Why Technical English

About writing essays, professional reports, etc.

December 16, 2009
1 Comment
By Galina Vitkova


I have recently read an interesting article by Charles Howell titled Writing Your Report – 5 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make. I have been very surprised by how some situations described in the article are similar to my experience. Really many students make mistakes, which easily avoidable.


First of all, a citation from the article

“For some reason, students writing papers love to use extremely long sentences. Some do this to fill up the page requirements, while others do it to appear as if they know more about the subject and sound ‘scholarly’. Narrative is good, but don’t let it become fluff.”

My students also love writing too long sentences. Some of them are able to write a 100 word long essay comprising only one sentence. These are really extremely long sentences, but I quite usually recommend dividing of a long sentence in an essay into two or even three shorter sentences. However, I am of opinion that students cannot stop in explaining or narrating their thoughts rather than they try to make the teacher think how clever and erudite they are.

Whatever the case may be I admire and endorse a slogan K.I.S.S. introduced by the author of the article, which means “Keep It Short and Simple”. It seems to be great and pertinent in this case.


Another citation:

“If you are doing technical writing, or scientific writing avoid using passive sentences. these documents should be as straightforward as possible, especially if you ever want to see them published. Try to keep in mind that in scientific papers, people will be trying to reproduce your experiments. These people will not always be native English speakers, and will be more impressed with an easily understandable report than one from somebody who tried to use too much jargon in order to seem like an expert.”

I am afraid in this case I cannot agree with the author. In my opinion passive sentences are very frequently used in technical writing for one serious reason. In technical writing as a rule we very often need to explain or describe how a procedure, equipment, software program, etc. work or function. Their executor is usually not so important. Let us consider for instance pairs of sentences:



Active Voice

Passive Voice



Microsoft released Windows 7 on 22 October 2009.

Windows 7 was released (by Microsoft – usually it is not necessary to add that) on 22 October 2009.


Americans built the first solar power plant, which supplies electricity to the local electricity network, in the desert Mojave in California.

The first solar power plant, which supplies electricity to the local electricity network, was built (by Americans –it is not commonly said, it is clear) in the desert Mojave in California.


The computer controls a robot´s physical body,

A robot´s physical body (“body” is important, so it should be on the first place) is controlled by the computer.


Joints connect together the individual segments of a robot´s physical body.

 The individual segments of a robot´s physical body are connected together with joints (joints could connect together many things, but for us it is important that robots´body segments are connected with joints ).





All examples in column B – the passive voice, and they are much more effective than in column A and get to the point.

So, use the passive voice when you want to emphasize actions, results of actions etc. not the person responsible for the action or the source of the action etc.


Let us consider another citation:

“I can’t believe that it’s necessary to write about this, but every time I get a batch of reports, there are numerous spelling errors in as many as half of them. Being able to spell correctly is one of the key effective writing skills that teachers notice immediately. It doesn’t matter how well written your report is if, when the teacher looks over it again there are red marks on every page. Deciding the final score on an academic report is a VERY subjective process, and those red marks really DO make a difference. Every word processing program on the market had a decent spell checker – USE IT!”

I have quite the same experience. Although every editor has a check speller at present, many students do not use it. And not anywhere near they use the thesaurus (see Thesaurus – what’s up with it) to make their writing more beautiful and attractive for readers.


And finally about the proper format of writing

In English technical or professional writing it needs to keep some style. When issuing a technical report, an essay, or offering and article to a journal, newspaper or somewhere like that everything should be written in a style which a publisher demands. So take it seriously. Remember that technical writing is a tool of non-verbal communication for science and technical projects and you should respect appropriate rules when communicating.

If you aren’t sure about the writing format, which, for example, the journal where you would like to publish your writing demands, ask them. You might even ask them for a few writing samples you can look at to make sure you get the formatting correct. Some publishers are very picky about this. Find out what format this or that journal or other publisher demands and use it.

There are four styles recommended for usage in professional writing. It means if you write something for English or American journals use formats APA style or MLA style or Chicago/Turabian style or StyleEase.

For those who have never about these styles of writing, there is short information on a proper format of style from Wikipedia:


MLA (Modern Language Association of America)style

The newest MLA is characterized in the third edition MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (2008) The manual was first published by the Modern Language Association of America in 1985. It is an academicstyle guide widely used in the United States, Canada, and other countries. It provides guidelines for writing and documenting research in the humanities, especially in English studies. The MLA’s “guidelines are also used by over 1,100 scholarly and literary journals, newsletters, and magazines and by many university and commercial presses”. Moreover, they are “followed throughout North America and in Brazil, China, India, Japan, Taiwan, and other countries around the world”.


APA (American Psychological Association) style

APA Style was first developed 80 years ago by a group of social scientists who wanted to establish sound standards of communication. Since then, it has been adopted by leaders in many fields and has been used by writers around the world.

The best scientific writing is scanty and straightforward. It draws attention to the ideas being presented.  So, the manuscript structure, word choice, punctuation, graphics, and references are all chosen to move the idea forward with a minimum of distraction and a maximum of precision. The APA rules of style concern punctuation and abbreviations, construction of tables, selection of headings, citation of references, and presentation of statistics.

APA style rules and guidelines are set out in a reference book titled The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association.

Chicago/Turabian style

This is a Chicago style of writing and formatting research reports, theses, and dissertations, for students and researchers developed in the University of Chicago and commonly known as Turabian style. The newest version of A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations comprising appropriate rules is published by the University of Chicago Press in November 2009. The style includes International Standard Bibliographic Description , too.

Style  Ease

StyleEase has been producing great software for academic writers since 1991. If you’re really uncertain about formatting and you do not know publisher´s requirements, get a formatting tool like StyleEase to make it easier. There are four software tools for that, i.e. StyleEase for APA Style,  StyleEase for MLA Style, StyleEase for Chicago/Turabian Style, and StyleEase for Seminary Style.

Just remember what is recommended above and check everything you have written before handing your piece of work in.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wikiWikipedia – free encyclopedia



Story of cloning

November 7, 2009
1 Comment

Composed by P. B                    

We study English discussing actual professional problems

Scientists and researchers have been working on cloning for above 100 years only. Below the short history of cloning is depicted.

1894     The first interesting research – Hans Dreisch isolated blastomeres from 2- and 4-celled sea urchin embryos and observed their development into small larvae.

At the beginning of the 20th century the German embryologist Hans Spemann was the leader in the field of the investigation:

  • 1901 Spemann split a 2-celled newt embryo into two parts, resulting in the development of two complete larvae;
  • 1902 Spemann split a 2-celled salamander embryo and each cell grew up on an adult, providing proof that early embryo cells carry necessary genetic information;
  • 1914 and 1928 Spemann conducted an early nuclear transfer experiment (the second one was successful);
  • 1938 Spemann published the results of his 1928 primitive nuclear transfer experiments involving salamander embryos in the book “Embryonic Development and Induction”.

1950     First successful freezing of a bull semen at -79°C for later insemination of cows was accomplished.

1952     First animal cloning: Robert Briggs and Thomas J. King cloned northern leopard frogs in the Institute for Cancer Research in Philadelphia.

1970     Howard Temin and David Baltimore from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), USA independently of each other isolated the first restriction enzyme. This capability led to the future manipulation of DNA.

1973     Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer of the University of California at San Francisco created the first recombinant DNA organism using recombinant DNA techniques.

1977     Karl Illmensee and Peter Hoppe at Jackson Laboratory in Maine, USA created mice having had only a single parent.

1978     A well respected science fiction writer David Rorvik published the novel “In His Image: The Cloning of a Man”. It was about a millionaire who had let him clone.

1979     Karl Illmensee at Jackson Laboratory in Maine, USA claimed to have cloned three mice.

1983     The first human mother-to-mother embryo transfer was completed. This procedure was performed at the Harbor Medical Center of University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

1984     Steen Willadsen in the Royal Veterinary College of Copenhagen cloned a sheep from embryo cells, the first verified example of mammal cloning based on nuclear transfer.

1986     Steen Willadsen in the Royal Veterinary College of Copenhagen cloned a cow.

1993     Human embryos were first cloned by a team at Newcastle University.

1996     Dolly, the sheep, the first organism cloned from adult cells was born. Ian Wilmut and Keith Campbell at the Roslin Institute in Scotland created the world first ever cloned mammal. They announced the birth in the following year, on February 23, 1997, and the worlds press beat a path to their door since then.

1997     President Clinton in the USA proposed legislation to ban the cloning of humans for 5 years.

1997     Thousands of biologists and physicians signed the voluntary five-year moratorium on human cloning in the United States.

1997     Richard Seed intended to clone a human before federal laws could effectively prohibit the process.

1998     19 European countries signed a ban on human cloning.

1998     Ryuzo Yanagimachi, Toni Perry, and Teruhiko Wakayama from the University Hawai announced that they had cloned 50 mice from adult cells since October, 1997.

During the last decade many animals (mammals) were cloned:

2000     Researchers working together in Japan and New York reported that they had cloned a pig named Xena;

2001     The first cloned cat in the United States (name Little Nicky);

2003     The Utah State University research team is the first worldwide to clone a member of the horse family, a mule;

2004     Researchers in Japan announced that a bull was cloned from a previously cloned bull – serial cloning;

2009     Camels joined the list of cloned mammals – in Dubai.

Despite a success rate in most experiments makes less than 5 percent, I think the progress is very fast and every year the result will be better and better.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki


History of Microsoft Windows

October 29, 2009
1 Comment
                                                        Composed by G. Vitkova using Wikipedia, the free enciclopedia

 1983 – Microsoft announced the development of Windows, a Graphical User Interface (GUI) for its own operating system (MS-DOS), which it had shipped for IBM PC and compatible computers since 1981. Since then, Microsoft has delivered many versions of Windows, and the product line has changed from a GUI to a modern operating system.

1985 – The first independent version of Microsoft Windows, version 1.0, was released, but achieved little popularity.

1987 – Microsoft Windows version 2 came out, and proved slightly more popular than its predecessor. Later, two new versions were released: Windows/286 2.1 and Windows/386 2.1.

1990 – Microsoft Windows scored a significant success with Windows 3.0. Its user interface was finally a serious competitor to the user interface of the Macintosh computer.

1992 – In response to the impending release of OS/2 2.0, Microsoft developed Windows 3.1 , which included several minor improvements to Windows3.0 (such as display of True Type scalable fonts, developed jointly with Apple), but primarily consisted of bugfixes and multimedia support. Later Microsoft also released Windows 3.11, a touch-up to Windows 3.1 which included all of the patches and updates that followed the release of Windows 3.1 in 1992.


1992 July – Windows NT 3.1 arrived in Beta form to developers. Its features made Windows NT perfect for theLAN server market Windows NT version 3.51 was Microsoft’s entry into this field, and took away market share from Novell (the dominant player) in the following years.

1995 – Windows 95 was launched. After Windows 3.11 Microsoft began to develop a new user oriented version of the operating system. The system was designed to have support for 32-bit multitasking like OS/2 and Windows NT, although a 16-bit kernel would remain for the sake of backward compatibility. The Win32 API first introduced with Windows NT was adopted as the standard 32-bit programming interface, with Win16 compatibility being preserved through a technique known as „thunking“.

Microsoft released Windows NT 4.0, which features the new Windows 95 interface on top of the Windows NT kernel.

1998 – Microsoft released Windows 98. It included new hardware drivers and better support for the FAT32 (File Allocation Table) system, which allows support for disk partitions larger than the 2 GB maximum. The USB support in Windows 98 is far superior to the token, unreliable support provided by the OEM (original equipment manufacturer) editions of Windows 95. It also controversially integrated the Internet Explorer browser into the Windows GUI and Windows Explorer file manager. This act prompted the opening of the United States vs. Microsoft case. It dealt with Microsoft abuse of its hold on the PC operating system market to unfairly compete with companies such as Netscape.

1999 – Microsoft released the Windows 98 Second Edition, an interim release whose most notable feature was the addition of Internet Connection Sharing, which was a form of network address translation, allowing several machines on a LAN (Local Area Network) to share a single Internet Connection. The Second Edition was also much easier to use and much smoother than the first edition of Windows 98. Hardware support through device drivers was increased. Many minor problems present in the original Windows 98 were found and fixed which make it the most stable release of Windows 9x.

2000 February – Microsoft released Windows 2000. It was successfully deployed both on the server and the workstation markets.

2000 September – Microsoft introduced Windows ME (Millennium Edition), which upgraded Windows 98 with enhanced multimedia and Internet features. It also introduced the first version of System Restore, which allowed users to revert their system state to a previous “known-good” point in the case of system failure. System Restore was a notable feature that made its way into Windows XP. The first version of Windows Movie Maker was introduced as well.

2003 – Microsoft launched Windows Server 2003, a notable update to Windows 2000.

2006 – Microsoft released a thin-client of Windows XP Service Pack 2, called Windows Fundamentals for Legacy PCs (WinFLP).

2007 – Windows Home Server was announced by Bill Gates. It is a server product based on Windows Server 2003, designed for consumer use. This Server can be configured and monitored using a console program that can be installed on a client PC. Such features as Media Sharing, local and remote drive backup and file duplication are all listed as features.

2006 – Windows Vista was released on November 30 to business customers, following by user versions on January 30, 2007. Windows Vista intended to have enhanced security by introducing a new restricted user mode called User Account Control, replacing the “administrator-by-default” philosophy of Windows XP.

2008 – Windows Server 2008 was released on February 27. It builds on the technological and security advances first introduced with Windows Vista, and is significantly more modular than its predecessor, Windows Server 2003. This year later Microsoft announced Windows Server 2008 R2 as the server variant of Windows 7. Windows Server 2008 R2 will ship in 64-bit (x64x and Itanium) only.

Windows 7 ships in six editions:

  • Starter (available worldwide with new PCs only)
  • Home Basic (only available to emerging markets)
  • Home Premium
  • Professional
  • Enterprise (available to volume-license business customers only)
  • Ultimate (available to retail market with limited availability to OEMs)

Microsoft focuses on selling Windows 7 Home Premium and Professional. All editions, except the Starter edition, are available in both 32-bit and 64-bit versions.

Windows 8Development of the planned Windows 8 is secret detailed in public, although job listings have mentioned improved functionality for file access.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7


Windows 7

October 28, 2009
                                                        Composed by G. Vitkova using Wikipedia, the free enciclopedia

Windows 7 launched

Windows 7 is the latest version of Microsoft Windows produced for use on home and business desktops, laptops, netbooks, tablet personal computers and media center of personal computers. Windows 7  was released to manufacturing on July 22, 2009. General retail availability was announced on October 22, 2009, less than three years after the release of its predecessor, Windows Vista. 

Unlike Windows Vista, which introduced a large number of new features, Windows 7 is intended to be a more user focused, helpful upgrade to the Windows line. As a result Windows 7 is fully compatible with applications and hardware with which Windows Vista is already compatible. Some applications that have been included with prior releases of Microsoft Windows, including Windows Calendar, Windows Mail, Windows Movie Maker, and Windows Photo, are not involved in Windows 7. Several of them are instead offered separately as a part of the free Windows Live Essential Suite.


Earlier in 2007 Bill Gates in an interview with Newsweek, insinuated that this version of Windows would “be more user-centric”. Later he added that Windows 7 would also focus on performance improvements. Steven Sinofsky, the new president of the Windows division at Microsoft, responsible for the Windows, Windows Live, and Internet Explorer, afterward expanded on this point in the Engineering Windows 7 blog. He explicated that the company was using a variety of new tracing tools to measure the performance of many areas of the operating systém. The tools help locate inefficient code paths and prevent decrease of performance effectiveness.

The Senior Vice President Bill Veghte stated that Windows Vista users migrating to Windows 7 would not find the kind of device compatibility issues they met migrating from Windows XP. As early as in October 2008, the Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer confirmed compatibility between Vista and Windows 7, pointing out that Windows 7 would be a refined version of Windows Vista.

New and changed features

Windows 7 includes a number of new features, such as advances in touch and handwriting recognition, support for virtual hard disks, improved performance on multi-core processors, improved boot  performance, Direct Access, and kernel improvements. Windows 7 adds support for systems using multiple heterogeneous graphics cards from different vendors, a new version of Windows Media Center, the XML Paper Specification (XPS) Essentials Pack. Windows Power Shell, and a redesigned Calculator with multiline capabilities. Many new items have been added to the Control Panel, such as the Clear Type Text Tuner, Biometric Devices, System Icons, Display, etc. Windows 7 also supports Mac-like Raw image viewing plus full-size viewing and slideshows in the Windows Photo Viewer and Window Media Center.

Windows 7 includes 13 additional sound schemes, titled Afternoon, Calligraphy, Characters, Cityscape, Delta, Festival, Garden, Heritage, Landscape, Quirky, Raga, Savanna, and Sonata. A new version of a Windows Virtual PC Beta is available for Windows 7 Professional, Enterprise, and Ultimate editions. It allows multiple Windows environments, including Windows XP Mode, to run on the same machine, requiring the use of Intel Virtualisation Technology for x86 (Intel VT-x) or AMD Virtualisation (AMD-V). Windows XP Mode runs Windows XP in a virtual machine and redirects displayed applications running in Windows XP to the Windows 7 desktop. Furthermore, Windows 7 supports the mounting of a virtual hard disk (VHD) as a normal data storage, and the bootloader delivered with Windows 7 can boot the Windows system from a VHD. The Remote Desktop Protokol (RDP) of Windows 7 is also enhanced to support real-time multimedia applications including video playback and 3D games.

The taskbar has seen the biggest visual changes, where the Quick Launch toolbar has been replaced with pinning applications to the taskbar. Buttons for pinned applications are integrated with the task buttons. The revamped taskbar also allows the reordering of taskbar buttons. To the far right of the system clock there is a small rectangular button that serves as the Show desktop icon. This button is a part of the new feature in Windows 7 called Aero Peek. Hovering over this button makes all visible windows transparent for a quick look at the desktop. In touch-enabled displays such as touch screens, tablet PCs, etc., this button is slightly wider to accommodate being pressed with a finger. Clicking this button minimizes all windows, and clicking it a second time restores them. Additionally, there is a feature named Aero Snap, which automatically maximizes a window when it is dragged to either the top or left/right edges of the screen. This also allows users to snap documents or files on either side of the screen to compare them.

Windows 7 taskbar includes a new networking API – Application Programming Interface for developers. It supports building Simple Object Access Protocol based (SOAP-based) web services in machine code, adds new features to shorten application installing time, reduced User Account Control (UAC) prompts, simplified development of installation packages, and improved worldwide support through a new Extended Linguistic Services API. As early as in 2008 Microsoft announced that colour depths of 30-bit and 48-bit would be supported in Windows 7. The video modes supported in Windows 7 are 16-bit  class=”hiddenSpellError” pre=”16-bit “>sRGB (standard Red Green Blue colour space), 24-bit sRGB, 30-bit sRGB, 30-bit with extended colour gamut sRGB, and 48-bit scRGB. Microsoft is also implementing better support for solid-state drives, so Windows 7 will be able to identify a solid-state drive uniquely. Microsoft is also planning to support USB 3.0 in a subsequent patch, although support would not be included in the initial release because of delays in the finalization of the standard.

Users will also be qualified to disable more Windows components than it was possible in Windows Vista. New additions to this list of components include Internet Explorer, Windows Media Player, Windows Media Center, Windows Search , and the Windows Gadget Platform.

“The launch of Windows 7 has superseded everyone’s expectations, storming ahead of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the biggest-grossing pre-order product of all-time, and demand is still going strong,” claimed managing director Brian McBride, Amazon UK on October 22, 2009.

References: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_7

Genetics for common people

October 19, 2009
Composed by G. Vitkova using Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Dear coleagues,

About two – three weeks ago ethical problems around cloning aroused my student’s interest in the topic. We began to study it within our lesson of technical or professional English. However, we very quickly found out that basic knowledge of genetics is quite necessary to be able to understand the essence of the problem. So, the text below has appeared. I hope the text will launch the the discussion the issue that concerns everybody. Thank you in advance for your contribution.   G.Vitkova


We learn English studying and discussing real issues



Genetics studies genes, their function, structure and interaction. Genes enanle living organisms to inherit features from their ancestors. Genetics attempts to identify which features are inherited, and explain how these features are passed from generation to generation.

In genetics, a feature of an organism is called a “trait“. There are many trait types, and these range from aspects of behavior to resistance to disease. Traits are often inherited, for example tall and thin people tend to have tall and thin children. But the interaction between inherited features and the environment may influence the final result. For example a child might inherit the tendency to be tall, but if little food is available and the child is poorly nourished, it will still be short.

Genetic information is encoded via a long molecule called DNA which is copied and inherited across generations (see the picture above). Traits are transferred in DNA as instructions for creating and operating an organism.

These instructions are contained in segments of DNA called genes. The order of genes in DNA makes up the genetic code. This is similar to the sequence of letters forming words. The organism “reads” the sequence of these units and decodes the instruction. Different forms of one type of a gene are called alleles of that gene. As an example, one allele of a gene for hair color could comprises the instruction to produce a lot of the pigment in black hair. Another allele could give a garbled version of this instruction, so that no pigment is produced and the hair is white.


Genetics glossary




A long molecule that looks like a twisted ladder. It is made of four types of simple units and the sequence of these units carries information, just as the sequence of letters carries information on a page (see picture on the left).


They form the rungs of the DNA ladder and are the repeating units in DNA. There are four types of nucleotides (A, T, G and C) and it is the sequence of these nucleotides that carries information.


A package for carrying DNA in the cells. They contain a single long piece of DNA that is wound up and bunched together into a compact structure. Different species of plants and animals have different numbers and sizes of chromosomes.


A segment of DNA. Genes are like sentences made of the “letters” of the nucleotide alphabet, between them genes direct the physical development and behavior of an organism. Genes are like a recipe or instruction book, providing information that an organism needs so it can build or do something – like making an eye or a leg, or repairing a wound.


The different forms of a given gene that an organism may possess. For example, in humans, one allele of the eye-color gene produces green eyes and another allele of the eye-color gene produces brown eyes.


The complete set of genes in a particular organism.

Genetic engineering

When people change an organism by adding new genes, or deleting genes from its genome.


An event that changes the sequence of the genes in DNA

Genes are copied

Genes are copied each time a cell divides into two new cells. The process of copying DNA is called DNA replication.

DNA can be copied very easily and accurately because each piece of DNA can direct the creation of a new copy of its information. This is because DNA is made of two strands that pair together like the two sides of a zipper. The nucleotides are in the center, like the teeth in the zipper, and pair up to hold the two strands together.

When DNA is copied, the two strands of the old DNA are pulled apart by enzymes which move along each of the two single strands pairing up new nucleotide units and then zipping the strands closed. As a result two new pieces of DNA appear. Each of them contains one strand from the old DNA and one newly made strand. This process isn’t perfect and sometimes the wrong nucleotide may be put into the new strand. It causes a change in the sequence of the gene. These changes in DNA sequence are called mutations. Mutations produce new alleles of genes. Sometimes these changes stop the gene from working properly. In other cases the mutations can change what the gene does or even let it do its job a little better than before. These mutations and their effects on the traits of organisms are one of the causes of evolution.

Genetic engineering

Since traits come from the genes in a cell, putting a new piece of DNA into a cell can produce a new trait. This is how genetic engineering works. For example, crop plants can be given a gene from an Arctic fish, so they produce an antifreeze protein in their leaves. This can help prevent frost damage. Other genes that can be put into crops include a natural insecticide from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. The insecticide kills insects that eat the plants, but is harmless to people. In these plants the new genes are put into the plant before it is grown, so the genes will be in every part of the plant, including its seeds. The plant’s offspring will then inherit the new genes, something which has led to concern about the spread of new traits into wild plants.

The kind of technology used in genetic engineering is also being developed to treat people with genetic disorders in an experimental medical technique called gene therapy. However, here the new gene is put in after the person has grown up and become ill, so any new gene will not be inherited by their children. Gene therapy works by trying to replace the allele that causes the disease with an allele that will work properly.

Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms

The National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) created the Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms to help people without scientific backgrounds understand the terms and concepts used in genetic research. Simply click on the term of interest to open a page with a wealth of information, including the term’s pronunciation, audio information, images and additional links to related terms. Students, teachers and parents will find the glossary an easy-to-use, always available learning source on source on genetics. For more information go to the Guide to the Talking Glossary:


Nuclear power revival

September 30, 2009
1 Comment

Compiled by Galina Vitkova

Discussing this precarious issue we study Technical English!

People need to be persuaded in safety of NPPs (Nucler Power Plants) in order to be convinced that all plants, worldwide, are safe.

New conditions

  • Warming of our planet. Finally, governments worried about climate changes and energy security have noticed that nuclear plants emit no carbon dioxide. Moreover, the raw material for their fuel, uranium ore, can be provided by reputable and reliable suppliers.

  • Ricing of oil and gas prices. The recent jump in oil and gas prices, has compeled many governments to reappraise their opinion about nuclear power. In February of this year Italy and Sweden announced plans to start building nuclear plants again. Most of the 40 or so plants now under construction are in Asia (many in China) or Russia. Furthermore, countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa are also either building or planning reactors. Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Indonesia and Belarus are intending to erect their first reactors.

  • Raising to higher level nuclear plants safety. WANO – the World Association of Nuclear Operators has been monitoring safety at nuclear plants for 20 years. IAEA – the International Atomic Energy Agency has developed safety rules, which are voluntary till now. The agency’s experts are invited in to look at nuclear reactors around the world. But governments decide which plants to show, and when.So, last year in November the European Commission proposed making the IAEA’s safety rules obligatory within the European Union. It hopes other regional blocks, such as those of South-East Asia and South America, will follow suit. WANO is considering making their peer review compulsory for each new plant opened by one of its members.

Declining resistence against NPPs

Due to increasing NPPs safety the nuclear industry has had a better safety reputation since Chernobyl. The design and monitoring of many reactors has significantly improved. Even though plenty safety incidents have occured, no big accidents resulting in deaths have happened.

Yet public fears about the safety of nuclear power could still divert its revival. In many countries, majorities oppose building new reactors. People are afraid nuclear accidents, terrorist attacks, the long-term risks of storing radioactive waste and possible divertion of nuclear fuel being to make weapons.

Concern about climate change has softened opposition a little. According to a survey by the European Commission last year, 44% of people in the European Union now broadly support nuclear energy, up from 37% in 2005; and 45% oppose it, down from 55%. In America, about 80% of Americans think that nuclear power will be “an important future source of energy”.

A new reactor being built at Olkiluoto in Finland is one of only two under construction in western Europe. The Finnish government gave the local community a large say in choosing the site of a radioactive-waste depository at Olkiluoto. Switzerland and Canada have taken a similarly democratic approach to nuclear power.

This is a welcome contrast to the secrecy that characterised much of the nuclear industry’s interaction with the public in the past. In some countries that secrecy comes from the military uses of nuclear fission.

Prospects for nuclear power future

The extent to which public opposition can block or reverse the building of new nuclear plants will vary between countries. In any case such plants need “a solid political and social base” in order to survive changes of governments. The simplest way how to get permission for building new reactors is to erect them at existing nuclear sites, e.g. in America, 14 of the 21 applications to start building are for existing sites. Germany faces disputatious energy choices. The fate of its 17 nuclear power plants, which provide almost a quarter of the country’s electricity, is the main point of the discussion. Any renewables are not able to replace electricity generated by these nuclear plants.

Developing-country governments are less likely to care whether the public support of nuclear power. China has 11 nuclear-power reactors already and plans another 20. Companies from the rich world – such as France’s Areva and America’s GE – will find it far easier to build nuclear power plants in the developing countries than at home. Nonetheless, steps must be taken to ensure that less-developed nations run their reactors safely. Last year France created an agency to help newcomers design nuclear laws and set up independent regulators. Unfortunately, there is an irresistible shortage of qualified nuclear engineers, after the three-decade pause in building new plants (see also Are you afraid of nuclear energy?). Actual information about Nuclear Power Plants has just been published on  Statistics on nuclear power. Enjoy reading it.

Reference: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/, http://www.economist.com/research/articlesBySubject


September 4, 2009

We study English discussing practical problems

 By P.B.

I have my mobile iPhone more than 4 years and I need a new one. The problem is – which one. I have the Nokia 95 and I like Nokia devices, but I am afraid there are no good Nokia on the market now. I use my mobile phone (like everybody) every day for calling and sending sms but not only for that. It is very important for me – maybe necessary – to receive and send emails with attachments and to have connection to the Internet. On the other side, I don´t need to have applications such as games etc.


Many friends recommend me to buy the iPhone. I think it is a very modern phone but I see some problems concerning it. The first one is that if a user wants to backup files, contacts etc., he must use an iTunes application – and it is not very comfortable. The second problem emerges when a user wants to send a business card – in many mobile phones users don´t have any problems with it, but the iPhone doesn´t support it – only between iPhones through Bluetooth when devices are very close to each other. The third problem is that the iPhone doesn´t know the commands copy/paste. The fourth main problem for me is that even though it´s possible to view excel and word documents, you can´t edit them. The fifth problem might be that a slot for a memory card isn´t included.


Finally, few lesser problems – the iPhone doesn´t have a radio, on the Internet you aren´t able to view flash and java, there are some problems with MMS and videos (you have to have a special application). Moreover, when you use the Edge for connection to the Internet and somebody call you, the call falls down into the voice box.


In my opinion – the iPhone has surprisingly more problems than I expected and I can´t accept this device. Now the Apple has issued a new one – iPhone 3GS – I´m not sure but maybe some problems are solved bythat model.


What do YOU think about it?


Does anybody have real experience with iPhone and can advise me?



Hanhelds and English learning

August 27, 2009
1 Comment

By Galina Vitkova


Nowadays communication and computing technologies are converging. So, simpler user-friendly interfaces of high-quality, low-cost solutions, which function across platforms, processors and operating systems, are offered. Technological advances within the miniaturization of computing and communication devices have made possible the highly effective usage of mobile devices in language learning. While the global economy becoming bound together more and more, English has become an essential tool for communication with the world, and also a key to find a better job. Hence in the following text we will chiefly concentrate on learning English.

The early projects of this kind (at the beginning of this century) having used mobile devices involved Spanish study programs, which consisted of vocabulary practice, quizzes, and word and phrase translations. Soon after, mobile phones were used to teach English at a Japanese university. A similar program was created for learning Italian in Australia. By 2005, the connection between learners and a teacher was accomplished via SMS. [4].

In 2007, USA-based company Moka LCC (Company Overview) started offering mobile multilingual communication and learning products. In these systems translation was one of primary functions. The products utilized the SMS and SKYPE as the means of multilingual communication. Moka currently supports English to Chinese and English to Spanish translation, and plans to introduce additional language pairs. In the same year the Bulgarian company Interlecta commercially released machine translation software for handheld devices that in addition to SMS and email involved speech synthesis and “image translation”.[6]

The number of translation applications, including text-to-speech and speech-to-speech capabilities, available for various mobile platforms has continuously increased since 2007, and has featured products such as the LingvoSoft Full-text Translation Software [7], the SYSTRAN Mobile Translator [8], or Transclick’s translation applications for mobiles[9], or Phonix Speech Group. As a rule the systems have capabilities for learning languages.

Gradually handhelds competences for language learning have been refined into the powerful means of active language learning. These sophisticated flexible devices enable learning and teaching functions as follows.

Vocabulary building, including creating your strong professional vocabulary with connections to the main dictionary

  • Dictionaries containing hundreds of thousands of entries in the general dictionary (up to 1,000,000 words, sometimes more) as well as including specialized terminology make excellent conditions for language learning and building your own vocabulary.
  • Professional add-on dictionaries, e.g. telecommunications and computers, business, finance provide a basis for constructing your professional vocabulary.
  • You can create your own customized editable dictionary, which automatically links to the main dictionary.
  • Learner’s cards, which are provided by some models, make memorization tasks easy and work to quickly enrich your vocabulary.
  • Vocabulary practice, quizzes, and word and phrase translations help you to learn the language quicker than by current means.

Making easier comprehension tasks

  • The dictionary and translator capabilities enable much better comprehension when studying texts. At the same time the capabilities help to improve your reading skills.
  • Handheld electronic dictionaries enable individuals to speak a word in their native language and have the text read back to them in English.

Refining pronunciation

  • Speech capabilities help you to improve your pronunciation and let your speaking sound just like native speakers´. Furthermore, speech capabilities enable you to perfect your pronunciation continually.
  • Advanced English speech synthesis delivers the pronunciation of any text, not only dictionary entries. Together with a full set of enjoyable games and exams, it enables you to improve your language speaking and pronunciation skills naturally and intuitively.
  • Accent correction function will coach you and help you to perfect your English pronunciation with native speaker sound. Furthermore, you can always test yourself.
  • Speech-to-speech electronic translators understand what you say in your own language and immediately repeat the same in English.

English grammar and exercises

  • Some models of handhelds provide a complete guide to English Grammar, Vocabulary, and Phonetics.
  • Step-by-step lessons conduct you comfortably from beginner to advanced learner.
  • English grammar resources are usually accompanied by standardized testing references. Equipped with fast and powerful search functions they provide everything necessary for instant communication.
  • Some models offer i personal programs for English study depending on the level of the language knowledge. The level for Beginners comprises 230 lessons, whereas the level for Intermediates contains 190 lessons. You yourself prepare the timetable of your study. The method involves: study of reading rules, study of the grammar and spelling, pronunciation drilling and comprehension of the spoken language and active building of your vocabulary. There are tests of your knowledge after each lesson. Depending on the results you are recommended to pay more attention to certain parts of the studied material.

Language Tutor

  • Interactive English language tutor, which mostly is a part of dictionary and translator devices, provides a rapid language learning solution and helps users express themselves in day-to-day life.
  • The Language teacher system you are well on your way to complete control of a new language within minutes. It employs the advanced True Voice and Speech Recognition modules and step-by-step lessons to guide you comfortably from beginner to advanced speaker. With a full set of enjoyable games and exams, you improve your language skills naturally and intuitively.
  • Some advanced models include the so-called Car Tutor. It lets you study hands-free and eyes-free to make use of every spare moment to improve your language skills. Moreover, when starting an application, a memorizing splash screen shows you an appropriate word or phrase, a translation and a corresponding picture. It’s a superior way to improve your vocabulary and master a foreign language.

Good luck to everybody who is going to study English with the help of handhelds!

PS: See for details Talking handheld dictionaries and Electronic dictionaries .

References: http://en.wikipedia.org, http://www.ectacoinc.com/, Ectaco Russia Ectaco Inc. , LingvoSoft , Fonix Speech Group – http://www.fonixspeech.com/

INTERNET BACKBONE – What up is that?

July 29, 2009
1 Comment
We are studying English and getting new knowledge about the topics to which the technical texts are dedicated

Compiled by Bartholomew I. Osegbe

To be able to understand what an Internet backbone is, let us remind what the Internet is and why we do need it.

The Internet is a global network of interconnected computers, enabling users to share information along multiple channels. Typically, a computer that connects to the Internet can access information from a vast array of available servers and other computers by moving information from them to the computer’s local memory. The same connection allows the computer to send information to servers on the network; that information is in turn accessed and potentially modified by a variety of other interconnected computers. A majority of widely accessible information on the Internet consists of inter-linked hypertext documents and other resources of the World Wide Web (WWW). Computer users typically manage sent and received information with the help of web browsers. The end-users have no full control of all information. The service provider could block certain information from the end-users. Other software for users’ interface with computer networks includes specialized programs for electronic mail, online chat, file transfer and file sharing. Among further things the Internet has some common use in e-mail, the world wide web, remote access, collaboration, file sharing, streaming media, Internet telephony (VoIP).

In order to enable proper access to some of the Internet’s uses, the Internet backbone is necessary. The Internet backbone refers to the main “trunk” connections of the Inernet. It is made up of a large collection of interconnected data routes of high capacity and core routers that carry data across the countries, continents and oceans, across the whole world. The Internet backbone consists of many different networks. Usually, the term is used to describe large networks that interconnect with each other and may have individual ISPs (Internet service provider) as clients. For example, a local ISP may provide service to individual homes or businesses using the bandwidth that it purchases from another company with the backbone network. The conditions for applying to become an Internet backbone service provider should be made simple to encourage competition, which will eventually drive down cost, create jobs and provide excellent service. Backbone networks are usually commercial, academic, educational, or government owned, such as military networks.

Below the European ring from “An Atlas of Cyberspaces” is depicted – the Atlas was worked out by Martin Dodge, see also http://personalpages.manchester.ac.uk/staff/m.dodge/cybergeography//martin/martin.html.

PS: The topic of the post was presented by Bartholomew I. Osegbe within the English lesson at the Faculty of electrical engineering.



We are studying English and getting new knowledge about

the topics the technical texts are dedicated to.

A worm, a virus or a Trojan horse?

June 5, 2009

We study English discussing actual technical problems

By Pavel Macenauer

Many people often misuse these terms, which may in reality lead to great confusions while discussing this topic. Discrimination the differences between them might help you protect your computer.

What is a virus?

A virus is a malicious program usually hidden in an executable file. It is able to replicate and cause harm only as a consequence of a human action. For example, you´ve just received a suspicious email offering you to earn lots of money simply by filling out a form contained in an executable file. When you open this file, you basically run the virus. It has not only a harmful effect on you computer, but it also adds a copy of itself to every email you send.

What is a worm?

Worms are not very much different from viruses. Some people even consider them to be a subspecies of a virus. Worms take advantage of every piece of contact information in your computer and without any human action they replicate and then cause harm. Usually, they abuse contact information hidden in your email client or your instant messenger.

What is a Trojan horse?

At a first glance, Trojan horses appear as helpful software. Usually, they even mask as virus removal tools. In reality they are designed only to cause harm. The main difference between a horse and a virus or between a horse and a worm is that horses can’t replicate. They are mostly used for tunneling information or for enabling a third party to access your computer.

Many people often misuse these terms, which may in reality lead to great confusions while discussing this topic. Discrimination the differences between them might help you protect your computer.

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