100% Organic English Lessons Now Available!

We at ESLPod.com are always looking to improve our lessons. So we thought we try to make them even better by making all lessons 100% organic, gluten-free, fair trade, non-GMO, with 0 trans fatall natural with no preservatives!

See our new advertisement (ad) above!

Here are the meanings of all of these terms on our new ad. These are words and expressions that you often see in grocery stores (where you buy food) nowadays:

organic – grown naturally without any chemicals

gluten-free – food made without a certain type of substance that is found in wheat, oatmeal, and other grains

trans fat – a type of artificial (not natural) food that is bad for people, made by heating and changing vegetable oils

fair trade – buying and selling, with fair prices paid to the people who produce the product in developing countries (poorer countries trying to improve their economies)

non-GMO – non-Genetically Modified Organism; food that has not been produced using genetically engineered (changed at the most basic structural level) living things

all natural – contains artificial (not natural) ingredients or preservatives (chemicals used to keep something fresher longer)

Get yours today by checking out our new Unlimited English Membership, or one of our new Learn English TV travel English courses!

~ ESLPod.com Team

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How to Win a Gold Medal in Speaking English

Have you been watching the Olympics?

It’s fun to see such amazing performances by athletes.

How do they get to be so good?

The obvious answer is “practice.”

They spend thousands of hours working hard, improving a little bit everyday.

Will “practice” help you improve your English? Will spending time everyday at it make a difference for you?

Maybe yes. Maybe no!

It depends on what you mean by “practice.”

Let’s take the example of Chloe Kim, the American snowboarder who won a gold medal in her sport.

I’m sure Chloe practices by going down mountains of snow hundreds of times each week. That sort of “practice” helps her.

But if she “practiced” for snowboarding by eating a pound of potato chips every day, that would obviously NOT help.

You have to do the right kind of practice.

What is “practice” for improving your English?

Many people – teachers, students, random people on the Internet – think that “practice” means actually speaking English or writing emails or talking to themselves in the mirror or repeating what other people are saying (“shadowing”).

In applied linguistics, we call this sort of “practice” output. Output is what, well, comes “out” of something.

Language comes “out” of your brain – through your mouth (speaking) or your keyboard (writing).

There may be some benefits (good things) about a certain amount of output, but in fact the MAIN way of improving your language skills is not through output.

What really helps you is the opposite of output: input.

Input is what goes “in” your brain.

Getting more input is the RIGHT kind of practice for improving your speaking – even though you are not actually speaking!

What exactly do I mean by “input”?

It’s simple: LISTENING and READING.

What goes in your ears (listening) or eyes (reading) is much more important than any kind of output.

In other words, we get better at speaking not by speaking, but by listening and reading.

Think of it this way: your brain has to “get” language before it can “give” language. If you don’t focus on “getting” more input, you have nothing to “output”!

You have to put money INTO in your bank account before you can take money OUT of your bank account.

Reading and listening are like money you put in your brain’s “language bank account.”

When we study people who become really good at second languages, we find that ALL of them have “practiced” the language thousands of hours by doing these two things: lots of listening and (especially) lots of reading.

So if you’re looking for a gold medal in English speaking, you really do need to “practice” it everyday – even 15 minutes a day will help you.

But don’t sit on the couch (sofa) eating potato chips!

That’s the wrong kind of practice.

Instead, get lots of and lots of INPUT – listen and read as much as you can.*

That’s the way to “winning” better English.

~Jeff

*The input you read or listen to has to be something you can UNDERSTAND, however. It is no good listening or reading things that are too hard for you. That’s also a waste of time.

We have 450+ hours and more than 10,000 pages of understandable English in our Unlimited English program – you can find out more here.

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My Life in English: Communicating with My Father

 

There’s a special connection – we would call it a special bond – between a young boy and his father, just as there often is between a young girl and her mother.

In my family, the bond that my father and I had was a little bit different than the bond he had with my brothers.

Part of the reason was that all of my eight – yes, 8! – older brothers were into sports.

When I say they were “into sports,” I mean they were interested in and participated a lot in athletics – in hockey, in football, in baseball, and so forth.

I, the youngest of the family, was not very athletic for whatever reason, and so as a very young child, I didn’t have that same kind of bonding experience with my father that my older brothers had.

This is not to say that I didn’t feel a connection to my father, only that it was not the same kind of relationship as he had with my other brothers.

However, around the time I was 11 or 12 years old, my father got interested in something called amateur radio. Amateur radio is sometimes called ham radio.

Amateur radio allows you to communicate with people all over the world by getting on a special radio and transmitting and receiving radio signals.

Nowadays, we are used to communicating with people all over the world either through our telephones or through the Internet on services such as Skype or chat or email.

But in the 1970s, there was no Internet, and phone calls internationally were very, very expensive.

To get your amateur radio license in the United States, as in most countries, you have to study and take an exam (an examination), a test that relates to operating a radio as well as electronics and basic electricity.

My father got interested in ham radio and he asked if I would be interested. I said, “Sure! That sounds really cool.”

My father and I both studied for the amateur radio tests together. We would go to classes and meetings and look through books on electronics and radios. Finally, about six or eight months later, we both passed our first examination.

We were both amateur radio operators, someone who could use a radio to send and receive radio signals. It was an amazing feeling, and something we were both excited about.

Amateur radio was an incredible opportunity for me, a young boy of 12, to communicate with people not just in other parts of the United States, but all over the world.

I got to speak to people in Europe, people in Asia, people in Latin America – all before the arrival of the Internet, and without leaving my house in Minnesota.

I stayed very active in amateur radio for least five years or so. Then I got to college and found out there were these people called “girls,” and my interest in ham radio waned (decreased) somewhat.

But I still have my amateur radio license, and I still remember very fondly (with a very positive emotion) that connection, that bond that my father and I developed over ham radio.

My father remained active on the radio for many years after that, almost up until the time of his death a few years ago.

I miss being active on amateur radio, and have thought recently about getting more involved in it again.

Perhaps I miss the excitement of listening in on conversations from people all over the world, as you can on ham radio, and discovering new ideas and learning new things.

Perhaps, though, I just miss my father, and that special bond we shared.

~Jeff

P.S. This article originally appeared in Learn English Magazine. You can get this FREE magazine on your iOS or Android device – just click or tap here.

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What Does “To Be Livid” Mean?

Today I talk about the meaning of the word livid in English. Watch this short video to learn what it means and how we use it:

Get more information about Unlimited English here.

~Jeff

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I Love Winter. I Hate Winter.

Two things for you today:

First, last week, we announced our new Unlimited English Membership. We’ve had a great response and good feedback from our new members. Thank you for your support!

If you haven’t already checked it out, get more info at Unlimited English Membership.

Second, I want to talk about winter. Do you love it or do you hate it?

According to Ranker.com, the top 10 things people like best about winter are:

  1. Scenery (the appearance of nature when we look at it)
  2. Holidays
  3. Hot chocolate (a hot drink made with water or milk and chocolate)
  4. Fires
  5. Christmas
  6. Comfort food (food that makes you feel good, especially making you think of childhood or home cooking)
  7. String lights
  8. First snowfall of the year
  9. Blankets (thick covering to keep you warm, usually on your bed)
  10. Cuddling (holding someone in your arms to show affection)

The 10 worst things are:

  1. Black Ice (ice that is transparent (you can see through) that is usually on roads or other hard surfaces)
  2. Icy sidewalks (walkways beside the road)
  3. Wind Chill Factor (how cold you feel with the combination of the temperature and wind speed)
  4. Flu (short for “influenza,” a common disease that is caused by a virus (a very small living thing that can get inside of your body and cause illness) that makes you feel weak, feverish (with high body temperature), and experience body pains.
  5. Scraping/Defrosting car (to scrape: push a hard surface against something to remove dirt or ice; to defrost: to remove ice, usually with heat)
  6. Runny noses (when mucus (thick, slippery substance produced by your body) comes out of your nose)
  7. Heat bills
  8. Dry skin
  9. Driving
  10. Shoveling

Do you love or hate winter?

Me? I hated winters in Minnesota, but I love winter in Los Angeles.

~ Jeff

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Important Announcement: Our New UNLIMITED ENGLISH Membership!

First, we want to thank all of you, our listeners, viewers, readers, and members, for continuing to support us. We know that many of you have been with us for many months and some for many years and we are very grateful!

Now, we have a very exciting announcement.

You told us what you wanted and we listened.

You wanted access to all of our 1800+ lessons.
You wanted to stream them from your phones, tablets, and computers.
You wanted to listen to as many lessons as you’d like, whichever you’d like.
You wanted to listen without downloading PDFs and MP3s.

UNLIMITED ENGLISH gives you ALL this and more.

With our new UNLIMITED ENGLISH membership, you can:

  • Listen to as many lessons as you want each month – no limit!
  • Stream lessons directly on any iPhone, iPad, or Android phone or tablet
  • Stream lessons to any computer
  • Learn using our new and more user-friendly website
  • Mark which lessons you’ve completed – know how much you’ve accomplished!
  • Read and listen without downloading PDFs or MP3s

We are very happy to be able to offer you our best membership ever. We think you’ll like it, so check it out today: Learn more about UNLIMITED ENGLISH!

Thank you, again, for your support!

– Jeff & Lucy

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The Shadow Wolves are on the Hunt

European_grey_wolf_in_Prague_zooAs in other countries, smuggling and trafficking are both serious problems in the United States. Smuggling is the crime of bringing something into or out of  a country illegally (against the law). Trafficking is the selling or trading of things illegally.

To combat (fight; work against) smuggling and trafficking, the U.S. has a small group of special officers with the coolest (most appealing and impressive) name: The Shadow Wolves.

A shadow is the dark shape produced when a body or object comes between the sun or a light and a surface, like the ground. A wolf (see photo) is a wild (not tame; not living peacefully with people) animal similar to a dog.

Shadow Wolves is a unit (group of officers or soldiers working together) based in southern Arizona. They are based on the Native American Nation of the Tohono O’odham. (We talked about Native American reservations here.) The Nation is located on about 4,300 square miles (11,100 square kilometers) and its people mainly live in small villages spread out (not close together) across this entire area.

There are only 15 members of this special unit, but the Shadow Wolf officers are known for their remarkable (amazing) ability to track (to find the path or course of someone) smugglers as they try to smuggle things, especially drugs, across the Mexican-American border (line separating two countries).

The unit has had a long history of tracking, skills passed down (given from parent to children) from generation to generation. The name “Shadow Wolves” refers to the way the unit hunts (follows and captures), like a wolf pack (group of animals living and/or traveling together). When one wolf finds prey (what is being hunted), it calls in the rest of the wolf pack to help capture the smugglers.

The unit has hi-tech (using advanced technology) equipment, but it relies mainly on traditional methods of tracking, primarily a technique called “cutting for sign.” “Cutting” means searching for and analyzing “sign,” which includes any kind of physical evidence, such as footprints (impressions on the ground made by feet or shoes), tire tracks (impressions in the ground made from car or other vehicle traveling over it), thread (individual long, thin pieces of fiber used for making fabric), clothing, and more. Officers may spend hours or days tracking in the field following a “sign” until they find the smugglers so they can be arrested (taken to jail by police) and their illegally transported items seized (taken).

The Shadow Wolves are able to track smugglers across difficult desert (with a very dry climate and little rain) and mountain terrain (section of land, especially its physical features, such as being smooth or rough). They can spot (notice; find) signs that most people cannot, something as small as a broken twig (small length of wood from a tree), an overturned (turned upside down) pebble (small rock), or single fibers from a piece of clothing or a bag that could be carrying drugs. From a faint (not clear or deep) footprint in the dust (fine powder in the air that collects on surfaces), they can see when the footprint was made, where they came from, and whether they are carrying a lot of weight, such as heavy bags filled with drugs.

The Shadow Wolves have traveled around the world to teach officials and police officers how to detect and follow tracks. In recent years, the Shadow Wolf officers have seized an average of 60,000 pounds of illegal drugs a year.

~ ESLPod Team

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Welcoming 2018

A new year means new plans and new resolutions (promises to yourself to do better).

Here are a few words from Benjamin Franklin to inspire you (make you feel you want to do something). (We talked about him in Cultural English 542.)

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man.” — Benjamin Franklin

To be “at war with” means to work against something, trying to stop it or to defeat it.

A “vice” is a type of bad or criminal behavior. In fact, U.S. police departments often have vice squads, a part of the department that combats (fights against) crimes such as illegal gambling (playing games of chance for money), illegal drugs, and prostitution (selling your body for sex).

To be “at peace with,” as you can probably guess, means not to have problems with other people and having a good relationship with them.

Another meaning of being “at peace with” is when someone has accepted or become accustomed to something that they don’t like or that has had a negative affect on them.

For example, if your daughter decides to marry a man whom you don’t like, it may take some time and effort for you to be at peace with her decision. Even though you still don’t like it, you have accepted it.

And finally, Benjamin Franklin says, “. . . let each New Year find you a better man” (or woman). For something to “find you” means for it be the situation or for something to be true.

Happy 2018! All of here at ESLPod.com hope that the new year finds you happy, healthy, and wise (showing good judgement; making good decisions).

~ Jeff, Lucy, & ESLPod.com Team

Image Credit: From Wikipedia

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Christmas: Outlawed!

Nowadays (Currently; These days), Christmas is celebrated by many Americans, whether they are Christian or not. However, that wasn’t always so (true).

The first Europeans to settle (move to and make it their home) in what is the United States today came in 1620 to look for religious freedom (the ability to believe in and practice any religion). These first settlers, called “Puritans,” were hard-working and didn’t believe in taking days off to have fun and to celebrate. They even nicknamed (gave as an informal name) Christmas “Foolstide,” meaning only foolish people celebrated Christmas.

They didn’t believe that the Bible (Christian religious book) said anything about resting on Christmas. And so the Puritans worked on December 25th!

The feelings against Christmas rest and celebration were so strong in the community that in 1659, they passed a law against Christmas. The court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the first European settlement (community of new arrivals), made it illegal to celebrate the holiday and anyone found celebrating would be fined (forced to pay as punishment) five shillings (British coins = to 1/20 of a pound).

It wasn’t until 1681 that the law was repealed (ended), but the Puritans continued to fight against the holiday.

Thank goodness (we are glad) Christmas is no longer outlawed (not allowed by law)!

We wish those who celebrate the holiday Merry Christmas, and to those who don’t, Happy Holidays.

And Happy New Year to you all!

~ Jeff and Lucy

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Punctuation: The Game Changer*

We all know that punctuation — marks in writing, such as ” “, : , and ! — is important. Sometimes just a small change in punctuation can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

For example, consider (look at and think about) the following sentences that use the same words in the same order, but have different punctuation.

Woman, without her man, is nothing.
Woman! Without her, man is nothing.

The first phrase means that a woman is nothing if she doesn’t have a man in her life. The second phrase means that a man is nothing if he doesn’t have a woman in his life.

Same words in the same order, but the two sentences have entirely (completely) different meanings!

Here’s another example of how punctuation can change the meaning of a phrase.

The man dropped the bullet in his mouth.
The man dropped, the bullet in his mouth.

A bullet is the small piece of round metal that is shot out of a gun. The first phrase means that the man himself put the bullet into his mouth, and we can assume (believe to be true) that the man is still alive.

The second phrase means that the man dropped or fell to the floor, meaning that he is lying on the floor with a bullet in his mouth. From this, we can assume that the man died when a bullet was shot out of a gun into his mouth.

As in our first example, these two phrases use the same words in the same order, but one comma changes the meaning entirely.

~ ESLPod Team

*A game changer is an idea or event that makes a big difference in a situation. For example, the laptop computer (portable computer) was a game changer in personal computing.
**This post was adapted from “What Insiders Know” from Cultural English 91. To see the rest of the Learning Guide, including a Glossary, Sample Sentences, Comprehension Questions, a Complete Transcript of the entire lesson and more, become a Select English Member.
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