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During the first few months of 2021, Bitcoin has been setting records on an almost weekly basis. On January 1, one Bitcoin was worth around $29,000. By March 13, one Bitcoin had crossed the $60,000 threshold for the first time. The $60,000 valuation was just the latest in a list of new record highs which were set during the first few months of 2021. Almost every time Bitcoin went up, it was hitting a new record valuation. One of the previous high marks for Bitcoin was when it reached a value of $19,783 on December 17, 2017. The price of Bitcoin subsequently crashed over the next days, weeks and months until it was worth just $6,200 by February 5, 2018, losing around two-thirds of its value in less than two months. This volatility has caused many people to be sceptical of Bitcoin and its actual value.

Bitcoin was created in 2008 and began to be used in 2009, it was the world’s first and only cryptocurrency. During the first few years of Bitcoin, it was mostly used by enthusiasts, people who were interested in the technology behind it and the idea of having a completely decentralised currency. In the beginning, Bitcoin was almost worthless as a currency. In 2010, the first-ever commercial transaction using Bitcoin took place when a programmer purchased two pizzas from a Papa Johns restaurant for 10,000 Bitcoin. Currently, in April 2021, 10,000 Bitcoin would be worth around $600 million. At the time of the pizza purchase in 2010, 10,000 Bitcoin was worth just $41. The astronomical rise in the value of Bitcoin has made headlines at various times over the past decade as people try to understand whether it is a true currency of the future or a risky investment for enthusiasts. It has also garnered criticism due to its use in criminal activities. Part of the original popularity of Bitcoin was for its use by underground websites selling illegal items, as the currency is private and untraceable, unlike traditional money.

The popularity of Bitcoin has spawned thousands of other cryptocurrencies which hope to become the “next Bitcoin”. Other cryptocurrencies tend to establish themselves in niches of the cryptocurrency market, claiming to offer unique things in order to make them attractive to investors and users. The second-largest cryptocurrency is called Ethereum and it has had a rise similar to Bitcoin, albeit on a smaller scale so far. In April 2020, one Ethereum was worth around $140. In April 2021, one Ethereum is worth around $2000. However, many of the thousands of smaller cryptocurrencies never reach the kind of heights that Bitcoin and Ethereum have reached. They typically languish at a valuation below 10 cents as they struggle to establish themselves in the crowded industry. Investments in these types of cryptocurrencies are often seen as incredibly risky and more akin to gambling than traditional investments such as the stock market.

Opinions are divided on the future of cryptocurrency, particularly Ethereum and Bitcoin. As the two largest cryptocurrencies, they are best placed to be the future of the market but with their incredible volatility, most casual observers are incredibly hesitant to become involved in them. Some economists and cryptocurrency experts are currently suggesting that Bitcoin could reach a price of $500,000 in the future, while others are convinced that the bubble will burst and it will plummet back down to pre-2021 prices any day now. Traditional companies, banks and governments have been hesitant to embrace cryptocurrencies due to the high volatility, criminal use and lack of regulation. The car company Tesla became one of the first major companies to embrace Bitcoin in early 2021. The company announced that they had made a significant investment in the currency and that they would begin accepting payments in Bitcoin on their website. This was one of the catalysts for the dramatic rise and $60,000 valuation record that Bitcoin reached in March. Although it is uncertain whether Bitcoin will continue the meteoric rise it has been experiencing over the last few months, it hasn’t stopped people and now companies from trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Difficult words

Volatility (n): Something that changes unpredictably.

Decentralised (adj/v): To be controlled by several people or groups, rather than one.

Astronomical (adj): Extremely large.

Spawned (v): Give rise to or give birth to something new.

Niche (n): A specialised area of interest.

Languish (v): To become weak.

Akin (adj): Be similar to.

Catalysts (n): A person or thing that encourages something to happen or begin.

Meteoric (adj): Rapidly develop.

Activities

For listening practise, listen to the recorded article here:

American English Audio:

Match the Synonym!

1. VolatilityA. Massive
2. DecentralisedB. Similar
3. AstronomicalC. Specialized
4. SpawnedD. Controlled by many.
5. NicheE. Weaken
6. LanguishF. Encouragement
7. AkinG. Accelerated
8. CatalystH. Unpredictable
9. MeteoricI. Birth

True or False?

1. Bitcoin’s value has been increasing on an almost weekly basis in 2021. T / F

2. The value of Bitcoin more than doubled from January to March 2021. T / F

3. In 2018, the value of Bitcoin never went below $19,000. T / F

4. Bitcoin is controlled by a select group of European countries. T / F

5. The first Bitcoin transaction took place when a programmer bought two pizzas.T / F

6. Many people are unsure if Bitcoin will be the future of money. T / F

7. Bitcoin can easily be traced, the same as other currencies in the world. T / F

8. Bitcoin is the only cryptocurrency in existence. T / F

9. Ethereum is the second largest cryptocurrency after Bitcoin. T / F

10. Tesla has made a significant investment in Bitcoin. T / F

Unscramble the sentence!

1. crossed / $60,000 / one / By / 13, / threshold / had / the / Bitcoin / March

2. subsequently / crashed / over / The / days / of / Bitcoin / next / price / the

3. a / Bitcoin / the / beginning, / In / was / as / almost / currency / worthless

4. spawned / of / popularity / thousands / Bitcoin / The / has / other / of / cryptocurrencies

5. divided / cryptocurrency / the / on / are / Opinions / future / of

Listening and Vocabulary

Listen to the article and fill in the words OR practice vocabulary and fill in the words.

American English Audio:

ScepticalGamblingValuation
DramaticEnthusiastsUntraceable
EstablishVolatilityPlummet

During the first few months of 2021, Bitcoin has been setting records on an almost weekly basis. On January 1, one Bitcoin was worth around $29,000. By March 13, one Bitcoin had crossed the $60,000 threshold for the first time. The $60,000 (1)__________ was just the latest in a list of new record highs which were set during the first few months of 2021. Almost every time Bitcoin went up, it was hitting a new record valuation. One of the previous high marks for Bitcoin was when it reached a value of $19,783 on December 17, 2017. The price of Bitcoin subsequently crashed over the next days, weeks and months until it was worth just $6,200 by February 5, 2018, losing around two-thirds of its value in less than two months. This volatility has caused many people to be (2)__________ of Bitcoin and its actual value.

Bitcoin was created in 2008 and began to be used in 2009, it was the world’s first and only cryptocurrency. During the first few years of Bitcoin, it was mostly used by (3)_____________, people who were interested in the technology behind it and the idea of having a completely decentralised currency. In the beginning, Bitcoin was almost worthless as a currency. In 2010, the first-ever commercial transaction using Bitcoin took place when a programmer purchased two pizzas from a Papa Johns restaurant for 10,000 Bitcoin. Currently, in April 2021, 10,000 Bitcoin would be worth around $600 million. At the time of the pizza purchase in 2010, 10,000 Bitcoin was worth just $41. The astronomical rise in the value of Bitcoin has made headlines at various times over the past decade as people try to understand whether it is a true currency of the future or a risky investment for enthusiasts. It has also garnered criticism due to its use in criminal activities. Part of the original popularity of Bitcoin was for its use by underground websites selling illegal items, as the currency is private and (4)_____________, unlike traditional money.

The popularity of Bitcoin has spawned thousands of other cryptocurrencies which hope to become the “next Bitcoin”. Other cryptocurrencies tend to (5)___________ themselves in niches of the cryptocurrency market, claiming to offer unique things in order to make them attractive to investors and users. The second-largest cryptocurrency is called Ethereum and it has had a rise similar to Bitcoin, albeit on a smaller scale so far. In April 2020, one Ethereum was worth around $140. In April 2021, one Ethereum is worth around $2000. However, many of the thousands of smaller cryptocurrencies never reach the kind of heights that Bitcoin and Ethereum have reached. They typically languish at a valuation below 10 cents as they struggle to establish themselves in the crowded industry. Investments in these types of cryptocurrencies are often seen as incredibly risky and more akin to (6)__________ than traditional investments such as the stock market.

Opinions are divided on the future of cryptocurrency, particularly Ethereum and Bitcoin. As the two largest cryptocurrencies, they are best placed to be the future of the market but with their incredible (7)___________, most casual observers are incredibly hesitant to become involved in them. Some economists and cryptocurrency experts are currently suggesting that Bitcoin could reach a price of $500,000 in the future, while others are convinced that the bubble will burst and it will (8)__________ back down to pre-2021 prices any day now. Traditional companies, banks and governments have been hesitant to embrace cryptocurrencies due to the high volatility, criminal use and lack of regulation. The car company Tesla became one of the first major companies to embrace Bitcoin in early 2021. The company announced that they had made a significant investment in the currency and that they would begin accepting payments in Bitcoin on their website. This was one of the catalysts for the (9)__________ rise and $60,000 valuation record that Bitcoin reached in March. Although it is uncertain whether Bitcoin will continue the meteoric rise it has been experiencing over the last few months, it hasn’t stopped people and now companies from trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Conversation Questions

Take turns speaking with a partner or try to answer on your own:

1. Did you find this article interesting? Why or why not?
2. Did you learn anything new from this article? If so, what?
3. What do you think of this story?
4. What do you think about cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?
5. Do you think Bitcoin will continue to increase in value?
6. Do you think cryptocurrencies are risky?
7. Do you think cryptocurrencies will become regularly used in the future?
8. Should the world have one currency?
9. How important is privacy when it comes to money?
10. Is the privacy that Bitcoin provides good if it helps criminals?
11. What do you think about Tesla accepting Bitcoin as a payment on their website?
12. Do you think more companies will start accepting Bitcoin in the future?
13. Are cryptocurrencies too difficult for regular people to understand?
14. Do you think people would be nervous to use cryptocurrencies as regular money?
15. Do you think Bitcoin will become more stable in the future?
16. Are cryptocurrencies often used in your country?
17. Is investing in cryptocurrencies the same as gambling?
18. In your country, what do people usually invest their money in?
19. Have you ever bought a cryptocurrency?
20. What is the best use for cryptocurrencies?