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