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0117 Impressions of LA

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 117: Impressions of L.A.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 117. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Today we are talking about the general American impression of the city of Los Angeles, especially compared to New York City. Let’s get started!

[start of dialogue]

I was talking to my new friend Nicole about the differences between New York City and Los Angeles. Nicole just relocated from New York, where she lived all her life, and I'm a native of L.A.

Dan: So, is L.A. all it's cracked up to be?

Nicole: Well, the stereotype in the movies is that L.A. is a frivolous town with a lot of flaky people. I guess, in the back of my mind, that's what I expected.

Dan: And, is it what you found?

Nicole: Well, it is and it's not. The city of L.A. is much bigger and more diverse than I had expected. There are people here from all over the country and all over world, like New York. I've heard people say that in L.A., everyone is from somewhere else. That's partly true. So, I've met all kinds of people here. What I'm realizing is that the picture of L.A. that's in movies only represents a small segment of the city.

Dan: You're right. Life isn't always like the movies.

[end of dialogue]

We’re talking today about the city of Los Angeles, where I live, and the impression or the ideas that people have about Los Angeles, especially those who moved from another city – big cities like New York or other cities on the other side of the United States, on the East Coast. I live here on the West Coast of the U.S and the story begins with the person, the narrator, saying that she was talking or he was talking to his friend about the differences between New York and Los Angeles. His friend has just relocated from New York. “To relocate” (relocate) – past tense “relocated” – is to move, to move permanently here where you’re living from one place to another – usually from one city or one state to another. Often, it’s because of a job. So, the company you work for asks you to move from Chicago to Dallas – that would be “relocating” you.

Well, she had lived or rather been relocated from New York – New York City – where she lived all her life – that is all of her life – her entire life. And in the story, the narrator is a “native” of Los Angeles or L.A. A “native” (native) – someone who was born there, someone who is from there originally. So the dialogue begins by Dan saying, “So, is L.A. all it’s cracked up to be?” The expression “cracked up to be” – “cracked (cracked) up to be” – the verb “to be” – “cracked up to be” here means is it as good as you were expecting or as people say it is. So, for example, if you go to a famous museum, say the British Museum in London or any of the beautiful museums in other cities and someone says, “Well, is it all it’s cracked up to be? – meaning is it as good as people say it is – and that’s the expression. We sometimes use this in the negative. “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be” – it’s not as good as people say it is. “To crack” normally means to break or to separate something – two pieces – into something rather something into two pieces. But here “cracked up” means is it as good as people think it is.

Well, Nicole says that the “stereotype” in the movies about Los Angeles is that it’s a “frivolous” town. The “stereotype” – all one word – (stereotype) – a “stereotype” is common perception, a common idea that people have that is often false. So, for example, if you were to say, “Everyone from New York City is loud and talks very fast and is rude, is not very nice” – those are all “stereotypes” of people who live in New York City. And there are stereotypes in every country about people in different regions, about people of different languages, about people with different backgrounds and so forth. Many of these, of course, are negative stereotypes.

The stereotype about L.A – and it’s usually a negative thing- a stereotype – is that it’s “frivolous.” And “frivolous” (frivolous) – when we say something is “frivolous,” we mean not serious. The opposite of important or of serious, something that’s just very light, not important, would be frivolous.

The other stereotype about people in Los Angeles is that they are “flaky.” “To be flaky” means to be unreliable – means that you’ll say one thing and then you’ll do something else. Usually, we talk about people being “flaky” (flaky) – “flaky” – when they promise to do something, they promise to meet you, for example, at a café and – at the English Café – and they don’t arrive, they don’t show up, they don’t come to the café when they said they would – that would be someone who is flaky – the adjective. Or as a noun, we could say, “This person is a flake” (flake). “Don’t be a flake,” means keep your promises. If you say you are going to meet someone, then you should go and be there.

Well, one of the stereotypes about L.A is that people here are “flaky.” And Nicole, who’s from New York, says that “in the back of my mind” that’s what I expected. “In the back of my mind” – that expression means that you have thought about it, that you have it in your memory, but you weren’t thinking about it actively. You weren’t – it’s something that you may have forgotten or could only remember a little bit about. Another use of this expression or another example of this expression would be “I was talking to my friend and he was telling me about his mother. And in the back of my mind, I was thinking this is the fourth time he has complained to me about his mother,” meaning I start to remember something that I might have forgotten – “in the back of my mind.”

Well, Nicole says that L.A isn’t exactly what she expected. She says that L.A is bigger and “more diverse” or “diverse” than she had expected. “To be diverse” or “diverse” means – (diverse) – it’s spelled – it means to have a lot of variety. And usually, when we talk about diversity – when something is diverse – we’re talking about people from different backgrounds, from different, perhaps parts of the country or parts of the world. And here in Los Angeles, Nicole says, we have people from all over the world – just like in New York City. Nicole says that everyone in L.A is from somewhere else and that’s true. They’re usually from somewhere else in the world or somewhere else in the United States. People like me, for example. In Los Angeles, I’m sure the majority of the people who live here now, were not born here. And that is not true in other cities in the United States. Where I’m from, St. Paul, Minnesota, the capital of Minnesota. Most of the people you meet will be – have been born in that area. So, the smaller towns, the smaller cities tend to be – we would probably call them more “stable” (stable) – means they don’t change very much – their population. The people don’t move in and out. But in Los Angeles – has a very diverse and mixed population from all over.

Nicole uses the expression “that’s partly true.” When someone says, it’s “partly (partly) true” or it’s partly false, they mean it’s sort of – not completely. “Partly” is not completely, not totally. So, “it’s partly true” means there’s some truth, but it’s not all true.

She says that she’s met all kinds of people here. When you say “all kinds” you mean “many different types of people.” And she ends by saying that her “picture of L.A” – the picture that’s in the movies only represents a small segment of the city. When we use the expression “the picture” – “The picture you get is that people are flaky” – you mean the impression, the idea that you get. We sometimes refer to movies as pictures but here, even though we’re talking about a movie, the expression “the picture” – that noun – the use of that noun here is not necessarily related to the movie. You can say, for example, “The picture that you get of London by reading Charles Dickens” – famous English author – “is a very dark and depressing one.” So, you can get a picture, an idea, of something from any sort of source of information – a movie, a book, a conversation, television show, and so forth.

Well, the picture that Nicole has of L.A is – that she’s seen in the movies, only “represents” – means it only shows you a small segment of the city. A “segment” (segment) is a small part of the city.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue this time at a native rate of speech.

[start of dialogue]

I was talking to my new friend Nicole about the differences between New York City and Los Angeles. Nicole just relocated from New York, where she lived all her life, and I'm a native of L.A.

Dan: So, is L.A. all it's cracked up to be?

Nicole: Well, the stereotype in the movies is that L.A. is a frivolous town with a lot of flaky people. I guess, in the back of my mind, that's what I expected.

Dan: And, is it what you found?

Nicole: Well, it is and it's not. The city of L.A. is much bigger and more diverse than I had expected. There are people here from all over the country and all over world, like New York. I've heard people say that in L.A., everyone is from somewhere else. That's partly true. So, I've met all kinds of people here. What I'm realizing is that the picture of L.A. that's in movies only represents a small segment of the city.

Dan: You're right. Life isn't always like the movies.

[end of dialogue]

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. We’ll see you next time on ESL Podcast.

ESL Podcast is a production of the Center for Educational Development in Los Angeles, California. This podcast is copyright 2005. No part of this podcast may be sold or redistributed without the expressed written permission of the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
to relocate – to move from one place to another; to leave a home in one city and move to a new home in another city

* Darrell decided to relocate his business and moved the office from Nashville, Tennessee to Dallas, Texas.


all (one's) life – from birth until now; from the day one was born until the current day

* Sonya had black hair all her life, but she changed that when she colored her hair red after turning 21 years old.


native – someone who was born in the place he or she currently lives; someone who was born in whatever place is being talked about

* Cesar was a native of Michigan and never moved out of the state, so he knew the state well enough to act as a guide when friends visited.

all it's cracked up to be – as good as one would expect something to be based on stories and ideas heard before actually seeing the thing

* The new restaurant was praised by many people, so Barbara wanted to find out if the restaurant is all it’s cracked up to be.


stereotype – a description of an entire group of people based on false ideas; an idea about a group of people that is often too simple or inaccurate

* Warner heard that students at the all-boys boarding school were unfriendly, but he learned that the stereotype was false and that students there were very nice.


frivolous – wasteful; only concerned with selfish and unimportant things

* Myra was a frivolous person who never saved any of her money and spent it all on things she did not need.


flaky – not reliable; not able to be relied upon

* Allen’s girlfriend ended their relationship because Allen was too flaky. He was always late or didn’t do what he said he would.


in the back of (one's) mind – an idea or thought one has but does not think about much; an idea or thought that stays in one’s mind without one trying to learn if the idea is true or false

* In the back of her mind, Noelle was worried about the exam, but she did not think about it seriously and did not study.


diverse – with many different types; with many people or parts, each one being different from the next person or part

* The office was a diverse mixture of workers with different backgrounds and different knowledge, and each worker studied at a different university.


partly – in part but not in whole; not completely

* Ollie was partly to blame for the fight with his brother, but his brother also said some mean things.


all kinds – many different types; a lot of variety

* The bookstore had all kinds of books, including romance novels, cookbooks, and business books.


picture – an image or description of something, someone, or someplace; an image that is not always true but that is meant to give one an idea of what something is like

* The picture that Keila’s cousin had given Keila of the city did not prepare her for the crowded streets and busy roads.


to represent – to show something that cannot show itself; to act for someone or something that is not able to act for itself

* Tyron represented his company at the conference because his boss could not go.


segment – a part; a small piece of a larger object or idea that has multiple pieces

* The first segment of the television program talked about the weather and the second segment talked about news.

Culture Note
Taking a L.A. Gangland Tour

Visitors to Los Angeles have many tour options. Many people “opt for” (choose) star tours, which are tours that take visitors to the site of celebrities’ homes, or at least the outside of what are supposed to be their homes. Others like to visit famous Los Angeles sites, such as Disneyland, Universal Studios, and the beaches.

Beginning in 2010, visitors arriving to Los Angeles have a new option: a tour of areas with “high” (a lot of) gang activity. “Gangs”–organized groups of criminals, usually of young people–have been part of Los Angeles for a very long time. Creator of LA Gang Tours, Alfred Lomas, thinks it is time for people to learn more about this “aspect” (part) of the city. Lomas is himself a former gang member, and the goal of the “non-profit” (not intended to make money) LA Gang Tours is to make “profits” (earnings) that can then be used for “micro-loans” (small loans) for businesses in the community to promote more jobs.

To make the tour safe, Lomas said that he has the “assurance” (promise) of four gangs that they will not harm or “harass” (frighten and bother) the tour bus as it goes through their “turf” (territory). If you go on one of these tours, however, you know that there is some “inherent” (built-in; essential) danger. In fact, each person who goes on one of these tours has to sign a “liability waiver,” which is a legal agreement that says that the tour company is not legally responsible for anything bad that happens to you. Even with these dangers, however, the tours have been popular. The tour itself is two hours, includes lunch, and makes 12 stops.

These gangland tours are not without “critics” (people who think they are a bad idea). Some local leaders believe that the tours will give people an even worse image of these parts of the city, turning away potential “investors” (people who might put their money into something, which they expect will make them more money).