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Posts tagged ‘Easy/Medium’

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Unit 33 – Office life

Difficulty: Easy/medium

Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds

 

The passage below is an extract from James Plunkett’s short story The Eagles and The Trumpets

On the first Friday of every month, precisely at 11.45, the chief clerk put on his bowler hat, hung his umbrella on his arm, and left to spend the rest of the day inspecting the firm’s branch office. It was one of the few habits of the chief clerk which the office staff approved. It meant that for the rest of the evening they could do more or less as they pleased. Sweeney, who had been watching the monthly ceremony from the public counter with unusual interest, turned around to find Higgins at his elbow.
‘You’re wanted,’ he was told.
‘Who?’
‘Our mutual musketeer – Ellis. He’s in his office.’
That was a joke. It meant Ellis was in the store room at the top of the building. Part of the duties assigned to Ellis was the filing away of forms and documents. The firm kept kept them for twenty-five years, after which they were burned. Ellis spent interminable periods in the store-room, away from supervision and interference. It was a much-coveted position. Sweeney, disturbed in his day-dreaming, frowned at Higgins and said:
‘Why the hell can’t he come down and see me?’
It was his habit to grumble. He hated the stairs up to the store-room and he hated the store-room. He disliked most of the staff, especially the few who were attending night-school classes for accountancy and secretarial management in order to get on in the job. Put into the firm at nineteen years of age because it was a good, safe, comfortable job, with a pension scheme and adequate indemnity against the boredom, no contributory scheme which would save his manhood from rotting silently inside him among the ledgers and the comptometer machines. From nine to five he decayed among the serried desks with their paper baskets and their telephones, and from five onwards there was the picture house, occasional women, and drink when there was money for it.
The store-room was a sort of paper tomb, with tiers of forms and documents in dusty bundles, which exhaled a musty odour. He found Ellis making tea. A paper-covered book had been flung to one side. On the cover he could make out the words Selected Poems, but not whose they were. He was handed a cup with a chocolate biscuit in the saucer.
‘Sit down,’ Ellis commanded.
Sweeney, surprised at the luxury of the chocolate biscuit, held it up and inspected it with raised eyebrows.
Ellis offered milk and sugar.
‘I pinched them out of Miss Bouncing’s drawers,’ he said deliberately.
Sweeney, secure in the knowledge that the chief clerk was already on his way across town, munched the biscuit contentedly and looked down into the street.
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Unit 25 – Motivation and Goal Setting

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Time: 6 minutes

The following passage has been adapted from Psychology, Seventh Edition, by Bernstein, Penner, Clarke-Stewart and Roy. 


Achievement motivation tends to be learned early in childhood, especially from parents. For example, in one study young boys were given a difficult task at which they were sure to fail. Fathers whose sons scored low on achievement motivation tests often became annoyed as they watched their boys. They discouraged them from continuing, interfered, or even completed the task themselves (Rosen & D’Andrade, 1959). A different pattern of behavior appeared among parents of children who scored high on tests of achievement motivation. Those parents tended to (1) encourage the child to try difficult tasks, especially new ones; (2) give praise and other rewards for success; (3) encourage the child to find ways to succeed rather than merely complaining about failure; and (4) prompt the child to go on to the next, more difficult challenge (McClelland, 1985). Other research with adults shows that even the slightest cues that bring a parent to mind can boost people’s efforts to achieve a goal (Shah, 2003).

More general cultural influences also effect the development of achievement motivation. For example, subtle messages about a culture’s view of how achievement occurs often appear in the books children read and the stories they hear. Does the story’s main character work hard and overcome obstacles, thus creating expectations of a payoff for persistence? Is the character a loafer who wins the lottery, suggesting that rewards come randomly, regardless of effort? If the main character succeeds, is it the result of personal initiative, as is typical of stories in individualist cultures? Or is success based on ties to a cooperative and supportive group, as is typical of stories in collectivist cultures? These themes appear to act as blueprints for reaching culturally approved goals. It should not be surprising, then, that ideas about how people achieve differ from culture to culture. In one study, for example, individuals from Saudi Arabia and from the United States were asked to comment on short stories as having succeeded because of the help they got from others, whereas Americans tended to attribute success to the personal traits of each story’s main character (Zahrani & Kaplowitz, 1993).
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Unit 24 – The Collapse of the Soviet Regime

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Time: 4 minutes 30 seconds

The following is an extract of an article by David Remnick, published In volume 191 of the official journal of the National Geographic

It was the summer of 1991. The societ regime was crumbling like week-old bread, and my wife and I were scheduled to fly home to New York for the last time, ending a nearly four-year stint in Moscow – mine for the Washington Post, hers for the New York Times. The flight was scheduled for August 18, a Sunday. A few days before, I had interviewed Aleksandr Yakovlev, who had been Mikhail Gorbachev’s closest aide throughout the perestroika years. The “forces of revenge” within the party and the KGB, he said, were preparing a putsch.
I didn’t know what to make of his comment except to put it in the paper. The next day, at a party with some Russian friends on the Moscow River, we talked about Yakovlev’s prediction. My friends and I agreed – a coup seemed far-fetched. The Soviet Union, after all, was no banana republic.
“But I will tell you one thing,” I said, in the plummy tone of one rehearsing his valedictory, “Check out Moscow in a few years, and there will be shopping malls everywhere.”
“You’ve gone nuts,” said my friend Sergei.
“Oh, you’re right!” Sergei’s wife, Masha said mockingly. “Downtown will look just like Fifth Avenue. Be sure to visit!”
So that was the consensus: no coup, no shopping malls. The world would change, to be sure, but Moscow could forget about Sears, much less Saks Fifth Avenue. A couple of days later the first prediction went sour. There were tanks parked not a hundred yards from my front door on Kutuzovsky Prospekt. The coup was on. (It was over three days later.)
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Unit 1.13 – 2012 Olympics

Difficulty: Easy/Medium

Time: 6 minutes

 

The following are a series of letters to the editor of www.guardian.co.uk concerning various aspects of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

 

Letter 1

My four children would have been thrilled to see even one event in the Olympic village. Yet after bidding online for numerous tickets we did not get any. Having the Games in London is like having a party in your house, being asked to pay for it and then not being allowed to attend. I went to the Munich Olympics which had none of the restrictions on attendance with tickets available during the games. 2012 seems a jamboree for sponsors, providing unhealthy food with a large proportion of the tickets reserved for corporate use. I’m now booking a holiday abroad during the Olympics. We’ve all had enough of watching sport on TV. I just hope my children will get a chance to see the Olympics live when they take place in another country.
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Unit 1.12 – The History of Public Relations

Difficulty: Easy/medium

Time: 6 minutes

The following are extracts from Toxic Sludge is Good For You – Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, by John C. Stauder and Sheldon Rampton.

 

Passage 1

In 1836 legendary showman P.T. Barnum began his career by buying an old Negro slave woman named Joice Heth and exhibiting her to the public as “George Washington’s childhood nursemaid.”

Joice Heth claimed to be 160 years old. Was she for real? The man who coined the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” kept the public guessing through a clever series of forged letters to the editors of New York newspapers. Written by Barnum himself and signed by various fake names, some of the letters denounced Barnum as a fraud. In other letters, also written by Barnum, he praised himself as a great man who was performing a service by giving the public a chance to see George Washington’s “mammy.” The letters succeeded in stirring up controversy. Joice Heth was discussed in news reports and editorial columns, and the public turned out in droves to see for themselves. Barnum collected as much as $1500 per week from New Yorkers who came to see the pipe-smoking old Negro Woman.

When Joice Heth died, doctors performed an autopsy and estimated her true age at around eighty. Barnum handled the situation like the PR pro that he was. He said he was shocked, deeply shocked, at the way this woman had deceived him.

Barnum knew that in his publicity for “the greatest show on earth,” it didn’t matter whether people called him a scoundrel or a saint. The important thing was that the newspapers spelled his name right, and that they mentioned him often. He was one of the first people to manipulate the news for fun and profit.
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