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Archive for August, 2011

Tuesday - August 30, 2011

Gadgets by Gender

A gadget is a small, often electronic device (machine) such as a cellphone or calculator. Gender usually refers to whether someone is a man or a woman. As things, gadgets are neither male nor female, but there is definitely a difference in how males and females use them.

According to a new study, women use e-readers like Kindle, Nook, and Sony Reader much more than men, with 61% of all e-reader users being women.  Men, on the other hand, like tablets such as the iPad; 57% of all tablet users are men.  Why this difference?

One article speculated (guessed) that women enjoy to read more than men, while men want something more powerful to use, something that can also be used for games or other applications (software programs; uses).

There are also differences in age when it comes to (relating to) gadget use.  More than half of all e-reader owners are over 45 years old.  Tablets are also increasingly popular among the over-45 set (people in a certain category), while their popularity with younger users appears to be decreasing.

I don’t know the answer to this one.  If you own an e-reader or tablet, why did you choose one and not the other? Why are e-readers and tablets becoming more popular among older users?

~Jeff

Photo credit: 1st Gen iPad, Wikipedia Fair Use

Monday - August 29, 2011

Podcasts This Week (August 29, 2011)

Don’t miss out on an important part of ESL Podcast — the Learning Guide! You’ll improve your English even more quickly with the help of the Learning Guide.

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 716 – Working Without Supervision

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 phone it in” and “to fire.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The POW/MIA Flag.”
“During the Vietnam War, many American soldiers became “prisoners of war” (POWs; people who are held by the enemy and not allowed to leave during a war) or were “missing in action” (MIA; without one’s location being known)…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 309

Topics: Movie: West Side Story; Uncle Sam; “ship” and other suffixes; grab a spoon/fork; to take the big game down

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Shakespeare in the Park.”
“Many of us like Shakespeare’s plays, but how would you like to see them on stage for free, in a popular “setting” (location), and performed by some of the best actors alive today?”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 717 – Starting a New School Year

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 “popular” and “to kick off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Events Held at the Start of a New School Year.”
“American schools “hold” (organize and arrange) many special events to kick off the new school year. They hope to “motivate” (give someone energy and enthusiasm) students and teachers for the year “to come”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - August 25, 2011

What Do Students Need?

In my work with students from many different cultures, I’ve discovered that educational values (ideas about what’s important) vary (change) a lot from one culture to another. Even in the U.S. today, there are ongoing (continuing) debates about educational values and what students need to learn.

With that in mind (thinking about that), I was attracted to a recent article on the eSchool News website. They asked their readers this question: “If you could choose only one, what’s the skill (ability to do something well) you’d like every student to learn? The eSchool News readers represent (come from) all levels of American education.

Not surprisingly, reading was the most popular response (answer). It appeared twice as often (two times more) than all the other responses. Here are some of the other skills that ranked high (had a high position) in the survey (set of questions) and brief summaries of what the eSchool News readers said about them:

Write – Students need the ability to think clearly about what they write, to choose the best ideas, and to organize them so they make sense (are understandable) to their readers.

Communicate effectively and with respect – Effective oral (spoken) communication begins when we try to understand the people we speak to. And it depends on our ability to clearly, concisely (without unnecessary words), and respectfully explain our thoughts and ideas.

Question – Asking good questions and finding and evaluating (judging how good or useful something is) possible answers allow students to take control of (be responsible for) their own learning and discover ideas that they might otherwise miss.

Be resourceful – To be resourceful means to be good at finding ways to solve problems. If students know how to find and verify (discover if something is true) information and ideas, they can learn more and they can learn more effectively (in a way that produces the result we want). One eSchool News reader wrote that “knowing how to find the right information is more important than memorizing information that very likely (probably) changes rapidly.”

Be accountable – Someone who is accountable is responsible for the results of what they do. An accountable student says, “I’m responsible for what I learn,” and chooses to be a learner, often for life.

Know how to learn – “The most important skill,” one reader writes. Students need to learn how to learn on their own (by themselves) because they will need to know things during their lifetime that we can’t even imagine (think of) right now. If they learn how to learn, they will always be able to teach themselves. They should not have to depend on teachers and schools.

Think critically – One reader calls this thinking “like a scientist” – using evidence and careful, logical (where facts and ideas are connected in a correct way) thinking to analyze information and ideas.

Be happy – Several eSchool News readers stressed (emphasized) the importance of being a happy, caring person. And one of them suggested that character development – learning courage, honesty, loyalty, and other valuable qualities – at home and in school is the key to happy students.

What do you think about these ideas? How many of these skills are emphasized where you live? Would you add others? Would you eliminate (take away) any of these?

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

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Tuesday - August 23, 2011

How to Be an Angelino: Part 2

Last week I talked about the importance of shortcuts in the life of an Angelino (someone living in Los Angeles). Today I’ll add another essential (necessary) element (part) of life in L.A.: Expect people to be flaky.

To be flaky (can also be spelled flakey) means to say you will do something but then don’t do it, especially when it relates to meeting someone, calling them, or going somewhere with them.  This is something that people who move here – and the majority of the people in Los Angeles are from another city, state, or country – notice right away.  I noticed it within a few weeks of moving here in 1991. But then like most long-time Angelinos, I soon took no notice of (did not pay attention to or think unusual) people’s flakiness (the state of being flaky) and just assumed that it was normal.

Here’s an example of being flaky: You say to your friend that it would be great to visit that new restaurant on Sunset Boulevard.  Your friend says, “I’ll call you on Friday and we’ll go!” or even “Great idea! Let’s meet there Friday night at seven o’clock!” Come Friday (when it is Friday), your friend doesn’t call.  Or worse, you actually go to the restaurant and the person doesn’t show up (arrive for an appointment).  When you call or text them, they say that they “forgot” or, if you were supposed to meet them somewhere, give you the classic (most typical or well-known) Angelino excuse: There was horrible traffic! But you remain friends, because in L.A. you expect people to be flaky, so this doesn’t seem unusual.

Being flaky isn’t something most Angelinos are proud of, and not all Angelinos are like this.  But it is common enough, I think, to warrant (deserve) mention in any description of typical Los Angeles behavior.

Let me hasten (quickly) to add that not all Angelinos are like this, and in general most probably don’t approve of this sort of behavior.  I try never to be flaky, and I don’t like people who are (and would not, in the end, be friends with them if they were!).

All places have their good and bad qualities.  What are some things people who live in your city or region are known for, good or bad?

~Jeff

Photo credit: Palm trees by Echo Park Lake by Nikhil Kulkarni CC

 

Monday - August 22, 2011

Podcasts This Week (August 22, 2011)

You don’t need to look further than the Learning Guide to get more help in English. Find in the transcripts words you don’t understand or want to learn more about. Seeing the words on paper will help you learn English even more quickly.

Get complete transcripts and much more in the Learning Guide. You’ll be supporting ESL Podcast, too, by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 714 – Dining with a Foodie

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 “a touch” and “pairing.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Popular Food and Wine Magazines.”
“Gourmets not only enjoy eating great food, but also reading about it. In recent years, “food magazines” (magazines that are all about food) have become very popular. Many people subscribe to magazines like…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 308

Topics:  Famous Authors – Herman Melville; the Ku Klux Klan; to locate versus to position versus to localize; to keep on your toes; to roll with the punches; to suffer from versus to die of/from

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “How Starbucks Got its Name.”
“If you visit or live in the United States, you know that it would be difficult to travel through any medium or large city without seeing a Starbucks.  Starbucks is a “chain” (business with many locations) of coffeehouses, where people can buy…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 715 – Outsiders Moving In

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 “adapt” and “to drive out.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Consumer Price Index and the Cost of Living Allowance.”
“The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measurement of how the prices of “consumer goods” (things bought by individuals and families, not by businesses) change over time. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Tuesday - August 16, 2011

How to Be an Angelino: Part 1

Every city and region (part of a state or country) has its own culture, its own set of customs, beliefs, and unwritten rules. I will soon complete my 20th year here in Los Angeles, and in honor of (to celebrate or mark the event), I thought I would share with you some of the local customs and unwritten rules that make one an Angelino (resident of Los Angeles).  Lucy has already covered the first and most important of these unwritten rules: Never pay too much attention to celebrities.  If you see one, stay calm and pretend not to notice.  I’ll add a few more in this and in upcoming (future) posts, adapting (changing) a few ideas that a local reporter shared recently in the Los Angeles Times.

Here’s today’s rule: Know your shortcuts.  Los Angeles is infamous (well-known or famous, but in a bad sense) for its traffic (too many cars on the roads).  If you take only the main drags (primary or busiest streets), it could take you hours to reach your destination (where you are going).  When I first moved here, a friend recommended I buy a book describing the best shortcuts (the fastest routes or ways to get somewhere).  (Yes, there was a whole book of them!)  So I bought it, and was I glad I did (I was very happy that I did).  The book (I still have it somewhere) describes a few dozen ways to get from one part of the city to the other, using side streets (roads that are not main drags) to avoid traffic.  Even after 20 years, many of these shortcuts I learned when I first arrived here still save me time when driving.

Angelinos even talk about their best shortcuts to friends and family members.  My brother-in-law, who’s lived in Southern California since he was a child, has lots of these shortcuts.  We tell other Angelinos we know about them, but are careful not to tell too many people.  If we did, the shortcuts would themselves become popular and no longer be shortcuts!

Are shortcuts important where you live? What are some of the unwritten rules of your city?

~Jeff

Photo credit: San Diego Freeway, Wikipedia CC

 

Monday - August 15, 2011

Podcasts This Week (August 15, 2011)

We created the Learning Guide to help you learn English even faster. It has even more vocabulary, with sample sentences, cultural explanations, comprehension questions, and much more!

Get the Learning Guide by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!
…………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 712 – Types of Business Entities

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 sue” and “interests.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Business Entity Abbreviations.”
“Business names contain many common “abbreviations” (shortened versions of a word). Sometimes they are “omitted” (left out), but other times they are said “aloud”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 307

Topics:  Famous Americans:  Booker T. Washington; things Americans believe are lucky; horribly versus terribly versus awfully; full tuition reimbursement; carbon copy

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Lady Luck and The Song “Luck Be a Lady.”
“When people talk about luck, they often mention “Lady Luck,” an “imaginary” (not real) woman who represents good and bad luck.  If Lady Luck is with you, you’re lucky; if she’s not…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 713 – Being Physically Strong

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 “built” and “suck it up.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Amateur Athletic Union.”
“The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) is one of the biggest “nonprofit” (an organization that does not try to make money; not a business) sports organizations in the United States. It “promotes” (encourages) “amateur”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - August 11, 2011

Unwritten Rules

When I saw Angry Birds in the Field of Dreams, I chuckled (laughed quietly) to myself, thinking that Jeff had come up with a clever (unusual, interesting) title for something that had happened in a baseball game earlier that week. Well, it was a clever title, but about something else. That means I get to tell the “other” story about anger on the field of dreams (in baseball)!

Let me start with a little Sociology 101 (an introductory class in college often has the number 101). Beginning sociology students are usually introduced to norms – rules that identify behaviors (actions) that are acceptable or required in different situations. Norms tell us how to act when we’re together with other people. But norms are rarely written; they’re learned by experience and example as we live with a group of people. They’re what we call rules of thumb (general ideas from experience) for how to act with other people.

Let me give you a couple of (two) examples of norms. When you get into an elevator, you’re expected to turn around and face (look toward) the door, away from the other people in the elevator. If you walk into the elevator and face the people, we’d say that you had “violated (disobeyed) the norm.” You didn’t do what you were supposed to do in that situation. Here’s another example: in the U.S., you are expected to look at someone when you talk with them. If you look down or somewhere else, we’d consider you (think that you are) impolite.

Back to the field of dreams. You don’t need to know all about baseball to follow the story, but if you’d like to learn more about it, the Wikipedia baseball article is pretty good: read the first paragraph, then go down to the part called Rules and gameplay. And this article, What is Baseball, is helpful, too.

A couple of weeks ago the Anaheim Angels played the Detroit Tigers. The game featured (included as a special part) two of the best pitchers (players who throw the ball to players, called batters, who try to hit it) in baseball. Everyone expected the game to be a duel (contest or competition) between two pitchers who throw the ball so well that most batters have trouble hitting it. Many of us expected a low-scoring game, maybe even 1-0.

In baseball, one of the most exciting plays (actions) is the home run. A home run happens when a batter hits the ball so hard that it goes over the fence and out of the baseball park. When a batter hits a home run, he’s expected to drop his bat and run around the field, being sure to step on each of the four bases.

Near the beginning of the game, Magglio Ordonez from Detroit hit a home run. While he was running around the bases, Angel pitcher Jared Weaver shouted at him because he thought Ordonez wasn’t running fast enough. Bad mistake! Weaver broke (didn’t obey) the unwritten rule that says you have to show respect for the other teams’ players. He would argue (say), of course, that Ordonez’ slow running didn’t show him respect. If that’s true, Ordonez broke the same rule.

Weaver’s shouting at Ordonez angered Carlos Guillen, another Detroit player. So, when Guillen hit a home run later in the game, he stood and watched the ball for a while, then danced slowly for a few steps toward first base, looking at Weaver the entire time, before he ran around the bases. More disrespect! Another bad mistake!

One of the unwritten rules in baseball says that if a player does something bad to you, you have to retaliate, you have to do something bad to him or to one of his teammates, and that’s exactly what Weaver did: he threw the ball at the head of the next Detroit batter. Fortunately he missed, but he was ejected from (thrown out of) the game and has been suspended from (prohibited from playing in) six games. The suspension is bad news for the Angels, who are trying to get into the playoffs (the competition at the end of the regular season): Weaver is their best pitcher and they need him to play.

Every sport seems to have its unwritten rules. I’ve seen them in American football, soccer, baseball, and basketball. And it seems to me, unfortunately, that they often make young men act like little boys. What do you think?

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

Photo used courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.

Monday - August 8, 2011

Podcasts This Week (August 8, 2011)

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ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 710 – Doubting One’s Language Use

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 give (something) a shot” and “form.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Idioms Related to Monkeys.”
“Modern American English has many idioms and sayings that seem to refer to monkeys. Today’s dialogue used, “monkeys will fly out of my butt,” but there are other monkey-related phrases that are even more common…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 306

Topics: Ask an American: Health effects of city living; how do you say versus what do you call; résumé; to be over someone versus to be all over someone

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Dystopian Films.”
“Many people “dream” (think hopefully; wish for) about “utopia,” or a society where everyone is happy and there is no war, fighting, or sadness. Other people focus on “dystopia”…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 711 – A Difficult Place to Find

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 make a pass” and “stretch.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Hearst Castle.”
“Hearst Castle is a “mansion” (a large home for very rich people) on the California “coast” (land next to the ocean). Its construction began in 1919 and lasted almost 30 years. It was built for William Randolph Hearst…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

Thursday - August 4, 2011

Angry Birds in the Field of Dreams

Baseball, as you probably know, is our national sport in the United States. Its influence can be seen in both popular culture (movies such as Kevin Costner’s Field of Dreams) and in the recreational (sporting; games) choices of Americans themselves. When I was growing up in Saint Paul, Minnesota, not only did children play baseball and softball (a type of baseball that uses a larger, softer ball), but adults did, too.  Nearly every large company or community organization had a softball team, and many had leagues (a group of teams that play each other frequently).  Team sports were part of adult culture, in the summertime especially.  Playing on a team was something you would do in your free time that connected you to your neighborhood and community.

Now, it seems, things have changed.  According to a recent article, the number of these amateur (not professional) sport teams has declined (decreased) dramatically (a large amount) in Minnesota and around the country (in the entire U.S.).  The number of adult softball teams is down (has declined) by more than 50% since the early 1990s.  Basketball teams are down 75%, and other team sports have experienced similar drops (declines).  What happened?

Some attribute (explain; give as the reason) the change to the way Americans are less “connected” to each other. Most people don’t know 15 other adults who’d want to form (start) a sports team together (I know I don’t).  For many, it’s just easier to jog or bike, activities that don’t require a group of people. People work more than the traditional 40 hours each week nowadays, some say, and so they don’t have time for playing on teams.

But part of the answer can also be found on your cellphone.  Video and cellphone games such as Angry Birds have started to replace physical sports as a relaxing pastime for younger adults. The amount of time adults spend on gaming (playing video games) has gone up at the same time team sports have gone down. It seems that many of us would rather kill imaginary birds than play in the real world.

~Jeff

Photo credit: Angry Birds Promotional Artwork, Wikipedia Fair Use