Thursday, November 22, 2012

Expressions: Business Email workout

B1, B2, C1

Here are some exercises from the OUP site to give you more practice in writing emails. They cover the following subjects:
  • introducing yourself to a new contact
  • saying sorry for a mistake
  • thanking and requesting
  • giving feedback on somebody's work
  • making a complaint
Activity time: 10 to 30 minutes.

If you don't know the most common expressions for writing emails, perhaps you would like to look first at our Business emails post. 

Task  Go to the activity page. Select one of units 35-39. Choose the best answers and press "Score" at the end to see if you were correct.

Go to the activity here.
See our original Business emails post here.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Video: How technology could change cities

(B1), B2, C1, C2

Kent Larson is an American architect involved in different projects to solve contemporary problems in the home, the workplace and the city. In this presentation from TED , he gives his vision of how technology can improve living conditions in cities. He also suggests what lessons we can learn from the past in planning the cities of the future. Video time:  16 minutes and 42 seconds. Activity time: 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Task:  Watch the video and answer the questions below  (NB if you would like sub-titles, just move your cursor over the video window to see the sub-title menu)

1   What are the characteristics of (a) pre-industrial settlements (b) industrial era cities?
2   Explain these figures: 300-400 million / 15 years / 90% / 80% / 75% 
3   What are the new trends in cities (a) for work  (b) for the home? 
4   How could Paris be a model for the city of the future?

5   Explain these terms:  a compact urban cell, a mesh network, a mobility parkway
6   What’s special about Copenhagen?
7   Explain the diagram below.

8   Why might cars need eyes?
9   How can you “democratize access to bike lanes”?
10 What is a possible solution to the problem of affordable housing ?
11 Explain these figures: 14/28    $ 70,000 /$ 10,000
12 Why might you need wireless sensors in your furniture?
13  How can you create “personalized sunlight”?

To check your understanding, go to the "show transcript' menu under the video window, and select "English" (or your own language, if you prefer).

Go to the video here

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Audio: youth employment

B1, B2, (C1)

The  BBC Learning English site has a regular feature called "6 minute English"  The two presenters focus on extracts from BBC news reports and they help you to understand the vocabulary. In this activity , you will hear about the problem of young people trying to find work.

You will then do a short exercise to practise words which often combine with the word "job" . Audio time: 6 minutes. Activity time: 15 to 40 minutes.

Task:  1 Go to the activity page and read the introduction. Press the "Listen" button to hear the programme. What are the consequences of youth unemployment in the long-term, according to the BBC report?

2 Listen again if necessary, with or without the audioscript

3 Here are some words that often go with the word "job". Do they usually come before or after? (e.g. job creation or creation job? )

creation - permanent - unskilled - market - opportunity - part-time - satisfaction - nine to five - skills - temping

4  Now complete these sentences with the correct word from 3

a  You don't need special training or qualifications to do ________ jobs.
b  Someone's leaving my firm, so there's a new job __________ there.
c  My work is well-paid but boring: I don't really get any job _________.
d  It's a _________ job - just 20 hours a week.
e  I'm registered with an agency, so I'm doing _________ jobs 
f   The government is reducing employment charges to encourage job _________.
g  My hours are very long and irregular. it would be nice just  to have a _________ job.
h  He's not the right person for the post - he doesn't have the right job _______.
i   Her last contract was just for one year, but this is a _______ job.
j   Our local factory has closed, so now there are 300 more people on the job _______.

Go to the activity here.
Read the complete audioscript here.
Check your answers to Exercises 1 and 4 here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pronunciation: contrastive stress

(A2), B1, B2, (C1)

In spoken English, we often put an extra accent or stress on the most important word in a sentence. Look at this sentence: "He offered me thirteen percent but I wanted fourteen."
Here we are contrasting the incorrect word, "thirteen", with the correct one, "fourteen" Note that we sometimes also need to know which part of the word to stress ("fourteen", not "fourteen")
You are going to watch a short video where you will hear and practise some more examples of contrastive stress. Then you will do a short exercise to identify the most important words in a conversation. Video time: 1 min 55 secs. Activity time: 10 - 30 minutes.
Task: 1  Watch the video and follow the instructions. 

2  Here is a conversation between two people on the last day of a conference. In each sentence spoken by B, identify the word or part of the word which has the most stress.The first one is done for you as an example.

A: Did you go to the conference today? 
B: Not the morning session. But I went this afternoon.
A: Did you go to all three talks? 
B: No, I only went to one of them.
A  Were the other two full, then? 
B: No, in fact the rooms looked quite empty. But I only wanted to see one talk.
A: The one on time management? 
B: That one didn't interest me. It's the stress management one I wanted to see. 
A: Ah yes, Alice went to that one 
B:  I didn't think it was very good. How did she find it?
A: Well, she thought it was interesting. 
B: Maybe, but it wasn't very original.
A: So who's going to the final party tonight? 
B: I'm not, because I've got a plane to catch. Are you going? 

Go to the video here
Check your answers to Ex. 2 here.