The English Learners' Blog

A blog for English learners and their teachers everywhere, initiated in 2010 with the contribution of students from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. More about me on the On-line Profile below. Welcome!

Conversation Topic: TV & Radio

1.    Ages, TV & radio 

Selected Vocabulary

fetus, new-born/ infant babies (0-2), toddlers (young children learning to walk), children (3-11), tweens (a youngster between 10 and 12 years of age, considered too old to be a child and too young to be a teenager)/ pre-teen, teenagers (12-19), adolescents, young adultsadults, middle aged, mature, elderly people and so on 

  • Do babies watch TV or listen to the radio? Why?/ Why not? 
  • How many hours a day do teenagers watch TV? What about tweens?

Get more ideas from texts like: Media and Tween Girls

Monitor media usage: You will not be able to avoid all media. Children need it for school. It’s in the bus stops, on billboards…basically it’s everywhere. You can, in your home, monitor how much media is used. Set limits on when and where media can be used. If your daughter has a computer and a smartphone, have a time that all electronics need to be turned in. Do not forget about the iPod touch! This is more than just an MP3 player. Tweens can download texting programs and access the internet, so it is also a mini-computer. Set a “no electronics” rule for family dinners (and yes, this includes you, the parent!).

Understand the media: Know what your tweens are doing with their media. Check out their social media usage (if they are allowed to do it). If they have a cell phone, check to see what and whom they are texting. Watch TV with your tween. Talk about the shows that she is watching and work to understand what it is about the show that she likes. Look at magazines with her to see what she is drawn to and why.

Promote acceptance: This is a time where your tween’s body is changing and she may no longer be the beanpole she was before. Puberty can be tough and everyone develops at different rates. Promote acceptance of who she is and what she has to offer. Talk about how life is much more than solely appearance. Promote health over all other things. Validate that society will pull her in another direction and help guide her toward the acceptance path.

Walk the walk: You cannot expect your daughter to accept herself if she sees you talking about the diet you need to be on, or how beautiful you wish you were. Model for her the behaviors that you want her to follow. Figure out how to promote your own acceptance of yourself. This is the best message you can provide.

Talking about Ratings 

Selected Vocabulary: dubbing, voice over (the voice of an off-screen narrator), subtitles/ closed captions, and more words connected to the types of shows and movies shown on television.

  • Do you know the significance of these American ratings?
  • G                     = General Audiences. All ages Admitted
  • PG                  = Parental Guidance Suggested
  • PG – 13          = Parents strongly cautioned
  • R                     = Restricted
  • NC – 17          = No one 17 and under admitted
  • How are movies and TV shows rated in Poland?

2.    Language and television

Discussion: starting from this Macmillan Dictionary blog post on the connections between language and subcultures on television.

I was interested in this article about language in children’s television, featured in last week’s round-up post. I love that it reflects the diversity of modern society, but apparently there have been mixed reactions to the Rastamouse programme. I do understand parents’ fears that their children may accidentally sound racist simply by copying the phrases used on the show, but the whole thing very much reminded me of the furore that blew up around the Tellytubbies over a decade ago.

Critics complained that the ‘baby talk‘ the Tellytubbies characters used would slow children’s language development. I’m not sure whether any research was ever done to find out if that was the case, but I’m guessing the controversy over Rastamousewill rumble on in much the same way. You have to admit though, he is pretty entertaining!

3.    What can you do while watching TV or listening to the radio?

 Suggestion: Illustrate the action by playing charades


  • charades = (used with a singular verb) a game in which the players are typically divided into two teams, members of which take turns at acting out in pantomime a word or phrase which members of their own team must guess.
  • to win at charades
  • Whose go (BE) / turn is it (AE)? = Who is next?

4.    Life before television

  • What did people do 100 years ago instead of watching TV and listening to the radio?

5.    Talk about Your Favourite TV/ Radio Show

Filed under: 2►LINGUA, 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Baby Talk, ■ TV & Radio, ■ TV Language, TOPICS▼

Conversation Topic: Blogs, Sites & Social Networks

A.    Blogs 

–          What is the difference between blogs and magazines?

–          Can you think of any blogs you might like to read or give examples of blogs you follow?

–          Why do people write blogs?

–          Whose blog would you like to read? Why?

–          Have you subscribed to any blog? Would you like to?

B.     Sites 

–          What sites do you visit and why?

–          If you could build your own website, what info would it include and how would it look like?

C.     Social Networks 

–          Are you a member of any social network?

–          What are the advantages and disadvantages of being part of the network?

Here are some tips on content management that might give you more ideas on the topic of blogs, sites and social networks. Do you agree with this hierarchy? Is there anything you might like to add?

At Right Source Marketing, we get a lot of questions about where to allocate content marketing resources.  On blog posts? Webinars? eBooks? The possibilities can be overwhelming. Yet knowing how to allocate resources is essential to successful content marketing. Even though the USDA’s food pyramid has transitioned to a food plate, content marketers would do well to consider a pyramid concept for balancing their use of the many content formats they use. While every content marketing program is different, I’ve created the below chart to show the basic portions of content that should keep most content marketing programs healthy and happy.

The base: Curation, creativity, and coordination

These three concepts form the base of the pyramid because without all of these elements your content marketing efforts will fail.  Here’s what I mean:

Content curation: You’ve probably heard content marketing referred to as “thought leadership.” To be a thought leader, you’ve got to know what everyone else is saying, make sense out of it, and then add something original to the conversation. This means your entire content team will need to spend time reading industry blogs, following industry hashtags on Twitter, and keeping their eyes open for new ideas and trends. Sometimes, this research and reading doesn’t seem to accomplish much, but without soaking in industry content it’s hard to create anything notable yourself.

Content creativity: At the beginning of each content marketing engagement, we hold a brainstorming session to get everyone to think creatively about content. However, content creativity goes far beyond the initial brainstorming session. Creativity  may come in the form of getting through that first sentence when you’re facing a nasty case of writer’s block or finding the perfect way to fix that awkward sentence when you’re in editing mode. You can’t consistently create quality content without creativity.

Content coordination: Content marketing is complicated. If you’re doing it right, you’ll have several blog posts a month, drafts flying back and forth, and several writers fighting for space on the schedule (or begging for a deadline extension). Not to mention that you also have to distribute that content, report on whether or not it’s working, adjust your next efforts based on those reports, and incorporate whatever new social sharing site has come out that week. Content marketing flounders without an organizational maestro to take charge and coordinate efforts.

You might think it’s weird that there is no actual content on the base of the content marketing pyramid. Yet without curation, creativity, and coordination your content will not be supported by a sound foundation.

The middle: Blog posts and website copy

The middle section is a huge part of any healthy content marketing menu. Without quality website copy and blog posts, your content marketing program will be malnourished.

Blog posts build your brand’s following, secure SEO results, help nurture prospects along the buying cycle, and provide fodder for social media outlets. They catch attention and draw readers back to your website. For many content marketers, blog posts represent the bulk of content marketing efforts. Compared to other types of content, blog posts are relatively quick and easy to create, and if one blog post isn’t the best thing you’ve ever had on your site, that’s OK — you’ve always got the next one.

However, blog posts do not stand alone in the middle of the content marketing pyramid. Without thorough, compelling website copy, the chances of your blog’s readers turning into qualified leads are low.  Sure, potential clients may fill out your contact form because they loved one of your blog posts, but I’ll bet they took a look at your website copy first. Fail to reflect your organization’s unique value proposition in your website copy and you’ll fail to capture leads from your content marketing efforts.

The almost-top: Videos and case studies

Videos and case studies earn their spots on this level for two very different reasons, so I’ll break it down:

Videos. Everyone learns in different ways, and while one person may be content to read blog posts all day, another may want to watch a two-minute video to get a sense of how you think and who you are. While videos aren’t absolutely essential, they give site visitors a sense of the legitimacy of your business. Creating quality videos can be time consuming and expensive compared to drafting a blog post, so you might not be able to create one every other week, but you should definitely consider video as a way to complement your text-based content offerings.

Case studies. One of the most compelling ways to sell is by showing off the good work you’ve done for others. No matter how brilliant, informative, and interesting your blog posts and website copy are, potential clients or customers are going to want to know who else has worked with you successfully. Short, simple case studies are a good way to show this whether you’re mentioning them in a blog post or sending them to a potential client when responding to an initial inquiry. However, be wary of overwhelming your audience with case studies because it can come off as too hard a sell. Instead, choose the absolute best work your company does, and showcase it when it’s relevant.

Videos and case studies aren’t the only types of content that fit in this category — you could throw infographics and interactive portfolios in here as well. The point is, website and blog copy isn’t always enough. You should have different kinds of content for the different kinds of thinkers whose attention you hope to attract.

The top: Webinars and eBooks

Content such as webinars and eBooks are essential for capturing leads. People are generally willing to submit their contact information in exchange for significant content like this. Once you have that, your sales team can contact any qualified leads.

However, you’ll be hard pressed to get people to sign up to download a webinar or eBook if you haven’t already convinced them of your expertise by giving them quality content that is easily accessible as well. Build a readership with your blog, and then turn that readership into leads by requiring information in exchange for the content on the top of the pyramid.

What does your content marketing pyramid look like? Have a content marketing food group to add? Please comment below!

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Blogs, Sites & Social Networks, TOPICS▼

Conversation Topic: Dream Jobs

1. Take a look at this cartoon.

In your opinion, what could Santa’s, the snowman’s, the reindeer’s, the spirit’s, and the psychologist’s perks be?
1.1  How would you describe the perks of being a wallflower? (You can read an entire book on the topic.)

1.2  Think back to the jobs you have had/ Think ahead to the jobs you would like to have & discuss their positive & negative aspects.

2. Read & comment on fragments from article from The Guardian (Nov 24, 2011)

Number of young people classed as ‘neets’* hits record 1.16m

Call to tackle youth joblessness as numbers

not in employment, education or training rise 137,000 in the last quarter

*NEET = not in education, employment or training

The number of young people not in education, employment or training has risen to a record high of 1.16m, official figures show. Almost one in five 16- to 24-year-olds in England were “Neet” between July and September this year, according to statistics published by the Department for Education. The figure has risen by 137,000 compared with the same period last year. The figures also show that just over 21% of 18- to 24-year-olds are not in education, work or training. Official figures published last week show there were 1.02 million unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds in the UK between July and September this year, also a record.

The Department for Education said: “The number of young people not in education, employment or training has been too high for too long – we are determined to bring the numbers down.

“We know that many young people move between school, college, university and work during the summer, which explains why Neet figures are higher during this quarter. But we will not be complacent and are taking action now to address this issue.

“We know that attainment at age 16 is the most important factor in later participation and our ambitious school reforms will help to prepare young people for success.

“Disadvantaged young people are more likely to become Neet and our pupil premium will help raise the outcomes of this group by targeting funding where it is most needed.”

3. Are you familiar with the responsibilities involved in these jobs:

a) a Master Sommelier

b) a tiger tamer

c) a paper plane designer?

Read more about a) here:

What exactly does an expert sommelier do?

In a good restaurant, the sommelier’s duties include keeping the wine cellar stocked, and knowing exactly which of the jewels in the racks will make the menu shine.

Sommeliers are also experts in the art of serving wine and, in effect, they are professional wine collectors who gets to share the best of the collection with (hopefully) appreciative restaurant patrons.

Sommeliers do not just pair wine with food. The primary duty of this professional is to provide each guest with hospitality and service, no matter what price range or beverage they prefer. Real masters must know about beverage service of any kind, right down to choosing which cigars will complement the after-dinner drinks!

The sommelier’s job can get complicated.

Guests can be both confused and demanding. When these demands override the experience and knowledge of a professional, it may become frustrating for everyone. A good sommelier will listen to what the diner wants, no matter how unclear it may seem, and provide a drink to match the meal and the customer’s tastes.

Providing the best wines and beverages on a restaurant budget is not easy, and trying to educate the wait staff and customers can also be a strain. It is a specialized profession, but in return, a sommelier does get paid to spend the day tasting fine wines and, occasionally, providing a new wine experience to a very grateful guest.

According to 2003 data, from the Court of Master Sommeliers, earnings varied widely—from about $28,000 for a sommelier with limited experience to $80,000 to $160,000 for a Master Sommelier.

More about sommeliers around the Web:

Court of Master Sommeliers
 – Separate sites for the UK and the US. Both sites use Flash, which means they take a while to load. The US site loads faster and has US jobs and classes, but the general information applies to any country. The UK site is a wait, even at high speed. Go get a glass of wine to sip if you’re accessing the Internet through a dial up modem. If you are considering getting certified in the UK, it’s worth the wait.

The International Sommelier Guild – Based in Canada, this International group provides training that runs the gamut from the basics to Masters Certification.

Sommelier Jobs – Post your resume if you’re looking for a position, or search through candidates if you’re hiring. With additional tips on searching for employment and directory of sommelier schools and courses in the U.S.

Featured Sommeliers – Interviews with many of the top Sommeliers from the United States provide insight into this professional and answer some questions on wine and service.

Why I Became a Sommelier – In explaining why and how he became a Sommelier, Mark Storer explains a bit about the knowledge that a person in this position is required to have.

The Young Sommelier Competition – The Young Sommelier Competition promotes the expertise of the young wine and spirit professional and encourages mastery of wine and spirit knowledge. The Young Sommelier Competition is conducted and administered by the American Chapter of the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Sommelier-Union Deutschland e.V. – Sprechen Sie Deutsch? If so, this site offers information on the profession in Germany with good links and information.

Associazione Italiana Sommeliers – The Italian Sommelier’s Association with plenty of good information – in Italian.

Read more about b) in the article: Q&A: Katherine Clough, Marblehead native, tiger tamer.

 Just six months after returning from Tyler, Texas, Marblehead native Katherine Clough will be traveling back to Tiger Creek Wildlife Refuge in November for second internship.

Tiger Creek is a non-profit organization in eastern Texas that strives “to provide rescue and rehabilitation of big cats that have been abused, neglected or displaced,” according to its mission statement.

In 1995, Tiger Creek began operating out of a one-room cabin with a few enclosures. It has been expanding ever since

The organization’s current project is to build larger habitats for the cats, according to Clough. Tiger Creek hosts five interns every three months.

Clough traveled to Texas this past February to learn about the cats, adjust to living away from home and endure the physically demanding labor. In November, her focus will be learning more about the role of a keeper.

Clough summed up her first internship experience at Tiger Creek in one word, “incredible,” and is eager to return. She recently answered a few questions while preparing to return to Texas.

How did you become interested in this internship?

I went to Salem State, which is now Salem State University, and graduated in December 2009 as a biology major. I always loved big cats, but I didn’t know how to get into that career. I knew there were refugees and zoos and have worked in both types of places. I also had two professors that I really loved who helped me out. I worked at Stone Zoo, a rescue place in Maine and searched online for different opportunities. Then, one of my coworkers suggested I do an interview at Tiger Creek. I was such a homebody that I never thought I would be able to leave, but I did the applied anyway and got it.

What was that experience like?

Leaving for the internship, I was absolutely petrified. I thought I would miss my family, friends and boyfriend too much. It was almost like a culture shock. I was crying at the airport and finally told my family to go. My roommates were other interns and showed me around. Tiger Creek provided us with a car and housing a half a mile away. We only had to buy our own food. And I am actually going back this November to intern again at Tiger Creek. I would like to learn more about what keepers do. My first internship was more general, but this time they are going to really focus my internship. This is huge and super exciting. […]

What are your career goals? 

I would love to work at a place just like Tiger Creek. I love the rescue and refugee concept for big cats. To see the animals that have been neglected or abused now loving life is so rewarding. I love that whole reward part. Big cats are kind of my calling. One cat named Amara was forced to fight dogs as a cub. After being rescued, Amara was happy to see me every day, which is so rewarding.

What was your favorite moment at the “no-kill” refuge? 

You have to figure the cats out and they figure you out. Interns change every three months, so they are meeting lots of new people. Cats are looking at you, thinking, “Can I trust this person?” and you are looking at the cat thinking, “Can I trust this cat?” When the cats gain your trust, that’s the best moment. Connecting with the cats is the best part. Who can say they can have a connection with a lion or tiger?

Do you have a favorite cat?

I love each and every single one. There were 29 tigers, five lions, four pumas, two bobcats and two leopards — that’s a lot of love. As an intern, you get to train the cats for medical purposes. It is not just teaching the cats “cutesy” tricks like sitting but more like opening their mouths [to check for] missing teeth and rising to check paws. I trained a female lion named Kenya who I couldn’t look in the eye because she has talons, which was hard. I also trained Kahil with a rare coat, golden tabby. He was a Bengal tiger. He’s my boy; I connected with him. There is also a puma who steals my heart named Tin Cup but everyone called him T.C.

What were your daily tasks?

This was the most physical job I’ve ever experienced. I would come in at 7:45, and some people would be sent into the feed room and some people are out with cats. In the feed room, you spent time prepping the food for the morning. There was a ton of food. You would also prep food for the next day. We feed the cats a poultry-and-beef mix. Outside, you would go get a bucket and long metal stick and pick up poop. You would drag poop towards you from outside the enclosure and then when it was close enough to the edge, you would use metal prongs and get it. You also changed the water and walked around to check on everyone. Then it’s feeding time. The cats get really excited and start running around when they hear the motor start up to the truck that helps feed them. I was so scared at first because they are so excited about food. They are food driven. After they eat, you pick up scrap food from enclosures with the same long metal stick. Then it is cleaning time. We do a deep clean of their enclosures where we take cats out and move them into a different area while we deodorize and sanitize everything. You can also be called in by radio to do a tour because that is how we bring in money, by doing guided tours. They usually last 45 minutes to an hour. Other jobs include training and helping maintenance.

What was the biggest challenge? 

I never lived with anyone besides my family, so learning about people’s ways and living with other people was a challenge. I thought it was crazy. People come in with their own way of doing something and you have to find a compromise. Also, conquering a day’s work and getting that under my belt was hard work. It took me a while but eventually I breezed through it. Training Kenya was hard because she was the most difficult lion. She tested my patience.

Did the cats ever get aggressive?

Simon, a male Bengal tiger, was mostly blind and he gets startled a lot because he can’t really see, so it is hard for him to tell what is going on around him. The first time I fed him, he roared really loud in my face. We have a food tray, which we slide into the enclosure and back out. The system is made so that my hand can’t get in the enclosure and his paw can’t get out. After you feed a cat, you have to get the food tray back out, but his foot was in the tray, so I took the tray handles and he was growling. He let out a huge roar, which just about knocked me over. His breath was hot, and it stunk. I almost burst into tears.

Copyright 2011 Marblehead Reporter. Some rights reserved


4. When was the last time you completed/ updated your resume?

What is the difference between a letter of intention and a resume?

Read about Ten of the best career sites here.

Do you think things may have changed since then?

5. Think of jobs that disappeared – are now extinct, and about recently invented jobs or jobs that might emerge in the future.

6. Activity: Choose a job & then organise a group interview with the other people present. Ask questions that will help you decide who to choose. Announce the selected candidate and motivate yor decision.

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Dream Jobs, TOPICS▼

Conversation Topic: Music

Possible general outline  for a conversation class on the topic of music

1. Personal opinions and definitions: 

  • What is music for you?
  • When is the best time to listen to music?
  • Can you listen to music while working/ studying/ sleeping?
  • What is more important in a song: the music or the lyrics?
  • What words can be heard in songs today that have not been used in songs before? 

2. Global artists or personal local heroes?

  • What are your favourite bands?/ Who are your favourite singers?
  • Covers or original versions?

On my students’  recommendation, we watched the video of a cover version of a song that got more views than its original:

  • According to sales records, Beyonce is considered the most accomplished global singer in 2012. What is your opinion about this? Is there an ultimate global singer/ band today? Why?/ Why not?

3. What effects can music have on people?

  • Can music save lives?
  • Does music make people recover/ relax/ cry/ laugh/ sleep?

Follow this link to an NPR recording on why songs make us cry and play it to the students before moving on with the discussion. With lower-level groups it is worth pre-teaching some of the new vocabulary (“hair standing up on end”, “weep”, “powder kick”, “aching ballad”, “appoggiatura”, “frisson”, “to tap into”, “a violation of expectancy”, and so on).

The Ballad of the Tearful: Why Some Songs Make you Cry

British singer Adele won six Grammy Awards on Sunday night, including one for her aching ballad “Someone Like You.” What is it that makes a song like hers such an emotional powder keg?

You know the feeling. It’s one like this: “Your hair’s standing up on end, shivers going down your spine, a lump coming into your throat, even tears running down your eyes,” says John Sloboda, a professor of music psychology at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Sloboda has studied physical reactions to music and found that one musical ornament in particular triggers a strong emotional reaction.

It’s called an appoggiatura, from the Italian word “to lean.” And while it’s tough to define, it’s not unlike a grace note. It’s sometimes dissonant and resolves into a main note. The Wall Street Journalwhich wrote about the appoggiaturas in Adele’s song, says it can be easily heard when Adele sings the word “you” in the chorus. Have a listen:

According to Sloboda, that little vocal dip in there on the word “you” — that’s the key to triggering an emotional response in a listener.

Tears are universal

“Our brains are wired to pick up the music that we expect,” says Sloboda. So when we’re listening to music, our brain is constantly trying to guess what comes next. “And generally music is consonant rather than dissonant, so we expect a nice chord. So when that chord is not quite what we expect, it gives you a little bit of an emotional frisson, because it’s strange and unexpected.”

When Adele bounces around the note on “you,” there’s a tension that is then released, Sloboda explains.

“The music taps into this very primitive system that we have which identifies emotion on the basis of a violation of expectancy,” he says. “It’s like a little upset which then gets resolved or made better in the chord that follows.”

All Things Considered host Melissa Block put Sloboda’s theory to someone with a bit of insider knowledge about Adele’s song: Dan Wilson, who co-wrote “Someone Like You” with Adele.

Wilson says he first heard of the term appoggiatura in the Journal article. “[The article] sort of talked about how Adele and I had used this secret trick about putting appoggiaturas in, but I didn’t know what that was.”

He has another theory about the song’s rolling emotions.

“A good song allows us, the listeners, to walk through the songwriter or composer’s thoughts and emotions as they wrote the song,” he says. “That’s why when you listen to The Replacements, you get this kind of giddy drunk feeling, probably because they were drunk when they recorded and wrote their song.”

“With Adele, we wrote this song that was about a desperately heartbreaking end of a relationship, and she was really, really feeling it at the time, and we were imaginatively creating,” Wilson says. “That walked her back through that experience. And when you and l listen to that song, we walk through her shoes through that heartbreaking experience — but it’s in our imagination. And so instead of being devastating, we’re like children play-acting. We get to have an imaginative experience.”

“Hey, if I had a scientific method for making a heartbreaking hit, I would do it every day,” Wilson says with a chuckle. “But it’s not so easy.”

Filed under: 3►SPEAK▼, ■ Arts/ Music/ Dance, ■ Music, TOPICS▼

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