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Tuesday - April 26, 2016

Your Guide to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections: Part 4

Icons of politics and American ElectionsHere’s another post in our continuing series on the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. If you missed the first three, go here.

Buzzwords

Every presidential election campaign brings with it (creates or makes popular) certain buzzwords, terms or phrases that are used frequently by politicians and the media (newspapers, magazines, Internet news sites). Today’s buzzword is . . .

YUGE!

“Yuge” is just an alternate pronunciation of the word “huge,” meaning big, important, or very large. It is a favorite word of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump has a very distinctive (easy to recognize because it is so different) New York accent, so the letter “h” is pronounced more like the letter “y” as in “you.”

People now use the word as a joke, as in “The movie Batman v Superman is gonna (going to) be YUGE!”

As Seen On Twitter

This is one of the first American elections where Twitter has played a major (YUGE!) role or part. In particular, Donald Trump has used Twitter to communicate to his supporters and to criticize other candidates. Trump’s criticisms are often personal, meaning he doesn’t argue about policies (plans for how government will work) but instead attacks the other candidates for what he sees as their failures of character.

For example, he often refers to Ted Cruz as “Lyin’ Ted” – “lyin'” is just an informal way of saying “lying” (not telling the truth). Trump recently started to call Hilary Clinton “Crooked Hilary” – “crooked” refers to a government official or politician who takes bribes (money) in exchange for doing favors for other people.

Perhaps this name calling (criticizing people by insulting them) is one reason why Trump is now among the least popular politicians in recent memory (in the past several years). Yet, among a certain group of people, he is still very popular and continues to win elections. How is this possible?

Remember that Trump is winning elections only among Republican voters (who are less than half of the population), and even among Republicans, most voters don’t like him. But the way our nomination process is set up (arranged; organized), it is possible to win elections with a minority (less than 50%) of the votes (see a more detailed explanation in Part 3 of this series).

Those opposed to Trump are using the #NeverTrump hashtag on Twitter. The #NeverTrump group consists mostly of Republicans and conservatives who say that even if Trump wins the Republican nomination, they will never vote for him in November. (Most #NeverTrump people say they won’t vote for Hilary Clinton, either.)

Questions and Answers

Here are some questions that were asked in the last post in this series:

Can Americans vote for someone other than the Democrat or Republican nominee?

Yes, there are other candidates besides (in addition to) the ones nominated by the Democrats and Republicans. But the truth is they rarely get enough votes to get elected, even for state-level offices. But if the presidential election this year is between Trump and Clinton, two very unpopular candidates, anything is possible!

If one candidate has enough delegates for the first ballot, why even vote at the national convention?

Even if one candidate has enough delegates to win on the first ballot (vote) at the national convention, technically (according to the rules) you still have to have a vote. You cannot just “skip” (not do) the voting part!

If I don’t want to follow the U.S. elections and instead want to watch baseball, can you recommend a team to me?

Yes! The Los Angeles Dodgers are my favorite team, and everyone in the world should support them (although Warren would disagree).

Have additional questions? Ask them in the comments and I’ll try to answer them in a future post.

~Jeff

P.S. If you really want to learn more about the U.S. and its history and politics, check out our Introduction to the United States course.


Sunday - April 24, 2016

Podcasts this Week (April 25, 2016)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1202 – Describing Student Achievement

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to coast” and “slow.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Educational Tracking.”
“One of the greatest ‘controversies’ (things that people do not agree on, with strong opinions on each side)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 552

Topics: American Presidents – Barack Obama; Famous Songs – “Achors Away”; diffidence versus timidity versus shyness; receipt versus reception; no problem versus not at all versus no big deal

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Navy SEALs.”
“The United States Navy’s Sea, Air, and Land Forces, most commonly referred to as the Navy SEALs…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1203 – Completing a Drug-Alcohol Rehabilitation

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “sober” and “wise.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Open Container Laws.”
“In the United States, ‘open container laws’ ‘prohibit’ (do not allow) people to drive a ‘vehicle’ (automobile; car)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - April 19, 2016

High-tech Panhandler

Man_panhandlingNo one will confuse Abe Hagenston with Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Evan Spiegel (Snapchat), Larry Page (Google), or Jeff Bezos (Amazon). They are all successful high-tech entrepreneurs (someone who starts a business from a new idea). He is a panhandler (someone who asks or begs for money). But they do share a small similarity.

You’ll find panhandlers everywhere you find people. On the street. In subway stations. At the airport. In front of the coffee shop. Most are homeless and don’t have jobs.

Abe Hagenston fits that description. He spends most of his time on a corner in Detroit, Michigan. He and other panhandlers work that corner in shifts (at different times) every day, hoping for handouts (something given to a needy person) from people who drive or walk by.

Most panhandlers use a cup or some other container to collect the handouts they get, but not Hagenston. He accepts credit cards. We might call him a high-tech panhandler.

Hagenston has a simple cellphone he got from the government’s Lifeline Support program for people who can’t pay for regular telephone service. And he uses a Square Reader, a 10-dollar device that plugs into his cellphone and makes it possible for him to read credit cards. He told a Detroit TV station: “I take Visa, MasterCard, American Express. I’m the only homeless guy in America who can take a credit card. It’s all done safely and securely (in a way that protects something from being stolen).”

Hagenston has other high-tech ideas for supporting himself and other homeless people. He has a simple website that he uses to tell his story and ask for money. And he’s using the website to try to find work for himself and his friends. “I’ve got about 20 or 30 friends around here all homeless, all [with] various skills that would love to get some work.” He hopes that people will use the website to find someone – homeless people like himself – to mow their lawns, clean out their garages, and do other odd (simple, usually one-time) jobs.

Hagenston has been homeless for almost seven years. It’s unclear how or why he became homeless. He says it’s not because he doesn’t want to work. He says that its difficult to “pull yourself out of poverty” without friends or family to help.

Homelessness is a serious problem in the U.S. as it is in many other countries. Every January the U.S. government tries to count all the homeless in one day to get a kind of snapshot (quick photo) of homelessness. In 2015 they counted more than 500,000, 25% of them children. The number who suffer homelessness at some time during the year is much higher, perhaps more than 3.5 million. People become homeless for a variety of reasons and often can’t do anything about it without help.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website, where you can find help to improve your English.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

 


Sunday - April 17, 2016

Podcasts this Week (April 18, 2016)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1200 – Learning a Skilled Trade

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “trade school” and “dying art.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Vocational Education.”
“Vocational education trains people for particular jobs, giving them technical skills and knowledge…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 551

Topics: Movies – Close Encounters of the Third Kind; Famous Americans – Luther George Simjian; to distract versus to detract; in a manner of speaking; thanks a bunch

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Classic Egg Dishes.”
“Eggs are a common food for Americans, especially for ‘breakfast’ (the first meal of the day, eaten shortly after waking up)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1201 – Types of Non-alcoholic Drinks

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “sugar” and “tap.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Sugary Drinks Portion Cap Rule.”
“‘Obesity’ (a condition when people are unhealthy and weigh too much) is a major problem in the United States…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - April 12, 2016

Fast Talkers, Slow Talkers

africa-713336_960_720If you’re an English learner, you know that not all Americans speak alike. In a country as big and diverse (with many types of people) as the United States, you’ll find people speaking differently, often because of geography (related to location of places).

For instance, if you’re a longtime listener, you may have noticed that Jeff and I have very slight (minor; little) differences in the way we pronounce certain words, such as “open” or “bag,” because Jeff is from Minnesota (in the middle of the country) and I’m from Arizona (in the southwestern part of the U.S.).

A research and consulting (providing work or advice) firm (company) recently released the results of its analysis (detailed examination) of four million customer service calls. These calls were recorded when customers called a company for a wide range of reasons, such as to ask questions, get help, change services, or complain. By law, businesses and organizations must tell a caller that a phone conversation is being recorded, so Americans are accustomed to hearing a recorded message while they’re on hold (waiting), such as “This call is being recorded to ensure quality of service” or “This call is being recorded for training purposes.” This firm analyzed four million of these types of calls between 2013 and 2015.

The firm found that, on average (generally), people in northern states speak faster than those living in southern states, which is what most Americans would expect. The fastest talkers are in Oregon, Minnesota, and Massachusetts. The slowest talkers are in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina.

Their analysis also found that people in some states are wordier (use more words) than others, saying more during their calls than people from other states. The states in which people talk the most include New York, California, and New Jersey, states on the east and west coasts (land bordering a sea). People who speak the least amount include Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, states in the north central part of the country.

Are there differences in how fast and how much people speak in different parts of the countries where you’ve lived? Are you talkative (speaking a lot) or taciturn (saying little)? Are you a fast or slow talker?

~ Lucy


Sunday - April 10, 2016

Podcasts this Week (April 11, 2016)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1198 – Failed Government Projects

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “doomed” and “to go through the motions.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “‘Boondoggles” and “Pork Barrel’ Projects.”
“Americans often complain about how their ‘elected representatives’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 550

Topics: Famous Americans – Casey Jones; Classic TV – Happy Days; to try out versus to examine versus to test; dude and buddy; courtesy of

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Happy Hour.”
“A ‘happy hour’ is a period of time when a ‘bar’ (pub; a business that primarily serves alcoholic drinks)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1199 – Eating on the Run

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “filling” and “on the run.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Healthy Snacks on the Run.”
“Busy people rarely have time to sit down and eat a ‘full meal’ (a group of foods eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - April 5, 2016

Often Forgotten, But Not Gone

* Fire_Escape_SoHoWhen you walk through the older parts of American cities, if you stop and look up you’ll see fire escapes climbing up the outside of many older buildings, as in the photo.

The need for fire escapes – steel platforms (a place to stand on) and stairs attached to the outside of a building – grew in the mid-1800s in the U.S. Many people were moving to cities to work in factories and other jobs. And many of them moved into apartment or tenement (a building with rooms or apartments for poor people) buildings made of wood.

Most of these buildings had one open stairway in the center of the building. It was the only way to get in and out of the building. If a fire started, the central stairway made it easy for the fire to quickly spread to the upper floors*. And it made it difficult or impossible for the people in the building to escape (get out and away from the fire).

In 1860, a six-story New York tenement, where 24 families lived, burned when a fire started in a bakery on the first floor. Firemen’s ladders weren’t long enough to reach the people at the top of the building, and 10 women and children died in the fire. Soon, laws were passed that required outside fire escapes to be attached to large buildings.

In the 1920s, outside fire escapes began to be replaced by inside stairways that are designed to be safe from fire. New York City outlawed (made them illegal) outside fire escapes in 1968.

In a recent photo essay (group of photos that tell a story), Patrick Sisson describes the history of fire escapes and shows how they became an important part of city life.

For many people, the fire escape became an extension (part added to something to make it larger) of the apartment or room they lived in. On hot days, it became a place for people to escape a hot apartment; on a hot night, a mattress turned it into an outdoor bedroom.

Fire escapes provided quiet places to talk with a close friend or read or think alone. They also provided space to grow flowers or vegetables in pots or other containers.

Fire escapes became a front porch (platform attached to the front of a house) for many apartment dwellers (someone who lives in a particular place). People spent hours outside on their fire escape watching city life walk and drive by.

I encourage you to take time to look at Sisson’s photo essay and, if possible, to watch the short video in it from Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 movie Rear Window. It’ll show you a little of what apartment living in New York used to be like, complete with fire escapes.

* “Floor” and “story” both refer to the different levels of a building – for example, the 51st floor or 51st story. In the U.S., the ground floor is the first floor or story; in some countries, the first floor is the one above the ground floor.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach and tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.


Sunday - April 3, 2016

Podcasts this Week (April 4, 2016)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1196 – Checking Facts and Figures

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to issue” and “to flag.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “New Journalism.”
“‘New Journalism’ is a style of writing and of news reporting in which the ‘reporter’ (the person who reports or presents the news) is less…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 549

Topics: Musicals – Porgy and Bess; Tupperware; finish versus objective versus destination; to tumble short of (one’s) dreams, to form a habit, and to leave (something alone); to call it a day/night

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Pyramid Schemes.”
“A ‘pyramid scheme’ is a ‘business model’ (plan for making money) that promises participants…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1197 – Reaching a Legal Settlement

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to pay out” and “the long and short of it.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Binding Arbitration.”
“‘Binding arbitration’ is a way for two parties to end a dispute without involving the courts…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - March 29, 2016

Your Guide to the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election: Part 3

Icons of politics and American ElectionsTo help you understand the presidential elections in the United States this year, I’m going to attempt to explain some of the events of the election in an ongoing (continuing; series) “guide.” I am not an expert on politics, but I’ll do my best. No doubt both Warren and Lucy will have things to add on this topic as well.

This post is called “Part 3,” but don’t worry if you think you missed the first two parts. I didn’t actually call them Part 1 and Part 2 when I published them!

The first part was published back in 2008, and explains the primary nomination process.

The second part was last month, when I described Super (Crazy) Tuesday.

If you haven’t read those yet, you should do so before continuing on with this series.

The Latest: A Contested Convention?

There’s been a lot of talk (discussion) in the media (newspapers, television, radio, and Internet news sites) recently about the possibility of the Republican Party having a “contested convention.”

What exactly is a contested convention?

In order to win a political party’s presidential nomination (the right to represent the party in the main or general election in November), a candidate (a person trying to get elected) must have a majority (50% + 1) of the delegates to the party’s convention.

A delegate is a representative from a state or territory who gets to vote in the party’s big meeting or convention this summer. As I explained in Part 1 of this series, during the spring of each election year, each state and territory (places like Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam) votes in a primary for their favorite candidates. Then delegates are chosen from that state or territory to represent the state/territory at the national political conventions during the summertime. The number of delegates from each state/territory is determined by the population of that state (well, approximately determined – it is actually a bit more complicated than that).

But – and this is really important – the actual people who will be the delegates to the national convention from the states and territories are usually chosen by the political organizations (Republican and Democratic) in each state, not directly by the voters. These are often people who have been involved in the politics of that state for many years, and are usually not “newcomers” (people new to a place or an activity).

At the convention, the delegates usually have to vote the candidate the voters in their state selected during the primaries. We say the delegates are “pledged” (promised or committed) to that candidate. They must vote for the person their state voted for.

For example, if you are one of the 99 Republican delegates from Florida, you will have to vote for Donald Trump, even if you personally don’t like Donald Trump. That’s because Trump won the primary election in Florida this year, so all of Florida’s delegates have to vote for him.

Seems simple, right?

Now here’s where it gets tricky (difficult or complicated): a delegate typically is pledged to that candidate only for the first ballot (the first vote at the convention). After the first ballot, delegates are usually free to vote for whomever they want.

So if you don’t really like Donald Trump and you are a delegate from Florida, you may (depending on the rules in your state/territory) be able to vote for someone else on the second ballot (or third ballot etc.).

Why is this important? Because many of Trump’s supporters are newcomers to politics, and therefore they are less likely to have been selected as delegates to the convention. This means that many of the Republican delegates currently (now) pledged to Trump may not actually want Trump to win the nomination.

If those delegates get a chance to vote on a second ballot, they could vote for another candidate.

In the past 40 years, there has never been a second ballot at a presidential convention. That’s because someone has always entered the convention with a majority (50% + 1) of the delegates. When no one has a majority of the delegates on the first ballot, then we have what is called a contested or open convention.

This year, a candidate for the Republican nomination needs 1,237 votes at the convention to win. If no candidate has majority on the first ballot, there will be a second ballot (and perhaps more), and many of the delegates will be able to vote for a candidate other than the one they were pledged to on the first ballot.

So even if, say, Donald Trump has 1,236 delegates pledged to him on the first ballot, if he doesn’t win that ballot, the delegates can select someone else (such as Ted Cruz or John Kasich or ??).

In other words, just because you have a plurality (more than anyone else, but not a majority) of the pledged delegates on the first ballot does not mean you will be nominated.

The possibility of a contested convention is very real at the Republican convention this summer; it is less likely at the Democratic convention, where Hillary Clinton is expected to have a majority of delegates on the first ballot. It all depends on whether the current front-runner (the person who currently has the most pledged delegates), Donald Trump, can win a majority of the remaining primaries.

Have a question about the U.S. elections or politics? Put them in the comments section and I’ll try to answer some of them in a future post.

~Jeff

P.S. If you really want to understand how the American government works, get our Introduction to the United States course. It will give you the background you need to understand the basics of U.S. history and the American political system.

P.P.S. If you haven’t subscribed yet to our magazine, go to Learn English Magazine and download our free iOS or Android app. I’ll be adding more commentary on U.S. politics in the upcoming (coming; future) issues.


Sunday - March 27, 2016

Podcasts this Week (March 28, 2016)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1194 – Using a Map Program

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “to type in” and “run-down.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Google Map Controversies.”
“Many Americans ‘turn to’ (decide to use) Google Maps when they need to ‘pinpoint’ (specify)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 548

Topics: American Authors – Edith Wharton; American Songs – “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”; to matriculate versus to enroll versus to register; to bid versus to tender; period versus dot

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Radio Mystery Shows.”
“During the ‘Golden Age of Radio’ (the period of time when radio was the main form of entertainment at home)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1195 – Types of Allergies

In the Learning Guide: Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear), vocabulary list and sample sentences, and comprehension questions.
In “What Else Does it Mean,” learn the other meanings of “rash” and “bite.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Avoiding Allergens.”
“‘Allergy sufferers’ (people who have allergies) have many tools and strategies to help them avoid ‘allergens’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide