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                    [post_date] => 2017-09-26 17:02:25
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                    [post_content] => This year’s Columbus Day, on October 9, will be the most controversial ever. Many Americans believe that this national holiday, dedicated to Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) and his arrival in the Americas, should not be celebrated. Some have expressed even stronger opinions: over the past couple of months, statues of Columbus have been vandalised across the United States. Often the vandals splashed the statues with red, blood-like paint, and sprayed anti-racism slogans such as ‘hate will not be tolerated’ on the statues’ pedestals. To understand this recent wave of attacks, one must look at another historical figure: Robert E. Lee (1807-1870).

 

The events of Charlottesville

Lee was a general during the American Civil War. He fought for the Confederacy, which wanted to maintain slavery, against the Union, which wanted to abolish it. There are many statues of Robert E. Lee in the United States. One was in Charlottesville, Virginia. A local 16-year-old high school student, Zyahna Bryant, started a petition on Change.org to take it down. Bryant, who is African-American, argued that the statue is a symbol of slavery, and it made her feel unwelcome in her own city. Charlottesville city council agreed with the young Bryant. Before the council could remove Lee’s statue, groups of neo-Nazis and racists organised a rally to defend it. They marched in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, and they attacked counter-protesters, who had come to oppose them peacefully. They injured several of them and killed one woman.  

Columbus Day

The events of Charlottesville caused national indignation. The violence and racial hate were condemned. Many statues of Lee and other controversial figures were vandalised. Some were removed by local governments. The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, set up a commission to find out if any of the city’s statues were potential ‘symbols of hate’. Some of these are statues of Christopher Columbus. But why Columbus? On Columbus Day he is celebrated as a symbol of courage, initiative and determination, the great sailor who ‘discovered’ America. The critics of Columbus claim that this is only half the story. They point out that the Genoese sailor behaved horribly towards Native Americans. Columbus himself wrote about the Natives: “they do not bear arms, and do not know them […] With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” This, historians confirm, is what happened: Columbus enslaved and killed the peaceful Natives he met. He was the first in a long line of greedy and bloody European conquerors.  

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The debate over Columbus is not new in the rest of the continent. Many Latin American nations, where a large percentage of the population is Native American, consider Columbus a foreign invader. Columbus Day has been replaced with other celebrations such as Indigenous Resistance Day (Venezuela), Cultural Diversity Day (Argentina), Decolonisation Day (Bolivia) and Day of Interculturalism (Costa Rica). This trend is spreading to the United States. Many cities are replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honour Native North Americans, the victims of European colonisation. This year, Charlottsville and Los Angeles (the second largest US city),  joined the movement. Promoters of this new holiday claim that statues are meant to represent the values in which we believe. They say that if there are conquerors, colonialists, and slave owners on pedestals, it’s time to remove them. Perhaps, as the American comedian Lee Camp suggests, we should move them all to ‘the museum of values most of us have evolved beyond’.
Useful links 1) Here’s Zyahna Bryant’s petition on Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/charlottesville-city-council-change-the-name-of-lee-park-and-remove-the-statue-in-charlottesville-va 2) Read about Christopher Columbus: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/famouspeople/christopher_columbus/ 3) Learn about Native Americans and their culture: http://www.historyforkids.net/native-americans.html 4) Read about Columbus Day: http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-day 5) Watch this short video on the history of Columbus Day: http://time.com/3495071/indigenous-peoples-day/
  COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. On Columbus Day
  1. all Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus.
  2. statues of Christopher Columbus are vandalised.
  3. some Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus.
2. The vandals’ slogans want to suggest that Columbus was
  1. not the discoverer or America.
  2. racist.
  3. anti-racist.
3. The Confederacy was a group of American States
  1. where African-Americans were slaves.
  2. that wanted to abolish slavery.
  3. where African-Americans were free people.
4. Zyahna Bryant says that Robert E. Lee’s statue should be
  1. less racist and more welcoming.
  2. moved to a different city.
  3. removed.
5. The statue of Robert E. Lee was defended by
  1. the city council.
  2. African-Americans.
  3. racist groups of white people.
6. Many people were hurt in Charlottesville and one person
  1. died.
  2. disappeared.
  3. almost died.
7. After the events of Charlottesville some local governments
  1. defended their statues of Lee and other controversial figures.
  2. questioned whether their statues should be removed.
  3. Vandalised Lee’s statues.
8. Critics of Columbus point out that he
  1. had Native American servants.
  2. favoured violence and slavery.
  3. did not discover America.
9. To Native Americans in Latin America, Columbus is a symbol of
  1. interculturalism.
  2. European colonisation.
  3. indigenous resistance.
10. Promoters of Indigenous Peoples’ Day believe that
  1. statues should inspire positive values.
  2. statues should represent history.
  3. all statues belong in museums.
  VOCABULARY 2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary. to argue  *  to point out  *  greedy  *  trend  *  controversial  *  vandalise  *  to abolish  *  initiative  *  slavery  *  to injure 1. People strongly disagree over this issue: it’s very ______. 2. He was ______: he stole all the gold he could find. 3. ______ was a horrible institution: it allowed some people to own others. 4. President Lincoln ______ slavery and made it illegal. 5. During the American Civil War more than a million people died and many more were ______. 6. Zyahna Bryant took the ______ and started a petition on Change.org. 7. The ______ is clear: more and more people are critical of Columbus Day. 8. He ______ that Columbus is a symbol for Italian Americans. 9. Using lots of historical facts, the historian ______ that Columbus was more of a violent conqueror than a noble explorer. 10. The young man ______ the statue, hitting it repeatedly with a hammer.     GRAMMAR – Possessive case and double genitive 3) Use the words in brackets and the possessive case to complete the following sentences. 1. ______ (Columbus / boats) were called Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria. 2. Columbus named the ______ (Natives / island) Hispaniola. 3. ______ (Zyahna Bryant / hero) is not Robert E. Lee. 4. ______ (Columbus and Lee / statues) were vandalised. 5. The ______ (children / history teacher) told them good and bad things about Columbus.   4) Use the words in brackets and the double genitive to complete the following sentences. 1. 'Robert E. Lee is a hero ______ (mine)!’ shouted the man at the rally. 2. That friend ______ (Lucy) is a Native American – he’s a Cherokee! 3. A friend ______ (Zyahna) is also a friend ______ (Nicholas). 4. ______ (many / friends / Zyahna) signed her petition. or ______  (many / friends / Zyahna) signed her petition. 5. ______ (two / John / sons) attended the counter-protest. or ______  (two / John / sons)  attended the counter-protest.   SHORT ESSAY 5) Do you think Americans should celebrate Columbus Day? Give reasons for your answer. (60-80 words)  6) Think about the public statues you know. Is there one that represents your values? Write about the statue and the values it represents. (60-80 words)
  (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Wikipedia and Turinboy, flickr ) [post_title] => Christopher Columbus: hero or villain? [post_excerpt] => Columbus Day, the American national holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus, is becoming increasingly controversial. Over the past few months, statues of Columbus have been vandalised across the United States, and many American cities have stopped celebrating the Genoese explorer. These events are part of a larger story that deals with history, culture, racism and changing values. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => christopher-columbus-hero-or-villain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-30 15:55:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-30 14:55:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=13050 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw ) [1] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12615 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2017-05-03 18:37:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-05-03 16:37:51 [post_content] => In 1969 an accident happened on an oil rig off the coast of California. Between 13,000 and 16,000 cubic metres of crude oil spilled into the sea. The oil polluted the water and killed fish, birds and other marine animals. It was an ecological disaster, and it wasn’t the first one. Modern industrial society had been causing more and more damage to the environment. After the oil rig accident, American senator Gaylord Nelson decided that it was time for a great rally in defense of mother Earth, so he helped organize the first Earth Day, which was held on 22 April 1970. Some twenty million people participated. The organizers claimed that the world – our only home – was in grave danger. Famous journalist Walter Cronkite summarized their message: “half-way measures and business as usual cannot possibly pull us back from the edge of the precipice. […] What is at stake, and what is in question, is survival.”  

The precipice

Even though humanity was (and is) heading towards a precipice, not much has changed. People have continued to injure and ruin the very world in which they live, extracting and consuming its resources without thinking of the consequences. Pollution is worse than ever. For example, it was recently estimated that 500 billion plastic bags end up in the sea every year. 15 billion trees are lost each year. Human activity is also causing the extinction of many plant and animal species. Scientists claim that the last time so many species disappeared was 66 million years ago when a huge asteroid hit the Earth and killed all the dinosaurs. This time, we are the asteroid! Over the years something else has become apparent: not only are we making our planet dirtier, we’re also making it warmer. This will cause the climate to become unpredictable and dangerous. According to most scientists, global warming is the greatest threat humanity will face in the 21st century.  

Hope

Ecologists, though, have not given up. Earth Day has been celebrated every year since 1970, and in 1990 it became a global event. More and more people around the world are taking action to protect the environment. Even politicians are slowly responding to the pressure of scientists and concerned citizens. Last year, during Earth Day 2016, 175 countries signed the Paris Agreement, a commitment to fight global warming. (See our January 2016 article “COP 21 Trying to save planet Earth”.) This year, Earth Day was accompanied by another event: the March for Science. This was a series of rallies and marches held in more than 600 cities around the world aimed at reminding politicians, and people in general, of the importance of science. Science can tell us what we’re doing wrong, and it can help us find solutions to save the environment.  

Tomorrow’s leaders

Earth Day 2017 was celebrated in more than 200 countries. Festivals, rallies and all kinds of events encouraged people to be more environmentally friendly. Earth Day organizers stressed the importance of supporting politicians with a ‘green’ agenda, and they encouraged the development and use of green forms of energy, like solar and wind power. They also suggested some simple actions that everybody could take to help the environment, like planting a tree (or donating money to help someone else plant one for you), eating less meat, and stopping using disposable plastic. Education, they claim, should also play a part: a school is the perfect place in which to learn how to become more environmentally friendly. As the organizers of Earth Day write: “today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders.” This is a great responsibility but also a great opportunity to make the world a better place.
Useful links 1) Here is the Earth Day official website: http://www.earthday.org/ 2) Help Earth Day reach three billion ‘acts of green’: http://www.earthday.org/take-action/ 3) Learn about green schools and what you and your school can do for the environment: http://www.earthday.org/campaigns/education/ 4) Here are five more things you can do to help save the world: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/19/earth-day-five-things-to-make-a-difference-plastic-paper-towels 5) How much do you know about the environment? Take a quiz: https://www.infoplease.com/science-health/environment/earth-day-quizzes-games-activities?gclid=CKiZ24GmwtMCFVAQ0wodBWoOyQ 6) Do you want to know more about the March for Science? Here’s its official website: https://satellites.marchforscience.com/
 
  COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. The oil spill of 1969 was
  1. caused by Gaylord Nelson.
  2. the only ecological disaster of its kind.
  3. one of many such events.
2. Walter Cronkite said that
  1. we can continue with business as usual.
  2. we are in grave danger.
  3. we are falling down a precipice.
3. The cause of pollution is
  1. industrial society.
  2. oil rigs.
  3. plastic bags.
4. Scientists say that we are as dangerous as
  1. an asteroid.
  2. dinosaurs
  3. global warming.
5. Scientists claim that
  1. global warming is very dangerous.
  2. global warming will be solved in the 21st
  3. global warming is not as dangerous as pollution.
5. Scientists are saying that we are
  1. extracting and consuming resources.
  2. unpredictable and dangerous.
  3. polluting and heating the planet.
6. Earth Day was celebrated in
  1. 175 countries.
  2. 200 countries.
  3. 600 cities.
7. The March for Science
  1. always accompanies Earth Day.
  2. was celebrated this year, for the first time.
  3. was celebrated in 1990.
8. Earth Day is organized
  1. by politicians with a ‘green’ agenda.
  2. by schools.
  3. by ecologists.
9. Earth Day organizers in the importance of schools because schools
  1. can teach the importance of ecology.
  2. can organize rallies.
  3. can support politicians.
  VOCABULARY 2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary. to injure  *  unpredictable  *  to respond  *  agenda  *  precipice  *  claim  *  oil rig  *  rally  *  commitment  *  to pollute 1. The politician’s ______ is the list of things he plans to do. 2. The workers got together in a ______ to protest against the government. 3. The edge of a steep cliff is called a ______. 4. The smoke from that factory ______ the air. 5. A ______ is a formal agreement. 6. ______ means to answer. 7. Scientists can prove their ______ with very detailed evidence. 8. I never know what she’ll do next. She’s ______. 9. ______ means to cause harm. 10. An ______ is a platform that has machinery that drills oil from underground.     GRAMMAR – Interrogative pronouns 3) Complete the sentences choosing the correct interrogative pronoun (who, whom, whose, which, what, where, when, why, how).   1. Who/Whom helped organize the first Earth Day? 2. When/What and where/how was the first Earth Day held? 3. Where/Why do scientists claim that the environment is in danger? 4. How/Where was the oil rig that caused the oil spill? Whose/Who fault was it? 5. How/Which successful was the March for Science? 6. Who/What was the message that the event tried to convey? 7. Which/Whom animals are risking extinction? 8. Who/Whom are you going to invite to the rally? 9. Who/What caused the extinction of the dinosaurs? 10. What/Where is the Paris Agreement and when/why is it important?     SHORT ESSAY 4) Look at the ‘acts of green’ listed on the Earth Day official website. Which ones can you do or are you already doing? In what way are these actions important for the environment? (60-80 words)   5) Do you think it’s easy to be ecologically friendly, or is it difficult? Explain. (60-80 words)
(Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: NASA, flickr and Tom Hilton, flickr ) [post_title] => Earth Day 2017 [post_excerpt] => On April 22, Earth Day was celebrated in more than 200 countries around the world. This yearly event was first held in the US in 1970. Earth Day wants to promote the protection of the environment. Its organizers say that we all have to act, and act now. We stand on the edge of environmental disaster and what is at stake is our very survival. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => earth-day-2017 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-26 09:50:11 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-26 07:50:11 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=12615 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 4 [filter] => raw ) [2] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12372 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2017-03-31 11:26:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-03-31 09:26:21 [post_content] => Last month, the most famous family in the world was probably that of Robert Kelly, an American professor of Political Science at Pusan National University in South Korea. On 10 March Kelly was speaking on Skype from his home office, giving a live interview on BBC World News. The BBC was asking him about the dramatic political situation in Korea when, all of a sudden, a different kind of drama began. Kelly’s 4-year-old daughter Marion gatecrashed his home office. “I think one of your children just walked in,” said the interviewer. Kelly tried to push his daughter away, but into the room strolled his 9-month-old son James. A moment later, Kelly’s Korean wife Jung-a Kim ran in and frantically dragged the two little intruders out of the office. Kelly, clearly embarrassed, apologized and finished his interview.  

From family blooper to global sensation

Kelly was convinced that no television network would ever call him again to speak. He was wrong. The BBC chose Kelly’s interview as its favourite live TV moment of the week. The video quickly went viral on Twitter and became very popular on YouTube. Kelly and his family became internet memes. Media outlets around the world showed or posted the video of the blooper. Probably hundreds of millions of people saw it. Professional and amateur comedians did spoofs and parodies of Kelly’s BBC interview. Comedian Trevor Noah even called it “the greatest moment in the history of television. Ever.” Noah also said, jokingly, why he thought Kelly did not get up from his desk to lead his children out of the room: because he probably wasn’t wearing any pants!  

Press conference

Kelly and his family returned to BBC News for another interview to talk about the blooper, their sudden fame and their family life. They also spoke to many other journalists. “I made this minor mistake,” said Kelly about not locking the door to his home office, “that turned my family into YouTube stars. It’s pretty ridiculous.” Kelly assured everybody that he and his wife do not mistreat their children. Maybe Kim had been a bit forceful in getting them out of the office, but that’s because she was trying to save the interview. He also said that he did not fight with his wife after the blooper and they did not punish their children for gatecrashing his office. Kelly also said that the event was not staged, as some people had suggested. The interview, he added, simply caught “a regular family off guard.” At the end of the day, he and his family were happy that their blooper had made so many people laugh – it was “pretty hysterical,” he admitted. Kelly, answering another question, also added: “yes, I was wearing pants!”  

Harmless assumption or outright racism?

Besides laughter, the family blooper sparked some serious social debate. Many people believed that the Korean lady in the video was the nanny, not Kelly’s wife. For some it seemed a reasonable assumption. They claim that Kim’s attitude seemed that of a nanny who had lost control of the children and who was worried she might lose her job. For others, making this assumption was a clear sign of stereotyping, if not of outright racism. They argue that if you think that an Asian woman in a white man’s house can only be a nanny, then you are jumping to a racist conclusion. Would you have thought the same if the woman had been white? Kelly himself said that the assumption that Kim was the nanny made them “pretty uncomfortable.” For sure, the video offers an opportunity to reconsider one’s assumptions: are they based on facts or on stereotypes?  
Useful websites: 1) Here is the video of Robert Kelly’s interview and an article on the social debate it initiated: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/12/viral-video-hijacked-by-children-sparks-fierce-debate-on-social-media 2) Here’s an excerpt of the follow-up interview with Kelly and his family. Check out the ‘read more’ link too: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/15/winston-churchill-essay-alien-life-discovered-us-college-are-we-alone-in-the-universe 3) Here is the transcript of their press conference: https://asiansecurityblog.wordpress.com/2017/03/15/kelly-family-press-release-on-the-bbc-dad-viral-video/ 4) Here’s comedian Trevor Noah’s comment on “the greatest moment in the history of television. Ever.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_kV994hurQ 5) What if it had been a woman in Robert Kelly’s place? Check out this funny parody: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Ojvk-4IcOE 6) Here’s a parody of the Kelly interview that plays on racial stereotypes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7RvyNP_RSN0
 
COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. Marion and James
  1. were invited into the office.
  2. entered into the office without asking permission.
  3. were already hiding in the office.
2. Robert Kelly is Jung-a Kim’s
  1. interviewer.
  2. father.
  3. husband.
3. Kelly believed that his BBC interview was
  1. a success.
  2. his last television interview.
  3. the best TV moment of the week.
4. The BBC
  1. helped Kelly’s interview become viral.
  2. tried to stop Kelly’s interview from becoming viral.
  3. did parodies of Kelly’s interview.
5. The BBC called Kelly again because
  1. they wanted him to apologize.
  2. they wanted to ask him personal questions.
  3. they wanted to ask him about South Korea.
6. The family blooper happened because
  1. it was staged.
  2. Kelly hadn’t locked the door to his home office.
  3. his wife mistreats their children.
7. Kelly said that after the interview
  1. he got angry with his wife.
  2. he mistreated his children.
  3. he didn’t get upset at his wife or at his children.
8. Kelly admitted that
  1. his children were hysterical.
  2. the failed interview was hysterical.
  3. the people who found the video funny were hysterical.
9. Kelly considers his family
  1. a normal family.
  2. a special family.
  3. a troubled family.
10. Kelly’s failed interview proved that
  1. most people are racist.
  2. Asian women usually work as nannies.
  3. some people made incorrect assumptions.
  VOCABULARY 2) Complete the sentences with the following words. blooper  *  forceful  *  to spark   *  spoof  *  stereotype  *  off guard  *  to stage  *  to gatecrash  *  to jump to conclusions  *  frantic  *  hysterical  *  outright  *  media outlet  *  intruder 1. A humorous mistake on television or in a film is called a 2. I admire her very much: she has a ______ and determined personality. 3. You are judging them too hastily. You are ______ . 4. She was ______, acting out of desperation. 5. ______ means both very funny and emotionally uncontrolled. 6. A light parody is called a 7. An example of a ______ is saying that all Chinese people are good at kung fu. 8. ______ something means to produce it for public view; for example, you can ______ a play, an event or a protest. 9. The ______ got into the house through the window and stole the television. 10. He was not invited! He ______ the party. 11. ______ means completely and openly. 12. Lightning hit the tree and ______ a fire. 13. Newspapers, radio, television and the Internet are all ______ . 14. You caught me ______. I was not expecting to see you here.   GRAMMAR – Making questions 3) Look at the statements that Robert Kelly made during his press conference. Write the questions he was answering:
  1. ______________________________________________________
The woman in the video is my wife, Jung-A Kim, not my nanny.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
The first child to enter is our daughter, Marion.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
The second is our son, James.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, Jung-A did not use too much force in removing the children from the room.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, I was not shoving Marion out of the way.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
Yes, I was wearing pants. I choose not to stand, because I was trying to salvage the interview.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, this was not staged.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
No, we did not fight about the blooper afterward.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
Our floors are hardwood, which is why Jung-A slid into the room.  
  1. ______________________________________________________
We have no comment on the many social analyses of the video. SHORT ESSAY 4)  Do you think it’s acceptable to assume that Jung-a Kim was the children’s nanny, or do you think that such an assumption is an unfair stereotype? Explain. (60-80 words)   5) Kelly’s interview is just one of a long line of TV bloopers. Is there one that you know of and that you find particularly funny? Describe it. (60-80 words)
(Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: screenshots from BBC)   [post_title] => This year's most epic live TV fail [post_excerpt] => Last month, the most famous family in the world was probably that of Robert Kelly, a previously unknown professor of a South Korean university. Kelly and his family were the protagonists of one of the most viral TV fails in history, viewed around the world million of times. Interestingly, their family blooper raised not only laughs, but also some serious social debate about racial stereotypes. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => this-years-most-epic-live-tv-fail [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-26 13:03:23 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-26 11:03:23 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=12372 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 12148 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2017-02-27 20:55:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-02-27 19:55:01 [post_content] => Winston Churchill was one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century. He was the Prime Minister of Britain during the Second World War, from 1940 to 1945. He became famous for directing the war effort against the Nazis, but also for his powerful, inspiring speeches. These radio broadcasts helped keep up the morale of the British during the war. Churchill was also a prolific writer. He wrote articles, biographies and histories, and he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953 “for his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.” Incredibly, one of his articles was discovered a few days ago inside a box in a museum in Missouri. The article, written in 1938 and never published, is not about politics or history, but about science. It is titled “Are We Alone in the Universe?”  

War of the Worlds

Churchill was interested in science, and he wrote articles on biology and physics. He was also a fan of science-fiction writer H.G. Wells, author of “The War of the Worlds”, a novel about Martians invading Earth. Shortly before Churchill wrote his article, Wells’ novel was adapted into a radio drama. Some of the listeners thought that the Martians’ invasion was real, and panicked. While many ordinary people believed in Martians, few scientists did. Most claimed that planets were extremely rare in the universe and that, probably, life existed only on Earth. Churchill disagreed. In his article he writes: “I am not sufficiently conceited to think that my sun is the only one with a family of planets.” He also writes that he is not “so immensely impressed by the success […] of our civilization” as to believe that we are alone, or that we represent “the highest type of mental and physical development” of life in the universe. His answer to the title of his article is therefore “no!”  

Exoplanets

Today we seem to be on the verge of confirming Churchill’s hypothesis. The first step has been to find ‘exoplanets’, planets outside the solar system. The first confirmed exoplanet was found in 1992. Since then, thanks to powerful new telescopes, more than 3000 exoplanets have been discovered. It is too early to say if there is life on any of them. Surely, not all of them can harbour life, or at least life as we know it. As Churchill wrote, quite correctly, life can exist “between a few degrees of frost and the boiling point of water.” Some exoplanets are too hot, while others are too cold. An exoplanet needs to orbit in the so-called ‘Goldilocks zone’, a habitable zone around a star where the conditions are just right for life to exist. Scientists now estimate that our galaxy, the Milky Way, might contain between 11 and 40 billion habitable Earth-sized planets. Quite a change from when they thought planets were extremely rare!  

Trappist-1

One of the most exciting discoveries was announced on 22nd February. “New record!” tweeted Nasa. “We’ve found 7 Earth-sized planets around a single star outside our solar system; 3 in habitable zone.” The star is called Trappist-1, and it is 39 light-years away. Although only three of its planets are in the Goldilocks zone, all seven could be habitable if they have the right atmospheric conditions. This means that all seven could harbour life. In the coming months, the Trappist-1 star system will be studied in greater detail using space telescopes. These high-tech instruments will study the planets’ atmospheres and find out what chemicals they contain. Astronomer Michael Gillon, the leader of the international team that discovered the seven planets, says that if certain chemicals are found in the right proportions, then it “would tell us that there is life with 99% confidence.” The time for speculations seems to be over. The discovery of life in the universe is probably just around the corner.
Useful links 1) Learn more about Winston Churchill using Wikipedia Simple English... https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winston_Churchill ...and the Nobel Prize website: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/1953/churchill-facts.html 2) Read about Churchill’s article “Are We Alone in the Universe?”: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/15/winston-churchill-essay-alien-life-discovered-us-college-are-we-alone-in-the-universe 3)  Listen to “The War of the Worlds” radio drama: http://www.mercurytheatre.info/ 4) Read about the 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting Trappist-1 and get a  free poster! https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/news/1419/nasa-telescope-reveals-largest-batch-of-earth-size-habitable-zone-planets-around-single-star/ 5) Explore the exoplanets discovered by Nasa: https://exoplanets.nasa.gov/ 6) You can follow Nasa on social media: https://www.nasa.gov/socialmedia

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in
  1. 1938.
  2. 1940.
  3. 1945.
2. Winston Churchill won the Nobel Prize for writing
  1. fiction.
  2. non-fiction.
  3. newspaper articles.
3. Winston Churchill
  1. wrote “The War of the Worlds.”
  2. adapted “The War of the Worlds” into a radio drama.
  3. admired the author of “The War of the Worlds.”
4. “The War of the Worlds” radio drama
  1. scared Winston Churchill.
  2. scared many people.
  3. scared scientists.
5. In the 1930s most scientists believed that
  1. we were probably alone in the universe.
  2. the universe was full of life.
  3. the universe was full of planets.
6. Looking at human civilization, Churchill reflected that
  1. we could not possibly be the highest form of life in the universe.
  2. we had to be the highest form of life in the universe.
  3. we could be the highest form of life in the universe.
7. An exoplanet is a planet
  1. with the right conditions for life to develop.
  2. orbiting our sun.
  3. orbiting a star other than our sun.
8. When Churchill wrote his article, the first exoplanet
  1. had just been discovered.
  2. still had to be discovered.
  3. was found in the Goldylock zone.
9. The seven planets of Trappist-1
  1. have liquid water.
  2. are approximately as large as the Earth.
  3. are in the habitable zone.
10. Michael Gillon declared that
  1. there’s a 99% chance that there’s life in the universe.
  2. there’s life in the Trappist-1 star system.
  3. a specific atmosphere points to the presence of life.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary.

to harbour  *  conceited  *  oratory  *  to exalt  *  prolific  *  mastery  *  hypothesis  *  habitable  *  to estimate  *  influential

1. You can’t say that this house is ______ (habitable): it has no roof! 2. A ______ (conceited) person is vain and egotistic. 3. An unproven theory is called a ______ (hypothesis). 4. She has complete ______ (mastery) of English, but she knows very little French. 5. He wrote 30 novels. He is a very ______ (prolific) writer. 6. The art of public speaking is called ______ (oratory). 7. ______ ( To harbour) means to provide a safe place for something. 8. Many historians ______ (exalt) Churchill, claiming he was the best British political figure. 9. Scientists ______ (estimate) that only a very small percentage of exoplanets is habitable. 10. H.G. Wells was an ______ (influential) writer: he is considered the father of science fiction.  

GRAMMAR – Prepositions of time

3) Complete the sentences choosing the correct preposition of time.

1. Winston Churchill was born in/at November. 2. Churchill made many inspiring speeches during/since the war. 3. Churchill was Prime Minister for the second time in/from 1951 to/by 1955. 4. “The War of the Worlds” was published on/in 1897. 5. “The War of the Worlds” radio drama aired in/on Halloween: it aired at/from 8 pm on/in 31st October 1938. 6. The discovery of the 7 planets was made public on/at Wednesday, 22nd February. 7. “We will discover life in the universe by/since the end of the decade,” said the scientist. 8. My friends arrived in/on time. 9. From/Since ancient times, humans have dreamed of reaching the stars. 10. I love watching the sky at/during night at/in summer.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) How would you answer the question: “are we alone in the universe?” Give reasons for your answer. (60-80 words)

5) What if scientists discover life on another planet? What if they discover another advanced civilization? What do you think the reaction and consequences would be on planet Earth? (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Wikipedia and NASA) [post_title] => Are we alone in the Universe? [post_excerpt] => Winston Churchill was an influential politician, but also a prolific writer with an interest in science. A lost and unpublished article by Churchill was recently found in a museum in Missouri. It’s titled “Are We Alone in the Universe?” and the timing of its discovery seemed perfect: astronomers might be on the verge of finally answering that question. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => are-we-alone-in-the-universe [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-03-31 11:26:01 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-03-31 09:26:01 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=12148 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11875 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2017-01-26 10:10:29 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-01-26 09:10:29 [post_content] =>

Just five days into 2017, London exceeded its annual air pollution limit. This means that in those five days dangerous quantities of pollutants were found in London’s air more times than is legally permitted for the whole year. Besides damaging the environment, air pollution causes several health problems. In the short term it produces conditions such as coughing and asthma, and in the long term it can lead to lung damage and serious diseases. Approximately 9,000 Londoners a year die prematurely because of air pollution. MPs called the situation a “public health emergency” and the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, promised to take action. He wants to make London one of the world’s greenest cities. But can he truly solve a centuries-old problem?

 

London particular

The problem of London’s polluted air goes as far back as the thirteenth century. At the time, the problem was coal smoke from chimneys: Londoners burned coal in their homes to cook and keep warm. This problem worsened as London became more populous. In 1661, writer John Evelyn said that the burning of coal had turned London into ‘Hell upon Earth’. In the nineteenth century, industries began pumping even more smoke into the air. This smoke mixed with the fogs of the Thames Valley and formed what became famously – or infamously – known as smog. London’s smog was full of soot and poisonous gases. This smog was so typical of London that it was called ‘London particular’, and it was so thick that it was also called ‘pea soup’. Attempts were made to pass laws to solve the situation, but without success. Then disaster struck in 1952.

 

The Great Killer Fog

In December 1952, due to special weather conditions, Londoners were trapped in the worst air-pollution event in the history of the UK. The Great Smog, or the Great Killer Fog, was so bad that flights were grounded, traffic restricted, and various events had to be cancelled. Firemen had to walk in front of their vehicles to see where they were going. The smog even seeped indoors. A performance of La Traviata at Sadler’s Wells was suspended because the audience couldn’t see the stage. The Great Smog lasted less than a week, but it killed 12,000 people. This tragedy made health and environmental concerns so urgent that parliament was forced to do something. In 1956 it passed the Clean Air Act, which introduced measures to clampdown on pollutants that caused smog. London’s air began to clear up, but over the years the old, visible pollutants, such as coal smoke, were replaced by new, invisible ones.

 

Clean Air Now!

Some people think that politicians are once again taking too much time to solve the problem. A group of artists, photographers and 16 to 25-year-old volunteers decided to take action themselves, and they set up the Clean Air Now campaign. Over the course of the last few months, they have used large posters, billboards and street art to raise awareness about the illegal levels of London’s air pollution. They hung their posters and art in some of London’s most polluted areas. “The idea was to take billboard space for something other than advertising,” said one of the organizers. “Billboards, due to their size and scale, are a great way to talk about this issue – they hover over London just like the pollution itself.” Although today’s pollutants can’t be seen, 20 x 12-foot posters can! The activists hope that their action will support the mayor’s plan to clean up London’s air.

Useful links

1) Read about London’s current air pollution problem:

http://www.clientearth.org/london-breaches-annual-air-pollution-limits-five-days/

2) Look at these pictures of the Great Smog of London and read the captions:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2012/dec/05/60-years-great-smog-london-in-pictures

3) Watch this video to learn more about the Great Smog of 1952:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtjBz_es4wU

4) Watch this other video to learn more about today’s situation:

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-20615186

5) Explore the Clean Air Now website:

http://cleanairnow.org.uk/home/

 

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Air pollution is bad for
  1. people.
  2. the environment.
  3. both people and the environment.
2. Sadiq Khan said that
  1. London is one of the world’s greenest cities.
  2. London’s air is a public health emergency.
  3. he will do something against air pollution.
3. Back in the thirteenth century London was
  1. ‘Hell upon Earth.’
  2. a polluted city.
  3. a city with clean air.
4. John Evelyn lived in the
  1. thirteenth century.
  2. seventeenth century.
  3. nineteenth century.
5. The Great Smog of 1952 lasted
  1. just a few days.
  2. a whole year.
  3. a month.
6. ‘London particular’ and ‘pea soup’
  1. are two different kinds of smog.
  2. both refer to the same thing.
  3. are a mix of soot and poisonous gases.
7. Unlike the new pollutants, the old ones
  1. produced a very thick smog.
  2. killed people.
  3. were not produced by human activity.
8. The activists of Clean Air Now
  1. want to tell people about the problem of air pollution.
  2. use billboards to advertise commercial products.
  3. think that politicians are doing a good job reducing air pollution.
9. The activists of Clean Air Now chose to use billboards
  1. because they hover over London just like the air pollution.
  2. because they can be found in London’s most polluted areas.
  3. because they are huge and easy to see.
10. The activists of Clean Air Now
  1. work for the mayor.
  2. hope to help the mayor.
  3. are against the mayor.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary.

hover  *  to seep  *  populous  *  to exceed  *  MP  *  to ground  *  billboard  *  to clamp down  *  soot  *  mayor

1. Yesterday, a police helicopter ______ over the street demonstration. 2. This roof is not waterproof: water is ______ in and dripping all over the place! 3. You’re driving too fast! You’re ______ the speed limit! 4. The most ______ countries in the world are China and India. 5. ______ is an abbreviation that stands for Member of Parliament. 6. That’s it young man! No more coming home late! You’re ______ for a week! 7. Today, advertisements are everywhere. Look at all the ______ along this road. 8. The police promised ______ on crime and make the city safe again. 9. I cleaned the chimney and now look at me: I’m black with ______. 10. The ______ is the head of the government of a city.  

GRAMMAR – Future forms (present simple, present continuous, will, shall, be going to)

3) Complete the sentences choosing the correct future form.

1. Hurry up. Your flight for London will leave/leaves in one hour. 2. I’m sure you will have/have a wonderful time in London. 3. Shall we join/Are we joining the Clean Air Now campaign? I think we should. 4. The demonstration is going to start/starts at 3 pm – don’t be late! 5. It’s very cloudy today. Shall I get/Will I get my umbrella? 6. The pollution problem is so great that it is going to take/shall take ages to solve it. 7. Who knows if the mayor will succeed/is going to succeed in making London a green city? 8. I am meeting/meet the mayor tomorrow to tell him about our campaign. 9. She is coming/shall come tomorrow. We arranged to meet at the train station. 10. London’s air pollution is getting worse and worse. We are never breathing/are never going to breathe clean air in this city!  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Do some research on one ecological disaster caused by humans. What caused it and what was done to remedy it? (60-80 words)

5) What could be done to fight pollution and/or improve the air quality of your town/city? (60-80 words)

(Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Iain Buchanan, flickr and shirokazan, flickr)   [post_title] => Young Londoners' war on air pollution [post_excerpt] => Just five days into 2017, London exceeded its annual air pollution limit. London’s polluted air is a centuries-old problem. A group of young activists believe that too little has been done for too long. With their campaign Clean Air Now they hope to raise awareness of the problem and to pressure politicians to improve, once and for all, London’s air quality. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => young-londoners-war-on-air-pollution [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-02-27 20:56:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-02-27 19:56:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11875 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 2 [filter] => raw ) [5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11782 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-12-30 11:44:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-12-30 10:44:51 [post_content] =>

On 20 January the presidency of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, comes to an end. Many Americans, as well as many people around the world, will miss him. Obama’s slogan, when he campaigned for the presidency eight years ago was ‘Yes we can.’ He believed that when people come together anything is possible. He is the living proof of this: he is the first African American to be elected President, and this was possible because millions of people, for decades, fought against racism and for civil rights and social justice. His policies as President were aimed at a fairer society. For example, he wanted to provide health care to those who didn’t have it. He also fought hard against unemployment and climate change. In foreign policy he favoured negotiations rather than aggressive action. In 2009 he won the Nobel Peace Prize “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

 

President-Elect

Obama’s successor is New York billionaire Donald Trump. Trump comes from a very rich family. He will be the richest American President in history. He will also be the oldest: Trump is 70. He has been a businessman and real-estate developer. He built skyscrapers, palaces, parks, casinos, golf courses. Trump Tower is probably his most famous building: a very luxurious 200-metre building in Manhattan. In recent years Trump was also a television personality, hosting the popular programme The Apprentice where he judged the business skills of a series of contestants. Trump’s interest in politics grew over the years. He wanted to run for President already in 2000, but eventually decided not to. Few took him seriously when he decided to run again in 2015. Could a celebrity businessman with no political experience really compete against professional politicians?

 

Campaigning

Donald Trump was one of the Republican Party’s 17 candidates for President. Trump campaigned with the slogan ‘Make America Great Again’, appealing to the patriotism of Americans. Trump claimed that Washington was ‘broken’, run by corrupt politicians and controlled by lobbyists. He presented himself as an outsider who could ‘shake up’ the political system and give it back to the people. Despite being a billionaire, many of his electors said about him: “he’s one of us.” His critics said that he was just talking to the ‘belly’ of the nation, appealing to the fear, anger and pride of the Republican electors, often making unrealistic promises. Over the course of a few months, though, he emerged as the most popular Republican candidate, and he won the party’s nomination.

 

Person of the Year

At the general election Donald Trump faced the candidate of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, the first woman to be nominated for President by a major US political party. She represented continuity with Barack Obama. They both belong to the same party, and Clinton’s slogan – ‘Stronger together’ – recalled the solidarity of Obama’s ‘Yes We Can’. Clinton’s critics said that she was part of the political elite, no longer in touch with the everyday problems of Americans. Most polls, though, said that she was going to win the presidency. They were wrong: Donald Trump won instead. Waiting to see what he will do as President, Time Magazine elected him ‘Person of the Year 2016’. Time gives this title to the year’s most influential person, for better or worse. “So which is it this year,” asks Time, “better or worse?” America is divided on the answer. Will Donald Trump, a person known for his unpredictability, be a good President? Only time will tell.

Useful links

1) Here’s a short biography of President Barack Obama: https://www.whitehouse.gov/1600/presidents/barackobama

2) Explore the White House, where the President lives and works: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house

3) Take a tour of the West Wing of the White House, where the President has his office: https://www.whitehouse.gov/about/inside-white-house/west-wing-tour

4) Learn more about President-elect Donald Trump http://www.timeforkids.com/news/meet-donald-j-trump/415956

5) Learn more about the election of Donald Trump: http://www.timeforkids.com/news/election-remember/496771

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Barack Obama’s slogan promoted
  1. a solidarity.
  2. personal success.
  3. racism.
2. Barack Obama fought hard to increase
  1. unemployment.
  2. climate change.
  3. employment.
3. Trump was
  1. of humble origins.
  2. very rich.
  3. very poor.
4. Trump was
  1. the host of The Apprentice.
  2. a contestant on The Apprentice.
  3. the creator of The Apprentice.
5. Many Americans think that Donald Trump should not be President because
  1. he is too rich.
  2. he has no political experience.
  3. he is a television personality.
6. Donald Trump’s slogan is
  1. ‘Make America Great Again’.
  2. ‘Stronger Together’.
  3. ‘He’s One Of Us’.
7. Donald Trump’s critics said:
  1. “He’s one of us.”
  2. “He speaks to the belly of the nation.”
  3. “Washington is run by corrupt politicians.”
8. Hillary Clinton was criticized because
  1. she represented continuity with Obama.
  2. she doesn’t know the problems of Americans.
  3. she doesn’t believe in solidarity.
9. The polls said that the next President would be
  1. Clinton.
  2. Obama.
  3. Trump.
10. Trump was elected Time’s Person of the Year 2016 because
  1. he won the presidency.
  2. he is unpredictable.
  3. he was the most influential person of the year.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

to campaign *  policy  *  unemployment  *  billionaire *  to appeal  *  elite  *  lobbyist  *  outsider  *  influential  *  to recall

1. Youth ______ is a big problem: 20% of young people don’t have a job. 2. He travels the state to speak to the people and to tell them what he would do if they elect him: he’s ______ to become President. 3. To ______ means to bring back to mind, to remember. 4. They are wealthy and privileged; most people consider them the country’s ______. 5. Powerful companies try to have a say in politics using ______, people whose job is to influence the decisions of politicians. 6. A ______ is a person who has at least a thousand millions. 7. Nobody thought he would win the race, everybody called him an ______, but he defeated the champion. 8. That politician ______ to me: he’s offering solutions to my problems. 9. Her foreign ______ was this: international disputes must be solved through peaceful means. 10. Everybody does what he says. He’s incredibly ______.  

GRAMMAR – Modal verbs (may/might for possibility)

3) Complete the sentences using the modal verbs will, may, might

1. Barack Obama ______ remain in politics, but he ______ decide to do something else. 2. Donald Trump ______ be President at the end of January. He ______ be reelected in 2020. 3. Trump ______ be a good President, but I doubt it. 4. I’m sure that many of Trump’s electors ______ vote for him again in 2020. 5. There’s a rumor that Michelle Obama, Barack’s wife, ______ run for President in 2020. 6. Barack Obama said quite clearly that he ______ not write a book about his presidency, and I believe him. 7. He ______ not know much about politics now, but I’m sure he ______ learn quickly. 8. Trump declared that he ______ make America great again. 9. ______ you vote for Trump in 2020? 10. I ______ vote for him in 2020. It depends on what he does as President.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) According to you, what qualities should a political leader have and why?

5) Do some research on Barack Obama and Donald Trump, then compare and contrast them.

(Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: The White House, YouTube and Gage Skidmore, flickr) [post_title] => Exit Obama, enter Trump [post_excerpt] => On 20 January the presidency of Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, comes to an end. His successor is businessman, television personality and billionaire Donald Trump. Few took him seriously when he decided to run for President, but his campaign proved very successful. Learn more about the American general elections and President-elect Donald Trump. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => exit-obama-enter-trump [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-01-26 10:10:56 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-01-26 09:10:56 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11782 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 10 [filter] => raw ) [6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11546 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-11-28 16:13:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-28 15:13:34 [post_content] =>

Back in the 19th century, the Swedish scientist and businessman Alfred Nobel invented dynamite and other explosives. A French newspaper called him a “merchant of death” who “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before”. Nobel did not want to be remembered like this, so he decided to leave his fortune to people who make the world a better place. To do so, he created the Nobel Prize. Each year the Prize is awarded to eminent people in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. Today the Nobel Prize is considered the most prestigious award in these fields. Authors who write in English have dominated the Literature Prize with 28 winners out of 113 (plus 3 who wrote both in English and in another language). Among them are 11 American, 10 British and 4 Irish writers. The winners are chosen by the members of the Swedish Academy, helped by the advice of scholars from around the world. Not everybody agrees with the choices of the Academy, but no choice was more controversial than this year’s.

 

Are songs literature?

This year’s Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded not to a novelist, nor to a poet, nor to a playwright, but, for the first time, to a singer-songwriter: the American music legend Bob Dylan. The Academy chose him because he created “new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Many writers and critics around the world praised the decision. Others agreed that it was time for an American writer to win the Prize – the last one was Tony Morrison who won it 23 years ago – but they believed that novelists like Philip Roth or Don DeLillo were far more deserving than Bob Dylan. Some claimed that songs belong to a different art form: they are not literature. Others said that even if one considers songs literature, Bob Dylan’s lyrics did not deserve a Nobel Prize. The heated debate continued, and while the world was discussing him, Bob Dylan said nothing.

 

Speechless or arrogant?

Bob Dylan did not comment on winning the Prize. Many wondered: was he going to refuse it? For sure, he was ignoring it. The Swedish Academy tried to get in touch with him, but it gave up after more than ten days of failed attempts. One of its members suggested that Dylan was being “impolite and arrogant.” A few more days passed and finally Dylan called the Academy and said that winning the Prize left him “speechless.” He accepted the Prize but he wasn’t sure if he could attend the Nobel ceremony on 10 December. Again the world wondered: was he being rude a second time? The days passed and finally Dylan said that he was not going to the Nobel ceremony due to “pre-existing commitments.” What could be more important than receiving from the hands of the King of Sweden the greatest literary prize in the world?

 

Prizes and artistic freedom

The critics of Bob Dylan’s attitude probably did not consider that not all writers approve of the Nobel Prize. In 1925 Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw almost refused it. He wittily said: “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for having invented dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.” He probably considered prizes fit for competitions, not for art forms such as literature. In 1964, French writer Jean-Paul Sartre won the Prize but refused it. He claimed that a writer should be free and should not be “institutionalised.” Bob Dylan differs from Shaw and Sartre because he accepted the Prize and seems to consider it important. His attitude, though, seems to suggest that he also believes, like Shaw and Sartre, that artistic freedom is more important. Writers write for personal reasons or to communicate with their readers, not to win prizes. If they win them, that’s fine, but it’s no big deal. Even if it is the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Useful links

1) Watch this video to learn more about the Nobel Prize: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94YQ3el6LMc

2) Here is the official page of the Nobel Prize in Literature: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/

3) Find out some interesting facts about the Nobel Prize in Literature: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/facts/literature/index.html

4) What do you know about this year’s winner? Learn more about Bob Dylan here: https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/literature/laureates/2016/bio-bibl.html

5) George Bernard Shaw was famous for his intelligent, often witty remarks: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/g/george_bernard_shaw.html

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. Alfred Nobel was criticized because
  1. his inventions were dangerous.
  2. he created the Nobel Prize.
  3. he became rich.
2. The winners of the Nobel Prize are chosen by
  1. Alfred Nobel.
  2. the Swedish Academy.
  3. scholars from around the world.
3. So far, the winners of the Prize who wrote in English are
  1. 113.
  2. 28.
  3. 31.
4. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize because of his
  1. novels.
  2. plays.
  3. songs.
5. One of the 11 American Nobel Prize winners for Literature is
  1. Tony Morrison.
  2. Philip Roth.
  3. George Bernard Shaw.
6. The Swedish Academy called Bob Dylan, but
  1. Dylan answered that he was busy.
  2. they couldn’t get through.
  3. Dylan said that he was not interested in the Prize.
7. Bob Dylan
  1. said he will accept the Nobel Prize on 10 December.
  2. refused the Nobel Prize.
  3. accepted the Nobel Prize.
8. George Bernard Shaw said that
  1. dynamite was a worse invention than the Nobel Prize.
  2. the Nobel Prize was a worse invention than dynamite.
  3. he did not want to be “institutionalised.”
9. The Nobel Prize was refused by
  1. George Bernard Shaw.
  2. Bob Dylan.
  3. Jean-Paul Sartre.
10. Dylan, Shaw and Sartre believe in
  1. artistic freedom.
  2. the importance of literary prizes.
  3. the importance of the Nobel Prize.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words.

eminent  *  speechless  *  commitment  *  wit  *  merchant  *  lyrics  *  fortune  *  field  *  scholar  *  fiend

1. The surprise made her so happy that it left her ______. 2. Shaw was full of ______: he could always make funny and intelligent remarks. 3. The words of a song are called ______. 4. When he died, the rich businessman left a ______ to his children. 5. A ______ is a large open space, but it can also mean a specific area or subject of human activity. 6. A ______ is a devilish, evil person. 7. If you promise to do something, you are making a ______. 8. Einstein was an ______ physicist: he was among the best scientists of his age. 9. A person who works buying and selling goods is called a ______. 10. That professor is a Latin ______: he’s been studying that ancient language all his life.  

GRAMMAR – Conjunctions

3) Complete the sentences using the following conjunctions:

because  (x2) *  unless  * although  while  *  that  *  whereas  *  when  *  if  *  but

1. Alfred Nobel was called a “merchant of death” ______ he invented dynamite. 2. Alfred Nobel was so shocked by the criticism ______ he decided to become a philanthropist. 3. ______ the Academy announced the winner, the journalists let out a gasp of surprise. 4. ______ he is a songwriter, Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature. 5. ______ Bob Dylan remained silent, the world talked about him. 6. Many critics agreed with the Academy’s choice, ______ many others did not. 7. A member of the Academy said that Bob Dylan was rude  ______ he did not answer the Academy’s calls. 8. Bob Dylan said he would go to the Ceremony ______ he had previous commitments. 9. “______ I have nothing else to do, I will come,” he said. 10. Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize, ______ Philip Roth did not.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Who is your favourite writer? Why do you like his/her work? Has he/she taught you something important? (60-80 words)

5) Do some research on Bob Dylan or on another Nobel Prize winner, then write about him/her. (60-80 words)

 --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: mtarvainen, flickr and Francisco Antunes, flickr)

 

[post_title] => Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize [post_excerpt] => On 13 October the Swedish Academy announced the winner of this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. The Nobel Prize is the most important literary award in the world and this year’s winner was the most controversial ever. Not only because he was the first songwriter to win the Prize, but also because for weeks nobody knew if he was going to accept it. Learn more about the Nobel Prize in Literature and this year’s winner: American rock legend Bob Dylan. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => bob-dylan-wins-the-nobel-prize [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-12-30 11:16:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-12-30 10:16:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11546 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11361 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-11-02 15:29:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-11-02 14:29:40 [post_content] =>

Fear is not a pleasant emotion, but most people like a little thrill in their lives. Some people might enjoy reading a horror novel, others might like riding on a ghost train in an amusement park. Strangely, being frightened can be fun. One of the year’s most beloved celebrations, Halloween, revolves around fear. On that day, many adults sit at home to watch horror films, and many children go trick-or-treating, dressed as scary creatures such as vampires, ghosts, zombies and witches. But this year’s Halloween was a little different. One outfit was particularly popular even if it wasn’t a traditional monster costume: this year lots of people dressed up as scary clowns.

 

Scary Clowns

The wave of ‘scary clowns’ began months before Halloween. In August, the people of Wisconsin saw an unkempt clown with black balloons walking the streets. In September and October, dozens of other scary clowns appeared across the US, the UK, Australia and other countries. Sometimes these clowns just wandered around looking scary. Other times they jumped out of nowhere and started chasing people. Sometimes they even frightened passersby with fake weapons. Most of these scary clowns proved harmless, but some took the joke too far and ended up injuring people. A few were arrested for “making a terrorist threat connected to ‘clown-related activity’.” This sounds ridiculous, but it’s not funny at all. Policemen have better things to do than arrest people dressed as scary clowns! Following police advice, many schools banned clown costumes from Halloween celebrations.

 

It

Nobody knows the reason for this scary clown craze. Some believe that it’s a way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the horror novel It written by Stephen King. It tells the story of a group of kids terrorized by a mysterious monster. This creature often disguises itself as a clown called Pennywise. Before writing the book, King wondered: “what scares children more than anything else in the world?” The answer he gave himself was: clowns. Clowns can be ambiguous: who is hiding behind the face paint? Are their drawn smiles sincere, or are they the smiles of madmen such as the Joker, Batman’s enemy? If the recent wave of scary clowns is paying homage to the novel It, Stephen King is not grateful. He recently tweeted: “Hey, guys, time to cool the clown hysteria – most of them are good, cheer up the kiddies, make people laugh.”

 

A noble tradition

Indeed, the professional clowns who want to make people laugh are worried by what’s happening. They say there’s a big difference between real clowns and people in scary masks. Their profession has a noble tradition: there were clowns already in ancient Egypt! Clowns believe that “laughter is health,” and with their acts they explore emotions such as happiness and sadness, but also hate and fear. A clown wants to teach people to face life and difficulties with a smile. They also teach resilience: clowns survive anything that’s thrown at them. Many clowns do good around the world. For example, Clowns Without Borders is an association of clowns who entertain and help children in war zones. Patch Adams, similarly, is a doctor who uses ‘clowntherapy’ to help sick children in hospitals. Although these professionals are worried by the scary clown craze, they are confident that they’ll survive. “We’ve been around for centuries,” they say. “We’ll still be here after these people in scary masks are long gone!”

Useful links 1) Read about the origin and history of Halloween: http://www.familyeducation.com/fun/history-halloween/spooktacular-history-halloween https://www.loc.gov/folklife/halloween.html

2) Learn more about clowns and scary clowns in this short video: http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/clowns-funny-scary-43146002

3) Find out how a man dressed up as Batman is chasing down the scary clowns: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/10/12/man-dressed-as-batman-chases-killer-clowns-in-cumbria/

4) Learn more about the history of clowning: http://www.humourfoundation.com.au/resources/history-of-clowning.html

5) Read and listen to what professional clowns have to say about the scary clown craze: https://www.theguardian.com/culture/2016/oct/13/clowns-clown-craze-professionals-costume-sightings-phenomenon

6) Here are the American and British websites for Clowns without Borders: http://www.clownswithoutborders.org/ http://clownswithoutborders.org.uk/

7) Learn about Patch Adams and his work: http://www.patchadams.org/

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. People who like being scared probably enjoy celebrating
  1. Christmas.
  2. Halloween.
  3. New Year’s Eve.
2. Traditionally, on Halloween children go trick-or-treating dressed as
  1. clowns.
  2. adults.
  3. monsters.
3. The first scary clown was seen in
  1. the US.
  2. the UK.
  3. Australia.
4. The scary clowns craze is
  1. an American phenomenon.
  2. a British phenomenon.
  3. an international phenomenon.
5. The police are not happy because
  1. scary clowns are a distraction from their real work.
  2. scary clowns are not funny.
  3. scary clowns are banned from schools.
6. Thirty years ago Stephen King created a famous character:
  1. Batman.
  2. Pennywise.
  3. Joker.
7. Stephen King asked the people dressed as crazy clowns
  1. to pay homage to his novel It.
  2. to calm down.
  3. to continue scaring people.
8. Professional clowns are interested in exploring
  1. all kinds of emotions.
  2. only positive emotions.
  3. only negative emotions.
9. Clowning has been around for
  1. hundreds of years.
  2. thousands of years.
  3. less than a hundred years.
10. Patch Adams and his clowns work
  1. in war zones.
  2. in circuses.
  3. in hospitals.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Conjugate the verbs if necessary.

craze  *  passerby  *  to disguise  *  outfit  *  unkempt  *  ban  *  resilient  *  grateful  *  to revolve  *  harmless

1. The spy ______ himself using a wig and dark glasses. 2. There’s a ______ on cigarettes in this building: you can’t smoke inside. 3. Clowns are ______: they recover quickly from the bad things that happen to them. 4. I was very ______ that mom helped me with my homework. 5. The garden looks ______: nobody has mowed the lawn in ages. 6. That dog is ______: sure, he barks a lot but he doesn’t bite. 7. The latest  ______ in fashion is purple jeans. Everybody wants them. 8. The lady fell in the middle of the street and a ______ helped her up. 9. Halloween films usually ______ around ghosts and monsters. 10. A vampire ______ must include fake vampire teeth and a black cape.

GRAMMAR – Adverbs of place, time, manner, degree

3) Complete the sentences using the following adverbs:

only  *  nowhere  *  lately  *  yet  *  extremely  * everywhere  * carefully  *  there  *  really  *  warily  *  soon  *  angrily

1. The clown hasn’t finished his act ______. 2. ______ there has been a wave of crazy clowns in the UK 3. The professional clown ______ claimed that the crazy clowns are stupid people with scary masks 4. He was in no hurry, so he ______ put on the green zombie makeup 5. “The clown was over ______,” said the boy, pointing at the forest behind the school 6. The police are ______ worried about the clown craze 7. The clown jumped out of ______ and scared everybody 8. I ______ enjoyed the clown’s performance, it was great 9. He looked around the corner ______, thinking that the crazy clown was there 10. He celebrated Halloween ______ once 11. The clown craze has spread ______ in the US 12. Some say that the crown craze will ______ be over.  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Did you celebrate Halloween this year? Did you wear a costume? Write about what you wore and what you did. (60-80 words)

5) Which is the scariest mask you can think of? Explain why you find it so frightening. (60-80 words)

   --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Graeme Maclean, flickr and Lucas Ramos Bispo, flickr)

 

[post_title] => The scary clown craze [post_excerpt] => This year’s Halloween was a little different: lots of people didn’t dress up as monsters, but as scary clowns. The scary clown craze began months ago and it spread quickly across the US and the UK. Dozens of scary clowns appeared out of nowhere to frighten people. Learn more about this strange phenomenon and about the ancient art of clowning. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-scary-clown-craze [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-28 16:14:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-28 15:14:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11361 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 3 [filter] => raw ) [8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11179 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-09-29 15:16:50 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-29 13:16:50 [post_content] =>

London is a city of great diversity: more than one third of its inhabitants are foreign-born. It is the city with the second largest immigrant population in the world, after New York. All kinds of ethnicities and nationalities live in London, speaking more than 300 different languages. It was a diverse city already in the 19th century, when trade and wealth attracted many foreigners. For example, Chinese employees of the East India Company, a company that traded with Asia, settled in the neighbourhood of Limehouse. By the beginning of the 20th century, London was the largest city in the world, full of people from around the globe. But how diverse was the very first London, the Londinium that the Romans founded almost 2000 years ago? A recent archaeological find seems to suggest that it was somewhat similar to the London of today.

 

An “absolutely phenomenal” discovery

In the October issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, British researchers published a study regarding 22 skeletons from a small Roman cemetery found in South London. Using cutting edge techniques, the scientists could make an educated guess about the origin of the skeletons. What they found was, according to them, “absolutely phenomenal.” Four people were ethnically African and two were Asian, most likely Chinese. This was the very first time people of Chinese origin were identified in Roman Britain. Londinium was an important centre of the Roman province of Britannia with a population of approximately 60,000, but it was still a provincial city on the very edge of the known world, far from the hub of the Empire. So what were Chinese people doing in London?

 

Beyond the Silk Road

At the time, the Roman Empire and the Chinese Han Empire were two huge civilizations at the opposite ends of the Eurasian continent. They were so distant that they knew little about each other besides rumours and legends. There was trade, though, between them. A thin, 8,000 kilometre route connected the Mediterranean to China: the so-called Silk Road. Along this route travelled the goods of Rome and China: Roman glassware reached Chinese homes and Chinese silks reached Roman markets. These goods were not transported by the Romans and the Chinese, but by the many traders who bought and sold them along the Silk Road. At least this is what our current historical knowledge tells us. The finds of the Chinese skeletons in London might change all this. If two Chinese had wondered so far from the Silk Road to distant Britannia, the relations between the two ancient empires might have been much deeper than previously thought.

 

A mystery in Londinium

Maybe the Chinese people in London were merchants. Maybe they were ambassadors or the descendants of Chinese travellers. Maybe they were not free men: sadly, slaves were also traded along the Silk Road. What’s certain is that the finds in London have raised a mystery. More data will be needed to solve it. The skeletons analysed were few, and the method used to determine their origin is not infallible. What is absolutely certain is that the ‘Chinese skeletons’ were from people not born in Britain. Their Chinese origin, however, must be confirmed by further testing. What these skeletons (as well as the four African ones) prove, though, is that there was great diversity in the Roman Empire, even in the far away province of Britannia. This reinforces other previous archaeological finds that showed that ancient Londinium is not so different from modern London: it was an important trading centre as well as a multicultural city.

Useful websites

Read more about the “absolutely phenomenal” discovery of the Chinese skeletons in London: http://www.history.com/news/possible-chinese-skeletons-could-rewrite-roman-history

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/chinese-skeleton-discovery-roman-history-society-southwark-cemetery-asian-remains-a7330666.html

Listen to this brief audio. One of the researchers who studied the Chinese skeletons talks about them on BBC radio: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37452287

Watch this video about the ethnic diversity of Roman Londinium: http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34809804

Research the Silk Road, starting from this Wikipedia Simple English article: https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silk_Road

Read about London’s Chinatown: http://www.chinatownlondon.org/

Learn more about London’s history: http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/a-brief-history-of-london

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative.

1. The city with the largest immigrant population in the world is
  1. London.
  2. New York.
  3. Limehouse.
2. London was founded by ‘foreigners’:
  1. the Chinese.
  2. the Indians.
  3. the Romans.
3. Londinium was
  1. an important city in Britannia.
  2. the largest city in the world.
  3. the largest city of the Roman Empire.
4. British researchers made an “absolutely phenomenal” discovery:
  1. Londinium had a population of 60,000.
  2. non-European people lived in Londinium.
  3. they found 22 skeletons in a Roman cemetery.
5. The Silk Road was
  1. trading route.
  2. a road built by the Romans.
  3. a road built by the Chinese.
6. From what we know, the Romans and the Chinese
  1. knew very much about each other.
  2. did not know each other.
  3. knew very little about each other.
7. The Roman Londinium
  1. was very far from the Silk Road.
  2. was on the Silk Road.
  3. was on the Mediterranean.
8. The Romans loved
  1. Chinese legends.
  2. Chinese glassware.
  3. Chinese silk.
9. The study on the ‘Chinese skeletons’ proves that
  1. there were lots of Chinese living in Londinium.
  2. foreigners lived in Londinium.
  3. Chinese merchants reached Londinium.
10. The study on the ‘Chinese skeletons’
  1. raised a mystery.
  2. solved a mystery.
  3. did not discover anything new.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Conjugate the verbs if necessary.

glassware  *  to settle  *  to found  *  diverse  *  cutting edge  *  educated guess  *  hub  *  goods  *  rumour  *  to trade

1. A gossip or an unconfirmed story is called a ______ . 2. An ______ is a conclusion based on previous knowledge or facts. 3. Romulus and Remus ______ the city of Rome. 4. Objects or containers made of glass can be defined as ______. 5. The word ______ can be used to describe the centre of a wheel, an airport, and the most active part of a city or place. 6. The things for sale that can be found in shops are called ______. 7. ______ technology is the newest and most advanced technology there is. 8. The class was very ______: there were students from 10 different countries. 9. Many immigrants ______ in London, making it their new home. 10. Today we usually ______ using money, but once it was common to do it by exchanging goods.  

GRAMMAR – Comparative and superlative adjectives

3) Complete the sentences using the adjective in brackets with comparatives of majority (+) minority (–) or equality (=), or superlatives (S). 1. New York has a ______ (large) immigrant population than London. (+) 2. London is ______ (diverse) New York. (=) 3. Early 20th century London was ______ (large) city in the world. (S) 4. New York is ______  (old) than London. (–) 5. London is not ______ (old) city in the world. (S) 6. One of ______ (far) cities of the Roman Empire was Londinium. (S) 7. Londinium was ______ (far) from Rome than China. (–) 8. The Roman Empire was ______ (large) the Chinese Empire. (=) 9. The Silk Road was ______  (good) route to get from China to Rome. (S) 10. Ancient history is probably ______ (mysterious) than we think. (+)  

SHORT ESSAY

4) Research the history of your city. Who founded it? Who were the first settlers? Compare it to the way it is today. (60-80 words)

5) Which is the most incredible archaeological find you can think of? Explain why you think it’s so interesting. (60-80 words)

6) Imagine that archaeologists make an unexpected, incredible discovery. Think of something really revolutionary. (Roman ruins in America? A UFO inside the Great Pyramid?) Write a report of the discovery, and explain how it will rewrite history. (60-80 words)

 --- (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Wikipedia and Dun.Can, flickr) [post_title] => Roman Londinium: an international city [post_excerpt] => History books tell us that the Roman Londinium was a provincial town at the very edge of the known world, very different from the international London of today. A recent archaeological find disagrees, promising to rewrite history, not just of London, but of the whole ancient world. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => roman-londinium-an-international-city [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-02 15:36:32 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-02 14:36:32 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11179 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw ) [9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 11020 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2016-09-15 11:56:51 [post_date_gmt] => 2016-09-15 09:56:51 [post_content] =>

The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro finished with no surprises at the very top of the medal table: the United States came 1st with 46 gold medals. The US has come 1st 5 times in the last 6 Summer Olympics. Its most famous athlete is probably the swimmer Michael Phelps who won 5 golds and 1 silver in Rio. That’s one person winning more medals than some entire countries – only 18 nations won more golds than Phelps did by himself! Other ‘usual suspects’ such as China, Russia, Germany, France and Italy were among the top 10 nations in the medals table. But there was one big surprise in 2nd place: the United Kingdom. The UK won 27 gold medals in a wide range of disciplines, from athletics to cycling, from rowing to gymnastics.

 

Rise to the top

This feat is incredible if one thinks of the UK’s Olympic past. Twenty years ago, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the UK won only 1 gold medal, finishing 36th in the medal table. This was the UK’s worst Olympics after many bad ones. Never, since World War II, had the UK won more than 6 golds. After hitting rock-bottom in 1996, something changed: the UK started climbing up the medal table. It came 10th in Sydney 2000, 10th in Athens 2004 and 4th in Beijing 2008. In 2012 it hosted the Olympics in London and came 3rd. It is normal for a nation to do particularly well when hosting the Games, but the UK was the first nation to improve again in the following Olympics – Rio 2016 – where it came 2nd. The UK can now consider itself a “superpower” of sports. But how did this amazing transformation happen?

 

The causes of success

After the UK’s horrible performance in Atlanta, Prime Minister John Major decided that sports needed more funding and a different mentality. He used the money the government earned from lotteries to finance sports. A new approach was also adopted, called the ‘no compromise approach’: the UK would invest money and energies only in those sports that produced medals. “Why do we invest in medal success?” said Liz Nicholl, who works for UK Sport, the agency that funds sport across the UK. “We invest in medal success to create a proud, ambitious, active, healthy nation.” But is this really happening? Is the UK a prouder, more ambitious, more active and healthier nation than before? Do people exercise more if they see top British athletes winning medals at the Olympics?

 

Controversy

Back in the 1960s and 70s, when the UK won very few medals, the Sports Council promoted the creation and expansion of local leisure centres. There, ordinary people could play sports without Olympic competition in mind. Today many of these centres are in financial trouble; they are closing or they are being converted into expensive, private facilities. This is partly the result of the ‘no compromise approach’: if the sport is not producing medals, it will get no funding. History proves that people exercise more if they have access to facilities, not if top athletes win Olympic medals. Indeed, the number of British people participating in sports has fallen since 2012. The UK faces a dilemma: is it better to have elite athletes win gold medals, or is it better to promote sports for all? Maybe both aims can be achieved. UK Sport has recently softened its ‘no compromise approach’ and money will be used to fund also those sports that do not produce medals. Hopefully the next Olympics – Tokyo 2020 – will see both successful British athletes, and a healthier nation, back home, cheering for them.

Useful links

-  Do you want to know more about the Olympics? Here is the official website of the International Olympic Committee:

https://www.olympic.org/

- This cool interactive diagram tells you how many medals each nation won in every Summer Olympics:

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/sports/olympics/rio-olympics-2016-medals-results.html

- These interesting graphs give you another break-down of Olympic medals. Check out the various sports. Is there a sport in which Italy dominates?

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/08/sports/olympics/history-olympic-dominance-charts.html?_r=0

- Here are some fun facts about Rio de Janeiro, the city that hosted the 2016 Games: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/destinations/south-america/brazil/rio-de-janeiro/articles/rio-2016-olympics-100-fascinating-facts-about-rio-de-janeiro/

- Here is the official home page of UK Sport:

http://www.uksport.gov.uk/

- Did you know these interesting facts about the Olympics?

http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/sciencefacts/sports/summerolympics.html

COMPREHENSION

1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the correct option.

1. The 2016 Summer Olympics was hosted by
  1. Brazil.
  2. the US.
  3. Russia.
2. The nation that came 1st in the medals table at Rio was
  1. The United Kingdom.
  2. The United States.
  3. China.
3. The UK’s worst performance at the Olympics was
  1. at London 2012.
  2. at Atlanta 1996.
  3. at Sydney 2000.
4. The UK’s best placing at the Olympics since World War II has been
  1. 2nd place.
  2. 3rd place.
  3. 4th place.
5. The prime minister who helped British sports in 1996 was
  1. Michael Phelps.
  2. Liz Nicholl.
  3. John Major.
6. Most of the funds that finance British sports come from:
  1. lottery money.
  2. the government.
  3. the Olympic Committee.
7. If British athletes win lots of medals, says Liz Nicholl,
  1. more British people will exercise.
  2. British people will buy more lottery tickets.
  3. more British people will watch the Olympics.
8. The “no compromise approach” has
  1. helped all sports.
  2. helped some sports, but not others.
  3. made British people healthier.
9. Compared to 2012, today in the UK
  1. more people play sports.
  2. the same number of people play sports.
  3. fewer people play sports.
10. The next Summer Olympic Games will be hosted by
  1. Korea.
  2. Japan.
  3. China.
 

VOCABULARY

2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Conjugate the verbs if necessary.

feat  *  to hit rock bottom  *  host  *  leisure  *  to cheer  *  medal table  *  usual suspects *  to fund  *  facility  *  to soften

1. Prices ______: they can’t get any cheaper. 2. If you invite your friends to dinner, you are the ______ and your friends are the guests. 3. Who ate all the chocolate biscuits? The ______ are Jack and Jill: they love chocolate. 4. We came to the stadium ______ our team – we want them to win! 5. A ______ is an extraordinary, very difficult act. 6. You are too critical in this letter. Rewrite it, and try ______ your language. 7. A school is an educational ______. 8. You can’t work all day! You need some ______ too. 9. I have a great idea for a startup, but I have no money. I need somebody ______ it. 10. A ______ is a list of countries ordered by the numbers of medals won.  

GRAMMAR – Cardinal and ordinal numbers

3)  Complete the table writing the numbers, first as cardinal numbers, then as ordinal numbers.

Ordinal numbers

Cardinal numbers

 1

one

1st

first

 2

 3

 4

 50

 62

 74

 81

 99

 100

 

SHORT ESSAY

4) Did you follow the Summer Olympics? Was there a specific moment or an event that you liked? Or was there an athlete that impressed you? Share your impressions and thoughts. (60-80 words)

5)  Write about a sport that you practice or that you enjoy watching. Why do you like it? (60-80 words)

6) Do some research to find out why a nation wins more medals than usual when it hosts the Olympic Games. (60-80 words)

---

(Carlo Dellonte)

(Image credits: US Army, flickr e JuliaC2006, flickr)

[post_title] => The World’s New Sporting Superpower: the UK [post_excerpt] => Twenty years ago, at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, the UK won only 1 gold medal, finishing 36th in the medal table. After hitting rock-bottom, something changed: the UK started a dramatic climb to the top. This summer, at the Olympics in Rio it came 2nd with 27 gold medals. How did this amazing transformation happen? Learn the secrets behind the world’s new sporting superpower. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => the-worlds-new-sporting-superpower-the-uk [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-11-02 15:31:00 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-11-02 14:31:00 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=11020 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 13050 [post_author] => 10 [post_date] => 2017-09-26 17:02:25 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-09-26 15:02:25 [post_content] => This year’s Columbus Day, on October 9, will be the most controversial ever. Many Americans believe that this national holiday, dedicated to Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) and his arrival in the Americas, should not be celebrated. Some have expressed even stronger opinions: over the past couple of months, statues of Columbus have been vandalised across the United States. Often the vandals splashed the statues with red, blood-like paint, and sprayed anti-racism slogans such as ‘hate will not be tolerated’ on the statues’ pedestals. To understand this recent wave of attacks, one must look at another historical figure: Robert E. Lee (1807-1870).  

The events of Charlottesville

Lee was a general during the American Civil War. He fought for the Confederacy, which wanted to maintain slavery, against the Union, which wanted to abolish it. There are many statues of Robert E. Lee in the United States. One was in Charlottesville, Virginia. A local 16-year-old high school student, Zyahna Bryant, started a petition on Change.org to take it down. Bryant, who is African-American, argued that the statue is a symbol of slavery, and it made her feel unwelcome in her own city. Charlottesville city council agreed with the young Bryant. Before the council could remove Lee’s statue, groups of neo-Nazis and racists organised a rally to defend it. They marched in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12, and they attacked counter-protesters, who had come to oppose them peacefully. They injured several of them and killed one woman.  

Columbus Day

The events of Charlottesville caused national indignation. The violence and racial hate were condemned. Many statues of Lee and other controversial figures were vandalised. Some were removed by local governments. The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, set up a commission to find out if any of the city’s statues were potential ‘symbols of hate’. Some of these are statues of Christopher Columbus. But why Columbus? On Columbus Day he is celebrated as a symbol of courage, initiative and determination, the great sailor who ‘discovered’ America. The critics of Columbus claim that this is only half the story. They point out that the Genoese sailor behaved horribly towards Native Americans. Columbus himself wrote about the Natives: “they do not bear arms, and do not know them […] With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.” This, historians confirm, is what happened: Columbus enslaved and killed the peaceful Natives he met. He was the first in a long line of greedy and bloody European conquerors.  

Indigenous Peoples’ Day

The debate over Columbus is not new in the rest of the continent. Many Latin American nations, where a large percentage of the population is Native American, consider Columbus a foreign invader. Columbus Day has been replaced with other celebrations such as Indigenous Resistance Day (Venezuela), Cultural Diversity Day (Argentina), Decolonisation Day (Bolivia) and Day of Interculturalism (Costa Rica). This trend is spreading to the United States. Many cities are replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day to honour Native North Americans, the victims of European colonisation. This year, Charlottsville and Los Angeles (the second largest US city),  joined the movement. Promoters of this new holiday claim that statues are meant to represent the values in which we believe. They say that if there are conquerors, colonialists, and slave owners on pedestals, it’s time to remove them. Perhaps, as the American comedian Lee Camp suggests, we should move them all to ‘the museum of values most of us have evolved beyond’.
Useful links 1) Here’s Zyahna Bryant’s petition on Change.org: https://www.change.org/p/charlottesville-city-council-change-the-name-of-lee-park-and-remove-the-statue-in-charlottesville-va 2) Read about Christopher Columbus: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/primaryhistory/famouspeople/christopher_columbus/ 3) Learn about Native Americans and their culture: http://www.historyforkids.net/native-americans.html 4) Read about Columbus Day: http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-day 5) Watch this short video on the history of Columbus Day: http://time.com/3495071/indigenous-peoples-day/
  COMPREHENSION 1) Read the article and complete the sentences with the right alternative. 1. On Columbus Day
  1. all Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus.
  2. statues of Christopher Columbus are vandalised.
  3. some Americans celebrate Christopher Columbus.
2. The vandals’ slogans want to suggest that Columbus was
  1. not the discoverer or America.
  2. racist.
  3. anti-racist.
3. The Confederacy was a group of American States
  1. where African-Americans were slaves.
  2. that wanted to abolish slavery.
  3. where African-Americans were free people.
4. Zyahna Bryant says that Robert E. Lee’s statue should be
  1. less racist and more welcoming.
  2. moved to a different city.
  3. removed.
5. The statue of Robert E. Lee was defended by
  1. the city council.
  2. African-Americans.
  3. racist groups of white people.
6. Many people were hurt in Charlottesville and one person
  1. died.
  2. disappeared.
  3. almost died.
7. After the events of Charlottesville some local governments
  1. defended their statues of Lee and other controversial figures.
  2. questioned whether their statues should be removed.
  3. Vandalised Lee’s statues.
8. Critics of Columbus point out that he
  1. had Native American servants.
  2. favoured violence and slavery.
  3. did not discover America.
9. To Native Americans in Latin America, Columbus is a symbol of
  1. interculturalism.
  2. European colonisation.
  3. indigenous resistance.
10. Promoters of Indigenous Peoples’ Day believe that
  1. statues should inspire positive values.
  2. statues should represent history.
  3. all statues belong in museums.
  VOCABULARY 2) Complete the sentences with the following words. Put the verbs and nouns in the right form, if necessary. to argue  *  to point out  *  greedy  *  trend  *  controversial  *  vandalise  *  to abolish  *  initiative  *  slavery  *  to injure 1. People strongly disagree over this issue: it’s very ______. 2. He was ______: he stole all the gold he could find. 3. ______ was a horrible institution: it allowed some people to own others. 4. President Lincoln ______ slavery and made it illegal. 5. During the American Civil War more than a million people died and many more were ______. 6. Zyahna Bryant took the ______ and started a petition on Change.org. 7. The ______ is clear: more and more people are critical of Columbus Day. 8. He ______ that Columbus is a symbol for Italian Americans. 9. Using lots of historical facts, the historian ______ that Columbus was more of a violent conqueror than a noble explorer. 10. The young man ______ the statue, hitting it repeatedly with a hammer.     GRAMMAR – Possessive case and double genitive 3) Use the words in brackets and the possessive case to complete the following sentences. 1. ______ (Columbus / boats) were called Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria. 2. Columbus named the ______ (Natives / island) Hispaniola. 3. ______ (Zyahna Bryant / hero) is not Robert E. Lee. 4. ______ (Columbus and Lee / statues) were vandalised. 5. The ______ (children / history teacher) told them good and bad things about Columbus.   4) Use the words in brackets and the double genitive to complete the following sentences. 1. 'Robert E. Lee is a hero ______ (mine)!’ shouted the man at the rally. 2. That friend ______ (Lucy) is a Native American – he’s a Cherokee! 3. A friend ______ (Zyahna) is also a friend ______ (Nicholas). 4. ______ (many / friends / Zyahna) signed her petition. or ______  (many / friends / Zyahna) signed her petition. 5. ______ (two / John / sons) attended the counter-protest. or ______  (two / John / sons)  attended the counter-protest.   SHORT ESSAY 5) Do you think Americans should celebrate Columbus Day? Give reasons for your answer. (60-80 words)  6) Think about the public statues you know. Is there one that represents your values? Write about the statue and the values it represents. (60-80 words)
  (Carlo Dellonte) (Image credits: Wikipedia and Turinboy, flickr ) [post_title] => Christopher Columbus: hero or villain? [post_excerpt] => Columbus Day, the American national holiday that celebrates Christopher Columbus, is becoming increasingly controversial. Over the past few months, statues of Columbus have been vandalised across the United States, and many American cities have stopped celebrating the Genoese explorer. These events are part of a larger story that deals with history, culture, racism and changing values. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => christopher-columbus-hero-or-villain [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-30 15:55:03 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-30 14:55:03 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://aulalingue.scuola.zanichelli.it/?post_type=planet-english&p=13050 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => planet-english [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 6 [filter] => raw ) )
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