Week Six: Referendums and Total English

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You will be asked to learn articles (a/the), vocabulary, verb tense, and speaking this week. Wow – so much stuff: How exciting!!

Read the following excerpt. Fill in each gap with an appropriate article. Try to understand and feel the difference between when general (a/an) and specific (the) articles are used. Go through it one sentence at a time. You will probably find it quite easy to complete when the gaps are indicated and highlighted for you. The task will soon be to do it without my assistance.


Dear Abby,

I saw in ___ news last week that Ireland has passed ___ law that permits same-sex marriage. One of ___ most interesting things about reading this was noticing that the government allowed ___ referendum. Rather than decide themselves, the government gave ___ power to ___ people so that they could decide what ___ nation’s stance on this issue would be.

The idea of a referendum for such ___ contentious issue struck me as rather peculiar. Of course, in ___ democracy, ___ people should, ideally, have ___ say in how the country is run. I would just never have imagined that a referendum would have been allowed for such ___ issue. I guess that ___ government were afraid of making ___ decision themselves because whatever they decided, there would have been opposition and complaints.

Is this, then, ___ way forward for countries? Should issues such as this be put to referendums more often in ___ future in all democratic nations? Or is it ___ recipe for disaster. It has been said that in ___ democracy, two idiots outvote ___ genius and we should, therefore, have ___ ruling or governing body to legislate for this.

___ referendum last week also got me thinking about something: Why this issue and not other issues? What should ___ deciding factor be in whether ___ issue is put to ___ public or not? In September last year, ___ issue of Scotland’s independence from  ___ United Kingdom was put to ___ referendum and, surprisingly, the people decided to vote against independence.

Should there be more referendums in developed nations? Should they only be concerned with social issues or is right for people to also have ___ say when it comes to fiscal matters or national security? I wonder what would have happened if ___ similar referendum had taken place in Korea…

Should there have been ___ referendum for the presidential impeachment instead of just protests?


(2) Vocabulary (i)

Read the examples to get a feel for the meaning and usage of the target language. Pay attention to verb tenses and the use of articles and/or prepositions. Then try to use the expression yourself in class when discussing the questions.


To have a say in something (phrase)

When I was young, I found it frustrating not having a say in where we would go on our family holidays.

Most people feel more valued in an organisation when they are allowed to have a say in things.

Question: How much of a say do you have in your family? Who has the most say in things and why? Do you believe the students of this university have had enough say in recent affairs?

Your Sentence:


A recipe for disaster (idiom)

Wearing a white shirt or blouse while eating jajangmyun is a recipe for disaster.

I should have known that not eating before going to the pub would be a recipe for disaster, but I did it anyway.

Question: Can you think of any situations where putting two people together was a recipe for disaster? Have you ever worn the wrong clothes in the wrong situation and it been a recipe for disaster?



Someone’s stance on something

I am often surprised by my students’ stances on capital punishment as so many of them seem to support it.

The government has taken a strong stance on smoking recently and banned it from almost every public space.

Question: Has your stance on any particular issue changed as you have got older? Do any of your close friends or family members have a completely different stance on something to you?



To be peculiar

When you are in your early twenties, it’s a good time to experiment with peculiar hairstyles, fashion, or lifestyle choices.

For a lot of foreigners, the first time they see Koreans all share from one bowl is a little peculiar.

Question: Have you ever come across any peculiar customs or habits among other people? Do you think it’s good for people to have some peculiar aspects to their personality? What’s the most peculiar hairstyle/name/tv program you have ever seen?



Speaking Practice

Using the past unreal conditional, try to think of how to answer the question: “What would have happened if a similar referendum had taken place in Korea?” Look at the verb tenses in the question to answer if correctly.


Broader Discussion

What things should there be a referendum for in universities or in Korea? What should there not be referendums for (i.e. are some things off limits)?


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