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Archive for August, 2010

Wednesday - August 25, 2010

Podcasts This Week (August 23, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 610 – Preparing to Travel

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 suspend” and “to water.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Services for Travelers.”
“Americans often travel for “pleasure” (vacation) or “business” (work), leaving their home “vacant” (empty; without people staying in a place) for days, weeks, or even months “at a time” (at once). Fortunately, many services are available to help these people “maintain”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 256

Topics: Ask an American – Chocolate; dispute versus disagreement versus conflict; using “times” in comparing amounts; use of infinitive “to” phrases as adjective, adverb, or noun

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is a popular children’s book that was written in 1964 by a British author named Roald Dahl. In the book, a man named Willy Wonka owns a large chocolate factory and is very “secretive” (does not give others information)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 611 – Having an Overbearing Father

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 “grown” and “to live by.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Level of Freedom U.S. Teenagers Have.”
“Most American teenagers have “significant” (a lot of) “freedom” (the ability to do what one wants) to choose how they spend their time, and with whom. Although the “level” (amount) of freedom “varies” (is different) among families…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Thursday - August 19, 2010

Do You Have Future Shock?

When I think about change, I almost always think of my grandfather – or as I knew him, Grandpa. Grandpa lived almost 100 years. As he got older his eyes got worse, so he had trouble seeing, but the last time I talked to him – when he was 98 – he still had a sharp (able to think and understand) mind and a long memory.

It was always fun to talk to Grandpa about change because he had seen a lot of it. The list of things that didn’t exist when he was born but had become an integral (necessary) part of life when he died is very long – things like cars, telephones, airplanes, radio, television, movies, computers, satellites, men on the moon, and space stations.

Grandpa wasn’t threatened by change (didn’t believe it would hurt him). In fact, I think he enjoyed it. I know he enjoyed talking about it. He read a lot and always seemed to be aware of (know) what was happening in the world around him. However, not everyone is as comfortable with change as he was.

Forty years ago, writer Alvin Toffler worried about the speed of change in a book he wrote called Future Shock. He defined future shock as too much change in too short a period of time.

Toffler was afraid that change would overwhelm people (be too difficult for them), and that the speed of change would cause them to feel like they weren’t connected to the world they lived in. He feared that people would suffer from stress (feelings of worry) and disorientation (confusion). In other words, they would be “future shocked.”

Rapid (fast) change has become a constant (happening all the time) in our world. A recent article in Newsweek magazine used an interesting infographic (a picture or image of facts) to illustrate some of the changes that have taken place since 2000. Here are some of the changes you’ll find in the infographic:

  • Daily letters mailed – 208 billion in 2000 | 175 billion in 2010
  • Daily e-mails – 12 billion in 2000 | 247 billion in 2010
  • Text messages – 400,000 in 2000 | 4.5 billion in 2010
  • Books published – 282,242 in 2000 | 1,052,803 in 2010 (Are you surprised?)
  • Daily newspapers – 1,480 in 2000 | 1,302 in 2010
  • CD sales – $943 million in 2000 | $427.9 million in 2010
  • iTunes downloads – 0 in 2000 | 10 billion in 2010
  • Time spent online – 2.7 hours per week in 2000 | 18 hours per week in 2010

Do you feel like you have future shock?  If so, what do you do about it?

~ Warren Ediger – ESL tutor and coach; creator of Successful English where you can always learn more about how to improve your English.

photo by w. ediger

Tuesday - August 17, 2010

Putting Someone in Jeopardy

QUESTION:
A listener, Carles, had the following question: “I’d like to know the meaning of the word “jeopardy”. I’ve heard this word in some television shows about police and crime investigation. I think this word means “to put something or somebody in danger” but in what context can I use it? Can I use this word in everyday speech or only as police jargon?”

ANSWER:
Carles is right that “to put someone/something in jeopardy” means to put someone or something in danger.  It is often used in TV shows and movies because people are often “in jeopardy” or in danger.  We can say:
– “The baby’s parents put her in jeopardy when they left her alone for hours.”
– “Testifying (giving evidence in a legal case) about major criminals in court sometimes put witnesses (people who saw, heard, or know something) in jeopardy.”

In court or on TV shows about the law, you may also hear the term “double jeopardy.”  Double refers to two things that are the same or very similar.  Double jeopardy occurs when the court system tries to prosecute (put on trial) the same person twice for the same crime.  This is not legal in the United States.  For example, if I am arrested (officially taken by the police for committing (doing) a crime) and go to court and I am found not guilty (not having committed the crime), then I cannot later be arrested again and brought to court for the same crime, even if the police has more or better evidence against me.  This is why I am still free and why  the police tries to make sure they have enough evidence to convict (to have a person found guilty) before they arrest someone for a crime.

Although “jeopardy” is used a lot by the police and in talking about the law, we can also use it in daily life.  Because it is associated (connected) with the law and the police, we use it more for official or formal situations, but not always.  Here are some examples of how it can be used:
– “If you don’t stop drinking (alcohol) at work, you’re in jeopardy of losing your job.”
– “We’re in jeopardy of losing our house if we don’t pay our monthly payments on time.”
– “The teacher left dangerous equipment for the students to play on, putting the children’s safety in jeopardy.”

There is also a long-running (been showing for a long time) TV show called “Jeopardy!”, which was first shown on American television in 1964. It’s a quiz show, where contestants (players) answer questions about history, literature, the arts, popular culture, sports, and more, competing to win money.  The questions are often very difficult and only people who know a lot about these topics do well.  I hope one day to see our own Dr. Jeff McQuillan on the show, since he’s one of the smartest people I know.  He would no doubt do well and win a lot of money.  Maybe he’d share.

Thanks, Carles, for your question and I hope this helps.

~ Lucy

Monday - August 16, 2010

Podcasts This Week (August 16, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 608 – Formatting Text

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 “shading” and “bullet.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Fonts.”
“Most “word processing programs” (software programs that allow users to create and format documents, like Microsoft Word and WordPerfect) have “dozens” (groups of 12) or even hundreds of “fonts” (styles of letters) “installed” (included in a computer program). These fonts can be divided into three categories:…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 255

Topics:  Famous Authors: Laura Ingalls Wilder; college secret societies; no one versus nobody versus anybody; Do you feel as though…?; rent versus lease

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Farmers’ Almanac.”
“In the time of Laura Ingalls Wilder, it was very helpful for farmers to have information that would help them grow crops.  If you were a farmer and you were lucky, you would have access to a copy of the Farmers’ Almanac…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 609 – Types of Cars and Vehicles

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 “just about” and “to seat.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Trends in Car Buying.”
“SUVs and other large cars were very popular among American “consumers” (buyers; shoppers) in the 1990s and early 2000s. Most people believed that SUVs were safer, because they had a larger, “sturdier” (stronger) “frame”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Thursday - August 12, 2010

You Betcha!

I usually return at least once a year to my home state (place where I was born) of Minnesota. Although I love living in beautiful Los Angeles, California, there are things that only Minnesota can offer (can give you; can provide). One thing is great-tasting corn. August is a wonderful time for sweet corn in the Midwest (the middle, central part of the U.S.), and if you are lucky as I was yesterday to be driving out near the farming areas in the country (outside of the city where few people live), you can stop at a roadside stand (a small place where food is sold next to the highway or street) to buy some freshly (newly; recently) picked (removed from the plant) corn.

I stopped and bought some corn that had been picked only a few hours earlier. As you may know, sweet corn is best eaten (will taste the best) when it is cooked soon after it is picked. Naturally (of course), I went immediately to the place where I was staying back in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, the main cities in the state) and cooked it. It was perhaps the best corn on the cob I’ve ever eaten. (The cob is the hard, round, long part of the plant that holds the corn, as in the photo above.)

Another thing Minnesota is famous for is its particular vocabulary and pronunciation. (I’ve lost almost all of my “Minnesota accent” in the past 20 years since moving to California.) Minnesotans have a very distinct (unusual; noticeable) accent compared to other places in the U.S., especially when they pronounce their “o’s.” The “o” in Minnesotan (the language of the people in Minnesota) is long (like the “o” in “soda” or “toe”) and drawn out (pronounced for a long time), so the word “Minnesota” sounds like “Minnesoooooota.” To hear a good example of Minnesotan, watch the movie Fargo, which is about people living in northern Minnesota. (Fargo is actually a city in North Dakota, a state to the west of Minnesota, but don’t worry about that).

Minnesotans also have certain terms or words they use that are different from what people in other states say. They say “pop” instead of “soda” for drinks like Coke and Pepsi. They call a casserole (a kind of thick stew cooked slowly in the oven) a “hotdish.” And they like to use the phrase, “You betcha!” (or simply, “You bet!”). You betcha (the “cha” is a combination of the “t” sound of “bet” and the word “you”) can mean “You’re welcome,” so if you thank a Minnesotan for helping you with something, he or she would say “You betcha!” You betcha can also mean “Of course,” “You’re right,” or indicate you completely agree with the other person. If you said, “Lucy Tse is a wonderful writer,” a Minnesotan who knew Lucy would say, “You betcha!”

So am I going to have some more corn today for dinner?  You betcha!

-Jeff

Photo credit: Wikipedia PD-US

Tuesday - August 10, 2010

Think of Your Poor Teachers

A couple of months ago, I received some good news from a former university student of mine. This student had not only been accepted into a good Ph.D. program to get her doctorate degree, she had received a fellowship, which meant she didn’t have to pay any tuition (money paid to attend a school) and she also received a stipend (money given to students, usually for their living expenses) for one year.  As a teacher, it is nice to see former students succeed and do well in life.

Then, at about the same time, I read some shocking (very surprising, usually in a bad way) news.  A few years ago, I found out that  a former university student of mine had been elected (selected by voters) as mayor of a city in Southern California, a very high-level job for someone so young.  In fact, he was among the youngest mayors ever, and I was glad for his achievement.

Unfortunately, a few weeks ago, I read that he had failed to report campaign contributions (how much money people and groups give to politicians) and expenditures (how money is spent). By law, politicians have to report to the government their campaign contributions and expenditures, and these disclosures (information reports) are made public to voters.  He had failed to do that.  Worse, he had lied about it, which means he was guilty of perjury, the crime of lying to the court.  Sadly, he had to submit his resignation (formal notice given when leaving a job) as city mayor, and even worse, he has been barred from (prevented from) holding elected office (job given by voters) for life.

Though we probably have little or nothing to do with the outcome of our students’ lives, we still feel good when they do well and feel bad when they don’t. So, if you must get into the news, please let it be for something commendable (worthy of praise) and not because you’ve been caught with your pants down (discovered doing something wrong).  Think of your poor teachers, who lead (live)  boring lives and who live vicariously (experiencing in one’s imagination the feelings or actions of another person) through you.

~ Lucy

Monday - August 9, 2010

Podcasts This Week (August 9, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 606 – Reading a Bus Schedule

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 “peak” and “board.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Etiquette on Public Transportation.”
“People who ride buses, trains, and subways in the United States should be aware of the expected “etiquette” (polite ways of behaving). Some of the rules of etiquette are written on the walls of the stops and vehicles…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 254

Topics: Famous Americans – Scott Joplin; American Cities: Memphis; picture versus image versus photo; a versus an

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Elvis and the Memphis Mafia.”
“Most people know who Elvis Presley was and are familiar with a few of his many hits songs. But how many people know about Elvis’ Memphis Mafia? At the age of 13, Elvis’ family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and Memphis became Elvis’ “adopted” (not original, but recognized now as) hometown…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 607 – Being Pestered on the Phone

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 “off the hook” and “to take (one’s) calls.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Telephone Service Features.”
“Telephone companies now offer many “optional” (can be chosen or rejected) “features” (special characteristics or services) beyond basic calling. As discussed in this episode, people can add voicemail and caller ID to their “phone line”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

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Thursday - August 5, 2010

What Can You Believe?

It happened again yesterday. My wife received an email with a subject line that shouted (said loudly), “Do NOT press 90# on your phone!”

Briefly, here’s what the email said: If someone calls you and asks you to enter 90#, don’t do it! If you do, the other person can use your phone account to make long distance calls – and you pay the bill! According to the email, people who claimed (say it’s true) to represent AT&T and other telephone service providers have been doing this.

As evidence (proof) that this is true, the email made several statements:

  • “I dialed ‘0’ to check this out, asked the operator, who confirmed that this was correct.”
  • “I also checked Snopes.Com [more about them later]. This is true, and also applies to cell phones!”
  • “The GTE Security Department requested that I share this information with EVERYONE I KNOW.”
  • “After checking with Verizon they also said it was true, so do Not dial 90# for anyone !!!!!”

Well, I tend to be a little skeptical (questioning) – some might even say cynical (suspicious; not believing) – when I see things like this. So I went to work. And I quickly discovered that almost everything in the email is false! The only phone equipment that might be vulnerable (easily attacked) to this scam (a dishonest plan; fraud) is an old kind of business phone system – called a PBX.

This email is a good example of what we call an urban legend. An urban legend is a story that is told to many people as if it were true, but it isn’t. Unfortunately, the people who repeat urban legends believe they are true and take them very seriously – the lady who sent the email to my wife also sent it to about 60 other people! Urban legends are spread (distributed) by word of mouth (one person telling another), and emails are a popular way to do that today.

Once urban legends get established (are accepted and shared by many) – today we might say “go viral” (spread quickly using technology) – it’s very difficult to stop them. This one has been making the rounds (going from person to person) for more than 10 years! I know of a few urban legends that have been around even longer than that.

I found most of my information at a website called Snopes.com – a good place to go if you suspect (feel; think) that something you hear is an urban legend. In fact, I discovered that the #-9-0 phone scam is on their Hottest Urban Legend list – the list of urban legends that people talk about and spread most often.

~ Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English, where you can learn more about how to improve your English!

Photo from FreeFoto used under Creative Commons license.

Tuesday - August 3, 2010

Is ESL Podcast Out-of-Date?

Hi Lucy,

I have a special question for you. I have been listening to your podcasts for almost six months. They’re all great. I think they improve my listening and vocabulary knowledge. But are your podcast scripts popular or out-of-date?

I ask because I listen to the news about how to speak English automatically and easily. It says to me that phrases or idioms which are not used in real conversation are being used in textbooks and grammar books in schools by teachers. We need the casual speech, informal idioms and phrases which are used in real conversation and daily common speaking. So what about this?

Thanks a lot for your great job always.
Miigaa
……

Dear Miigaa,

Thanks for your email and I understand your concern.  I try very hard to put into scripts only those terms that I think are commonly used in the U.S. today.  When I write a script, I often think to myself, “Would I say this?” or “Would I hear people on the street or in a supermarket use this expression?”  The nice thing about producing a podcast, rather than a textbook, is that we can change with the times (change according to current conditions).  At the same time, we don’t want our podcasts to be out-of-date or dated (seem old-fashioned) in just a few years, so the terms and expressions you hear are those that we think are commonly-used and that will not change significantly in the short term (in the immediate future).  So while I think our scripts reflect (represent) how people speak today, we try to avoid fleeting (not staying long) slang and fads, or things that are popular for only a short time. We may talk more about those terms in the blog, but they usually don’t make it into (are not included in) the scripts.

Here’s an example:  Right now, I hear people — especially young people on TV — using the word “sick,” which traditionally means being physically ill or in poor health, as an adjective to mean “great,” “fantastic,” or “incredible.”  Here are a couple of examples:
– “That new song is sick!”
– “You didn’t like that movie?  I thought it was sick!”
My guess is that in less than six to twelve months, we won’t hear this word used in this way anymore. It is for this reason that you won’t see it used in this way in a script.  “Sick” will remain, at ESL Podcast, what you pretend to be when you want to get out of (avoid) going to school or going to work.

I hope that answers your question and thanks for listening.

~ Lucy

Monday - August 2, 2010

Podcasts This Week (August 2, 2010)

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 604 – Harming a Professional Reputation

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 go under” and “retraction.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Defenses Against Defamation Lawsuits.”
“In the United States, people can “sue” (take to court and ask to be paid money) for defamation, “claiming” (saying that something is true) that the “defendant” (the person who is brought to court and accused of a crime) “knowingly” (with full awareness and knowledge) lied…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 253

Topics:  Chinatown; famous songs: Home on the Range; that way versus in that way versus in such a way; neither here nor there; suffer versus suffer from

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Los Angeles Cultural Neighborhoods.”
“One of the benefits of visiting a large city like Los Angeles is its cultural “diversity” (having many kinds; having a lot of variety).  This diversity comes mainly from the immigrants who have come to “settle in” (come to live in) the Los Angeles area…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 605 – Talking About Astronomy

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 “space” and “star.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Most Notable Planetariums in the U.S.”
“A “planetarium” is a special theater with a “domed” (rounded) roof. Most planetariums are in museums and are used to present shows about astronomy, or just to teach people the names of objects in the “night sky” (the sky as it is seen at nighttime)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Please feel free to discuss this week’s episode by posting a comment.

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