Intermediate Speaking

Intermediate Speaking

Week 1 and Week 2:

The TOEFL test:

Most of the students that enroll in this class have never taken the TOEFL test, so the most important thing to understand is: what is it?
The next most important thing is most likely: how can I get the score that I need on it?

The first question is very simple, it is an international test that is meant to reflect a person’s English ability.  The format has been established by an organization and is a standardized test which is used primarily to measure non-native speaker’s readiness for university.  Thus, its content is very academically oriented.
The second question is more complicated as it requires breaking down the different types of questions, instructions and tasks and well as analyzing the different skills required by the student to master them.  The most common difficulty that students have in the speaking section of the test (which we focus on in this class), is dealing with the time limit.  There are various reasons for this, which will be dealt with in class, but practice is the main ingredient that is required to improve an individual’s response time.  Below is a link to a full set of sample questions, which we call a ‘mock’ test/exam.  Looking over it, slowly creating good quality answers, reviewing them and then developing patterns that can be used to reduce the time taken to respond is one important way to deal with this obstacle to a good test score.  Please review the file below paying particular attention to the speaking section.



Homework for March 26th, 2018

Audio File Track 01

Audio File Track 02

Homework due 4/2/2018

Is industrialization progress?


The Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution propelled countries into the Modern Age, but at what cost?  The costs and benefits of the process, not just in Great Britain and the United States, but all around the world, have long been debated.  Often we are focused on the economics and technological changes that it brought about, but consider the two iconic pictures below and measure the effect on society and the environment as well.

One of the most important elements that contributed to the amazing increase in industrial capacity in the United Kingdom was iron-working.  This technology was also developed early on by the Swedish, but the British truly harnessed its strength by building machines of this new stronger material.  Eventually this would lead to steel production, which is pictured above, which required tools and machines made of iron to produce in any sizeable quantity.

Evolving Industries

Though long term the global consequences, good and bad, of the Industrial Revolution are obvious, the immediate effects on England and its people are less so.  This has long been a vexed question.  From the beginning there were enemies of the new economy, who attacked it on moral, social, aesthetic and eventually ideological grounds.  It was corrupting, encouraging luxury and vice; it was disruptive and ugly.  Others had praised “commercial society,” most famously the Scottish philosophers David Hume and Adam Smith, who asserted that the new economy remedied poverty and unemployment and its “obvious and simple system of natural liberty” provided the basis for a peaceful, civilized, cooperative and stable society.  Individual self-betterment would serve the general good as if by “an invisible hand”: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, or the b


aker, that we expect our dinner, but form their regard to their own self-interest” So economic freedom was not only right, it was also productive.  Oppression and slavery were not only wrong, but also inefficient.  Pessimistic and optimistic interpretations have continued ever since, and have shaped English social and political ideas.[1]

To give a balanced answer to this question is very difficult no matter who much analysis is done as the Industrial Revolution was a “soft revolution” that occurred gradually over time, which in this book has been labeled “evolution.”  Some on the changes and processes are still ongoing today and economists, historians and sociologists the world over are now fond of dividing it into stages.[2]  It is also a matter of prioritizing economic development over social and environmental preservation if one is to examine rapid industrial development with a more positive perspective, so there will likely never be a proper consensus on the subject.  However; if there is any criticism that sticks on this subject it is that debate over its adverse effects on the majority of people in terms of social welfare, health and quality of life:

The fundamental question is whether the Industrial Revolution improved or damaged the lives of the English people as a whole.  “Optimists” could point to the undeniable increase in living standards that took place—eventually.  They inferred that technology and increased economic activity must have increased wealth.  “Pessimists” argue that industrialization for many decades brought workers little


but cost them much—loss of independence and self-respect, devaluation of skills, deteriorating health, high mortality, bad food, crushing labour (for men, women and children), and destruction of cherished customary rights and community traditions.  In short, the Industrial Revolution created an impoverished, downtrodden and embittered proletariat, ground down by the power of money and the oppression of the ruling classes, and forced by long and bitter struggle to assert their meagre rights to a share in national wealth.[3]



This factory could be considered the great grandchild of its smaller, dirtier ancestors started in northern Europe.  Eventually the mass production started in the British Industrial Revolution took hold across Europe and then in North America.  Now the process continues in Asia, South America and Africa as nations continue to industrialize using ever increasing amounts of energy and doing ever more damage to the environment at the same time.

[1] Howard Zinn. A People’s History of the United States. p. 379

[2] By the reckoning of Klaus Schwab that has been popularized in the twentyfirst century, we are now entering the fourth industrial revolution.

[3] Howard Zinn. A People’s History of the United States. p. 379


Preparation for Class: 4/9/2018

Reading passage:
A university has announced a new scholarship opportunity on its website. You will have
45 seconds to read the announcement. Begin reading now.

New Scholarship Offers Opportunity to Study in Rome

  The university is pleased to offer an exciting new opportunity for students in the
Romance Languages department. The prestigious Buonocore Scholarship allows
students to study tuition-free for two semesters in Rome. Students must submit an essay
exploring a specific aspect of Italian culture to the selection committee. They must also
submit a detailed plan explaining how a year in Italy would provide the opportunity to
further research and improve the essay. Please note that students in departments other
than Romance Languages are ineligible for this opportunity.

Audio File


Directions: Prepare a response to the following.
The female student expresses her opinion about why she disagrees with the university’s
new policy. State her opinion and explain the reasons she gives for holding that opinion.
Preparation time: 30 seconds
Response time: 60 seconds



The Audio Script:

Now listen to two students discussing the announcement.

Female Student
I think it’s totally unfair that the Buonocore Scholarship is only being offered to students in the Romance
Languages department. Like, it’s an amazing opportunity, and it’s SAD to see it monopolized in this way.
Male Student
Is it really such a bad thing to limit the scholarship to one department, though? I mean, uhh… the fewer
students compete for the prize, err… the easier it will be for students like US to win it. After all, there are only
seven other students in the whole Romance Languages department besides us.
Female Student
That doesn’t change the fact that it’s wrong for the scholarship to be limited to our single department. It’s a
matter of principle. First of all, there are students in other departments, like History and Classics and
Renaissance studies, all of whom… all of whom would definitely benefit from a year in Italy. Why shouldn’t
THEY get a chance to submit their work to the committee?
Male Student
But if they also submitted their essays, it would be harder for US to get the prize.
Female student
Look, just because something benefits me personally doesn’t make me think that it’s right. I mean, I have a lot
of FRIENDS in History and Classics and Renaissance Studies, and I totally agree with them that it’s wrong for
them to be…ineligible to compete for the scholarship. After all, Romance Languages is a very SMALL
department, and it seems abusive for us to keep this resource all to ourselves.
Male Student
I guess I see where you’re coming from.
Female Student
Also, I think that it TAKES SOMETHING AWAY from the honor of winning a scholarship if the competition isn’t
very strong. I’d rather know that I earned the opportunity to study in Rome by competing against the very best
students… instead of thinking that I was only honored because other talented people were unnecessarily
EXCLUDED from the process.



Is Industrialization Progress?

A sample positive response:

Industrialization is progress because it improves the capacity of human beings to increase power and production.

Through the development of ever more complex technology, larger machines and tools can be built that would not exist otherwise.  These factories, machines and processes use energy and provide the power to make the things that we need.

Another aspect of industrialization that is positive is the production rate.  Mass production has allowed us to build, create and provide all manner of products to millions of people, which was never possible before.

This is why, despite its other shortcomings, industrialization should be considered progress.


Homework due 4/23/2018

Step 3 – first audio file

Step 4 – second audio file


Class Preparation for the in class test question 4/30/2014

You can either read it here, or follow this link:

The in class test question will follow a lecture on the topic.  The object will be to make an argument that supports federalism.  Reading the following article will provide you with some background knowledge that will help you choose your reasons and argue effectively.


The Federalism Debate

Why the Idea of National Education Standards Is Crossing Party Lines

March 14, 2006

The debate over federalism in education once followed a simple storyline: Liberals wanted a strong federal role, and conservatives supported “states’ rights.” The No Child Left Behind Act scrambled those sides. A Republican president championed massive new federal demands on schools, and some Democrats, like Howard Dean, derided the federal invasion of local authority.

The confusion will continue, as attention moves to another controversial idea: revising the No Child Left Behind law to establish national standards and tests. The loudest proponents of this idea are conservative accountability advocates such as Chester E. Finn Jr. and Diane Ravitch. But the progressive Center for American Progress, where I work, also supports national standards. The old right, when it engages, is sure to be apoplectic.

It isn’t only education that has mixed up the teams. The Bush administration has recently tried to override state prerogatives on issues as diverse as end-of-life medical treatment, the definition of marriage, and tort law. Many liberals have sharply criticized all of these efforts in the terms conservatives once used: Washington is “overreaching” on “state issues.”

Emerson said that a “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Is consistency in federalism the hobgoblin of little policy wonks? Or, more to the point, is federalism a ploy rather than a principle, invoked in service of other ends rather than valued for its own sake?

No to both. Details matter. There are good reasons for assigning some roles, but not others, to each layer of government. The right results depend on a complex of moral, legal, and practical judgments. Those judgments support national standards in education—even as they undercut many of President Bush’s other nationalization initiatives.

The Values Dimension. When the nation is divided on a controversial moral question, state control can satisfy local majorities. If most Oregonians believe in euthanasia, for example, that’s an argument for letting them have euthanasia—without imposing the same law in Alabama. But it is hard to imagine that different state education standards reflect different state attitudes. According to Ms. Ravitch, five states have aligned their standards with the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ challenging ones: Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Carolina, and Wyoming. (“Commentary: National Standards: ’50 Standards for 50 States’ Is a Formula for Incoherence and Obfuscation,” Jan. 5, 2006.) These states appear to have nothing at all in common.

Is consistency in federalism the hobgoblin of little policy wonks?

National definition makes more sense for non-negotiable aspects of national citizenship. While it is hard to get too worked up if different states want different standards for barbershop licensure, Southern states’ Jim Crow laws clashed with America’s constitutional commitment to equal citizenship. Education, too, is at the center of national citizenship. As the constitutional-law specialist Goodwin Liu has argued, the place of education in our national identity was recognized in Reconstruction and reaffirmed when Brown v. Board of Education called education “the very foundation of good citizenship.” In the half-century since Brown, education has become only more important in a global economy driven by knowledge and skills. More than ever, the basic skills needed in Maine are also needed in Montana. Education also matters for national greatness: The more individuals learn, the more wealth they can create for America. So it is right for our national leaders to define core goals for public schools and to hold them accountable for achieving them. (And as part of the same conversation, it would also be right to reconsider a school financing regime that leads to vast funding inequities both within states and between states.)

The Practical Dimension. State control makes some sense when states compete to provide the best possible services. Such competition occurs when, for example, states modify their laws to prevent doctors from leaving for better practice environments. Here federalism provides some restraint on the kinds of abuse that worry tort reformers.

But the No Child Left Behind law has created downward pressure on states. It demands that states enable virtually all students to achieve “proficiency” by 2014, but then fails to define what “proficiency” means. This is like a parent demanding that her child get a 95 percent on her next math test, but then saying she can take the test in calculus, or algebra, or arithmetic. States have maximized their scores by defining proficiency down. That foils the law’s core goals of encouraging excellence and holding schools accountable for achieving it.

National standards could encourage the right kind of competition. If the federal government rewarded states that improved their performance, states would seek to outbid each other to recruit teachers and offer extracurricular enrichment. That’s the race to the top we want.

State control also makes sense when states can teach us new things as “laboratories of democracy.” Many people in principle support a broad right to die, but worry that legalizing assisted suicide will bring terrible pressure on sick patients to end their own lives. Oregon is testing that proposition.

The No Child Left Behind law has already limited state variation by requiring testing and defining adequate yearly progress. That reduction in experimentation is a loss that can only be justified by better outcomes and more transparency. But the law hasn’t achieved its own promise of transparency: Because of different state standards, policymakers, administrators, and parents aren’t able to compare the performance of schools across states—or states against each other. National standards could produce more learning than federalism.

Without yielding many of federalism’s benefits, the No Child Left Behind law still has its typical cost: waste. We now spend more than half a billion dollars a year on tests required by the federal legislation. Much of that money is spent on variations of the same test. Yet a new report from Education Sector finds that even $500 million is not nearly enough to ensure that 50 states’ tests measure high-level skills rather than memorization. (“U.S. Should Do More to Aid States in Developing Tests, Report Says,” Feb. 1, 2006.) The weakness of the current tests fuels the most serious objections to No Child Left Behind. The same $500 million could help fund a single set of national tests far better than any we now have.

Without yielding many of federalism’s benefits, the No Child Left Behind law still has its typical cost: waste.

The biggest practical concern about national standards is also the simplest: that the federal government will blow it. That’s reasonable, especially under an administration that seems to live from debacle to debacle, from Katrina response to prescription-drug benefit. A bad testing regime in Utah ruins standards in Utah, but a bad national system can ruin them for everyone.

But this practical concern should be met by practical responses, of the sort our government has regularly used. Although states should be encouraged through financial incentives to adopt standards, there should remain an opportunity to opt out. An apolitical institution like the National Academies should be responsible for developing standards and tests. Generous funding should be provided to develop standards and tests that measure the high-level capacities we want schools to foster. And any standards should be tested locally before being implemented nationally. Under enormous public scrutiny, the standards-setting process can succeed.

The Political Issue. If the risk of uniformity is the biggest practical concern, the biggest political problem is a sound bite: National standards means a “national school board.” But already today, establishing standards isn’t a local school board function. It is a state function—and must be, if the standards are to be uniform statewide. Keeping the definition of standards in an out-of-touch state capital, rather than an out-of-touch national capital, hardly adds to community involvement.

There is no contradiction between setting broad goals nationally and giving communities more freedom to achieve those goals. So if we want to foster genuine local control of schools, there is plenty we could do—from expanding charter schools, to encouraging more parental involvement, to bringing more decisionmaking about personnel within the schoolhouse. Today, one obstacle to sound community engagement is the shortage of good information about how educators are performing. National standards and tests would help supply that information. If national standards can facilitate community control, there may be something here for everybody.

Vol. 25, Issue 27, Pages 35, 48


5/17 – First Test and Material for Test 2

This morning we will be discussing the benefits of federally run education.  The government has proposed a national system and we will be looking at how that could be implemented in a positive way.  The first thing about the national system is that it would centralize and standardize education across the whole country.  One of the problems with state run systems is that there is less consistency from state to state, but a nationwide education system would increase the synchronization of schools.  In this way, standards for testing, grading and curriculum would be more effective.  Secondly, the funding for education comes from the ministry in the federal government, so it would be more efficient to have the system managed directly.  Complicated bureaucracy is not only slow and contains a red tape, it is more expensive.  The money and time that is saved by eliminating these impediments to education management could be put to better use in the school system.  From this perspective on federal education, one can see how our schools could be managed more effectively.


Here is a link that provides more than enough background information for the next question’s topic.  Remember it will be based on the Q6 Lecture format and do not memorize content from the article, just use it to prepare yourself to be attentive and efficient when answering the question in class.

National Geographic Endangered Species Information

May 21st, 2018 – Second test transcript:

Endangered species are an important aspect of civil responsibility, not only for moral reasons, but for the conservation of our environment.  Efforts to preserve habitat and protect the bio-diversity of other species has direct benefits for humanity too.  So what kinds of questions should be asked in order to promote awareness of the risks to animals and the environment?  We will outline several important questions here:

First, what does it mean that a species or animal is endangered?

Second, what are some animals you think are threatened or endangered?

Third, what factors cause an animal to become endangered?

Asking these questions leads us down the road to root causes and helps promote activism as well as awareness of the importance of animals in our ecosystems.

May 28th, 2018

No further assignments or tests are due this semester.  Below is a mock exam for studying and preparation, along with a short description of the question types.


Final Exam Information


Final Exam Date and Time: 10:00 AM, June 11, 2018


The Final Exam Format

Part A: Listening

Length: 20 minutes

Value: 40 points (4×10)

Taken from TOEFL Q1-6

Questions 1, 2: Conversation based audio, Problem/Solution answer

Questions 3,4: Lecture based audio, Summarize



Part B: Reading

Length: 40 minutes

Value: (6×10) 60 points

Question 1: Keywords, re-write passage

Sample Question: p. 42

Question 2: Main idea, support

Sample Question: p.110

Question 3: (3 short questions) Respond to Questions

Question 4: (3 short questions) Respond to Information Provided

Question 5: Describe a picture

Question 6: Express an opinion (agree or disagree)


Total: (10×10 points) 100 points


Sample Questions for 3-6 of the reading section:

Question 3 Sample Questions:


Imagine that a friend is talking to you on the phone.  You are talking about movies.

  1.  What movie did you watch most recently
  2. That sounds fun.  How and where did you watch it?
  3. I’m going to see a movie this weekend.  Can you recommend a good place to watch it?

Question 4 Sample Questions:

Three questions will be asked like the ones based on the table in the sample below:

Questions 5 Sample Question:

Describe the picture in 30 seconds (in our test you will have about 5 minutes and should write a short paragraph of 4-6 sentences).

Question  6 Sample Question:

For new employees, it is more important to get acquainted with colleagues and supervisors over doing anything else.