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Archive for November, 2007

Friday - November 30, 2007

On the Edge of Your Seat (325 – Describing People’s Moods)

In today’s podcast, 325 – Describing People’s Moods, we talk about being on edge. In the “What Else Does it Mean?” section of the Learning Guide, we also talk about the different meanings of edge, and what competitive edge and cutting edge mean.

Another very common idiom is to be on the edge of (one’s) seat. We use this to mean that we feel very interested in something and that it is very exciting. If I thought that a movie was very good and had a lot of action, I might say that I was on the edge of my seat as I watched the movie from beginning to end. At an exciting basketball game, the fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see which team will win.


Are any of our listeners on the edge of their seats waiting for each new episode of our podcast? I doubt it!

~ Lucy

Thursday - November 29, 2007

Paying for College (Applications)

Ivy TowerAn article in yesterday’s New York Times is entitled (has the title of), “A College Application Or a Slick Sales Pitch?” The article is about how difficult it is to get into the best U.S. universities, and how important your application is. Since it is so difficult, some parents are paying professionals to help their child write their college application. Of course, universities assume (believe) that the application is done by the 17- or 18-year-old student, not a professional counselor (advisor). They tell students how to package themselves (how to present themselves) to universities.

Elite (the best, top) universities are very competitive (difficult to get into), so some parents believe they need to do anything they can to help their child. The cost of this help? Around $4000, according to the Times article. One of the problems is that many parents believe they must get their child into one of the Top 20 universities, when in fact the U.S. has thousands of good quality colleges that offer a similar education. Personally, I think it is a little insane (crazy, absurd).

About the headline: Slick means very professional, but really too professional, something that tries to be more than it really is. It is usually a negative way of describing something or someone. If you say a person is “slick,” you are saying that he is somewhat dishonest, trying to be something he isn’t. A sales pitch is an attempt to get someone to buy your product. It is a set of reasons or arguments for something you are selling. A slick sales pitch is, then, a somewhat dishonest attempt to “sell” the student to the university in order that she be admitted as a student.


Wednesday - November 28, 2007

How to Learn All of the Phrasal Verbs in English

Phrasal Verbs 1One question we get frequently is: Can you please talk about phrasal verbs? A phrasal verb is sometimes called a two-word verbs such as “to put down” or “to get out” or “to kick (someone) out.” English has lots of these phrasal or two-word verbs, and they can be very confusing to people trying to acquire English.

Let me respond to this question a couple of different ways. First, we DO talk about phrasal verbs, almost every episode. For example, in ESL Podcast 322 from last week, we had all of these phrasal verbs: to pick up, to take advantage, and to stick to (something). In English Café 112 last week, we talked about the phrasal verbs to cover up and to carry out. Even more phrasal verbs are typically found in our Learning Guide under the sections What Else Does it Mean? and Cultural Note. We talk about two to three phrasal verbs on nearly every podcast episode and Café.

Second, many people want a “systematic” or structured review of all of the most important phrasal verbs in English. I understand the desire to be thorough and organized in your learning, but unfortunately that’s not the best way to pick up new words, whether they are phrasal verbs or otherwise. Yes, you could try to memorize verbs the way many English teachers and courses try to teach you, one word at a time. But that one-by-one approach has been found by several research studies to be the least efficient use of your time, the worst use of your time. Why is this so?

To understand why trying to memorize vocabulary is not a good idea, you have to understand a little about language acquisition. I don’t have time to cover everything on a blog post, but I tried to provide more details on how you should improve your English a few years ago in a “special” podcast episode called, Secrets to Improving Your English. Those of you who have been listening since the beginning may already have heard this, but if you have not, just RIGHT-click on this link and “Save As…” to your hard drive. It’s about 25 minutes long.

One excellent way to improve your vocabulary (in addition to listening to ESL Podcast, of course!) is through reading – lots and lots of reading. In fact, reading has been shown in studies to be 10 times more effective than traditional vocabulary teaching. Reading is 10 times faster than any other typical approach to increasing your vocabulary, including flash cards, computer programs, and websites with lots of “vocabulary” exercises. The problem is that very few English teachers or students are aware of the scientific research in these areas.

So if you want to know all of the phrasal verbs in English, now you know what to do!


Monday - November 26, 2007

Singer Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole

Israel Kamakawiwo’ole, whose nickname was “Iz” (pronounced “is”), was an American musician from Hawaii. He was a talented singer and ukulele player. (To see what a ukulele looks like and to hear another excellent ukulele player, look at this.) He is most famous for his 1993 medley (a collection of songs performed as one song) of “Over the Rainbow” and “What a Wonderful World.” This medley has been used in many movies, television programs, and commercials.

Iz was well known for his love of the land and the people of Hawaii, and is considered one of the major influences in Hawaiian music. Sadly, Iz was obese (very overweight) and at one time weighed over 750 pounds. He had several stays in the hospital and died of a breathing illness related to his weight in 1997. He was only 38 years old.

~ Lucy

Over the Rainbow

Somewhere over the rainbow
way up high.
And the dreams that you dreamed of
once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
blue birds fly.
And the dreams that you dreamed of
dreams really do come true.

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney tops, thats where you’ll find me.

Somewhere over the rainbow
bluebirds fly
And the dream that you dare to
why, oh why can’t I?

lullaby = song sung to children to help them fall asleep
lemon drop = a hard candy that tastes of lemon
chimney = the part of a house that takes smoke from a fireplace outside through the roof

Wednesday - November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22 is the Thanksgiving holiday. It is a national holiday and is celebrated each year on the fourth Thursday of November. Most people don’t have to work on Thanksgiving, and many people take Friday off (not work; as vacation), so that they can have a four-day weekend. We talked about Thanksgiving traditions on English Cafe 60.

On this day, we spend time with our families, we eat turkey, and we think about all of the things we are thankful (grateful) for. We, at ESL Podcast, are always thankful for our fantastic listeners, and we hope that you and your families are well.

Best wishes from:
Jeff “give me more pumpkin pie” images3.jpg McQuillan

Lucy “is there more turkey?” images-11.jpg Tse

Tuesday - November 20, 2007

Help Promote ESL Podcast with Google, Facebook, and More!

Google Groups II

Some of our listeners have emailed us to let us know that they are spreading the word (telling other people) about ESL Podcast.

Thank you to our wonderful listeners!

Some of the things they have done are:
§ To tell their friends, family, and co-workers about the podcast;

§ To post messages on blogs and message boards;

§ To send a message to a newspaper or newsmagazine in their country about the podcast;

§ To tell their teachers about the podcast;

§ To give friends and family a gift certificate to the ESL Podcast Store; and

§ To start a site for fans or listeners of the podcast.

If you’d like to help us out (assist us, help us), please try one of these suggestions.

One of our listeners, Eduardo, has started a Google discussion group here for ESL Podcast listeners. Eduardo has put in (done) a lot of work on the group, and is a very dedicated (loyal) fan. Thanks, Eduardo!

If you already using Facebook, there is also an ESL Podcast Group that you can join as well.

If you have done something to spread the word about ESL Podcast or have ideas about how to tell others about the podcast, please send us a comment to let us know!


Monday - November 19, 2007

ESL versus EFL

We’ve had a few listeners ask about the acronyms (abbreviations) ESL and EFL, so I thought I would talk about them briefly. Different countries and organizations use these terms differently, but I’ll tell you how they are generally used.

First, what do ESL and EFL stand for?

ESL = English as a Second Language
EFL = English as a Foreign Language

ESL is a general term used to describe anything related to learning English when English is not the learner’s first or native language. In the U.S., this term is used for people who were born in the U.S. but speak another language at home, or for people who move to the U.S. to study or live. For instance, you will find ESL students, ESL classes, ESL teachers, and ESL books.images3.jpg

EFL is generally used to describe anything related to learning English in a place where English is not spoken by the general public or by the people on the street. Many of our listeners outside of the U.S. are EFL students, studying in EFL classes that are taught by EFL teachers.

Even though it’s useful to sometimes make this distinction (difference) between ESL and EFL, many people use the term ESL for all situations, no matter where the language is being learned. That’s how we are using it here at ESL Podcast. The podcast is for English learners everywhere, no matter where you are.

So, here’s a shout out (informal “hello”) to all of our listeners, especially those in outer space.

~ Lucy images4.jpg

Friday - November 16, 2007

Links in Blog Comments

Thank you to everyone who has been posting comments to our blog. Lucy and I appreciate it!

We have received some posts recently with website links (addresses). For security reasons, we prefer not to post any active links in the comment sections. The reason is that it takes extra time for us to investigate these links and make sure they are not spam or are not redirecting you to another site. (We receive a lot of spam messages on the comments section!) For that reason, we have decided not to put active links in the comments. We know this is inconvenient, but most things can be found using a simple Google search, so if you mention something you saw (such as a YouTube video or newspaper article), most people will be able to find it another way.

Thank you for your understanding – and your great participation on our blog!


Wednesday - November 14, 2007

What Yo Yo Ma is Up To Now (English Cafe 111)

Yo Yo Ma

Today’s Cafe 111 talks about the American celloist Yo Yo Ma. Ma is one of the best known classical musicians in the U.S. If you are interested in what he is up to (what he is doing), take a look at an article in this week’s U.S. News and World Report, one of the three popular newsmagazines in the U.S.

Ma’s latest project is the Silk Road Project. The article describes part of the project as:

a children’s workshop…to bring the sounds and instruments from the historic Asia-Europe trade route to the international scene.

A workshop is a type of class or training program. A trade route refers to the path people used to transport goods from one country to another. Ma is training a group of young musicians to play with the instruments that were found on the trade route between Asia and Europe several centuries ago.

If you want to become a great musician, you may want to study at the Julliard School. Today’s Cultural Note in the Learning Guide will tell you more.


Tuesday - November 13, 2007

Hollywood Writers Go On Strike

Last week, the big news was that the Writer’s Guild of American, a union of writers for television and movies, went on strike. To go on strike is to stop working to protest something that you think is wrong, or to get a company or organization to give you something you believe you deserve. We talked about going on strike in ESL Podcast 252 – A Workers Strike.

What’s the big deal (great importance) about Hollywood writers going on strike?


The writer’s union going on strike actually affects a lot more than just what you see–or don’t see–on TV and in the movies. It’s has a big impact (influence) on the California economy. When writers strike, shows and movies shut down (end work), and not only are actors and directors out of work, many people associated with the TV and movie business are out of work, too. These include the people who work behind the scenes or in the background, such as janitors (people who clean), parking lot attendants (people who park cars and take care of parking lots), dry cleaners (people whose job is to clean clothes), carpenters (people who build things), and many, many other types of businesses and workers. Many of these people will lose their jobs while the writers are on strke.

The last time the writer’s union decided to strike was in 1988. The walk-out lasted 22 weeks. For the sake of (for the good of) all of the people who make a living (make money to live) from the entertainment industry, let’s hope that this will be a very short strike.

~ Lucy