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Archive for February, 2008

London to introduce variable Congestion Charge

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

After writing about the new “low-emission” zone in London, I was fascinated to read about a scheme for normal cars to make the Congestion Charge variable according to the car’s emissions.

The idea is, that the current charge of 8GBP could rise up to as much as 25GBP for vehicles that have high emission rates, but on the other hand the charge could be reduced down to nothing for low-emission cars.

I’m note sure that everyone will approve, but I’ll be keeping an eye on the new tariffs to see whether bio-ethanol cars belong to the “free” category!



Learning to speak a language – and be tested on it

Tuesday, February 19th, 2008

I remember when GCSEs were first introduced – I myself was in the first year to take them for mathematics, and the second year for other subjects such as languages. The idea was to put more emphasis on being able to do something, than being able to be tested on it.

So in languages more effort was put in being able to speak a language and make yourself understood, and a little bit less was put into writing it and the grammar – something that my university would later complain about.

So the idea that pupils should no longer have oral examinations on these subjects is a bit worrying – for me it seems like another step back from leaning the language thoroughly.

I don’t remember that much about my GCSE oral exams, but I remember that certain situations had to be prepared and you learnt a lot of set phrases at the time. I do, however, clearly remember my A-level German oral exam (which I got an ‘A’ in 🙂 and it was maybe stressful, but it was a positive experience to come out of the exam and to be able to say that I had managed to keep going in German for the entire duration.

So why get rid of this part of the exam process?  There is nothing to be gained in my opinion from only having the spoken skills assessed – as at the first opportunity in the workplace these skills may really be tested.

I used to interview students coming to Germany for placements here – and I carried out the interviews in German.  Of course, having been through the system myself, I had an advantage over a native speaker in that I knew what vocabulary a student would or would not know, and could as such make the interview easy or difficult.

In fact, it was not only important to be able to speak German, but to have the confidence to do it!

I gained a lot of confidence in my A-level oral exam – and a lot more on subsequent trips to Germany when I sometimes had no alternative but to explain myself in German.

Please don’t take this confidence booster away from today’s schoolchildren!



Pssst! Want to buy a bar of chocolate?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

Excuse the joke, but I’ve just read this article on the BBC news website about someone finding a Cadbury’s Wispa bar and selling it on eBay, even though it is out of date.

The article says that the bar is rare – because the bars are no longer made. This was something that I didn’t know, so I went over to eBay to have a look at what was on offer.

I found T-shirts, mugs and Wispa bars. Some are on their own, others in packs of 5. There are even boxes of 48 that will set you back 40-50GBP (maybe even more!)

Why this madness? Well, wispa bars were popular (I liked them as well 😉 so people are obviously stocking up on them before they run out again. Perhaps Cadbury’s will take notice and bring them back again.

It made me wonder what other rare bars of chocolate I could find on eBay, and a quick search turned up a Marathon bar (not Snickers!) but not much else.  I couldn’t even find a Raider bar on eBay in Germany – that’s called ‘Twix’ these days!



 

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