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15/01/15 Do You Believe in Fairies?

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A highway in Ireland was rerouted around a fairy location

Look at this vocabulary before you read and listen to the article:

Seanachaí (n): Irish word for storyteller. 

fairy (n): an imaginary creature in the form of a very small (often winged) human, with magical powers.

gruesome (adj): causing repulsion or horror; grisly

to up root (v): pull something, especially a tree or plant) out of the ground

yarn (n): a long or rambling story, especially one that is implausible

leprechauns (n): (in Irish folklore) a small, mischievous sprite (elf or spirit)

mischievous (adj): someone who likes to cause problems or play tricks on others

hawthorn bush (n): typically a small tree with stiff thorns. The hawthorn is known in Ireland as the fairy tree.

Eddie Lenihan is a well-known seanachaí. He has written numerous books and very importantly has recorded the tales of an older Irish generation, which otherwise would have been lost. These are often stories about fairies and the beliefs that the older generations had about them.

But the fairies in these stories have nothing in common with the tooth fairy and the stories can often be quite dark and gruesome. You don’t mess with the fairies as the consequences can be catastrophic.

So this brings me to what for me is a great story where back in 1999 Eddie single-handedly saved a fairy bush from being up rooted by road builders in Co. Clare. The case made world-wide news, featuring in the New York Times, on CNN, as well as on several European national TV networks and received much public support. The authorities finally agreed to reroute the new highway and the bush is still standing.

As bizarre as this may seem and as a great storyteller, Eddie could be accused of just being theatrical but in fact he is a serious folklorist. Having obtained an MA in phonetics in which you have to be absolutely precise, he translates that precision into his storytelling. Although he says that the people he collects the stories from are indeed tremendous people, he always follows up the story as he says: “It could be someone just telling you a yarn”. 

But why would you reroute a highway around a fairy bush?. A man who didn’t believe in fairies, just to prove a point, planted spuds in a fairy fort and died a ferocious, horrible death. Bit by bit his skin fell off, his teeth fell out, his nails fell out. He died in stages. The fairy fort still exists today. Nobody has interfered with it as the locals know the story.

Eddie says that people in Ireland say that they don’t believe the old tales of the fairies and their shoemakers, the leprechauns. “They laugh at you, it’s not sophisticated but subconsciously, they believe”.

Experts at the University College’s folklore department agree with Eddie and say: “It’s a passive belief and it includes a lot of young, well educated people. There is a reluctance to interfere in things which have an association with the fairies or with the other world. We would all rather be safe than sorry. People are not taking unnecessary chances. Life is complicated enough”.

If I were the civil engineer who had to make the call on whether or not to go around the hawthorn bush, I know what I would do. Reroute please!

Let’s chat!

  1. How do you feel about the “Fairy Bush” being saved?
  2. What you have done if you were the project manager? Would you have moved the road?
  3. Could such a thing happen in your county? Do people believe in the supernatural?
  4. Do you know any Myths of Legends from your country? Please tell us one.
  5. How are Myths and Legends kept alive in the Basque Country?

 

Reference: http://eddielenihan.weebly.com/in-the-news.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_ez_g_VqEE

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:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/thai-nguyen/5-essential-lists-to-make_b_6289388.html

 

11/12/14 Korean nuts and Spanish portraits

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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:

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30375004

http://www.thelocal.es/20141203/better-late-than-never-royal-portrait-unveiled-20-years-late

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:

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/james-blunt-finally-admits-the-truth-youre-beautiful-is-annoying-9808039.html

 

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

 

27/11/14 How Christmas Adverts Play With Our Emotions

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Rather than relying on TV to get their message across, the ads are also shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media.

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

mistletoe (n): a European plant, Viscum album, having yellowish flowers and white berries, growing parasitically on various trees, used in Christmas decorations

carol (n): a Christmas song or hymn

rely (v): to depend confidently; put trust in (usually followed by on or upon)

brand (n): kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like

trench (n): fortification. a long, narrow excavation in the ground, the earth from which is thrown up in front to serve as a shelter from enemy fire or attack

tagline (n): a phrase or catchword that becomes identified or associated with a person, group, product, etc., through repetition

tearjerker (n): A book, film, play, etc. that has a sad story intended to make people cry or be sad

down on his luck (idiom): not lucky lately, not happy or positive with no money and no job

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

Christmas TV adverts are now playing with consumers’ emotions rather than just telling them to buy their products. Commercials by retailers such as Sainsbury’s, a large supermarket chain in the UK and The Christmas Lottery in Spain, know as El Gordo (The Fat One in English) have become as much a festive tradition as turkeys, mistletoe and carols.

They sometimes cost millions of Euros to put together but rather than relying on television to get their message across, the ads are also shared hundreds of thousands of times on social media.

One of the most well-known commercials this Christmas in Britain has been John Lewis’ seasonal offering featuring a little boy called Sam and his friend Monty the Penguin. The video has had more than 750,000 shares on social media and the campaign also included a wealth of merchandise including the “Monty” toy which sold out on the firm’s website.

Advertising director Christopher Nicholson told Sky News: “Instead of it just being ‘buy this – it’s great’, now we’re playing with emotions and tying in that emotion with the brand”.

Sainsbury’s advert is set in the World War One trenches and focuses on the famous Christmas truce of 1914. It features British soldier Jim and German Otto who meet in No Man’s Land. They swap stories and play football before going back to their trenches and Otto discovers Jim put a chocolate bar into his jacket as a gift.

The ad, which has the tagline “Christmas is for sharing”, has been viewed more than 10 million times on Youtube and shared almost 400,000 times.

El Gordo, an annual institution in Spain, with the total prize fund on offer a massive €2.2bn, The Fat One is billed as the world’s biggest lottery prize and this years add is undoubtedly a real tearjerker.

Filmed in Madrid, the advert tells the story of a down-on-his-luck man who forgets to buy his usual lottery ticket from his local bar, only to have that number win the top prize that year – and what happens when he goes down for a cup of coffee, practically in tears. It’s part of a series of interconnected stories all under the slogan “The best prize is sharing it”.

Something to chat about

  • Can you explain what happens next when the man goes to the bar for a cup of coffee?
  • What do you think of the El Gordo advert this year? Are you more likely to buy a lottery ticket this year as a result?
  • What company in your opinion always produce good adverts? Please give an example describing the ad.
  • Do you like the slogan on the John Lewis ad “give someone the Christmas they’ve been dreaming of”? Does it inspire you to go shopping?
  • Have you bought a product recently due to a good advertising campaign?
  • When do you start your Christmas shopping? Do you enjoy shopping for presents or is it a stressful exercise?

 

http://news.sky.com/story/1378087/how-christmas-adverts-play-with-our-emotions

Watch the videos here:

Spanish Christmas Lottery ad 2014

John Lewis Christmas ad

Sainsbury’s Christmas ad & The story behind the Sainsbury’s ad

20/11/14 Living in a multilingual family

Click on the image to download this week’s Weekly English Practice from English Coaching Projects.Cover WEP201114

Coach John’s kids speak four languages. How did that happen?

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

to attend: to be present at

nevertheless: in spite of that, however, yet

to argue: to disagree

glad: feeling of joy or pleasure

twang: sounds which identify accents and dialects

posh: upper class and exclusive

to keep it real: to maintain normality and reality

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

How many languages do you speak in your family?

Four. When we are all together we speak Spanish. Our two daughters attend Ikastolas. I speak English to the kids and my partner communicates to the the oldest one in Serbo-Croat.

How well do your children speak the various languages?

Well, I would say that they are both native Spanish speakers which seems unusual as both their parents are not but Spanish is everywhere around us and they have learned the language from their friends and in the street. They both speak Basque like everyone who attends an Ikastola. They also speak English fluently and don’t have much of a Spanish accent. The older one speaks Serbo-Croat ‘like a foreigner’ according to her mother but nevertheless they speak it everyday together especially when they are arguing!

Did you have to take any special measures to ensure your children learned all the languages?

When Julene, our first daughter, was born 17 years ago I made a conscious effort to make sure she learned four languages. It would have been easy not to send her to an Ikastola but I thought it was important she learned the language spoken here. I wasn’t really worried about Spanish as I thought if I can learn Spanish my kids aren’t going to have any problems! I had to convince my partner that it was important to pass on Serbo-Croat to our daughter and I’m glad I did.

With English I used videos, songs and story telling when she was young. As she got older she felt great that she was way ahead of her classmates in English.

The younger one who is nearly seven understands Serbo-Croat but doesn’t speak it yet which is down to laziness on our part unfortunately. Interestingly her English accent is different to her sister’s which has a bit of a northern English twang like mine whereas the younger one has a posher accent and she even comes out with some American English phrases at times. This is because of her access to the internet and YouTube videos.

What advice would you give to parents here who want their children to learn different languages?

Definitely take advantage of the Ikastolas. Bilingual education gives many cultural and academic advantages to children. If you live in an area which has a trilingual school with English even better! Children have unlimited potential. The more languages the better in my opinion.

I’m not convinced that sending very young children to academies is a great idea. Kids want to play and have fun. They could be turned off English if they feel they are being forced to learn English especially if the methodology is grammar based. As a parent and learner of English you could get similar results reading to your kids in English, playing games and watching kid’s TV with them. Music and singing songs is vitally important as well.

At the end of the day you have to keep it real. Children and adults learn languages better and faster in real life communicative situations. Perhaps you could make friends with native speakers of English who have kids……

“Something to chat about”

  • What advantages does multilingual education have over monolingual education?
  • Why do children seem to learn languages quicker and easier than adults?
  • Do adults and children learn languages differently? How?
  • Would you consider bringing up your children in a multilingual environment?

 

13/11/14 ‘Band Aid 30’ to record “Do They Know It’s Xmas” again!

Click on the image to download this week’s Weekly English Practice from English Coaching Projects.Cover WEP131114

Another version of this song is to be made. Do you want to hear it?

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

take part in: to participate in an activity

be released: to make s.t. available to buy

feature: to have or show (in this context)

mastermind (v): to make a complex plan

advocate (v): to recommend or support

in due course: at the appropriate time

landscape: countryside

filthy: very unpleasant (in this context)

drought-stricken: affected by low rainfall

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

One Direction, Ed Sheeran and Elbow are among the acts who will take part in a fourth version of the Band Aid charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas.

Announcing the project, Bob Geldof and Midge Ure said the song’s lyrics would be changed to reflect the Ebola crisis.The original was released in 1984. It sold 3.7 million copies and raised £8m for famine relief in Ethiopia.

The new version will be recorded this Saturday and should be available for download on Monday morning. A physical version of the song will be released three weeks later and will feature cover artwork designed by artist Tracey Emin.

The record is being produced by Paul Epworth, who has masterminded hits by the likes of Adele and One Direction. The download will cost 99p, while the CD single will retail for £4. The song will not be made available on Spotify and other music streaming services until January.

Geldof and Ure, who masterminded the first version, said the project was nothing to do with nostalgia. “We should gather the pop crowd together to do our thing,” said Geldof at a press conference on Monday. He added that decisions about which artist will sing which lines are not going to be taken until Saturday’s recording session in London, while both musicians advocated purchasing the physical format.

So far, confirmed artists include U2’s Bono, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Emeli Sande, Underworld, Sinead O’Connor, Paloma Faith, Foals and Bastille, who have given up two arena dates to record their contribution.

Geldof and Ure said that other musicians would be added in due course.The original track featured the voices of George Michael, Bono, Duran Duran and Bananarama, among others.

Geldof said that changes to the lyrics include “burning suns”, due to the fertile landscape of West Africa compared to drought-stricken Ethiopia of 1984. The money raised will go towards the fight against Ebola in numerous West African countries, which Geldof called a “filthy little virus” which renders its victims “untouchable”.

Something to chat about

  • Is the original version of a song always the best?
  • If not, what examples can you give to prove your opinion?
  • Do you think that making a record is a good way of raising money for charity?
  • Can you suggest any other ways that are better?
  • Did you hear about “The Ice Bucket Challenge”? What did you think about it?

 

This story was adapted from: http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-29986704

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