at lying? Why/Why not? Can you spot when someone is lying to you? How?

 

WEP 121017 – Meditation made interesting

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If you want the emotional and health benefits of meditation, but feel uncomfortable sitting like Buddha, you are not the only one.

Vocabulary

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

to struggle: to fight, to have difficulty

to fancy: to want, feel like, desire

maze: a labyrinth

to navigate: to find your way around

removed: far away, separated

damaging: dangerous, causing harm/damage

to boost: to amplify, increase, accelerate, enhance, improve

to anchor: to connect, attach, fix, secure, stabilise

joy: happiness

however you like: any way you want

feet: 1 foot = 12 inches = 30.48cm

riddle: a difficult question to be solved

 

All of us have different ways of clearing our minds and finding balance. Whether you’ve been struggling with traditional forms of meditation, or just fancy trying something new, here are five unusual meditation techniques to explore.

Labyrinth Meditation

Use the mezmerizing movement of this practice to centre yourself. Many churches, gardens and other outdoor spaces have mazes open to the public. The combination of left and right-brain activity required of navigating a labyrinth is said to help with problem-solving and can even trigger unexpected epiphanies.

Journey Meditation

This practice uses visualisation to transport your mind to a more serene state. Simply imagine yourself in a beautiful place completely removed from your everyday life; somewhere you feel safe. Close your eyes for 5-10 minutes, and visualise a garden, tropical island or peaceful mountaintop to slow down the mind and remind yourself of the world’s beauty. (Warning: Not recommended while driving!)

Laughter Meditation

Laughter, and even the mere anticipation of laughter, can reduce damaging stress hormones and boost levels of healthy hormones. As such, it can be a particularly effective stress reliever. The powerful act of mindful laughter anchors us in the present and brings us to a place of joy. Try imagining humorous situations and letting yourself laugh fully and deeply, ending with a brief silence.

Fire Meditation

To introduce the energy of the fire element into your meditative practice, sit (however you like) and place a candle 3-6 feet in front of you. After focusing on the flame for several minutes, close your eyes. Send any negative thoughts into the flame, and you’ll start to feel lighter and purer.

Koan Meditation

We’ve all heard the old riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” This and other philosophical questions form the basis for a meditative practice called Koan Meditation. It’s a  zen Buddhist technique that involves asking a question that cannot be answered through reason alone.

“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 🙂

  • How would you define ‘meditation’. Now ask someone else and compare your definitions. What was the result?
  • Have you ever tried to meditate? What did it feel like?
  • Which of the above practices are most/least appealing to you? Why?
  • Would you be interested in deepening your knowledge of Buddhism and mindfulness? Why (not)?

 

Adapted from: www.huffingtonpost.com

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