Saturday, September 9, 2017

Tea and Conversation on Tuesday and Friday

Panther Pond, Raymond, Maine, USA
Solitude is nice for a while, but sometimes you just want some


So ... let's meet on Tuesday after the fourth pair! We'll be in Room 2, hoping to catch up with you to share summer experiences and hopes for the new school year.

We will try meeting weekly through October 10. On September 26, we hope to include our three guests from the USA -- Jesse, Tracy, and Esther Mae.

Bring your own ideas for themes and Hangperson words; we'll bring some ideas, too. See you soon!

PS: Evening students! We'll be meeting at the Quest Cafe "4 Rooms" as well. Friday, September 16, and Friday, October 6, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Group 401V Second Semester Test

Full text: LINK to article on the newspaper's site. LINK to article in PDF format.

When you have finished reading the article, go here for the test. Please finish the test by Monday, May 22. Judy and I must give your results to Larisa Viktorovna by May 23.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Billionaires speaking to graduates


(Link to original article and gallery on Forbes site. Download PDF files here: Pages 1-3. Page 4 with questions and vocabulary.)

Items for discussion:
  1. Summarize the contents of this article in one or two sentences.
  2. How is the content organized?
  3. What are the roles or purposes of the links and gallery within the article? Are they helpful?
  4. Of all the points made in the article, which will you remember the longest?
  5. Do all of the commencement speakers agree with each other? Is any of the advice actually wrong?
  6. Here in Russia, on similar occasions, would the speakers make similar points? Would they make different points than those made by the speakers in this Forbes article? Which pieces of advice in the article seem most typically American to you? Which seem universally valid to you?
  7. The writer includes her e-mail address and Twitter handle in her biography. If you were to write to her, what would you say about this article? (What did she do well, and what could she have done to make her article better?)
Words and expressions:

words of wisdom
host, a host of
core, to one’s very core
loss, to overcome a loss
to be defined by
standout (noun)
a whole lot
to impart
to revolve around
to oust, to be ousted
the odds, to overcome the odds
time and time again
hand in hand, to go hand in hand
to drop out
to pursue
trial and error
to echo (transitive and intransitive)
to head up
to drop (intransitive)
to give back
breathing space
to hazard (a prediction, a guess)
to get crazy
drive (noun)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Why the movie business is in trouble


(Link to the article on Variety's site, with all charts and graphics. Link to PDF version of article.)

This is a long text, and we suggest that you concentrate mostly on the first half of the article, before the author gets into details about the negotiations with specific companies and studios. The last couple of paragraphs are also important.

Here are some questions for discussion:
  1. Overall, what does this article seek to provide the reader?
  2. How does the author organize his analysis? What are the major elements, and how does he arrange them?
  3. What are the two major challenges facing the film industry?
  4. Who are the two “sides” mentioned on page two, second column (“At the very least the two sides are talking.”) Why are their interests supposedly in conflict?
  5. Do you have personal experiences or observations concerning this analysis?
  6. What argument or insight will you remember from this article after you have forgotten the details?
  7. Who is the author’s intended audience?
Which of these words and expressions are new to you?

scared stiff
to usher in
to dazzle
to scramble (intrans.)
existential dread
to release
to come to pass
to pull it off
to choreograph
“cover my ass”
smart money
to be put off
to dry up
slate financing
virtual reality
box office
tax credit

to greenlight
bottom line
grand bargain
to fade
to prop up
to condition
impulse buy
to tinker (with)
to kibosh
to wade (into)
on demand, on-demand
exhibition chain
stiff spine
to interface (with)
screen count
to hit
to cannibalize
to grandfather
to invite to the table
to differentiate
to reboot
diminishing returns
to snap up

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sarah Robb O'Hagan: "I Learned to Win By Failing" (with test link)

Газета 401: Зачёт; 401V, 501V

(Link to full article and accompanying video. Link to PDF document.)

Group 401: This is the text for our online test.

Some of these words and phrases may be on the test....

to breathe new life into
to bring to light
to be vulnerable
edge, at the edge
to suck
the lead part
to push, to keep pushing
grit (noun)
yeah, so
to get going
pear-shaped, to go pear-shaped
over one's skis
to do one's own thing
learning (noun)
to crush it
to be (stay) in front of
on me (it's on me)
grind (noun)
to trigger
to screw up (trans. and intrans.)
wrong turn
to hone
to be well rounded

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Good Grief for educators, part two

Warmest thanks to our colleagues for your great stories and dialogues, excellent questions, and helpful comments on the survey form. Here's a slide show based on the vocabulary presentation we gave at our last session:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Roll Over Beethoven


(Click here for original article with links to music. Download PDF version.)

For discussion:
  1. Summarize this article—how does it go beyond a simple obituary?
  2. How did the author organize his material? How does he develop his theme(s)?
  3. For what audience is he writing?
  4. What will you remember about this article after you have forgotten the details?
  5. What should the author have included or left out?
Words and phrases:
iconic, iconically
scorched earth
to lay out the stakes
on deadline
to break through
to harness
mission statement
to double as
to reverberate
radio play (noun)
to fill in the blanks
to nag
precious few
tectonic shift
to dispense with
to cover
to relegate, be relegated
star was receding
dash (noun)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tiny family-run newspaper wins American journalism's most important award


(Link to full article on Guardian site. Link to PDF file.)

  1. Summarize this article in one or two sentences.
  2. How is the article organized? (What elements of “story” do you see in this article?)
  3. What will you remember from this article after you have forgotten the details?
  4. What do you wish the writer had included or left out?
  5. Who is the intended audience?
  6. What is the role of journalism prizes such as the Pulitzer Prize?
Useful words and phrases:
to take on
to challenge assumptions
to hang out
fueled by
crash (noun)
to pander
dogged (dogged coverage)
to covet, coveted
to draw
to disclose, undisclosed
gut (in his gut)
to vindicate, to feel vindicated

Monday, April 17, 2017

Good Grief for educators, part one

(Link to the excerpts in PDF format: part one, part two.)

Words and phrases drawn from today's workshop:

Judy compiled some of the errors from last week's homework and summarized them using this slideshow:

Finally, we watched this brief BBC Trending feature: Learn Jane Austen, 'thug' style.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Teaching respectful terms for others

This workshop was based on my article for the Institute's conference in 2013.

The Michele Berdy article mentioned in the presentation is posted here.

Some of the interesting words, phrases, and metaphors used in today's presentation:

to lose faith
bling (or bling-bling)
to make allowances (for)
to hunt down
to give offense
to make allowances
to stop to wonder
marginal, to marginalize
teachable moment
out of date
it’s up to us
faintly odd
to prescribe
patch (noun)
to rewrite around
fastidious, fastidiousness
not to mention

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Newspapers: More on the shifting fortunes of publishing


(Link to full text and podcast version of original program.)

  1. What type of article is this? How was it “published”? How does this affect the voice and register of the text?
  2. What is the main theme or argument of this text?
  3. What is the point made in the first paragraph by Brooke Gladstone and the following two paragraphs?
  4. What factor often determines a successful publishing season, according to Carolyn Kellogg?
  5. What contributes to the success of audio books? What does Kellogg mean by “crossover point”?
  6. Why should we ask Margaret Atwood where her books belong? (What point is Kellogg making here?)

Words and phrases:

something of a …
marked (as in “marked growth”)
to drive (sales, etc.)
to do in
to wheeze
not so fast
to air
to overturn
to level off
boost (noun)
to come out of nowhere
to tout
to ding
vinyl record
to hit a groove
profuse, profusely
to ramp up (transitive and intransitive)
make a (big) push for
to come on strong
to get (something) noticed

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Newspapers: Remembering Yevtushenko

Газета 401, 401В, 501В

(Link to full article.)

For questions relating to the obituary of a famous person, take a look back at this article.

We will also look at this article: "Five reasons why Yevtushenko deserved a Nobel prize."

Words and phrases from the Associated Press article:

to acclaim, acclaimed
to denounce
to pass away
to undergo
to snowball
to gain notoriety
to pack, packed (audiences)
to rise to prominence
showpiece (noun and adjective)
perennial, perennially
to feature
pronounced (adjective)

Other obituaries include:

The New York Times:

The Guardian:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Let's get down to work (don't worry, it will work out)

We began today's class with this presentation:

More work with phrasal verbs, and reviewing the words and phrases from previous classes:

1. For each blank, choose a word from the list below. Some of the words are completions of phrasal verbs based on the verb work. Some words in the list might be used more than once; some might need to be changed to the correct tense:

“Detective Jose Chang here,” I heard myself say. It was my first day at work. I didn’t even have a contract yet. The sergeant had only said that “we’d work ____ the details later.” Like whether I’d be paid overtime or not… But it was a job, and I was happy to have it. I needed the ____, such as health insurance.

The interview had been tough. They had really worked me ____, especially on why I had been out of a job for six months. I had worked ____ a list of reasons for it, but at the end, I just tried to ____ it all over by mentioning that I needed time with my family. Except I hadn’t spoken to my family in five years. In our family, we all have a lot to work ____.

I hadn’t mentioned that I had been trying to work ____ my anxieties with booze. And then stopped. So, yes, I had tried to ____ the issue. It worked.

I do hope this job will work ____. What will I do if it doesn’t? I had ____ it badly in the homicide division in Chicago. It wasn’t just my own case I had destroyed; my mistake had nearly thrown a wrench ____ the works. I had really messed up. Even Mrs. Babsen, my sweet elderly neighbor with six cats, had told me I had ____ it all on myself.

I hoped moving home to Tucson would ____ my career, which it needed, badly. At least in Tucson they wouldn’t ask me about my name. Everyone would assume my father’s family came to work on the railroads, and my mother’s when the river still had water in it all year and the country was named New Spain.

You just knew I would work ____ that last bit, about how the U.S. stole a third of Mexico’s territory in the Mexican-American War, didn’t you? I can get really worked ____, thinking about it still.

over   bring   gloss   up   benefits   out   blow  into   in  through  evade   jump-start

2. Homework:

Please create a dialogue using 10 of the words/phrases in the list below or the phrasal verbs in the exercise above.

larger trends at work
punch line
over the top
To pull any/your punches
to overstate the case
bent [entrepreneurial bent]
to channel
to streamline
job security
word of mouth
the more the merrier
to jump-start
to make [the, a] case for
what they wanted out of life
to be struck by
to pull clear (of)
to settle (an argument, a question)
setting themselves up (for)
to face the risks
special interest groups
to plug in
dead-end job
to end up

(You can download a PDF version of these exercises from here.)

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Walking the Dog"

In class, we heard Hans Theessink performing his virtuoso version of the song, starting at about 1 minute, 10 seconds:

This classic was originally written and recorded by Rufus Thomas. In this great video from 1988, we see him performing with legendary musicians Steve Cropper (guitar), Matt "Guitar" Murphy, and Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass guitar):

Many other great musicians have recorded this song, including the Rolling Stones:

Here's how the original audience heard Rufus sing it in 1963:

Here are the words to that original song:

Mary Mack dressed in black
Silver buttons all down her back
Hello tipsy toes
She broke the needle and she can't sew

Walking the dog
Just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog
Come on now, come on, come on

I asked her mama for fifteen cents
To see the elephant jump over the fence
He jumped so high, he touched the sky
Never got back till the fourth of July

Walking the dog
Just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog
Come on now, come on, come on

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Tell me, how does your garden grow?
You got silver bells and you got cockleshells
Pretty maids all in a row

Walking the dog
Just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
Show you how to walk the dog
Come on now, come on, come on
Oh oh, just a just just a walking
just a just a just a walking
just a just a just a walking
oh, yeah, if you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog ... oh ...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Newspapers: Платье, которое проехало больше стран, чем вы


  (link to full article online)

  1. Summarize the theme and contents of this article in one or two sentences.
  2. Describe how this article is organized or structured.
  3. What is the voice and register of this article?
  4. What will you remember about (or from) this article in a week? A year?
  5. What additional information or context should the writer have provided?
  6. What changes does Prof. Rivoli hope to see in garment manufacture and trade?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Germany and Turkey exchange criticisms

Газета 401, 401В, 501В

(Link to full article.)
  1. Please summarize this article in one or two sentences.
  2. What do you know or believe about the countries involved in this situation that you did not know or believe before you read the article?
  3. What additional information should the writer have included?
  4. What audience does the writer have in mind?
  5. Is the article objective? Is there any apparent bias or favoritism on the part of the reporter or the publisher (BBC News)?
  6. How do the photos, captions, and subtitles (in the online version of the article) contribute to the effectiveness of the article?
Useful words and phrases:

no ifs, ands, or buts (and variations)
to woo
to reserve the right
to break a taboo
war of words
meddling in [another country's] internal affairs
to cross a line
to back
to seek asylum

Monday, March 27, 2017

The U.S. Civil War and its lingering effects

Here's the presentation we made today as background for discussing the effects of the Civil War on American English and the ways we teach it.

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected president. On March 4, 1865, at the swearing-in ceremony marking the start of his second term as president, he gave the speech popularly known as the Second Inaugural Address, which included these famous lines:

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it.... Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

... Both [sides] read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

(Full text.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Obituary: James Cotton, Blues Harmonica Legend, Dies at 81

Газета 401

(Link to full story on newspaper's Web site.)

In preparation for our class discussion, consider these questions:
  • What are the traditional elements of a newspaper obituary? Are those elements all included in this particular article?
  • What will you remember from this article?
  • What parts of the article were the most informative or interesting for you? What were the least interesting?
  • Were there any aspects of the story that you feel were insufficiently covered? What questions might you have for the reporter?
Useful words and phrases:

an integral part
call and response
curiously, curiously enough
to embark on/upon
bills, billing, sharing bills
act (noun)
under his/her/their own name
to take up
small change
in the employ of
to span, spanning
common parlance
to induct, to be inducted
survived by

Here is James Cotton playing with the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards a few years ago, during a rehearsal for a benefit concert for fellow blues musician Hubert Sumlin:

... And finally, a photo I took of Hubert Sumlin and James Cotton about ten years ago:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Our visitor this week: Shawn McConaughey

Shawn McConaughey during his last visit to our Institute.
We are happy to welcome our friend and colleague Shawn McConaughey (head of the Teaching Abroad program among other things) to our Institute this week. Most of our students will have a chance to talk with him in our Wednesday classes, and all students are invited to meet him on Friday at our (rescheduled) tea after the fourth pair.

Shawn first visited our Institute in the year 2000. He and his wife Katrina both have experience in international education and work with refugees.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Angry men gain influence and angry women lose influence

Газета 401

Scene from Twelve Angry Men. Source.  
A new study from Arizona State University focused on jury deliberation behaviors demonstrates a distinct gender bias when it comes to expressing anger and influencing people. The study found that men use anger to influence others, but women actually lose influence when they allow anger into an argument.

Here's a link to the full text of the article.
  • Who wrote this article, and who published it?
  • What event or occasion prompted this article?
  • In brief, what does the author want to tell you?
  • What case or argument does the author make? Is it the author's own viewpoint, or is the author telling you about someone else's viewpoint?
  • What new information or insight will you remember from this article?
  • What additional information or analysis do you wish the article had included?
  • What audience does the author have in mind? How do you know?
  • If you had been the editor of the article, what changes would you have made?
Useful words and phrases:

representative of ...
to exert influence
in a word
jury deliberation
out of the equation
to be tried for
opening statement, closing statement
to purport to, purportedly
to allege, alleged
to script, to be scripted
to hold out; holdout (noun)
to convict, to be convicted (note the atypical usage in this article)
gender gap
governing body

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ebook sales continue to fall

Газета 501В

The full article is here.

Useful words and phrases:

driven, to drive
jump (noun)
a year that saw
general trade
high profile, high-profile
break, respite
to favor
to overtake
to plateau
to surge; surge (noun)
industry confidence

Monday, March 13, 2017

And now, a book review of "Лавр" in English

Газета 401

Follow this link for the full text of the New Yorker review.

This review, "Holy Foolery," considers the English translation of the book whose Russian-language review we will consider tomorrow.

"Holy Foolery" is not an easy essay to read, even for native English speakers, and we don't expect you to master it overnight. For our first discussion, please take your paper copies and mark the words and phrases that are interesting or difficult. Here are some basic question we want to apply to both the Russian and English reviews of the novel over our next two or three classes:
  1. What are the special characteristics of a book review?
  2. Based on these reviews, what is the theme or plot of this novel? How is it organized?
  3. What are three unusual features of this novel?
  4. What important questions of life might be touched on by this novel?
  5. (If you have not already read it) ... Are you interested in reading this novel? Why or why not?

Friday, March 10, 2017

More space news: Илон Маск анонсировал полет двух туристов к Луне

Газета 401В

(Link to full article.)

Please be ready to discuss this article in English. Among the questions we might consider:

  • Briefly, what is the "news" in this news story?
  • What is the most memorable aspect or detail of this story?
  • What aspect of the story would you like to know in more detail?
  • Can you detect any enthusiasm or skepticism on the part of the writer?
  • Do you have any interest in becoming a space tourist?
  • What is the voice and register of this article?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book review: Лавр, Евгений Водолазкин


(Link to the full text of the review.) Be ready to summarize and evaluate this review in English. (Group 401 will discuss this text next Tuesday, but evening classes have a bit longer to think about the assignment.)

As you read this review, see if you can find phrases and terms that belong particularly to this genre of writing. How would you render them in English? If you're not sure, bring them to class and we'll discuss them.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"When a Man Loves a Woman"

Remastered and remixed version:

Original recording:

Purchase link.

When a man loves a woman
Can't keep his mind on nothing else
He'll trade the world
For the good thing he's found
If she's bad he can't see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He'd give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that's the way it ought to be

Well, this man loves a woman
I gave you everything I had
Trying to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don't treat me bad

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He's the last one to know
Loving eyes can't ever see

When a man loves a woman
He can do no wrong
He can never own some other girl
Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
'Cause baby, baby, baby, you're my world

When a man loves a woman ...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Emerging Adults" -- phrases and metaphors

Here is the presentation we made to the workshop this past Monday:

The text of the original article is here. The highlighted version we distributed in the workshop can be downloaded here (PDF file).

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Girls' Life and Boys Life--a fair comparison?


You can read the full story (with link to the Facebook post that started the debate) here. You can download our classroom version here (PDF format). is an online service which many people use to check whether an urban legend, scandalous news story, or viral e-mail campaign is true, partly true, or false. You can read more about their philosophy and methods on their glossary and frequently asked questions pages. Group 401 will digest this article on March 7, and 401V and 501 at a later date.

Useful words and phrases in the article:

more to the story
to feature
disparity, disparate
to treat
side by side
to go viral
purported, to purport to
to convey
sample size
at the expense of
tacit, tacitly
body acceptance
to be tucked (plus preposition)
to dig deeper
to unearth
to boost
general interest (adj.)
trade magazine
to further
despite appearances
to navigate
to shame
gender binary

Monday, February 27, 2017

"U.S. presidential race goes down the drain" - presentation on phrases and metaphors

Here is the presentation Judy gave last week at the instructors' workshop:

The PDF file of the BBC article with these terms highlighted can be downloaded from here.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two space cargo ships arrive at the International Space Station


To follow up our Christmas Dinner at the ISS article and the story of the "hidden figure" Katherine Johnson, here's an up-to-date story on these past two busy days at the Space Station.

The full article is here. We'll discuss the article next week in group 401, and somewhat later in group 501 (evening).

Here are some useful words and phrases we'll discuss in class:

it's not quite ...
Amazon Prime
to abort (technology)
to pay off (intransitive)
to scuttle
to snag
to check in on
hot on smb/smth’s tail
count (noun)
to staff (vs to man)
to boast (transitive)
does not / doesn’t / do not / don’t come cheap
on the rise
makes it / doesn’t make it
to pay off
capture (noun)
to leap into action