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0775 Making Repairs on the Outside of a House

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 775: Making Repairs on the Outside of a House.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 775. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Eslpod.com, that’s our website. Go there, become a member, support this podcast.

This episode is called “Making Repairs on the Outside of a House.” Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Maggie: Watch out! Are you okay?

Conrad: I’m fine, but I almost tripped over that crack in the driveway. We’ve got to get that fixed.

Maggie: I know it’s a hazard, but first things first. We should fix those broken front steps, don’t you think?

Conrad: I see what you mean.

Maggie: And we have to repair that part of the fence that’s falling down. See? If it leans any more, we won’t be able to open the gate.

Conrad: Oh, I didn’t realize the fence was falling down. Yes, you’re right, we should take care of those things first.

Maggie: And the porch light is out. I’m not sure if we just need to replace the bulb, or if it’s an electrical issue.

Conrad: I didn’t realize the outside of our house was in such disrepair. I’ve been traveling too much for work.

Maggie: I admit I’ve been putting off the repairs, too.

Conrad: All right, I know what we’ll be doing this weekend – all weekend!

[end of dialogue]

Maggie begins by saying to Conrad, “Watch out!” “Watch out” means be careful. It’s a phrase we use to warn someone that something bad is going to happen very soon, usually something that may hurt them physically. Maggie says, “Are you okay?” Conrad says, “I’m fine, but I almost tripped over that crack in the driveway.” “To trip (trip) over (something)” means to hit your foot on something and then to fall. In our story – our dialogue, Conrad trips over a crack that is in the driveway. The “driveway” is an area where you can drive your car. When you pull your car off of the street – when you drive it off of the street next to your house or your apartment building, the place between the street and the garage where you drive your car, that’s called the “driveway” (one word). A “crack” is when you have an opening in either a wall or it could be, in this case, the driveway. The driveway is made of a very hard material called “concrete” typically, and sometimes there are holes – there are lines that form in the concrete, and this causes the driveway to have an uneven spot, a spot where suddenly it’s a little higher, a little taller than what comes before it. And if you are walking along, and you don’t see it, you could trip over it. It’s sort of like if there were a piece of wood lying on the ground, and you didn’t see it. Your foot would hit it and you might fall.

Conrad says that he has to get this crack fixed. “To fix” means to repair, to get it so that it is normal again. Maggie said, “I know it’s a hazard, but first things first.” A “hazard” (hazard) is something that could cause damage or injury, something that could hurt you. The adjective “hazardous” is used to describe things – liquids, chemicals, materials – that can hurt you. A “hazard,” as a noun, is that thing, that thing that could hurt you. Maggie says, “first things first,” however. The expression “first things first” is used to mean that you need to do the most important things first. You have lots of things to do today, but you have to put them in a certain priority. It’s become popular in the last few decades to say “prioritize,” to make a verb out of “priority.” Don’t really love that; prefer, myself, just to say “to make it a priority.” That’s what Maggie says: we need to do first things first, the most important things first. She thinks that is to fix those broken front steps. The “front steps” (steps) are the stairs that go from the outside of the house to the inside of the house; it’s what allows you to go into a house if the door is higher up than the ground outside. We call these “steps” when they’re outside of the house; inside of the house we would call them “stairs.” However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes people will talk about the steps as being the individual levels of the stairs. So, you could talk about the second step of the stairs. But when someone says “front steps,” they’re always referring to the stairs or steps that are on the outside of the house that allow you to come into the house.

Conrad says, “I see what you mean.” He agrees with Maggie. Maggie then says, “And we have to repair that part of the fence that’s falling down.” A “fence” (fence) is like a wall that you have around your house. Normally it’s made of wood or metal, and it keeps people from coming into your house, or it may keep animals or children from going outside of your property. You often have a fence separating two different properties – two different houses here in the United States. I have a fence in the back of my house and on both sides of my house, separating me from the houses around me.

Well, Maggie thinks that the fence needs to be fixed because it’s falling down, meaning parts of it are broken, or it is going to hit the ground. It’s going to instead of be vertical, up and down, it’s going to be lying down on the ground and then, of course, it wouldn’t be a fence anymore. That’s really what Maggie means. She says, “If the fence leans any more, we won’t be able to open the gate.” “To lean” (lean) can mean to rest yourself against something else. If you are standing up and you are tired, you may lean against the wall. Your body will touch the wall sort of as if you were resting. For a fence to lean, however, we mean that is no longer perfectly vertical; it is starting to fall down towards the ground.

Maggie says that if the fence leans any more than it is now, “we won’t be able to open the gate.” The “gate” is a door in the fence that allows you to go in and out of the area that the fence is protecting. So it’s a way to go through the fence; it’s a door in the fence. Conrad says, “Oh, I didn’t realize the fence was falling down. Yes, you’re right, we should take care of those things first.” Conrad is the perfect husband, you see here, he’s agreeing to everything his wife is telling him!

Maggie says, because now she sees that Conrad is agreeing with her, “And the porch light is out.” The “porch” is an area in front of your house that’s part of the house, but usually is not an area that has windows. That’s not always true, either. In my house – my old house where I lived in Minnesota we had a porch, but it was a porch that had windows so that you could sit outside there. Usually a porch isn’t heated in the wintertime, it’s not part of the regular house, and that’s probably the only difference that I can think of in terms of the porch that I grew up with. Many people have outdoor porches that are just areas that are covered, they have sort of a little roof over them, in front of the house where they can sit and watch the people walk by I guess.

There’s a light in the porch of Conrad and Maggie’s house that is out. When we say it’s “out,” we mean it’s broken; in this case, the light no longer works. Usually “out” is used to describe a light that no longer works, no longer “comes on” we would say, or “turns on.” Maggie says, “I’m not sure if we just need to replace (or put in a new) bulb, or if it’s an electrical issue.” “Bulb” (bulb) is a light bulb, that’s the thing that produces the light. “Electrical” refers to “electricity,” which is the power that turns, in this case, the light bulb on. If it’s an electrical issue, it may be something with the wires, for example. Those are the long, thin pieces of metal that bring power to the light bulb, or to any other electrical device.

Conrad says, “I didn’t realize the outside of our house was in such disrepair.” “Disrepair” means broken, not working correctly. He says, “I’ve been traveling too much for work,” meaning I have been traveling for my job, and so I haven’t seen all of these problems. Maggie says, “I admit I’ve been putting off the repairs, too.” “To put off” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to delay doing something, especially something that should be done now. “I’m going to put off that decision.” I’m not going to decide today, I’m going to do it next week. So, “to put off” means to delay. Conrad says, “All right, I know what we’ll be doing this weekend – all weekend!” meaning it’s going to take all of our days this weekend, this Saturday and Sunday, to finish repairing all of these problems on the outside of the house.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue, this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Maggie: Watch out! Are you okay?

Conrad: I’m fine, but I almost tripped over that crack in the driveway. We’ve got to get that fixed.

Maggie: I know it’s a hazard, but first things first. We should fix those broken front steps, don’t you think?

Conrad: I see what you mean.

Maggie: And we have to repair that part of the fence that’s falling down. See? If it leans any more, we won’t be able to open the gate.

Conrad: Oh, I didn’t realize the fence was falling down. Yes, you’re right, we should take care of those things first.

Maggie: And the porch light is out. I’m not sure if we just need to replace the bulb, or if it’s an electrical issue.

Conrad: I didn’t realize the outside of our house was in such disrepair. I’ve been traveling too much for work.

Maggie: I admit I’ve been putting off the repairs, too.

Conrad: All right, I know what we’ll be doing this weekend – all weekend!

[end of dialogue]

I won’t put off thanking our scriptwriter for this episode; I’ll do it right now. Thank you, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan, copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
watch out – be careful; a phrase used to warn someone of danger

* Watch out! That driver is talking on his cell phone and he isn’t paying attention.

to trip over – for one’s foot to hit something while walking and cause one to fall down

* The ground is uneven, so look down to make sure you don’t trip over these rocks.

crack – a narrow, long opening in a wall, a piece of concrete, a piece of wood, or any other type of smooth, solid surface

* Do you think Mom will notice the crack in the teapot?

driveway – the area driven on by cars and covered with rocks, cement, or asphalt, connecting a road and one’s house, often leading into a garage

* How long did it take you to shovel the snow off the driveway?

fixed – repaired; corrected; for something that is broken to be made functional or operational again

* We wanted to get the TV fixed, but it’s cheaper to just buy a new one.

hazard – something that could cause damage, injury, or death; something dangerous

* Living in this apartment, where there are so many plumbing and heating problems, can be a health hazard.

first things first – a phrase used to mean that someone needs to decide what is important and less important, and do the most important things first before worrying about less-important things

* This kitchen is so dirty! First things first, let’s take out the garbage and start to wash the dishes. We can worry about sweeping and mopping later.

front steps – the stairs between the outdoors and the front door of a home

* Each Halloween, they decorate pumpkins and put them on their front steps for the neighbors to see.

fence – a wooden or metal wall around a yard or other area with grass, usually used to keep people or animals on one side, but sometimes just for decoration

* Anita put up a tall fence to try to keep the deer from getting into her garden.

to lean – to rest against something at an angle, not standing straight up and down

* Why are you leaning against the wall? Are you feeling tired or dizzy?

gate – a small door in a fence that opens and closes to let people in and out

* They’re really good friends with their neighbors, so they added a gate to the fence between their property so that their kids can play together more easily.

porch light – an outdoor light that provides light in the area immediately outside one’s front door, especially where one has a chair or bench

* They leave the porch light on all night, because they think it makes the neighborhood safer.

out – used to describe a light fixture that no longer produces light; used to describe something that has stopped working or has been used up

* The oven light is out, so I can’t check on the pie without opening the oven door.

bulb – the round piece of glass with a metal piece on the bottom that screws into a light fixture and produces light

* I’m not sure if the lamp is broken or it just needs a new light bulb.

electrical – related to electricity; related to the power used to operate many household appliances, such as computers, coffee makers, toasters, hair dryers, and stereos

* The house burned down because there was a problem with the electrical wiring.

disrepair – a state of disorder with things that have not been maintained or taken care of and are falling apart or broken

* When they bought the house, it was in disrepair, but after working on it for a year, it is now in very good condition.

to put off – to delay doing something until later, especially when one should have done it sooner

* If you keep putting off that studying, you’re going to fail the test.

Comprehension Questions
1. What happened to Conrad in the driveway?
a) He almost cracked his tooth.
b) He almost broke his leg.
c) He almost fell down.

2. Why is the home’s exterior in such disrepair?
a) Because they just bought the house.
b) Because they had a wild party.
c) Because they’ve been procrastinating.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
crack

The word “crack,” in this podcast, means a narrow, long opening in a wall, a piece of concrete, a piece of wood, or any other type of smooth, solid surface: “After the earthquake, they noticed several cracks in the walls of their old home.” The word “crack” can also mean a joke, especially if it was rude: “Making cracks like that is never appropriate in the workplace.” The phrase “to take a crack at (something)” means to try to do something that is difficult when one doesn’t know whether one will be successful: “I’ve never changed the printer ink before, but I’ll take a crack at it.” Finally, the phrase “at the crack of dawn” means very early in the morning: “Their baby started crying at the crack of dawn.”

fence

In this podcast, the word “fence” means a wooden or metal wall around a yard or other area with grass, usually used to keep people or animals on one side, but sometimes just for decoration: “The dog barks loudly, but don’t be scared, because he can’t get past the fence.” The phrase “to sit on the fence” means to be undecided and not be able to form an opinion or make a decision: “Many voters are still sitting on the fence, unable to decide which candidate they want to vote for.” Finally, the phrase “to mend fences” means to fix a relationship and become friendly again after an argument: “Over time, the two brothers were able to mend fences and behave like a family again.”

Culture Note
Maintenance of a Home’s Exterior

In U.S. cities, most “single-family residences” (homes built for one family to live in, not an apartment building) are built next to a road and separated from that road by a “lawn” (an area with grass and other plants) and a “sidewalk” (a paved area where people can walk and where cars are not allowed to drive). The “homeowner” (the person who owns the home) or “renter” (the person who pays money each month to live somewhere) is responsible for maintaining the home’s “exterior” (outside parts, like walls, windows, and doors) and “walkways” (paths from the sidewalk to the house).

City “ordinances” (laws; rules) determine who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in front of the house. In many cases, the homeowners are responsible for it. If a tree “root” (the part of a plant that is underground and not seen) grows and pushes up the sidewalk so that it cracks and becomes a problem for walkers, the homeowner needs to pay to have it fixed. “Otherwise” (if that doesn’t happen), a “passerby” (someone who is walking past the home) might trip, get “hurt” (injured), and “sue” (go to court and ask for money) the homeowner for “negligence” (not taking care of something as one should). In other cases, the city maintains the sidewalks.

The city or the “utility” (a company that provides water, electricity, natural gas, or similar services) is usually responsible for maintaining “power lines” (cables that carry electricity) and “poles” (tall pieces of wood that hold up power lines) along the street. However, the homeowner and/or the utility are usually responsible for maintaining the power lines that “lead” (go) from the main power lines to the home.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c