Where does the buick stop?

enter the monks by ne www.flickr.com
The news are currently a-buzz with corporations lining up to hold out their begging bowls in the hope that something, anything will rescue them from the worsening financial crisis.

One of the most ridiculous of these is quite probably the BIG THREE, the CEOs of the giant US automakers (Chrysler, Ford and GM) who somehow did not have the vision to implement a change to smaller, high mileage, 'greener' vehicles and who now need a bailing out to the tune of $25bn.

I say 'vision' somewhat sarcastically.

The last few years have seen an outpouring of commercials advertising their so-called greenness which suggests that they did indeed recognize the trends in the market yet hesitated about doing anything about it other than launch propaganda machines.

Instead they dined like kings, sipped Cristal champagne, earned upwards of 40k A DAY and now, surprise, surprise, they must go to PapaUSA (i.e. the American taxpayers) for a little cash injection.

cristal by angelrravelor www.flikr.comHow long will it be before other global car-makers, except Toyota LOL, rock on up with the same plan?

It's not their fault? Pah!

But their errors, if left unsolved, will cost the world's employees in jobs, be the end(!?) of a stable global economy - opinions range and are as hot as they are indifferent - yet can you imagine what will happen when hundreds of thousands worldwide (millions if you count semi-related industries, especially in the US) lose their jobs?

Can you imagine the knock-on effects?

The US government and our governments will probably have no choice but to rescue the car-mega-corporations and their factory workers.

How very, very careless you have been Mr Mullaly, Mr Nardelli and Mr Wagoner (yes, even if you just recently took on your jobs). Shame on you.

hands mechanic by kerri2008 www.flickr.comDo you really expect the man on main street to pour yet more capital into your extravagant business models with narry a word on how you will effectively restructure and clean up your shops?

Lordy B, I can't help but muse on whether or not big OIL will need bailing out next!

Anyhoo, my rant's over...

Just stirring up the pot to show you how highly controversial and topical this subject matter is and how you can use it to make an exciting ESP lesson: be it with your financial students or those in the automotive industries.

As usual I'll just provide you with tips & some sources, so go on ahead, browse around and use what's useful then construct the lesson the way you'd usually do it...

Articles on the big 3
(3 levels given especially for your mixed ability groups-different articles to different students)
  • 'Simpler' English (int: B1-B2)
International Herald Tribune
  • A little harder (upper int: B2-C1)
LA times (full of good idioms)
US News:6 myths debunked
  • Tough going but really worth reading (upper int/adv: C1-C2)
Editorial, truth about cars

  • Your audio learners (radio)
4 interesting, short segments from the BBC


Note: Most of these vids are made up of various car ads and a report on the 'SEXYgreenCARshow'. You can not make this stuff up - if you teach ESP:automotive students you'll have a whale of a time with this video, the language is generally slow and clear.

The "Ripple Effect" video at the end is well, seriously scary - a nice finish to a lesson on this theme (it's fast though so have a finger ready for the pause button).

In 3 of my classes today, the craziest thing occurred while showing the GM never-seen-before ad - the men (one banking class, one insurance, one automotive) all talked back in English, involuntarily, to the projected screen and text/images.

Some just named the models as they whizzed by - all mentioned Opel, others 'hmphed' and made fun of the philosophy underlying the video. Most interesting -definitely a keeper.

To download the entire playlist or to simply choose which you'd like to use in your class(es), go here.

Karenne's lesson ideas
  • divide up and set the various articles as homework by sending on the links to your students (if you can't do this, get them to skim for gist in class).
If by the time you read this blog entry, decisions have already been made you might want to look for new articles. A pre-search link to googlenews is set here - as a general rule (in my experience) bloomberg and reuters tend to have shorter and easier business articles, iht is a good link for students because it has translate-a-word functionality, BBC and Guardian Weekly often have topical worksheets for language learners prepared; financial press and blogs tend to be harder - full of lower frequency words. As much as possible try to vary the "slant" if you want your students to really discuss!
  • review the vocabulary students had difficulties with, especially concentrating on chunks of text and idioms used in a business context.
  • show one or two of the videos as a pre-task, intro and/or to review vocabulary (not sure how to download video? go here) If unable to do this, send your students the playlist and let them choose what they'd like to watch.
  • discuss the articles for comprehension or simply get them to summarize their articles' slant or positions introduced - encourage students to agree, disagree and generally opine.
  • ask how this issue is being reported in their own media - should the automakers get bailed out? Why, why not? Are car makers in their own countries turning up with hat in hand?
  • Roleplays:
Big class - split up your students and ask them to play the role of Nardelli, Wagoner, Mullaly; other students play the role of the government (Pelosi, Obama, Bush, governmental economic advisers etc) and yet others play the role of the union bosses. The rest of your learners can play the man on the street: factory workers and normal joes (themselves).

Ask your students to design the focus of the roleplay themselves, getting them to spend some time thinking of what they will say - then hold the debate.
Small class - with 3 students or less, ask students to play the role of the President's economic advisers who will be interviewing the CEOs. Their task is to prepare hard-hitting questions (regarding future plans, how the bailout money would be spent and on what).

Advanced levels - with your higher students control (!) their language, encourage them to flex their grammatical muscles: to use the future continuous, perfects, passives and perhaps even use some 3rd conditional in natural context! ;-).

Another video, from Sabine- thanks, worked like a charm- but man, rough stuff!
Here are the lyrics.

Purchase conversation lessons:

SimplyConversations prompt cards plus SimplyQuests:

  • finance & investment
  • auto industry
€1.49 individuals
€4.99 institutes

More lesson-tips blog postings for teachers of ESP-Financial English:

If you've got a top tip related to this theme, don't hesitate to share - simply click on the green line that says Comments and add your opinions, lesson ideas or any relevant links to websites, blogs on the same topic - I don't mind!


2 Responses to “Where does the buick stop?”

  • This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
    Anonymous says:
    December 02, 2008

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  • Anonymous says:
    December 04, 2008

    Love your post title. I thought it was a typo at first, but then saw the pun... awesome! LOL!

    Two comments...

    As a former private school English grammar and composition teacher and later, a science teacher... and in both cases working with students who didn't have English as a first language, I appreciate how you have integrated "current events" and multimedia into your lessons (it makes the learning Relevant and therefore more memorable! I try to use the same technique in my classes. I've written some articles that discuss "reading in the content area" as well as "language and culture--differences between spoken and written languages"... I'm going to use your example to further improve my teaching in my subject areas (and incorporate the written and spoken languages as well). Thanks for posting this.

    The other comment is this:
    The fat cats with American companies should take their lumps. The bailout should go not to the management or execs... but to the regular workers (in the form of retraining for other industries--get them the heck out of the unions and get them working more independently!).

    It was the CEOs and senior exec's poor management, lack of analysis and planning, and stupid greed that put them in the mess they're in now. You don't have to worry about Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, or Hyundai... their management styles are more in the Japanese fashion. Their CEOs get paid well, but not 100,000 times that of their least-paid employees. And... when their company hits a snag through either their own fault or the economy, it's the CEOs and high-level execs who take the blame for not seeing it and they do something about it as examples to their crew that they are willing to fall on the sword. (Actually, in some cases in Japan, the CEO has REALLY used the sword in this manner.) I can't imagine Chrysler doing this... and sheesh... why didn't Chrysler learn from their LAST bailout when Iacoca was running the joint?

    The Big Oil companies? Hey, at least they are "profitable" (at the moment). They just posted record earnings over the past years (of course, they were charging $5/gallon a few months ago until folks started screaming and dropping their SUVs and other gas-hogs like hot potatos). They will "say" that their "profit" and "losses" aren't all their fault. It's OPEC playing with the prices of the barrels of crude. But the big oil companies better start stashing their extra cash and profits and better be moving their research into solar and other alternate forms of energy and vehicle power generation. Because the tsunami of the economy is heading in their direction as well. (And I hope the government nails them with refusal for bailout as well!)

    People don't like change. People refuse to see change. Until the 2X4 of reality whacks them upside the head. Pain forces change.

    I've been a writer-editor for the past 28 years (freelance, contract, and staff), and in the past 10-15 years, my sources of income have dried up ... most have been outsourced and offshored to India and the Philippines and other countries where $5/day is considered a royal income. I can't compete with that. So, I'm changing my course... very quickly. I'm being forced to change. I don't like it, but I see the need and I'm going to do it.

    The autoworkers will also be forced to change. The oil workers will be forced to change. All of us will be forced to change. And guess what? Even our governments will be forced to change.

    And as teachers? Hey, we can use this turmoil to add real MEAT to our lessons to make them memorable. It may be crazy, but I've heard that paradigm changes make learning easier. This is one heck of a "paradigm change"!

    Best regards,


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