KA WORDCAST: Listen and Learn LESSON ELEVEN: A Thousand Million

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In today’s lesson, entitled A Thousand Million, you will be listening to a passage about some of the wealthiest people in the world and the various ways a billion dollars could be spent. Listen carefully to the passage and then answer the questions that follow.  It’s always a good idea to take notes as you listen, but remember: don’t let your note-taking distract you from your listening. 

 

The wealthiest men in the world: multi-billionaires!

A Thousand Million   

Listen and Learn

Lesson Eleven PASSAGE ONLY track:

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Say somebody handed you a million dollars, tax-free.  What would you do with it?  Would you splurge and treat yourself to a luxury, around-the-world cruise?  Would you buy your dream house?  Or would you invest the money and try to make it grow?  For most of us, a million dollars is an unfathomable amount of money.  It’s “silly money,” strictly reserved for movie stars, professional athletes, and CEOs of large companies.  In fact, an American on a median income would have to save every cent of his earnings for twenty years to see a million dollars in his bank account.  His neighbor in Mexico could work for a hundred years and not even come close.  But for the 1,826 individuals who made Forbes Magazine’s billionaires list in 2015—a list that includes Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and Uniqlo retailer Tadashi Yanai—a million dollars is, well, chump change.

Just how much is a billion dollars?  Numerically, a billion is a thousand million, or one followed by nine zeros.   A billion dollars could buy you the Solomon Islands.  That’s right.  An entire country.   The more frivolous spender could be the proud, new owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team and still have a few million dollars left over to buy a whole season’s worth of hotdogs and peanuts for every fan in the stands.   Yes, a billion dollars is a big pile of money.

According to Forbes, the combined net worth of the billionaires who made this year’s list is $7.05 trillion.  That’s more than the combined gross domestic product (GNP) of 152 countries.  It’s just under half of what President Barack Obama submitted to the U.S. Congress as his 2015 fiscal year budget request.   And these billionaires are getting richer by the second.

This has international charity organization Oxfam worried.  If current trends continue, says Oxfam, by 2016, the world’s wealthiest 1% will account for more than 50% of global wealth.  The widening disparity between the rich and the poor is a growing concern, says Oxfam, and not just in developing countries.  It is also a problem in some of the world’s wealthiest nations.  In America, for example, where there are now nearly ten million households with a net worth of $1,000,000 or more, 46 million people are living at or below the poverty line.  In the UK, one out of five citizens, including 3.5 million children, are without basic, everyday necessities.

For a billion dollars, you could buy yourself a round trip ticket to the moon.  It would be an awesome, unforgettable experience, no doubt about it.  But the same billion “bucks” could give 2.5 million schoolchildren free school lunches for a whole year.   It could build 200,000 “tiny houses”—complete with hot and cold running water, a flushing toilet, and solar panels for electricity—to house the homeless.   The same amount could provide 200 million families in the world’s malaria zones with life-saving mosquito nets.  So.  Here’s a billion dollars.  What are you going to do with it?

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LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS

 Listen to Listen and Learn Lesson Eleven LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS  track:

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Today’s listening comprehension questions will be SHORT ANSWER and based on FACTUAL CONTENT and LOGICAL INFERENCE.  Listen to each question carefully and write your answer.  For the best results, always try to listen to the question without looking at the written questions on the website.  Feel free to pause the recording if you need a moment or two to think about the question.

 

1.         How long would an American on a median income have to save all of his earnings to see a million dollars in his bank account?

 

2.         Is the median income in Mexico higher or lower than that of the United States? 

 

3.         Apart from being one of the people on Forbes Magazine’s billionaires list, what is Mark Zuckerberg known for?

 

4.         What country could you buy for a billion dollars?

 

5.         According to Forbes, what is the combined net worth of all 1,826 billionaires who made the billionaires list in 2015?

 

6.         In what year does international charity organization Oxfam expect the world’s wealthiest 1% to account for 50% of global wealth?

 

7.         What, according to Oxfam, is a growing concern, not just in developing countries but in the world’s wealthiest nations, too?

 

8.         How many children in the UK currently live without basic, everyday necessities?

 

9.         What useful facilities are “tiny houses” for the homeless equipped with?

 

10.      What life-saving item could a billion dollars provide for more than 200 million families living in the world’s malaria zones? 

 

 

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Now that you have completed today’s listening comprehension exercise, it’s time to check your answers and see how well you did.  The correct answers will follow immediately after the closing jingle, so stay tuned.  Answers are also available on the KA Wordcast website as a separate track.   You can also download the lesson in PDF format and keep it for your reference.    And be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track.   This will improve your understanding of the passage itself and give you a bigger, better active vocabulary.

LISTENING COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS and ANSWERS HERE!:

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You may also download the lesson in PDF format to keep for your reference.

KA WORDCAST Listen and Learn Lesson Eleven A THOUSAND MILLION

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KA WORDCAST:  Listen and Learn!  Lesson ELEVEN

KEY VOCABULARY

Be sure to listen to the Key Vocabulary bonus track.   This will help you improve your understanding of the passage itself and give your vocabulary a big boost.

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1.   SPLURGE

Would you SPLURGE and treat yourself to a luxury, around-the-world cruise? 

In the sentence above, SPLURGE is a verb that means to spend a lot of money on something that you don’t really need.  To spend lavishly and be extravagant are some near synonyms for SPLURGE.  More informally, you can say to splash out on.

Isn’t it about time you SPLURGED on a new cell phone, Dad?  You’ve had that flip-phone for—what, ten years?

To celebrate our ten-year wedding anniversary, we decided to SPLURGE on a week-long, all-inclusive family holiday to Spain. 

Mayor Ackerman sparked anger among his constituents after SPLURGING $60,000 of taxpayers’ money on upgrading his penthouse apartment.  

SPLURGE is also a noun that refers to the act of spending a lot of money freely or extravagantly.  Shopping spree is a common synonym.

For some brides-to-be, the biggest SPLURGE is the wedding dress, while others prefer to spend money on creating a memorable day for all the wedding guests. 

Every year all across America, thousands of last-minute shoppers crowd the malls and department stores on December 24 for the final Christmas SPLURGE.

 

 2.   INVEST

Would you buy your dream house?  Or would you INVEST the money and try to make it grow?

INVEST is a verb that can be applied to a variety of situations.  In the sentence above, INVEST means to buy property or shares in a company, in the hope of making a profit.  To put money into and to buy shares in are some near synonyms.

I had a chance to INVEST in Starbucks about thirty years ago, but like a fool, I let that opportunity pass.   Imagine how well off I’d be now, if I had done things differently!

“Now is not the right time to INVEST in property,” our bank manager told us.  “You should wait until the interest rates are a bit lower.”

INVEST is also used more colloquially or informally to mean, simply, to buy or purchase, often something pretty expensive or extravagant.

With the money he earned working on a fishing boat in Alaska over the summer, Tommy INVESTED in a new, reliable car.  

I took some of the bonus I received this year and INVESTED it in some much-needed dental work.

When an organization, company, or government INVESTS in something, it does so to make that thing better or more successful. Some synonyms for this usage include spend on, expend on, and speculate on.

In his televised speech, the governor stated that he would be INVESTING more funding in public school music and arts programs.

After a disappointing season, the Manchester United manager is looking to recruit and INVEST in several high-profile players to give his team a better chance at winning the cup next year.

Time and energy can also be INVESTED.  You are likely to INVEST your time and energy into something that you think is worthwhile—something that will be good or useful in the long run.

Parents, too, must INVEST in their children’s education by spending several minutes each day reading to them and talking to them about what they learned at school. 

After INVESTING so much time and energy in my dissertation, I’m hoping to get it published and to find a bigger audience for it.

One noun form of INVEST is INVESTMENT, which refers to the act of investing, to an amount invested, or to the property or possession in which money is invested.

The Botswana government is encouraging foreign INVESTMENTS in order to build a solid financial base for its growing economy.

Unfortunately, the company is not doing as well as expected, and you may not get the financial return for your INVESTMENT that you hoped for. 

When Rob’s grandmother left him her five-bedroom home in her will, rather than sell it, Rob decided to keep it and rent it out as an INVESTMENT.

Turning our extra room into a fitness center and sauna was a good, long-term INVESTMENT.  It has added value to our house and helped keep everyone in the family fit and healthy.

An INVESTMENT is also a commitment of time or support for some person or some cause.

Doing volunteer work is an INVESTMENT of one’s time and energy that pays off in all sorts of ways.

I had to take over most of the domestic and child-rearing duties while my wife went back to school to get her master’s degree, but it was well worth the INVESTMENT.

An INVESTOR is a person or an organization that INVESTS money in something.

Bill Gates is the leading INVESTOR in the clean water project, which aims to build new water- purifying facilities in some of the poorer regions of the world. 

I am seeking INVESTORS for an amazing new product I have invented that will revolutionize the construction industry.

 

3.   UNFATHOMABLE

For most of us, a million dollars is an UNFATHOMABLE amount of money. 

Something that is too strange or difficult to understand is UNFATHOMABLE.  Synonyms include incomprehensible, obscure, puzzling, and incalculable.

According to critics who watched the new sci-fi movie at a private screening, the plot is so unrealistic and confusing as to make it UNFATHOMABLE to most viewers. 

Nicola’s essay was so poorly organized and sloppily written that the point she was trying to make was UNFATHOMABLE. 

I find it UNFATHOMABLE that my really bright 19-year-old sister would drop out of college and give up her scholarship to become a surfing instructor in the Bahamas. 

Considering the country’s tragic history, how its leaders can even be thinking about war as a possible solution to the current crisis is UNFATHOMABLE to me.

If someone has an UNFATHOMABLE expression on his/her face, it is difficult to figure what he/she is feeling or thinking.

At the end of the play, the main character sits alone on a park bench with an UNFATHOMABLE expression on her face, underscoring the play’s overall ambiguity.

I thought he would crack a smile at least, but when we presented Coach Harris with a plaque at the end-of-the-year award ceremony, his expression was as UNFATHOMABLE as always.  

 

4.   FRIVOLOUS

The more FRIVOLOUS spender could be the proud, new owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team and still have a few million dollars left over to buy a whole season’s worth of hotdogs and peanuts for every fan in the stands.

In the sentence above, FRIVOLOUS is an adjective that means not having a very useful or serious purpose, as in:

I finally had to tell my mother to stop wasting her pension on FRIVOLOUS purchases that she will never use.

The kids took their New Year’s cash to the discount department store across the street and spent most of it on FRIVOLOUS things like pens with invisible ink and silly magic tricks.

When describing people or their behavior, FRIVOLOUS means silly, foolish, or shallow, especially when that kind of behavior is not suitable for a particular occasion.

Spending money on lottery tickets when you don’t have enough money to put food on your table seems a bit FRIVOLOUS to me.

I wish I hadn’t been so FRIVOLOUS a spender a when I was earning a good salary.  Now that I’m out of work, I have no savings to fall back on.

If her apology hadn’t been so FRIVOLOUS and insincere sounding, I might have accepted it and forgiven her.

 

5.   DISPARITY

The widening DISPARITY between the rich and the poor is a growing concern, says Oxfam, and not just in developing countries. 

DISPARITY is a noun that means a great difference or gap, especially when the difference is unfair. Inconsistency, imbalance, and unevenness are the nearest synonyms.

As in any classroom, in my son’s fifth grade class there is a big DISPARITY between the high and low achievers.

A good national health care system would greatly reduce the DISPARITY in medical treatment between America’s highest- and lowest-income citizens.

Despite the large DISPARITY in their ages, Jack and his much older wife, Katy, are one of the most successful married couples I know.

 

6.   POVERTY

In America, for example, where there are now nearly ten million households with a net worth of $1,000,000 or more, 46 million people are living at or below the POVERTY line. 

Although used as an adjective above, POVERTY is usually a noun that refers to the state of being extremely poor.  What constitutes POVERTY varies from country to country, but a person can be said to be living in POVERTY if he/she lacks one or more of the basic necessities of life.

Food banks are asking us to increase our donations, as they are struggling to keep up with the demands required to feed the thousands of local families living in POVERTY.   

Don’t you find it ironic that rich tourists flock to the island nation every year, while nearly 80% of the local population lives in extreme POVERTY?  

According to recent reports, POVERTY kills more children around the world every year than disease or war. 

The word POVERTY is sometimes used more figuratively, as in:

The political party’s platform for the upcoming election displays a POVERTY of imagination, offering no new solutions to the country’s most pressing problems.

And POVERTY is often changed into an adjective by adding the word STRICKEN to it with a hyphen, as in this example:

In the most POVERTY-STRICKEN areas of the country, access to clean water and medical care is practically non-existent.

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KA WORDCAST Listen and Learn Lesson Eleven KEY VOCABULARY