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English Detective #20, Cultures at Risk: August 27, 2013
August 26, 2013

English Detective #20, Cultures at Risk: August 27, 2013


The current investigation (Introducing this issue):

English Detective 20 recommends 2 TED talks on the survival of human cultures and 3 exercises to practice this issue’s vocabulary.

What makes some societies more fragile than others? Jared Diamond suggests a 5 point checklist (involving relations with the environment and with other societies) to evaluate a culture’s vulnerability.

Diamond looks at several different societies (including the Greenland Norse, Montana, and Easter Island) for clues on how to make our cultures more resilient. “The fact is that our present course is a non-sustainable course, which means, by definition, that it cannot be maintained. And the outcome is going to get resolved within a few decades.”

Wade Davis shares pictures and experiences from his time in many different non-western cultures, and argues for the value of preserving these different ways of seeing life. He finishes by saying that politics does not resolve problems, but “story-telling can change the world.”

The TED talks are followed by a crossword and vocabulary game to practice the new words (and some from newsletter 19), and a demonstration and practice with the transitional and linking words of the Academic Word List.



Your First Clue: Vocabulary we’ll Emphasize in this Issue


adjacent, albeit, anticipated, appreciation, assigned, constantly, contrary, derived, entities, erosion, hierarchical, integrity, invoke, isolated, marginal, nevertheless, notwithstanding, overseas, passive, scenario, thereby, transfer

Which words do you already know? Which are familiar (you have seen them, or can guess their meanings), but you’d like to know more about them? Which are completely new?

Make a note of the words you would like to learn. After practicing them and taking the next quiz (probably in newletter 21 or 22), how many have you learned?

Notice how they are used in the readings and practice activities. Then try to use some of them yourself, in a sentence or two.

Getting the whole story: this issue’s reading/listening practice:


The TED talk on Why Societies Collapse

Click here for the talk on Endangered Cultures.

Follow the Clues (Vocabulary Practice):


Click here(or right-click to download) for the crossword and here for the answers.

Practice using the game “Odd One Out.” and using academic linking words.

Coming in the next issue: Global Power in the 21st Century.

In case you missed these: Earlier issues of English Detective have articles on a number of topics, plus practice with over 200 words from the Academic Word List. You can check them out with the link to the back issues page below (or find what words were practiced each issue here. or here for the most recent issues.

P.S. If you’re not already getting English Detective, you can subscribe by completing the form here. (It's free!)

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