Monday, April 25, 2011

Learning Languages

Credit to:
Why do children learn languages so quickly and so easily? Unlike adults, kids don't usually need so much formal study to learn a language. It's a question that has confused educators and psychologists for a very long time.

It seems that a person's native language gets in the way of learning another language. It starts in infancy. Babies usually hear their parents use only one language. Baby brains ignore other sounds that don't fit the pattern of sounds they most often hear. In fact, even at eleven months, the ability to hear new and different sounds of a foreign language becomes more difficult.

Researchers have made a few discoveries. Children need to experience a foreign language as early as possible. If the parents speak a second language, they should speak it at home. However, researchers have learned that TV and CDs alone don't work for foreign language learning. Babies need interaction. So if the parents only speak one language, then play groups, lessons, and other opportunities are necessary.

Children are like sponges. Researchers hope to learn more about how children learn, and apply that to adult language education in the future.

Vocabulary Words: Read the words and meaning. Try making your own sentence afterwards.
1. kid (n.): child (children, pl.)
2. infancy (n.): earliest period of childhood (crawling rather than walking)
3. foreign (adj.): from a different country, not native
4. interaction (n.): conversation or exchange of thoughts (in words or body language) between people
5. sponge (n.): a material that absorbs liquid

True or False: Guess (before the article) or answer (after the article) if the sentence is true or false. If false, correct the sentence.

1. Researchers now understand why children learn languages so quickly.
2. The native language often gets in the way of other languages.
3. Babies ignore sounds that don't fit the language they usually hear.
4. TV, CDs, and lessons all work equally well.
5. Researchers will soon understand and apply their research to adults.
Post-Comprehension: Remember to support your answers.

1. What do you think about learning a foreign language? Please explain.
2. What are your experiences for learning a foreign language? Please explain.
3. Do you wish that you had learned English as a baby? Why/not?
4. Why do you currently study English? Please explain.
5. Do you think someday adults will be able to learn a language like children?
Source: Heads Up English

Why Haven't All Primates Evolved into Humans?

Evolution of man
Credit to: Doug Wallace,
Humans did not evolve from apes, gorillas or chimps. We are all modern species that have followed different evolutionary paths, though humans share a common ancestor with some primates, such as the African ape.

The timeline of human evolution is long and controversial, with significant gaps. Experts do not agree on many of the start and end points of various species. So this chart involves significant estimates.

To say we are more "evolved" than our hairy cousins is just wrong.

Thinking that a species evolves in order to survive is to put the cart before the horse. Genetic mutations happen all the time, without fanfare and often without any measurable change in the organism's lifestyle. In general, the mutations most likely to be passed to future generations are those that prove useful to either individual or species survival.

The "usefulness" of a mutation depends largely on shifting environmental factors like those of food, predators, and climate, and also on social pressures. Evolution is a matter of filling ecological and social niches. African apes are still around because their environment has encouraged the reproductive success of individuals with different genetic material than ours.

Evolution is an ongoing process of trial and error, of which all modern primates are still a part.

Source: Life's Little Mysteries

Vocabulary Words: Read the words and meaning. Try making your own sentence afterwards.
1. put the cart before the horse (v.) (idiom): to do things in the wrong order
2. fanfare (n.)pretensions
3. niche (n.): a position particularly well suited to the person/organism who occupies it
4. upper hand (n.): position of advantage and control

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Female players get football league in England

Women's Football
Credit to:
Women's football - or soccer as it's known in many countries - has been played in England for more than a hundred years. But, unlikemen's football, it's always been an amateur game. The new Super League will be the first semi-professional competition for women, with eight teams from across the country competing for the title.

The players will get paid for their efforts, although their salaries will be nothing like those given to top male football stars. The Football Association says it hopes to avoid uneven competition, where a country's richest clubs get access to all the best players.

Each club in the women's Super League will have a maximum annual budget of around $400,000. Some clubs, like Arsenal and Everton, will be helped by their respective male clubs, but others are trying to match their incomes by coaching school pupils or raising money through social events.

Organisers are hoping the league will eventually attract the world's best female players and stop England's top stars heading to Germany and the United States, where there are already major professional competitions.

Maddy Savage, BBC News

Vocabulary Words: Read the words and meaning. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. amateur (n.): not professional, not done for money
2. efforts (n.): attempts to do something
3. avoid (v.): stay away from, prevent meeting
4. uneven (adj.): unbalanced, unequal
5. budget (n.): amount of money available
6. to match: to equal
7. incomes (n.): monies or amounts regularly earned
8. eventually (adv.): some time in the future, probably after delays or problems
9. heading to (v.): going to, leaving for

Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
1. Can you describe "Women's Football" in your own words? (Based on paragraph 1)
2. Are the women going to receive the same salary (pay) as men players? Explain.
3. What do organizers hope?
4. How will the clubs pay the women players?

Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
1. In the future, Women's Football will be as popular as Men's Football.
2. I want to be a football star!
3. Football is the most interesting sport.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Australia's plan to ban cigarette logos

Effects of cigarettes, now printed in the package (Australia)
The colour olive green is the latest weapon in the ongoing battle between the Australian government and big tobacco. Under aggressive new proposals, billed as the toughest in the world, every packet of cigarettes sold in Australia would be packaged in that colour after research showed that olive green was the most off-putting for smokers.

Logos and any form of distinct branding would be completely banned. Instead, the brand names would appear in a standard size and font, making them as bland and anonymous as possible. A greater area of the packaging would also be taken up with grotesque pictures of cancerous tumours and the health effects of tobacco.

Claiming a global first, the Australian government says it wants to remove any remaining glamour from cigarettes, but the big tobacco companies have questioned the legality of the legislation.

Worried about the possible worldwide knock-on effects of Australia introducing such stringent regulations, they've vowed to put up a fight - saying the new measures infringe international trademark and intellectual property laws.

Nick Bryant, BBC News

Vocabulary Words: Read the word/s, meaning and the sample sentence. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. proposals (n.): suggestions or plans
  • The president of the company agreed to the proposals of the manager.
2. off-putting (adj.): repellent, or something which makes you want to avoid it
  • A drunk person has a really off-putting smell!
3. branding (n.): designs or logos which identify a product as being made by a certain company
  • I really like the branding of Microsoft Windows.
4. anonymous (adj.): unidentified, or unrecognisable
  • The criminal is still anonymous.
5. grotesque (adj.): very unpleasant or ugly in appearance
  • The images in the new packages of cigarettes are so grotesque!
6. glamour (n.): something which is viewed as attractive and exciting
  • She always smiles with glamour.
7. legislation (n.): a law or laws passed by a government
  • There is a new legislation regarding the use of mobile phones in the streets.
8. knock-on effects (n.): things which happen as a result of an earlier event
  • One of the knock-on effects of too much use of computers is blurry eyesight.
9. stringent regulations (n.): strictly or tightly controlled rules and laws
  • We should always follow stringent regulations.
10. infringe (v.): violate or breach
  • Never infringe the law.

Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
1. Why olive green?
2. What did the government of Australia do to the packaging of cigarettes?

Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
1. Smoking kills.
2. Smoking is a problem in my country.
3. It's okay to show smoking in movies.
4. Smoking is cool.
5. Smoking has the same effects as drinking.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Japanese garbage island moves towards US

Debris washed out to sea by the tsunami.
Image credit U.S.Navy.
Entire houses, bodies, car parts, tractors and many upturned boats have amassed off the east coast of Japan on an epic scale.

The floating objects have been declared a maritime hazard by the American Navy, which warned they could pierce the body of a boat, or destroy engines in the Pacific's shipping lanes.

The island of debris of most concern, 110 kilometres long, is being closely monitored by the US Navy's seventh fleet, as experts predict it could hit Hawaii's shores in two years and the American west coast a year later.

Hawaiian scientists put it bluntly. They warned that a vast mess that originated in a few moments of destruction in Japan, could eventually foul beaches and reefs off the Eastern North Pacific and kill marine life.

The American Navy's working with civilian construction companies from the earthquake-hit country, as huge cranes and boats are deployed to clear the seas of this vast bobbing mass of wreckage of household furniture, wood, tyres, fishing equipment and other garbage, sweeping eastwards.

Mark Lobel, BBC News

Vocabulary Words: Read the words and meaning. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. amassed (adj.): gathered or collected a large amount
2. an epic scale (n.): a big or impressive size
3. a maritime hazard (n.): a danger, encountered while at sea
4. pierce (v.): puncture or damage the outer layer of
5. shipping lanes (n.): routes travelled by ships and boats at sea
6. island of debris (n.): large mound of wreckage or garbage
7. bluntly (adv.): honestly or directly
8. foul (v.): make a dirty mess on
9. deployed (v. or adj.): sent or assigned
10. bobbing (v.): moving up and down with the currents of the sea

Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
1. What could the floating objects cause?
2.. What actions are they doing to solve this problem?

Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
1. Other countries should help solving this problem.
2. This island of debris is a very serious problem.
3. Civil wars in Africa and the Middle East are more serious problems than this one.

China's no. 1 fat kid seeks help in Hong Kong

Rather than bullying Xiao Hao, his peers generally seem to find his weight endearing.
Credit to: CNN Go
Lu Zhi-hao is an obese child hailing from Shunde, Guangdong. The four-year-old is 110 centimeters tall and weighs 62 kilograms. The Chinese media dubs him "China's no. 1 fat kid." Known as "Xiao Hao" by friends and family, the kid has been taken to several hospitals in Guangdong to find out why he's so fat, but doctors can only say that it is down to bad eating habits. If he doesn't do something about his weight now, doctors predict Xiao Hao's obesity will become life-threatening by the time he turns 20.

According to Apple Daily, a Hong Kong weight-loss center has offered to help Xiao Hao lose weight for free. The center, which has not given out its name, uses non-intrusive Japanese technology to help the body break down fat. Xiao Hao's parents are now applying for a permit to travel to Hong Kong and hope to be here with their rotund child in a couple of weeks. "We believe there must be specialists in Hong Kong who can help us," says Xiao Hao's father, Lu Ye-ming.

The mother and father of the child are both of normal weight, and obesity has not been a part of the family's health history. Xiao Hao slowly ate his way to fatness. But he's been put on a diet now, which means cutting down from his regular three bowls of rice per meal to just one bowl. Apple Daily's video of Xiao Hao at school shows him finishing his bowl of rice at lightning speed and begging his friends for their lunches. When they don't cooperate, he steals a meatball from his neighbor's bowl. He is rewarded with a punch to the face, but the swing hardly seems to have an impact on the child's puffy cheeks.

The WHO says more than 20 percent of the population in some Chinese cities are now obese.

Source: CNNgo

Vocabulary Words: Read the word/s, meaning and the sample sentence. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. dub (v.): give a nickname to
  • The Chinese media dubs him "China's no. 1 fat kid."
2. obesity (n.): more than average fatness
  • Obesity is a fast-growing health problem these days.
3. life-threatening (adj.): very dangerous; can cause death
  • Cancer is a life-threatening disease.
4. intrusive (adj.): aggressive in an unwelcome manner
  • The technology that was recently discovered to cure AIDS is very intrusive.
5. rotund (adj.): spherical in shape; excessively fat
  • The child is rotund.
6. obese (adj.): excessively fat
  • The WHO says more than 20 percent of the population in some Chinese cities are now obese.

Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
1. How does the article describe "China's no. 1 fat kid"?
2. Why will the child go to Hong Kong?
3. What is the main reason why the child is very fat?

Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
1. Obesity is a very serious problem.
2. Obesity can be cured.
3. Obesity is increasing.
4. Obesity is worse than anorexia.
5. Obesity is a choice, not a disease.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Meditation Better Than Pain-Killers

A woman, meditating
Credit to: Insight Meditation, New Zealand
Meditation can be better at relieving pain than the best pain-relieving drugs, according to a new report published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The study into the effects of the mind and pain was led by Dr Fadel Zeidan in the USA. The research looked at a technique called “focused attention,” which is a form of meditation where people focus their thoughts only on their breathing. Dr Zeidan said: “This is the first study to show that only a little over an hour of meditation training can dramatically reduce both the experience of pain and pain-related brain activation”. Zeidan added: “We found a big effect - about a 40 per cent reduction in pain intensity and a 57 per cent reduction in pain unpleasantness.”

The study involved a group of volunteers who had never meditated before. They attended four 20-minute classes to learn about focused attention. Before and after the meditation training, the researchers examined the participants’ brain activity using MRI (magnetic resonance imaging). During the scans, a heat device was placed on their leg to create pain. The MRI scans showed that after the meditation training, pain felt by every volunteer decreased from between 11 to 93 per cent. Zeidan compared these results to medicines, saying: "Meditation produced a greater reduction in pain than even morphine or other pain-relieving drugs, which typically reduce pain by about 25 per cent."

Vocabulary Words: Read the word/s, meaning and the sample sentence. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. meditate (v.): think deeply; pray deeply
  • Priests and monks meditate everyday.
2. relieve (v.): to remove (pain, stress, sadness, negative things)
  • The woman was relieved when she learned that her baby is normal.
3. technique (n.): a very effective method or way of doing something
  • Her techniques in playing the piano is really amazing.
4. dramatically (adv.): in a very impressive manner or value
  • The physical appearance of the boy dramatically changed in just two years.
5. activate (v.): make active and effective
  • She activated her cellphone when she arrived home.

Other Vocabulary Words:
reduction (n.): decrease or lessening; become few in number or amount
unpleasantness (n.): the quality or state of being unpleasant; unpleasant or bad situation
morphine (n.): a pain killer

Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
1. How can meditation help us?
2. What is "focused attention"?
3. What series of activities did the volunteers do in the study?

 Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
1. Meditation helps me a lot.
2. Meditation is always a part of religion.
3. Meditation is done mostly by women.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Facebook Celebrates 5th Birthday

Facebook logo
Facebook, the world’s biggest social networking site, is celebrating its fifth birthday. In a blog post, the site’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, states that Facebook will continue to work as hard as it has in the last five years in order to stay the web’s number one communication site.

The company started in a dorm room in 2004. Today it has 150 million active users, more than the 130 million of rival MySpace.

Facebook is different from other social networking sites because you can communicate with people you really know and trust. Before, most people didn’t want to share their real identities online. Facebook has given people a safe and trusted environment for people to interact online. It has changed the way people view the world. A friend from any country is only a few clicks away.

It was back in February 2004 when Zuckerberg started “The facebook” from a Harvard student’s room. The aim was to help students get in touch with each other over the Internet. Within 24 hours over a thousand students had signed up and soon after that the network spread out to other universities.

By 2005 a research study showed that about 85% of the students in the network had a Facebook account. Another survey showed that Facebook was almost as important as an iPod.

At the end of 2005 Facebook came to the U.K. and up to today the site has been translated into 35 languages.

Five years after its start Facebook has escaped the universities and colleges. More than half of its users are not at college anymore and the fastest growing group are the 30 to 40 year olds. Every day 15 million users update their profiles to tell their friends and the world what’s happening to them. They also share photos, upload videos, chat, make friends, join groups – and simply have fun.

Vocabulary Words: Read the word/s, meaning and the sample sentence. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. social network (n.): an internet platform (software/website) where people can become a member and find friends all over the world
  • I like joining social networks.
2. blog (n.): a webpage that has information on a certain subject; the newest articles are at the top
  • It is very important to keep a blog if you teach English.
3. dorm room (n.): a room where students sleep; a dormitory room
  • I am now staying at a dorm room.
4. aim (n.): something you want to do; goal
  • The aim of the organization is to build houses for homeless people.
5. update (v.) to add new information about something
  • I have just updated my blog.

Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
1. What is the top social networking site? Why?
2. How did Facebook start?
3. What was the aim of Facebook?

Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
1. I like using social networking sites.
2. There will be another invention greater than Facebook.
3. Facebook has a great impact on a user.

Emotional pain can cause real pain, says study

Broken Heart
Credit to:
You've broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend, your wife or husband has left you and you feel rejected, dejected, broken-hearted. Well, new research suggests that intense feelings of rejection are as hurtful as physical pain. 

The lead author of the study, Ethan Kross, said the reason is because the same regions of the brain that become active in response to painful sensory experiences are also activated during intense experiences of social rejection.

The researchers hope their findings will offer new insight into how the experience of intense social loss may lead to various physical pain symptoms and disorders.

They also confirmed the notion that people from different cultures all around the world use the same language, words like 'hurt' and 'pain', to describe the experience of both physical pain and social rejection.

James Cowling, BBC News

Vocabulary Words: Read the word/s, meaning and the sample sentence. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

1. broken up with (v.): ended your relationship with
  • He has broken up with me.
2. dejected (adj. or v.): fed up or depressed
  • The guy feels dejected because his girlfriend is seeing another guy.
3. hurtful (adj.): upsetting in a personal way
  • Her hurtful words affected my way of delivering the speech.
4. sensory (adj.): experienced by the physical senses (e.g. sight, hearing, touch, smell)
  • Eating a spicy taco is a full sensory experience.
5. findings (n.): discoveries
  • Africa is an area rich in archaeological findings.
6. insight (n.): revealing explanations
  • The student has a lot of brilliant insights.
    7. symptoms (n.): signs from the body, which suggest something is wrong
    • The child shows symptoms of autism.
    8. disorders (n.): health problems affecting the body
    • I do not have disorders, I'm healthy!
    9. notion (n.): idea or suggestion
    • People have the notion that white is beautiful.
    Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
    1. Is physical pain as hurtful as emotional pain? Why?
    2. Will the findings help further discoveries? In what way?

    Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
    1. Emotional pain is better than physical pain.
    2. Heartbreak is a serious problem.
    3. I'm very concerned about my health.

    Friday, April 1, 2011

    Women and Wal-Mart case goes to court

    Women protests against Wal-Mart
    Credit to: Workforce of Women

    As protesters outside chanted, the judges inside the US Supreme Court were hearing evidence on what could turn into the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in American history. This group of women are suing their bosses at Wal-Mart, claiming they've been passed up for pay and promotion in favor of men. 

    It's been a ten-year battle, but they are calling on their case to be heard as a class action, so the grievances of all women employees can be heard together. The women claim thousands of workers have been held back from opportunities based on their gender.

    It's for the Supreme Court to decide in the coming weeks whether the lawsuit should cover all female retail staff who've worked in Wal-Mart stores in America since 1988.

    Wal-Mart says any grievances should be heard on a case-by-case basis, rather than be lumped together as one, and deny any claims of sexism.

    Many big businesses fear that if the Supreme Court does allow a class action lawsuit to go ahead, it could open the floodgates to many similar large-scale discrimination cases.

    Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News, Washington

    Vocabulary Words: Read the word/s, meaning and the sample sentence. Try making your own sentence afterwards.

    1. chant (v.): sing and shout phrases repeatedly
    • The people chanted when the prince arrived
    2. sex discrimination lawsuit (n.): legal cases where a person believes she (or he) has not been fairly treated because of her gender
    • They filed a sex discrimination lawsuit against their boss.
    3. passed up (v.): rejected
    • He passed up my invitation for dinner, saying he was too busy.
    4. in favor of (expression): in support of
    • Only a few people are in favor of war.
    5. a class action (n.): a legal case where a small number of people can sue on behalf of a larger group
    • Dads launch class action against Mumsnet.
    6. held back from (adj. or v.): prevented from getting (something)
    • Women are held back from political leadership.
    7. cover (v.): here, include, deal with
    • The rules cover working conditions.
    8. lumped together (v.): grouped together
    • Lump together all the applicants.
    9. open the floodgates (v.): make it possible (for something to happen)
    • We should open the floodgates for people who would want to study.
    10. grievance (n.): complaint which causes annoyance
    • Unresolved grievances can lead to bad feelings and adversely affect relationships and performance.

    Comprehension Check: Read and answer the questions based on the article.
    1. Why are the women protesting?
    2. What do other businesses fear?

    Agree or Disagree: Explain your answer.
    1. Men and women are equal.
    2. There are countries that still discriminate women.
    3. I would want to know the gender of my child before he/she is born.
    4. Men can suffer sex discrimination too.
    5. Sex discrimination (sexism) can disappear.