So, yeah...Erm...
July 21, 2011 12:53 AM   Subscribe

I live and work in China and, in addition to my regular job, help a fierociously intelligent nineteen-year-old girl with her English twice a week. I don't so much teach her as talk to her and attempt to develop her debating skills. Though not perfect, her English is very good so discussion is often deep with a tendency to take unpredictable twists and turns. We've taken to reading thoughtful articles together and then discussing the main points in addition to noting down any unfamiliar vocabulary. I'd be grateful if Hivemind could suggest some provocative, not overly academic articles that could serve this purpose. I'm running out of ideas.

A previous lesson where we discussed the now-famous Tiger Mothers article from the Wall Street Journal provided ample discussion for our two-hour meets. The article was, however, a little too long and, in some places, a little too complex. Something that, ideally, can be read by a non-native speaker in ten to fifteen minutes MAX would be great.

posted by Zé Pequeno to Human Relations (15 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
maybe The Talk of the Town in the New Yorker?
posted by sully75 at 1:00 AM on July 21, 2011

Here in Korea some of the newspapers will do an "English Clinic" type of thing where an article is printed in two languages, and editorials as well. They usually address a single social-problem type issue and they're pretty short. They're perfect for my adult conversation classes.

Ah, here you go.
posted by bardic at 1:20 AM on July 21, 2011

Would The Atlantic or The Economist be suitable?
posted by devnull at 2:23 AM on July 21, 2011

When I'm at a loss for reading material I always head to The Browser.
posted by tempythethird at 2:27 AM on July 21, 2011

Sure. This week in my EFL classes I taught the following NYTimes articles and asked these discussion questions:
Can A Playground Be Too Safe?
- Describe your childhood playground. How would you evaluate its safety?
- Do you agree that it's good for children to take risks and get hurt?
- What has been your experience in overcoming fears?
- Do you think children who face adversity are better or worse equipped to handle the world?
- If you had a child would you coddle him/her?

"The Joy of a Sun Bath, a Snuggle, a Bite of Pâté
- What are the author's main reasons for his argument?
- Did this book review make you want to read the book?
- What other "nascent and largely neglected" scientific studies do you think should be undertaken?
- What is "anthropomorphic supposition"? Why do some people think it is wrong? Do you agree?
- How does the notion of animal pain or pleasure affect your ethical choices regarding animals?
- Aside from reproduction, what are some other ways in which pleasure improves survival?

Ivy League to Limit Full-Contact Football Practices (in conjunction with another older article about concussions and CTE)
- Considering the risk of CTE, should American football continue to be a childhood sport?
- Do you think the Ivy League's new policy is a good idea?
- Should other colleges follow this example? Should Penn and Penn State have different concussion policies?
- What, institutionally/economically/socially/etc, is preventing the American public from reaching a consensus and deciding, "Ok, we are not going to play this sport anymore"?
posted by acidic at 2:36 AM on July 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

For a good supply of interesting magazine articles, try Longreads. The site collects long form journalism from a variety of sources and often has extremely interesting stuff.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:39 AM on July 21, 2011

Hey there Zé. The NYTimes Sunday magazine has a very short section called The Ethicist where people write short questions for Kaminer (formerly Randy Cohen) and he answers them in a way that is often a bit funny. It's great material for discussion and since the supplement is short, it will serve your purposes. Plus, there are years of archived questions on the NYTimes website, so you'll find plenty of material.

This is interesting and unique material (though perhaps a bit advanced at times) that will challenge this girl and also give her a good look at Western culture and values.
posted by mateuslee at 6:46 AM on July 21, 2011

The BBC has a learning English site just for this...I use it a lot when I'm teaching business guys here in Korea.
posted by nile_red at 6:49 AM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

Also, Simple English Wikipedia really great for ESL.
posted by nile_red at 6:50 AM on July 21, 2011

Arts and Letters Daily
posted by Soliloquy at 8:13 AM on July 21, 2011

Slate and Salon are two magazines that often have short, interesting articles on various things.
posted by sunchai at 10:15 AM on July 21, 2011

Why not have her watch some TED-talks?
Plenty of substance to discuss, and not too hard on us non-natives.
I like the psychology stuff, but there is plenty of other subjects.
posted by Thug at 12:47 PM on July 21, 2011 is an essay aggregator I have been using a lot lately. It links to non-fiction on a wide variety of topics, mostly magazine articles. It seems to put a premium on high quality writing, including occasional classic articles by E.B. White, Truman Capote, Ian Frazier, etc. I think pieces pulled from there would be great materials for an advanced English student and would provide good conversation fodder.
posted by dredge at 1:13 PM on July 21, 2011

New York Magazine often has some interesting articles. Not too long, and they would be good for discussion.
posted by jefftang at 2:51 PM on July 21, 2011

Malcolm Gladwell's essays might be good--well written and with a lot of examples for teasing out any new vocab.
posted by equivocator at 7:04 PM on July 21, 2011

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