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Archive for January, 2011

Monday - January 31, 2011

Podcasts This Week (January 31, 2011)

Do you want to get ahead in English?

Do you wish you could understand better everyday and business English?

The Learning Guides will help you reach your English learning goals. Get the Learning Guides by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!
…….

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 656 – Ordering Business Stationery

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 project” and “to jump the gun.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Ways People Use Monograms.”
“A “monogram” is a small design that uses one’s “initials” (the first letter of one’s first, middle, and last names) and is sewn onto a piece of fabric to identify it as belonging to a particular person…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 279

Topics: Famous Authors:  Harriet Beecher Stowe; Death Valley National Park; idiom versus slang; a chunk of rural wilderness; the rest of (something)

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Hottest and Coldest Temperatures in the U.S.”
“In this English Cafe, we talked about one of the hottest places in the United States: Death Valley.  While Death Valley has the highest “recorded” (documented; written down) temperature, it is “by no means”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 657 – Checking Accounts and Writing Checks

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 “notice” and “to count on.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Checking Accounts.”
“U.S. banks offer many types of “checking accounts” where people can keep their money and make payments easily.  A “free checking account” is one that doesn’t charge any fees for “account maintenance”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 27, 2011

State of the State of the Union Address

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama gave what is called the State of the Union address (speech). Our constitution (most important legal document) requires that the president give a report to Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) on the state (situation; condition; status) of the union (that is, the country) “from time to time” (every so often; once in a while). This has been interpreted as meaning once a year and is usually done in January.

In the speech, the president gives his priorities (what is most important) and goals for the coming year. The entire Congress attends (is present), along with the members of the Supreme Court (the country’s highest level of judges) and the heads (leaders) of all the major government offices (called “secretaries“). (Actually, since 9/11, one of the secretaries does not attend in case there is an attack on the Capitol building (where the Congress meets and where the address is given) and the president and members of Congress are killed. If such a terrible thing did happen, then that secretary would become president.)

This year, the Wall Street Journal published a list of the words President Obama used most often in his speech. These words give you an idea of his priorities and what he thinks is important to tell Congress and the American people. Here’s part of the list, from the more popular words to the less popular (less used) ones:

  • Jobs
  • Business
  • Work
  • Government
  • Future
  • Nation
  • World
  • Dream
  • Law
  • Tax
  • Teachers
  • Afghan (related to the country of Afghanistan)

As you can see, his focus was mainly on the economy and jobs, something most Americans are very concerned about.

For those of you who live outside the U.S., how might this list be different in your country?

~Jeff

Photo of President Obama delivering his 2011 State of the Union address: Wikipedia CC

Tuesday - January 25, 2011

Poll About the English Cafe

Because some of you requested it, Lucy recently appeared on two English Cafe episodes so that listeners can hear more than one voice when listening to the Cafe’s cultural topics:  English Cafe 275 (SeaWorld) and 277 (X Games).

Please tell us what you think.  You opinion is very important to us.

Monday - January 24, 2011

Podcasts This Week (January 24, 2011)

If improving your English is your goal, get the Learning Guide now. It’ll help you learn English faster and you’ll be supporting ESL Podcast.

Become a Basic or Premium Member today!

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 654 – Talking About Sound and Volume

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 turn (something) up/down” and “moderate.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Title of The World’s Loudest Band.”
“Most musicians are interested in producing the best, most “memorable” (easy to remember) music, but others want to be known as the loudest band in the world. There has been a lot of competition among bands for this “sought-after”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 278

Topics: The English-Only Movement; Famous Songs:  “The Yellow Rose of Texas”; who versus which versus that; kinda; to drink the Kool-Aid

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Hawaiian Pidgin English.”
“As one of the 50 states of the United States, English is spoken in Hawaii by its residents.  However, if you visit any of the Hawaiian islands, you will find that many of the people of Hawaii also speak Hawaiian Pidgin English…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 655 – Staying in a Vacation Rental

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 sleep” and “scarce.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “What is Included in a Typical Vacation Rental.”
“A vacation rental is a “fully furnished” (with all basic furniture and equipment) home or apartment. It normally includes sofas, beds, tables, and chairs, as well as “appliances”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 20, 2011

One Day at a Time

In the last couple of weeks, I’ve run across (found without looking) some things on the Internet that share a common (similar) theme (subject or idea). On the surface (the part that’s easy to see) they appear to be very different – taking pictures, writing a newspaper column, writing a comic strip, etc. It’s the theme that ties them together (connects them), so let’s start there.

There’s a modern proverb (wise saying) that goes something like this: we overestimate what we can do in one day; we underestimate what we can do in one year. In other words, we think we can accomplish more in one day than we really can. But when we think about a year, the opposite is true: we can often accomplish more in one year than we think.

The articles I ran across recently were by people, or about people, who did a little of something every day but achieved (accomplished) significant results by the end of a year or many years.

D’Arcy Norman works at the Teaching and Learning Centre at the University of Calgary (Alberta, Canada). Norman enjoys photography, which he calls “mindful seeing.” He takes photographs every day, often as he commutes (travels a long distance) to work on his bicycle, even in the winter. Last year, he took more than 10,000 photographs, many with his iPhone. At the end of the year, he selected the best; you can find them here. That’s a great accomplishment!

In the 1930s, Chic Young started a comic strip – one of those daily picture stories that’s about four squares long and runs (is printed) in a newspaper every day – called Blondie. Almost every husband and wife who read the comic could identify with (see themselves in) Blondie and her husband Dagwood. And they often laughed when they did!

One day at a time – four squares and about 20 words – Young wrote 14,500 comic strips during his lifetime. At one time, Blondie ran in more than 1600 newspapers and was read by more than 60 million people in 17 different languages across the world, including much of Africa. When he died in 1972, Young’s son Dean succeeded (followed) him and continues to write the comic strip today. That’s a great accomplishment! William Zinsser has written a fascinating story about Young and Blondie; I hope you take time to read it.

As I was thinking about these two stories – Norman’s and Young’s – I remembered a column (daily newspaper article) I read many years ago by another of my favorite writers, Sydney Harris. Someone asked Harris what he does when he doesn’t feel like writing a column, and he answered, “I write a column.” He went on (continued) to say that “I may not feel like writing a column every day, but I’d feel much worse if I didn’t.” I’m sure that many people who commit to (promise to do) an “everyday” kind of task (job or project) feel the same way.

Finally, let me bring each of you (include you) into this article. A couple of years ago, two researchers I know wrote that it would be possible for you to acquire (pick up) 5,000 vocabulary words if you spent 20 minutes a day reading interesting, comprehensible (understandable) English for two years. If you did that and you knew the 5,000 most common English words, you would know almost 90% of the words in an average non-academic (not a textbook) English book or article. That would be a great accomplishment!

Warren Ediger – creator of Successful English where you’ll find clear explanations and practical suggestions for better English.

Photo by D’Arcy Norman used under Creative Commons license

Monday - January 17, 2011

Podcasts This Week (January 17, 2011)

Do you want to improve your English even faster? Get the ESL Podcast Learning Guides!

By becoming a Basic or Premium Member, you’ll get Learning Guides for each new podcast, with tips on how to use the new words and phrases in each episode. See what you’ve been missing!
……

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 652 – Outdoor Advertising

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 take it away” and “blanket.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about the “JumboTron.”
“JumboTrons are used to provide entertainment. For example, during some games, a video camera records images of the “crowd” (the people who have gathered to watch the game) and plays them on the JumboTron “in real time”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 277

Topics:  Famous Americans: John Dewey; the X Games; phrases used to talk about people’s jobs; for the lack of; be that as it may

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Another Brick in the Wall” by Pink Floyd.
“One very influential rock group that “took on” (addressed; confronted) education was Pink Floyd, a band that was most popular in the 1970’s.  In 1979, the group released a “rock opera” called The Wall…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 653 – Reading Product Reviews

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 read up on (something)” and “value.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about finding the right price for a used car with the “Kelley Blue Book.”
“When Americans buy and sell cars, they often “refer to” (look for information in) the “Kelley Blue Book” to “set” (establish; create) the selling price. The Kelley Blue Book is a company, book, and website…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - January 13, 2011

Thanks for Nothing

Andy Borowitz is a humorist (a comedian; someone who tries to be funny). His website is filled with fake (invented; not real) news stories that are, depending on your political views, supposed to be funny (similar to The Onion).  In a recent article, Borowitz wrote that he often gets emails from people asking him for favors (something you do for someone else to help them). He always replies to these emails, even when the answer is “no.” After sending the email, he waits and typically gets…nothing. The person he emailed never writes back to say “thank you.”

Borowitz suggests that even if you are not really a polite person, you should at least try to be polite, even when it is “fake politeness.”  To be polite means to be nice, to communicate in a way that is not mean or rude.  Saying “thank you” when someone does something for you is usually considered polite.

I agree with Borowitz. I have often received emails from people I know (family members, friends, people I used to work with) asking me for information or for favors.  I usually give them the information or at least reply to their email in some way, but I almost never hear anything from them again.  Imagine walking up to someone, asking her a question, and then after she answers it, walking away without saying a word. Yet that is exactly what happens on email all the time.  I mean, how long does it take to type “Okay, thanks!”?

I know that many people think email is an informal way of communicating, and they perhaps don’t want to send the other person emails they consider unnecessary. But in my view (opinion), “thank you” is never unnecessary.

Let me be clear that the situation is generally NOT true for listeners of ESL Podcast! I almost always get a “thank you” back when people email me and I am able to help them, so please don’t interpret this as a complaint about you, our dear listeners!  I’m referring (talking about) other people…you know who you are.

~ Jeff

Photo from Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, New Orleans. Wikipedia CC

Monday - January 10, 2011

Podcasts This Week (January 10, 2011)

If you believe our podcasts are useful, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!
……..

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 650 – Buying TV Programs and Movies

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 “contain” and “release.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Types of Products Sold in Boxed Sets.”
“Box sets are an easy way for product manufacturers to increase sales of their products. Americans purchase box sets not only of DVDs, but also of many other types of products…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 276

Topics: Ask an American: Commuting; start versus begin versus start off versus start on; a place to live versus a place to live in; might-have-been

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Park and Ride and Kiss and Ride Facilities.”
“When people live far away from bus stops and train and subway stations, they often need to use a car to get to their “stop” (where they can get on a bus, train, or subway train) so that they can use public transportation…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 651 – Psychological Disorders

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 “disorder” and “swing.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Kinds of Therapy.”
“Many therapy “sessions” (meetings) are “one-on-one” (between only two people) sessions with a psychologist or a “psychiatrist” (a medical doctor trained in medical illness, who can prescribe medicine)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guid

Thursday - January 6, 2011

So, What’s the Truth?

Years ago, I studied news writing and reporting with Bob Taylor. Bob had been a successful television news reporter and editor (news manager) in Chicago, Illinois, before he came to the University of Nebraska J-school (journalism school). Bob wasn’t much to look at: he was short and small. But he was sharp – someone who understands things and thinks quickly. He knew good reporting (giving information about people and events) and good writing, and it was a privilege to learn from him.

Bob had two standards (what he expected from us): accuracy (to be correct or true) and brevity (ability to say something in a few words).

I’ll never forget his reaction when he read a news story that said some teenagers had “kept warm by burning newspapers” when they had to spend the night (stay all night) in their car after it got stuck in the snow. “Maybe they kept from freezing,” he said, “but they certainly didn’t keep warm by burning newspapers when the temperature was below freezing (0C/32F)!

I tried – and failed – to impress Bob with my brevity just once. I had spent the day (used the whole day) covering (collecting information for the news) the Nebraska state legislature (the people who make laws). When I returned to the newsroom (place for writing news stories), I summarized the whole day in three sentences. I proudly walked up to Bob’s desk, handed him my story, and waited. He looked at it – it didn’t take long! – looked up at me, and said, “I know politicians don’t do much, but they certainly did more than that!”

News writing and reporting seem to have changed a lot since my days in Bob Taylor’s class. Then, we talked a lot about our responsibility to understand the world around us and to clearly explain it to our audience – our readers (newspapers), listeners (radio), and viewers (television) – so they could understand it.

We knew we couldn’t be completely objective because it’s difficult to keep your feelings and beliefs from affecting what you report. But we could try. And we knew that we all had biases – opinions about people or ideas that influenced how we thought and wrote. But we could always try to be fair (treat everyone in a way that’s right or equal) and balanced (give equal attention to all sides or opinions). And we could always work hard to uncover and report the truth.

Today, many news sources don’t even try to be objective. In the U.S., many people agree that MSNBC and Fox News – two popular cable news channels – are biased and promote a particular point of view (way of thinking). And not too long ago, the host (person who talks to the guests) of a popular Sunday morning interview program, (where a reporter asks questions of important politicians and other newsmakers) clearly stated (said) that he has no responsibility to try to find out if his guests are telling the truth. He says that’s the viewer’s job.

Now the St. Petersburg (Florida) Times newspaper is trying to return truth to the news with a new web site – PolitiFact.com. When politicians and political writers or commentators (people who give their opinion on radio/television) say something they question (don’t believe), the Politifact reporters check it out (try to find the truth). When they do, they report it on their web site.

Politifact also tracks (searches for and follows) promises made by politicians. During the 2008 presidential campaign, President Obama made more than 500 promises! The Politifact Obameter reports how well the president is keeping his promises (doing what he said he would do). They recently added a GOP Pledge-O-Meter to track the promises made by Republican leaders to help the Republican party take control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election.

If you want to know the truth about what American newsmakers say, the Politifact web site is a good place to start. It’s very informative and fun. I hope you take some time to explore it.

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

Credit: definitions for this post come from the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.

Photo of Walter Conkrite, famous TV news reporter, from pingnews is used under Creative Commons license.

Wednesday - January 5, 2011

Podcasts This Week (January 3, 2011)

Do you want to improve your English in 2011?

Reach your goal more quickly by becoming a Basic or Premium Member. The Learning Guide gives you help with every podcast: More vocabulary, explanations of new words and phrases,  help with comprehension, cultural information, and much more!

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 648 – Working on Commission

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 “cap.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Types of Professionals Who Commonly Work on Commission.”
“Many salespeople work on commissions. This is because the “payment arrangement” (the way people are paid) “aligns” (makes things work together in the same direction or for the same purpose) the interests of the company and…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 275

Topics:  American Presidents:  George Washington; SeaWorld; power versus force; The Hurt Locker and Inglorious Basterds; How bad can it get?

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The White House Press Secretary and White House Briefings.”
“The media—newspapers, news magazines, television and radio news, and Internet news websites—are an important part of a democracy.  The media or press is expected to act as a “watchdog” of the government…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 649 – Disliking a Sibling’s Boyfriend/Girlfriend

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 “clingy” and “to count.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Famous American Sibling Rivalries.”
“American literature, television, and movies “are filled with” (have many) “sibling rivalries” (tense relationships between brothers and sisters). For example, one popular television show, The Simpsons…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide