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Sunday - June 19, 2016

Podcasts this Week (June 20, 2016)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1218 – Describing Relative Location

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 “after” and “to get settled.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Pseudonyms.”
“Sometimes people use a ‘pseudonym’ (a false name; a name that is not one’s real name) to ‘hide'”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 560

Topics: Movies – The Jazz Singer; The Selective Service System; microaggressions, social justice warrior, and trigger warning; to insulate versus to isolate; pluralizing glass

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Draft Dodgers and Deserters.”
“The U.S. draft requires men to serve in the military during a war unless they meet particular requirements for an ‘exception'”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1219 – Expressing Disapproval

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 “not (one’s) place” and “to go behind (one’s) back.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert.”
At the Movies was a popular TV program that ‘reviewed movies’ (provided professional opinions about the quality of movies)”… – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - June 14, 2016

You’re A Grand Old Flag!

US_flag_13_stars_–_Betsy_Ross.svg

Today is Flag Day in the United States. On this day, in 1777, the Second Continental Congress of the United States adopted (decided to officially use) the design of the American flag:

Resolved (It is decided), That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes (long lines), alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field (background), representing a new constellation (group of stars in the sky).

In 1916, 100 years ago this year, President Woodrow Wilson declared (officially announced) that today, June 14th, would be Flag Day, a day Americans should honor (give respect to) their flag. While it is not an official government holiday, there are many cities and towns that remember this day with parades and small celebrations.

I’ll celebrate Flag Day this year by introducing you to a popular song about the American flag, one most Americans still know (even if they don’t remember that today is Flag Day), George M. Cohan‘s “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

Cohan wrote the song as part of his 1906 musical, George Washington, Jr.  The words of the chorus (the main part of the song that repeats) are the most famous part of the song. They are:

You’re a grand (wonderful) old flag,
You’re a high-flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave (move in the wind).
You’re the emblem (symbol) of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave (courageous).
Ev’ry (poetic version of “every”) heart beats true
Under the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag (being too proud of something).
But should auld acquaintance be forgot*,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

* = This is a line from the popular song sung traditionally on New Year’s Eve, “Auld Lang Syne.” In the original song, it was meant as a question, “Should we really forget our old friends?” (The answer, of course, is no.)

Here’s a recording of the entire song by the great American actor, James Cagney, from a movie about the life of Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, released in 1942. (The chorus begins at around 1:12 on the video.)

If you live outside of the U.S., does your country have a similar day to honor your flag?

~Jeff

Image credit: Wikipedia


Sunday - June 12, 2016

Podcasts this Week (June 13, 2016)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1216 – Working in a Job You Love

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 “calling” and “to do for a living.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Job Corps.”
“Since 1964, the U.S. Department of Labor has ‘administered’ (operated; managed and run) the Job Corps…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 559 

Topics: Frank Lloyd Wright; prohibited versus forbidden versus not allowed; beforehand versus in advance; spot-on; pronouncing passion and patient, worm and warn

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Erector Sets.”
“Parents like to buy toys for their children that allow them to learn while using their ‘imagination’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1217 – Fighting the Effects and Signs of Aging

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 “cream” and “active.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine.”
“Founded in 1993, the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine is a nonprofit organization that ‘promotes’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - June 7, 2016

Playing in the Slots

800px-Lower_antelope_1_mdThe Grand Canyon in the U.S. is what the name says; it’s grand – big and impressive. Anyone who stands at the rim (outside edge) and looks into and across the canyon sees something unlike anything they have ever seen before. If you do a Google search using “Grand Canyon” and “adjectives”, most of the adjectives you find describe reactions to the canyon, but don’t say much about the canyon itself. It is, in many ways, indescribable (impossible to describe).

Like many canyons around the word, the Grand Canyon was created by the action of a river, the Colorado, which for millions of years has been cutting through layers of rock to create a channel (space for water to flow through) that grows deeper and wider every year.

Antelope Canyon, about one hour away from the Grand Canyon, is a very different kind of canyon.

If someone were to take you blindfolded (with a cloth covering your eyes) to Antelope Canyon, place you at the bottom, and then take off the blindfold, you would first be struck by (strongly notice) the tightness (very little room to move) of the space. In many places the canyon walls are so close that you can reach out and touch both of them at the same time.

The canyon walls, decorated with narrow lines of color, move in and out from bottom to top, like waves. And as you look ahead, the canyon walls twist and turn into the distance, and you can often see only a few feet in front of you.

USA_Antelope-CanyonThe movement of light on the canyon walls creates a constantly changing pattern of reds, oranges, yellows – dark one moment, uncomfortably bright the next – and shadows as the sun moves across the sky. When the sun is directly overhead, it often cuts through the narrow space to shine like a spotlight on the canyon floor, as in the photo.

Antelope Canyon, a slot (long narrow opening) canyon, is much deeper than it is wide. A slot canyon may be only 3 feet (1 meter) wide at the top, but more than 100 feet (33 meters) deep. They are created by underground water cutting through soft rock, like sandstone or limestone.

Slot canyons can be found in many parts of the world. Those in the southwestern U.S. – more than 1,000 – are probably the best known, but other other well-known slot canyons can be found in northern Spain, in the Pyrenees Mountains between France and Spain, and in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia.

Maligne Canyon, in Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, is a particularly interesting slot canyon. Much of the water that runs through the canyon comes in a unusual way from Medicine Lake 8.5 miles (14 km) away. One guide compares the lake to a leaky bathtub – water leaks (runs out through holes or cracks) out of the bottom of the lake and runs underground to the canyon.

For all of their fascinating features (characteristics), slot canyons can be dangerous to visit. Once you are in a slot canyon, it can be difficult and take time to get out. Rainstorms, even if they are some distance away, can cause flash floods (sudden local floods) to rush through the canyons. As a result, many canyons, like Antelope, require visitors to have trained guides to take them through the canyons.

If you are interested in learning more about slot canyons, look at the Los Angeles Times article – A Hiker’s Sampler of the Southwest’s Slot Canyons.

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photos of Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon are from Wikipedia Commons.


Sunday - June 5, 2016

Podcasts this Week (June 6, 2016)

icon_51812We are grateful to our members and donors, because we are only able to produce this podcast with the generous help of our listeners.

If you enjoy our podcasts, please consider supporting ESL Podcast by becoming a Basic or Premium Member today!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1214 – Expressing Dread

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 wrong” and “called for.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Breakup Etiquette.”
“As in all ‘social interactions’ (relationships between people), there are many rules of ‘etiquette’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 558

Topics: Classic TV/Movies – Star Trek; The Homestead Act; medicine versus medication versus drug; wild card and K9; to lay it on too thick

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “The Hugo Awards.”
“The Hugo Awards are given to authors ‘in recognition of’ (giving attention and respect to) the best ‘science fiction’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1215 – A Fear of Heights

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 fall” and “ground floor.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Common Phobias.”
“People have many ‘phobias’ (fears that cannot be explained rationally) in addition to the ‘acrophobia’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Monday - May 30, 2016

The Poppies “In Flanders Field”

poppy-50590_960_720Today, we observe (celebrate; recognize) Memorial Day, a federal (national) holiday to remember those who died while serving (working) in the military (a country’s fighting forces). It seems fitting (appropriate) to talk about one of the most famous poems of the 20th century (1900s).

After World War I, poppies (see photo) became associated with the fallen (dead) soldiers of war. This was mainly due to a poem called “In Flander’s Field.”

In 1915, after presiding over (being in charge of and saying words at) the funeral (ceremony to bury the dead) of his friend and fellow soldier, a Canadian doctor named John McCrae wrote the poem “In Flanders Field.” The term “Flander’s Field” was used by the English to refer to the area between East and West Flanders in Belgium where some of the biggest battles (fights within a war) were fought during World War I at Ypres.

The poem was first published in December 1915 in the popular English magazine Punch and uses the imagery (description of things we see) of poppies growing between graves (marked places where the dead are buried) to remind us of the people who sacrificed (gave up; surrendered) their lives in war.

In Flanders Field
by John McCrae

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark (indicate) our place; and in the sky
The larks (small songbirds), still bravely singing, fly
Scarce (seldom; not often) heard amid (among) the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn (when the sun rises), saw sunset (when the sun sets) glow (give off light),
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel (argument; fight) with the foe (enemy):
To you from failing (weakening; dying) hands we throw
The torch* (a stick with fire burning at the end); be yours to hold it high.
If ye (you) break faith (are disloyal; fail to support and give help) with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

* “To pass the torch” means to transfer the duty or responsibility to someone else, so McCrae is talking about passing the responsibility of fighting and defeating the enemy to other soldiers.

The poem became very popular during the war and is still considered one of the most famous poems of that era (period in history). Inspired by the poem, the American Legion, an organization of former soldiers formed in 1919, used the poppy as a symbol to remember those who died in World War I. This was adopted (taken and used) by other military groups in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Today, in the U.S., poppies don’t have a strong association with those who died in war, as it does in the U.K. and other countries. However, this poem is still well known and studied in some schools.

How are the fallen soldiers remembered where you live?

~ Lucy


Sunday - May 29, 2016

Podcasts this Week (May 30, 2016)

icon_51812Is your limited English standing in your way? Do you want to improve your English now?

Learn English even faster with the help of the Learning Guide. In it, you’ll get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1212 – Providing Tech Support

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 “remotely” and “zip, zilch, zero.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Multi-tiered Tech Support.”
“Businesses often offer multi-tiered tech support to improve their customer service….” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 557

Topics: American Authors – Sylvia Plath; Famous Songs – “Hush, Little Baby”; consciousness versus awareness; distinct versus distinctive; classy dress

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Hushpuppies.”
“Hushpuppies are a ‘savory’ (salty; not sweet) food that is common in the Southern United States…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1213 – Using Different Payment Systems

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 be rejected” and “wire.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Early Credit-based Payment Systems.”
“Before the ‘advent’ (creation and appearance) of credit cards, there was a large ‘untapped’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - May 24, 2016

Saying “It’s a Thing” Is Now a Thing

Thingaddams6According to one source, “thing” is among the ten most commonly used nouns in English. It’s so common that if you are able to read this blog post, you probably already know what it means. Or do you?

Certainly you know that “thing” can refer to just about any inanimate (not living) object, such as a cup, a car, or a coin.

You can also use “thing” when you’re not sure if the object you’re referring to is living or not. For example, you might say to a waiter in a restaurant, “What’s that thing in my soup?” (Hint: If you have to ask this question, you might not want to eat at that restaurant again.)

“Thing” can also refer to a topic of conversation, as in “I have three things I want to talk to you about today.” Notice that “thing” can be singular or plural when used in these ways.

More recently in U.S. English, “a thing” (always singular) has taken on a new meaning, referring to a newly popular topic, trend, or activity.

For example, eating toast with avocado on top is now “a thing” in many U.S. cities. It’s a relatively recent phenomenon that is especially popular among hipsters.

Saying that you will move to Canada if _________ wins the presidency in November is also a thing among celebrities (fill in the blank with the candidate you hate the most here (Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, Attila the Hun, etc.)).

Sometimes the trend is so crazy, you may ask someone, “Is that really a thing?” For example, I might ask my friend, “Are adult coloring books really a thing now?”

The answer to that last question is yes, they are: people are actually spending time coloring paper books like children. Sadly, it is a thing.

~Jeff

Image credit: from Addams Family Wiki

P.S. Oh, here’s one more meaning of “thing” – it was the name of a character on The Addams Family TV show from the 1960s, which is shown in the photo.


Sunday - May 22, 2016

Podcasts this Week (May 23, 2016)

icon_51812Get the full benefits of ESL Podcast by getting the Learning Guide. We designed the Learning Guide to help you learn English better and faster. Get more vocabulary, language explanations, sample sentences, comprehension questions, cultural notes, and more.

Get the Learning Guide and support ESL Podcast today by becoming a Basic or Premium Member!

………

ON MONDAY
ESL Podcast 1210 – Small Town Charm

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 “charming” and “lively.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “The Most Famous Streets in the U.S.”
“The U.S. has more than one million streets, but some of them have become ‘household names’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON WEDNESDAY
English Cafe 556

Topics: Apollo 11; Famous Americans – Soapy Smith; certainly versus definitely versus surely; to have a crush on (someone) versus to be in love with (someone); out on a limb

In the Learning Guide:  Get a full transcript (written version of every word you hear).
In “What Insiders Know,” you will read about “Vigilance Committees and The Ox-Bow Incident.”
The Ox-Bow Incident is a 1940 novel and a 1943 movie about a ‘vigilance committee,’ or a group of ‘private citizens’…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide

ON FRIDAY
ESL Podcast 1211 – Watching Movie and TV Franchises

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 be turned into” and “spin-off.”
In the “Culture Note,” learn about “Movie Merchandizing and Tie-Ins.”
“Movies used to be a form of entertainment, but they are ‘increasingly’ (more and more) viewed as opportunities for…” – READ MORE in the Learning Guide


Tuesday - May 17, 2016

They Voted Them Out

wordsWords come and go.

Most words come into English – and other languages – rather quietly. One person uses a new word, then two, then a few. And when a large enough number of people use a word often enough in the same way, dictionary makers notice, and add it to their dictionaries. Early in 2015 one dictionary, the Merriam-Webster dictionary published a list of “Words We’re Watching.” One of the words on that list was “athleisure” – casual clothing, like hoodies and yoga pants, for exercising and for doing almost everything else. Athleisure didn’t get into (wasn’t part of) the Merriam-Webster in 2015, but it did in 2016.

You will find many new words labeled (described) as “informal” English or “slang.” Informal English is used in relaxed, friendly situations – like speaking, texting, and writing emails. Athleisure is an informal word.

Slang usually comes and goes. It begins with a particular group of people – like teenagers or surfers – as a kind of “inside” language for the group. Other people may pick up a few slang words and use them, but it is mostly what we might call “group-talk.”

Some informal words eventually (after a period of time) become part of standard English. Standard English is the “main” part of the language, in the sense that it’s understood and used in the same way by most people when speaking and writing. It is used in both formal and informal situations and is acceptable wherever English is used.

Some slang becomes part of informal English. “Grass,” used for marijuana, began as slang with marijuana users and is now used informally by many people. So is “bro,” used for brother or friend. But we probably wouldn’t use either grass or bro in a formal situation.

While some words come into English, others go out. They don’t actually disappear. But when enough people stop using a word very often, or if they stop using a particular meaning of a word, dictionaries label it as “outdated” or “archaic” – meaning old or old-fashioned.

A good example of an outdated word is “buck.” Buck used to refer to a fashionable and daring (new or unusual in a way that might shock people) young man. Today we’d probably call him a hipster. An example of an everyday word with an outdated meaning is “gentle.” It used to mean someone who was a member of the highest social class – the original idea of “gentleman.” Today we use gentle – and gentleman – to describe someone who is kind and careful how they do things and treat people.

The U.S. Congress recently found a new way to get rid of a group of words: it voted them out, or said they couldn’t be used in future government documents. These words, used to identify groups of people that live in the U.S., are considered offensive (insulting, upsetting) and filled with negative feelings or memories for the people they refer to. Many of these words are already labeled both “outdated” and “offensive” in dictionaries.

In the future, federal government documents must use the term African Americans instead of “Negroes,” Asian Americans instead of “Orientals,” Hispanics instead of “Spanish-speakers,” Native Americans instead of “Indians,” and Alaska Natives instead of “Eskimos” or “Aleuts.” They will also use Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

Many – perhaps most – Americans had already been using the new words as a way to show respect for these groups of people. And I know that many government documents have already been changed. But now it’s official (the government says it must be done).

~ Warren Ediger – ESL coach/tutor and creator of the Successful English website.

Photo edited from an image found at I.ytimg.com.