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Archive for December, 2010

Monday - December 27, 2010

Podcasts This Week (December 27, 2010)

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 646 – War-Related Disabilities

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 “vet” and “limb.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Services for Vets.”
“The United States Department of Veterans “Affairs” (issues; things someone is involved in) provides many types of financial support for American vets, and especially for vets who were injured while serving in the military and are now disabled…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 274

Topics:  Famous Authors: Emily Dickinson; the Lindbergh kidnapping; sure versus of course versus certainly; either; Imma be

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Dognapping.”
“Kidnapping is a crime that we are all familiar with, but have you heard of dognapping?  Dognapping is the stealing of dogs from their owners who are then required to pay a ransom to get the dog back…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 647 – Using a Smartphone

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 “camera” and “touch.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Consumer Proprietary Network Information.”
“Whenever an American “consumer” (customer) makes a telephone call, “data” (information) about that call is added to the consumer proprietary network information (CPNI). All the “telecommunications companies”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Friday - December 24, 2010

You Got What for the Holidays?!

Since Jeff and many of you have been talking about gift-giving, I thought I’d weigh in (give my opinion) on the subject. It’s only my two cents (my unimportant thoughts), so take it for what it’s worth (don’t give it too much importance or significance).

About 10 years ago, I made a decision.  After running around and stressing out (feeling emotional pressure or tension) to find the perfect gift by Christmas Eve, I decided that I would no longer give Christmas presents.  I told my family the next year not to expect any from me and to not buy any for me in return.

It was a controversial decision among my family members, but I got tired of trying to be thoughtful (showing kindness and consideration to other people) on a deadline.  I found myself starting earlier and earlier each year — first November and then October — making my lists and racking my brain (trying very hard) to think of that perfect gift that would please each member of my family.  Perhaps because I dislike shopping so much, each year I came to dread (having the feeling of not wanting to do something) it more and more.  Not only did I dread the shopping, I started to dread the entire holiday season because of what it represented to me: frantic (feeling panicked) buying and endless commercialism (focus on buying/selling and making money).  In the end, I gave up (didn’t try anymore) and I told my family they should give up on me as well.

The only exception (something that doesn’t follow the rule) I make is to give my niece (my sister’s daughter), who is still young, holiday money each year to buy whatever she wants.  She’s happy and so am I.

That’s not to say that I don’t give gifts at all.  My family, especially my mother, has become accustomed to (adjusted to) getting a gift from any time of year.  If I see something I think she’ll like, I’ll buy it and sent it to her, no matter what time of year it is.  For me, that makes the most sense.  I was thinking of her right at that moment and I wanted her to know it.  She doesn’t seem to mind (to dislike it), so that has worked out (been acceptable; been successful).

I’m not saying that I don’t like receiving gifts either, of course!  The strangest gift I’ve ever received, however, was a set of facial cleanser (liquid cleaner for the face) from a student, and a male student at that (in addition)!  Of course I thanked him and appreciated the thought (sentiment; feeling), but it left me wondering if he was trying to tell me something.  It’s true that he had to stare (look directly) at my face for an hour a day, three times a week, so that may not be too surprising!

What’s the strangest gift you’ve ever received?

~ Lucy

Thursday - December 23, 2010

Podcasts This Week (December 20, 2010)

What to give Cousin Bette and Uncle Vanya for the holidays? Give them the gift of English!

And have you been a good boy or girl this year, too? Give yourself the gift of English, too.  You deserve it!

You can support us and help your friends and family by giving them ESL Podcast Gift Certificates. Use Gift Certificates for Basic or Premium Memberships, Learning Guides, and Premium Courses!

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 644 – Giving a Successful Presentation

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 “hit” and “hooked.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Presenters on the Speakers Circuit.”
“…People in the professional “speakers circuit” (all the people who travel around the country and the world making presentations to earn money) can attract hundreds or thousands of listeners each time they speak…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 273

Topics: It’s a Wonderful Life; Cape Cod; backward versus backwards; to agree with versus to agree to versus to agree on; howdy

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
“Christmas is a time for “traditions” (things done the same way over time). People put up Christmas trees and watch the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life on television. Another Christmas tradition is for the family to read with their children the book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 645 – Shaving Your Face

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 “shave” and “nick.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Products for Shaving.”
“Most American men “stick to the basics” (use only the simplest things) when it comes to shaving: a can of shaving cream and a razor. However, there are many other shaving products that men can purchase to help them shave their face or “maintain” (keep in good condition) a beard…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - December 16, 2010

The Wanderers

When I was teaching adult ESL students, I would often begin a get-acquainted (getting to know each other) discussion by asking two questions. The first was “how would you describe yourself? Are you a Mexican (or Korean or….) living in the U.S., a Mexican-American, or an American of Mexican descent (nationality; where your family came from).”

The second question was “how do you think you’ll describe yourself five years from now?” As you can imagine, we had some very interesting discussions.

These discussions always reminded me (made me think) of my ancestors (family members who lived many years ago) and the path they took to the U.S. and into American life and culture. I recently saw an interesting description of them that was written at the time they arrived in the U.S. The writer said they were “ethnically Dutch, culturally German, and nationally Russian.” What he meant is that my ancestors were Dutch people who had lived in Prussia, or northern Germany, long enough to pick up German cultural traditions, including the German language. And, at the time they moved to the U.S., they were Russian citizens.

As you can see, my ancestors moved around. In fact, one writer refers to them as wanderers (without a permanent home). Let me see if I can condense (shorten) their story into a few paragraphs.

My ancestors came originally from a region (area) of Holland called Friesland. Most were farmers and some, possibly (maybe), were teachers.

Sometime near the end of the 1500s, the Prussian government invited them to move to an area west of Danzig, which is now Gdansk, Poland. They were given religious freedom and some very bad farmland – most of it was wilderness (never been developed) and marshes (ground that is always wet). In a few years, however, they turned the land into productive farms.

Later, around 1800, the Russian government invited these hard-working farmers to move to the southern Ukraine , near the Molotschna River, to help develop farming (agriculture) there. They were offered (told they could have) religious freedom and freedom from serving (working) in the Russian army. In addition, the government helped pay for the cost of moving. Today, if you visit southern Ukraine, you’ll find large wheat farms that they started. And you can still find many of the villages they lived in.

By the late 1800s, it was obvious (everyone knew) that the life these people enjoyed in Russia would soon end, so they began to look for a new home. They looked at locations in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and South America. Most of them came to the U.S. around 1875 and settled (started living) in Kansas, in the center of the U.S. Kansas was on the American frontier (where no one had lived before) at that time, so these farmers did what they did best – make something grow where nothing had grown before. If you travel through this part of the U.S. today, especially in the summer, you’ll see miles and miles of wheat farms, the same as in the Ukraine.

Christmas also reminds me of my ancestors and our traditions. I have fond (like very much) memories of gathering (getting together) at my grandparents’ homes at Christmas with uncles, aunts, and cousins. Two of my fondest memories are the food and the music. We’d always eat a large Christmas dinner together and then gather around the Christmas tree in the living room to sing Christmas carols. What wonderful music!

Next week my family will repeat part of the tradition. Even though my children are very American, they love the traditional food and insist on having it every Christmas.

Three foods are always at the top of our list of favorites. First, there are zweibach, a kind of bread or dinner roll usually eaten with jam. Then there is pluma mos, a fruit soup made of raisins and prunes cooked slowly in a sweet cream sauce flavored with cinnamon and other spices. And finally, there are peppernuts, small hard cookies flavored with ginger, cinnamon and, yes, a little pepper. Any day now, I expect the UPS (United Parcel Service) man to ring our doorbell ring so he can deliver the box of peppernuts my mother sends every year.

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, merry Christmas from me and my family. For those of you who don’t, I wish you a very happy holiday season. And to all of you – in advance – Happy New Year!

~ Warren Ediger, creator of Successful English where you can find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

photo from Molotschna colony, Ukraine, from GAMEO

Wednesday - December 15, 2010

Podcasts This Week (December 13, 2010)

You: “I want to improve my English.”
Santa: “No problem. I’ll give you
ESL Podcast Gift Certificates!”

Give yourself the gift of English with an ESL Podcast Basic or Premium Memberships!  Give your friends ESL Podcast Gift Certificates, which can be used for Basic or Premium Memberships, Learning Guides, and Premium Courses!

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 642 – Installing Windows and Doors

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 “slide” and “stuck.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Government Programs to Encourage Use of Energy-Efficient Appliances.”
“In recent years, the U.S. government has tried to encourage Americans to install “energy-efficient” (using the smallest amount of energy possible) “appliances” (electrical equipment in a home) in their home to reduce the country’s “dependence”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 272

Topics:  Famous Songs:  God Bless America and Kate Smith; The American Girl Dolls; provided that versus as long as; “g” as in “gansta”; to suck

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Bobblehead Dolls.”
“Many sports “franchises” (organizations that include many teams) want to attract sports fans and to get them to buy tickets to the games.  One way to do this is to offer special “promotions”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 643 – Liberal and Conservative News

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 “rag” and “press.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Biases of TV Cable News Channels.”
…”In the United States, many “cable news channels” (TV channels that cover the news all the time) are accused of being unfairly liberal or conservative. These channels present only one “side” (way of viewing or thinking about things) of the story…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - December 14, 2010

Person of the Decade

This is the time of year when the media takes a retrospective look (look back in time) at the past year. News outlets (places where we can find news), such as Time magazine, like to name (identify) a “Person of the Year,” someone who has made significant or important impact (influence; effect) on the world, good or bad, during the past year.

Since a decade (10-year period, beginning with a year ending in ‘0’) is ending, many people are taking a look back at the past 10 years: 2000 to 2010. My question to you is:  Which person do you think has made the most significant impact — good or bad — on the world in the past decade?   This person does not need to be politician (person who works in an elected job in the government), of course, and may be an entertainer, sports star, businessperson, or anyone who you think fits the bill (satisfies the requirements; meets the criteria).

Here are a few of the names that have bandied about (discussed in a casual way) in the American media that I’ve seen in the past few weeks. This is not an exhaustive (complete) list and most are Americans, but it’s a place to start.  Remember that we’re talking about a person who has had the biggest impact, positive or negative.

Barack Obama, American President
Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple
Sarah Palin, former Alaskan governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate
Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks
Lady Gaga, American pop singer

So, what do you think?  Would you pick one of these people or someone else entirely?  Who would be your “Person of the Decade”?

~ Lucy

P.S. At the risk of sounding presumptuous (seeming arrogant, or thinking too highly of ourselves), some of you may want to be kind to us here at ESL Podcast and pick our own Dr. Jeff McQuillan, but he would be the first person to tell you to leave him off the list, of course!

Tuesday - December 7, 2010

Advertising in Schools

You are a public school principal (director) and school funding (money) is down. You have a difficult choice: Eliminate (cut) the school’s music, art, or sports program or allow advertisements to be place in the school. What would you do?

That’s the dilemma (difficult problem or decision) facing many schools in the U.S. today. With a poor economy comes less governmental funding, and advertisers are offering schools an alternative (another choice) to eliminating educational programs. Advertisers want to put advertising in schools, placing them on school lockers (metal boxes where students keep books and supplies) and on the side of school buses.

More and more schools are feeling desperate (hopeless; without other options) and opting for (choosing) advertising.  For example, in a school district (organization of many schools in one area) in St. Francis, Minnesota, the superintendent (director responsible for a district) agreed to cover 10% to 15% of the school’s lockers with ads. Parents don’t like it, but have not been too vocal (expressing an opinion aloud or loudly) because they know of the poor condition of school funding.

Advertisers, of course, love this form of advertising. School advertising reaches children and teenagers, an important demographic (specific group or part of the population) and the students are a captive audience (cannot leave or avoid what they see or experience).

What do you think of this form of advertising? What if the choice was between eliminating upper-level (advanced) math or science courses and school advertising?  Would your opinion be different?

Is there school advertising where you live? Are there other types of funding for schools?

~ Lucy

Monday - December 6, 2010

Podcasts This Week (December 6, 2010)

Give the gift of English! No long lines at the stores. No gifts to wrap.

You can support us and help your friends and family by giving them ESL Podcast Gift Certificates.  Use Gift Certificates for Basic or Premium Memberships, Learning Guides, and Premium Courses!

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 640 – Being Genuine and False

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 “upfront” and “open.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Terms Used for Counterfeit Things.”
“There are many “counterfeiters” (people who try to make money, documents, and other things look real when they aren’t) who try to “fool” (trick; make someone believe something that isn’t true) people into buying things that are not genuine…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 271

Topics:  Ask an American: Latinos in Higher Education; may versus might; per se; it pays to (be)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Military Campus Recruiting Controversy.”
“Branches” (parts) of the U.S. “military” (the people and organizations that work to defend the country) often “recruit” students on college campuses, trying to “generate” (create; produce) interest in military “service” (a period of time spent working in the military)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 641 – Sharing With Others

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 “fair” and “pile.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “How American Parents Teach Their Children to Share.”
“Many young children “struggle” (have a hard time doing something) to share their toys with friends. They become very “possessive” (wanting to own something fully, without sharing it with others) of their toys and “throw tantrums”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - December 2, 2010

The Big One

When you say “California,” different people think of different things. Some think about Hollywood. Others think about warm weather and sandy beaches or the beautiful mountain scenery – the rock face (side or surface) of Half Dome, water falls, and towering (very tall) trees – of Yosemite National Park. Still others think about California’s large, exciting cities, like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

There’s another group of people that think – and sometimes worry – about earthquakes. California is situated (located) on top of a large number of faults, as you can see in this map. A fault is a large crack in the rocks that form (make up) the earth’s surface. When these rocks shift (move) – up and down or from side to side – the result is an earthquake. From time to time (occasionally) there’s talk about the possibility of another “big one” – a large, catastrophic (causing a lot of damage, suffering, or death) earthquake that could destroy entire cities and kill or injure many people.

California had a “big one” in 1906. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 registered (measured) somewhere around (about) 8.25 on the Richter scale (a measurement using numbers to describe the power of an earthquake). It was so strong that people 400 miles (almost 650 km) away – in Los Angeles and the states of Oregon and Nevada – could feel it! More than 3,000 people were killed by the earthquake and the fires it caused. The San Francisco earthquake is considered one of the worst natural disasters in American history.

I recently discovered two old film clips (a part of a film) that show the dramatic (great; big) contrast of life in San Francisco before and after the earthquake. In the first clip, you’ll see a fascinating picture of life in San Francisco more than 100 years ago. In the second, you’ll see a graphic (with a lot of details) picture of the devastation (serious damage) caused by the 1906 earthquake.

The first film clip – A Trip Down Market Street – was made by putting a movie camera on the front of a streetcar and filming the changing scene (view of a place) as the streetcar travels up Market Street – one of the main streets in San Francisco – from the harbor (where ships stop) to the center of town. When you watch it, you’ll learn a lot about San Francisco in 1906. You can still ride street cars today in San Francisco, but the scene is very different than it was 100 years ago! Coincidentally (by chance; not planned), this clip was probably made less than one week before the earthquake!

A Trip Down Market Street (This is an old silent film; there is no sound.)

The second film clip was compiled (to make something by putting together different pieces) in 2009 from news footage (film of an event) taken after the earthquake. Two filmmakers, Dan Meyerson and Matt Peterson, wanted to recapture (to bring back the experience of) what life looked like in San Francisco after the earthquake.

This clip follows almost the same route (the way from one place to another) – along Market Street – as the first clip. As you will see, the earthquake caused almost total devastation to downtown San Francisco.

Market Street after the earthquake

There’s no way to know when or where the next “big one” will hit (happen suddenly) California. It could happen tomorrow or even wait another 100 years.

If you’re interested in more American culture and history, you can find many things like these film clips at Open Culture, a web site that provides free educational and cultural media. It’s the most appropriate for more advanced English learners.

~ Warren Ediger, creator of Successful English, where you will find clear explanations and helpful suggestions for better English.

Public domain photo by Arnold Genthe used courtesy of Wikimedia Commons