Activity type: information exchange

Famous people chat
Activity type: information exchange

You’re going to exchange information about famous people. Spend a few minutes reading over the information. Make notes. If there’s time, do some research on the internet and find out as much as you can about your famous person. When you’re ready, get together with a partner and take turns talking about your famous people. Answer any questions and invent information if you aren’t sure. Also, ask questions about your partner’s famous person.

Student A: Marissa Mayer

Born on 30th May 1975 in Wausau, Wisconsin, Marissa Mayer is the daughter of an engineer and an art teacher. She demonstrated an early ability for maths and science, but developed a passion for computers while she was at Stanford University (USA). She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in symbolic systems, and an Master of Science degree in computer science, specialising in artificial intelligence.

After graduating, she accepted an offer to lead Google’s user interface and Web server teams, becoming the company’s 20th employee and its first female engineer. In July 2012, she was appointed president and CEO of Yahoo. The company was suffering declining stock prices, layoffs and slowing ad revenue. Marissa’s objective was turn the company around. She’s the fifth CEO hired by Yahoo in the past five years. She’s also one of only 20 women running a Fortune 500 company.

Quote: “I helped build Google, but I don’t like to rest on
[my] laurels. I think the most interesting thing is what
happens next.”


Student B: Sergey Brin

Internet entrepreneur and computer scientist Sergey Brin was born on 21st August 1973, in Moscow, Russia. His family emigrated to the United States in 1979. After receiving his degree in mathematics and computer science from the University of Maryland, Sergey enrolled at Stanford University, where he met Larry Page. Both students were completing doctorates in computer science. As a research project at Stanford University, Brin and Page created a search engine that listed results according to the popularity of the pages. They called the search engine Google after the mathematical term “Googol” (which is a 1 followed by 100 zeros). 

After raising $1 million from family, friends and other investors, the pair launched the company in 1998. Google has since become the world’s most popular search engine, receiving more than 200 million queries each day. Headquartered in the heart of California’s Silicon Valley, Google held its IPO* (initial public offering) in August 2004, making Brin and Page billionaires. Brin continues to share the company’s day-to-day responsibilities with Larry Page and CEO Eric Schmidt.

Quote: “Solving big problems is easier than solving little problems.”

An IPO (initial public offering) is the first sale of shares by a private company to the public. IPOs are often issued by companies who are looking for capital in order to expand.

Asking about a famous person
1. What’s he famous for?
2. What’s her philosophy on life?
3. Has she been in the news lately? What for?
4. Where do you think he’ll be in 5 years’ time?
5. What are some of her greatest achievements?
6. What did he study at university?
7. How did she become famous?
8. What are some of the challenges facing him at the moment?

Expressing uncertainty
1. As far as I can tell, she…
2. I’m not that sure, but I think…
3. Without being 100% sure, I’d say that…
4. From what I can tell, she…
5. It isn’t really clear from the information I have, but I’d have to say that…
6. My understanding is that…
7. As far as I’m aware, he…
8. I always thought that.. / I’ve heard that…

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