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Advanced level English - USA


by Ken Evans

Nevada and its Extraterrestrials

Are they for real ? Some people are quite sure that creatures from another planet are present on Earth. And of course they are hiding in the USA - in Nevada, to be precise

      Ever since it was opened up in the 19th century, the American West has attracted people looking for adventure, people with imagination, people with their own ideas, their own beliefs ,  often quite weird and wonderful beliefs. Perhaps not surprisingly therefore, it is a region also frequented by UFO's..... or so they say! And to confirm it all, there is in the state of Nevada an officially designated "Extraterrestrial" highway, for the benefit of anyone who hopes to see little green men....

Route 375 Nevada
Nevada's Extraterrestrial Highway 375.
It was probably destined to happen; the ingredients have been there for a long time. There's Nevada, with its sparsely traveled highways and huge open spaces, where the imagination can run wild; and right in the middle of the state, a remote super-secret military area, off-limits to all except a group of tight-lipped employees.
    That place and those circumstances were sure to breed rumors and stories; and in time, those rumors and stories became legends and myths. And that is how a very lonesome road, Nevada State Route 375, has come to be known as the Extraterrestrial Highway.

    There have always been strange things in the sky out there. During the 1950's, there were mushroom clouds from above-ground nuclear tests. Locals and visitors alike, oblivious of the risks, used to plan parties round the scheduled explosions, known as "shots".
    Day and night there were other weird sightings overhead; oddly-shaped aircraft with no markings would roar across the deserted highway right in front of you, when you were all by yourself on the road, then disappear over the hill before you had time to remember that you had a camera in the back of the car.
   
    People talked to each other; news reporters talked to the military; and the military talked to nobody. Officials denied the very existence of any secret bases, such as the infamous Area 51, also known as "Dreamland", near the tiny town of Rachel, Nevada. And yet all anyone had to do was to climb a hill, look over the top, and see that, yes, there was indeed a base, with aircraft coming and going.
   
    For some people, there could only be one explanation; the government had to be hiding aliens there; maybe, people suggested, the U.S.Air Force was even test-piloting alien craft that had crash-landed at various places on Earth. Or perhaps the government was secretly exchanging scientists with extraterrestrials. A wonderful rumor became very popular with UFOlogists, namely that a group of extraterrestrial scientists were at work at Area 51 Base, while a contingent of Earthling scientists was on some far-away planet, finding a cure for the common cold.
    The most famous UFO-believer was a man called Bob Lazar, who drew national attention to the area in 1989 when he publicly claimed to have seen alien ships captured by the military. He supposedly saw them while employed as a physicist at the base.
   
    For those with less fantastic imaginations, the "mysteries" of the area had a more prosaic explanation, mainly that the US Air Force is secretive about the base simply because it is used, as it has been for the past 50 or so years, to develop new military aircraft such as the U-2 and the F117-A "Stealth" fighter. Unfortunately, for instance, this top-secret plane was captured in flight one sunny afternoon by a Las Vegas photographer, before the U.S. Air Force had revealed its existence. Shown the picture, an Air Force spokesman claimed not to know what it was! No wonder that rumors proliferated!
    Confirmed UFOlogists, however, remain convinced that the very remote area around Area Base 51 is frequented by extraterrestrials and that the US military is in contact with them; and so it is that the minuscule town of Rachel, population 100 people and a few dogs, now promotes itself as the UFO capital of America. Visitors now come from all over the USA and beyond, to drive along the 98-mile highway and stop off for a bite or a night at the social center of Rachel, the Little A "Le" Inn, (Get it? A "Le" Inn = Alien.... and in American, the pronunciation is virtually the same.) which serves as café, bar, hotel and UFO Information Center.
   
    Owners Joe and Pat Travis have covered the walls with photos of flying objects, and have a library of 150 volumes devoted to UFOlogy, which visitors are free to look through.

WORDS
weird:
bizarre - UFO: Unidentified Flying Object - sparse: infrequent - remote: distant - off-limits: inaccessible - alike: both, together - oblivious to: not worried by - aliens: people from space - craft: spacecraft - prosaic: ordinary - spokesman: representative - inn: hotel - - 


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WORKSHEET

Nevada and its Extraterrestrials

Careful reading . Here is a résumé using information from the article: unfortunately, it contains vocabulary or factual 20 errors. Underline them, and suggest suitable alternatives.  


        Nevada's Route State 375 has just been officially designated as the Extraterrestrial Highway, and Rachel, the small town in the middle of it (population  1000 people and  few dogs) has become the UFO capital of America.
        For many years, people have been coming to the region round Rachel to look for  Unified Flying Objects and watch the  flying saucers that are often seen in the sky in this  removed part of the Nevada desert. And there have been lots of strange things to see,  included  mushrooms and  marked planes.
        There was a popular rumor that the U.S. Air Force was  pilot-testing alien aircraft at the secret Area Base 51 nearby. Some people  ever suggested that there were aliens  leaving at the base, and that the American government had sent  scientifics to work on another  plant.
        However, the presence of strange  people in the sky  in Rachel probably has a much more  fantastic explanation, namely that for years the U.S. Air Force has been  tasting its new secret  spacecraft at Area Base 51.



Prepositions and adverbs.

Interactive - use on screen or on paper:
 Replace all the missing prepositions and adverbs in this extract from the article
(To save your answers, take a screenshot when you have made your choices)


   There have  been strange things  the sky  there.  the 1950's, there were mushroom clouds  -ground nuclear tests. Locals and visitors alike, oblivious the risks, used to plan parties  the scheduled explosions, known  "shots".
    Day and night there were other weird sightings  ; oddly-shaped aircraft  no markings would roar  the deserted highway right  you, when you were all  yourself  the road, then disappear  the hill  you had time to remember that you had a camera  the back of the car.


For teachers    

 Creative writing :

Either imagine that you have just visited Rachel, Nevada. Write a letter home to a friend of yours who is fanatically interested in UFO's and the paranormal. Your letter must include the following words, in this order.
    very remote / flying saucers / aliens / secret oper­ations / mysterious / little green men

Or; produce a tourist brochure for Rachel.
Both exercises: length, about 200 words.

Prepositions and adverbs exercise: You may want to give your students the list or words and expressionsthat they will need . Here it is.
  above   across   always   as    before   by  during  from   in    in   in front of    of   out  over   overhead   round    with    on  .

Vocabulary:
Some expressions such as tight-lipped and breed rumours may need explaining. Can your students suggest their meanings ?


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