Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Fake News

Hi everyone!

I'm not as active on the blog as I'd like, but in any case I'm glad I can take a little while from time to time to share an activity with you here.

The topic I've chosen is fake news and the impressive advancement of technology that can enable us to create false impressions. Someone once said that, if it's technology that the general public knows about, then it's probably already obsolete! Don't doubt that what we can see in a video like this one is much less advanced than what the actual cutting-edge software can do.

It's still quite shocking that we can manipulate images and sounds in real time, and even if fakes are easy to spot at the moment, the effect that it can have on public opinion is quite unpredictable-- regardless of whether it is finally disproved or not.

So let's go for a bit of sentence completion to accompany this short BBC report:

1. Green screen or __________________ can give us virtual backdrops to interact with.

2. We’re only years away from creating realistic environments: in real time, we can manipulate voices, facial expressions and __________________ .

3. Some software operates by taking take one person’s facial expressions and __________________ on to another person’s features.

4. The development of these technologies requires ethical frameworks that could __________________ the implications they may have on society.

5. A new tool to manipulate voice __________________  by Adobe, the company who invented PhotoShop.

6. To spot a fake, the resulting altered audio would be __________________ , but that wouldn’t stop it from spreading.

7. Fakes can be debunked in __________________ , but this doesn’t stop people from believing them or from becoming viral.

8. One possible consequence of the dissemination of fakes is that solid evidence could be dismissed as __________________  by those who try to deceive us.

9. If there is a high level of distrust in institutions, a term like fake news is deployed in many ways, even to describe what is __________________ and __________________ .

10. This fast-paced technological advancement means we will have to refine how we __________________  from our senses.

Share your answers and your ideas on the topic in the comments section. Key here. Enjoy!

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Weaving language and tapestry making

Hi everyone!

I'm very sorry I have been absent for such a long time! But if you know me, you know that this is my usual pattern.

The visit to an exhibition on William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement has inspired me to look for videos that show the beauty of craftmanship. This one, apart from being extraordinarily informative as well as wonderfully produced, is intended to remind you of the metaphors we saw in class not long ago.

The "warp and woof", meaning the foundation of something, is a typical example of a metaphor that alludes to the art of weaving (although the technical terms preferred nowadays are warp and weft), but the most interesting idioms we could see were those in which the background metaphor was "storytelling is weaving": the thread of discourse, the loom of language, to weave a story; as well as those where we understand the metaphor "storytelling is lying": to fabricate, the fabric/tissue of lies, to pull the wool over somebody's eyes, to make up of whole cloth, to spin a yarn. Weaving and language thus become intricately interwoven (see what I did there?) through an underlying metaphor: the storyteller and poet as a weaver of language.

With this in mind, it was only natural that the first video about arts and crafts that I wanted to present to you had to do with weaving: here you have the art of tapestry making at the Manufacture Nationale des Gobelins in Paris.

The activities I propose for this video are fairly open questions, because I don't want to detract from the enjoyment of watching the art that these women (only women in the video!) bring to life. The explanations are so clear that I also wanted you to focus on the accuracy of language in the voiceover without thinking much about exercises.

So, share with us in the comments: which of the jobs carried out at the Gobelins do you think is the hardest, and why? Which one would you rather do if you could work there, and why? Try to use the specific language you can hear in the video.

Optional: note down all instances of the passive voice.


Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Social / Unsocial networks

Hi everyone!

After an involuntary break, I'm back with this video about (un)social networks. Discussing the way social networks and technology affects our personal relationships must go further than the question "does technology unite us or divide us?" The implications it has in the way we construct our relationships and the way we relate to ourselves, to our insecurities and aspirations, is also worthy of analysis.

Here are some comprehension questions for a TED Talk on this matter. Before you listen, you may want to check the meaning of "Gallup" and "it drives me nuts".

1. How does the speaker interpret seeing people on their phones while on a date or a dinner? ("What it says to me is...")

2. How do pagers and answer machines compare to technology nowadays?

3. When she was talking to teenagers, what did the bargaining consist in? How did she respond?

4. What do we present on Facebook? Give three collocations.

5. What does she refer to with "emotional turmoil"?

6. How are we "our own personal relations firms"?

The key here (but give us your answers in the comments section).

And you? Which social networks do you use? Do you think they have altered the way you relate to yourself or to others? Tell us in the comments.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Movember History

Hi everyone!

This is Movember! I like to send you a Movember video each year since I had a student who took part in it. He told me that he liked being asked about his new moustache, as it gave him the chance to talk about the reason behind it.

I won't tell you much about Movember, because the video explains what this grass roots movement is in great detail. The comprehension questions are easy enough (some collocations and an open question), but... the accent is Australian. Hehe. The open question is right at the end, so that you have time to get used to the accent before transcribing.

Before listening: there is a collocation that you must know, as it is key to comprehension, so check that you know it or look it up in the dictionary. What two things can you raise for a good cause?

Some collocations to complete while listening:

1. The month ________ known as November.
2. Everything comes back _____ _________.
3. The party ended with the _________ ________ bring back moustaches.
4. Becoming a Mo Sista is definitely a way to meet guys. Asking a guy about his moustache is the ultimate ____________ ___________.
5. _________ __________ November 2010... (this discourse marker is borrowed from cinema/TV jargon)

What's the firm belief he expresses at the end of the video?

Enjoy! Share your answers and thoughts in the comments section. Have you every participated in Movember? Would you consider doing so?

Thursday, 9 November 2017


Hi there!

It's been a long time since I've featured a news video here. It used to be a staple (2nd meaning) in this blog, so I'll try to include one from time to time.

The one for today is a video that I have chosen for two reasons: one is the topic, rumours and the buzzword of the moment, fake news. The other reason is the use of an informal construction of the passive voice: the passive with "get".

So, one comprehension activity for each one of these elements:

1. Complete two sentences with the verb based on...

2. Find at least two examples of the passive voice with get

The video is in American English, so remember that the verb "get" will be get, got, gotten.

Some context:

During a press briefing, Press Secretary Sean Spicer is asked to give an example of a "fake news" story. He gives one example from the G7 meeting, and an argument with the reporters ensues.


Oh... and no, the key is not here yet... I'll wait to see some of your answers in the comments!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Learning Through Art

Hi everyone!

Back here! Finally! The hiatus was worth it, though, now I have a PhD under my arm, and a desire to make this blog active again with lots of comprehension challenges!

This first video has been watched by most of you through the mailing list, so I'm including it here for you to check your answers and to have a permanent link to it. Even if you've replied to it by email, you can still make comments, you know I love to see the comment section alive!

This is an introduction to the learning programme of the Houston Museum of Fine Arts. I'm fascinated by the way in which cultural institutions develop or adapt curricula to encourage hands-on learning processes.  These are the comprehension questions I propose:

Watch the first minute of the video and reply to these questions:

1. What is the main question they want to investigate with the Learning Through Art Programme?

2. What does a student have to do to succeed in today's global society?

3. What skills need to be developed for this purpose?

Now watch the rest of the video and complete these sentences:

1. Habits of mind are the _____________ between the classroom and the museum.

2. Students are motivated by _____________  and learn best by _____________ .

3. The abilities strengthened by learning through original works of art are the application of knowledge in a real-world setting, a deeper understanding of content, and the ability to _____________ complex ideas.

4. To implement these ideas in your classroom, all you need is a _____________  rather than a background in Art History.

Key here, as usual, and please share your answers or any ideas in the comment section. What do you think of these educational programmes in museums?

Learning Through Art: Introduction from Museum of Fine Arts, Houston on Vimeo.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Behind the Painting

Hi there everyone!

Again, sorry for the long absences. As some of you already know, I'm working on a PhD and this is the most absorbing thing I've ever done, bar none. Well, maybe except having a newborn baby! But yesterday I was feeling kind of lazy so I looked for a nice video for you all.

This is from a series of videos provided by the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, which give you a certain background on highlights of their collection. This one is about a very famous painting there, which has been dubbed "the best-loved painting in Ireland": The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. The story behind the scene in the painting is also really moving, if you want to take a look at it. It was inspired by a Danish ballad about an ill-fated love.

So, time for some work! Here I leave you activities in three steps:

1. Check pronunciation and meaning of this art-related vocabulary before you listen:

miniature (portraits)
narrative genre scene
oil painting
a gilt frame

... and non-art-related vocabulary:

he started off as
it was highly regarded
it was snapped up by a dealer
to mistake sth for sth else
to make a pilgrimage

2. Complete these phrases with a maximum of three words.

He was ___________ of his career
He ___________  to copyright
Vulnerable to ___________ 
A balance over ___________  and ___________ 
This is the flexible approach that we've tried to ___________ 

3. Answer these questions:

What did writer George Eliot say about the theme of the painting? And about the knight?
What happened once Burton became director of the National Gallery in London?
Why is it important to protect this painting from light?

This time, I'm going to leave three days before I publish the key. Make sure you leave some comments! I'd love to kear from you and about your answers or doubts!

Enjoy the video and the Irish accent!