Ted Talk English Lesson

Learn English Through Ted Talks #4: Before I Die I Want to…

This really inspiring (and emotional) Ted Talk looks at loss, community, and bringing clarity to our lives.

There is some really interesting language used here. So, watch the video, read the analysis, and then complete the sentence at the bottom of the post.

Here is the video.

Watch the Video

You can turn on the transcript for the video, or read it below.

The Transcript

The following is the transcript taken from Ted.com:

Click Here to Read the Transcript

There are a lot of ways the people around us can help improve our lives. We don’t bump into every neighbor, so a lot of wisdom never gets passed on, though we do share the same public spaces.

0:24 So over the past few years, I’ve tried ways to share more with my neighbors in public space, using simple tools like stickers, stencils and chalk. And these projects came from questions I had, like, how much are my neighbors paying for their apartments? (Laughter) How can we lend and borrow more things without knocking on each other’s doors at a bad time? How can we share more of our memories of our abandoned buildings, and gain a better understanding of our landscape? And how can we share more of our hopes for our vacant storefronts, so our communities can reflect our needs and dreams today?

1:05 Now, I live in New Orleans, and I am in love with New Orleans. My soul is always soothed by the giant live oak trees, shading lovers, drunks and dreamers for hundreds of years, and I trust a city that always makes way for music. (Laughter) I feel like every time someone sneezes, New Orleans has a parade. (Laughter) The city has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, but it also has one of the highest amounts of abandoned properties in America.

1:34 I live near this house, and I thought about how I could make it a nicer space for my neighborhood, and I also thought about something that changed my life forever.

1:47 In 2009, I lost someone I loved very much. Her name was Joan, and she was a mother to me, and her death was sudden and unexpected. And I thought about death a lot, and this made me feel deep gratitude for the time I’ve had, and brought clarity to the things that are meaningful to my life now. But I struggle to maintain this perspective in my daily life. I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and forget what really matters to you.

2:35 So with help from old and new friends, I turned the side of this abandoned house into a giant chalkboard and stenciled it with a fill-in-the-blank sentence: “Before I die, I want to … “ So anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

2:57 I didn’t know what to expect from this experiment, but by the next day, the wall was entirely filled out, and it kept growing. And I’d like to share a few things that people wrote on this wall.

3:12 “Before I die, I want to be tried for piracy.” (Laughter) “Before I die, I want to straddle the International Date Line.” “Before I die, I want to sing for millions.” “Before I die, I want to plant a tree.” “Before I die, I want to live off the grid.” “Before I die, I want to hold her one more time.” “Before I die, I want to be someone’s cavalry.” “Before I die, I want to be completely myself.”

4:04 So this neglected space became a constructive one, and people’s hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud, tear up, and they consoled me during my own tough times. It’s about knowing you’re not alone. It’s about understanding our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It’s about making space for reflection and contemplation, and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.

4:32 I made this last year, and started receiving hundreds of messages from passionate people who wanted to make a wall with their community, so my civic center colleagues and I made a tool kit, and now walls have been made in countries around the world, including Kazakhstan, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and beyond. Together, we’ve shown how powerful our public spaces can be if we’re given the opportunity to have a voice and share more with one another.

5:08 Two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with other people. In our age of increasing distractions, it’s more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember that life is brief and tender. Death is something that we’re often discouraged to talk about or even think about, but I’ve realized that preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.

5:40 Our shared spaces can better reflect what matters to us as individuals and as a community, and with more ways to share our hopes, fears and stories, the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us lead better lives. Thank you. (Applause)

Language Analysis

“We don’t bump into every neighbor”

To bump into someone means to meet someone by chance. Where I live I am constantly bumping into my neighbors as we have a quiet street and there is a good community here. Here are more examples:

  • I bumped into Sean at the grocery store, he’s doing well.
  • (Talking directly to someone).. Hey, wow, this is the 3rd time we’ve bumped into each other this week.

Also note that to bump into someone can mean physical contact.

  • It’s so busy here, people keep bumping into me.
  • Someone bumped into me on the way home (talking about a minor car collision).

“I feel like every time someone sneezes”

This just means that there are a lot of parades in New Orleans. Do you know the most famous one that takes place there in late winter?


It’s Mardi Gras. Here is a picture of this parade.

Mardi Gras

“It has one of the highest amounts of abandoned properties in America”

If a property is abandoned, no one is living there. Abandoned properties usually become derelict (a really bad condition). You could see examples of abandoned properties in the video.

Screen Shot

Are there any abandoned properties near where you live?

“I feel like it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and forget what really matters to you.”

To get caught up in the day-to-day means that you are focusing on your routine, concentrating on all the small things. And like the speaker said, not thinking about and spending time on the things that are important, the bigger things.

Before I die, I want to be tried for piracy”

This was pretty funny as you saw a picture of someone dressing like a pirate writing this. To be tried for something means to go to court to stand trial for something: to find out if you are innocent or guilty in a court.

Screen Shot

“Before I die, I want to live off the grid.”

This is another example of what someone wrote. To live off the grid means to live in a self-sufficient way without utilities (water, electricity, sewers etc.).

When i think of someone living off the grid, I think about a log cabin, like this one:

English lesson: off the grid

“…And people’s hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud, tear up…”

To tear up means to cry. Here is another example:

  • This film is making me tear up.


I really like the conclusion of the talk where the speaker talks about how our shared spaces can better reflect what matters most, and that the people in our communities can help us lead better lives.

It’s great to see how popular her idea has become, and I want to continue that here. In the comment box below, complete the sentence:

Before I die I want to ___________.

English Lesson Based on Technology

Is Technology Addictive? An English Lesson Based on a BBC Report.

The technological revolution has given us the opportunity to always be connected. Through social media we can constantly be in contact with others. But, is technology inherently addictive?

In this video, a BBC reporter investigates this question, and also sets a challenge for herself and four others.

Watch the video and then continue with the lesson.

The Video

The Transpcript

Here are parts of the video transcribed:

[intro] Through smartphones, tablets, apps, and laptops, technology now influences almost every aspect of our lives. We’re engaged politically, creatively, socially, and emotionally 24 hours a day because of the technology revolution. Our digital lives are just as full on as our real world lives.

But, the fear is that this new digital way of life that we’re all exposed to is in reality powerfully and dangerously addictive. For me this is one of the most important issues concerning mental health. However, in our overly diagnostic world, before we rush to medically label another yet another one of our behaviours, I need to be convinced: is there really something to fear?; is there something truly, inherently addictive about modern technology?

[1:11] How often are you using that every day? Erm… pretty much all the time. I don’t think I could count the number of times I check Twitter or check Facebook. (girl) I couldn’t either, I check it a lot. Even if I’m bored, you don’t really think about it, you just kinda go straight to look what other people are doing.

[1:58] It’s definitely going to be difficult to give up. But, there’s a difference between annoyance at losing a useful and enjoyable tool, and the physical and mental anguish that can come from giving up something truly addictive.

Most addictions in the classic sense, such as drugs, have a physical dimension linked to our inbuilt rewards system.

[3:18] It’s one of the reasons why problem gambling became the first medical recognized behavioral addiction in 2013. Now, early studies are beginning to see the same response with technology, particularly when we look at internet gaming. Could that response lead to addicted like behaviour?

[4:22] And when it gets really bad, what are the kids doing to resist those parental instructions? – I mean, I’ve had instances of, you know, knives being pulled out on parents because they’ve taken away their gaming device, and it’s a minefield of how to parent through that.

[4:48] Where is the addictive trigger in something like social networking? – Many point to its ability to change our mood; the emotional boost and sense of self-worth we get from our peers liking, sharing, and retweeting what we post. And, then there’s the thrill of finding out if we have received those likes and retweets, giving us that all important reward, driving us to keep logging in and keep posting.

[5:40] My argument is that technology kind of enhances and stimulates that vulnerability or susceptibility; it’s not to demonize the internet in and of itself, because most of us use it, and most of it.. you know, is something that actually is a positive thing in our life. And, one of the things that I really want to try and stress is that doing something a lot, does not necessarily mean that it’s problematic.

[7:21] (talking about their challenge): I found the first day the hardest I think, because it was kind of, you’re so used to doing it. It’s actually been quite refreshing, and made me realize that I could probably get rid of Facebook. (Guy) But, it did take a little while.. now it’s kind of okay, but in the mornings I still check my phone, and there’s nothing to do, and where’s Facebook, where’s Twitter?

[8:19] We’re going through a massive process of change in the way that we live our lives. And, this is because of this huge technological revolution. And, of course there are those who are vulnerable and who may become addicted to new pleasurable behaviours, and we have a duty of care to those people. But, as a species, this is about adaptation; it’s about understanding our behaviour; not panicking about change; and, taking personal responsibility; responsibility as parents, responsibility as individuals, and as society as a whole.


Addictive / Addicted To

I have written about different types of adjectives here, and the difference between these two is that when we say, “I am addicted to technology” we are describing ourselves. Whereas addictive is used to describe something or a situation.

  • He’s addicted to drugs.
  • Drugs are addictive.
  • She used to be addictive to shopping.
  • Shopping is addictive.

You can hear these two adjectives used throughout the video.

Complete the sentence: He was _________ to gambling.


He was addicted to gambling.

It’s definitely going to be difficult to give up

When the younger people in the bar were set the challenge of going without the apps on their phones, one of the guys said, “It’s definitely going to be difficult to give up.” To give something up means to stop doing something; to quit.

Q. Did the younger people manage to give up using the apps on their phones?


Yes. But, the presenter wasn’t able to do it.

You can use this phrasal verb followed by a verb or a noun. The verb is always in the gerund form:

  • My friend finally gave up smoking.
  • He’s given up playing computer games at night.
  • I really want to give up drinking coffee again! or I really want to give up coffee!

Then there’s the thrill of finding out…

I see many learners incorrectly use know instead of find out. To find something out means to learn about something. The following examples should help you understand the difference:

  • I already knew that they got engaged. In fact, I found out last Wednesday.
  • I’ve just found out that David (our boss) is leaving! – Really? I thought you already knew.

I could probably get rid of Facebook

To get rid of something means to eliminate or discard something. In the example given, the girl is saying that she could probably give up Facebook and stop using it.

Q. Do you think I could give up Facebook?


I could for personal use, but not for my business. Speaking of Facebook, if you haven’t already liked my page, you can do so now:

And, you can share this lesson by clicking the link:

Share on Facebook

Here are more examples:

  • I need to get rid of these old clothes.
  • Should we have a spring clean, and just get rid of a lot of the things we don’t use?

We’re going through a massive process of change in the way that we live our lives

This is a great example of the difference in pronunciation between the noun life (in the plural form), and the verb live. Click here for more information on this difference, and also for ways to live life to the fullest.


The report concluded that we are going through massive changes in terms of how we are using technology, and that although there are some who will get addicted to this new technology, it’s important to focus on how we adapt and how we can take responsibility for our own actions.

Now, I’ve got two questions for you:

1. Could you give up social media for four days?

2. Do you agree with the conclusion of the report?

Leave your answers below. And, feel free to comment on anything in the report and this lesson.

Ted Talk Lesson 3 Artwork

Learn English with Ted Talks #3: How to Create a Movement

Would you like to inspire a movement and become a leader?

Well according to this video, there are certain things that need to happen for a movement to take place. And, in this short video, you will learn what those things are.

Watch the video, read the transcript, see more examples of the key language, and then answer the question below.

The Video

The Transpcript

The following transcript is taken from Ted.com

So, ladies and gentlemen, at TED we talk a lot about leadership and how to make a movement. So let’s watch a movement happen, start to finish, in under three minutes and dissect some lessons from it.

First, of course you know, a leader needs the guts to stand out and be ridiculed. But what he’s doing is so easy to follow. So here’s his first follower with a crucial role; he’s going to show everyone else how to follow.

Now, notice that the leader embraces him as an equal. So, now it’s not about the leader anymore; it’s about them, plural. Now, there he is calling to his friends. Now, if you notice that the first follower is actually an underestimated form of leadership in itself. It takes guts to stand out like that. The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader. (Laughter) (Applause)

And here comes a second follower. Now it’s not a lone nut, it’s not two nuts — three is a crowd, and a crowd is news. So a movement must be public. It’s important to show not just to show the leader, but the followers, because you find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader.

Now, here come two more people, and immediately after, three more people. Now we’ve got momentum. This is the tipping point. Now we’ve got a movement. So, notice that, as more people join in, it’s less risky. So those that were sitting on the fence before, now have no reason not to. They won’t stand out, they won’t be ridiculed, but they will be part of the in-crowd if they hurry. (Laughter) So, over the next minute, you’ll see all of those that prefer to stick with the crowd because eventually they would be ridiculed for not joining in. And that’s how you make a movement.

But let’s recap some lessons from this. So first, if you are the type, like the shirtless dancing guy that is standing alone, remember the importance of nurturing your first few followers as equals so it’s clearly about the movement, not you. Okay, but we might have missed the real lesson here.

The biggest lesson, if you noticed — did you catch it? — is that leadership is over-glorified. That, yes, it was the shirtless guy who was first, and he’ll get all the credit, but it was really the first follower that transformed the lone nut into a leader. So, as we’re told that we should all be leaders, that would be really ineffective.

If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow. And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in. And what a perfect place to do that, at TED.


A leader needs the guts to stand out

To have guts means to have courage. This is quite common in everyday language, and can be used both seriously and when joking.

  • I didn’t have the guts to ask her out.
  • I bet you don’t have the guts to play me at FIFA (computer game).

To stand out means to look and/or act differently from the everyone/everything else:

  • Wow, your yellow shoes really stand out!
  • People spend their time at school trying to fit in, but once they graduate, they want to stand out.
  • I really want to stand out in my interview.

To be ridiculed

If someone is ridiculing you, it means that they are making fun of you and most likely laughing at you. Everyone who was watching the dancing guy was probably ridiculing him before they joined in.

There he is calling to his friends

There is a difference between call and call to. In the video it shows that the second guy is waving at his friends and telling them (through body language) to come over and join in – he is calling to his friends.

But, when we’re talking about using a telephone, then we don’t use the preposition to.

  • My boss called me last night.
  • I need to call my mother; it’s Mother’s Day.

The first follower is what transforms a lone nut into a leader

A lone nut is someone who is doing something crazy on their own. It can be used in a funny way (like describing the dancing guy) or a serious way (like describing someone in general). The second way is used to describe someone who is a little (or very) crazy and doesn’t have any friends.

Be careful how you use this one.

Because you find that new followers emulate the followers, not the leader.

To emulate means to copy/imitate someone and to follow their lead.

This is the tipping point. 

The tipping point describes the point when something starts to become significant. You can clearly see the tipping point of the movement in the video.

So those that were sitting on the fence before, now have no reason not to.

I love this saying, and it’s very common in English. To sit on the fence means to be undecided, to not have an opinion, or to not take sides in a dispute.

In this case, a lot of people were sitting on the fence and didn’t join in. But, once there was a lot of people dancing, they got off the fence and joined the dancers.

They will be part of the in-crowd if they hurry

To be part of the in-crowd means to be involved in the popular group. At school, there’s always a few people who are the most popular, and they are in the in-crowd.


What I like about the video is that it takes a funny event and gives an important lesson. The talker explains that it is the second person who is the real key to the success, and it takes a lot of guts to do this.

And, if that you really want to inspire, you need to have the courage to follow, and then encourage others to follow.

Now, my question to you is this:

Would you have joined the dancing guy? If you answered yes, when would you have joined in?

Leave your answers below.

Happy Lesson Picture

10 Ways to Be Happy (plus a Happy song)

Let’s start with a song that I’m sure will make you happy!

Here is the chorus so that you can sing (and clap along to).

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you know what happiness is to you
Because I’m happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Happier

The following is adapted from this article and looks at 10 ways that you can be happier.

1. Exercise (7 minutes)

When most people think about doing exercise, they think that they have to go for a long run or do a lot of cardio. However, there are many studies that show that doing short and intensive exercises is much better and more efficient.

If you want a quick workout, try this:

From the article:

 Exercise can help you relax, increase your brain power, and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

I recently shared an article on Facebook that talks about how you should exercise before an exam:

Also try exercising before studying and see if it helps.

2. Sleep More

One study shows that when you are sleep deprived (don’t get enough sleep), you are more likely to concentrate on negative emotions. On the other hand, getting enough sleep increases your chances of experiencing positive emotions.

I think this is pretty common and that most people are in a bad mood when they don’t get enough sleep. So, sleep is important for happiness as well as your overall health.

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

3. Spend More Time with Family and Friends

Not spending enough time with family and friends is one of the 5 regrets of the dying (see my post on this here). From the article:

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel.

One study showed that relationships are worth more than $100,000. It concluded saying that an improved social life had a big affect on happiness while an increase in income didn’t make much of a difference.

4. Get Outside More

The article highlights many studies that show that getting outside every day makes a big difference to how happy people are. I have definitely found this to be true: when I go and walk my dogs in the morning (when it’s light and nice weather), I feel energized and in a better mood.

This wasn’t always easy when I was in the UK:

5. Help Others

Have you heard about retail therapy? This basically means going shopping to make you feel happier. However, a study has shown that buying things for others makes us happier than buying things for ourselves.

In addition, spending our money on experiences (concerts, sporting events, meals out) brings us more happiness than buying material goods (shoes, handbags, gadgets).

Volunteering also helps – from the article:

 In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

6. Smile

This is my third key to fluency in my latest book (download for free here.) Smiling is especially effective if you back it up with a positive thought:

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. (You’ve seen fake smiles that don’t reach the person’s eyes. Try it. Smile with just your mouth. Then smile naturally; your eyes narrow. There’s a huge difference in a fake smile and a genuine smile.)

When you are doing something that you don’t normally enjoy, ask yourself, “How can I do this while having fun?”

7. Plan a Trip (even if you don’t take one)

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, simply planning a vacation or break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as people enjoy the sense of anticipation:

So, we don’t have to take a vacation/holiday to get positive emotions and make us happy. It’s all about the anticipation of a holiday. If you could leave tomorrow for two weeks, where would you go to? (answer below)

8. Meditate

My friends over at Real Life English wrote a great post on how meditating can improve your English (specifically your confidence, memory, concentration, and self-awareness).

The original article states:

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life.

You can start by just doing 30 seconds. Just clear your mind, stop thoughts coming into your head, and concentrate on your breathing. Try it now.

9. Move Closer to Work

Our commute to work can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to commute twice a day at least five days a week makes it unsurprising that the effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

It goes on to say that we usually concentrate on things like a bigger house or a better car, but having a shorter commute will make us happier. However, if you have a long commute, fill your MP3 player or phone full of English podcasts and listen to English. Make the most of the time you spend commuting.

10. Practice Gratitude

Being thankful for what you have will make you happier. Before going to sleep I often think about about the things that I’m grateful for. Here is something to be grateful for: If you are reading this then you can also access a huge amount of English learning material.

As little as 10-15 years ago, this wasn’t possible, and to be able to read or listen to things in English you had to buy a book or a tape. Be grateful for the fact that you can watch, listen to, and read an unlimited amount of things in English. This is truly an amazing thing and you just need to take advantage of it.

What to Do Now

Answer the following question: If you could go anywhere in the world for a two week holiday, and you had to leave tomorrow, where would you go? (You get unlimited spending money too).


There are no explanations in this lesson. Instead, use the tools that I talk about in this video.

Also feel free to comment below on this lesson.

English Video Lesson: Follow the Frog

Do You Follow the Frog?

A lot of us want to make a difference in the world. There are many things that we would like to change. We also may feel like we do enough to make the world a better place.

The following video is based on the above, and I’m sure you’ll agree, it does a fantastic job of getting our attention and giving us a strong message. Watch the video once, and then again while reading the transcript.

The Clip

The Transpcript

“You are a good person. You spend time with your family. You work out at the gym. You conserve water while showering. You like nice clothes. You give to charity. You recycle. You drive a Prius, but you use your bike when you can. You enjoy the occasional distraction at work and you always send a card on Mother’s Day. Always.

But, there’s a part of you that tells yourself that you’re not so good; that you could be doing more; that the world is falling apart at the seams and all you’ve been doing is yoga.

One day, you see that the rainforest is being destroyed at a staggering rate of 32 million acres a year. That’s the equivalent of 1 football field every 78 seconds. You feel bad, angry, guilty. You’ve been apathetic for too long. You want to do something about it. You must do something about it.

Well, this is what you’re not going to do: I quit! You’re not going to quit your job. Leave your family. Get on the next flight to Nicaragua. Take a bus to the edge of the jungle, then hoof it across rivers, lakes and streams, on a quest for the very heart of the rainforest. (Take me to the heart of the Rainforest. You’re getting closer. You’re almost there. You have arrived!) You’re not gonna ingratiate yourself with the local tribesmen; go to great lengths to earn their respect and trust.

It is around now you realize you’re living out the cliché gringo fantasy of becoming an honorary native and leading the resistant forces. But, screw it! If they can do it, so can you! I’m gonna save you! You’re not gonna co-ordinate an “occupy-the-rainforest” movement. Realize it’s hopeless. Summon the power of the gods. Lead a revolution against the deforesters and their multi-national employers in an apocalyptic “once-and-for-all” battle to save humanity.. only to awaken two days later in an El Salvadoran hospital with two toes missing on your left foot. Hobble out of central America, up through Mexico, across the Sierra Madre, where you break down, have your first cigarette in 4 years, accidentally start a wild fire killing off the endangered species that once served as your occupational distraction, and finally make it back home only to find that you’ve been replaced at work by a guy named TJ and that things at home are not what they used to be.

You’re not going to do any of these things. But, what you can do is follow the frog. Buying rainforest alliance certified products ensures the future of our rainforests. So that you don’t have to do the things you shouldn’t do anyway. Just follow the frog.


You work out at the gym

To work out means to do exercise. This is especially used when talking about doing exercise in the gym. There are other ways that we can use this phrasal verb:

  • I can’t work out what you’re saying (understand).
  • Let’s work something out before it’s too late (solve the problem).
  • This relationship isn’t working out (see this Friends lesson for more information on this).

You conserve water while showering

This means that you try to use less water. You see from the video that the guy turns off the water while shampooing his hair. Another way to say this is to save water.

The world is falling apart at the seams

This is an idiom that means the world is in a bad condition. We can also use the word “coming” instead of “falling.”

  • This car is coming apart at the seams.
  • The economy is falling apart at the seams.

You’ve been apathetic for too long

To be apathetic means that you are uninterested and unconcerned with something. It’s general used for big issues such as the environment and politics.

Hoof it across rives, lakes, and streams.

This means to travel through. It suggests that the guy is travelling quickly.

You’re not gonna ingratiate yourself with the local tribesmen

To ingratiate yourself with someone means to try to make someone like you. You do everything you can to please them. (Also notice the relaxed pronunciation of “going to”). The next sentence it says, “go to great lengths.” This means to make a major effort.

But, screw it!

This is like saying, “I’m not worried about that, I’m going to do it anyway.” This is common in informal English.

Hobble out of Central America

To hobble means to walk with an injury. As he had two toes cut off, you can clearly see him hobbling in the video.

Things at home are not what they used to be

Click here for a full explanation on “used to.”


The video is an excellent example of the new type of marketing that has been made possible through viral video. It shows a guy who feels like he doing good things to help the environment. But, he hits a point where he feels like he needs to do more.

I’m sure we’ve all felt this at times and feel frustrated that we aren’t making a difference. The message of the video is saying that all we need to do is to buy rainforest alliance certified products (follow the frog) to make a difference.

Do you agree? Do you think that this is a positive message?

What symbols do you look for in your country? (Non GMO / Organic / Fair Trade)

A small challenge

At around 1:24 in the video, the guys says, “It is around now you realize you’re living out the cliché gringo fantasy of becoming an honorary native and leading the resistant forces.” (basically the idea that if you are from a rich country, you should go out into the world and save people who aren’t as rich as you).

At this point in the video it shows 5 films. Do you recognize any of these films? Is there a common theme?

Paris English Lesson

Paris Syndrome

Paris English Lesson

Have you been to Paris before? If so, did you have a good time? Well, not everyone does, and in fact, there is even a disorder that is named after the city.

Paris syndrome is a psychological disorder that mainly affects Japanese tourists who visit the city. Symptoms include: headaches, hallucinations, feelings of persecution, anxiety, and aggression.

Only a limited amount of people are affected by this disorder, and as noted, nearly all of them come from Japan. However, the Japanese embassy has a 24 hour helpline for those who are suffering.

Let’s take a look at what causes this disorder.

What Causes Paris Syndrome

There are four factors that cause Paris syndrome:

1. Most people before visiting Paris have an idealized image of what the city is like. They hear that it’s called, “the most romantic city in the world” and see films that show good food, music, beautiful and fashionable people, museums, and quaint streets.

But, the reality isn’t always like that. Paris is a city just like any other, and the noise, sheer number of people, and other problems that all cities have comes as a shock to some tourists.

2. The language barrier for most Japanese tourists is also a contributing factor. Most people who visit Paris can’t speak French, and it’s rare to find a Parisian who speaks Japanese. There are also many cultural differences, for example, the cultural norms in France are much more informal. In addition, the sense of humor between the two cultures is noted to also cause problems.

3. It takes a long time to travel from Japan to Paris, and the exhaustion and jet lag is another factor that contributes.

Expectations and Dissappointment

Part of the reason for Paris Syndrome is that certain tourists have high expectations of what is going to be like, only to feel let down by the experience.

In certain cases, films, TV shows, and other media only show us the best things about a place. This is especially true with television commercials from tourists boards. Here is an example:

You’re intrigued. You’re invigorated. You’re invited. You’re intrepid. You’re inspired. You’re invited. You’re in tune. You’re invited. You’re involved. You’re in awe. You’re invited. You’re infatuated. You’re invited. You’ll find your invitation to Britain at visitbritain.com


When reading about this, I tried to think about times when I had been let down by high expectations. New Year’s Eve came to mind as each year it was built up to be the biggest party of the year, but it always seemed to be an anti-climax.

When going on holiday, I think it’s important to just go with the flow and make the most out of the situation. If we have really high expectations, then we’ll always end up disappointed. But, if we go to these places with an open mind and try to make the most out of the situation, then we’ll have a good time no matter what.

The way I look at New Year’s Eve has changed a lot since I was younger too, and I try to make the most out of whatever we end up doing.

Can you think about times when you have been let down by high-expectations?
Have you every been to Paris? If so, how did you find it?


Complete the sentences using the following: boards, mind, letdown, comes, lagged, the most, barrier, norms, flow, romantic, expectations, 


1. Paris is the most _________ city in the world.

2. The reality of Paris ________ as quite a shock to some people.

3. The language ________ causes problems.

4. The cultural ________ in Paris are different to those in Japan.

5. Many people arrive feeling jet _________.

6. When people go on holiday, they have high _________.

7. Tourist _________ like to show the best parts of a city or country.

8. The holiday was a big  ________.

9. Don’t worry too much. Just go with the ________, and make __________ out of the situation.

10. It’s best to keep an open _________.


1. romantic

2. comes

3. barrier

4. norms

5. lagged

6. expectations

7. boards

8. down

9. flow / most

10. mind

Expensive City

Topic: Most Expensive Cities for Tourists


I wasn’t staying in 4 star hotels in Rio!

How much does a dinner for two with a bottle of wine cost at an averaged price restaurant cost where you live? Do you normally pay more or less when you go on holiday?

In this lesson you will see how much it costs for tourists in select cities.

The data below is taken from Trip Advisor and looks at how much hotels, dinners, taxis, and cocktails cost in each city (for two people).

Take a look at the different prices for nine select cities below:

Country Hotel Taxi Dinner Cocktails Total
See the full data here
Warsaw $103 $14 $53 $17 $187
Buenos Aires $159 $4 $45 $20 $229
Munich $183 $23 $72 $36 $314
Moscow $240 $25 $98 $37 $401
Rio de Janeiro $316 $9 $73 $30 $427
London $271 $41 $102 $37 $451
New York $379 $23 $82 $32 $516
Zurich $299 $39 $151 $35 $523
Oslo $230 $29 $277 $45 $581


Example Sentences

What we can say that out of these countries:

  • Oslo is the most expensive city for tourists.
  • Buenos Aires is the cheapest city to get a taxi.
  • New York has the most expensive hotels.
  • Warsaw is the cheapest city for cocktails.
  • It’s over six times more expensive to have dinner in Oslo than in Buenos Aires.
  • It’s ten times cheaper to take a taxi in Buenos Aires than in London.
  • In total, Oslo is over three times more expensive than Warsaw.


Hotel: 4 Star Hotel
Taxi: A 2 mile return journey.
Dinner: Two Appetizers, two main courses, and a bottle of wine in a mid-range restaurant.
Cocktails: Two dry martinis in a 5 star hotel.


The above examples are comparatives and superlatives.


Cheap is regular, therefore we add er = cheaper.
Expensive is irregular, so we put more in front of it = more expensive.

Here is an example from before: Oslo is more expensive than Warsaw.


Cheap is regular, there we add -est = cheapest
Expensive is irregular, so we put most in front of it = most expensive.

Here is an example from before: Oslo is the most expensive city for tourists.


Read the examples from before again, and then take our quiz:

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So firstly, I haven’t been on holiday for a long time. This is because my family lives in Europe, so when we do have a break, we usually go to visit them. But, I have been to four of the cites listed above, and, to be honest, I didn’t spend anywhere near the prices listed. I stayed in hostels, for example, in Buenos Aires I think I paid about $10 a night.. and this was for a shared room and a shared bathroom. Also in Argentina, a lot of the hostels had barbecues where you could eat as much meat as you want for around $5. And, I remember paying $17 to stay in New York, $30 in London, and about $10 to stay in Rio.

The most striking thing for me about the table (the prices) for me is just how expensive it is to have dinner in Oslo. To nearly spend $300 on dinner is crazy to me. And also, I never realized how expensive taxis are in London.

So, you’re discussion question today is this:

What is important to you when you’re booking a hotel? So, talk about the different criteria, the room, the cleanliness, the price, the location etc.

Also let me know if your city is listed and if not, how much things normally cost in your city.

Leave your comments below!

Topic: Amazon’s New Delivery Service and Online Shopping

Topic: Amazon’s New Delivery Service and Online Shopping

This post is going to look at a new delivery service that Amazon may introduce. Firstly, watch the following video:

The Video


The video shows a man ordering something from Amazon on his tablet. He selects 30 minute delivery by air. We then see someone putting his order into a box. He then puts this box onto a conveyor belt and a drone picks it up. It flies the package to the man’s house and drops it off in his back garden. The man opens the door, collects his package, and goes back inside.

Online Shopping

The video shows a man ordering from Amazon which is the biggest online retailer in the US and UK. Below there is a graph that shows the increase in online shopping sales as a percentage of total sales in the UK.

Online sales

(Graph Source)

From the graph, we can say:

  • More people are shopping online than they used to.
  • Online sales as a percentage of total sales have increased from around 4% in 2008 to about 10% in 2013.
  • The percentage goes up and down depending on the time of the year.
  • The busiest time of the year for online shopping is in the run up to Christmas (hard to notice from the graph).

Do you think the trend is similar where you live?

Do you think this trend will continue?


Complete the dialogue (without looking) using the following prepositions.

back, on, from, in, onto, into, by, to


The video shows a man ordering something something ______ (1) Amazon ______ (2) his tablet. He selects 30 minute delivery ______ (3) air. We then see someone putting his order ______ (4) a box. He then puts this box ______ (5) a conveyor belt and a drone picks up the box. It flies the package ______ (6) the man’s house and drops it off ______ (7) his back garden. The man opens the door, collects his package, and goes ______ (8) inside.


1. from

2. on

3. by

4. into

5. onto

6. to

7. in

8. back


Do you shop online?

How long does delivery normally take?

Do you think that this type of delivery service will be common in the future?

Do you think it is important to shop at local shops?

Ted Talk 2

Ted Talks #2: Learn Something New for 30 Days

This is our second Ted Talk post and is by Matt Cutts called, “Try Something New for 30 Days.”

Before you start the video, I’d like you to think about the following questions:

– What have you achieved in the past thirty days?
– What things do you do on a daily basis that are a waste of time?
– Have you tried something new recently?

(NOTE: We use the present perfect in the first question as “the past thirty days” is a present time expression and it still is connected to the present.)

Now, let’s take a look at the video:

The Clip

To download our special transcript, click the link that matches your native language:


If your language is not show above, go to the following link and show the transcript in both English and your native language to compare: Ted Talk Original.


To be stuck in a rut / To be in a rut

To be stuck in a rut means that you aren’t making progress and you are doing the same things all the time. Matt got out of his rut by trying something new for 30 days.

Here are more examples:

  • My work is so boring and I’m not progressing. I’m stuck in a rut.
  • I don’t want to get stuck in a rut with this novel I’m writing. I need some inspiration.

To follow in the footsteps

Matt says, “I decided to follow in the footsteps of the great American philosopher..” This means to copy someone or do something that is very similar to someone you know. A lot of the time, this is to do something similar to your parents.

  • My friend followed in his father’s footsteps and became a painter.
  • I’m going to follow in your footsteps by travelling to Argentina next year.

The months flying by

If time flies by, it means that it goes by very quickly. There is one particular expression here:

  • Time flies when you’re having fun.

To want something badly enough

To want something badly means that you really want something.

  • (A football manager to his players): How badly do you want to win this game?
  • If you want to speak English badly enough, you’ll work at it every day.

They were more likely to stick

If something sticks it means that it continues. When Matt made small changes, he said that he was more likely to continue doing these things, that they were more likely to stick.

Give it a shot

This is an American expression that means to give it a go, or try it out. It is usually used when the risks are low and the potential outcome is positive.

  • (Talking to a friend who likes a girl): Go on, talk to her, give it a shot.
  • I’m going to give this new project a shot.


Choose the best option (taken from the talk):

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Black Bear

Have You Ever Seen a Bear?

Before moving to the mountains in North Carolina I had heard people talk about black bears living in and around our city, and many of my new friends told me that they had seen one, and I really wanted to see one too.

Last Monday, my dream came true. I was washing up after having lunch when I saw my wife at the door. She told me that our neighbor (neghbour BrE) had seen a bear in our yard and that it had climbed the fence and gone next door.

I carefully went next door to see if I could see it. Here is where I found it:

Black Bear

It had climbed up the tree and actually stayed there for nearly two hours. It then climbed down and walked off down the street.


Past Perfect

You will have noticed that I used the past perfect a lot during this story. This is because I talked about different actions happening before something in the past. Here are some examples from the story.

Before moving to the mountains of North Carolina I had heard people talk about black bears….”

“…many of my new friends told me that they had seen one.”

The something in the past doesn’t have to be in the same sentence as the action.

“This is where I found it. It had climbed up the tree…”

American vs British English

I’m from the UK but now live in America. I’ve lived here for three years and during this time I have learned a lot of about the differences between British and American English.

One of the differences is the spelling of neighbour vs neighbor. American English omits the letter “u” out of quite a lot of words. Here are more examples:

  • Colour – Color
  • Behaviour – Behavior
  • Favourite – Favorite
  • Flavour – Flavor
  • Honour – Honor
  • Humour – Humor
  • Labour – Labor

As many of you will know, there are differences with the pronunciation. When I say the following phrases, people in America find it difficult to understand me (listen to the difference between my accent and my American wife’s):

  • Hi, I’m Jack (notice the vowel sound in “Jack”)
  • Can I have some water, please? (notice the /t/ vs /d/ sound in “water”)
  • There’s a bear in the yard! (there is a slight difference in the vowel sound for “bear”)


Have you ever seen a bear before?

What dangerous animals live in your country?