Thursday, 30 April 2009
Vocabulary - is it more than words?
Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?
By Scott Thornbury
In a radio broadcast made in 1929, the English writer Virginia Woolf had this to say about words: "Words, English words, are full of echoes, memories, associations. They've been out and about, on peoples' lips, in their houses, on the streets, in the fields, for so many centuries…". These "echoes, memories, associations" that words accrue are what we now call a word's connotations, and they will vary from person to person. The word field (in the Woolf quote above) will have quite different associations for a farmer and a city-dweller, for example, or for a hunter and an ecologist, or for a cricketer and a soldier. Nevertheless, knowing a word means knowing something about those connotations of the word that are generally shared between speakers of the language as a whole - knowing what makes a field so different from a meadow or a prairie, for example, or from the Spanish campo or an Egyptian feddan.
Virginia Woolf goes on to say that: "It is a very obvious but always mysterious fact that a word is not a single and separate entity: it is part of other words… words belong to each other". Here she neatly captures the interdependence of words, and that knowing a word means not only knowing its connotations but knowing the words that it commonly occurs with - its collocations. Hence, part of knowing the word field is knowing that it collocates with words like study, vision and view (as in his chosen field of study) as well as in such combinations as field trip, field test and field work, and magnetic field, gas field and ice field.
A third feature of word knowledge that Woolf identifies is the way that this knowledge is organised into semantic networks - highly idiosyncratic and much more convoluted than the relatively straightforward word lists you find in textbooks. She writes: "[Words] are the wildest, freest, most irresponsible, most unteachable of all things. Of course, you can catch them and sort them and place them in alphabetical order in dictionaries. But words do not live in dictionaries: they live in the mind. … And how do they live in the mind? Variously and strangely, much as human beings live, ranging hither and thither, falling in love, meeting together."
The fact, well attested by linguists and teachers, that words are context-sensitive was also evident to Woolf: "[They do not] like being lifted on the point of a pin and examined separately. They hang together in sentences, paragraphs, sometimes whole pages at a time". Hence, to say that someone works in the same field may mean two quite different things, depending on whether it is said by a farm labourer or a rocket scientist. Attempting to define words apart from their contexts of use is - as teachers well know - an often perilous activity.
Part of a word's resistance to easy definition is due to the amazing elasticity of words, as they constantly adapt - and are adapted - to new uses, new needs, new contexts, new users. "In short [Woolf observes] they hate anything that stamps them with one meaning or confines them to one attitude. For what is their nature, but change. Perhaps that is their most striking peculiarity - their need of change. This is because the truth they are trying to catch is many-sided, and they convey it by being many-sided, dashing first this way then that, saying one thing to one person, another thing to another person…"
All this provides a challenge to the learner - and to the teacher. Part of the pleasure of word-learning, though, is to experience the power of words - including their resilience over time - a living proof of which is the way Virginia Woolf's own words still resonate many decades after they were first uttered.
© 2002 Scott Thornbury
To read the full transcript, click here .
Wednesday, 29 April 2009
Oakwood Bed and Breakfast Heathrow
Friendly, family-run bed and breakfast just 5 minutes to Heathrow Airport by car/taxi, near Windsor Castle, London. Two lovely squares and one park 5 minutes on foot. No swimming pool, sorry. Wireless WiFi broadband. New, lovely, upgraded rooms have flat screen televisions, high quality Shower Rooms and extra long beds available for tall visitors. We also have cheap hotel rooms available. Park in our secure Car Park. Delicious English breakfast fresh every morning included in the price.
A friend asks you to suggest a B&B in London.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Before you watch the video, think of what he might have answered.
1) Why the US, why the LA Galaxy and why now?
2) What motivated you to play in the US?
3) What is the American football league like today? Is it any different from the time when Pele and other players played there?
4) Is the US a good environment in which to play football?
5) Isn't it too distracting to play in the US?
6) How did the other players accept you?
7) How was your fist season in the new team?
7) Why did you feel disappointed and frustrated?
Watch the video
To watch the interview with subtitles, go to:
Linkedin is the business version of FaceBook or MySpace.
Sep 25th 2008 From The Economist print edition
Websites that encourage business networking are thriving
AMONG the few firms benefiting from the downturn in the financial markets are professional social networks—websites that help with business networking and job-hunting. On LinkedIn, the market leader, members have been updating their profiles in record numbers in recent weeks, apparently to position themselves in case they lose their jobs. The two most popular sites, LinkedIn and Xing, have been growing at breakneck speed and boast 29m and 6.5m members respectively. And, in contrast to mass-market social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, both firms have worked out how to make money.
LinkedIn and Xing are similar in many ways. A They are also profitable: since they help members find jobs or build their businesses, many users are willing to pay.
Yet the firms come from very different worlds. LinkedIn, a typical Silicon Valley start-up, was founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman, a serial entrepreneur, to manage his own network of business contacts. Funded by venture capitalists, it recently secured $53m of funding in a deal that gave it a valuation of over $1 billion. Xing, for its part, hails from Hamburg, in Germany, and was founded in 2003 by Lars Hinrichs, another serial entrepreneur. It has relied on subscription fees since its launch, and it went public in 2006.
LinkedIn is culturally American, not just because English is the dominant language (there is also a Spanish version), but because it is still chiefly about advancing its members’ careers, even if many other things get a look in. The members also post video resumes, which has become impressively common in US. The company does not release numbers, but a big chunk of its estimated annual revenues of $100m in 2008 is said to come from headhunters and companies, which pay to search LinkedIn’s database and contact its members.
Xing, by contrast, has a distinctly Germanic feel, despite being available in 16 languages, including Mandarin. Although recruiting also plays an important role, the site is more about networking. Members often meet offline. They also generate 80% of the firm’s revenue, which amounted to €16m ($24m) in the first half of this year. Half a million users pay a monthly fee of €6 ($9) to use the site: Xing’s profit margin was 37% in the most recent quarter.
LinkedIn is well on its way to becoming the networking site of choice for English-speaking businesspeople with global connections. B But this does not mean that Xing will get squeezed out. If it plays its cards right, it could become the European alternative that takes more account of cultural differences in the way business is done.
Things could change, however, if Facebook grows up and becomes a place to do serious business, says Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester Research, a market-research firm. There are other potential rivals, too. American newspapers such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are adding networking features to their websites. C These are mainly meant to get readers to stick around, but they could grow into alternatives to professional social networks. Whatever the outcome, it seems certain that professional social networks are here to stay as independent entities—something that cannot be said of their mass-market counterparts. As Mr Hoffman, LinkedIn’s founder, puts it: “Most users of social networks have a lot of disposable time, but not much disposable income.”
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
1. Read the following sentence:
Both cater to youngish professionals with above-average income, and allow people to connect, keep track of each other’s activities and create groups of common interest.
Where could the sentence best be added?
a) Letter A
b) Letter B
c) Letter C
2. Why are Linkedin and Xing different from Facebook or MySpace?
3. What are the differences between Linkedin and Xing?
4. “Yet the firms come from very different worlds”
The word ‘yet’ in this sentence means:
a. Until now
5. In what way can Xing become the European alternative to Linkedin?
6. What does the following sentence in paragraph 7 imply?
‘Whatever the outcome, it seems certain that professional social networks are here to stay as independent entities—something that cannot be said of their mass-market counterparts.’
7. ‘Although recruiting also plays an important role, the site is more about networking.’
This sentence refers to:
8. Why were The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal mentioned in the article?
9. The tone of the article about such sites was:
Author: Adrian Tennant
This is the first in a series of articles looking at various aspects of teaching reading. The first article takes a look at what we actually mean by reading and whether or not it can be taught or just practised.
Anchor Point:Introduction What is reading? Why do we read? Does reading in a foreign language differ from L1 reading? How does all this impact on our classroom teaching? Some practical ideas Further reading
Reading in the EFL classroom takes many forms, but is often used as a way of introducing grammar or vocabulary items. The ‘teaching’ of reading has found its way into many classes, but often just in terms of teaching (or practising) techniques such as skimming and scanning. In some classes students are asked to read out loud, turning what is fundamentally a private receptive activity into a more public and production-orientated activity. This type of reading is often decried as not being realistic (i.e. not what we do in real life). However, that isn’t really the case as there are often instances in real life when we read things out to each other (bedtime reading to children, reading a short article out at the breakfast table, reading a menu at a restaurant – for example, when we find something interesting or when we want to discuss what we might eat or drink).
Another thing we must remember is that many people claim that they do not read much in their own language. In fact this isn’t really the case. It’s simply that most people equate reading with reading novels and long texts, whereas we spend a lot of time reading in our L1 (first language) – we read instructions, recipes, messages (especially text messages), emails, information about what’s on TV, etc.
So, for whatever reason and in whatever way we ‘do’ reading in the class, reading is not uncommon. But what exactly is reading?
Anchor Point:2What is reading?
At the most basic level reading is the recognition of words. From simple recognition of the individual letters and how these letters form a particular word to what each word means not just on an individual level, but as part of a text. In English, as in many other languages, different combinations of the same letters can be used to form different words with completely different meanings. So, the letters t c a, can make cat (an animal that goes miaow), and act (which has a number of meanings from do something to behave in certain ways, to perform in a play or film). Recognition of the actual word is not enough on its own to constitute reading.
Understanding what we are reading is key and is certainly the main point of teaching reading in a class. It’s not much good if our students simply stare at a text and say ‘Well, I don’t understand it, but it looks nice!’ However, understanding a text is quite a complex issue and something that we will try and examine in the rest of this article.
Anchor Point:3Why do we read?
There are a number of reasons why we read and this will often influence what we read and how we read it. We might read for pleasure. In this case it is most likely that we will be reading a book of some sort, maybe a novel, or perhaps a poem. We could also be reading the lyrics to a song and our reasons for reading it may be slightly more complex than simply for pleasure. We could be reading it because we have heard the song, but didn’t quite catch the words. Or perhaps our children are listening to it, but we are worried that some of the lyrics might not be suitable. Or perhaps we want to be able to sing along and so we’re trying to learn the words (maybe so we can impress our friends).
In other words, there might be multiple reasons why someone might read a text. But working out the purpose is a key factor when it comes to teaching reading. Why we are reading something will make a difference to how we read it, and in what depth. So, a mother checking whether the lyrics of a song are suitable for her children to hear will most likely be looking through the text for particular words or phrases she thinks are inappropriate. On the other hand, someone trying to learn the lyrics by heart will probably read the same lines a number of times (and may even read them out loud to try and reinforce the words).
We must also bear in mind the purpose of the text from the writer’s point of view. Texts don’t exist in a vacuum; somebody wrote the text and they had a reason for doing so. It could be that the writer’s and the reader’s reasons are the same, or similar. But it is equally possible that the two have different purposes. The writer has a message they want to convey and they encode this message in the words and style they choose. The reader then tries to decode the message by reading the same words. This encoding and decoding doesn’t simply exist on the level of meaning, but also on the level of why the text was written.
Anchor Point:4Does reading in a foreign language differ from L1 reading?
At first glance the question seems rather silly. Of course reading isn’t different, whatever language you are reading in. The text might be written using a different alphabet or characters, it might be written from right to left, or bottom to top, but fundamentally the same processes are going on. Well, at one level this is certainly true, but it may well be that we are not really conscious or aware of how we are reading in our own language. Reading was a skill we developed as we grew up and as we became acquainted with different types of text. Once we start seeing these texts in a foreign language we are unable to decode the message. The problem is probably not that we are not using the correct techniques, but that we are unable to recognise the words and meaning. This causes us a big problem.
The problem is that we begin to panic. We start to try and use different techniques and strategies to understand the text. We start to read every word in a way that we wouldn’t if the text was in our L1. We start to focus on aspects of the text, such as grammatical construction, something we probably wouldn’t do if it was in our L1. By doing this we find reading difficult and we become frustrated. So, it might not be that reading is inherently different between L1 and L2, but that doesn’t negate the fact that we probably have to teach (and relearn) all the strategies we already employ when reading a text in L1.
Anchor Point:5How does all this impact on our classroom teaching?
When we are teaching reading in class we have to begin by asking ourselves a series of questions in order to make the lesson as effective as possible. It is not good enough to just hand the students a text with a set of questions, ask them to read the text and answer the questions and think that we are actually teaching them something. Any learning that takes place in such a lesson will be incidental and not because of the teaching.
So, planning our reading lessons is essential, and we need to make sure that our aims are clear and that the text and tasks are appropriate. In many cases we can relate our questions to what we do in real life with the type of text we choose. In other words, what do we read in real-life situations? Why do we read these texts? What is the purpose of the writer and of the reader (us in this case)? How do we read the text in order to get what we need from it?
Let’s have a look at a couple of examples.
Who wrote the text? Someone who had the information and wants us to know certain information, such as times, in order to allow us to travel.
What is the purpose of the text? To give (travel) information, e.g. times, places etc.
How do we read the text? We probably scan through it looking for specific information which is predetermined, i.e. I’m in X. I want to go to Y. I want to leave at W and/or I want to arrive at Z.
So when we teach how to read the text in class we want to try and replicate as much of the real situation as possible. Firstly we need to give the students information as to where they are, what their destination is, etc. We may also want to focus their attention on the context and we could use a short listening text where someone is doing exactly what they will do – trying to find their train. Finally, we can give them a copy of the timetable and a short time limit in which to find the relevant information.
A postcard from a friend:
Who wrote the text? A friend.
Why did they write it? To say where they were and tell us a little bit about their holiday.
Why are we reading it? Because we want to know how they are.
How do we read it? Quickly at first. We almost certainly predict words before we read them, especially as there are some conventions to a postcard. For example, We’re having a … As we read the stem sentence we start to predict the end and we’re likely to choose wonderful time or lovely time or something similar. If our friend has written terrible time then we almost certainly reread it as it doesn’t conform to our expectations.
The way we read the texts is different because the purpose is different. The strategies we employ are designed to get the information we want from the text in the most effective way. It is not simply a matter of skimming or scanning, but a set of far more complex things. For the timetable we are using some top-down strategies. We know where we are, where we want to go and when. We’re not really trying to find out any new information, but simply trying to confirm whether what we want to do is possible. On the other hand, in the second text we may know our friend has gone on holiday and we may even know where, but hopefully the rest of the information is new to us – although not too full of surprises (and fitting the conventions expected).
Therefore, in the classroom, we need to mirror these real-life texts and strategies. We need to help our students use the right approaches to reading even if the language is new or difficult. To do this we need to ask questions and promote awareness, and not simply employ basic comprehension questions that often focus on language rather than on the skill of reading.
Anchor Point:6 Some practical ideas
1. What’s the word?
Choose a text (it doesn’t have to be long) and copy it out onto an OHT. Either blank out the words you want students to predict by covering them with pieces of paper or type it out so the words you want your students to guess always begin a line, so you can reveal the text line by line. Display the text and have students read it and predict the words. They can do this either by writing the words down, whispering them to a partner, or shouting out their guesses. After each guess, reveal the correct word. There is no need to check how many students got it right as you will be able to see by their reactions.Rationale: As we saw in the example of the postcard, predicting the next word or phrase is a typical strategy employed when we read certain texts. In many cases, when students are reading a foreign language, they stop predicting and start reading every word and this slows them down. Developing predicting skills enables students to become more confident in their ability to read.2. What does it mean?
Choose a text (this could be one from the coursebook). Type it out but change some of the words into nonsense words. Ask students to read the text and work out the meaning of the nonsense words. They might want to start by working out what part of speech the words are – noun, verb, adjective, preposition, etc. Then, rereading the line around the word, they try and work out the context.You can do this type of exercise with a complete nonsense text, for example a poem like Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Give students the first verse of the poem and ask them to read it. Then ask them the following questions:
What were the toves like? (Answer: slithy)What did they do? (Answer: gyre and gimble)Where? (Answer: in the wabe)Who or what were mimsy? (Answer: the borogoves)What did the mome raths do? (Answer: outgrabe)
Rationale: At first glance students will say ‘I can’t do this!’ but after focusing a little they will realise that they can. The lesson is that it is possible to decode things and make some sense out of them through our knowledge of the structure of language. Students will learn that they do not need to understand every word, and that if they really want to understand a word they need to look at it in context.3.
What’s the purpose? –
Choose a number of short texts; they could be just a couple of words long. Put students in pairs and give them a copy of the texts. Ask them to read each one and answer the following questions:
Where would you read / see such a text?What kind of text is it?What does it mean?What are the key words or phrases?
Texts could be things like:
Wash with similar colours at 40ºC.
Gone to lunch. Back in 20!
Dear Sir / Madam, I’m writing to you to complain about…
Add the two eggs and stir until the mixture is smooth.
Rationale: Identifying the type of text and where you might read it supplies the reader with some context. From this context the reader can guess what some of the text will be about – top-down – and then looking more closely at the words can fine-tune the meaning – bottom-up. This mirrors what we do in real life when we read such texts.4. What’s the purpose? – Two
Choose three different text types such as a timetable, a set of instructions for an electrical appliance like an iron, hairdryer, DVD recorder and a letter. Give the students the three texts and ask them to work in pairs and answer the following questions:
What kind of text is it?Who wrote it and why (purpose)?How can you tell what kind of text it is?How would you read each text?
Rationale: This is an extended version of the previous activity. In addition to the aims from the last activity there is also the added angle of thinking how they (the student) would read the text. Thinking about reading, rather than just answering comprehension questions, enables our students to become better readers and, ultimately, to choose the best strategies for reading different types of text.
I would like to recommend two books for anyone interested in exploring reading further. The first of these is Teaching Reading Skills, Christine Nuttall, Macmillan (2005) and the second is Beyond the Sentence, Scott Thornbury, also Macmillan (2005). Christine’s book is clear and really made me start thinking more about reading and what I actually did in the classroom. Scott’s book made me start seeing texts in a new light and think of new ways of exploring reading texts.
It will be a useful tool for you when you are thinking, writing and talking about your teaching past, present and future.
Once you register, your Teacher Portfolio will help you to record and show information about your skills, knowledge and experience to others. You can use it throughout your teaching career. For example: when you are on a training course, when you are thinking about the job you are doing, when you are applying for a new job or when someone is assessing your training needs.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Apr 16th 2009 From The Economist
Bilingual babies are precocious decision-makers
WHETHER to teach young children a second language is disputed among teachers, researchers and pushy parents. On the one hand, acquiring a new tongue is said to be far easier when young. On the other, teachers complain that children whose parents speak a language at home that is different from the one used in the classroom sometimes struggle in their lessons and are slower to reach linguistic milestones. Would 15-month-old Tarquin, they wonder, not be better off going to music classes?
A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences may help resolve this question by getting to the nub of what is going on in a bilingual child’s brain, how a second language affects the way he thinks, and thus in what circumstances being bilingual may be helpful. Agnes Kovacs and Jacques Mehler at the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste say that some aspects of the cognitive development of infants raised in a bilingual household must be undergoing acceleration in order to manage which of the two languages they are dealing with.
The aspect of cognition in question is part of what is termed the brain’s “executive function”. This allows people to organise, plan, prioritise activity, shift their attention from one thing to another and suppress habitual responses. Bilingualism is common in Trieste which, though Italian, is almost surrounded by Slovenia. So Dr Kovacs and Dr Mehler looked at 40 “preverbal” seven-month-olds, half raised in monolingual and half in bilingual households, and compared their performances in a task that needs control of executive function.
First, the babies were trained to expect the appearance of a puppet on a screen after they had heard a set of meaningless words invented by the researchers. Then the words, and the location of the puppet, were changed. When this was done, the monoglot babies had difficulty overcoming their learnt response, even when the researchers gave them further clues that a switch had taken place. The bilingual babies, however, found it far easier to switch their attention—counteracting the previously learnt, but no longer useful response.
Monitoring languages and keeping them separate is part of the brain’s executive function, so these findings suggest that even before a child can speak, a bilingual environment may speed up that function’s development. Before rushing your offspring into Tongan for Toddlers, though, there are a few caveats. For one thing, these precocious cognitive benefits have been demonstrated so far only in “crib” bilinguals—those living in households where two languages are spoken routinely. The researchers speculate that it might be the fact of having to learn two languages in the same setting that requires greater use of executive function. So whether those benefits apply to children who learn one language at home, and one at school, remains unclear.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
Sep 11th 2008 SÃO PAULO From The Economist print edition
Rising middle class in Brazil
Think of one word to fill in the gaps.
In Brazil, the middle class describes those with a job in the formal economy, access to credit and ownership of a car or motorbike. According _____ the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), a research institute, this means households with a monthly ________ ranging ______ 1,064 reais ($600) to 4,561 reais. Since 2002, according to FGV, the proportion of the population that ______ this description has skyrocketed from 24% to 52%. Brazil, previously notorious for its extremes, is now a middle-class country.
This social climbing is a feature mainly of the country’s cities, reversing two decades of stagnation that began at the start of the 1980s. A One of them is education. The quality of teaching in Brazil’s schools may still be poor, but those aged 15-21 now spend _____ average just over three more years studying _____ their counterparts did in the early 1990s.
The second is a migration of jobs from the informal “black” economy to the formal economy. The rate of formal job creation is accelerating, with 40% more created in the year to this July than in the previous 12 months, which itself _______ a record. Together with cash transfers to poor families, this helps to explain why—in contrast with economic and social development in India or China—as Brazil’s middle class has grown, so the country’s income inequality has lessened.
Entering the middle class brings a predictable taste for yogurt and other luxuries. But when shopping, middle-class Brazilians are more conscious ____ status than middle-class North Americans or Europeans. “These are people who may ordinarily serve others,” says Nicola Calicchio from McKinsey, a consultancy, “so being attended to by someone is very important to them.” Middle-class Brazilians may avoid the glitzy stores that _______ to the rich, but they do not want their surroundings to look cut-price either. That may be true elsewhere, too, but a sensitivity to surroundings—not wanting to be made to feel cheap—is particularly marked in Brazil.
Awareness of fashions and brands has risen and it is still largely shaped by the nightly soap operas broadcast on terrestrial television and watched by an audience of tens of millions. B Since these are for the most part produced in Rio de Janeiro and feature characters drawn from the upper-middle class, they tend to reflect a world ______ good-looking white people in expensively casual clothes live around in a perpetual summer, attended by maids. This may go some way to explaining why Brazil’s demand _____ gyms and beauty products has soared. Some 600,000 cosmetic operations ______ performed in Brazil annually, the highest total of any country apart ______ the United States.
C Rapid growth in credit, which was non-existent until fairly recently _____ to sky-high interest ________, has helped to boost the purchasing power of the middle class. Some 65% of car-purchases are paid for in ___________, over an average of 42 months. However, borrowing by individuals remains relatively low as a share of GDP, mainly because so few people have mortgages. But the growth has ________ so fast—credit grew by 20% in the year to July—that some are worried. “I think if you asked all the banks individually they might say that they wish to scale back lending,” says Ilan Goldfajn of Ciano Investments, “but ______ of them wants to lose market-share.” In the meantime, riskier kinds of credit, such as overdrafts and credit cards, are growing faster than overall borrowing. Mr Goldfajn thinks it may already be too late for Brazilians to avoid a painful hangover from the current exuberance.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
1. Where would this sentence go in the article, letter A, B or C?
Marcelo Neri of FGV suggests two factors behind the change.
2. What does ‘this’ refer to?
3. Lexical set: List all the verbs in the article meaning ‘to increase’.
4. Explain the meaning of the following words in bold:
According to the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), a research institute, this means households with a monthly income ranging from 1,064 reais ($600) to 4,561 reais.
Rapid growth in credit, which was non-existent until fairly recently due to sky-high interest rates, has helped to boost the purchasing power of the middle class. Some 65% of car-purchases are paid for in installments, over an average of 42 months. However, borrowing by individuals remains relatively low as a share of GDP, mainly because so few people have mortgages.
In the meantime, riskier kinds of credit, such as overdrafts and credit cards, are growing faster than overall borrowing. Mr Goldfajn thinks it may already be too late for Brazilians to avoid a painful hangover from the current exuberance.
ENGLISH FOR FLUENCY
TOPIC: RISING MIDDLE CLASS
AIM: Ability to discuss a point of view, contrast ideas, exchange information.
SUBSIDIARY AIM: Listening, Reading and Speaking skills
WARMER: Strike a conversation with the students – e.g. it struck you how many people were shopping last time you’ve been to the mall.
Do not start the topic yet.
LEAD-IN: Elicit opinions about why people shop, under what conditions, differences in the consumer profile, the rise of the middle classes in the market, etc.
TEACHING STRATEGY: I strongly recommend you to split the class in two, since we have two articles to read. One article deals with the rising middle class in general, its origins, its reasons and consequences. The other one deals with the middle class in Brazil. Students are supposed to present their speeches and be ready for a discussion. By exchanging information, they will be able to grasp the idea broader and deeper. Elicit pros and cons and further comments on the topic. You can also prompt opinions by giving them key words related to the topic.
THE VIDEO: The video can be shown, either before or after the reading of the article. I’d do it after the reading for it would foster a good source of reconsideration of their own prior opinions discussed in the speeches.
Exploring the video can be made as follows:
The usual: according to the journalist…. What does he think……?
Playing the fool: As you could not understand it, ask the students to re-tell the report.
Dictogloss – a good tip if you feel the discussion is beginning to drag!
Role-Play: One student will be the reporter asking questions and another one will be the expert on the topic.
Feb 12th 2009 From The Economist print edition
Why the new middle classes are so good for their countries’ economies
MOST Western businessmen think the middle class in emerging markets matters because of its spending potential. One day those billions of Chinese, Indians and Brazilians will be buying awesome quantities of toothpaste or computers. A global consumer society will be born.
Yet between them the village shopkeepers and the yuppie shoppers are changing the economies of both their home countries and the globe. Surjit Bhalla reckons that the larger a country’s middle class, the faster its economic growth: according to his calculations, a nation’s growth rate rises by half a point every time the size of the middle class increases by ten percentage points (so if a country’s middle class accounts for 50% of the population, it will, other things being equal, have a growth rate one percentage point higher than a country whose middle class makes up 30%).
Yet there is a handful of reasons for thinking that something special about the middle class itself—some intrinsic quality of middle-classness—contributes to growth, efficiency and the enrichment of a society. The most common argument is that the middle class matters because it does a lot of consuming.
The new bourgeoisie has created an enormous market, even if you ignore wild extrapolations about the future. In 2008 the number of cars sold in the big emerging markets exceeded that sold in America for the first time. In 2007 India had slightly more mobile-phone users than America and China had more than twice as many. Since 1994 business services in a range of emerging markets including India and Brazil have grown by 250-700%; in Europe and America they have roughly doubled.
The newly affluent in emerging markets echo the tastes of the English middle class 150 years ago. They want travel, improved health services, private schools and better public infrastructure. Like the Victorians, they are also keen on self-improvement. On one (conservative) estimate, 30m Chinese children are learning to play the piano. “The discipline will be good,” says one proud mother. On a more frivolous note, Brazil is number one in the world for liposuctions, number two for plastic surgeries (after America) and number four for the number of gyms.
But as Diana Farrell points out, the really transformative thing about middle-class consumption is the signal it sends to producers. The demands of middle-class consumers in the developing world feed investment in new sorts of production, which raises income levels and changes the way business is conducted.
The best-known example is the Nano, the $2,500 car designed by India’s Tata Motors. Until it made its appearance, nobody in the automobile business believed that you could design a proper car that sold for less than about $5,000. By radically simplifying production and by stripping down the design, Tata’s engineers managed to cut that supposed floor price in half.
There is no guarantee that the Nano will succeed. It has been plagued by well-publicised production problems. It may not satisfy its target market, being too cheap for the rich who can afford traditional small cars and too dear for the middle classes who currently ride motorbikes. But if it does take off, it could change car-buying habits around the world. At one-fifth of the price of a cheap family saloon in the West, some American or European families might decide to buy two or even three Nanos instead.
Seen as a market, the new middle class in emerging countries is still relatively poor but very large, so it provides incentives to offer things that are cheap and can be sold in their millions. In terms of its total spending power, though, it still lags well behind its peers in the rich world; nor is that likely to change soon. According to a World Bank study in 2007, the rich (in this instance meaning everyone with an income per person above the average for Italy, wherever they live) accounted for 57.5% of total world income in 2000, a figure that is likely to rise to 69% by 2030 (because the ranks of the rich are swelling, too). The share of world income taken by the global middle class (on $13-50 a day), at 14%, will remain more or less flat between 2000 and 2030. So its role in consumption can be only part of the story.
The middle class is committed to education. Current theories about economic growth stress the importance of what economists call “human-capital accumulation”.
Human capital means more children at school and university, higher educational qualifications, more adult education and healthier lives. The more advanced the economy, the more educated people are needed to control the processes of wealth creation (more computer designers, more logistics technicians and more white-collar workers in general). The richer the country, the higher its human capital, and vice versa.
The middle class’s third distinctive contribution to growth is its gift for entrepreneurship. “Armed with a capacity and a tolerance for delayed gratification,” says Mr Banerjee, new entrepreneurs “emerge from the middle class and create employment and productivity growth for the rest of society.”
The middle class is better at entrepreneurship than the elite partly for the reasons cited by Mr Acemoglu: it is more likely to invest in new businesses and more willing to learn new ways of doing things.
Most importantly, argues Mr Banerjee, the cream of the middle class is a better source of entrepreneurship than the poor because it can set up companies big enough to create lots of jobs. Profitable investments often incur substantial fixed costs. The dream of a couple of college kids with a few savings creating an Apple computer in a garage could come true only in a rich country, with a big financial sector and a low-cost distribution system. Emerging markets do not have those.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
Half the nation, a hundred million citizens strong
Sep 11th 2008 SÃO PAULO From The Economist print edition
Rising middle class in Brazil
In Brazil, the middle class describes those with a job in the formal economy, access to credit and ownership of a car or motorbike. According to the Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV), a research institute, this means households with a monthly income ranging from 1,064 reais ($600) to 4,561 reais. Since 2002, according to FGV, the proportion of the population that fits this description has increased from 44% to 52%. Brazil, previously notorious for its extremes, is now a middle-class country.
This social climbing is a feature mainly of the country’s cities, reversing two decades of stagnation that began at the start of the 1980s. Marcelo Neri of FGV suggests two factors behind the change. The first is education. The quality of teaching in Brazil’s schools may still be poor, but those aged 15-21 now spend on average just over three more years studying than their counterparts did in the early 1990s.
The second is a migration of jobs from the informal “black” economy to the formal economy. The rate of formal job creation is accelerating, with 40% more created in the year to this July than in the previous 12 months, which itself set a record. Together with cash transfers to poor families, this helps to explain why—in contrast with economic and social development in India or China—as Brazil’s middle class has grown, so the country’s income inequality has lessened (see chart).
Entering the middle class brings a predictable taste for yogurt and other luxuries. But when shopping, middle-class Brazilians are more conscious of status than middle-class North Americans or Europeans. “These are people who may ordinarily serve others,” says Nicola Calicchio from McKinsey, a consultancy, “so being attended to by someone is very important to them.” Middle-class Brazilians may avoid the glitzy stores that cater to the rich, but they do not want their surroundings to look cut-price either. That may be true elsewhere, too, but a sensitivity to surroundings—not wanting to be made to feel cheap—is particularly marked in Brazil.
Awareness of fashions and brands is still largely shaped by the nightly soap operas broadcast on terrestrial television and watched by an audience of tens of millions. Since these are for the most part produced in Rio de Janeiro and feature characters drawn from the upper-middle class, they tend to reflect a world where good-looking white people in expensively casual clothes flit around in a perpetual summer, attended by maids. This may go some way to explaining Brazil’s demand for gyms and beauty products. Some 600,000 cosmetic operations are performed in Brazil annually, the highest total of any country apart from the United States.
Rapid growth in credit, which was non-existent until fairly recently because of sky-high interest rates, has helped to boost the purchasing power of the middle class. Some 65% of car-purchases are paid for in instalments, over an average of 42 months. However, borrowing by individuals remains relatively low as a share of GDP, mainly because so few people have mortgages. But the growth has been so fast—credit grew by 20% in the year to July—that some are worried. “I think if you asked all the banks individually they might say that they wish to scale back lending,” says Ilan Goldfajn of Ciano Investments, “but none of them wants to lose market-share.” In the meantime, riskier kinds of credit, such as overdrafts and credit cards, are growing faster than overall borrowing. Mr Goldfajn thinks it may already be too late for Brazilians to avoid a painful hangover from the current exuberance.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
Apr 16th 2009
From The Economist print edition
IT IS hard to imagine a worse time to be entering the world of work. Youngsters leaving school and university this autumn will face competition from a good part of the class of 2008, who are still searching for jobs, as well as from more experienced workers who have recently been made redundant. Hiring freezes favour those already in work over would-be entrants. The most recent figures from Eurostat, the European statistics agency, suggest that youth unemployment, for many years low in Britain, is now higher than the euro-area average. According to the Association of Graduate Recruiters, its members expect to be taking on 50% fewer recruits this year than last, and starting salaries are frozen.
The government has worked to get young people studying longer. It has raised the compulsory school-leaving age from 16 to 18, to take effect in stages over the next few years, and wants half of all school-leavers to go on to university. But just as its aims seem within reach, worsening public finances are getting in the way. Earlier this month sixth forms learned, to their incredulity, that they would be receiving less government money this autumn than last. Universities have been told to cut back too, with already-stingy plans to cover 15,000 extra undergraduate places cut to just 10,000. This is to plug a £200m funding shortfall caused by the government’s decision in 2008 to extend means-tested grants to students from better-off families.
Britain has a depressingly large number of NEETs, young people who are not in education, employment or training. The extension of compulsory schooling was conceived partly as a way to tackle the problem, and the diploma was to make more years in school palatable. If neither jobs nor adequate school and university places are available, what are young people to do? Early unemployment has lasting ill effects, including a higher risk of future unemployment and lower lifetime earnings.
The cash-strapped government may announce a bit more money for sixth-form places in the budget on April 22nd. But some think it should be far bolder. David Blanchflower, an economist and member of the Bank of England’s monetary-policy committee, suggests raising the school-leaving age immediately. That would be expensive, he acknowledges, “but the cost of not tackling the rise in unemployment may well be much greater”.
Danny Dorling, a geographer at Sheffield University who has studied the effects of the crisis in youth unemployment around 1980 on public health, thinks anything is better for young people than joblessness—but not all alternatives are equally good. “Make-work” state schemes to mop them up are nearly as bad as doing nothing, his findings show, and temporary jobs only a bit better. The best course is going to college or university. It would be a pity if the current economic ill winds were prevented from blowing some good.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
VIDEO: PETER BREGMAN
1. Before setting up a business, what must you take into consideration?
2. Is today a good time to start a new business?
3. Tick the sentences true for you:
• Think big but start small.
• Money is my ultimate goal in setting up a business.
• I prefer to be the employee rather than the boss.
• Doing what we love is for a hobby not for a job.
4. Think of what Peter Bregman may have answered to the following questions:
• If people want to start a new business now, where should they start?
• Why is this the ideal time to start a new business?
• Where do you begin to maximize your chances to success?
• How to start thinking of a new business?
• How do you make your business sustainable?
5. WATCH THE VIDEO.
6. What does Peter Bregman do for a living?
7. Why does Mr. Bregman mention ‘skill’ many times in the interview?
8. Can you remember one of the stories told by Peter?
9. Why is today an ideal time to start a new business?
10. What does he mean by ‘start small’?
11. Why does he mention ‘the internet’?
12. Why is it relevant for Mr. Bregman to discover what gaps there are in the market?
13. How did Mr. Bregman’s insights strike you?
Thursday, 21 February, 2002, 17:34 GMT
Does the language we speak affect the way we think?
Language is one of the key debates at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston this weekend.
A hot topic is whether the language we speak affects the way we think.
Language at its most simple is a means of communication, but psychologists and linguists now believe that the language we use can influence our behaviour and how we interact with the outside world.
If you are bilingual - does your character change with the language you are speaking? How closely are cultural and national identities defined by language? And what impact will the ever-increasing domination of English have on the way the world communicates?
Read a selection of some comments below.
" I hope the world will never speak one language "
Anand Rajoo, Guyana
I personally feel that language does affect someone's personality. My grandparents came from India to live in Latin America. Although I live in the only English speaking country there and can speak English, Spanish and Hindi fluently, I speak English every day because I don't have a choice. However, when I speak Hindi, my ancestral tongue to my family, an empty vacuum is filled for me because I'll always be Indian. There is definitely a change in personality and I feel that mankind is more beautiful because of diversity. So I hope the world will never speak one language.
Anand Rajoo, Guyana
Absolutely, I feel that language drives the way we think. The more rich a language (say in terms of vocabulary), the more likely a person wIll have varied thinking. It just opens new avenues of the thought process. I feel the realm of our thinking is partially determined by language. Bonny, USA
I speak English, Gujarati and Urdu and I can definitely confirm that I think differently in English and not just because of the different words. English seems to me to be so formal, serious and self-centred - somehow 'cold' - whereas Asian languages are somehow warmer and have far more feeling. They are also more family-centred and less selfish. And when I want to vent and let off steam, I always do it in Gujerati!
Bilal Patel, London, UK
I think it does. At least in my case. I have lived most of my life in Kanpur, UP, India. I speak Hindi, Tamil, and English. My mother tongue is Tamil. The synthesis of these three languages and the fact that I was brought in a place where the native language is Hindi puts me in a unique position. I don't think the way the north Indians do nor the way the south Indians do. But, I think that to ascribe this just to the languages we speak is an incomplete conclusion. Maybe language plays a much smaller role when compared to how we were brought up and so on and so forth. Navaneetha Vaidhyanathan, USA
" The most important thing is the mother tongue "
Rabindra Raj Giri, Nepal
It is not a matter of speaking more than one language. In my observation and experience, the language which we use has great impact in our ways of thinking and expressions. The most important thing is the mother tongue. The ability in expressing our ideas and feelings without any difficulty (in other words in natural way) has great importance. One's native language plays the most important role in this case. Different languages have different ways of expressions and ultimately shapes one's mind to express in that way. Thus, one's mother tongue plays crucial role in the ways one's thinking and expressions.
Rabindra Raj Giri, Nepal
I was born in Hong Kong. Cantonese is my first language, and English is my second, then Mandarin is my third. To speak to a Hong Kong person, I mix both Cantonese and English. It depends on the person who I am speaking to. If I speak to a Cantonese who doesn't speak English at all, then I will speak only Cantonese. I think it is being polite to speak a common language that both parties feel comfortable with. My character does not change when I speak English or Mandarin.
I speak seven languages and yes, I do change the way I think and behave depending on which language I am speaking. For example, I never speak as direct nor as softly in Macedonian as I would when speaking English. An understanding of the culture associated with the language is very important as there are body movements, topics of discussion and manners that are connected with the proper communication of a language.
" When I speak Japanese I don't gesticulate at all "
If you are decidedly fluent in another language, and if that language belongs to a very different cultural heritage than your own, you do, as it is, change your "figure", posture, your face expressions as well may change dramatically to adjust to the new background. When I speak Japanese I don't gesticulate at all, and concentrate on the level of politeness with respect to the person I am talking to; Italian words shift from an emotional tier to a more cerebral, class-conscious one: I couldn't really describe somebody else as "simpatico" in English as we do in Spain or Italy, because it's a whole concept behind one word that the English language lacks. Ross, Italy
I am bilingual. Cantonese is my native tongue, while English is my second language. However, having been brought up in UK for most of my life since 9, I have grown to think & speak in both languages. Sometimes, if possible, I tend to speak mix (providing if the other person understands both languages). This is because there are certain terms & expressions in Cantonese (and vice versa) that are much more appropriate to use to match what I tries to express. The result is a clearer expression & understanding when you try to communicate. Having said that I must say, thinking in Cantonese when adding sums & other calculations, it is much more faster than thinking in English!
I read, write and speak three languages: French, Spanish and English. When I am in that particular country I think in their language which makes me feel a part of the society. French is feminine and rosy, Spanish masculine but very poetic and English is more to the point, lacking the idea of male and female for its nouns. To me, old languages are richer in natural observations and philosophy closer to a Buddhist vision.
The language(s) we use directly effect the way we view the world. The influence of the language we use can be clearly observed in our style, in our appearance and our opinions. Of all the languages in the world, after mathematics, Arabic is the most precise, and logical of all languages. I speak English, Urdu, Arabic and Punjabi. And personally, I feel the most effective and comprehensive medium of communication is in Arabic. The complexities of life, of emotions and ideas are most deservingly met in Arabic. Usman, Pakistan
" Learning, reading and interpreting poetry in the English language was a lot easier process than doing the same thing in Hindi "
Narinder Dogra, USA
I am fluent in Punjabi, Hindi, Urdu, Dogri and English. I have also learnt German, Japanese and French but I am very poor at them. I found during my high school days in India that learning, reading and interpreting poetry in the English language was a lot easier process than doing the same thing in Hindi. Was I thinking in English, I don't know? But when I do maths calculations orally, even now after spending thirty years in English speaking countries, I do it in Punjabi and it is a lot faster process.
Narinder Dogra, USA
Although English has been my medium of education I speak Tamil at home. Most of my thoughts are in pictures but when it comes to characters I think in English. Nasser Hamid, Sri Lanka
In the global village, most people speak and are even fluent in more than language. So which language are we talking about? My hunch is that our behaviour and thought processes are shaped by what we in India call the mother tongue, the language that you learnt at your mother's knee.Shantanu Dutta, India
Other than English, I speak Hindi and Gujarati. I live in Malaysia and have to speak Bahasa Malay in many situations. Many Malay words are derivatives of Sanskrit and Hindi is a modern version of it. I find many words and expressions in Malay are the same (or similar sounding) to Hindi or Gujarati and because I make that analogy, I think I understand the cultural expressions better than, perhaps some non-Malay people who live in Malaysia. Dharmendra Nayee, Malaysia
" The more you know the better informed you are "
Ashok Manthina, USA
Language enhances one's ability to think and express. No language is superior to the other. Each has something unique to offer and learn from. The more you know the better informed you are. Ashok Manthina, USA
It does not matter what language you SPEAK. Rather it depends what languages you can THINK in. I speak and think in Hindi, English and Tamil. I can speak some Russian and broken Mandarin. Plus I can communicate in Spanish. However, I cannot THINK in Spanish, Mandarin or Russian. Rajiv Singh, India
I speak both French and English. When your primary language is English, speaking French feels very unnatural because of all the nasal and throaty sounds.Ann, UK
I am fluent in two languages, English and Tamil. I tended to think in Tamil initially and now I tend to flit between the two.Ravi, UK
We do not think in languages. We think in pictures. Languages are merely the verbal cognition of those pictures. Even the thinking of a word is a mental image of that word or a association of sound reflecting the word.Des Currie, Umdloti, South Africa
" Most business seems to be conducted in English "
Peter K, Colorado, USA
Two years ago I backpacked through South East Asia and picked up a smattering of Malay and Bahasa Indonesia. They are quite similar and very easy languages to learn. Wherever I went, the moment I started to speak the language, people just smiled and opened up instantly. As regards English being the premier language, I was surprised by how much English is taught and spoken in South East Asia. There are a huge number of people who are well educated in the language and most business seems to be conducted in English. However, interestingly enough, the deal-making still depends on contacts and time spent together socialising. And when the locals socialise amongst themselves, guess which language they are using to communicate! Definitely NOT English! Peter K, Colorado, USA
A wonderful topic indeed! I can speak four languages fluently and am learning a fifth one, Russian. A language is representative of the culture and, therefore, has patterns best suited for that culture. As one learns a new culture/language, the brain assimilates it with previous pictures of the world and generates a new composite picture. The new picture has elements of all the cultures. Many times, I have found myself to have a chain of thought which can be best put in a few sentences of one language followed by a few sentences of another language, so on and so forth. Sunil Kumar, India/USA
" I don't know what form those languages will take a couple of generations from now "
Riaz Osmani, USA/Bangladesh
The "trend" of using English words and phrases when speaking Hindi, Bengali, Urdu etc. is complemented by the tendency to not seek out the appropriate words in those languages but also to not translate new and emerging English words and phrases as technology and scientific improvements exceed our capabilities. It is for this reason that languages in the Indian subcontinent will never attain the level of robustness to thrive in business and IT. In fact, I don't know what form those languages will take a couple of generations from now on when IT and globalisation becomes blessedly rampant. Riaz Osmani, USA/Bangladesh
I believe that language does affect "character" as well as reflecting a "culture". A well-know language school instructs its students not to worry about immediate understanding but rather to develop the "pattern" of the language. Since the brain acts as a pattern-recognition-machine, this method is very effective. It is these new "patterns" that change the perspective when using the learned language and therefore I conclude that the "character" is changed to accommodate these patterns.
In addition, I believe that culture and language are mutually affecting which in turn means that using a language results in being affected by that culture. As to the spreading use of English, this will reflect most of the major cultures of the world since English is a hodgepodge of words taken from almost every other language. In addition, it is a "practical" language that grows from itself and other languages to reflect changing conditions without the need of "language police" i.e. if it works, use it, if not, forget it. John Burkey, US/Netherlands
Being multi-lingual (I speak seven languages), I can definitely say that language affects moods. Firstly, speaking to someone in my native tongue makes the conversation faster, more concise and definitely more passionate. On the other hand, speaking to native English speakers (although my English speaking skills are probably on par with the locals if not better) definitely puts a limit on the topics we can cover. I have also noticed that the locals often have their minds made up about the language I speak even before I open my mouth. That's because they are associating race/ethnicity with language skills.
It's not necessarily a bad thing but I suppose that's how people associate and identify members of their own "tribe". English is pretty much the medium of education for the elite in non-English-speaking countries and in almost the entire developed world. This will actually improve the standards of the native non-English speakers in my opinion, as economic issues will force them to learn the language. In fact, I feel that some of the non-native English speakers from the Indian sub-continent have better English skills than a lot of Americans and Canadians some of whom cant spell to save their lives! Samsher Verma, Canada
" When I dream or daydream, I 'think' in English "
Aingaran Pillai, UK
When I dream or daydream, I 'think' in English. The subconscious thoughts seem to be constructed in it. However, what language do deaf people dream in? How are their thoughts formed? Aingaran Pillai, UK
Its really nice that at least someone picked this topic to debate. I can speak/ understand/ read/write four languages. But it never affected my original language and my culture-my mother tongue. And I must tell you that if any language which evolves from a mixture of two or many language is as sweet as other four in their original form. Take the example of Hindi in Bombay, it's entire different from Hindi spoken in Delhi. But it is widely used in Bollywood movies and enjoyed all over. As far as the topic of thriving of any language in IT is concern, programming in Hindi may prove very difficult but Sanskrit can prove bless for the IT industry. It just needs more attention from IT Gurus and Sanskrit Gurus. Himanshu Jani, India/UK
Language does affect many things - essentially it is the tool of thoughts, and the limits of the language of limits of thoughts. In that sense, Sanskrit is arguably the language most structured and most able to provoke intuitive thinking. English has an advantage of being influenced by so many different languages, and thus becoming global. Prerak Sheth, USA
I have studied several languages while at school, but I can only speak three languages fluently. I would definitely agree with those who say that the language(s) one speaks have an effect on one's thought processes. Just as Sunil Kumar of USA/India has mentioned here, I often find myself (when talking to family and others who can speak all the languages that I speak) saying a few sentences in one language and then a few in another. I have tried, on a few occasions to restrict myself to my native tongue, Telugu, but almost invariably I find that an English or Tamil expression makes its way into the conversation.
I have thought about the reasons behind this. While I am no linguist or psychologist, I feel that the reason is that different cultures often view the same matter in slightly but significantly different ways, and my approaches to various matters are usually somewhere between all the different ways of thinking because of the languages I speak.
But I don't think learning a language at school or college alone will ever give one a full insight into another culture; one has to listen to the language in everyday usage by its native speakers, speak it, and perhaps watch a few films in the language (which is how I learnt English more than any other way) to learn the language fully and also to comprehend some of the more subtle aspects of a culture. V P Vijay, United Kingdom
It is not so much what language or how many languages you speak but the ability to speak any language and make yourself understood that counts. To learn any language at depth requires one to learn of and observe customs, especially if the home religion and culture of the language being learnt is vastly different than the individual's mother tongue. Not to be bothered to learn another language is almost as bad as being xenophobic. Hazel, UK
I speak two languages fluently, and I can speak English, but my character doesn't changes when I change the languages. In my country the national identity and culture are very close. With respect the English young people can speak English better than old people, but when it comes to new words or technical words, English is not used in public life. Pedro, Spain
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Mar 12th 2009
From The Economist
Recession-hit companies target female customers
NEVER mind the fight to get people to open their wallets in the recession—some companies are taking a different tack, and trying to get customers to open their purses instead. In America, where female consumers make more than 80% of purchases, companies have started tailoring their products and messages to appeal to women, in an effort to boost their sales.
Frito-Lay, a snack-food company owned by PepsiCo, has launched a campaign called “Only In A Woman’s World” to convince women that crisps and popcorn are not just for male, beer sport fans. OfficeMax, America’s second-largest office-supplies company has redesigned its notebooks and file-holders to appeal to women and has run advertisements that encourage women to make their cubicles more colourful. For the first time, McDonald’s was a sponsor of New York Fashion Week in February, promoting a new line of hot drinks to trendsetting women.
Eric Almquist, head of global consumer insights for Bain & Company, a consultancy, says he is surprised it has taken a recession to get companies to focus on women. After all, it is hardly news that they control the vast majority of consumer spending. (They buy 90% of food, 55% of consumer electronics, and most of the new cars.) But the recession has prompted companies to rethink their approach. SheSpeaks, a marketing consultancy that helps companies including Citibank and Philips reach women consumers, has tripled its number of clients since the recession began. Some women’s magazines, too, are benefiting as companies that had never before expressed interest in advertising with them are now doing so.
Aside from their greater purchasing, women are valuable customers for three reasons. First, they are loyal, says Marti Barletta, author of “Marketing to Women”, and more likely to continue to buy a brand if they like it. Second, women are more likely than men to spread information about products they like through word of mouth and social-networking sites. Third, most of the lay-offs so far in America have been in male-dominated fields, like manufacturing and construction. This means women may bring home a greater share of household income in the months ahead and have even more buying power.
But marketing to women may not work for every company. In particular, for firms (such as some carmakers) with brands that are regarded as strongly male, “gender bending”, or trying to attract the opposite sex, could enhance short-term sales but cause a longer-term decline. Jill Avery of the Simmons School of Management in Boston researched this trend with cars. When Porsche released a sport-utility vehicle designed for women, sales temporarily increased, but men started to move away from the brand, on the basis that it had compromised its masculine image. But in this recession, having a gender-mixed brand is better than having no brand at all.
Copyright © 2009 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.
1. ‘… companies have started tailoring their products and messages to appeal to women…’
a) to attract
b) to sell
c) to market
2. ‘…companies have started tailoring their products and messages to appeal to women, in an effort to boost their sales.’
a) to advertise
b) to increase
c) to promote
3. ‘…Frito-Lay, a snack-food company owned by PepsiCo, has launched a campaign called “Only In A Woman’s World”…
4. ‘Aside from their greater purchasing, women are valuable customers for three reasons. First, they are loyal, says Marti Barletta, author of “Marketing to Women”…
c) easily seduced
5. ‘First, they are loyal, says Marti Barletta, author of “Marketing to Women”, and more likely to continue to buy a brand if they like it.’
6. ‘Second, women are more likely than men to spread information about products they like through word of mouth and social-networking sites.’
a) recommending to others through speaking
b) recommending to others through writing
c) recommending to others through media
7. ‘This means women may bring home a greater share of household income in the months ahead and have even more buying power.’
c) money that a person earns
8. ‘“gender bending”, or trying to attract the opposite sex, could enhance short-term sales but cause a longer-term decline.’
9. ‘Jill Avery of the Simmons School of Management in Boston researched this trend with cars.’
10. ‘When Porsche released a sport-utility vehicle designed for women, sales temporarily increased…’
By Caetano Veloso - London, London
I'm wandering round and round, nowhere to go
I'm lonely in London, London is lovely so
I cross the streets without fear
Everybody keeps the way clear
I know I know no one here to say hello
I know they keep the way clear
I am lonely in London without fear
I'm wandering round and round here, nowhere to go
While my eyes go looking for flying saucers in the sky (2x)
Oh Sunday, Monday, Autumn pass by me
And people hurry on so peacefully
A group approaches a policeman
He seems so pleased to please them
It's good, at least, to live and I agree
He seems so pleased, at least
And it's so good to live in peace
And Sunday, Monday, years, and I agree
While my eyes go looking for flying saucers in the sky (2x)
I choose no face to look at, choose no way
I just happen to be here, and it's ok
Green grass, blue eyes, grey sky
God bless silent pain and happiness
I came around to say yes, and I say (2x)
While my eyes go looking for flying saucers in the sky
Yes, my eyes go looking for flying saucers in the sky.
Author: Mark McKinnon
Type: reference material
An article offering advice and suggestions on how to teach English using video.
Video is a valuable and possibly underused classroom tool. There is always the temptation to simply put a video on at the end of term and let our students watch a film without even challenging them to be actively involved.
Video as a listening tool can enhance the listening experience for our students. We very rarely hear a disembodied voice in real life but as teachers we constantly ask our students to work with recorded conversations of people they never see. This is often necessary in the limited confines of the language school and sometimes justifiable, for example, when we give students telephone practice. However, we can add a whole new dimension to aural practice in the classroom by using video. The setting, action, emotions, gestures, etc, that our students can observe in a video clip, provide an important visual stimulus for language production and practice.
There are many things we can do with these clips. Here I would like to demonstrate a wide variety of them. These lesson plans refer to specific films which have been released recently, however, they could be adapted for use with a similar scene in a different film depending on availability. In the following lessons I have tried not to concentrate too much on specific dialogue that students may not be able to pick up, this allows lower level students to be creative in the classroom using video as a stepping stone to fun and communicative activities.
The activities involve pre-viewing, while-viewing and post-viewing tasks.
Some students see and hear a sequence; others only hear it. A variety of activities can then follow based on an information-gap procedure. In this particular lesson those students who see and hear the clip from Pearl Harbour are eyewitnesses to the dramatic event, the others are journalists working for a radio station who have to conduct a live interview. Students are not asked to pay attention to any specific dialogue but relay their experience of the scene they have just witnessed to a horrified public. This is particularly good for past tenses and intermediate levels.
Vision on/ Sound off
Students view a scene with the sound turned off. They then predict the content of the scene, write their own script and perform it while standing next to the television. After the performances students watch the scene with the sound on and decide which group was the funniest or the nearest to the original. This is a good fun exercise. In this particular emotionally charged scene from High Fidelity, three people who work in a record shop have an argument. It is very graphic with plenty of gestures to stimulate the imagination. Good for intermediate levels.
Observe and write
Students view a scene (this always works better if there is a lot happening) then write a newspaper article on what they have witnessed. This lesson is based on the fight scene from Bridget Jones’s Diary, students work for a local newspaper and have to write an article on a fight between two men over a beautiful, young girl. Pre-viewing and while-viewing tasks allow them to work on new vocabulary, while the post-viewing task gives them plenty of practice on past tenses. Good for intermediate levels.
This follows the dictogloss method of dictation and can easily be adapted to video. Students watch the scene a few times and write the main words and short phrases that a particular character says. Each group is given a character and is encouraged to listen and exchange information, this usually works better if there are two characters in the scene. Working with someone from a different group, they then write the script for the scene, incorporating both characters. As they will not have managed to write down the whole script from the listening exercises they will have to use their imagination and fill in the gaps. This gives them an excellent opportunity to work on grammar. This lesson is based on the hilarious restaurant scene from As Good As It Gets and is best suited to higher levels. The pre-viewing and while-viewing tasks give plenty of practice with food vocabulary.
Watch and observe
This is a good lesson for lower levels because students only have to focus on a minimum of spoken dialogue. Students watch a scene from a film which has lots of things that they can see and therefore write in their vocabulary books. You can teach and test your students’ vocabulary by asking a series of true/ false questions and asking them to put a series of events in order. This lesson is based on the kitchen scene from Unbreakable where David Dunn (Bruce Willis) is held at gunpoint by his son.
Video as a listening tool - pronunciation
In some listening exercises we must concentrate on specific dialogue to enable our students to learn. It is necessary to challenge them to listen when dealing with features of pronunciation. I find movies provide a good source of authentic listening material for the practice of pronunciation and I use them accordingly. This particular movie exercise deals with connected speech, in particular prominence (or sentence stress). Without going into too much detail here, English is a stressed-timed language, meaning that certain syllables in a sentence have prominence therefore create a beat, other syllables tend to be said quickly making it difficult for our students to hear. Prominence, which is the speaker’s choice, is used to convey meaning. This is exactly what I want to exploit here. The movie is Family Man and uses the scene where Jack returns home after abandoning his family on Christmas morning and has to take the resulting tongue-lashing from his wife Kate. It involves a recognition exercise which helps students hear that some parts of the sentences are prominent and they are Kate’s choice. It also has an argument role-play allowing students to practice sentence stress in context. The use of video is an advantage here as it is an emotional scene with lots of gestures, adding weight to the situation.
Video as a listening tool - elementary video class
By the time students get to elementary level they have the level of grammar for more complex communication. It’s motivating for them at this stage to enjoy and understand a real movie clip. There are different ways in which we can help them do this. This exercise involves working with a conversation as a jumbled text first then using the movie to check. Conversations normally have a logical order and movies are a great source. There is a role-play which encourages students to practise conversational English.
VIDEO – THE INTERNSHIP SEARCH
1. FILL IN THE GAPS WITH ONE WORD OR NUMBER, ACCORDING TO WHAT YOU HEAR ON THE VIDEO.
The internship market is not easy these days. It is very ________.
______________ million students will graduate every year.
Internships are down by more than __________ %.
__________________ is the American word for CV.
2. WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING TIPS DID THE COACH GIVE?
Recalibrate your skill set.
Don’t focus on a specific area.
Do research on the competitors of the company.
Talk about personal details such as hobbies to make a good impression on the interviewer.
Get to know about the company and the market as much as possible.
3. WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING SECTORS IS EXTREMELY TOUGH TO LAND AN INTERNSHIP THESE DAYS?
4. WHAT DID THE COACH MEAN WHEN SHE GAVE THE TIP ON THE INTERVIEW? MORE THAN ONE ANSWER IS POSSIBLE.
Most of the candidates focus on their own achievements rather than those of the company.
Most of the candidates do not do a complete research on the company and its competitors.
Most of the candidates are too much focused on first-time impressions.
Most of the candidates are not ready for an interview.
5. ACCORDING TO THE COACH, WHICH ONE THE FOLLOWING IS A CLASSICAL MISTAKE OF CANDIDATES THESE DAYS?
Restricting their search for internships on one area only.
Not being able to discuss current affairs fluently.
Not being able to choose the area they’d like to land a job in.
6. WHAT DID THE COACH MEAN BY
‘RECALIBRATE YOUR SKILL SET’?
• Broaden your skills by taking extra courses.
• Find other areas to offer your skills.
• Impress the interviewer with your skills.
ARTICLE: GOAL SETTING
1. Do you set goals for yourself?
2. How important is goal setting to achieve your target?
3. Can you achieve your goals by yourself (intrinsic rewards) or need outside stimulus (extrinsic rewards)?
4. Name three intrinsic rewards:
5) Name three extrinsic rewards:
6) Can you think of some disadvantages of setting goals?
7) How do you cope with the pressure of having to achieve a specific goal? What may happen if you do whatever it takes to do so?
8) Tick the sentences that are true for you:
• Ambitious goal setting has become endemic in American business practice over the last half century.
• Goal setting is widely considered to be a powerful way to motivate employees and boost their productivity.
• Employees perform better when challenged to meet specific targets as opposed to asking them to simply "do their best.
• Monthly targets were set for sales assistants. Such move caused many lay-offs and consequently led to a high staff turnover.
• Goals that are too specific often lead employees to develop such a narrow focus that they fail to recognize obvious problems unrelated to the target.
• Research has shown that employees have a stronger intrinsic motivation to do a good job than their managers tend to give them credit for.
• People may be motivated by goals. But these goals can crowd out intrinsic motivation, so they will need more goals to motivate them in the future.
Why setting performance targets can backfire
Managers everywhere love to set targets for their staff. Budgeting and planning meetings set financial and non-financial goals at a corporate level, as well as “stretch goals” for individual units. These targets are then translated into personal goals that senior executives and other employees are expected to achieve.
Ambitious goal setting has become endemic in American business practice over the last half century.
Such goal setting is widely considered to be a powerful way to motivate employees and boost their productivity. But some management researchers have given warning recently that the practice can have disastrous consequences which are often ignored by executives. A new paper* in the Academy of Management Perspectives notes that goal setting is widely considered to be “a benign treatment” for improving corporate performance when in fact it is medication that should be used with great care because of its potentially harmful side-effects causing more harm than good.
The authors found that goal setting has become practically institutionalized in American corporations, backed up by a persuasive body of literature over four decades arguing that employees perform better when challenged to meet specific targets as opposed to asking them to simply "do their best."
One well-known example took place at Sears, which in the early 1990s set a specific sales target for its auto repair staff of $147 per hour. In order to meet management's goal, however, mechanics began to perform unnecessary repairs or overcharge customers, which triggered a major customer-relations crisis for the giant retailer. Edward Brennan, chairman of Sears at the time, later admitted that the "goal setting process for service advisers created an environment where mistakes did occur." The same problem happened at the sales department, where monthly targets were set for sales assistants. Such move caused many lay-offs and consequently led to a high staff turnover.
Why does this happen? Schweitzer and his co-authors identify a series of problems that they say are linked to the overuse of goal setting, especially when the targets are either too specific or too challenging. For example:
* Goals that are too specific often lead employees to develop such a narrow focus that they fail to recognize obvious problems unrelated to the target. According to the authors, highly specific goals may cause workers to sacrifice safety for speed--as in the case of the Ford Pinto--or pursue misguided end results, as was the case at Enron. A typical problem is the sacrifice of quality in the interest of quantity, they note.
* Likewise, too many goals have what the authors consider an inappropriate time horizon. They refer to the well-known example of managers who are pressured to meet quarterly earnings goals, causing them to ignore long-term strategic problems. The reverse side of this practice is that employees also have a tendency to ease up when goal horizons are set too low. The paper cites a 1997 study of New York City cabdrivers who found that on rainy days, taxis tended to disappear from the congested streets because drivers met their fare target early in the day and went home, rather than working longer hours to make additional income.
The irony, says Schweitzer, is that a lot of this specific goal setting is unnecessary. Research has shown that employees have a stronger intrinsic motivation to do a good job than their managers tend to give them credit for. He points to research by Stanford University organizational behavior expert Chip Heath, who "found that people tend to think that other people need extrinsic rewards more often than they really do. ..."
In fact, the authors argue that this failure to recognize the value of simply doing a good job can cause managers to instead set goals and rewards that harm intrinsic motivation and place employees on a "treadmill." The notion of a treadmill, says Schweitzer, "is that people never 'get' to where they are going. For example, people constantly pursue happiness but don't get there. They keep thinking that the next promotion, the new car, the salary raise, etc. will make them happy. They get the promotion, and that makes them happy for a time. Then they adapt and mistakenly think that it's the next promotion that will make them happy.
"People may be motivated by goals. But these goals can crowd out intrinsic motivation, so they will need more goals to motivate them in the future."
Schweitzer and his co-authors point to other negative consequences from overly specific numeric goals. For example, workers tend to lose their focus on learning new skills in favor of using tried-and-true methods to meet their quotas. In addition, companies that set targets for individual workers can create a culture of competition in which workers tend to avoid teamwork in problem solving.
Schweitzer believes one reason that goals are overused is that we focus too much attention on the individual. When things go wrong--for example, following the collapse of an Enron--we tend to blame specific individuals rather than look at the broader culture established by top managers.
All these warnings may sound odd given that there are hundreds of academic studies which show that establishing goals for employees can produce outstanding results. According to many managers, there is nothing like a BHAG—or Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal—to get the competitive juices of a company flowing. Yet this paper’s authors argue that the problems associated with such targets are far more serious and pervasive than previous studies have suggested.
This reminder of the perils of using specific targets as a management tool is timely. Faced with a brutal economic downturn, companies may be tempted to set employees even more goals than ever as they strive to cut costs fast and generate enough cash to ride out tough times. Unless they think carefully about the possible consequences, they could end up scoring some horrifying own goals.