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281 Topics: Ask an American: Sleep-deprived teenagers; to buy versus to purchase versus to acquire; to burn the candle at both ends; Let’s versus shall we? versus why don’t we?

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Complete Transcript
You’re listening to ESL Podcast’s English Café number 281.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast’s English Café episode 281. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Visit our website at eslpod.com. Download a Learning Guide for this episode. The Learning Guide contains a complete transcript of everything we say on this episode, as well as vocabulary words, definitions, sample sentences, cultural notes, comprehension questions – and pictures of my new cat. If you believe that, you haven’t been listening to ESL Podcast very long, have you? I mean the part about the cat; the rest of it is true!

On this Café, we’re going to have another one of our Ask an American segments, where we listen to other native speakers talking at a normal speed. We listen to them and then explain what they are talking about. Today we’re going to listen to people talking about how American teenagers, those between ages of 13 and 19, aren’t getting enough sleep. And, as always, we’ll answer a few of your questions. Let’s get started.

Our topic on this Café is how American teenagers apparently aren’t getting enough sleep and the problems that that can cause. We’re going to listen to some people talking about American teenagers’ sleep habits, that is, what they normally do in terms of getting enough sleep. We’ll start by listening to a 16-year-old named Danny. Try to understand as much as you can. Then we’ll go back and explain what he said. Let’s listen:

[recording]

Getting up in the morning is pretty terrible. I’m just very out of it and tired. And then, going to school, I’m out of it. And through first and second period, I can barely stay awake.

[end of recording]

Poor Danny says that getting up in the morning, or waking up and getting out of bed, is pretty terrible, meaning it’s very unpleasant and difficult. Here’s some news for you Danny, it doesn’t get any easier when you get older! Anyway, he says that he’s very out of it when he wakes up. He says, “I’m just very out of it and tired.” The phrase “to be out of it” means that you are not fully awake, that you can’t participate in things going on around you because you’re very tired. Maybe you didn’t sleep well, maybe you took some drugs, and so forth. Or maybe you took some drugs, and that’s the reason you can’t sleep well, Danny! Then Danny says, “And then,” after that, after I wake up I go to school, he says, “then going to school, I’m out of it. And through first and second period, I can barely stay awake.”

In American schools, especially high schools, the time for a certain class is called the “period.” In my old high school we had seven periods, meaning seven different class times that you had. The first one may have started at…I don’t know…7:55 I think, and that goes for 50 or 55 minutes. Then there’s a five-minute break to give you the opportunity to get to your next classroom, and that would be second period. High schools have different periods; as I say mine had seven, and every period you have a different class. Everyone takes different classes, but the periods, when the classes start and end, are the same for everyone. One student may have American history for first period (notice we say “for first period” rather than “for the first period”), English for second period, and math for third period for example.

Danny feel so out of it during first and second period that he can barely stay awake. “Barely” means just able to, you can do it but it’s difficult. “To stay awake” means to not fall asleep even though you are very tired. For example, if Danny stays up late playing video games, then he gets up the next morning he may feel very tired and have difficulty staying awake. Here’s a suggestion Danny: get to bed earlier! Now let’s listen to Danny one more time.

[recording]

Getting up in the morning is pretty terrible. I’m just very out of it and tired. And then, going to school, I’m out of it. And through first and second period, I can barely stay awake.

[end of recording]

Now we’ll listen to a psychologist who specializes in sleep disorders. “Disorders” are problems that people have related to their mental or physical health. So, “sleep disorders” are problems that people have sleeping. He’s going to describe some of the problems caused by not getting enough sleep. Let’s listen.

[recording]

We have long known that the more sleep-deprived you are, the more cranky you are. So when your child, who really needs 8 to 9, or even 9 to 10 hours, is only sleeping for 7 hours a night, they are going to experience a form of depression that could be significant and could have some pretty major effects on their overall wellbeing.

[end of recording]

The psychologist begins by saying that we have long known, meaning that we have known for a long time – for many years, that the more sleep-deprived you are, the more cranky you are. “Deprivation” (deprivation) means not getting or having enough of something. If you have calorie deprivation that means you’re not getting enough to eat. “Sleep deprivation” means not getting enough sleep. That’s why the good doctor says that the more sleep-deprived you are, the more cranky you are. “Deprive” is the verb from which we get “deprivation,” the noun. “To be cranky” (cranky) is a somewhat informal way of saying you are not feeling well; you’re not in a good mood; you may become mad or irritated very easily. Little children, when they don’t get enough sleep, are sometimes cranky. We might say they’re irritable; they get irritated or bothered easily. I get that way too if I don’t get my venti Earl Grey tea latte with seven pumps of vanilla by nine o’clock every morning!

Dr. what’s-his-name, the psychologist, he’s saying that children will become cranky if they don’t enough sleep. He says that a child normally needs 8 to 9, or even 9 to 10 hours of sleep. He says, “So when your child, who really needs 8 to 9, or even 9 to 10 hours, is only sleeping 7 hours a night, they are going to experience a form of depression that could be significant.” “Depression” refers to very strong feelings or emotions of sadness, things that you perhaps can’t really explain. Sometimes new mothers experience depression after the birth of their child, what’s called postpartum depression. Other people may feel depression if they lose a job or if someone close to them dies. The psychologist is saying that a child’s depression can be caused by a lack of (not having enough) sleep, and that this depression could be significant, or big – important. He says that depression could have some pretty major effects on their overall wellbeing. “Pretty major” means very major, very large, very important effects or consequences on their overall wellbeing. “Overall” means considering all the different parts of their life, in this case: their happiness, their health, and so forth. “Wellbeing” (wellbeing – one word) means how healthy a person is physically and mentally.

Let’s listen to the good doctor one more time.

[recording]

We have long known that the more sleep-deprived you are, the more cranky you are. So when your child, who really needs 8 to 9, or even 9 to 10 hours, is only sleeping for 7 hours a night, they are going to experience a form of depression that could be significant and could have some pretty major effects on their overall wellbeing.

[end of recording]

Next, we’re going to listen to Eric, who is the head or leader of a private school called St. George’s School in the state of Rhode Island. Rhode Island is on the eastern coast of the United States; it’s one of the original 13 states. It is next to Connecticut and Massachusetts. It is also the smallest state in terms of physical size in the United States. Everyone in the state is very small; they’re less than, say, four feet tall. So if you go to Rhode Island and you’re six feet tall, you’re like a giant; they think you are from another planet! So, that’s Rhode Island. Anyway, Eric says that his school started their classes later, being convinced that if you gave the teenagers more time to sleep that they would do better. So, they moved the beginning of the school day from 8 o’clock in the morning to 8:30 in the morning. He then describes what happened after they made this change.

[recording]

What was really astonishing was how many benefits and how significant the benefits were. In the…the research itself, we saw just over 50 percent decrease in health-center admissions for fatigue or fatigue-related illness or rest requests. We saw almost 35 percent decrease in first-period tardiness. Students reported that they were more alert. They were less sleepy during the day.

[end of recording]

[pause] Oh…oh, sorry. Sorry, I fell asleep there with Eric and his exciting descriptions!

Let’s see, Eric says that what was really astonishing, after they made this change, was how many benefits and how significant the benefits were. When we say something is “astonishing” we mean that it is very surprising, very unexpected but in a good way. Eric said that the benefits, the good things that came from this change, were astonishing and very significant – very important. He says, “In the research itself (and I am guessing here he means the school did some research on what happened – some investigation on what happened after the change), we saw just over a 50 percent decrease in health-center admissions for fatigue or fatigue-related illness or rest requests.” Okay, so he says, “we saw (meaning we observed) just over (meaning a little bit more than) 50 percent decrease (or decline) in health-center admissions.” A “health center” is what we typically call a clinic located at a school or a university. It’s not a hospital, but it often has a doctor or two there, with nurses that can help students who are sick. “Admission” means entrance, when you go into a certain place. We can talk about admission to a zoo, or admission to a hospital. Here, he’s talking about admission to a health center. In this context, it’s students going to probably a room or two within the school where they have a nurse, maybe a doctor, I’m not sure, probably just a nurse who can help students who are sick.

He says that the number of students going to the health center declined by 50 percent, especially for fatigue or fatigue-related illness. “Fatigue” (fatigue) describes feelings of being extremely tired. So, “fatigue-related illnesses” would be those that were caused by not getting enough sleep or being very tired. He says that there was also a decrease in rest requests. I have no idea what this is. “Rest” I understand, meaning you stop working and you maybe lie down, take a short nap – sleep for a short period of time. “To request” means to ask for something, or the noun of something that you’ve asked for. “Rest request” I’m guessing is when a student goes to the health center and says they want to rest. I don’t know; kids today, you know what I’m saying? I have no idea what this means. Maybe the students should just study instead of requesting rest; just an idea!

Eric says that we saw almost a 35 percent decrease in first-period tardiness. “To be tardy” (tardy) means to be late, to arrive late to an appointment or, more commonly, to a class in a school. “Tardiness” describes the general situation of people being late. In most schools if you arrive late to a class, and I’m referring now to high schools and grade schools or elementary schools, often the teacher will make a note of it and you may be punished in some ways. Maybe they’ll send you to the health center and give you a rest request; I’m not sure! Anyway, these poor students therefore have decreased the amount of first-period tardiness, and that means they are not late to their first class as much as they used to be.

Students also reported that they were more alert. “To be alert” means to be completely awake, to be aware of what is happening around you. It’s important to be alert when you are driving. That means not talking on your cell phone, not texting on your cell phone but actually driving, which is what you’re supposed to do when you’re in a car. Students need to be alert at school so they can talk to their neighbors, look at the pretty girls – these are important parts of school culture in the United States – oh yeah, and listen to the teacher, of course! Students reported being more alert after having another half hour to sleep. Eric says, “They were less sleepy during the day,” meaning they did not feel as tired during the day.

Now let’s listen to Eric one more time.

[recording]

What was really astonishing was how many benefits and how significant the benefits were. In the…the research itself, we saw just over 50 percent decrease in health-center admissions for fatigue or fatigue-related illness or rest requests. We saw almost 35 percent decrease in first-period tardiness. Students reported that they were more alert. They were less sleepy during the day.

[end of recording]

Now let’s answer some of your questions.

Lorenz (Lorenz) in Germany wants to know how we use three verbs that are related to shopping and getting new things: “to buy,” “to purchase,” and “to acquire.”

“To buy” and “to purchase” both can mean to get something in exchange for money. I give you 10 dollars, you give me a CD (a compact disc) from Lady Gaga; that’s to buy something or to purchase something. I purchased a CD from you; I bought (past tense of buy) a CD from you. “To buy” can also mean to give someone money illegally to convince them to do something or say something. The verb we would use here is “to bribe” (bribe). If we say someone was “bought,” a person, we mean they have been bribed. “The politician had been bought by the drug company.” They had been “bribed,” given money to do certain things or say certain things.

“To acquire” can also mean to get something by giving someone money, or perhaps by giving them an object that they want or something that they want. I may acquire a new computer by trading or giving my iPhone to them. I give them my iPhone, they give me their computer; we would call that “trading.” But, it can also be used here to mean “to acquire,” it’s the same thing. “Acquire” is a somewhat more formal verb; we would use it in talking about one company buying another company. We might say the company “acquired” this other company. Google acquired many things – many companies. I’m hoping they would acquire ESL Podcast. We will sell the podcast for a billion dollars, so if anyone from Google is listening call me! Anyway, that’s “acquire,” it can be used in a formal sense. You might also even use it if someone gives you something or perhaps someone dies and leaves you something. “I acquired a piano when my aunt died,” for example. I didn’t actually acquire a piano; my mother acquired a piano when my great-aunt died. That would be the aunt of my father.

So, to review: “to buy,” “to purchase,” and “to acquire” can all be used when talking about giving someone money or trading something, to get something from someone. The verb “buy” in the past tense can also be used to describe a person who has been bribed.

I should add that “acquire,” because it’s more formal, is often also used for big purchases, things that are very expensive. We might say that the art museum acquired a new painting. They paid money for it – they bought it, but we would probably use the verb “acquire” here. We also use the verb “acquire” when talking about languages: “I am trying to acquire a new language.” I’m trying to learn it – to be able to hear it, read it, speak it, and write it.

Mehdi (Mehdi) from Iran wants to know the meaning of the expression “to burn the candle at both ends.” A “candle” is a stick or block (a square) or round piece of wax that has a kind of string in the middle; that string is called the “wick” (wick). And you take a fire and you light the wick and it burns and it gives you light. That’s a candle. “To burn the candle at both ends,” to light it at both ends would, of course, mean that the candle would get used up more quickly. The expression, however, is used to mean to work very hard, to work many hours, to stay up late at night to do something or to complete something. The idea is that you are burning the candle during the day and at night because you’re working so much. We usually use this expression when we’re talking about things that need to be completed by a certain time, what we would call a “deadline.” More generally, it’s used to mean that we are doing too much, that we need to rest.

Finally, Ayano (Ayano) in Japan wants to know how we use three similar expressions: “let’s” (let’s), meaning “let us,” “Shall we?” and “Why don’t we?”. “Let’s,” as I said, is what we would call a shortened or contracted form of “let us.” It’s used as a suggestion to do something. It’s a statement, that is to say it’s not a question. “Shall we?” “Why don’t we?” Those are ways of beginning a question. If you say “let’s,” you’re just making a suggestion, but you’re not putting it in the form of the question. For example: “Let’s take the children to the movies.” That’s a suggestion; I am suggesting that you and I take the children to the movies. Or, “Let’s take my neighbors’ children to the park about 10 miles from here so I don’t have to hear them yelling and screaming.” “Let’s go to dinner.” That’s a suggestion; I am suggesting that you and I go to dinner.

“Shall we?” and “Why don’t we?” are ways of starting a question, but they can mean something similar. They’re also ways of suggesting something – of proposing something. “Why don’t we go to Las Vegas and lose all our money by playing poker?” That’s a suggestion. Not a good suggestion, but it’s a suggestion! “Why don’t we go shopping for presents the day before Christmas?” Also a suggestion, not a good one!

“Shall we?” can mean the same as “Why don’t we?” and “let’s.” “Shall we go to the movies now?” The verb “shall,” or the helping verb “shall” is a more polite way of suggesting something. “Shall we?” can also be used as a way of asking a real question, not just making a suggestion: “Shall I buy one bottle of wine or two?” You’re asking a polite question.

You can often see the combination of “let’s” and “shall we?” in one sentence. For example: “Let’s all go to get some coffee at a café after the concert, shall we?” So you’re making a suggestion, but you’re also kind of asking other people if that’s okay. Again, it’s a slightly more formal way of speaking. “Let’s talk about the book that we just read, shall we?”

If you have a question or a comment, why don’t you email us? Our email address is eslpod@eslpod.com.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Thanks also to the Voice of America for the quotes that we used in today’s Ask an American segment. Come back and listen to us next time on the English Café.

ESL Podcast’s English Café is written and produced by Dr. Jeff McQuillan and Dr. Lucy Tse, copyright 2011 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
out of it – not able to participate in what is happening around oneself, usually because one is very tired, ill, or affected by drugs or alcohol

* Trent felt out of it for a few days after the car accident.


period – one session when there are classes

* After lunch, I have music for 5th (fifth) period and chemistry for 6th (sixth) period.


to stay awake – to not fall asleep even though one is very tired

* Ms. DuPuis’s lectures are so boring that it’s hard to stay awake.


sleep-deprived – not getting enough sleep; getting less sleep than the amount one needs in order to feel healthy

* Sleep-deprived children are more likely to get into fights.


cranky – in a bad mood; becoming irritated and annoyed very easily

* Why are you so cranky today? You seem to get upset no matter what I say.


depression – strong, overpowering feelings of sadness that often cannot be explained

* The psychiatrist prescribed some pills for Jacques’ depression.


astonishing – very surprising and unexpected, normally in a positive way

* The doctors noted an astonishing improvement in the patient’s health.


health center – a small area within a school or business that is like a small medical clinic, but with only nurses, no doctors, and limited medications and equipment

* The university has a low-cost student health center to meet students’ most basic needs for treatment.


admission – entrance; the act of going into a facility or program

* How much does the amusement park charge for admission?


fatigue – feelings of being extremely tired

* Almost all new parents suffer from fatigue because newborn babies rarely sleep through the night.


tardiness – the act of coming to class late, after the bell has rung and class has already begun

* The school principal called Karen’s parents to discuss ways to prevent her tardiness.


alert – observant and aware of what is happening around oneself

* When the ambulance arrived at the scene of the accident, the victims were alert and able to respond to questions.


to buy – to get in exchange for money or trade; to get something by paying money for it; to purchase

* How old were you when you bought your first house?


to purchase – to get in exchange for money; to buy

* We need to purchase a computer for the new employee.


to acquire – to get in exchange for money, effort, or experience

* How did you acquire your expertise in creating spreadsheets?


to burn the candle at both ends – to work very hard and to work long hours; to stay up late at night to do something or to complete something

* All the employees are burning the candle at both ends to finish the project on time. We’ll have to find a way to reward them for all their hard work.


let’s – let us; used as a strong suggestion to do something, without asking the other person

* Let’s go get some ice cream.


shall we? – a formal phrase used to make a suggestion, asking another person if he or she wants to do something; should we?

* Shall we dance?


why don’t we? – used to make a suggestion, asking another person if he or she wants to do something

* Why don’t we drive to the coast this weekend?

What Insiders Know
Sleeping Beauty

Sleeping Beauty is a “classic” (well known; traditional) “fairy tale” (a children’s story with many magical events). The original version was written by French author Charles Perrault, but most Americans are more familiar with the 1959 “animated” (with moving drawings) film by Disney.

In the story, three good “fairies” (magical creatures that can fly) come to “bless” (say something so that good things will happen) the baby Princess Aurora, but an “evil” (bad) fairy “curses” (says something so that bad things will happen to) the baby. Her curse is that when she turns 16, she will “prick” (have a small cut on) her finger on a “spinning wheel” (a machine used to turn sheep hair into yarn) and die. One of the good fairies uses her blessing to change the curse, so that Aurora will only fall into a “deep sleep” (very heavy sleep that is hard to wake up from).

The king demands that all spinning wheels be burned and the fairies take the baby away for 16 years, but on her birthday she pricks her finger on a spinning wheel anyway and falls into a deep sleep. However, on that same day, she saw a prince and they fell in love. When the fairies realize this, they work to bring the prince to Aurora. The prince has to fight against the bad fairy, who turns herself into a “dragon” (a large animal that breathes fire).

With the good fairies’ help, the prince kills the dragon and the bad fairy and then he goes to Princess Aurora. As she sleeps, he kisses her. This “breaks” (ends) the spell, Princess Aurora wakes up, and everyone lives “happily ever after” (a phrase used to end most fairy tales, meaning that everyone is happy from that time on).