Every year, The Economist publishes its Pocket World in Figures. The 2020 edition of this pocket-sized bestseller “includes data from over 180 countries, presented in a series of rankings and country profiles.”
Try this quick quiz to see just how much you know about the world’s economies, societies and cultures.
200 countries, 200 years, 4 minutes
An alternative approach to figures to that taken by the Economist is offered by the world-famous statistician Hans Rosling, who described himself as an “edutainer”. He was not only a data expert but also a medical doctor and an academic.
In the TED talks that made him such a well-known and respected figure, he pioneered methods of presenting statistics that made global trends in health and economics come to life. And he did so in the belief that, as he says himself, data is not enough. It needs to be shown “in ways people both enjoy and understand.”
In the video below, Hans Rosling plots life expectancy against income for 200 countries over 200 years in just 4 minutes using the gap-minder technology he helped develop. He shows how the world we live in today is radically different and ends on a characteristically optimistic note with his projections for the future.
Before you watch
Before you watch, quickly check some of the vocabulary you will hear in the video.
Match each definition with the word it explains.
While you watch
Watch the video and answer the questions that appear on the screen.
After you watch
Now that we’ve had a chance to learn more about world health and wealth and enjoy Hans Rosling’s energetic performance and innovative use of augmented reality animation, let’s focus on some of the language used in the video with the language tip below.
Sometimes, to communicate effectively, we need to make clear the contrast between things we are talking about. Here’s an example from Hans Rosling’s presentation:
… in spite of the great depression, western countries forge on towards greater wealth and health.
The contrast between the damage caused by the great depression and the continued increase in levels of wealth and health in western countries is signalled by the phrase ‘in spite of‘.
Later he uses another way of flagging contrast:
And yet, despite the enormous disparities today, we have seen 200 years of remarkable progress.
A third very common way of expressing contrast is to use ‘although‘ to link information or ideas. Here’s an example based on Hans Rosling’s concluding statements:
Although there has been a huge historical gap between the west and the rest, we have now become an entirely new converging world.
These are very useful ways of expressing contrast but we need to pay a little attention to the following:
1. ‘of’ is only used with ‘in spite’ and not with ‘despite’
2. sentences with ‘although’ are built differently:
- Both ‘in spite of’ and ‘despite’ are followed by a noun or pronoun.
For example: in spite of the great depression / despite the enormous disparities
- ‘Although’ is followed by a subject and verb.
For example: Although there has been
3. Both ‘in spite of’ and despite can also be followed by a verb in the -ing form acting as a noun.
Example: In spite of /despite cutting costs, we didn’t make a profit.
Use this short activity, to practise expressing contrast.