Advanced Topic Lesson21-30

Advanced Topic Conversation material Lesson21-30

Read the article and have a discussion based on the following questions.


Microplastics in Our Washing: People Want Action

Microplastics are everywhere. The more new studies we read, the more we find out about the billions of very small plastic particles that are all around us — even inside our bodies!

Here’s yet another source of microplastic pollution you might not have known about: our washing machines.

In fact, a survey has found that 60% of people in the UK didn’t know that microplastics are shed from our clothes, towels and sheets when they’re washed.

These microplastics then find their way to the oceans.

That’s the bad news. However, good news is that more and more campaign groups are calling for governments to take action.

In the UK, several campaign groups worked together to present a paper to the government at the start of March, asking for all new washing machines to be made with microplastics filters.

These filters, which are already used in some machines, can catch 99% of microfibers that clothes shed in the wash, according to a company called Xeros, which makes the filters and did the survey.

Xeros also helped produce the paper presented to the British government.

Microfibers are microplastics that come from clothes and other materials, and Xeros said the problem is getting worse as we buy more cheap clothing made from synthetic materials.

It’s estimated that every year in the UK, washing clothes produces more than 17,000 metric tons of microfibers. That’s about the same weight as 1,500 double-decker buses.

And the Xeros survey found that 80% of British people are worried about the impact of microplastics on our health and on the planet.

Six out of 10 people said the government is not doing enough to fight plastic pollution.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on the findings of the Xeros survey?

3. Are you worried about the impact of microplastics on our health and the planet?

4. Did you know that microplastics shed from our clothes when they’re washed before reading this article?

5. Do you think the government should require all new washing machines to have microplastic filters?

6. Do you expect the issue of plastic pollution to improve over your lifetime?

7. Have you taken any steps to reduce how much plastic you use?

8. Are you usually willing to pay more for environmentally-friendly products?

9. How difficult do you think it would be to go plastic-free?

10. Which of your friends or family does the most to help the environment?

11. Plastic will be the main ingredient of all our grandchildren’s recipes. ― Anthony T. Hincks. What are your thoughts on this quote?


How One Letter Gave MSG a Bad Name

In 1968, a medical researcher named Robert Ho Man Kwok wrote a letter describing the strange symptoms he experienced every time he ate at certain Chinese restaurants.

The symptoms for what he called “Chinese restaurant syndrome” included an increased heart rate, general weakness and more.

In the letter, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Kwok questioned whether the cause was an ingredient commonly used in Asian cooking: monosodium glutamate, or MSG.

MSG is a flavor enhancer that was first developed by Japanese scientist Kikunae Ikeda from seaweed in 1908 — although it’s made using sugar cane and other ingredients today.

But it doesn’t always need to be made — MSG occurs naturally in many foods, including tomatoes and cheese.

After Ikeda’s discovery, people in Japan and other Asian countries started using MSG — sold using the brand name Ajinomoto — in their cooking, and had been doing so for years before it entered the US market.

In the months after Kwok’s letter, others reported similar symptoms, and news of this “illness-causing” ingredient started to spread around the world.

As a result, for a long time, the general belief was that MSG was harmful.

But over the years, an increasing number of studies found that this may not be true.

In the 1990s, after receiving reports of MSG-associated symptoms, America’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asked for some research into the safety of MSG.

It found that mild symptoms, such as headaches and increased heart rate, were indeed present in some people — but only if they had 3 grams or more of MSG without food.

The report concluded that since most food with added MSG has less than half a gram of it per serving, it is generally safe to consume. And the FDA still supports this view today.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What did you know about MSG before reading the article?

3. Do you find it surprising that Kwok’s letter had such a major impact on people’s beliefs about MSG?

4. Is MSG commonly used in cooking where you live? Do you often use it in your own cooking?

5. Do you know of any foods that haven’t been proven to be harmful, but are generally believed to be?

6. Have you ever experienced a bad reaction to something you ate?

7. Have a discussion based on the following questions.

8. What are the staple ingredients in your country’s cuisine?

9. What flavor enhancers are most commonly used in your country’s cooking?

10. Do kids learn about nutrition in school in your country?

11. Where do you get most of your advice on diet and nutrition?

12. What foods do you think you’d find most difficult to give up?


The Ryukyuan Languages: Why Japanese Is Not Alone

Japanese is generally considered to be a unique and rather lonely language, because it isn’t obviously related to other Asian languages.

However, this isn’t completely true — as Japanese actually belongs to a language family called Japonic. The other languages in this family are the Ryukyuan languages, which are traditionally spoken in the Ryukyu Islands — an island chain that stretches between Taiwan and the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.

Experts say that to understand the history of the Japanese language and where it came from, we also need to study these Ryukyuan languages.

In the past, the Ryukyuan languages were thought to be dialects of Japanese, rather than separate languages.

However, even though they are part of the same language family, Ryukyuan languages and Japanese are said to be as different as French and Spanish or English and German.

Japanese speakers cannot understand Ryukyuan languages, and people speaking two different Ryukyuan languages would not be able to understand each other!

There are six Ryukyuan languages that have been recognized by UNESCO, and they are all endangered. The six languages are: Okinawan, Amami, Kunigami, Miyako, Yaeyama and Yonaguni.

These days, Japanese has replaced these languages in daily life; children don’t learn them at home, and only older people can speak them.

Some individuals are trying to protect and preserve the Ryukyuan languages, but these efforts are not supported by the national or local government.

Experts say that one way to save these languages would be for all local children to learn them at school.

Another suggestion is to have a Ryukyuan language test for people who want to join the local civil service.

Some say that Ryukyuan languages could be used to promote local products and help boost tourism and the economy of the Ryukyu Islands.

However, if nothing is done, it is believed these languages will have all disappeared by 2050.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. Did you know anything about the Ryukyuan languages before reading this article?

3. How important do you think it is to preserve dying languages?

4. Would you consider learning an endangered language?

5. What languages are most closely related to your native tongue?

6. What do you know about the history and development of your language?

7. Are there many dialects in your country? What are some of the main differences between them?

8. Are there any words or phrases that are unique to your region?

9. What languages would you most like to be able to speak?

10. Is your native language widely spoken outside your country?

11. When a language dies, a way of understanding the world dies with it. — George Steiner. What do you make of this quote?


Five Filipino Desserts You Have to Try

Part of the fun of traveling is trying new food. And if you love sweet things, that also means walking into a whole new world of desserts!

If you’re ever in the Philippines, these are some of the desserts you have to try before you leave!


Halo-halo is a shaved ice dessert that includes ingredients like milk, banana, sweet potato, jackfruit, jelly and more — with custard, ice cream and purple ube yam jam on top. Halo is a Tagalog word that means “mixture,” so of course, you mix all the ingredients together with a long spoon!

Buko pandan

Buko is the Tagalog word for young coconut, and pandan is a type of plant with large, sweet leaves. In buko pandan, shredded young coconut is mixed with cubes of pandan gelatin in a bowl of thick, sweet cream.


Turon is made from plantains that are covered in sugar, wrapped in an egg roll and then fried. If you don’t use the egg roll, you can just cover the plantain in sugar and fry it, then put it on a stick — this is called a “banana cue.”

Leche flan

Leche flan (pronounced “LETCH-eh”) is a caramel custard that’s served at Christmas and other special days. It’s almost like a thick, sticky creme brulee, with caramel syrup on top.


Polvoron came from Spain, and it’s a type of Filipino shortbread. But this cookie isn’t baked — flour is fried and mixed with powdered milk, sugar and butter, then made into a shape. A box of polvoron cookies is a great snack to bring back as a gift from the Philippines!

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. Which of the desserts described in the article would you like to try?

3. What are the best desserts you’ve had recently?

4. What desserts from your country would you recommend trying?

5. Do you ever buy food as gifts for family and friends when you travel?

6. Do you have a sweet tooth? What are your favorite sweet foods?

7. Do you enjoy trying new food when you travel? What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever tried?

8. Which of the places you’ve visited had the best food?

9. Have you been to any places where you didn’t like the local food?

10. What meals are served on special holidays in your country?

11. How often do you cook foreign food at home?


Understanding Toxic Positivity and Healthy Optimism

Studies have shown that having an optimistic attitude is good for both our mental and physical health. But do we need to have a positive attitude all the time?

In 1952, a man called Norman Vincent Peale published a book called The Power of Positive Thinking. In it, he said that in order to succeed in life you should always be optimistic, “picture yourself succeeding” and avoid negative thoughts.

Peale’s book was a bestseller, and since then other books like it have also been very successful. A 2006 book by Rhonda Byrne called The Secret, for example, said that if you want something, you should just believe you can get it and keep your emotions positive.

That book has sold 30 million copies.

But mental health experts have criticized the idea that simply being positive and believing you can succeed is enough to overcome life’s problems.

Because life does have problems, and people do have negative experiences and emotions, experts say we need to accept and deal with the negative parts of life if we want to have good mental health.

Simply ignoring the negative parts of life and trying to be positive all the time is called “toxic positivity.”

Trying to be positive all the time is toxic — or bad for you — because it can actually make a bad situation worse.

Toxic positivity denies people the right to feel sad or angry when something bad happens to them. This can make them feel guilty for having those natural feelings, or make them try to hide how they really feel.

Toxic positivity also doesn’t help us deal with negative experiences like failure or disappointment. If we just stay positive and ignore our mistakes, we can’t learn from them.

Instead, experts say healthy optimism means accepting that we have negative experiences and emotions. Healthy optimists don’t ignore difficulties in life, but see them as challenges and find practical ways to deal with them.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on the concept of toxic positivity?

3. Do you think society places too much value on being optimistic and positive?

4. Would you describe yourself as a “healthy optimist”?

5. How do you usually deal with negative experiences or emotions?

6. Have you ever read any self-help books like The Power of Positivity?

7. Are most people you know comfortable talking about their emotions?

8. Would you say that physical exercise affects your mood and mental health?

9. What role do you believe social media plays in shaping our mental health?

10. Do you think everyday life is more stressful today than it was fifty years ago?

11. It’s not realistic to be happy all the time. — Gina Rodriguez. Do you agree?


Uber Eats Begins Using Delivery Robots in Tokyo

Food delivery company Uber Eats has begun using self-driving robots to make deliveries in the center of Tokyo.

On March 6, little green robots began delivering food in the area of Nihombashi, but Uber Eats plans to use the robots in more areas in the future.

Uber Eats delivers food to customers from different restaurants, but for now the robots will only be used to collect orders from two restaurants — Tonkatsu Aoki and Benihana Annex.

The robots make deliveries between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Uber Eats Japan said these robots can help with the country’s labor shortage.

The robots use artificial intelligence to travel around but they can also be controlled remotely. They have cameras that let them move without hitting things or people.

They can travel at up to 5.4 kilometers per hour and can carry as much as 20 kilograms of food and drink.

Developed with a US company called Cartken and made with the help of Mitsubishi Electric, the 60-centimeter-high robots are insulated to keep food and drinks warm or cold.

The robots can’t yet enter buildings to deliver food, so customers must go out onto the street and use their apps to open the robot and take the delivery.

And people aren’t able to choose to have a robot deliver their order — the company said it might be a nice surprise to see one arriving!

Uber Eats began using robots to deliver food in the US in 2022.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on Uber Eats using delivery robots in Tokyo?

3. How would you feel if your food was delivered by a robot?

4. Can you think of any problems with using robots to deliver food?

5. Do you think robots will eventually replace all delivery drivers?

6. Can you think of any other jobs or industries where robots could be used instead of people in the future?

7. Do you ever order from food delivery apps like UberEats?

8. What are the most popular food delivery apps in your area?

9. When was the last time you ordered a food delivery? What did you get?

10. What impact do you imagine food delivery apps are having on restaurants?

11. Food always tastes better when someone else brings it to you. — Unknown. What are your thoughts on this quote?


Why People Choose to Live in Tiny Homes

“Tiny homes” — houses that are around 40 or fewer square meters — have become more popular in recent years, with 53% of Americans saying they would consider buying one.

Tiny homes are found all over the world, but they’re most popular in the US, where there are over 10,000.

Pre-built tiny houses are available, though many people opt to build their own. Inside, they often look like a regular house, but much smaller. There might be a small open-plan kitchen and living area, a bathroom and a bed that can be reached by a ladder. Most are built on trailers, making it easy for people to change location.

One big advantage of a tiny house is cost. According to iPropertyManagement, in 2018 the average cost of an 8.5-meter-long tiny home was $65,000, while a normal home in the US cost an average of $272,000.

Some people also like tiny homes because they are good for the environment. They need less energy to heat, and they often use solar power, or are built using sustainable and local materials.

Some people choose to live in a tiny house because they want a smaller home after they retire, or because they’re trying to reduce their cost of living.

For many, though, they just can’t afford anything bigger.

Carwyn Lloyd-Jones, who teaches a course on building tiny homes at the UK’s Centre for Alternative Technology, told the BBC that these types of houses are an attractive option for young people. “It’s because they want to have that space to live in, but they are not necessarily able to afford that plot of land to build a full-size house,” he said.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on the growing popularity of tiny homes?

3. Would you ever consider buying a tiny home?

4. Are tiny homes popular in your country?

5. Would you describe housing as affordable where you live?

6. Would you like to build a home someday?

7. What do you think are the most important things to consider when buying a house or apartment?

8. Which of your friends or family would you say has the nicest home?

9. If you were given $10,000 to renovate your home, what would you spend it on?

10. What would you say are the disadvantages of living in a large house?

11. Where would you like to live once you retire? Why?


Only 7 Countries Meeting Air Quality Standards

Most of the world’s countries aren’t meeting international air quality standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

That’s according to a report by IQAir, a Swiss air filter maker that also monitors air quality around the world.

Only seven countries and three territories, out of 134 that were included in the report, met the WHO standard for levels of fine particulate matter — known as PM2.5 — in the air.

These tiny particles are produced by vehicles, fires and factories, and they have been linked with a number of health problems.

Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius and New Zealand, as well as the territories of Bermuda, French Polynesia and Puerto Rico, were found to have fallen below the WHO limit of 5 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter of air.

The report even showed that some countries have gone backward after travel and industrial activity returned to pre-COVID levels. Greenpeace called it a “global health catastrophe.”

The WHO estimates that 7 million people die every year from diseases linked to air pollution, and IQAir said we’re not acting fast enough to fight it.

Bangladesh was found to have the highest levels of air pollution, at more than 15 times the WHO’s suggested safe level.

Pakistan and India were next on the list, ahead of Tajikistan and Burkina Faso. All of the top 10 most polluted cities were in Central and South Asia.

However, IQAir said there are “significant gaps” in monitoring air quality around the world. It said about a third of the population of Africa doesn’t have access to air quality data, while in Latin America and the Caribbean, 70% of the data comes from low-cost sensors.

To reduce air pollution, IQAir said governments need to make cities more walkable, reduce car use and increase the use of clean energy.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on IQAir’s report?

3. Do you agree that air pollution is a “global health catastrophe?”

4. How would you rate the air quality in your town or city?

5. What are the most polluted parts of your country?

6. Do you ever check the air quality index in your area?

7. What are the most polluted places you’ve visited?

8. What are the main causes of pollution in your country?

9. Has your government taken any steps to address air pollution in recent years?

10. Do you expect global air pollution levels to increase or decrease over the next few decades?

11. What are the biggest environmental issues your country is facing?


More More More: What Is Money Dysmorphia?

Do you ever worry that you don’t have enough money, even though your bank account suggests you’re doing fine?

You might be experiencing “money dysmorphia.”

It’s a term for when a person has a distorted view of their financial situation — particularly when a wealthy person believes they don’t have enough money to be secure.

The idea is similar to body dysmorphia, where a person agonizes about flaws they perceive in their body, even if they aren’t noticeable to others.

American lawyer and financial expert Ali Katz may have been the first to use the term, having written about money dysmorphia extensively in 2016. But it wasn’t until late 2023 that it started trending.

Because, as it turns out, the feeling is pretty common — especially among young people.

In August 2023, Bloomberg published the results of a survey of over 1,000 Americans making over $175,000 a year. And while earning this much would put these people among the 10% richest in the country, a quarter of them said they felt “very poor,” “poor,” or that they were just managing to get by.

And a December 2023 survey for Intuit Credit Karma found that, out of 1,006 Americans, 29% experienced money dysmorphia — which the survey defined as “having a distorted view of one’s finances that could lead them to make poor decisions.”

That figure rose to 41% among millennials, who are usually defined as those born between 1981 and 1996. And it was 43% among Generation Z, typically considered to have been born between 1997 and 2012.

Some believe social media is to blame. With Instagram and TikTok full of influencers flaunting lavish lifestyles, it’s understandable that young people might feel insecure about their own financial situations.

And as well as causing stress, money dysmorphia might make people stay in jobs they don’t like, or choose work over spending time with their families.

Speaking to Business Insider, Katz said it’s important to actually calculate how much is enough for you — and “know the difference between what you need and what you want.”

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on money dysmorphia?

3. Do you find it surprising that someone earning over $175,000 can feel as though they don’t have enough money?

4. Why do you think money dysmorphia is more common among younger people?

5. Has social media ever influenced your feelings about money?

6. Do you agree that it can be hard to know the difference between how much money you need and how much you want?

7. Would you prefer to have a high paying job that you didn’t like, or a job you loved that paid just enough to get by?

8. How much money would you say it takes to live securely in your country?

9. Are you currently trying to save money? What are you saving for?

10. Do you know anyone who lives a lavish lifestyle?

11. Do you know anyone who’s extremely careful with money?


Sitting Too Much? Every Step Counts, Says Study

Walking more than 2,200 steps a day could reduce our risk of heart disease and early death, even if we spend the rest of the day sitting down.

That’s according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The study added that the popular idea of “10,000 steps per day” is still the magic number — it’s linked to the lowest risk of early death and heart disease.

Researchers looked at data from more than 72,000 people in the UK, with an average age of 61.

Previous studies have linked time spent sitting with early death and heart disease, and walking is known to decrease these risks.

So the research team wanted to find out if walking could offset the health risks of spending a lot of time sitting.

The study participants wore a device on their wrist for seven days. The device was able to record the steps they took and the amount of time they spent sitting or lying down while they were awake.

They were then tracked for around seven years afterward. During this time, 1,633 participants died, and almost 6,200 had cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes.

The study found that taking between 9,000 and 10,500 steps per day reduced the risk of early death by 39%, and reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease by 21%.

That’s even if people were spending a lot of time sitting.

Every step above 2,200 per day was also shown to decrease health risks, but more walking and less sitting was still better.

One of the researchers, Matthew Ahmadi, who led the study, said the results show that “all movement matters,” and anyone who has to spend a lot of time sitting should increase the number of steps they take.

1. Summarize the content of the article.

2. What are your thoughts on the findings of this study?

3. Do you spend a lot of time sitting during the day?

4. How many steps do you imagine you take on average per day?

5. Have you ever used a device to track your movements?

6. Do you often go for walks? How long do you usually walk for?

7. How do you usually feel after a long walk?

8. What are the nicest places to go for a walk or jog where you live?

9. Are you happy with the amount of exercise you currently do?

10. Who are the most active people you know?

11. Walking is man’s best medicine. — Hippocrates. Do you agree?