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Date: July 17, 2008
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Related materials from ESL Discussions.com on inflation and Zimbabwe.

THE ARTICLE

Zimbabwe inflation at 2,200,000 per cent

The official inflation rate in Zimbabwe has escalated to 2.2 million percent. This is 13 times higher than the last official figure, which the government released in February. Unofficial figures put the rate as high as 15 million percent, and rising. To cope with the large numbers of zeros, the central bank recently issued a 500-million Zimbabwe dollar bank note, which was worth US$2. People living in Zimbabwe now have to be very good at mental arithmetic to do simple things like buy a loaf of bread, that is if they can find any bread on Zimbabwe’s empty store shelves. The cost of a loaf of bread is now at one-third of a teacher's monthly salary. Zimbabweans are suffering with 80 per cent unemployment and salaries that cannot keep up with the pace of daily price rises.


 
 

Zimbabwe used to be one of the richest countries in Africa. It was called the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa because it grew enough food for itself and for export to other countries. Today, the country’s farming has collapsed and people cannot find enough food in the shops. International economists blame the policies of President Robert Mugabe, that have created internal chaos and poverty in the country. Mugabe says he has had little to do with the wrecked economy. He blames all of Zimbabwe’s economic woes on international trade sanctions. There is a serious cash shortage because the government cannot print bank notes fast enough to keep up with spiralling prices. People can only take out 100 million Zimbabwe dollars a day from their banks. That’s less than one US dollar.


 
 

WARM-UPS

1. INFLATION: Walk around the class and talk to other students about inflation. Change partners often. After you finish, sit with your partner(s) and share your findings.

2. CHAT: In pairs / groups, decide which of these topics or words from the article are most interesting and which are most boring.

 

inflation rate / official figure / zeros / central bank / mental arithmetic / bread / salary / breadbasket / exports / farming / chaos / poverty / economic woes / bank notes

Have a chat about the topics you liked. Change topics and partners frequently.

3. HYPERINFLATION: How would runaway inflation affect your life? Write down what you would do if you could no longer afford these things. Change partners and share what you wrote.

Things

What I would do if I could no longer afford to buy them

Chocolate

Soft/Alcoholic drinks

Mobile calls/texts

Petrol / transport

Books

Entertainment

4. ECONOMY: Which of these economic features affect you most? Rate them: 10 = “This causes me pain”; 1 = “This doesn’t affect me at all”. Talk with your partner(s) about this.

_____  inflation

_____  unemployment

_____  interest rates

_____  income tax

_____  purchase / sales tax

_____  energy costs

_____  welfare payments

_____  public services

5. HEADLINE PREDICTION: With your partner(s), use the words in the “Chat” activity above to predict what the news article will be about. Once you have your story, change partners and share them. Who was closest to the real story?

6. BREAD: Spend one minute writing down all of the different words you associate with the word ‘bread’. Share your words with your partner(s) and talk about them. Together, put the words into different categories.


 
 

BEFORE READING / LISTENING

1. TRUE / FALSE: Look at the article’s headline and guess whether these sentences are true (T) or false (F):

a.

Zimbabwe’s inflation has dropped below two-and-a-half million percent.

T / F

b.

The rate of inflation has increased 13-fold since February.

T / F

c.

The most recently issued Zimbabwe bank note has eight zeros on it.

T / F

d.

A Zimbabwe teacher will use up her monthly pay on 3 loaves of bread.

T / F

e.

Zimbabwe used to be called the “fruit basket of Africa”.

T / F

f.

International economists blame trade sanctions for Zimbabwe’s woes.

T / F

g.

Banks are having trouble printing enough new bank notes.

T / F

h.

Zimbabweans can withdraw 99 million dollars a day from their bank.

T / F

2. SYNONYM MATCH: Match the following synonyms from the article:

1.

escalated

a.

handle

2

cope with

b.

wealthiest

3.

issued

c.

mayhem

4.

suffering

d.

risen

5.

pace

e.

rocketing

6.

richest

f.

hurting

7.

collapsed

g.

speed

8.

chaos

h.

problems

9.

woes

i.

circulated

10.

spiralling

j.

broken down

3. PHRASE MATCH: Match the following phrases from the article (sometimes more than one combination is possible):

1.

This is 13 times higher than

a.

arithmetic

2

cope with the large

b.

woes

3.

have to be very good at mental

c.

richest countries in Africa

4.

a loaf of bread is now at one-third of

d.

the last official figure

5.

salaries that cannot keep up with the pace

e.

export to other countries

6.

Zimbabwe used to be one of the

f.

chaos and poverty

7.

it grew enough food for itself and for

g.

numbers of zeros

8.

internal

h.

a teacher's monthly salary

9.

Zimbabwe’s economic

i.

prices

10.

keep up with spiralling

j.

of daily price rises

WHILE READING / LISTENING

GAP FILL: Put the words into the gaps in the text.

The official inflation rate in Zimbabwe has __________ to 2.2 million percent. This is 13 times __________ than the last official figure, which the government released in February. Unofficial figures put the rate as __________ as 15 million percent, and rising. To cope with the large __________ of zeros, the central bank recently issued a 500-million Zimbabwe dollar bank note, which was __________ US$2. People living in Zimbabwe now have to be very good at __________ arithmetic to do simple things like buy a loaf of bread, that is if they can find any bread on Zimbabwe’s empty store __________. The cost of a loaf of bread is now at one-third of a teacher's monthly salary. Zimbabweans are suffering with 80 per cent unemployment and salaries that cannot keep up with the __________ of daily price rises.

 

worth
high
pace
escalated
shelves
mental
higher
numbers

Zimbabwe used to be one of the __________ countries in Africa. It was called the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa because it grew __________ food for itself and for export to other countries. Today, the country’s farming has __________ and people cannot find enough food in the shops. International economists __________ the policies of President Robert Mugabe, that have created internal chaos and __________ in the country. Mugabe says he has had little to do with the wrecked economy. He blames all of Zimbabwe’s economic __________ on international trade sanctions. There is a serious cash __________ because the government cannot print bank notes fast enough to __________ up with spiralling prices. People can only take out 100 million Zimbabwe dollars a day from their banks. That’s less than one US dollar.

 

blame
 
keep
enough
shortage
poverty
richest
woes
collapsed

LISTENING:  Listen and fill in the spaces.

The official ______________ Zimbabwe has escalated to 2.2 million percent. This is 13 times higher than ______________ figure, which the government released in February. Unofficial figures put the rate ______________ million percent, and rising. To cope with the large ______________, the central bank recently issued a 500-million Zimbabwe dollar bank note, which was ______________. People living in Zimbabwe now have to be very __________________ arithmetic to do simple things like buy a loaf of bread, ______________ can find any bread on Zimbabwe’s empty store shelves. The cost of a loaf of bread is now ______________ a teacher's monthly salary. Zimbabweans are suffering with 80 per cent unemployment and salaries that cannot keep up ______________ of daily price rises.

Zimbabwe ______________ of the richest countries in Africa. It was called the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa because it grew enough food ______________ export to other countries. Today, the country’s farming ______________ people cannot find enough food in the shops. International economists ______________ of President Robert Mugabe, that have created ______________ poverty in the country. Mugabe says he ______________ do with the wrecked economy. He blames all of Zimbabwe’s ______________ on international trade sanctions. There is _____________ shortage because the government cannot print bank notes fast enough to ______________ spiralling prices. People can only take out 100 million Zimbabwe dollars a day from their banks. That’s ______________ US dollar.


 
 

AFTER READING / LISTENING

1. WORD SEARCH: Look in your dictionaries / computer to find collocates, other meanings, information, synonyms … for the words ‘per’ and ‘cent’.

per

cent

 

 

 

  • Share your findings with your partners.
  • Make questions using the words you found.
  • Ask your partner / group your questions.

2. ARTICLE QUESTIONS: Look back at the article and write down some questions you would like to ask the class about the text.

  • Share your questions with other classmates / groups.
  • Ask your partner / group your questions.

3. GAP FILL: In pairs / groups, compare your answers to this exercise. Check your answers. Talk about the words from the activity. Were they new, interesting, worth learning…?

4. VOCABULARY: Circle any words you do not understand. In groups, pool unknown words and use dictionaries to find their meanings.

5. TEST EACH OTHER: Look at the words below. With your partner, try to recall how they were used in the text:

  • 13
  • 15
  • 500-million
  • 2
  • one-third
  • 80
  • called
  • farming
  • blame
  • trade
  • cash
  • take out

STUDENT INFLATION SURVEY

Write five GOOD questions about inflation in the table. Do this in pairs. Each student must write the questions on his / her own paper.

When you have finished, interview other students. Write down their answers.

STUDENT 1

_____________

STUDENT 2

_____________

STUDENT 3

_____________

Q.1.

Q.2.

Q.3.

Q.4.

Q.5.

  • Now return to your original partner and share and talk about what you found out. Change partners often.
  • Make mini-presentations to other groups on your findings.

INFLATION DISCUSSION

STUDENT A’s QUESTIONS (Do not show these to student B)

a)

What did you think when you read the headline?

b)

What springs to mind when you hear the word ‘inflation’?

c)

Is inflation a problem in your country?

d)

What do you know about inflation?

e)

Can you imagine an inflation rate of 2.2 million per cent?

f)

Are you good at mental arithmetic?

g)

What would you do if there was no food in the shops?

h)

Do you think food could become a problem in your country?

i)

What are the biggest economic problems in your country?

j)

Would you work if your monthly salary could only stretch to three loaves of bread?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------

STUDENT B’s QUESTIONS (Do not show these to student A)

a)

Did you like reading this article?

b)

How did Zimbabwe become so poor?

c)

Why can Zimbabwe no longer feed itself?

d)

Is Robert Mugabe to blame for Zimbabwe’s economic woes?

e)

How can Zimbabwe once again become the breadbasket of Africa, instead of being a basket case?

f)

Has there ever been chaos and poverty in your country?

g)

Are you worried about rising prices?

h)

Have you ever suffered from a serious cash shortage?

i)

How could you survive on less than a dollar a day?

j)

What questions would you like to ask Robert Mugabe?

LANGUAGE

The (1) ____ inflation rate in Zimbabwe has escalated to 2.2 million percent. This is 13 times higher than the last official (2) ____, which the government released in February. Unofficial figures put the rate as high as 15 million percent, and (3) ____. To cope with the large numbers of zeros, the central bank recently issued a 500-million Zimbabwe dollar bank note, which was (4) ____ US$2. People living in Zimbabwe now have to be very good at mental arithmetic to do simple things like buy a loaf of bread, that is if they can find any bread (5) ____ Zimbabwe’s empty store shelves. The cost of a loaf of bread is now at one-third of a teacher's monthly salary. Zimbabweans are suffering with 80 per cent unemployment and salaries that cannot keep (6) ____ with the pace of daily price rises.

Zimbabwe used to be one of the richest countries in Africa. It was called the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa because it (7) ____ enough food for itself and for export to other countries. Today, the country’s (8) ____ has collapsed and people cannot find enough food in the shops. International economists (9) ____ the policies of President Robert Mugabe, that have created internal chaos and poverty in the country. Mugabe says he has had little to do with the wrecked economy. He blames all of Zimbabwe’s economic (10) ____ on international trade sanctions. There is a serious cash (11) ____ because the government cannot print bank notes fast enough to keep up with spiralling prices. People can only take out 100 million Zimbabwe dollars a day from their banks. That’s less than one US dollar.

Put the correct words from the table below in the above article.

1.

(a)

officials

(b)

officially

(c)

officialdom

(d)

official

2.

(a)

figured

(b)

figure

(c)

figurine

(d)

figuring

3.

(a)

rising

(b)

raising

(c)

arising

(d)

risen

4.

(a)

valued

(b)

value

(c)

worth

(d)

worthless

5.

(a)

at

(b)

in

(c)

on

(d)

to

6.

(a)

them

(b)

up

(c)

going

(d)

it

7.

(a)

grew

(b)

grown

(c)

growing

(d)

grown-up

8.

(a)

farm out

(b)

farmers

(c)

farm

(d)

farming

9.

(a)

blaming

(b)

blame

(c)

blameless

(d)

blames

10.

(a)

does

(b)

goes

(c)

foes

(d)

woes

11.

(a)

shortlist

(b)

shorten

(c)

shortage

(d)

shortwave

12.

(a)

fast

(b)

fasten

(c)

fasting

(d)

fastener

WRITING: 

Write about inflation for 10 minutes. Correct your partner’s paper.

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________

HOMEWORK

1. VOCABULARY EXTENSION: Choose several of the words from the text. Use a dictionary or Google’s search field (or another search engine) to build up more associations / collocations of each word.

2. INTERNET: Search the Internet and find out more about inflation in Zimbabwe. Share what you discover with your partner(s) in the next lesson.

3. ECONOMIC WOES: Make a poster about the different kinds of economic woes affecting the world. Show your work to your classmates in the next lesson. Did you all have similar things?

4. HYPERINFLATION: Write a magazine article about the effects of hyperinflation in Zimbabwe. How do people survive and keep up with spiralling prices? Include imaginary interviews with President Robert Mugabe and a teacher.

Read what you wrote to your classmates in the next lesson. Write down any new words and expressions you hear from your partner(s).

5. DIARY / JOURNAL: You have to live in one dollar a day. Write your diary entry on how you do this. Read your entry to your classmates in the next lesson.

6. LETTER: Write a letter to officials in Zimbabwe. Ask them three questions about the runaway inflation in Zimbabwe. Give them three pieces of advice on what they should do to control inflation and once again make Zimbabwe the breadbasket of Africa. Read your letter to your partner(s) in your next lesson. Your partner(s) will answer your questions.

ANSWERS

TRUE / FALSE:

a. F

b. T

c. T

d. T

e. F

f. F

g. T

h. T

SYNONYM MATCH:

1.

escalated

a.

risen

2

cope with

b.

handle

3.

issued

c.

circulated

4.

suffering

d.

hurting

5.

pace

e.

speed

6.

richest

f.

wealthiest

7.

collapsed

g.

broken down

8.

chaos

h.

mayhem

9.

woes

i.

problems

10.

spiralling

j.

rocketing

PHRASE MATCH:

1.

This is 13 times higher than

a.

the last official figure

2

cope with the large

b.

numbers of zeros

3.

have to be very good at mental

c.

arithmetic

4.

a loaf of bread is now at one-third of

d.

a teacher's monthly salary

5.

salaries that cannot keep up with the pace

e.

of daily price rises

6.

Zimbabwe used to be one of the

f.

richest countries in Africa

7.

it grew enough food for itself and for

g.

export to other countries

8.

internal

h.

chaos and poverty

9.

Zimbabwe’s economic

i.

woes

10.

keep up with spiralling

j.

prices

GAP FILL:

Zimbabwe inflation at 2,200,000 per cent

The official inflation rate in Zimbabwe has escalated to 2.2 million percent. This is 13 times higher than the last official figure, which the government released in February. Unofficial figures put the rate as high as 15 million percent, and rising. To cope with the large numbers of zeros, the central bank recently issued a 500-million Zimbabwe dollar bank note, which was worth US$2. People living in Zimbabwe now have to be very good at mental arithmetic to do simple things like buy a loaf of bread, that is if they can find any bread on Zimbabwe’s empty store shelves. The cost of a loaf of bread is now at one-third of a teacher's monthly salary. Zimbabweans are suffering with 80 per cent unemployment and salaries that cannot keep up with the pace of daily price rises.

Zimbabwe used to be one of the richest countries in Africa. It was called the ‘breadbasket’ of Africa because it grew enough food for itself and for export to other countries. Today, the country’s farming has collapsed and people cannot find enough food in the shops. International economists blame the policies of President Robert Mugabe, that have created internal chaos and poverty in the country. Mugabe says he has had little to do with the wrecked economy. He blames all of Zimbabwe’s economic woes on international trade sanctions. There is a serious cash shortage because the government cannot print bank notes fast enough to keep up with spiralling prices. People can only take out 100 million Zimbabwe dollars a day from their banks. That’s less than one US dollar.

LANGUAGE WORK

1 - d

2 - b

3 - a

4 - c

5 - c

6 - b

7 - a

8 - d

9 - b

10 - d

11 - c

12 - a

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