Linguapress Advanced level English
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Advanced level English - technical

Skiing in the wind 

How technology helps skiers go faster than ever

 There was a time when sports just involved human stamina and muscle power; not so today...
speed skiing
     Science and technology have made their way into competition sports   as skiing and athletics, almost as  as they have in the world of motor racing.
    Equipment manufacturers are spending large budgets on research and development, and making more and more use of state-of-the-art materials, such as kevlar and carbon fibres in the production of a range of sports items, from skis to tennis rackets. At the same time, designers are using computer design programs to produce low-weight high-performance equipment, which is stretching the capacity of today's athletes far that of previous generations of champions.
    Everywhere, technology designed to help aerospace or other mechanical engineers, is being used to help sportsmen new frontiers of achievement.
    Members of Britain's speed skiing team, for instance, used the wind tunnel of a marine technology company, in order to obtain the best possible aerodynamic efficiency, as they prepared for recent winter Olympics.
    To measure the drag forces, ski bindings were attached to a table anchored to a 6-component strain gauge directly beneath, and each team member was videoed in an air stream of 40m a second. Through a window in the chamber floor, the skier was able to see his image in profile, together with a numeric display showing the drag force he was generating, so that he could adopt the best position.
    Speed skiing has been an Olympic sport since the 1990s.

ability to continue an effort - state-of-the-art: ultra modern, cutting-edge - previous - past, earlier - achievement: success - - drag forces: CX, wind resistance - bindings: attachments -  strain gauge: apparatus for measuring tension - display: visual indicator. 

 Copyright notice.
This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress  renewed 2021.
Revised from an article published in Spectrum, the Advanced level English newsmagazine.

This text may not be reproduced on other websites nor in printed form without written permission from the publishers. Reproduction is authorised exclusively for personal use by students, or for use by teachers with their classes.


Student worksheet
Skiing in the Wind

Interactive grammar exercise
Active to passive
: The passive voice is commonly used in scientific and technical English – more so than in "normal" writing.  More attention is paid to statistics and results than to the people responsible for them. 
The text uses a mixture of active and passive structures. Transform the verbs in these extracts from Skiing in the Wind from the active to the passive voice.
For example, for : They are building a new factory  you would write: A new factory is being built. (and vice-versa).
Complete each sentence using the framework given.

1. Equipment manufacturers are spending increasingly large budgets on research and development.  
Increasingly large manufacturers

2. They are making more and more use of state-of-the-art materials such as kevlar and carbon fibers in the production of  sports items.  
More and more use sports items.

3. Designers are using computer assisted design programs to produce high-performance equipment.  
Computer-assisted programs equipment

4. This is stretching the capacity of today's athletes far beyond that of previous generations.  
The capacity of today's athletes generations.

5. Members of Britain's speed skiing team used the wind tunnel facilities of a marine technology company 
A marine technolgy company's team.

6. Through a window in the chamber floor, the skiier could see his image in profile.
The skier's own image floor.
7. A numeric display shows the drag force he was generating.
the drag force display.

For more verbs in the passive, see Linguapress online grammar page: The Passive


Teachers section : Using this article in class

1. Classroom procedure. The cloze boxes in the article should be completed by students, either individually or collectively, before anything else is done with this text.

2. Compound nouns - a classic feature of technical English

Have students pick out the noun groups in which one noun is modified by another.
muscle power, competiton sports, computer assisted design programs,low-weight high-performance equipment, wind tunnel facilities, marine technology company, 6-component strain guage, chamber floor,
Ask students to explain these terms, for example: "muscle power" is power which requires or uses muscles, or physical strength.

3. Grammar : passives.
Make sure that your students a) understand the difference between active and passive, and b) know how to apply this.
It is easy for teachers to pay insufficient attention to grammar, as if "learning grammar"  were some kind of option where learning a second or additional language is concerned. It is not. Only the very brightest of learners can easily absorb the grammar of a second language without actually learning it; for the rest, understanding the rules of grammar can be anything between very helpful and absolutely vital.
    A learner who doesn't grasp grammar rules cannot communicate effectively and unambiguously in any language other than his or her native language, which has been learned by full-time immersion over many years since childhood. For any language learned in school or through private study, teachers who stress grammar will be doing their students a big favour.  
For a full but succinct explanation of the passive, see  the Passive online or refer to A Descriptive Grammar of English, pages 30 - 34.

Answer to words cloze boxes in the original article:  such  much  increasingly  range  assisted, beyond, reach, facilities

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Advanced level English resource

Level - Difficult.
IELTS Level :  7
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
40 - Difficult
Grade level: 15.3

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Photo from an original by Jon Wick - Creative commons licence
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First published in Spectrum, the advanced level English newsmagazine.
All articles published on this website remain the copyright © of and/or their individual authors.
Reproduction is authorised exclusively for use by students for personal use, or for teachers for use in class

Multi-copying of this resource is permitted for classroom use. In schools declaring the source of copied materials to a national copyright agency, Linguapress advanced level resources should be attributed to "Spectrum" as the source and "Linguapresss France" as the publisher.

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