1. Kung Fu功夫
S: Student MT: Martial arts teacher
S: Hi, I hope you can help me. I want to get fit, but I hate going to the gym. I want to try something different, any ideas?
MT: What about Kung Fu?
S: Like in a Jackie Chan movie? I don’t know ...
MT: There’s much more to Kung Fu than Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee. Kung Fu is an art form and also, very good for you.
S: OK, tell me more.
MT: Many styles of Kung Fu are based on the ideas of nature. Ancient boxing masters often developed their fighting techniques by observing the world around them. Animals, birds, and insects provided the basis for many systems of Kung Fu developed in the past.
S: So, I could learn to fight like a bird?
MT: Kind of ... there are many different styles but they take years to master.
S: What about Shaolin? How is that linked?
MT: Many of the hard forms of Kung Fu came from a Buddhist Monastery called “Shaolin”. An Indian priest named Tamo came to live there nearly 1500 years ago. According to legend, Tamo arrived at the monastery where he found the monks in poor physical condition. Because they couldn’t stay awake during meditation, Tamo introduced a series of 18 exercises designed to feed both body and mind. These movements are said to have merged with self-defense tactics studied in the Shaolin Temple.
S: I see. But I thought you said there were many types?
MT: Yes, later, in the 13th century, they were extended to 72 forms by Jueyuan the Monk. He traveled around China and met two other skilled fighters. They further extended the forms to 173 and classified them into 5 animal forms: dragon, tiger, leopard, crane and snake. That?s how we get Shaolin Kung Fu’s “Five Form Fist”.
S: Sounds special. But I don’t want to be too violent.
MT: Then I suggest a soft form of Kung Fu, called Tai Qi. It comes from Taoism and it’s very good for your health. Through its training, you can get inner peace and a sense of physical and emotional well being. It’s often called Chinese Yoga: the art and science of meditation through movement.
S: OK, great!
S: Shopper M: Music shop owner
S: Hi, would it be possible for you to give me a hand? I’m looking for South Korean pop.
M: Yes, no problem. The section is over here, we have material by BoA, Se7en and Rain.
S: Rain! That’s what I’m looking for, my friend bought me a CD of his and now I can’t stop listening to it!
M: He’s really popular, we call him “The South Korean King of Pop”. He’s huge in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Thailand and across much of Asia.
S: Really? I had no idea. Why do you think he’s so popular?
M: Well, it’s a combination of his angelic face, great body and Justin Timberlake style dance moves. He stars in soap operas as well as being a singer.
S: I see. Do you know more about him?
M: Actually, yes. I’m a big fan, you see. He’s 23, his real name is Ji Hoon Jung and he used to be poor. He lived in Seoul in a one room apartment, but dreamed of being famous. He must have pushed himself very hard to get where he is today.
S: Yes, many famous people come from humble beginnings.
M: Did you know he was listed on Time magazines “World’s Most Influential People” list?
S: Really? I guess he must have a lot of influence in South Korea, maybe throughout Asia. Through his music, soaps and so on.
M: He plans to star in a movie next year but he says he has no desire to be in a big budget film. Maybe that’s because he was a soap actor.
S: Probably. Do you think he will ever be famous in the West?
M: I hope so. At the moment he’s studying English day and night because he wants to become famous in America. Before he visited the U?S., Rain already had a fan base, thanks to Internet music sites, satellite TV and DVDs of his soap operas. He’s also had two sell out concerts in the small venue at Madison Square Garden.
S: Oh, so he’s pretty popular over there already then?
M: Yes. And he’s releasing an English language album later this year.
S: Great! Now I will be able to understand his songs!
M: That’s true.
S1: Student 1S2: Student 2
S1: I want to write about something which is truly American, what do you think? A president or a businessman?
S2: Neither, you should write about cowboys. They are a true symbol of the USA.
S1: Like in the movies?
S2: No, the life of a cowboy was anything but glamorous—it entailed hard work and long, lonesome hours.
S1: What about the clothes? Do they really wear jeans, cowboy boots and Stetson hats?
S2: Cowboy clothing is an everyday part of their wardrobes. Today they are remembered in “Spaghetti Westerns”, movies and TV shows which started a craze during the 1950s and 60s. Some are still popular today, but most people’s attraction shifted to space travel, maybe because of the moon landing in 1969.
S1: Many country and western songs try to capture the true cowboy spirit. This fascination with the “Old West” is still popular today. I think lots of Americans like country and western music. But you think movies, music and television tells us nothing about the true cowboy?
S2: Yes, but music especially has made cowboys more and more popular. The cowboy’s real job isn’t singing though, it’s looking after cattle. Hence the name “cowboy”.
S1: The cowboy’s reign in the Wild West was quite short, about 30 years, why are they such a big part of American history?
S2: Well, when the Civil War ended, many of the soldiers had no home to return to and started drifting to the West on horseback.
S1: I see, then ranch owners hired these hard working men as ranch hands and they were the first cowboys.
S2: And when the time came to sell the beef, the hands would round-up the cattle from the open prairie and take them to market.
S1: So why was their reign in the Wild West so short?
S2: It was short because the West stopped being wild. Barbed wire was invented and soon it was almost impossible to roam around freely as they had done before.
S1: So as Western America developed, the cowboys’ jobs became less and less. Nowadays no one thinks of these original cowboys, only the ones we see in the movies.
M: Mary E: Edward
M: So, Ed. What do you know about this? Tolstoy’s history, what do you know about him?
E: Tolstoy wasn’t just one person, you know. They were a whole family of Russian nobility. The Tolstoy?s have left a lasting legacy in Russian politics, military history, literature, and fine arts.
M: They got around a bit then! Sounds like they did everything, but let’s start with the politics ... it says here that Peter Andreevich Tolstoy was a member of Peter the Great’s party.
E: Yes, he gradually gained Peter?s confidence serving first as the Russian ambassador to Constantinople, then as the head of the secret police.
M: OK, so what about the military Tolstoy’s? I’ve heard of one called Alexander Ivanovich Tolstoy. He was in the Battle of Charnova in 1807 where his regiment held out for 15 hours against the whole army commanded by Napoleon.
E: It sounds like you know plenty about him already. Let’s go on to the literary Tolstoy’s, shall we?
M: Leo Tolstoy is one of the greatest Russian novelists of the 19th century. He wrote War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
E: I think those books are the two most famous in the whole world! I wonder why he started writing.
M: He started his career in the military, he was first drawn to writing books when he served in Chechenya, and already his first novel, Kazaky, was something quite unlike anything written before him.
E: Oh, I see. OK, on to fine arts. It says here that there were many Tolstoy’s in high society.
M: Yes, Count Feodor Petrovich Tolstoy was one of the most fashionable Russian drawers and painters of the 1820s. Although he prepared fine illustrations, his true vocation was wax modeling and the design of medals.
E: And also, Count Feodor Ivanovich Tolstoy who was a notorious drunkard, gastronome, and duellist. It is said that he killed 11 people in duels.
M: He was involved in a different kind of art though. In 1803 he participated in the first Russian circumnavigation of the Earth and after he had his body tattooed!
E: Well, it certainly seems that the Tolstoy?s were interesting people, that?s for sure.
M: Man W: Woman
M: I want to get some flowers for my girlfriend’s birthday but she absolutely hates roses.
W: Have you thought about tulips?
M: They’re from Holland, aren’t they?
W: They are grown in Holland, yes. But originally they came from Central Asia where they grew wild.
W: The flower was introduced in Western Europe and the Netherlands in the 17th century by Carolus Clusius, a famous biologist from Vienna.
M: Oh, I see. Sounds like a good choice, they were very different to roses.
W: Very different, some people believed they had medicinal powers.
M: Well, I just need them to look pretty. They were very popular as a trading product, especially in Holland. Are your tulips very expensive?
W: That was years ago. Nowadays they are very reasonably priced. We have many different kinds, because botanists in the 1500s found ways to make the tulip even more decorative and tempting. Hybrids and mutations of the flower were seen as rarities and a sign of high status.
M: OK, so that must have marked the beginning of “Tulipmania”, I think they are probably still as popular today. My parents love to go to Holland to see all of the different types growing there. I had never really considered buying them before, though.
W: In those days tulips looked very different from the ones we can see today. The tulip became so popular because of its bright colours, dramatic flames and frilly petals.
M: Frilly petals? But these are totally smooth, I thought all tulips had smooth petals.
W: In the 20th century it was discovered that the frilly petals and dramatic flames that gave the flower its stunning look were, in fact, the symptoms of an infection by the mosaic virus.
M: A virus? So that’s why today we think tulips should be solid, smooth and monotone. Where did the virus come from?
W: The virus came to the tulip from a louse living on peaches and potatoes. We can still find some varieties with frilly petals today, but they are hybrids. The diseased varieties are no longer sold.
M: Good, because I don’t think my girlfriend would be too happy with sick flowers!