Category: Learn English with TED Talks

  • An iPod worth $8 billion? English Listening Exercise

    I think one of the hardest things understand in English, or in any language you are learning, is humor, and especially more subtle humor, like sarcasm. When using sarcastic humor, we often say the opposite of what we mean, or believe, in an attempt to make it look ridiculous. Cues like the tone of the person’s voice and their word choice are often the only way to understand that the speaker is using sarcasm.

    In the TED video below, comedian Rob Reid shows how silly some of the numbers were that movie and music industry representatives used recently to support anti-piracy laws in the U.S. and Europe.

    As you are watching the video below, try to notice the moment when it becomes clear that Reid is being sarcastic (hint: listen to the crowd).

    I think some _________ and ________ reasoning could really bring a great ____ to the debate.

    How does he show that the Motion Picture Association of America’s claim that the economy loses $58 billion per year to piracy is ridiculous?

    Music revenues are down by about $8 billion dollars a year since Napster ____ on the ____.

    So this small missing _____ here is ________.

    Why does the audience laugh when he says the above line and shows them the chart?

    How does he mock the job numbers?

    This is just one of the many ____ _______ statistics have to ___ ____ everyday.

    What little _______ wouldn’t want a million and a half _____ worth of stolen _____ in his pocket?

    How many dollars worth of music can a iPod classic hold?

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  • Questions no one knows the answers to (English listening exercise)

    It’s been a while since I’ve had the time to visit the Ted website and watch a video, much less make a new listening exercise using one of their videos. So it wasn’t until today that I found out about a new series of Ted videos called TED-ED.

    According to the TED-Ed website:

    TED-Ed’s mission is to capture and amplify the voices of great educators around the world. We do this by pairing extraordinary educators with talented animators to produce a new library of curiosity-igniting videos.

    The animation is truly great. I think that for people learning English, it is especially helpful to see the ideas in the videos illustrated. I wish we were able to do this kind of animation with our English videos we’ve been making!

    Below you’ll find one of the videos that TED-ED has created to introduce this new project. The video is about questions that humans don’t know the answers to, curiosity and learning. Watch the video, and below you’ll find an English listening exercise to go with it.

    I used to ______ _____ a lot of things as a boy.

    What does the sentence above mean?

    What were the first three questions he asked himself as a boy?

    Is the future ___ to be ______?

    What does the sentence above mean?

    I mean, I ____ __ assumed that someday I _____ __ ____ the answers to all these questions.

    Why does he like working on these kinds of questions?



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  • English Listening and Comprehension: Hacking and Computer Viruses

    Earlier today I asked our Facebook followers what they would like my next topic to be for our English blog, and one of them suggested hacking. At first I thought she was suggesting that our site had been hacked or something, but then I realized that this was, in fact, a great topic for our blog.

    Because we give our English classes via Skype, we tend to get a lot of technology savvy students, especially people with IT and programming backgrounds. So naturally, the subject of hacking should be interesting to many of you.

    But even if you’re not that interested in IT, technology and hacking, I’ve found a great TED video about hacking that should be interesting to just about anyone. In the video, Mikko Hypponen gives a brief history of one of the darker sides of hacking, the writing of computer viruses. He talks about meeting the writers of the first virus ever found, and the new, the criminal networks that encourage virus writing now, and the new and dangerous viruses that are infecting our computers.

    Why you should listen to Mikko Hypponen:

    The chief research officer at F-Secure Corporation in Finland, Mikko Hypponen has led his team through some of the largest computer virus outbreaks in history. His team took down the world-wide network used by the Sobig.F worm. He was the first to warn the world about the Sasser outbreak, and he has done classified briefings on the operation of the Stuxnet worm — a hugely complex worm designed to sabotage Iranian nuclear enrichment facilities.

    As a few hundred million more Internet users join the web from India and China and elsewhere, and as governments and corporations become more sophisticated at using viruses as weapons, Hypponen asks, what’s next? Who will be at the front defending the world’s networks from malicious software? His work offers a peek into the post-Stuxnet future.

    Below you’ll find a video of Mikko’s TED talk, as well as several listening questions. English is not Mikko’s native language, and, although he speaks it very well, we ask about two of his mistakes in the questions. Here are some vocabulary words you may want to check before listening to the video: Connectivity, Malware, Monetize, Encryption.

    Enjoy the video, and please contact us if you’d like to take an English class based on this video and the questions below.


    How does Mikko think our generation will be remembered by historians hundreds of years from now?

    What are the problems with the internet?

    What is the first virus ever?

    Where did it come from?

    Who opened the door at the home in Pakistan?

    Who wrote the original viruses?

    Who writes them now?

    What is GangstaBucks?

    What are key loggers?

    We now have a whole _______ _____ ____ and business ecosystem _____ _____ online crime.

    What grammar mistake does Mikko make at 8:36 (it’s a preposition error)?

    What was unusual about the 20 year old blogger in St. Petersburg?

    How did he catch the hacker?

    What mistake does he make at 13:32?

    Why is Stuxnet so dangerous?

    What does he think we need to do now?




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  • English Listening Exercise: A Fast TED Talk

    I really like using TED talks for listening exercises, mostly because they’re really interesting (for both me and the people using them as exercises, I suppose). What I like about this one is that, besides telling an interesting story, Damon Horowitz, a Google employee, entrepreneur, and philosophy teacher at San Quentin State Prison, tells his story really fast. I’m guessing most ESL/EFL students will have to watch the video below twice.

    Why should you listen to Damon?

    Damon Horowitz is a philosophy professor and serial entrepreneur. He recently joined Google as In-House Philosopher / Director of Engineering, heading development of several initiatives involving social and search. He came to Google from Aardvark, the social search engine, where he was co-founder and CTO, overseeing product development and research strategy. Prior to Aardvark, Horowitz built several companies around applications of intelligent language processing. He co-founded Perspecta (acquired by Excite), was lead architect for Novation Biosciences (acquired by Agilent), and co-founded NewsDB (now Daylife).

    Horowitz teaches courses in philosophy, cognitive science, and computer science at several institutions, including Stanford, NYU, University of Pennsylvania and San Quentin State Prison.

    Watch the video, then see if you can answer the questions.

    Where does Tony live?

    Whose gun did they have?

    What did they originally intend to do with the gun?

    Punk. He took some money ____ ____ ___ _____, that’ll ___ ___.

    Let’s __ ____.

    Sorry, ___ it’s worse ___ ___ ____.

    I want __ ___ what  _ ____.

    In that moment, ____ __ __ ____ by Tony’s name.

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  • Less Stuff = More Happiness? English Listening Exercise with TED

    I think that I’ve always tried to be a minimalist. I don’t like to collect a lot of stuff. It makes me feel materialistic and tied down (unable to move quickly or easily change my plans). This the TED talk for this English listening exercise is about this subject, and I think Graham Hill explains very well the benefits of simplifying your life.

    Below you’ll find more info about Hill, his TED video, and after that, some listening questions. Enjoy!

    Why you should listen to Hill:

    Graham Hill (@GHill) founded the eco-blog and vlog, to help, as he says, “push sustainability into the mainstream,” with a design-forward style and an international, wide-ranging team committed to transforming complex issues into everyday concepts. It’s been called “the Green CNN.” The TreeHugger team was even asked to join the Discovery Communications network as a part of their Planet Green initiative, and Hill now makes appearances on the green-oriented cable channel.

    Before Treehugger, Hill studied architecture and design (his side business is making those cool ceramic Greek cups). His other company, ExceptionLab, is devoted to creating sustainable prototypes — think lamps made from recycled blinds and ultra-mod planters that are also air filters.

    Contact us to take an English conversation class on this TED video.

    What’s in the ___? ________ it is must be pretty important.

    Why do you think the crowd laughs at his first sentence

    There’s a new industry in ____.

    What is the new industry?

    What is the result of having all this new stuff?

    What did he do with is apartment?

    Immediately I saved ____ _____.

    What does that mean? How did he save it?

    We’ve ____ cut the extraneous from our lives, and we’ve _____ learn to ____ the inflow.

    How many people can eat in his home?

    What is his response to his own question, “What’s in the box?”

    Less ________equal ____________.

    Do you believe the above statement? Why or why not?


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  • English Conversation Classes with TED: Conflicts of Interest

    I don’t think I’ve met a student yet who is happy with the politicians in his or her country. In the United States, we complain a lot about how “special interest groups” corporations, foundations, organizations and anyone else with a lot of money, influence politics. By donating to election campaigns, we believe these groups create situations where the politicians have a “conflict of interest.”

    On the one hand, the politicians are supposed to be representing their voters, on the other, they’ve got these groups who have given them a lot of money to help them get elected, and will be happy to give the money to someone else if the politicians don’t do what the special interest group wants.

    Politics are perhaps the easiest place to spot people with conflicts of interest, but in this TED talk, Dan Ariely shows how the effect much more personal decisions, in others and in himself, and he talks about how we can be aware of them.

    Why you should listen do Dan:

    Despite our best efforts, bad or inexplicable decisions are as inevitable as death and taxes and the grocery store running out of your favorite flavor of ice cream. They’re also just as predictable. Why, for instance, are we convinced that “sizing up” at our favorite burger joint is a good idea, even when we’re not that hungry? Why are our phone lists cluttered with numbers we never call? Dan Ariely, behavioral economist, has based his career on figuring out the answers to these questions, and in his bestselling book Predictably Irrational (re-released in expanded form in May 2009), he describes many unorthodox and often downright odd experiments used in the quest to answer this question.


    Below is the video, and some listening and conversation classes. Contact us to take English conversation classes via Skype.

    What was his doctor’s “brilliant” idea?

    Why would it fix his face?

    What were his concerns?

    And then came one of the biggest _____ _____ of my life.

    Why did the doctor want him to use the treatment?

    What was wrong with the test Dan did?

    Why did they redo the experiment?

    What do incentives do to people?

    Why is he positive at the end?

    Have you ever allowed a conflict of interest to change your decisions? Have you seen other people do this? How do you think this affects society?

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  • English Listening Exercise: iPods, Steve Jobs and Magic

    When I heard today that Steve Jobs has retired as head of Apple, I wanted to make an English listening exercise that had an Apple theme.

    Jobs is, I think, one of the greatest businessmen in American history, and I’ve always loved Apple products (I’m writing this on my iMac). I’ve heard people say before that Apple products give you the feeling that they are almost magical, which is why I thought this TED video would be appropriate.

    In the video, Marco Tempest uses iPods to perform magic tricks. Marco is from Switzerland. Like a lot of modern English speakers, he is not a native speaker, so he has a slight accent. This is good listening practice for the real world that English is spoken in these days.

    Why you should listen to Marco Tempest:

    Marco Tempest’s imaginative combination of computer-generated imagery, quick-cut video and enthusiastic stage presence has earned him a place in the pantheon of great illusionists. At 22, the Swiss magician won the New York World Cup of Magic, launching him into international prominence. Tempest’s award-winning television series “The Virtual Magician” airs in dozens of countries worldwide, while his lively phonecam postings on YouTube, done without post-production and video-editing tricks to astonished people on the street, get millions of views (search on “virtualmagician”). His Vimeo channel showcases his artistic side — like his recent hypnotic series “levitation,” using a high-speed camera.

    Through his art, Tempest creates a highly entertaining way to be entranced by the reality-bending tech magic that surrounds us all every day.

    Here is the video, find listening questions below.

    What type of magic does Marco like?
    What does his application do?
    What is his favorite subject?
    He ___ this wonderful _____ where a rosebush would bloom _____ __ _____ of your ____.
    Magic is the ____ honest profession, a magician _______ to deceive you and he ____.
    What do you think the context is when the man in the video says “It’s just what I’ve always wanted.”
    What was his joke about men and women and lying?
    I didn’t deceive you, you ________ ________.
    Have you ever deceived yourself?
    What does it mean that art is a deception?
    Do you think lying is a fundamental part of life?
    Do you think men lie more than women?

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  • English Listening Exercises: 5 Ways to Listen Better

    I saw the video 5 Ways to Listen Better (posted below) on TED today, and thought that a video about how to be a better listener would make a great English listening exercise. You can learn about listening better, while you learn English.

    I found this video interesting myself because as a teacher, I think one of the most important things I have to do is listen carefully to my students. When I’m not listening carefully, I miss opportunities to have more meaningful interactions with my students, they become bored, and they don’t learn as much. When I’m really listening to what they say (don’t worry, this is almost always, but we all have our bad days) classes are more fun and the students learn more.

    Below you’ll find a TED video featuring Julian Treasure talking about why listening is important, why people are not good listeners, and 5 ways you can learn to be a better listener.

    Click here to contact us and take an English class based on this video.

    Why you should listen to Julian:

    Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound. He asks us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us. How do they make us feel: productive, stressed, energized, acquisitive?

    Treasure is the author of the book Sound Business and keeps a blog by the same name that ruminates on aural matters (and offers a nice day-by-day writeup of TEDGlobal 2009). In the early 1980s, Treasure was the drummer for the Fall-influenced band Transmitters.


    Here is the video below you’ll find listening questions:


    We are ______ our _________.

    How does Julian define listening?

    So in a _______ _____ like this, if I say ____ ____ ___ ________, some of you just sat up.

    What is pink noise?

    What did he promise his wife when they got married?

    In this scenario _________is listening to ___________.

    Name two synonyms for quiet that he says.

    What reasons does he give for people losing their ability to listen?

    What exercises does he suggest?

    Why is “so” important in listening?

    Every human being needs __ ______ consciously __ _____ to live fully.

    Do you think listening should be taught in schools?

    Do you spend any time listening carefully to something?

    Are you ever required to listen carefully to something?

    Do you think it is hard to listen sometimes? Has it gotten harder?

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  • English Classes with TED: Are You Crazy Enough?

    In this short TED Talk, entertainer Joshua Walters talks about his mental illness, and the positive role it has played in his life. He questions whether we should re-evaluate how we look at mental illness, saying that in some cases, it allows greater creativity.

    This reminds me of an English expression. We say that someone is “crazy like a fox” when what they are doing appears to be crazy, but is actually quite smart in a way that is not immediately obvious.

    Watch the video below, then see if you can answer the questions. If you’d like, you can also take an English conversation class based on this blog.

    Click here to register for a free trial English class

    Why you should listen to Joshua Walters:

    Joshua Walters is a comedian, poet, educator and performer. He incorporates elements of spoken word and beatbox into his shows in a mash-up of comedy, intimate reflection and unpredictable antics. In the last two years, Walters has performed at theaters and universities throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East.

    His eclectic combination of performance disciplines and activity as an educator in mental health has given Walters a national platform and audience. In 2002, Walters co-founded the DBSA (Depression Bipolar Support Alliance) Young Adults Chapter in San Francisco, one of the few support groups specifically for mentally ill young adults in the country. As a facilitator, Walters developed humor to address the subject of mental illness, reframing it as a positive. Walters speaks as a mental health educator and has engaged in mental health advocacy at conventions and in classrooms nationwide.

    “The ________ I get on stage, the more _________ I become.”

    What happened to him when he was 16?

    “In the psyche ward, everyone is doing their own ___ ___ ____.”

    What were his choices he had when he got out of high school?

    What did he learn from the New York Times article?

    How does Joshua explain the spectrum?

    Do you think that people can have a “creative edge” by being on the spectrum of mental illness?

    Would you be willing to experience the problems of mental illness if it would make you the next Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Mark Zukerberg?

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  • English Listening Exercise: Freakonomics and Car seats

    One of my students has recently introduced me to U.S. author and economist Steve Levitt. Levitt, in his books and lectures, presents theories based on data that are often surprising and go against popular wisdom. This week, we’re using his TED lecture as a English listening exercise.

    Levitt has proposed a number of controversial and even unpopular theories. One famous theory from his book Freakonomics is that the massive, unexpected decline in crime that the U.S. saw in the 1990s was not the result of better policing, tougher prison sentences or the death penalty, but legalized abortion.

    The TED talk in the video below may be his most controversial theory. He claims that child car seats are no safer than seat belts in protecting children in motor vehicle accidents, and that seat belts may even be safer. This after a campaign that has made it a law that parent must restrain children in car seats in the U.S. and the generally unquestioned belief that it is the safest thing to do. Below you’ll find a Levitt’s TED talk in which he presents this idea, and is even questioned in the end by an audience member. If you would like to take an English class based on this video, contact us.

    Why you should listen to Levitt:

    With his 2005 book Freakonomics (co-authored with Stephen Dubner, a writer who profiled him for the New York Times), Steven Levitt carried hardcore economic method into the squishy real world and produced a pop-culture classic. Freakonomics is both an economics textbook and a series of cautionary tales about the fallacy of conventional wisdom. Levitt examines the links between real-world events, and finds many instances where the data simply doesn’t back up popular belief.

    He asks provocative questions: If selling crack is so lucrative, why do dealers live with their mothers? Does parental doting really improve children’s test scores? Did New York City’s crime rate really drop because of police tactics (or population trends)? His controversial answers stir debate, and sometimes backlash.

    1. What was the difference between the first and second cure for the disease?
    2. What was the problem with the second cure?
    3. Then ____ ____ a lowly economist. Who ___ children _______.
    4. What was the disease?
    5. What were the cures?
    6. But ___ _____ are so _______ and _______ and they ____ ____ ___ ______ of ______.
    7. What is the other line of reasoning people have against believing seatbelts are better than carseats?
    8. What happened when they called crash test centers?
    9. Fundamentally, the car seats ______ _____ ____.
    10. What did Levitt’s father give the first set of patients that came in to see him, if he thought they weren’t sick?
    11. What did he give them if they came in a second time, and he still didn’t believe them? (use the specific word)
    12. What were in the third jar?
    13. What question does the person in the audience ask?


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  • English Classes with TED: Morgan Spurlock

    Most people know Morgan Spurlock for his popular documentary film, Supersize Me, in which he spent 30 days eating nothing but McDonalds for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since then Spurlock has done many interesting projects, and is now working on another film, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, a documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is, ironically, financed by brands, advertising and product placement.

    Morgan recently gave a TED talk about the making of the film, for which he sold the naming right to on Ebay. He spent some of the talk focusing on branding, but for most of it he talks about the difficulties of making the film, and his chief point seems to be that it is important to take risks in life. Below you’ll find the TED video, and some questions about the video. We are now regularly using these videos as part of my advanced English conversation classes. If you’d like to take a class, contact us.

    What unusual thing did he try to do with his TED Talk?
    What is your brand?
    What is his movie about?
    One of the men that Morgan presents the film idea to says that “When I first hear it, it  is the ________ _______ for an audience.”
    Another ask him, “Do you sort of know how ____ __ _____ __ ____ ___?”
    What happened when he turned the camera off after presenting the film to the men who said they could help him?
    What was the fatal flaw with his idea?
    What are the three sides to every story according to Morgan?
    What did he have to do?
    What word do they finally decide on to define Ban deodorant?
    What are each of the people’s brands?

    1. “I like really ____ _______.”
    2. 80s _______ meets _____ ____.”
    3. ______
    4. Dark _______
    5. A Classic ___________ Mercedes Benz
    6. Casual ___
    7. Part ______, part ____, part Brooklyn ____
    8. The ___ guy
    9. Fed __
    10. Failed ______ _________
    11. ______
    12. (Morgan) At the intersection between ____ _______ and ______ ___.

    What did he do next?
    What does the company tell him his brand is?
    What does this mean to you? “When you train your employees to be risk averse, then you’re preparing your whole company to be reward challenged.”

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  • English Conversation Classes: Talking about the Rise of China

    The future of China, and it’s role in world economics and politics is increasingly a topic of conversation, not just in my English conversation classes, but everywhere you go. In this TED Talk, Martin Jacques talks about why westerners misunderstand China, and tries to give us ideas to help us understand it better.

    He says many things about China and its future that could be considered controversial, including that: “The arrival of countries like China… represents the most important single act of democratization in the last 200 years.”

    Why should you listen to Martin Jacques?

    Martin Jacques is the author of When China Rules the World: The Rise of the Middle Kingdom and the End of the Western World. He is a visiting senior fellow at the London School of Economics, IDEAS, a centre for the study of international affairs, diplomacy and grand strategy, and a visiting research fellow at the LSE’s Asia Research Centre. He is a columnist for the Guardian and the New Statesman.

    His interest in East Asia began in 1993 with a holiday in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia. After that, he found every reason or excuse he could find to spend time in the region, be it personal, for newspaper articles or television programs. In 1977, he became editor of Marxism Today, a post he held for fourteen years, transforming what was an obscure and dull journal into the most influential political publication in Britain, read and respected on the right and left alike.

    In 1991, he closed Marxism Today and in 1994 became the deputy editor of the Independent newspaper, a post he held until 1996. In 1993 he co-founded the think-tank Demos.

    Watch the video below, to hear Jacques. If you would like to take a class based on this video, contact us.

    1. How does Jacques say the economic crisis has changed projections for the future of China’s economy?
    2. In what two ways does he say China will change the world?
    3. What does he think is the problem with the way westerners understand China?
    4. What does he say is the most important political value in China?
    5. Why does he say the world will become increasingly unfamiliar to us?
    6. What does he say about Europe and it’s future?
    7. Where should you go, according to Martin, if you want to see the future?
    8. What problem does China have the the U.S. does not have?
    9. What does he say our attitude should be toward China’s future?
    10. Why does he say that the rise of China and India represents the most important democratization of the last 200 years?


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  • English Conversation Classes: Language Learning and Children

    I have to admit, the topic of this TED Talk bothered me at first. Patricia Kuhl, in her TED Talk about language learning in infants, seems to say that if you haven’t started learning a language before you are one year old, you might as well give up. I’ve heard many people repeat this as a scientific fact, and I think it’s the reason a lot of people don’t even try to learn a language. It certainly irritates me as someone who is trying to learn Spanish as an adult, and teaching English classes to adults.

    I have personally met people who have begun learning a language later in life, and have become so fluent that native speakers of the language can barely detect their accent. Kuhl’s talk caused the same reaction in comments on the TED website.

    But I don’t think Kuhl’s main point was to make us adult language learners feel like our task is impossible. Rather, she wanted to show us the amazing abilities of the infant mind, and wonder out loud what we might someday learn from them.

    Why should you listen to Patricia Kuhl:

    English Conversation Patricia KuhlPatricia Kuhl is co-director of the Institute for Brain and Learning Sciences at the University of Washington. She’s internationally recognized for her research on early language and brain development, and studies that show how young children learn. Kuhl’s work has played a major role in demonstrating how early exposure to language alters the brain. It has implications for critical periods in development, for bilingual education and reading readiness, for developmental disabilities involving language, and for research on computer understanding of speech.

    Below is the video of Kuhl’s TED Talk. If you like, you can watch the video and then take an English Conversation Class about it. We also offer English classes for children.

    1. What question does Kuhl use the Koro language to represent?
    2. What are the best ages, according to Kuhl, for learning a language?
    3. What special thing can babies do with sound?
    4. Because of this, what does Kuhl call babies?
    5. How long does this period last?
    6. What does Kuhl say babies are doing when they listen to people talk?
    7. What experiment did they do with the babies and Mandarin?
    8. What was the result?
    9. What does Kuhl hope her experiments will show us?
    10. Do believe that it is possible to become fluent in a language as an adult?
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  • Creativity, Music and Language – English Conversation Classes with TED

    Two things I have always been fascinated with are music and language. I’ve been writing in some form or another since I was young, studied English at university, and worked as a journalist before teaching. I have also played guitar for about 15 years now, and particularly enjoy improvising music on the guitar with other musicians.

    In this TED video, Charles Limb, a brain surgeon and musician, talks about scientifically looking at creative genius, by looking at the brains of improvising musicians with scanners, while they are creating.

    It’s a fascinating video, bringing up questions about the relationship between music and language, among other things. It will certainly be a fun and interesting English class! This video can be watched with Spanish, Portuguese and Korean subtitles.

    Why you should be interested in Charles Limb (from

    Charles Limb has two titles on his official website: Associate Professor, Otolaryngology, Head & Neck Surgery, and Faculty, Peabody Conservatory of Music. He combines his two passions to study the way the brain creates and perceives music. He’s a hearing specialist and surgeon at Johns Hopkins who performs cochlear implantations on patients who have lost their hearing. And he plays sax, piano and bass.

    In search of a better understanding of how the mind perceives complex auditory stimuli such as music, he’s been working with Allen Braun to look at the brains of improvising musicians and study what parts of the brain are involved in the kind of deep creativity that happens when a musician is really in the groove.

    Read more from Dr. Limb on the TED Blog >>

    “If you think about it from a kind of abstract philosophical level, it’s unusual that acoustic vibrations in the air can make you feel deep emotion, something that can affect your life.”

    Charles Limb in Urbanite Baltimore magazine

    Watch the video below, and then see if you can answer the questions afterward:

    1. What is Charles’ joke about creativity and surgery?
    2. What makes Keith Jarrett’s concerts unusual?
    3. What does “off the top of his head” mean?
    4. Use five adjectives to describe Keith Jarrett’s music.
    5. What question did Charles ask himself about the music?
    6. What is the difference between magic and magical?
    7. How does the FMRI scanner measure brain activity?
    8. What happens in the brain when someone is improvising music?
    9. What was the hardest thing for jazz musician Mike Pope about playing music inside the scanner?
    10. What was the second experiment with the jazz musicians?
    11. What did the second jazz experiment show?
    12. What does Charles compare music to?
    13. Use 5 adjectives to describe Charles’ rapping.
    14. Will he ever rap again?
    15. What happens when rappers improvise?
    16. What question does Charles hope to answer some day?

    Want to take an English Conversation class?

    English Classes | Cursos Inglés | Aulas Inglês

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  • English Conversation Classes with TED: Brene Brown on Vulnerablility

    So far, this is my favorite of the TED talks I have watched. I suppose it may be because my wife and I are getting ready to have our first child, and I’ve been wondering to myself, “What can I do to make myself a better person for this child?” In this talk, Brene Brown talks about a difficult point in her research into human shame and vulnerability that gave her a much deeper understanding of herself, others, and a lot of the problems the world faces right now. Why should you listen to Brene?

    According to TED:

    Brene Brown

    Brene Brown is a research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She spent the first five years of her decade-long study focusing on shame and empathy, and is now using that work to explore a concept that she calls Wholeheartedness. She poses the questions:

    How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?

    1. Why didn’t the event planner want to call Brene a researcher?
    2. What did she decide to call Brene instead?
    3. What did Brene’s professor tell her?
    4. Why was this important?
    5. Why does Brene say we are here?
    6. What, according to Brene, unravels connection?
    7. What causes this condition?
    8. What separated the people with a strong sense of love and belonging from the others.
    9. What did the people with a strong sense of belonging have in common?
    10. Why was this upsetting to her as a researcher?
    11. What happened to her next?
    12. What does Brene say we do with vulerability?
    13. What is the problem with this?
    14. How else do we handle vulnerability?
    15. What is blame?
    16. What is the job of a parent?
    17. What is her “other way” of handling vulnerability?

    In the comments on TED’s page for this video, someone pointed out that what Brene concluded was basically the idea of Tao:

    To be whole, let yourself break.

    To be straight, let yourself bend.

    To be full, let yourself be empty.

    To be new, let yourself wear out.

    To have everything, give everything up.

    The Tao-Master clings to the Tao and becomes a model for all.

    He doesn’t put on a show, but his light shines forth.

    He doesn’t justify himself, but he is known for his integrity.

    He doesn’t boast, but he is recognized as accomplished.

    He doesn’t contend with others,

    and thus no one contends with him.

    The old saying, “Surrender and conquer,” is not an empty slogan.

    Surrender to the Tao and find yourself completed.

    Surrender to English. Take a conversation class with us!

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  • English Classes with TED: How to Hold Your Breath, in English

    We continue our English Classes with TED this week with a video featuring David Blaine, the world famous magician. In April of 2008, David Blaine set a world record for holding his breath using a method that allows someone to oxygenate his or her body before holding his/her breath. Blaine held his breath for 17 minutes.

    David Blaine, according to TED:

    Called a “modern-day Houdini” by The New York Times, David Blaine made himself a household name with TV special David Blaine: Street Magic — shedding the sweeping glitz and drama of other TV magic programs in favor of a simple premise: illusions done right on the street, in front of handheld cameras and speechless passersby.

    With Buried Alive, Blaine was entombed underground for seven days in a transparent plastic coffin, visible to gawking pedestrians above, setting off a new trend in his performance career: the endurance stunt. The pursuit led to other spectacles featuring cramped spaces and extreme conditions: Frozen in Time, which saw him encased in a block of ice for almost three days, and Vertigo, where he stood atop a 100-foot pillar for 35 hours.

    Blaine’s stunts continue to draw immense crowds and Nielsen ratings to match, but his appearance on Oprah was perhaps most stunning, when he broke the Guinness world record for breath-holding, staying underwater for 17 minutes and 4.5 seconds.

    For TED Blaine told the story of how was able to accomplish this stunt, after a series of setbacks. Watch the video below subtitled in your native language if you’re an English beginner, with English subtitles if you’re intermediate, and no subtitles if you’re advanced.

    What two things does Blaine say he tries to do as a magician?

    What did he do in April of 1999 in New York City for a week?

    What did he see in his hallucinations during his 36-hour stunt in New York City?

    What did they do to David to tempt him while he was in the box in London?

    What was Blaine obsessed with from a young age?

    As a magician, he thinks that __________ __ _______.

    How did his doctor tell him to hold his breath for a long time?

    Did it work?

    What was the “craziest idea” of all Blaine’s plans for holding his breath?

    What is “static apnea?”

    What was his “critical mistake” at the Lincoln Center?

    Where did he go to finally break the record?

    What did he think was happening when he was under water, about to break the record?

    What question did the kid ask him after he came out of the Apple store?

    What does Blaine say magic is to him?

    Would you like to take a class based on this or other TED videos? Want to know the answers to these questions? Contact us.

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  • English Classes with TED: Sir Ken Robinson on Changing Education

    We’re continuing our English Classes using TED talks with a talk by Sir Ken Robinson animated by RSA on the modern education system. According to the TED website, here’s why you should listen to what Sir Robinson has to say about education:

    Sir Robinson.

    Creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson challenges the way we’re educating our children. He champions a radical rethink of our school systems, to cultivate creativity and acknowledge multiple types of intelligence.

    Why don’t we get the best out of people? Sir Ken Robinson argues that it’s because we’ve been educated to become good workers, rather than creative thinkers. Students with restless minds and bodies — far from being cultivated for their energy and curiosity — are ignored or even stigmatized, with terrible consequences. “We are educating people out of their creativity,” Robinson says. It’s a message with deep resonance. Robinson’s TEDTalk has been distributed widely around the Web since its release in June 2006. The most popular words framing blog posts on his talk? “Everyone should watch this.”

    A visionary cultural leader, Sir Ken led the British government’s 1998 advisory committee on creative and cultural education, a massive inquiry into the significance of creativity in the educational system and the economy, and was knighted in 2003 for his achievements. His latest book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, a deep look at human creativity and education, was published in January 2009.

    Below you can watch the animated version of Sir Robinson’s talk. This particular talk is not subtitled, but the illustrations should make it much easier to understand. Beneath the video you’ll find a list of reading questions.

    1. What are the two main reasons Sir Robinson says every country is trying to reform education?
    2. How has students’ perception of education changed in recent years?
    3. During what period was the modern (European) education system developed?
    4. What does Sir Robinson say is “Deep in the gene pool of public education?”
    5. Where do people “start to lose interest” in the United States? What does Sir Robinson mean by this?
    6. What adjective does Sir Robinson use to describe the ADHD epidemic?
    7. According to Sir Robinson, what are we doing to children to get them through education?
    8. What does he compare the modern education system to?
    9. What is “divergent thinking?”
    10. What happens to our ability to use divergent thinking as we go to school?

    You can email us your answers, write them in comments, or take an English class with us and discuss this video.

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