Tag Archives: News

Hallelujah!!

Good news, everyone! The Royal British Academy has finally succumbed to the pressure of billions of non-native speakers of English and has changed one of the features of the English language that cause the most trouble to these people: the irregular verbs.

Everyone who has ever studied the Past and Perfect tenses in English knows what a nightmare it can be to memorize all those irregular forms of the verbs, both in their past form and in their past participle form.

Of course it is difficult, because there are absolutely no rules you can apply to help you remember them. For instance, why is it that ‘bring’ goes ‘bring- brought- brought’ and ‘ring’ goes ‘ring- rang- rung’? Don’t they both end in ‘ing’? What about ‘show’? It pretends to be regular, because its past form is ‘showed’, but then it shows its true face, and the past participle goes ‘shown’! No way!

So it was to put an end to this torture that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, along with the Prime Minister, Mr David Cameron, has finally convincend the High Board of the Royal British Academy to abolish irregular verbs from the English language. Quoting the new rule, which was written on the Great Book Of English, “As per request of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II, the declination of verbs into the past and past participle forms is henceforth banned from the English language”.

What does this mean to you, English student? No more time wasted memorizing endless lists of crazy verbs! Some examples: the past and past participle of ‘go’ (the second and the third columns, as they are usually referred to) will become simple ‘goed’. Likewise, ‘buy’ will now be ‘buyed’, ‘see’ will be ‘seed’ and ‘fly’ will be ‘flied’ (you still have to follow the spelling rules though).

So throw your books away and enjoy!

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For those of you who haven’t noticed yet, this post is just an April Fool’s prank! I know that this particular piece of news would make a whole lot of students happy, and I thought, ‘why not?’… I hope you haven’t gotten too downhearted to realize you will still have to memorize irregular verbs for many many years to come…

But come on, it’s not that hard!

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How do you say “ano bissexto” in English?

FEBRUARY 29, 2012

I wish I’d had time to post this earlier, but my day has been hectic (nothing new there) and the sizzling heatwave that has stricken us paulistanos just makes any task painstakingly hard to accomplish…

ANYWAY, enough with the excuses and let’s skip straight to the point. Actually, let’s LEAP to the point, as today is LEAP DAY!

That’s right, every four years or so we have an extra day added to our calendar, in order to adjust our man-made timekeeping system to the natural movement of our planet, which takes a little longer then 365 days to go around the sun: 365 days, 5 hours, 48 minutes, and 46 seconds to be more precise.

So if you’ve ever wondered how to say it in English, here it goes: 2012 is a leap year. And today is leap day! Leap is a kind of jump, so it makes sense to call this special year “leap year”, as you leap over 4 years to have one.

Apparently there’s a tradition in Ireland that on this day women are allowed to propose to men, instead of waiting for them to get down on one knee. I’m not sure it’s still observed, but it’s a neat tradition, don’t you think?

What about you? How have you spent your extra day?

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A Rescue Mission Gone Wrong

This video was sent to me by a former student, M.V. (thanks, by the way!).

It is a great material to practice listening comprehension because it’s a piece of news, beautifully told by CBS news correspondent Bruce Dunning. Of course, it’s also a historical document of the horrors of war.

The aircraft had been sent to Da Nang short before the end of the Vietnam War in order to evacuate women and children. Instead, it landed in Saigon full of soldiers who defected the South Vietnamese regime, and had crammed inside the plane, leaving behind the people to whom the rescue mission was intended.

As you watch the video on a new window, try to answer these questions:

1) When did this happen? (day + month)
2) How did the people run after the plane as it landed in Da Nang?
3) What did the pilots report via radio when the people started boarding the plane?
5) What did the angry men left behind do?
6) What part of the aircraft was damaged by a grenade?
7) How high was the plane when seven men fell off?
8) How many passangers were there on board? Of these, how many were women and children?
9) Why did the plane have to fly at low altitude?
10) Summarize the total damage the aircraft suffered.
11) How long does this trip usually take? How long did it take on that day?
12) Where did the soldiers come out of when the plane finally landed?

Here’s the video.

Did you have trouble understanding the video or answering the questions? Why not take some classes?

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What’s your take on strikes?

What’s your take on strikes? And I’m not talking about bowling.

Workers go on strike when they refuse to work and even prevent other from working in order to draw attention to a specific situation they’re not happy about, such as salary, benefits, working conditions, discrimination, etc, supposedly when they have exhausted all other forms of negotiation with employers.  The refusal to work may cause employers to cave in, for the longer the strike, the higher the losses.

 

We have seen a series of strikes lately, involving essential services such as the mail and banking services, as well as air transport and even medical services. I’m sure these workers had their justifiable reasons to go on strike. However, the sad truth is that the ones who suffered the most from the effects of this legal and democratic manifestation of citizenship were the citizens themselves.

It’s a shame that human beings, with their exceptional power of communication, cannot seem to agree on something as basic as working conditions…

Well, you can read these articles to know more about the recent labor strikes:

Qantas:      article 1        article 2     article 3

Brazil Postal workers:     article 1         article 2      article 3

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Mixed signals

Here is an extremely interesting documentary video showing that every accident – whether it involves a plane, a car, a train, a bicycle or a walking human being – is the result of a series of (apparently unconnected) factors which coincide to cause an uncontrollable situation.

What we must have in mind is that every accident is avoidable. Every link of the chain must be checked to make sure that it can withstand the force it is intended to. In other words, everyone involved in any given process must do their job responsibly, no matter how menial and unimportant it may seem. After all, sometimes a tiny insect can destroy a huge airplane…

Watch the whole video (5 parts altogether) to practice your listening skills.

Then, practice vocabulary, grammar and fluency, explaining these acronyms and abbreviations which appear on the video.

TOGA   /   ADI   /   NTSB   /   CVR   /   FAA   /   FDR   /   CRM   /   ATC

Problems with vocabulary? Let me know how I can help!

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Whoopsy daisy!

Last June 19 was not the best day in the life of the Airbus test pilot who accidentally (needless to say, but… ) crashed the wing of an A380 into one of the buildings of Le Bourget Airport, in the vicinities of Paris.

It also goes without saying that this incident prevented such aircraft from performing a flying display at the Le Bourget Air Show 2011, which took place from June 20 to June 26.

That goes to show that even the most well-trained professionals occasionally wake up on the wrong side of the bed

Read more about this incident here, here and here.

Vocabulary:
Whoopsy daisy = Used to express acknowledgement of a minor accident, blunder, or mistake (Portuguese equivalent = úps! / opa!)
Needless to day/ (it/ that) goes without saying = obvious (portuguese equivalent = não precisa nem falar que…)
That goes to show = it proves that something is true (Portuguese equivalent = para você ver que..)

Thanks to my student ELP for the photos and the idea for the post!

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Today is a special day

Hello! Let’s pretend that no time has passed and that I haven’t been absent for ages, shall we? I can guarantee it has been for good reasons… First a short vacation, then tons of work! Nothing new about that, right?

But anyway, I was preparing some classes for today and it struck me that today is a special day for at least two reasons:

– it’s Friday 13 – the only one in 2011!

– it’s May 13 – slavery was officially abolished in Brazil

So I scavenged the Internet for some useful information on these topics, and here’s what I’ve found. I’ve made the texts into reading activities, which I hope you enjoy doing…

FRIDAY 13

Discuss these topics with a friend:

1) What does Friday 13 mean to you?
2) What do you know about its origins and meaning?
3) Have you ever had any problems on a Friday 13?
4) Do you have any special rituals to protect you from any harm that might happen today?

“Friday the 13th has been considered as a day of bad luck in various countries for many years. However, contrary to popular belief that Friday 13 is an unlucky day, it is actually regarded as a lucky day by some people and in some cultures.

The number of times Friday 13 occurs in the Gregorian calendar varies each year, from once a year to three times a year. Friday 13 occurs only once in 2011 – May 13.”

What do people do?

Guess whether these statements are True or False. Then, read the text below to check your answers.

1) People all over the world celebrate Friday 13.
2) There is a meeting of motorcyclists every Friday 13 in California.
3) It’s bad luck to be born on a Friday 13.

“Many parties, some with themes similar to Halloween, are celebrated on Friday 13 around the world. Friday 13 is a big celebration in Ontario, Canada. It is a day for motorcyclists to gather and it happens every Friday 13. The event attracts large crowds who gather at the town each year.

For those born on Friday 13, it is their lucky day, according to myth. Some people believe they may win large amounts of money through the lottery if they buy lottery tickets on Friday 13.”

Background

Guess whether these statements are True or False. Then, read the text below to check your answers.

1) The fear of Friday 13 rests upon scientific facts.
2) The Bible may have given some foundation to the superstition.
3) The 13th guest to a feast may be the origin of the superstition.
4) Some people have panic attacks for fear of Friday 13.
5) The Egyptians considered the number 13 unlucky because it represented the afterlife.
6) Arab countries consider Friday a good day.

“The fear of Friday the 13th, also known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, does not derive from scientific explanation. It stems from mythology, superstition, old wives’ tales and stories of tragedy that are connected to this day. It is unclear where superstitions surrounding the day originated from. Some say that the concept of Friday 13 being an unlucky day is linked with events that occurred in the Christian Bible, and they interpret that these events occurred on a Friday. Examples include the great flood during the time of Noah, the confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel, the day Eve tempted Adam with the apple, and the day Jesus Christ died.

The superstition could also be linked to Nordic mythology. According to legend, 12 gods were at a banquet when Loki, a god who was not invited, turned up, bringing the total number of guests to 13. He was responsible for the chaos that led to the death of one of the gods so all the other gods grieved.

The fear of Friday 13 continues in many places around the world. According to Dr Donald Dossey, up to 21 million Americans fear Friday the 13th. He also said much money would be lost in business because people refused to shop, travel or take risks on this day. Moreover, symptoms of this fear range from mild anxiety and a nagging sense of doom to full-blown panic attacks.

Friday 13 in August is considered unluckier than any other Friday 13 in Brazil, especially as agosto (so spelt) rhymes with desgosto (sorrow).

It is easy to blame Friday 13 for unfortunate events but this day was not always believed to be unlucky in history and in some cultures. The ancient Egyptians thought the number 13 was lucky because they believed that the 13th stage of life was related to the afterlife. After the decline of the ancient Egyptian civilization the number 13 was still associated with death but in a fearful manner. However, Friday is seen as the holiest day of the week in the Islamic world. It is set aside for communal worship where Muslims attend the Mosque. For people living in countries of the Arabian Peninsula, as well as Iraq, Friday is regarded as a day of rest.”

Have you noticed that some words have been underlined? Do you know the meaning of those words?

THE END OF SLAVERY IN BRAZIL (MAY 13, 1888)

Discuss these questions with a friend. Then, read the text below and find the information:

1) What do you know about the end of slavery in Brazil?
2) Was The Lei Áurea the first initiative against slavery in our country?
3) What kind of suppoert was given to former slave owners and to the slaves themselves once they had been freed?

“The Lei Áurea, adopted on May 13, 1888, was the law that abolished slavery in Brazil. It was preceded by the Rio Branco Law of September 28, 1871 (“the Law of Free Birth”), which freed all children born to slave parents, and by the Saraiva-Cotegipe Law (also known as “the Law of Sexagenarians”), of September 28, 1885, that freed slaves when they reached the age of 60.

The Lei Áurea had only two articles:

Article 1: From this date, slavery is declared abolished in Brazil.
Article 2: All dispositions to the contrary are revoked.

The succinctness of the law was intended to make clear that there were no conditions of any kind to the freeing of all slaves. However, it did not provide any support to either freed slaves or their former owners to adjust their lives to their new status: slave owners did not receive any state indemnification, and slaves did not receive any kind of compensation from owners or assistance from the state.

Before the abolition of slavery, slaves were prohibited from owning assets or receiving an education; but after being freed, former slaves were left to make their own way in the world. Without education or political representation, slaves struggled to gain economic and social status in Brazilian society; this explains many of the social inequalities observed in Brazil to the modern day.

Aside from the activities of abolitionists, there were a number of reasons for the signing of the law: slavery was no longer profitable, as the wages of European immigrants, whose working conditions were poor, cost less than the upkeep of slaves, and the decline in the arrival of new slaves – Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery. The Brazilian government was also under pressure from Britain, who sought to end the slave trade in order to expand production in its own colonies. For example sugar was produced both in Brazil and in the British colonies of the West Indies; the British strove to ensure that the Brazilians would gain no advantage in the world markets by using slaves.

The Lei Áurea had other consequences besides the freeing of all slaves; without slaves and lacking workers, the plantation owners had to recruit workers elsewhere and thus organized, in the 1890s, the Sociedade Promotora de Imigração (“Society for the Promotion of Immigration)”. Another effect was an uproar among Brazilian slave owners and upper classes, resulting in the toppling of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in 1889 – indeed, the Lei Áurea is often regarded as the most immediate (but not the only) cause of the fall of monarchy in Brazil.”

Discuss the following topics with a friend. Then, watch the video and compare your ideas to those shown in it:

1) Is there slavery in the world today?
2) What kinds of modern slavery have you heard of? Where do you think they happen?
3) What do people think about modern slavery?
4) How many slaves are there in the world today?
5) Where and when were petitions signed against slavery?
6) Whose responsibility is it to end modern slavery?

These texts have been taken from the Internet (Wikipedia and such) and they do not necessarily represent my opinion on the matter.

I’d like to thank my readers for sticking with me despite my prolonged absence… I’ll try my hardest to make it up to you!

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