Saturday, 3 October 2009

Under-Utilised Language Resource Available near YOU!

In your house I am certain that you have an under-utilised resource to help with your English language learning. I imagine that you have ten, twenty, thirty or even more of these. 'What are you talking about Dave?' I hear you cry. I am talking about DVDs.
If you're anything like me then you buy a DVD of a film you saw at the cinema and really liked or one that a friend said was good, watch it twice at the most, then stick it on the shelf to join the collection. Occasionally you lend them to friends... and that's it. What a waste. If English is not your first language you may have either been watching a dubbed version or watching a version with subtitles in your own language. No!!!!
By all means watch it the first time in your L1 (first language), but any subsequent viewings should be done in English. You have an exam to pass here, and a vital component part of that is listening. Often, but sadly not always, you have the option to have subtitles too. In English. Do that! If you have a choice go for the subtitles for the hearing impaired, as for some reason they often seem to be better and more accurate than regular subtitles. So, get the popcorn, sit back and watch your film. Enjoy, and all the while your brain picks up new language and helps absorb the language you already know all the more.

Answers to the crossword/Article needed for crossword

I'll give you answers to the crossword in a little while. The words are in the text but you may have to change them a little (you'll see what I mean when you do it). As regards answers to the comprehension questions, post your answers in the comments section and I'll write my thoughts on them there. Do so anonymously if you've any concerns or worries.

I just checked the link and it didn't seem to work. Therefore I'll put the article in here. This article is from the Economist.

Omar Bongo

ON THE Atlantic coast of Gabon, white sand beaches slope out into the ocean. That sand, in which few tourists leave their footprints, was Omar Bongo’s. Elephants and buffalo stroll down to the water, and leatherback turtles make their nests: his elephants, his buffalo, his turtles. Oil rigs and gas flares punctuate the horizon: his oil, 3.2 billion barrels in proven reserves. Eastwards, the silver carriages of the world’s most expensive railway rattle five times a week through his hardwood forests between Libreville, the capital, and Franceville, in his homeland, carrying loads of his manganese or piled high with his okoumé and ozigo logs, bound mostly for China.

Mr Bongo made no distinction between Gabon and his private property. He had ruled there so long, 42 years, that they had become one. It was therefore perfectly natural that an oil company, granted a large concession for coastal drilling, should slip him regular suitcases stuffed with cash. It was natural that $2.6m in aid money should be used to decorate his private jet, that government funds should pay for the Italian marble cladding his palace, and that his wife Edith’s sea-blue Maybach, in which she was driven round Paris, should be paid for with a cheque drawn on the Gabonese treasury. Of the $130m in his personal accounts at Citibank in New York, it was probable—though Citibank never asked, and nobody ever managed to pin a charge on him—that much of it was derived from the GDP of his country.

The suggestion of fiddling public finances flummoxed and infuriated him. Corruption, he once explained to a reporter, was not an African word. No more was nepotism: he simply looked after his family, supplying them with villas in Nice as well as the ministries of defence and foreign affairs. When French judges in 2009 froze nine of his 70 bank accounts, he was outraged. An attack on him was obviously an attempt to destabilise his country. He was equally indignant when in 2004, after a “Miss Humanity” pageant was held in Libreville, Miss Peru charged him with sexual harassment for summoning her to the palace and, he hoped, to his nifty behind-the-panelling bed. If something was in Gabon, by nature or chance, he évidemment had first dibs on it.

France, the ex-colonial power in Gabon, went along with this. Mr Bongo, though short, was every inch a Francophile, from his platform heels through the immaculate tailoring to his gravelly-but-grammatical French. Their bargain, too, was a neat one. He allowed the French to take his oil and wood; they subsidised and protected him. At various times through his long political career, when opposition elements got brash or multi-party democracy, which he allowed after 1993, became too lively, the French military base in Libreville would turn out the paratroopers for him. In France, to which he went as often as he could, he had his choice of 39 properties, four of them on the Avenue Foch in Paris, in which to hobnob with the cream of the Elysée. Swanning round as he did, paying for everything with crisp wads of notes, he naturally funnelled money to French politicians, right or left, who caught his eye. When Valéry Giscard d’Estaing complained about Gabonese funding of his rival, Jacques Chirac, Mr Bongo once again failed to grasp what he objected to.
Dirt roads and champagne

At home, since Gabon was his, he cosseted it one moment and ravaged it the next. In 2002 he created 13 national parks, but the trees and even the waterfalls could go for a consideration. His lordly airs were impressive for a farmer’s son from Lewai (now Bongoville), the youngest of at least nine children, born “without a cot or a nanny”, as he boasted on his website, and whose expectations under French rule had extended no further than working in the post office. Usefulness and scheming got him right to the top, to become President Léon M’ba’s right-hand man and, when M’ba died in 1967, president himself; as well as minister of defence, interior, information and planning.

Gabon’s riches eased his way at every turn. A timber concession here, a stretch of paved road or a Bongo stadium there, disarmed anyone who objected to his way of doing things. Even Pierre Mamboundou, his most diligent opponent, was soothed after many years with $21.5m spent on his constituency. Business visitors to the capital found it chic, feudal and hospitable, like an Arab emirate; in Mr Bongo’s time, Gabon’s consumption of champagne was said to be the highest in the world. Everyone could be suborned or sweetened except his first wife, Joséphine, who became a pop singer after the divorce and sang cutting songs about her young replacement.

Outside the glamour of Libreville, where the M’bolo hypermarché offered shining shelves of fine wines and best French cheese, a third of his people travelled on back-breaking roads between villages without clinics, subsisting on cassava and fishing. But Mr Bongo brought decades of tranquillity, a rare enough commodity in Central Africa; order, and prosperity for a close and favoured few. So on June 11th hundreds of Gabonese lined up, clutching his portrait, outside the presidential palace where, in a flower-filled chapel, he lay in state, rather small in his coffin, in the country that was his.

An Exercise to Practice - Advanced or Proficiency

Follow the Link to get the Economist's obituary of Omar Bongo.

Above there is a crossword. Beware. It is not easy.

Here are five comprehension questions to answer:

What is the writer’s attitude to Mr Bongo? What words illustrate this?

Mr Bongo says ‘corruption is not an African word’. What does he mean by this?

Why was France so willing to allow the success of Mr Bongo?

What is your opinion regarding these quasi-colonial relationships between powers and developing nations? Explain your answer.

Were there any positive aspects to Mr Bongo’s reign? Why do I describe it as a reign and not term of office or tenure?


1. (5,4,3) Second in Command?

5. (4,8) Very difficult, Hard work

9. A minder for the baby

10. The amount of oil held in potentia by a company or country in the ground

11. practical, fast or handy

15. Adj - loud, audacious, uncivilised?

17. Verb - understand or grab?

18. adjective - terse and satorial. Sarcastic?

19. Verb- to move around in an untroubled air like royalty


2. Verb - to meet and associate with rich and powerful people

3. Adj - Annoyed and surprised by an accusation

4. Verb in the infinitive - to corrupt, cheat or steal

6. An African cereal crop

7. A two word phrase (5,4) that means priority

8. A lover of France

12. to confuse and baffle

13. Surface paneling, often made of stone

14. An African hardwood

16. Overly favouring one's family, usually by giving jobs to them

18. A Baby's bed