Video: Michael Moore on the French Social Security System

(B1), B2, C1, C2

In these two videos from Youtube , you will see an extract from Michael Moore's documentary "Sicko". In this film, he compares the healthcare system in the USA with other countries around the world. Here, he visits Paris to report on the French Social Security system.  Video times: 8 mins and 6 mins.

Task: Watch the two videos. If you want to try watching without the subtitles, cover the bottom of the screen with a post-it (but watching with French subtitles is also a good exercise in understanding pronunciation).

Michael Moore is often accused of painting a false or exaggerated picture in his films. Do you think this is true for these two extracts? 

Go to the first video here.
Go to the second video here.

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Audio: Ice cream, banking and Margaret Thatcher

B1, B2, C1, (C2)

This audio talk from the British Council site is about the changing attitudes to money and debt in Great Britain. You will learn or revise some common expressions related to money, and you will also discover the link between Margaret Thatcher and soft ice cream!  Audio time: 4 mins 53 secs. Total activity time: 10 - 45 mins.

Task: Go to the activity page and
  1. Do the "Preparation" task to help you with vocabulary.
  2. Listen and do the "Task". If you find it difficult, click on "Transcript" and read and listen at the same time. Then do "Task 2"
  3. For pronunciation practice, listen and read aloud at the same time. Can you finish at the same time as the speaker?
Go to the activity here.

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Video: William KamKwamba builds a windmill

B1, B2, C1, C2

In 2007, William Kamkwamba was invited to give a talk at TED about the electricity-generating windmill he had built near his home in Tanzania. He was very nervous and didn't speak very much. Two years later, he came back to talk more about his project.

You are going to watch these two talks from the TED site. As you will see, they are a wonderful example of personal initiative and perseverance. NB You may need to use the subtitle option, as William's English is a little basic, especially on the first video.

1 Watch the videos in order.
2 The Sunday Nation newspaper in Kenya recognizes the need for "real and simple solutions to everyday problems" in Africa. How do these videos illustrate that idea?  (William is mentioned in the same Sunday Nation article. If you would like to read it, click on the link at the bottom).

First watch the 2007 video - click here.

Then watch the 2009 video - click here.

To read the article from the Sunday Nation, click here.
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Phrasal verbs: pick up/drop off

A2, B1, B2

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb and one or more prepositions. They are often difficult to understand because there isn't always a logical relation between the verb, the preposition and the meaning(s). In Help Yourself To English, we want to show you the most common phrasal verbs and the contexts in which we use them.
In all cases, they are the verbs that English speakers most often use in those contexts.

Today's phrasal verbs: pick up, drop off .  Activity time: 5 - 20 minutes

Task: The photo shows a pick up and drop off point for a new airport terminal.
  1. What do you think the verbs pick up and drop off mean?  If you need help, read the first three paragraphs of a page from the Fedex website - here.
  2. Where would you pick up/drop off:
  • your children?
  • a visitor?
  • a suit?
  • a car?
  • some food?
3. Which sentence is not correct?
    I picked him up.                          I picked up him.   
    I picked up my daughter.             I picked my daughter up.

4  In an average week, what people or things do you pick up or drop off?

Check your answers here.

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Game: noun/adjective + preposition

A2, B1, B2

Play "Fling the teacher". If you can answer 15 questions correctly, you will have the chance to "fling"  (= throw) the teacher, using the equipment in the illustration. The language practised is prepositions - for/at/of/in etc. The activity is for children - of all ages! - but the language used is for adults. Activity time: 5 - 20 minutes. 

Task: Go to the site, press "Continue" and answer the questions.  

Go to the activity here.
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Audio: Paris offers its first fizzy water fountain

A2, B1, B2, C1

In this activity from the BBC World Service Learning English site, you will hear an audio report from the "Words in the News" section. This part of the site allows you to listen to BBC News reports at normal speed, learn new vocabulary and practise your pronunciation.  Audio time: 1.5 minutes. Activity time: 5 to 25 minutes.
Task: Go to the page and
  1. Listen without reading the "Summary" or the "Report". How much can you understand? If necessary, read the "Summary", then listen again.
  2. Read the "Report" and listen again at the same time
  3. Go down the page to the "Vocabulary' section. Listen to the words and repeat them.  
  4. Listen to the complete report again and read aloud at the same time. Can you speak at the same speed as the newsreader? 
Go to the activity here.

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Grammar: Make your own test

A2, B1, B2, C1

The "Test Builder" from the OUP site allows you to make your own test from a list of grammatical structures  NB the vocabulary used here is professional or business English.  Activity time: 5 to 60 minutes, depending on the number of structures you choose.
Task: Go the site and click on "Essential Business Grammar and Practice" for easier exercises or "Business Grammar and Practice" for more complex structures. Select the grammar points you want to practise and click on "Make my test".

Go to the activity here.

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Video: Men's brains, women's brains

B1, B2, C1, C2

How are women's brains different from men's?  You probably have your own ideas, based on your experience of the opposite sex!  In this video from Youtube , American comedian Mark Gungor gives a very amusing presentation of the differences. Video time: 5 mins and 23 secs. Total activity time: 6 to 30 minutes.  (NB If you would like to see a longer 10-minute version of this sketch, see the link at the bottom.)

Task: Watch the video. Which phrases below refer to (a) a woman's brain  (b) a man's brain?

  • consists of little boxes
  • consists of a big ball of wire
  • is like the Internet superhighway
  • is driven by emotion
  • has boxes which don't touch
  • has a "nothing box"
  • has lots of interconnections 

Go to the video
Check your answers here.

For a longer 10-minute version of the video, go here.
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Expressions: Suggesting and recommending

A2, B1, B2

How can you make and respond to suggestions? You are going to do two activities from the OUP site. Activity time: 10 to 20 minutes. 

 Task: Before going to the site, look at these five sentences. One is not correct. Which one?

  1. Let's make a decision.
  2. Why don't we try it?
  3. I suggest to stop now.
  4. I recommend that he call them.
  5. He suggested coming next week
First check your answers here.
Now go to the activity here and do the exercises for Units 2 and 3.

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Video: Photos that changed the world

(B1), B2, C1, C2

Do photos have the power to change the world? Can you think of famous photos that have had an impact on public opinion? Listen to this talk from ted.com by Jonathan Klein of Getty Images. Video time: 6 minutes. Total activity time: 10 to 45 minutes.  NB You have the possibility of subtitles in English or your language.

Watch the video and decide if these sentences are true or false.

  • .. can change the world
  • .. can provoke people to act on crucial issues
  • .. maybe provoked the birth of the environmental movement
  • .. have shown the destructive power of man
  • .. have shown the destructive power of nature
  • .. have caused international outrage
  • .. have caused governments to change their policies
  • .. can help to overcome suspicion and ignorance
  • .. can question our core beliefs and our responsibilities to each other
  • .. of war have to be graphic (= shocking) to be effective.

Go to the video here.
Check your answers here.
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Phrasal verb: to run out of

(A2), B1, B2, C1, (C2)

Phrasal verbs consist of a verb and one or more prepositions. They are often difficult to understand because there isn't always a logical relation between the verb, the preposition and the meaning(s). In Help Yourself To English, we want to show you the most common phrasal verbs and the contexts in which we use them.
In all cases, they are the verbs that English speakers most often use in those contexts.

Today's phrasal verb: run out of .  Activity time: 5 - 20 minutes

Task: The man in the illustration is walking to the garage because he has run out of petrol. Answer the questions.

  1. What do you think the expression  has run out of means?  Google the words "run out of - definition" to check your answers, if necessary.
  2. What other things can you run out of?  Google the words "run out of" and see how many examples you can find.
  3. What's the difference between we're running out of petrol and we've run out of petrol ?

Check your answers here.

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Audio: Making a call - the first 60 seconds

A2, B1, B2

In these two activities from the BBC World Service Learning English site, you will practise the expressions you need for the beginning of a phone call in a more formal or work situation. 
  • Activity 1:  Learn what to say to be connected to your correspondent (or to connect the caller if you are receiving the call).  
  • Activity 2: Learn how to leave (or take) a message when the person asked for isn't there.
Time: 10 - 30 minutes per activity.
Task: Each activity has four steps:
  • "Think".....about what language you know already and see some typical phrases.
  • "Listen".....to conversation and note what phrases you hear.
  • "Check understanding": read transcript and listen again
  • "Practise"....with a quiz
Go to Activity 1 here.
Go to Activity 2 here.

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