Exercise 1

A. Listen to three people speaking about different decades. Which decades did they grow up in? Generally, do they feel positive or negative about those decades?

B. Listen again and answer the questions.

 What “two important aspects” of his life does Speaker 1 mention?

 What “celebrations” do you think Speaker 1 is talking about?

 Where is Speaker 2 from?

 Which musician was “an icon” for Speaker 2?

 What two things did Speaker 3 think he didn’t like during the ‘80s (he later changed his mind)?

 What trend did Madonna start in the mid-eighties?

Answer & Audioscript


1 ‘90s, positive

2 ‘70s, positive

3 ‘80s, not very positive at the time, but positive now


1 film and music   2 Suggested answers: fireworks, parties

3 London, England   4 John Lennon   5 fashion and music

6 girls cutting their hair short



Yeah, I grew up in the nineties. For me, film and music are two important aspects of my life, and it was a fantastic decade for both of those. In terms of movies, there were some excellent ones that came out, um my favorites being Forrest Gump, Pulp Fiction and The Shawshank Redemption. In terms of the music … probably the most famous bands of the time were Oasis and Blur. Ah, one of the most memorable moments for me of the nineties was Euro ‘96 … obviously the soccer tournament. I was lucky enough to go to the opening ceremony myself. Obviously, as we were entering the end of the millennium, the celebrations toward the end of the nineties were huge, and so were the celebrations on the actual night. Also, Mother Teresa died, sort of Mother Teresa was, um, the famous charitable missionary.


Ah, the seventies. Well, they were wonderful I think. If somebody asked if it was a good decade or a bad decade, personally I have to say it was a good decade to grow up in. I think of it as a very lucky experience when generally the world that I lived in, which was London and England, which was the post-war period and therefore an era of a certain amount of, um, restriction was all ending, and things were freeing up. And that happened just at the time that I was leaving home and finding my own independence. It all seemed as though it happened at the same time. Erm, technology was changing and improving. Um, everything seemed to be developing and getting better in many ways. The fashion was getting rid of short hair and regimented kind of looks. Uh, individuality was very much the order of the day. Great people were emerging in the arts. John Lennon, for example, was an icon for me, I think, as a creative artist with a message as well in his work. Great artists in film, Scorsese: Taxi Driver, Spielberg: Duel, these were emerging artists of tremendous skill and artistry, but they were just starting out then when I was.


I was a teenager in the eighties, and I remember thinking that I didn’t like a lot of the fashion and the music from back then. But, now it’s obvious in retrospect that I did quite like it. I love looking back on like a nostalgia trip at the way we used to dress and how much hair gel I used and how much hair spray the girls used, and er, now in the 2000s there’s like a sort of a trip back into that time, you know? Girls are wearing big earrings again and geometric patterns on their clothes. Uh, the music in the eighties became quite computerized sounding, quite electronic, and, disco faded away, although we did still have soul. People like Luther Vandross and Billy Ocean were making soul music. New Romantic was another style that came out in the early eighties, where the men started wearing lots of make-up and had big shoulders and small waists. And, Madonna was a big trendsetter for girls, and, at one point, she cut her hair really short in the mid eighties and almost like a boy’s, and then all the girls started cutting their hair short, too. I wasn’t very fashionable myself. I used to spend most of my money on records, not clothes. There were some good movies around in the eighties too, things like Back to the Future with Michael. J Fox, Desperately Seeking Susan with Madonna, ET, Police Academy … Um, I’m gonna be forty this year, and I imagine my birthday party is probably going to be a big nostalgia trip back to the eighties.

Exercise 2

A. Listen to someone taking the quiz. Which questions does he get right?

B. Look at the phrases in the box. Match them to the groups of phrases below. Listen again and check (✓) the phrases you hear.

I don’t know

I know it isn’t/wasn’t …

I’m not sure, but I think …

I used to know

 ……………, I have no idea, I don’t have a clue

 ……………, I’m not a hundred percent certain, but it might be …, I’m fairly sure it’s …

 ……………, It’s definitely not, I’m sure it isn’t

 ……………, I can’t remember, I’ve forgotten

Answer & Audioscript


3, 4, 6


1   I don’t know

2   I’m not sure, but I think …

3   I know it isn’t/wasn’t …

4   I used to know

He says all of the phrases except “I’m not sure, but I think …” and “I’m fairly sure it’s …”


A:   So, yeah … so question one.

B:   Yes, about the religious leader, any ideas?

A:   Yeah. Spoke out against racism in South Africa, worked as an English teacher? Um … no idea.

B:   Well, it could be a few different people, couldn’t it?

A:   I have no idea. I … I don’t know. I don’t know.

B:   Want to guess?

A:   If I were to guess … oh, no, I don’t have a clue on this one. I’m sorry.

B:   Okay, I’m gonna tell you, it was B—Desmond Tutu.

A:   Oh, really?

B:   Yes.

A:    Oh, no, I didn’t know that.

B:   Fair enough.

A:   I didn’t know that.

B:   All right. So the second one is about the politician being killed by her own bodyguards.

A:   Well, it’s definitely not A.

B:   Oh … OK, yes.

A:   Definitely not A, so … it’s B or C. Um …

B:   Can you remember?

A:   I can’t remember, I’ve forgotten.

B:   So you’re just gonna have to guess.

A:   Yes, um …

B:   Come on! I’m gonna press you now. If you used to know it, you can take a shot—it’s in there somewhere.

A:   I’m gonna go for B.

B:   Oh, no. It was the other one. It was C—Indira Gandhi.             

A:   Oh.

B:   Never mind.

A:   Oh, well. I didn’t know that …

B:   Well, there you go. Um … so—number three, any ideas, uh, about the anthropologist feeding bananas to wild chimpanzees?   

A:   Jane Goodall, Louis …?

B:   Louis Leakey, Margaret Mead.

A:   Well. Well, I’m sure it isn’t Margaret Mead.

B:   How about B?

A:   Um, I’m … I’m sure it isn’t … I’m sure it isn’t B.

B:   OK.

A:   So that leaves A.

B:   It leaves you with A. Very good. It was Jane Goodall.

A:   Yes, that’s right!

B:   Okay, and now the scientist …

A:   Which inspirational scientist spent his free time playing the violin?

B:   Free time.

A:   … When he wasn’t changing the world? Um, I … I think I know this one.

B:   OK.

A:   I’m … I’m … yeah …

B:   Uh, be careful ’cause all of those … changed the world.

A:   I’m not a hundred percent certain, but it might be Albert Einstein.

B:   Right, are you saying B?

A:   B.

B:   Yes, you’re right.

A:   Excellent!

B:   And we’re almost there, with number five, uh, the activist who refused to give up the bus seat. You must remember this.

A:   Oh, no. I can’t remember.

B:   You must!

A:   Uh, its one of those things I used to know.

B:   Start of the Civil Rights Movement.

A:   I used to know, but I … I’ve forgotten.

B:   All right.

A:   Che Guevara?

B:   Sure?

A:   No.

B:   No.

A:   But …

B:   OK, it was C—Rosa Parks.

A:   Oh!

B:   You’re right. You didn’t remember.

A:   Oh!

B:   So the last one.

A:   It’s interesting. Oh, dear.

B:   The last one then.

A:   Right.

B:   Um, which amazingly original and creative writer was banned from the U.S. for years?

A:   Have you heard of them?

B:   I … I, well I know … I know it wasn’t Charles Dickens.

A:   Right.

B:   So it’s one of the other two. Oh.

A:   Go on. Take a guess.

B:   I’m gonna go for C.

A:   Good choice.             

B:   Ah! That’s right, that’s right!

A:   It was C!

B:   Excellent! Excellent!

A:   Well done. You did very well.

B:   Yes, yeah, not too bad.

Exercise 3

A. Listen to someone talking about someone whose work influenced her. Whom does she talk about? How did this person’s work change her life?




Answer & Audioscript

She talks about Gabriel García Márquez. Finding his work as a teenager made her become a “reader”.


OK, well, someone whose work really influenced me is Gabriel García Márquez. I like his short stories, but I fell in love with his novels, particularly One Hundred Years of Solitude. That book really made its mark on me. Anyway, Márquez was a Colombian writer.

I think he was born in 1928. He’s a Nobel Prize winner—he won the Nobel Prize in Literature—and his books have been translated into dozens of languages. He was one of the best-known writers in the style that’s called magical realism. This means he wrote kind of realistically, but there’s magic. I mean, magical things happen in his books, like ghosts appear and all kinds of crazy things happen. I’m a big fan of that type of writing. Anyway, his novels are kind of funny, but it’s black humor or satire. He invented all these amazing, unforgettable characters, like, corrupt officials and devoted lovers, vicious policemen and stupid revolutionaries. And, through it all, you’re laughing at the characters, but you also see their world is falling apart. I haven’t read his work in Spanish, only English, but the style is amazing. His dialogue is fast and funny, and he wrote amazing descriptions of places and people. And, well, it was finding Márquez’s work as a teenager that really made me become a reader.

Exercise 4

A. Look at 1—5 below and think about the question: Where and when were these things first used? Listen and complete the answers.

Invention Where? When?
1   toothpaste Egypt 7,000… years ago
2   biological weapons …………… …………… years ago
3   football …………… …………… years ago
4   central heating …………… …………… years ago
5   umbrella …………… …………… years ago

B. What is the connection between the inventions in A and pictures A—E below. Listen again and check.

Answer & Audioscript


2   Ancient Greece, over 3,000

3   China, over 2,000

4   Ancient Greece / Korea, over 2,000

5   Egypt / Persia (Iran), more than 2,000


A   Ancient Greek toothpaste used oyster shells.

B   Hannibal used snakes as a biological weapon.

C   The Inuit played a type of football.

D   A rich English banker installed central heating in his house so he could grow grapes.

 In ancient sculptures from Egypt and Persia, only kings or very important people had umbrellas.


Hello, and welcome to “Fascinating Facts! “Today we’re going to take a look at some of those “modern” inventions that turn out to be … well, not quite so modern at all!

Let’s start with toothpaste. So you think, “hmm, toothpaste—when was that invented?” A hundred years ago? Maybe two hundred? But, we find that actually, toothpaste has been around for 7,000 years. People from Egypt used it, and then the Ancient Greeks and Romans used it. Was it the same as modern toothpaste? Definitely not. Ancient Greek toothpaste used ingredients like crushed bones and oyster shells.

OK, another invention for you: biological weapons. Again, you think, “biological weapons—must be a twentieth-century invention.” Wrong again. Biological weapons have been used for over three thousand years. Probably beginning in Ancient Greece, it was common for one side to poison their enemy’s water supply during a war. Some generals would even throw dead bodies at the enemy or into the enemy’s river. One leader named Hannibal even put poisonous snakes into pots and threw them onto an enemy’s ship. In the eighteenth century, one way American Indians were killed was through using infected blankets given to them by the Europeans who were colonizing America.

Next topic: soccer. Just how old is the game? The answer is, we don’t really know. But we do know that forms of it were played in China over two thousand years ago. And it also seems that the game developed by chance in different parts of the world. Wherever European explorers went, they discovered that native people already played some kind of soccer: Aborigines in Australia, the Inuit in Greenland, Japan and the Americas. So I suppose it really is the people’s game.

Right. Central heating. It’s been a wonderful thing for us in cold countries and helps us get through the winters. But most of us don’t realize it’s a very old invention. Once again, the Ancient Greeks were the first in Europe, over two thousand years ago, although there was a similar system in Korea. Both of these civilizations had pipes and controlled fires under the floors to keep the buildings warm. In England, one of the first examples of central heating was in the 1830s. A rich banker installed it in his house so that he could grow grapes in England’s cold weather!

The final invention we’re going to look at today is the good old umbrella. If we look at a number of ancient sculptures from Egypt and Persia, which is now called Iran, it’s clear that the umbrella has been around for a long, long time, certainly more than two thousand years. Interestingly, it seems that only kings or very important people had umbrellas in these sculptures. So they were a symbol of high social class. But what were they for? In many countries, we tend to think of umbrellas as things to protect us from the rain. But historically, they protected people from the sun. And later, they became a fashion item.

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