The Benefits of English

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Published: 2.18.2018
Level 4   |   Time: 3:45
Accent: American
Source: Freakonomics Radio (9.13.2017)

TOEFL: How English has become the dominant world language and the (unfair) advantages it gives its speakers.

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triangle Directions


  1. REVIEW the vocabulary.
  2. LISTEN to the audio above.
  3. ANSWER the questions.
  4. CHECK your answers (Show Answers)

triangle Vocabulary


  • ☐ ☐ ☐ the primary driver [exp] - the main cause
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ wages [n] - money that your earn from work
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ a boost [n] - an increase
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ striking [adj] - unusual and extreme
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ contiguous [exp] - all together, not separated
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ tied to [v] - connected to
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ post docs [n] - research done by people with doctoral degrees
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ the natural sciences [n] - physics, chemistry, biology
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ overwhelmingly [adv] - with a large majority
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ oral [adj] - related to speaking
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ fluency [n] - the ability to use language easily and accurately
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ a counterpart [n] - a person with a similar position or job in another place
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ Anglophone [adj] - related to English
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ a mechanism [exp] - a system
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ massive [adj] - very big
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ leverage [n] - advantage
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ enormously [adv] - a lot
  • ☐ ☐ ☐ the status quo [exp] - the current situation unchanging

[n] - noun,  [v] - verb, [phv] - phrasal verb,  [adj] - adjective,  [exp] - expression



triangle Comprehension Questions


  1. According to the speaker, what is the primary benefit of learning a second language?
    The cultural benefit
    The economic benefit
    The colonial benefit

  2. How much can learning a second language increase your wages?
    by 2-5%
    by 5-20%
    by 15-20%

  3. Which language gives second-language learners the greatest economic benefit?
    Chinese
    French
    English

  4. How many English speakers are there in the world?
    about 4 million
    about 400 million
    about 1.5 billion

  5. How many native English speakers are there in the world?
    about 4 million
    about 400 million
    about 1.5 billion

  6. According to the speaker, what factors have led to the rise of English?
    Its simple structure and grammar
    British colonialism
    American colonialism
    American educational dominance

  7. In the past, what were the languages of science?
    English
    French
    Classical Chinese
    Latin
    Sanskrit
    Hindi

  8. Currently, what are the languages of science?
    English
    French
    Classical Chinese
    Latin
    Sanskrit
    Hindi

  9. What percentage of natural science papers are published in English?
    19%
    90%
    95%

  10. According to the speaker, which English skills are currently required in academic fields?
    Written fluency
    Oral fluency
    American pronunciation
    British pronunciation

  11. What advantages do native English speakers have over non-native English speakers in science?
    They are better at science.
    They don't have to study English.
    They can devote more time to studying English.
    They can devote more time to studying science.

  12. Who does he suggest cannot participate in the international scientific community?
    Japanese scientists
    Canadian scientists
    Non-English speakers

  13. Why does the speaker suggest that the "status quo" is unfair?
    Non-native English speakers have to invest a lot in learning English, which mostly benefits native English speakers.
    Native English speakers have to invest a lot in learning English, which mostly benefits non-native English speakers.
    Native English speakers have to help non-native English speakers, which costs a lot of time and money.



triangle TOEFL Questions


  1. What is the discussion mainly about?
    (A) The unfair advantages of being a native English speaker.
    (B) The economic benefits of speaking English.
    (C) How English benefits scientists.
    (D) The best ways to learn English.

  2. Why does the speaker refer to English as a big fat language?
    (A) English is mainly spoken in countries with obesity problems.
    (B) English has a very large vocabulary.
    (C) English is a dominant language in the world.
    (D) English is difficult to learn.

  3. According to the speaker, what factors have led to the rise of English?
    (Click on two answers.)
    (A) It is easy to learn.
    (B) It was spread by British colonialism.
    (C) It gives speakers economic benefits.
    (D) It is the preferred language for higher education.

  4. Why does the speaker state that communication in the natural sciences is "overwhelmingly" in English?
    (A) Science requires a high level of written English fluency.
    (B) More than 95% of scientific publications are in English.
    (C) Languages like Sanskrit and Latin are difficult to learn.
    (D) English has an elite status in the world today.

  5. Why does the speaker compare Canadian people to Japanese people?
    (A) Because Canadian people tend to be better than Japanese people at science.
    (B) Because Canada and Japan both have a colonial history.
    (C) Because Japanese people and Canadian people often compete for scientific jobs.
    (D) Because Canadians do not have to invest as much time studying English as Japanese people do.

  6. Which statements about English are made in the discussion?
    (Click on two answers.)
    (A) There are more than 1.5 billion native English speakers in the world.
    (B) In the past, English was the primary language of science in the West.
    (C) The majority of scientific publications are currently in English.
    (D) Learning English gives the greatest economic benefit to second-language learners.
    (E) British English is much more popular than American English.

  7. Why does the speaker suggest that some people can't quite participate in the international scientific community?
    (A) They don't have access to scientific publications.
    (B) Their English ability is not sufficient.
    (C) They don't have the economic ability to conduct scientific experiments.
    (D) They don't want to get post docs in English.

  8. What does the man mean when he says this?

    (A) Native English speakers benefit the most from the status quo.
    (B) Non-native English speakers will soon benefit from the status quo.
    (C) Native English speakers pay the most for maintaining the status quo.
    (D) Non-native English speakers need to change the status quo.



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