Why Germany’s Aggressive Talent Scouting Strategy Won The 2014 World Cup

Germany’s recent World Cup Championship is 14 years in the making.

Topics: International Lifestyle Skill Point: Present Perfect Simple

Now that we all know the final scores of the 2014 World Cup, it’s easy to reflect on the wins, losses, and coaches’ decisions. The host country, Brazil, suffered a devastating defeat by Germany, and another loss during the third-place round against the Netherlands, leaving their head coach unemployed shortly after the tournament ended. Although Brazil didn’t play as well as was expected, the 7-1 score against Germany might have more to do with Germany’s talent than Brazil’s performance.

When we look back at the great talent of this year’s tournament – Lionel Messi of Argentina, Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal, Neymar of Brazil, and Robin van Persie of the Netherlands – we can reflect that we have seen quite a bit of luck (plus a lot of hard work). Luck that these players found a passion for soccer in their youth and have been playing since then. Luck that they were born in their respective countries where soccer is adored. And luck that their programs were funded. When it comes to Germany’s national team, they’ve gone beyond luck and taken matters into their own hands.

It’s hard to believe that until this year, Germany hadn’t won a FIFA World Cup since they were a divided nation. In 2000, they didn’t even make it past the group stage of the European Championship. An entire country was devastated and embarrassed. As a result, the Deutscher Fussball Bund (DFB), which is the organization responsible for Germany’s national team, decided to make some serious changes to the way talent was found and curated. Instead of letting the club teams find talented teens, and then poaching them for the national team, DFB decided to take matters into their own hands. In 2003, they launched a national program to find all of the nation’s young talent, starting with six-year-olds.

It might seem strange to start scouting at such a young age, but as this proven powerhouse has shown, it’s the best way to ensure no talent is left unclaimed. All six-year-olds around the country are taught the same basic skills by one of 1,000 nationally licensed coaches. The coaches both scout and train for a couple years, then professional scouts show up to watch them play around age eight, and come back every season to scope the talent. With these processes in place, Germany’s club teams can bring on more capable homegrown German players rather than reaching into the pool of international talent.

Not only did the DFB change the scouting and training processes, but they also changed the desirable traits in players. Before the new program, Germany’s players were picked for height and build; nowadays they’re selected for speed and technical skill. The German mentality for clean, clear plays by big athletes has been replaced with fluid formations and set plays by fast and nimble athletes, such as Thomas Müller.

They also made big changes to coaching philosophies and athletic facilities. It was once common for professional club players to seamlessly slip into part-time coaching positions without any experience as a coach. Now the coaches work full-time, and come with University educations, training, and experience. Even the facilities have seen upgrades around the country, providing better tools and injury prevention than ever before.

When you look at the effort put into curating the 2014 German National team, it seems almost embarrassing that Argentina even challenged them at all. But then you remember this fact: we haven’t even seen the talent that started in the program at age six. Those players are only beginning to turn 18. It is a dynasty in the making.


Reading Comprehension


INTERMEDIATE:  Based on your knowledge of the world of soccer, do you think Germany is in the beginning of a long-term domination of the sport? Will they become a soccer dynasty?

ADVANCED: After reading the article, what is your opinion of Germany’s methods for harvesting talented Germans? Do you agree or disagree? Explain.

The Culture of Giving Directions

You might believe some cultures give terrible directions, but maybe you’re just bad at receiving them.

 Topics: Culture International Skill Point: Imperatives

When travelers and businesspeople set out for trips abroad, they sometimes forget that carrying a map is just as important as knowing your hotel name! When you’re lost in a foreign land, even if you do have a map, the first thing many people do is ask the safest-looking person on the street, be it a street vendor or a mother with kids for directions. Often, one simple question will lead to a slew of locals offering different advice, routes, arguments in another language, or even a ride on someone’s motorbike.

When you’ve done enough traveling, you realize that a country’s culture has a massive impact on the way they offer directions, and whether or not they give you the right directions to your destination. Let’s take a look at why.

Your Hometown’s Layout

Believe it or not, a lot of how we give and understand directions has to do with our hometown’s layout. If you are from a major metropolis with a grid system, you’re more likely to give cardinal directions with street names and map-like phrases in mind.

“Head west on 8th street and turn right on Park.”

This seems pretty straightforward to many of us, but what about those of us who grew up in rural areas with just a couple of main roads? The cardinal directions might be confusing to someone who’s never had to consult a map or street sign. These individuals tend to favor landmarks (commonly referred to as a “referencia” in Spanish).

“Drive until you see the McDonald’s on the left and turn right at the stop light.”

Now think even further to areas of the world without any street signs whatsoever, and landmarks in the form of hole-in-the-wall eateries and unnamed convenience stores. Direction in these countries are even more confusing, and tourists often feel they’ve been led astray when trying to navigate the alleys and dirt roads.

You might hear, “Take this road straight for, say, 10 minutes, and then you will see a road on the right, keep walking for 2 more minutes and you will see an alley on the left. Turn at the alley and you will get there in a few more minutes.”

If you’re from a developed country, the third example won’t be nearly as easy to follow as the first two. In short, one of the reasons we give directions the way we do is based on how we see our surroundings, which is often based on where we grew up.

High-Context vs. Low-Context Culture

Another huge factor in the way we give directions is based on cultural context. High-context cultures use fewer words, and more nonverbal clues, and are less likely to give direct or blunt instructions (They’re also less likely to say they don’t know where something is!). High-context cultures include those in Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, Greece, Southeast Asia, among others. You might have to judge the confidence of the speaker’s directions based on his or her body language, since many things are left unsaid in a high-context culture, letting the culture fill in the blanks.

Low-context cultures are much more direct, and rely on accurate words to describe a situation. Eye contact and body language are much less important, because they are more likely to say directly whether they do or do not know where something is. Directions will be much more direct, and are likely to use more specific instructions, like street names, rather than guesstimates of time and distance.

If you learn a little bit about the culture before you arrive, you’ll have a much easier time navigating directions given by a local.

Reading Comprehension



INTERMEDIATE: Look at this map, and write directions from the following places, using proper grammar. 1) The Airport to the Belleview Hotel 2) The Pet Shop to the Zoo. 3) The Laundromat to the Fire Station to the Department Store.

ADVANCED: Write a 100-word dialogue in which multiple people from different countries offer directions.

Universities Around the World are Now Teaching Regular Classes in English

Would you take business, science, and mathematics courses in a foreign language?

Topics:  Culture  Business  Skill Point: Basic Auxiliary Verbs


Any glance at a “Teach English as a foreign language,” catalog will tell you that the English language is growing in popularity around the world. Some claim China will soon take over global manufacturing and they call for more Mandarin classes in business schools, others believe that Spanish will soon be battling English for the most spoken language in the United States. As for now, there’s no doubt that English is currently the language of global studies in the United States and around the world. Nowadays, more and more Universities around the world are offering regular classes in English, not just English classes, but regular science, business, mathematics, and technology courses taught entirely in English. This method is referred to as English as a medium of instruction, or EMI.

There are certain benefits to learning a new language by immersion, but the use of EMI goes beyond that. It labels English as the language of higher education.

In parts of the world where schooling is minimal, such as many villages in Africa, teaching in English is a great way to prepare students for studying elsewhere in the world. The English language is quickly growing into a sort of passport for international travel and global interaction. A large percentage of global business transactions take place in English, and more and more travelers are finding that the English language is the most common language spoken around the world. Even though almost two billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, followed by 414 million who speak Spanish, compared to just 375 people who speak English, these other languages haven’t spread around the globe nearly as much.

Many countries around the world, including Denmark, China, and Qatar, are mostly pro-English and choose to promote EMI. At the University of Copenhagen, you can earn your Master’s or PhD without knowing any Danish whatsoever. This phenomenon is what poses problems around the world. Many countries, including Israel and Venezuela have instituted anti-EMI policies in an effort to help the national language survive in academic life.

There are additional problems with the use of EMI in the classroom. For example, when Universities attract international students, there may be a classroom full of speakers from dozens of different countries, many of whom may not speak the teacher’s native language. This makes every teacher a sort of ESL teacher, but one who often has no interest or training in teaching ESL When the British Council and University of Oxford set out to find more information regarding English as a medium of instruction, their report shows that they discovered a major disconnect between students’ and teachers’ expectations.

Teachers of these non-ESL subjects don’t consider it part of their job to teach English to their math, science, or medical students. Many of them had no prior experience or education in how to teach in an EMI classroom, making it more difficult for the students to keep up. When the teachers don’t feel the need to improve their students’ English, the students are left to fend for themselves.

There are even more hurdles than students’ poor English. Many schools and programs in places such as China successfully attract English-speaking students to their EMI classrooms, yet the students arrive and find it impossible to understand their teachers. EMI seems like an excellent way to help students further their English fluency, and it allows universities to market to a global audience, but the problems are complex and varied. Additionally, EMI establishes a single language for global studies, which is especially useful in international courses such as mathematics and medicine. However, it seems that the EMI policies and training within the educational system, or lack there of, are the major barriers this method will face in the years to come.

Reading Comprehension

Universities teaching courses in English.

Writing Prompt

INTERMEDIATE: In 200 words, explain why you think some countries do not allow English as a medium of instruction, and give your opinion on whether it is a good idea or not for your country.

ADVANCED: List the cons of EMI (use those in the article and any others you might know) and write a potential solution to each issue. Each solution should be about 3 sentences long.

Brain Pain: Addressing Head Injuries in Sports Worldwide

In a world where hits and falls are harder than ever before, players are returning to the fields with concussions, at the detriment of their long-term health.

Topics:  Health  Culture  Skill Point: Phrasal Verbs

It’s no secret that a career in athletics often comes with a myriad of injuries – many of which end careers. Current research is focused on more serious long-term complications off the field, resulting from one of the most common injuries in high-impact sports: concussions. It’s not just the dizziness, nausea, memory loss, or disorientation that doctors are worried about; the more serious concern is chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which is a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple concussions and head injuries. CTE was once called Boxer’s Disease, but is now commonly found in professional athletes playing ice hockey, rugby, American football, wrestling, and other contact sports.

With traumatic injuries like this on the tip of sports announcers’ tongues, you’d think players, coaches, and trainers would take CTE more seriously. In 2013, an Irish rugby player named Brian O’Driscoll took a hard hit in the Six Nations tournament, leaving him feeling disoriented and dizzy. He was escorted off the field. Just a few minutes later, he returned to the game, still concussed, with his head wrapped in bandages. In October of 2010, a 17-year-old high school (American) football player, Nathan Stiles, died after his homecoming football game where he took one hard hit after a series of concussive hits throughout the season. In 2012, two former NFL players committed suicide, and both autopsy reports confirmed CTE. And in soccer, those who frequently head the ball were found to have brain abnormalities similar to those found in concussed patients.

American Football is no stranger to concussions. For a long time, NFL players’ concussions were ignored so frequently that the NFL recently agreed on a $765 million settlement for a class-action lawsuit brought by NFL players regarding dangers of concussions. It’s taken 20 years, but the NFL is now forced to take these concussions seriously. They’re doing so by changing the rules of the game, giving more severe penalties to certain types of hits, and disallowing some of the more aggressive hits altogether.  The NFL has also teamed up with the National Institute of Health (NIH) to learn more about the long-term effects of traumatic brain injuries.

The prevalence of CTE among professional athletes is raising concern for parents of youth athletes as well, garnering attention from the U.S. government. The United States President, Barack Obama, is hosting the first-ever White House summit to address these growing concerns over head injuries in sports, particularly for youths, in an effort to improve sports’ safety measures for coming generations.

But when it comes to the rest of the world, not enough attention is being placed on the risks of concussions in sports such as soccer and rugby. According to The Rugby Football Union, there were 6.7 concussions per every 1000 hours played last season, but many doctors and players believe the real number of concussions to be double or even triple what’s reported. While the NFL can afford hundreds of billions to keep former players happy, rugby clubs can’t afford to pay settlement fees in the millions; they’d go bankrupt.

Many doctors and professionals are calling for safety measures such as the Zurich guidelines to be more exhaustive, and to be required rather than recommended in order to protect the players. Though the changes to rules in NFL might seem minor, at least they’re a step in the right direction.

Reading Questions

Writing Prompt

INTERMEDIATE: In 200 words give your opinion on this article, and answer the following questions. Do you think the possibility if CTE should be taken seriously, or is it just “part of the job?” Knowing this, would you want your children to play hard contact sports?

ADVANCED: A lot of attention is being paid to this issue of head injuries in sports, but we’re still looking for solutions. Choose one or more contact sports (ice hockey, American football, soccer, or rugby) and explain what you would change to improve this problem and reduce the risks of concussions and CTE.

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