Lessons in the "2017" Category

Fidget spinners: The latest fad for kids, but banned in many schools

Today, let’s talk about fidget spinners. They are the huge new fad for kids at school. Their popularity is sweeping across countries and continents, not to mention school playgrounds.

Fidget spinners are this year’s must have toy. Many adults are confused by their sudden popularity. That’s probably why they’re so popular with kids.

What are fidget spinners? Well, they’re sort of triangular in shape, with three-pronged circles or bearings that spin around a central one. They are palm-sized. What’s more, they’re cheap, so kids can carry round a pocketful of them.

The Millennium Snowflake or Generation Snowflake

Today, let’s talk about the Millennium Snowflake or Generation Snowflake. These phrases refer to the current young generation. They are used to characterise young people of the 2010s, who, it appears, are more prone to taking offence than their peers.

Snowflakes are said to be less resilient than previous generations. They can be emotionally vulnerable to cope with views that challenge their own thinking. Snowflakes are said to be delicate and unique. They are furiously intolerant of those who dare to challenge them. To be fair, the term Generation Snowflake is a bit derogatory. It originated in the United States. Snowflake Generation is a slang term that made the Collins Dictionary 2016 edition.

NHS in the UK held to ransom by ransomware

Last week, in the UK, the NHS (National Health Service) was held to ransom by malware stolen from the NSA (National Security Agency), in America. The Nissan car plant in Sunderland was also hit by the hackers.

The virus was unleashed across the world and spread at unprecedented speed. So far, more than 99 countries have been affected, with more than 57,000 victims. The virus, known as WannaCry, and variants of that name, has spread itself across the world, using email.

The ransomware software encrypts files. It then asks for a digital ransom of US$300, to be paid by Bitcoin, before control is safely returned.

Junker: English is losing its importance in Europe. Is it true?

Last week, the President of the European Union, Jean Claude Juncker, said English is losing its importance in Europe. He made the remark, at a meeting of European diplomats and experts in Florence, Italy. Is it true?

Junker said, “Slowly but surely, English is losing importance in Europe. The French will have elections on Sunday, and I would like them to understand what I am saying.” He then switched into French for the rest of his speech. Whilst this might have been done to please the French voters ahead of the election, it is a fair point he raises, and to debate now.

Prince Philip to retire

Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, is to retire from public engagements from the autumn of this year. The announcement was made at Buckingham Palace yesterday.

When someone said to the Duke, who is 95, “I’m sorry to hear you’re standing down, sir,” he replied, in his typically humorous way, “Well, I can’t stand up much longer!”

The decision was made by Prince Philip himself. Her Majesty the Queen has given her husband her ‘full support’ to step down. He will be 96 in June.

May Day celebrations in Europe

Today, let’s talk about how May Day is celebrated in some parts of Europe. For many, it is a traditional workers' holiday.

In Greece, one of the more popular activities on May Day is fire jumping. This is done after the sun sets. Women dance around the lit fire. The children wet their clothes and hair, before jumping over the fire. It is a symbolic act, to keep away winter and disease. Another popular tradition is picking flowers, and creating a May Day wreath, to hang on their doors. It is meant to bring people closer to nature.

In France, May Day is really a day off for its workers. French people like to give family and friends little sprigs, bouquets, or even whole plants of lily of the valley, for good luck. The more bell-like the flower, the better the luck.

UK to hold General Election on June 8

British Prime Minister Theresa May has announced there will be a general election in the UK on June 8. Her decision to hold a snap election comes after she repeatedly claimed she was initially against the idea. She said that her change of mind is because opposition parties, and unelected peers in the House of Lords, were jeopardising her government’s preparations for Brexit.

The Prime Minister said, “We need a general election, and we need one now.” She added, “I have only recently and reluctantly come to this conclusion. But now, I have concluded, it is the only way to guarantee certainty for the years ahead.”

The United Airlines fiasco: Passenger dragged off flight

Today, we are going to talk about the extraordinary news story, of an airline passenger, who was dragged, yelling, off a United Airlines flight in America. Three other passengers, on flight 3411 from Chicago, were also ejected, so four-crew could take their seats, to connect them onto other flights.

Dr David Dao, 69, was forcibly ejected from the plane he was on, in Chicago. His crime? To book a seat with United Airlines, sit in it, and expect them to honour its side of the contract. When no one agreed to give up their seats, four passengers were randomly selected to be removed.

Doors

Today’s English lesson, about doors, is inspired by one of my students, who happened to be looking at a door, when asked for a topic of conversation.

You’d be surprised what you can say about doors. For starters, there are several different shapes of door. Most doors are rectangular. Some are double-opening doors. They can be made of glass, wood, wood panelling, plastic, or uPVC. A good joiner can make a handmade door, though, many doors today are manufactured in a factory. There are also aluminium and steel doors. Wooden doors can be painted, stained or polished.

Spring

Today, we are going to talk about spring. It is one of the four seasons. Spring follows on from winter and precedes summer. The other season being autumn. Spring starts when the equinox is 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. In the UK, and Europe, spring is when the clocks go forward one hour.

Originally, spring was called Lent. In the 14th century that time of year was called springing time. This being a reference to plants springing from the ground. In the 15th century, it got shortened to spring-time. In the 16th century, it got further shortened to spring.