English: skills for learning
English: skills for learning

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English: skills for learning

4.1 Understanding texts that contain specialised and academic vocabulary

Sometimes you may just want to quickly read a text to test your previous knowledge about a subject and decide if it is worth reading it in more detail later. Alternatively, you may read it just to find some specific information and you may not be interested in understanding every word. You will practise this skill in the next activity.

Activity 10

Allow approximately 15 minutes

The text below is about infectious diseases and, in particular, about AIDS. You may want to download [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]   and print this text as you will need it again to complete Activities 11 and 12. Skim read it and then scan it to decide if the statements below are true or false.

Try to do this activity without stopping to look up unfamiliar words.

The global threat of infectious diseases

  1. Since the 1980s, infectious disease has re-emerged at the top of the global health agenda, destroying the optimism following World War 2 that modern medical interventions, such as antibiotic therapy and mass vaccination programmes, could eliminate deaths from infection. The new awareness of infection as a major threat to health has centred on the AIDS pandemic.
  2. Acquired immune deficiency syndrome had already claimed over 21 million lives by the start of 2001, including 4.5 million children. By that date, new infections with HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus) in Sub-Saharan Africa had accelerated past 16,000 per day; in some regions over 25% of the adult population were already infected and average life expectancy at birth had fallen by more than 10 years.
  3. AIDS was not the only apparently ‘new’ infection to threaten human health. Later in this chapter we review some other ‘emerging’ infectious diseases in the twenty-first century, which have risen in importance against the general downward trend globally in infection as a cause of death.
  4. The impact of HIV/AIDS on the economies, and hence the political stability, of heavily affected countries, is a major cause for international concern, and reminds us that an infectious disease still has the potential to alter the course of a nation’s history. Past epidemics and the long-term impact of diseases have been among the most potent forces shaping the current global distribution of population and cultures. Their influence can be seen in the balance of political and economic power in the modern world.
(The Open University, 2003)

1. The infectious disease that causes most concern is AIDS.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

a. 

True – AIDS is mentioned at the end of the first paragraph, which is about infectious disease. The same paragraph also states that AIDS is seen as a ‘major threat’, which suggests that there is concern and explains that awareness is now centred on AIDS. The word pandemic (worldwide/global epidemic) is not essential to decide if the statement is true or false.


2. AIDS kills only adults.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

b. 

False – Paragraph 2 states that 4.5 million children died of AIDS (claimed over 21 million lives by the start of 2001, including 4.5 million children).


3. In 2001 in Africa, half the population suffers from AIDS.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is b.

b. 

False – Paragraph 2 states that over 25% of adults in some regions in Sub-Saharan Africa (and not all Africa) are affected.


4. Some other infectious diseases have started to appear.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

a. 

True – Paragraph 3 explains that some new infections have started to appear and AIDS is ‘not the only new infection’. It is not necessary to understand the word ‘emerging’ as the words ‘new … infectious diseases’ are sufficient to answer the question.


The spread of AIDS has economic and political effects.

a. 

True


b. 

False


The correct answer is a.

a. 

True – The answer is in Paragraph 4, which is about the impacts (i.e. a synonym of effects) of AIDS. The first sentence mentions effects on economies and political stability. The last sentence mentions an ‘influence’ on the ‘balance of political and economic power’. The key words that are necessary to decide if the statement is true or false are all the synonyms of ‘affect’ and ‘effect’ (e.g. influence, impact, cause).


Comment

If your purpose for reading is to get the general gist or to answer some general questions, it may not be necessary to understand all the words that may not be clear. As you have seen in Week 1, reading words in context can help you to guess their meaning without needing to use a dictionary. This involves focusing on the words you do understand and, in particular, using your understanding of the words around the unfamiliar ones in order to guess their meaning.

After answering your initial questions, you will need to decide if it is worth gaining a deeper understanding of the text. This may be because new questions have emerged or while reading the text you may have found information that can be used in an assignment.

If you decide to read the text in more depth, you will probably need to gain a better understanding of the technical and academic terms it contains. This decision will depend on your reason for reading it and how you will use the information it contains.

SWE_1

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