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WEP 191217 – Do you know who ‘Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer’ is?

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Before you read the complete article, look at this vocabulary and find it in the text

reindeer: a deer from subarctic regions (plural: reindeer – no ’s’)

department store: a big shop with lots of departments (e.g. El Corte Inglés)

behest: a person’s command or request

to console: to comfort a someone at a difficult time

outcast: a person who has been rejected or ostracized by their society

barely: only just, almost not, by a small margin

to pass away: to die

Written in 1939 and turned into a song 10 years later, this Christmas tale is one of the most popular festive songs in the world

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” is one of the most popular Christmas songs in the English-speaking world. It was written by Robert May, an employee of the American department store Montgomery Ward, and first published in 1939. There are, perhaps surprisingly, two versions of why May wrote the story of a reindeer called Rudolph.

The main difference between the two is how they explain what prompted May to create the character of Rudolph in the first place. According to the official version, he did it at the behest of his supervisor in the advertising department of Montgomery Ward. According to the popular version however, he did so to comfort and console his 4-year-old daughter, Barbara, whose mother was dying of cancer.

The popular version claims that May’s first wife Evelyn died just before Christmas in 1938. But according to May’s own account, she didn’t succumb to cancer until July of 1939, well after he had begun working on “Rudolph.”

May told his story in an article for the Gettysburg Times in 1975. It all began, he wrote, on a cold January morning in 1939 when he was called into his supervisor’s office and asked to come up with “an animal story” for a Christmas promotion aimed at children.

Inspired in part by his daughter’s fascination with the deer at the local zoo, he invented a tale about an outcast reindeer with a shiny, red nose who dreamed of pulling Santa’s sleigh. His supervisor rejected the idea at first, but in August 1939, barely a month after his wife had passed away, May finished the final draft of the story that was called “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

“I called Barbara and her grandparents into the living room and read it to them,” he later wrote. “In their eyes, I could see that the story accomplished exactly what I had hoped for.”

The story booklet was distributed by Santa at the stores; it was a best-seller and more than 2.4 million copies were given away that Christmas.

Ten years later, Robert May asked his brother-in-law Johny Marks, who was a composer, to make a musical version of the story. It soon became a great success and is now sung by millions every year at Christmas time.

Below you can read the story. The sentences in bold are used in the song.

“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 know who Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is?
  • What is your favourite Christmas song? Why?
  • Do you sing seasonal songs with your family and friends? When?
  • Do you think Christmas and New Year celebrations last too long in Spain? Why/not?
  • Do you know any other seasonal celebrations from other religions? Describe them.

The tale of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Santa’s sleigh is pulled by eight reindeer, whose names are Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Donder, Cupid, and Blitzen. But there is also a ninth reindeer, the youthful Rudolph…

Rudolph did not live with Santa’s reindeer. Instead, he lived in a reindeer village somewhere else. One day, when Santa was delivering presents to Rudolph’s house, he noticed a light emanating from Rudolph’s room. Santa saw that Rudolph had a very shiny nose, and said that it glowed! But the other reindeer weren’t so impressed and used to laugh at Rudolph and call him names. They never let poor Rudolph join in any reindeer games.

However, with his shiny, red nose, Rudolph was able to see through thick fog. So, one foggy Christmas Eve, worried that the thickening fog could be the cause of an accident or delays and would make it difficult to complete his Christmas Eve rounds, Santa came to Rudolph and said: “Rudolph, with your glowing nose, won’t you come and lead my sleigh tonight?”

Rudolph agreed to lead Santa’s sleigh. Rudolph’s nose glowed so brightly that it illuminated the team’s path through the foggy night and Santa’s task was safely accomplished. The young, red-nosed reindeer was very proud of himself! And finally, his fellow reindeer respected him. In fact, they loved him and shouted out with glee: “Rudolph the red-nose Reindeer, you’ll go down in history!”

The song

Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Had a very shiny nose

And if you ever saw it, You would even say it glows

All of the other reindeer, Used to laugh and call him names

They never let poor Rudolph, Play in any reindeer games

Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say

Rudolph with your nose so bright, Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?

Then all the reindeer loved him, And they shouted out with glee

“Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, You’ll go down in history!”

Adapted from: https://www.thoughtco.com/the-true-story-of-rudolph-the-red-nosed-reindeer-3299068

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WEP 141217 – Beitia pens new solo album

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Before you read the complete article, look at this vocabulary and find it in the text

gigging: moving from one concert to another performing music

to drop: to stop doing something, not continue

penning: write or compose a song

busker: a person who entertains by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place

naivety: Lack of experience, wisdom, or judgement.

stage name: a name used by an actor or artist instead of their real name

going to ground: to hide somewhere where you cannot easily be found

 

ECP coach Darren Lynch meets Beitia to discuss his new solo album, which has been nine years in the making

Igor García Beitia has come a long way from playing air guitar as a child to finally completing his first solo album, which has been nine years in the making and was released on 16 July 2017.

He started out in a rock band, gigging all over The Basque Country, when on the point of being signed by a record label, he decided to drop it all as he felt it wasn’t for him. That’s when he taught his brother how to play the guitar and they started to write music together. What they produced felt more real to Beitia, and later, when his brother moved to another city, he began experimenting on his own.

The death of his mother brought about a real need for him to express himself through music. Getting his feelings down on paper and writing songs was a form of therapy. It provided a means of escape, a place where he could be alone with his thoughts. Each song on the album is written in the style of a letter to someone.

Shortly after penning his first song to his mother, he watched a movie called “Once”. This movie tells the story of a Dublin busker who meets a foreign musician and they begin to write and record music together. Instantly attracted to the busking scene in Dublin, he decided to go, as he had come to a crossroads in his life and needed a little time to reflect.

Laughing, Beitia tells me, “perhaps it was naivety” to go busking on Grafton Street in Dublin and and sing his own songs in Spanish, but it brought about a very special moment in his life. One that would change his perspective, and something that he had never experienced in Spain. While playing on the street, an Italian musician asked him if she could join him and improvised beautifully, adding the sound of the violin to his guitar. Dublin and the West of Ireland gave Beitia a sense of community, meeting and playing with other musicians. He was surrounded by like-minded people.

So, on his return to Vitoria, he began looking for his “tribe” as Beitia likes to put it. This was when he met Alison Keable, English coach and also a singer-songwriter, and along with pianist Víctor Gutiérrez, they went on to form a band called Similar Interests and recorded an album together.

But now Beitia; his stage name and his mother’s surname; is taking a little time out from the band to perform his own music. It’s a project he wanted to do alone, as the songs are very personal to him and singing these songs live on stage is, for him, “like opening and reading from his diary” .

The name of the album translates to “Therapy, Take Cover” in English, which, like an army soldier going to ground to protect himself, Beitia takes cover in his comfort zone but comes out fighting with his guitar.

The album comes in two CDs. The first consists of six songs recorded with three other musicians, Miren Echávarri on the saxophone, Ander Echávarri on the base and Guille Colás on the drums. The second is Beitia singing alone with his guitar.

“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 important is music in your life?
  • Are the lyrics important to you? why/not?
  • Name one of your favourite artists/bands? What is special about this artist/band?
  • Have you ever tried to write a song? why/not?
  • When do you usually listen to music?
  • Is there any style of music that you don’t like? 

 

WEP 301117 – Why consumerism is bad for our lives

Click on the image to download the pdf

Before you read the complete article, look at this vocabulary and find it in the text

pursuit: the act of following or pursuing someone or something.

placement: act of putting something in a particular place.

chasing: pursue in order to catch or catch up with.

carrot on a stick: method of persuasion or coercion.

broaden: become larger in distance from side to side

lead a life: the life you want to live

 

What’s so wrong with Black Friday?

Black Friday is the latest US import to Europe.  It represents our continuing fall into a cycle of wanting more things – whether it is the new iPad, another holiday abroad or simply a particular type of food – and the pursuit of these things takes up our time, energy, stress and money  and sometimes money we do not have  (one reason for record debt).

We also constantly compare ourselves with other people (both real and fictitious), wanting to be like them or in their position.  This leads us into a state of constant dissatisfaction – we are never happy with what we have and are always on edge.

It is intrusive 

This is as good a reason as any to dislike it!  Advertising, selling and product placement is simply an annoying imposition on our peace and personal space.  Advertising is everywhere, and spoils many experiences and pleasant views.  It is like having a stranger following you and shouting at you for several hours a day.

It is manipulative
Both advertising and consumerism itself try to manipulate us into adopting a particular view of how we should live rather than letting us decide for ourselves.

Modern advertising is not just about telling people that a product exists.  It is now about creating wants and needs that we might not have had before seeing the advertisement.  In other words, it creates false desires and needs in us by manipulating us. The advertiser’s ultimate purpose in creating these needs is always to make people want their product.

It does not meet our needs

Some people may believe that consumerism meets all their desires in life.  But for an increasing number of people it does not.  It creates impossible aspirations – quite simply, the principles it is based on make it a logical impossibility that it will make us happy.  If the idea of consumerism is to continually create new needs in people and make them consume more, this will result in us constantly chasing after a carrot on a stick.

It restricts our choices and lives

Even if consumerism did meet our needs it would not be an acceptable philosophy on which to base our societies because we need to be able to choose the lives we want to lead and it prevents us from doing this.

There are many other ways we could live (e.g. simple living or a focus on time and people rather than possessions), some of which people may feel are more appropriate for them.

It affects our world-views and characters

Consumerism does not just restrict our choices.  It is also a significant influence on our perspectives on the world.  For example, if we are spending much of our time and energy seeking the next product or activity to consume then we have less time and enthusiasm to learn about the world or broaden our horizons.

It is unsustainable

We are already living way beyond the planet’s limits. Given this worrying situation, it seems obvious that we can’t continue with the ever-increasing levels of consumption demanded by consumerism without major consequences.

Exercise intellectual independence

Be aware of how consumerism touches your life and when people or organisations are trying to manipulate you.

Consume less, live more

Take some time to stand back from your life, away from influences like consumerism, and think about what really matters to you in life and how you want to live.  Then, try to live the life you want, not the one that others would like you to lead.  

“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 🙂

  • Did you buy stuff on Black Friday? Why? Why not?
  • Are there any benefits in consumerism?
  • What is the role of product labels (like food or clothing brands) in consumerism?
  • Do you believe special occasions like Christmas or Easter have become too consumeristic?
  • Is there a way to escape the culture of consumerism?
  • Do you think there are more consumerist women than men? Why?
  • Does mass media and society affect teenage consumerism?
  • Our world economy is based on consumerism. Will consumerism always be predominant?
  • How does consumerism affect the environment and nature?
  • Do you believe that changing your spending habits can make a big difference in your life?

 

Adapted by John Hird from  http://www.lifesquared.org.uk/

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

 

 

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

 

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