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0801 Reading Online Reviews

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 801: Reading Online Reviews.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 801. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is eslpod.com. Go there, become a member, download a Learning Guide, buy one of our premium courses, read our blog, follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/eslpod.

This episode is a dialogue about reading other people’s opinions on a website about something you may want to buy or may want to try. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Marisa: When we go to our favorite vacation spot in two months, let’s stay at a different hotel.

Oscar: I like the hotel we always stay at. It’s in a convenient location and we’re already familiar with it.

Marisa: That’s just it. It’s tried and true, but there’s no novelty and excitement in staying in the same place year after year.

Oscar: I don’t need novelty.

Marisa: Let’s just consider some of these other hotels I’ve been reading about. They are very highly ranked and their ratings are very good.

Oscar: You’re putting strangers’ reviews above our own experience?

Marisa: Of course not, but just look at this hotel. It received three stars out of four, and it has a lot of pros.

Oscar: Let me see that. It also has some cons, such as being noisy and pricy.

Marisa: Okay, maybe that isn’t the best example. I didn’t notice that they got dinged on those things, but let’s look at a few others.

Oscar: I’ll keep an open mind, but I’m dubious about online reviews. I take everything I read with a grain of salt. The only people who post reviews are those who love it or hate it.

Marisa: I’ll just find a hotel that everyone loves.

Oscar: And that doesn’t break the bank?

Marisa: Right.

[end of dialogue]

Marisa begins our dialogue by saying to Oscar, “When we go to our favorite vacation spot in two months, let’s stay at a different hotel.” A “spot” is a place or a location. Marisa talks about their favorite vacation spot, the place they like to go. It could be Hawaii, it could be New York City, it could be Disneyland. “Spot” has a number of different meanings in English, however; take a look at our Learning Guide for some of those.

Oscar doesn’t want to stay at a different hotel. He says, “I like the hotel we always stay at,” that is, we always go to and sleep at. He says the hotel is in a convenient location. “Convenient” means easy to get to, very comfortable, doesn’t cause any problems. “It’s in a convenient location and we’re already familiar with it,” we already know it.

Marisa says, “That’s just it.” That expression, “that’s just it,” means that’s exactly what the problem is. “It’s tried and true,” she says, “but there’s no novelty and excitement in staying in the same place year after year.” “It’s tried and true” is an expression meaning it’s something that we’ve used several times and it has always been or usually is successful. It’s been tested and proven – it’s tried and true. “But,” Marisa says, “there’s no novelty.” “Novelty” is something that is new, something that you have not done or seen or experienced before. Marisa says that there is no novelty and excitement in staying in the same place “year after year,” meaning every year.

Oscar says, “I don’t need novelty.” I don’t need a new experience. Marisa says, “Let’s just consider some of these other hotels I’ve been reading about. They are very highly ranked and their ratings are very good.” “To rank (rank) (something)” means to put things in order based on, usually, how good they are. So in a class, for example, a teacher may decide, well, she’s the best student, he’s the second-best, she’s the third-best, he’s the fourth-best, and so forth. The teacher is ranking the students: you’re first, you’re second, you’re third, you’re fourth. I was usually like 35th out of 36 students, that was usually my rank! “Ratings” are values that you give something based on how good it is. It could be a number 1 to 10, where 10 is the best and 1 is the worst. “I would rate” – notice we can use it as a verb also – “I would rate this movie a 5 out of 10,” meaning it’s not great, but it’s not terrible either, it’s somewhere in between. Or, “I would give this restaurant three stars.” A star usually is used in school by a teacher to indicate that you did a good job. We use it in rating things like restaurants; the more stars it gets the better it is. We do this for movies, too. Well, that’s what “ratings” are; “ratings” are numbers – usually numbers that you give something to indicate how good it is. “Rankings” is when you take a group of things and you put them in a certain order: first, second, or third.

Oscar says, “You’re putting strangers’ reviews above our own experience?” A “review” is a written opinion – usually a written opinion about how good or how bad something is. And on the websites nowadays, on many of them that sell things, you can read reviews, what people think about the things that they bought. Sometimes they like them, sometimes they don’t. And when they give a review, usually they give a rating; they say how many points they would give it from 1 to 5, how many stars they would give this particular product. Oscar is asking Marisa if she’s putting the opinions – the reviews of other people above their own experience, meaning she’s saying that other people’s experience is somehow more important in making the decision than their own experience.

Marisa says, “Of course not, but just look at this hotel. It received three stars out of four, and it has a lot of pros.” To receive three stars, as I mentioned earlier, for a hotel or a restaurant is a way of saying how good it is. It could just be three as a number; we use stars for reasons I explained, because that’s what has traditionally been used to indicate how good something is. So if the ratings go from one being the worst to four being the best, then getting three out of four stars is pretty good. Marisa says the hotel has a lot of pros. “Pros” means positive things, good things, advantages. “Pro” has a couple of different meanings in English; take a look at our Learning Guide for some of those. Often when we’re talking about the good and bad qualities of something we’ll use the expression “pros and cons” (cons). A “con” in this case means a disadvantage, a negative or an undesirable thing. So “pros” are good, “cons” are bad.

Oscar says, “Let me see that.” He’s apparently looking at a piece of paper that has the reviews of the hotel on it. He says the hotel has some cons, such as being noisy and pricy. “Pricy” (pricy) means expensive, it costs a lot of money, it’s not cheap. Marisa says, “Okay, maybe that isn’t the best example. I didn’t notice that they (the hotel) got dinged on those things, but let’s look at a few others.” “To get dinged” (dinged) – the verb is “to ding” (ding) – means to get a lower rating on something, a negative comment or a negative review, a negative rating about something that you didn’t do very well. So if we look at the reviews of a hotel, and we see that everyone complains about how noisy it is – how much noise there is in the hotel – we could say the hotel got dinged by people for all of the noise it has; it got criticized.

Marisa suggests looking at some other hotels. Oscar says, “I’ll keep an open mind (meaning I’ll be willing to consider and think about other things – other hotels), but I’m dubious about online reviews.” “To be dubious” (dubious) means to be skeptical, to be doubting, to question whether something is really true, whether you can really believe something. Oscar is dubious about online reviews, when people put their opinions on a website. He says, “I take everything I read with a grain of salt.” “To take things with a grain (grain) of salt” means to question and doubt everything that you are told; don’t believe it just because somebody told you or just because you read it. Although, you can believe everything we say here on ESL Podcast, so no – no need to doubt anything! But for everything else, you might want to take it with a grain of salt. The expression means to question it, to wonder whether it’s really true. Why do we say “a grain of salt”? Well, it’s a very old idea, at least as old as the ancient Romans, that it’s easier to eat food or difficult things to eat with a little bit of salt. It makes it taste a little better, and so you’re going to be able to eat it a little more easily. Similarly, you can accept something someone says perhaps a little more easily if you remember that maybe it’s not all completely true. That’s the grain of salt that you – you eat, if you will, to accept something that someone tells you.

Oscar says that he’ll take everything he reads with a grain of salt. “The only people who post reviews,” he says, who put their opinions on these websites, “are those who love it or hate it.” In other words, you get people who really like something or really hate something, and so in some ways you don’t get an average opinion because you only get the extremes: people who love or hate a certain thing.

Marisa says, “I’ll just find a hotel that everyone loves.” Oscar then says, “And that doesn’t break the bank?” Marisa says, “Right.” “To break the bank” means to cost a lot of money, so much money that you don’t have any money left in your bank; you had to spend it all on this thing that you are buying, in this case the hotel that you are staying at. Oscar doesn’t want a hotel that’s going to break the bank, that’s going to be very expensive.

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

[start of dialogue]

Marisa: When we go to our favorite vacation spot in two months, let’s stay at a different hotel.

Oscar: I like the hotel we always stay at. It’s in a convenient location and we’re already familiar with it.

Marisa: That’s just it. It’s tried and true, but there’s no novelty and excitement in staying in the same place year after year.

Oscar: I don’t need novelty.

Marisa: Let’s just consider some of these other hotels I’ve been reading about. They are very highly ranked and their ratings are very good.

Oscar: You’re putting strangers’ reviews above our own experience?

Marisa: Of course not, but just look at this hotel. It received three stars out of four, and it has a lot of pros.

Oscar: Let me see that. It also has some cons, such as being noisy and pricy.

Marisa: Okay, maybe that isn’t the best example. I didn’t notice that they got dinged on those things, but let’s look at a few others.

Oscar: I’ll keep an open mind, but I’m dubious about online reviews. I take everything I read with a grain of salt. The only people who post reviews are those who love it or hate it.

Marisa: I’ll just find a hotel that everyone loves.

Oscar: And that doesn’t break the bank?

Marisa: Right.

[end of dialogue]

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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
spot – place; location; site; destination

* This is a perfect spot for a picnic on a warm day.

convenient – easy and comfortable, not creating problems or difficulty

* We live near the library, so it’s more convenient to walk there than to drive and have to search for a parking spot.

tried and true – tested and proven; something that has been attempted or used multiple times and has been shown to be successful or to work well

* This diet is a tried and-true method for lowering your blood pressure.

novelty – something that is new and has not been done, seen, heard, or experienced before

* Eating ice cream would be a novelty for someone who grew up without refrigeration.

year after year – every year; repeatedly once a year

* Year after year, they talk about traveling overseas, but they never do.

to rank – to put things in order based on some criteria, especially how good something is

* Where can I find a report that ranks the U.S. educational system against the educational system in other countries?

rating – an assigned value based on how good or useful something is

* Kari won’t buy from any online sellers until they have a rating of at least four stars.

review – a written opinion about how good or bad something is

* The reviews say this restaurant has really good seafood, but a poor selection of wines.

stars – a system of rating something, especially hotels, where one star is the lowest rating and five stars is the highest rating

* Have you ever stayed in a five-star hotel?

out of – from; a phrase used to show the number of items one received from the total number possible

* Gracie was really pleased to get 93 out of 100 points on the exam.

pro – advantage; a positive or beneficial characteristic or feature; something that makes one like something

* The biggest pro for going to a state university is that the tuition is much lower than at a private university.

con – disadvantage; a negative or undesirable characteristic or feature; something that makes one dislike something

* Having to work with Sam is a major con against accepting the job.

pricy – expensive; not cheap

* This menu is so pricy! Maybe we should just share an appetizer.

to ding – to lower the value or rating of something, usually as a negative consequence of something that has happened

* In my annual work review, my supervisor dinged me for arriving to work late three times.

to keep an open mind – to be willing to consider everything and delay making a decision or forming an opinion

* William looks a little odd, with pink hair and lots of tattoos, but please keep an open mind. He’s a really nice guy.

dubious – skeptical; doubting; questioning whether something is real, believable, or valid; not sure of whether something is true or real

* When Randall said they bought a great home for just $80,000, we were dubious.

to take everything (one reads/sees/hears) with a grain of salt – to question everything one is told and never assume something is true just because one has read, seen, or heard it

* Meghan swears that drinking herbal tea cured her illness, but I know Meghan and I’m taking everything she says with a grain of salt.

to break the bank – to cost a lot of money; to leave one with no money remaining because one has spent it all on something

* It might be tempting to buy a cheap car, but remember that all the repairs might break the bank.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why doesn’t Marisa want to stay in the same hotel they normally stay in?
a) Because she wants to try something new.
b) Because she thinks it’s too expensive.
c) Because it’s too far from the things they want to see and do.

2. What does Oscar mean when he says, “I’ll keep an open mind”?
a) He’ll listen to other people’s opinions before deciding.
b) He’ll do a lot of research on his own.
c) He’ll do whatever Marisa wants him to do.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
spot

The word “spot,” in this podcast, means a place, location, site, or destination: “This is the spot where Seungyu wants to get married someday.” A “spot” is also a stain or a dirty, discolored area, especially on fabric: “You have a spot of mustard on your lip.” Or, “Clean up that spilled wine right away, or it will leave a spot on the carpet.” “Spot” is also a common name for a dog, especially in books that teach children to read: “The boy said, ‘Run, Spot, run!’” As a verb, “to spot,” mean to see something that is difficult to find, or that one has seen only very briefly: “Did you spot any beautiful birds on your hike?” Or, “Do you know anyone who claims to have spotted an alien?”

pro

In this podcast, the word “pro” means an advantage or a positive or beneficial characteristic or feature that makes one like something: “The main pro of working in a store is that employees get discounts when they buy things.” A “pro” is also a professional, especially someone who is paid to do things that other people do for fun: “Gregorio dreams of becoming a golf pro.” The phrase “an old pro” is used to describe someone who has a lot of experience doing something: “Glenda is an old pro at cooking quick meals for a large family.” Finally, the phrase “pro bono” describes the professional work someone does as a volunteer, without being paid: “Federico is a successful attorney who completes some pro bono work for nonprofit organizations each month.”

Culture Note
Popular Travel Websites

TripAdvisor is “arguably” (can be said to be) the most popular travel website, with about 27 million “unique visitors” (different people coming to a website at least once) each month. Like many other travel websites, TripAdvisor can help people find and “book” (reserve and pay for) flights, hotel rooms, and car rentals. It also offers “extensive” (many) reviews of hotels, restaurants, and “destinations” (places to go and things to do while traveling). Yahoo! Travel and Expedia are websites with similar services and a “comparable” (similar) number of unique visitors.

Travelocity, Orbitz, and Kayak have “slightly” (a little bit) fewer visitors, but they offer similar services to the travel websites described above. Hotels.com specializes in providing reviews and “booking services” (reservation services) for hotels. Travel websites sometimes offer “steep discounts” (very low prices), especially for “vacation packages” (combinations of airfare, hotel rooms, and local transportation paid for with a single price).

Priceline.com allows people to search for flights, hotels, and car rentals, too, but it also allows people to “name their own price.” Users can indicate where and when they want to travel. Then Priceline shares that information with airlines, hotels, and car rental companies to see if any of them are interested in offering the service at that price.

Other travel websites specialize in providing the type of information that is normally found in guidebooks. Travel websites normally allow visitors to read reviews from other travelers, but a site like Lonely Planet pays employees or “freelancers” (independent contractors) to go to places and write reviews of places and destinations that are “off the beaten path” (lesser known and not commonly visited by tourists).

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - a