Sunday, December 29, 2013

Quoting Mandela

Nelson Mandela - who passed away in December of 2013 - was a man known around the world for his lifelong commitment to the cause of the racial equality and later, to achieving reconciliation between two deeply disparate groups of people in the nation of South Africa.

Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison before becoming the first black president of South Africa was also deeply committed to education and its importance in creating a better tomorrow for our world.

On occasion of his recent departure, as English users we will share with you some of his most memorable quotes. These are great to discuss in your English classes or with other English users, especially because all of them go far beyond the situation in South Africa. Additionally, to add a linguistic dimension, we added some language points about each quote.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
  • Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
    • Here the word is "education" is used as a metaphor. Metaphors are rhetorical devices that transfer the sense or aspects of one word to another.
  • If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.
    • A powerful message involving the zero conditional. 
  • There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.
    • to play small  (idiom) = to be mediocre or not try very hard
  • I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.
    • whether = regardless of if
  • It always seems impossible until its done.
    • adverbs of frequency (always) go before single verbs
EXERCISE (Optional): Explain what Mandela is trying to say and add a specific example.

For a brief biography on the life of this iconic leader, we recommend you watch the following mini biography.

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Friday, November 29, 2013

What If JFK Lived? 2nd & 3rd Conditionals

As many English Users may have heard, the month of November marks the 50th Anniversary of the tragic assassination of John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States. Kennedy was the youngest man elected to that office and also the youngest to die in it. In fact, many historical experts believe that November 22, 1963 was a day that changed the course of the 20th century, much like 9/11 was a day that changed the course of the 21st century.

JFK, as he was known, who was of Irish Catholic descent and a hero in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Although he was one of the most charismatic and popular presidents of the United States, he actually presided over the White House during the turbulent early 1960s.

Kennedy was considered one the leaders of the social challenges in the struggle known as the Civil Rights Movement. He was also a president who had to confront and make tough decisions during the height of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. He created the most important Space Program in US History. And many believe it was Kennedy who averted World War III during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962.

Nevertheless, his short and intense presidency ended in Dallas in November of 1963, victim of a plot that some believe remains unsolved to this day.

So as we review history as English Users, we can practice the Conditionals and ask: What if Kennedy survived Dallas? Now, in case you don't recall, we use the second conditional to speak of things which are either improbable or imaginary with a result in the present. The construction is as follows:

past simpleWOULD + base verb
IfJFK survived Dallashe would be less popular than today.

Curiously, addressing that same question is a recent book titled If Kennedy Lived written by author Jeff Greenfield. So as this is a work of speculative history, the situation also lends itself to further speculation and for that we need the third conditional, which allows us to wonder alternative possibilities, with a different result, but this time in the past.

Past PerfectWOULD HAVE + Past Participle
IfJFK had survived DallasAmericans would have reelected him the following year.

What would have happened if JFK had survived? Want to practice conditionals? Try to see if you could you write three more examples in second conditional and three more in third conditional speculating a different outcome for JFK and maybe, the world.

Some good clues or ideas might be provided by knowing what he did during his time in office. The following documentary deals with that. If you have some time, English Users, you might want to check it out:

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Celebrate Malala Day

If you've been paying attention to international news over the past two years, then you probably know who Malala is. If you're not sure, she's that the Pakistani girl whose name and message has gone around the world. And there is a great reason why.

Malala who is only 16 and speaks spotless English gave one of the greatest speeches and messages about peace, tolerance and the importance of education as means to achieve both that world has ever heard.

We invite you to watch Malala's speech to the United Nations - on her 16th birthday, July 12th, 2013 - a day the UN dubbed "Malala Day". Of course, as English users, this is also a great opportunity to practice Listening Comprehension and at the end of the transcript, to answer the questions about Malala's speech.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 for demanding education for girls, gave a speech at the United Nations on her 16th birthday on Friday, where she spoke about the importance of education. 

Here is the full text of her speech: 

"In the name of God, The Most Beneficent, The Most Merciful. Honourable UN Secretary General Mr Ban Ki-moon, Respected President General Assembly Vuk Jeremic Honourable UN envoy for Global education Mr Gordon Brown, Respected elders and my dear brothers and sisters; Today, it is an honour for me to be speaking again after a long time. Being here with such honourable people is a great moment in my life. 

I don't know where to begin my speech. I don't know what people would be expecting me to say. But first of all, thank you to God for whom we all are equal and thank you to every person who has prayed for my fast recovery and a new life. I cannot believe how much love people have shown me. I have received thousands of good wish cards and gifts from all over the world. Thank you to all of them. Thank you to the children whose innocent words encouraged me. Thank you to my elders whose prayers strengthened me. I would like to thank my nurses, doctors and all of the staff of the hospitals in Pakistan and the UK and the UAE government who have helped me get better and recover my strength.

I fully support Mr Ban Ki-moon the Secretary-General in his Global Education First Initiative and the work of the UN Special Envoy Mr Gordon Brown. And I thank them both for the leadership they continue to give. They continue to inspire all of us to action. 

Dear brothers and sisters, do remember one thing. Malala Day is not my day. Today is the day of every woman, every boy and every girl who have raised their voice for their rights. There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them. So here I stand.... one girl among many. 

I speak - not for myself, but for all girls and boys. I raise up my voice - not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. Those who have fought for their rights: Their right to live in peace. Their right to be treated with dignity. Their right to equality of opportunity. Their right to be educated. Dear Friends, on the 9th of October 2012, the Taliban shot me on the left side of my forehead. They shot my friends too. They thought that the bullets would silence us. But they failed. And then, out of that silence came, thousands of voices. The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: Weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born. I am the same Malala. My ambitions are the same. My hopes are the same. My dreams are the same. 

Dear sisters and brothers, I am not against anyone. Neither am I here to speak in terms of personal revenge against the Taliban or any other terrorists group. I am here to speak up for the right of education of every child. I want education for the sons and the daughters of all the extremists especially the Taliban. 

I do not even hate the Talib who shot me. Even if there is a gun in my hand and he stands in front of me. I would not shoot him. This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad-the prophet of mercy, Jesus christ and Lord Buddha. This is the legacy of change that I have inherited from Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali Jinnah. This is the philosophy of non-violence that I have learnt from Gandhi Jee, Bacha Khan and Mother Teresa. And this is the forgiveness that I have learnt from my mother and father. This is what my soul is telling me, be peaceful and love everyone. 

Dear sisters and brothers, we realise the importance of light when we see darkness. We realise the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realised the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns. The wise saying, "The pen is mightier than sword" was true. The extremists are afraid of books and pens. The power of education frightens them. They are afraid of women. The power of the voice of women frightens them. And that is why they killed 14 innocent medical students in the recent attack in Quetta. And that is why they killed many female teachers and polio workers in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa and FATA. That is why they are blasting schools every day. Because they were and they are afraid of change, afraid of the equality that we will bring into our society.

I remember that there was a boy in our school who was asked by a journalist, "Why are the Taliban against education?" He answered very simply. By pointing to his book he said, "A Talib doesn't know what is written inside this book." They think that God is a tiny, little conservative being who would send girls to the hell just because of going to school. 

The terrorists are misusing the name of Islam and Pashtun society for their own personal benefits. Pakistan is peace-loving democratic country. Pashtuns want education for their daughters and sons. And Islam is a religion of peace, humanity and brotherhood. Islam says that it is not only each child's right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility. 

Honourable Secretary General, peace is necessary for education. In many parts of the world especially Pakistan and Afghanistan; terrorism, wars and conflicts stop children to go to their schools. We are really tired of these wars. Women and children are suffering in many parts of the world in many ways. In India, innocent and poor children are victims of child labour. Many schools have been destroyed in Nigeria. People in Afghanistan have been affected by the hurdles of extremism for decades. Young girls have to do domestic child labour and are forced to get married at early age. Poverty, ignorance, injustice, racism and the deprivation of basic rights are the main problems faced by both men and women. 

Dear fellows, today I am focusing on women's rights and girls' education because they are suffering the most. There was a time when women social activists asked men to stand up for their rights. But, this time, we will do it by ourselves. I am not telling men to step away from speaking for women's rights rather I am focusing on women to be independent to fight for themselves. Dear sisters and brothers, now it's time to speak up. 

So today, we call upon the world leaders to change their strategic policies in favour of peace and prosperity. We call upon the world leaders that all the peace deals must protect women and children's rights. A deal that goes against the dignity of women and their rights is unacceptable. We call upon all governments to ensure free compulsory education for every child all over the world. We call upon all governments to fight against terrorism and violence, to protect children from brutality and harm. We call upon the developed nations to support the expansion of educational opportunities for girls in the developing world. We call upon all communities to be tolerant - to reject prejudice based on cast, creed, sect, religion or gender. To ensure freedom and equality for women so that they can flourish. We cannot all succeed when half of us are held back. We call upon our sisters around the world to be brave - to embrace the strength within themselves and realise their full potential. 

Dear brothers and sisters, we want schools and education for every child's bright future. We will continue our journey to our destination of peace and education for everyone. No one can stop us. We will speak for our rights and we will bring change through our voice. We must believe in the power and the strength of our words. Our words can change the world. Because we are all together, united for the cause of education. And if we want to achieve our goal, then let us empower ourselves with the weapon of knowledge and let us shield ourselves with unity and togetherness. 

Dear brothers and sisters, we must not forget that millions of people are suffering from poverty, injustice and ignorance. We must not forget that millions of children are out of schools. We must not forget that our sisters and brothers are waiting for a bright peaceful future. So let us wage a global struggle against illiteracy, poverty and terrorism and let us pick up our books and pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education First"


  1. According to Malala herself, what is Malala Day?
  2. Who does Malala speak for?
  3. Why is peace necessary for education?
  4. How should education be guaranteed according to Malala?
  5. According to the speaker, who must we not forget?

Monday, September 30, 2013

SEINFELD... Coach or First Class?

Back once again here on PLS English Users is one of the most iconic TV sitcoms ever. Seinfeld, a program whose own creator Jerry Seinfeld defined as "a show about nothing".

In every episode, New York stand-up comedian Jerry and his crazy friends George, Kramer and Elaine get into trouble doing something that for most of us would be routine.

In this post, we revisit a scene from the episode "The Airport" in order to practice idioms as well as do some listening comprehension.

And of course, to have a lot of fun. Here are the details.

  • Characters: Jerry, Elaine, the Ticket Lady
  • Key language items
    • Wait up: another way to say, "wait for me!"
    • Never be late: Never or Always + infinitive verb (when giving advice)
    • 'cuz ('cause): informal way to say "because"
    • flailing: moving arms up in the air in an uncontrolled manner
    • You wanna + do something (want to: giving advice)
    • make this plane (on time): another way to say "arrive to the plane on time before it departs".
    • make + a place (where you have to arrive to)
      • we’re not going to make this movie on time
      • we’re not going to make it
      • we’re not gonna make the ship. It’s too late.
      • we’re not gonna make the appointment on time.
    • You’ve gotta + do something (got to: giving advice)
    • we’ll take 'em = we will take them (deciding on a purchase, plural)
    • pick up
    • coach
  • Additional language items
    • You see?: Do you understand what I mean?
    • We're not going to sit together? (statement as a question, common in conversation especially when one speaker is surprised)
    • He’s supposed to + do something
    • You flew here coach. (noun as adverb)
    • If the plane crashes, everybody in first class is going to die, anyway. (first conditional)


SCENE from the TV sitcom “Seinfeld” / Episode: The Airport

SITUATION: Jerry and his friend Elaine are about to take a plane back to New York when they learn that their flight is overbooked. The airline offers them another option that creates a conflict between them.

(Jerry runs through the airport. Elaine tries to catch up with him)

ELAINE: Wait up!

JERRY: You see? Never be late for a plane with a girl. 'Cuz a girl runs like a girl-- with the little steps and the arms flailing out... You wanna make this plane, you've gotta run like a man! Get your knees up!

(at the ticket counter)

JERRY & ELAINE: The flight's been canceled?!?!

TICKET LADY: Everything into JFK's booked... No, wait-- I have two seats into Laguardia-- but they're not together. It's boarding right now.

JERRY: We'll take 'em!

ELAINE: We're not going to sit together?

JERRY: Well, so what? It's not that long-- you'll read.

ELAINE: Well, what about George? He's supposed to pick us up at Kennedy. /
JERRY: We'll call him...

ELAINE: There's no time.

JERRY: (There’s ) No time? [To ticket lady] Is there time?

TICKET LADY: There's no time.

JERRY: There's no time. All right, we'll call him from the plane.

TICKET LADY: I have one seat in first class, and one in coach. The price is the same since your flight was canceled.

(The two have that uncomfortable politeness that only comes about when you're down to the last piece of pizza. Jerry breaks the silence:)

JERRY: I'll take the first class.

ELAINE: Jerry!

JERRY: What?

ELAINE: Why should you get the first class?

JERRY: Elaine, have you ever flown first class?


JERRY: All right then. See? You won't know what you're missing. I've flown first class, Elaine-- I can't go back to coach. I can't... I won't...

ELAINE: You flew here coach.

JERRY: Yeah, that's a point...

ELAINE: All right, fine. I don't care. If the plane crashes, everybody in first class is going to die, anyway.

JERRY: Yeah, I'm sure you'll live.


ROLE PLAY: Practice this scene with a group of classmates trying to guess how the actors say their lines and then WATCH the real scene to compare.

REAL SCENE: This is the actual scene as it plays out with the real actors. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

PLS Workshops

Los invitamos a conocer todos nuestros Workshops específicos de inglés para profesionales.

Monday, July 22, 2013

METEGOL: The Movie Pixar Could Never Have Made

By Paul Ponce, PLS Teacher 

Dreams are the stuff great movies are made of. And the dreams that could be conjured up in the imagination of a little boy (or of a filmmaker who resonates with them) are the stuff that box office hits are made of.

Curiously enough, on this planet of over six billion, most boys dream about a sport played by 11 guys versus another 11 guys, where they kick a round leather ball around and try to score goals off each other.

I think you know which one I'm talking about, don't you?

(Reading Comprehension Questions + Glossary at the end)

That's why, it's thrilling to announce that from Academy Award-winning Argentine director Juan José Campanella (El Secreto de Sus Ojos, 2010) comes the story of a small town dreamer who challenges the odds and goes for glory with the help of 11 little friends who really know their game. The film is a co-production with Spain and is being internationally distributed by Universal.

So what's it all about?

From the time he was kid, young Amadeo had two passions, foosball and Laura, his best friend. And that was all nice and dandy until Grosso, the town bully, showed up and challenged Amadeo to a foosball match. Turns out it was a bad move for Grosso, as Amadeo skillfully put him to shame, while the girl of his dreams cheered on.

Flash forward a few years. Amadeo was still in love with foosball and Laura, even thought he had yet to tell her about it. Then out of the blue, Grosso, arrogant and cynical as ever, came back as a multimillionaire international soccer star with one clear intention: buying out the town and turning it into his own egocentric theme park. As bulldozers pulled into town, it was clear Amadeo was no match for his old nemesis. Until something changed...

Amadeo's foosball players came to life.

Cool, right? But what if you had to explain Foosball to someone unfamiliar with any of this? Maybe you could tell them this...

Foosball (also known as table football, footzy or bar football) is a popular table game in countries where soccer is played. Basically two players try to score goals off each other by shooting a pinball sized ball with the help of 22 figures resembling players fixed on bars that traverse a table. In Argentina where Campanella is from, the game is called "metegol" and every kid who's had a childhood has played it. There was always a metegol table at a local club or corner bar somewhere in town... in every town. Pretty much the same goes for the rest of the planet. Well, almost.

So there's a good chance that METEGOL, based on a short story by Argentine writer Roberto Fontanarrosa, will attract the attention of millions around the world who are passionate about the magic of "soccer", which - by the way, is actually known as "football" anywhere outside of the United States (and Australia).

Yet the fact that Americans for the most part consider this a "lesser" sport is not necessarily bad news. In an age of Hollywood big budget summer mega-flops, the suits will be paying attention to other ideas and how well they fare in the foreign market, which if you didn't know, is where films today make it or break it.

One thing is for sure, Campanella's nostalgic feel-good tale of a young man whose foosball players come to life is sort of the type of idea that could never have come from the imagination of someone unfamiliar with this extremely popular global sport. Let's face it, small talk in the elevators or just before meetings at Pixar or Dreamworks would never be about the results of the Premier League, the EuroCup or Leo Messi's latest world-record, now would it?

But 11 year-old boys everywhere else won't mind. Because even though they love robots, aliens and talking cars, they will be very curious to see what FOOSBALL is about. And I wouldn't be surprised if the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences takes notice once again of Campanella's gifted storytelling.

Behind Campanella's first animated feature is the tried and true production team from his Oscar-winner "El Secreto...". Yet, this time around, a special art, 3D animation and VFX team came on board to do their magic. The result is on par with the quality that international audiences have come to expect from 3D animation. No exceptions.

But here's what's really going to raise an eyebrow or two among the suits. FOOSBALL was made for only 20 million dollars. Just think, the same scale movie at a big Hollywood animation studio wouldn't have been made for under 100 million.

Campanella's animated feel-good soccer epic opens this week in South America and from there takes its globally appealing game throughout the world hoping to score big with boys (and girls) of all ages.

Full Trailer (in Spanish):

Behind the Scenes


  • conjure up: create from nothing
  • to challenge the odds: to challenge a very poor probability of success
  • to put someone to shame: to embarrass someone in defeat
  • to resemble: to be like
  • mega-flops: huge commercial failures
  • feel-good tale: a story with emotional high points that is made for the family
  • suits: movie studio executives
  • small talk: informal conversation
  • tried and true: something that has been tested in difficult conditions and performed well
  • raise an eyebrow or two: when something unexpected calls the attention

Reading Comprehension Questions 

  1. According to the article, what are box office hits made of?
  2. What is Foosball (the game)?
  3. Who is Amadeo?
  4. What happened to Amadeo and his town before the Foosball players came to life?
  5. What happened in Hollywood this summer?
  6. According to the article, who would never have thought of this story?
  7. In addition to Campanella's previous production team, who else worked on this film?
  8. What will raise an eyebrow or two among the suits?