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0806 Essential and Optional Things

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 806: Essential and Optional Things.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 806. 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. You can go there and download a Learning Guide for this episode. You can also take a look at one of our premium courses and while you're there take a look at our ESL Podcast blog.

This episode is about essential or necessary things and things that aren't necessary. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Ella: It’s so exciting that you’ll be spending a month studying in McQuillanland this summer. When do you start packing?

Marty: I’ve already started. The organizers of the program gave me a list of things I need to bring.

Ella: That’s really helpful.

Marty: Yeah. They say that it’s essential that I bring both warm-weather and cold-weather clothes. The weather in McQuillanland is really unpredictable.

Ella: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Marty: Yeah, and they say that it’s advisable that I bring medications for every malady I can think of because there are a lot of health dangers.

Ella: Wow, I never knew that about McQuillanland.

Marty: Me, neither. And while it’s optional, it’s also suggested that I leave all of my valuables at home. McQuillanland has a very high crime rate and visitors are often targeted.

Ella: Geez, that’s a lot to take in.

Marty: You’re telling me. And the list says that it is absolutely required that I take a self-defense course before going. You never know what to expect in McQuillanland.

Ella: You’re not having second thoughts about going, are you?

Marty: No, why?

[end of dialogue]

Ella begins our dialogue by saying to Marty “It's so exciting that you'll be spending a month studying in McQuillanland this summer.” McQuillanland is one of those difficult to find countries on a map! Ella says, “When do you start packing?” To “pack” (pack) here means to prepare for a trip by putting all of your things into a suitcase or a piece of luggage or a baggage. Pack has a number of meanings in English, however. Almost all of them – well, some of them are in the Learning Guide.

Marty says, “I've already started. I already have begun. The organizers of the program, the people who are in charge of the program gave me a list of things I need to bring.” Ella says, “That’s really helpful.” Marty says, “Yeah,” our informal way of saying yes. Marty says, “They say that it's essential that I bring both warm-weather and cold-weather clothes. It's “essential.” It's necessary. It's important that I bring warm weather and cold weather clothes.

“Warm-weather clothes” would be clothing you would wear when it's hot out and obviously “cold-weather clothes” would be clothing you would wear when it's cold out. Marty says, “The weather in McQuillanland is really unpredictable. “Un” (un) as a prefix that goes before a word means not, so “unpredictable” means not predictable. Something that is predictable is something you can know in advance before it happens. You know what's going to happen. But unpredictable is when you don’t know what is going to happen. And that’s the way the weather is in McQuillanland. Here in Los Angeles, it's much more predictable.

Ella says, “Oh, I didn’t know that.” Marty says, “Yeah.” (He likes to say “yeah” a lot.) “Yeah, and they say that it's advisable that I bring medications for every malady I can think of.” “Advisable” comes from the verb to “advise” (advise). It means it's recommended. It's a good thing to do. You don’t have to do it, but it's a good thing. It will help. If you want to improve your English, it's good to listen to these audio mp3 files, but it's advisable to get the Learning Guide. Of course, what else would I say? Marty says it's advisable that he bring “medications,” that is medicines, things that you take, drugs that you take for your health “for every malady.” A “malady” (malady) means an illness or a sickness. Marty is supposed to bring medications for every malady he can think of because there are a lot of health dangers in McQuillanland, which I don’t think is really true. I don’t know where the scriptwriter is getting her information. Anyway, health dangers would be things that may make you sick, things that are dangerous to your health.

Ella says, “Wow, I never knew that about McQuillanland.” Yeah, of course you didn’t because it isn't true, Ella! Marty says, “Me, neither,” meaning neither did I. “And while it's optional,” Marty says, “it's also suggested that I leave all of my valuables at home.” Something that’s “optional” means something that is not required. It's a good idea, but you don’t have to do it, sort of like advisable. “While it's optional,” he says, “it's also suggested that I leave all of my valuables at home.” To “suggest” means to recommend. To say it's a good idea. Here’s something you might want to do – that’s to suggest. It's suggested that Marty leave all of his valuables at home. A “valuable” is anything that is worth a lot of money. It could be jewelry like a ring. It could be your cellphone. It could be, I don’t know, one of our Learning Guides, something you wouldn’t want anyone to steal. Those would all be valuables. Marty is saying that he’s been told basically it's dangerous in McQuillanland because that’s why you would not want to bring your valuables.

In fact, in the next sentence he says, “McQuillanland has a very high crime rate and visitors are often targeted.” A “crime rate” refers to the number of crimes that happen in a population. Crimes are illegal things, things that are done typically against other people or other people’s property. So, killing someone would be a crime. Stealing from someone would be a crime. But Marty is saying is that there is a lot of crime in McQuillanland and visitors, people who are visiting McQuillanland are often targeted. “Targeted” comes from the verb to “target” (target). To target means to do something that affects a particular group of people, to intentionally affect a group of people. You want to just go after a certain group. So, on Saturday morning if you watch television, a lot of the commercials, a lot of the advertisements are targeted toward children. That’s their audience. That’s who they are making the commercial for. Well, you can use targeted either in a positive or a negative sense. Here it's used in a negative sense. What Marty is saying is that these criminals, these people who commit or do crimes, look for visitors and they are the ones that they rob or do something bad to.

Ella says, “Geez, that’s a lot to take in.” To “take in” is a two-word phrasal verb meaning to get some new information and to really understand it, to accept it, to think about it and say “Yes, I understand everything that is being told me.” In this case, Ella is obviously surprised to hear these lies – and they are lies! – about McQuillanland.

Marty says, “You're telling me.” This is a pretty common informal phrase. We use it to show that you completely agree with what another person has said. It's often used when you have just heard someone say something critical or negative, often you are communicating to them that you have had a similar experience or that you think the same way. “You're telling me” is a way really of saying you don’t need to tell me. I already know that. I have personal experience with that, for example.

Marty says, “The list says that it is absolutely required that I take a self-defense course before going.” To “require” means to say it is necessary. It is something you must do. Other words we would use would be “obligatory” or “mandatory.” Marty says it is required that he take a self-defense course. “Self-defense” is learning how to protect yourself against someone who might hurt you, someone who might attack you. Marty says, “You never know what to expect in McQuillanland.” Now, this is absolute nonsense of course. McQuillanland is a very safe place. There are no crimes. I don’t know what's going on in this dialogue. These people are crazy. I'm going to have to talk to the scriptwriter about this. I'm not happy. I'm not happy. McQuillanland, trust me it's a very nice place!

Ella says, “You're not having second thoughts about going, are you?” To have “second thoughts” means to have doubts, to question whether one is doing the right thing. Marty says, “No, why?” meaning why should I have second thoughts. Well, you shouldn’t have second thoughts Marty because McQuillanland is one of the best places to go.

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

[start of dialogue]

Ella: It’s so exciting that you’ll be spending a month studying in McQuillanland this summer. When do you start packing?

Marty: I’ve already started. The organizers of the program gave me a list of things I need to bring.

Ella: That’s really helpful.

Marty: Yeah. They say that it’s essential that I bring both warm-weather and cold-weather clothes. The weather in McQuillanland is really unpredictable.

Ella: Oh, I didn’t know that.

Marty: Yeah, and they say that it’s advisable that I bring medications for every malady I can think of because there are a lot of health dangers.

Ella: Wow, I never knew that about McQuillanland.

Marty: Me, neither. And while it’s optional, it’s also suggested that I leave all of my valuables at home. McQuillanland has a very high crime rate and visitors are often targeted.

Ella: Geez, that’s a lot to take in.

Marty: You’re telling me. And the list says that it is absolutely required that I take a self-defense course before going. You never know what to expect in McQuillanland.

Ella: You’re not having second thoughts about going, are you?

Marty: No, why?

[end of dialogue]

It's advisable that you don’t believe everything our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, says, even though she does a wonderful job.

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
to pack – to prepare for a trip by placing all of the things one will need in a bag or suitcase

* Don’t forget to pack your toothbrush for your overnight trip.

essential – necessary; important; not optional

* It is essential to sign your tax forms before submitting them.

unpredictable – changing and without a defined outcome; difficult or impossible to know what will happen in the future

* Maria is so unpredictable that nobody knows whether she will laugh or

cry when she hears the news.

advisable – recommended; a good or wise thing to do

* It is advisable to get all the vaccinations your doctor recommends.

malady – illness; ailment; something that will affect one’s health in a negative way

* As a Peace Corps Volunteer, Bea got every malady possible, from

malaria to tuberculosis.

health danger – something that threatens or affects one’s health in a negative way

* Pollution can be a serious health danger in industrial areas.

optional – something that is not required, but that one may choose to have or do

* We bought a tour group package with optional trips to two islands.

to suggest – to recommend; to present as an option; to present an idea

* Martin suggested shortening the long report to just two pages.

valuables – things that are worth a lot of money; things that are expensive to buy and replace

* We put our jewelry, passports, and other valuables in the hotel safe.

crime rate – the number of crimes committed per 1,000 people in the population; how likely and frequent crimes may occur

* The mayor hopes that increasing the number of police officers will lower the city’s crime rate.

to target – to intend for one’s actions to affect a particular group of people; to intentionally affect a group of people in some way

* The anti-smoking signs and commercials are targeting teenagers.

to take in – to receive information and accept or fully understand it

* Justin has never spent any time away from his parents, so going to college and moving out of their home will be a lot to take in.

you’re telling me – an informal phrase used to show one’s full agreement with what another person has just said

* A: It seems like you’ve had a really difficult year.

B: You’re telling me!

required – necessary; obligatory; mandatory; something that must be done

* People who want to apply for a driver’s license are required to show their birth certificate and other forms of identification.

self-defense – the practice and knowledge of how to protect oneself against an attacker, usually a combination of learning to stay out of dangerous situations and using one’s body to protect oneself and hurt an attacker during an attack

* The university offers free self-defense classes to all students.

to have second thoughts – to have doubts; to question whether one is doing the right thing

* Many people have second thoughts before they buy a home.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is Marty supposed to leave at home?
a) Cash and coins.
b) Important papers.
c) Expensive items.

2. What does Marty have to do before going to McQuillandland?
a) He needs to take a class to learn to speak the language.
b) He needs to take a class to learn about McQuillandland history and politics.
c) He needs to take a class to learn how to protect himself in McQuillanland.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to pack

The verb “to pack,” in this podcast, means to prepare for a trip by placing all of the things one will need in a bag or suitcase: “I packed all my clothes in this suitcase, and all my shoes in this bag.” The phrase “to pack (one’s) bags” can mean to leave a place without planning to ever come back: “The company fired a lot of employees, telling them to pack their bags.” The verb “to pack in/into” can also mean to put a lot of things or people into a small space: “How are the conference organizers going to pack us into that tiny room?” Finally, the phrase “to pack a punch” means to be very powerful and to have a big impact: “Wow, those spicy chilies really pack a punch!”

to take in

In this podcast, the phrase “to take in” means to receive information and accept or fully understand it: “We can’t take in so much information in just two hours. I wish this workshop were longer.” The phrase “to take in” can also mean for a tailor or seamstress to change a piece of clothing so that it is a little bit smaller: “When Blake lost all that weight, he had to have his pants taken in.” The phrase “to take in” can mean to view and appreciate something: “After the hike, they sat back and took in the scenery.” Finally, the phrase “to be taken in” can mean to be tricked or fooled by someone: “Many people were taken in by her lies.”

Culture Note
Study Abroad Experiences

Each year, approximately 300,000 American students participate in “study abroad” (a program where a high school or college student spends a few months or one year going to school in another country) programs. A recently published list shows the 10 best “destinations” (places to go): Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, Ireland, England, Brazil, Switzerland, and Argentina. Of course, American students can participate in study abroad programs in other countries, too.

Sometimes students simply go to a regular university in the foreign country, but others attend special courses to study the language and culture of the country. Sometimes the programs include “excursions” (short trips) to important sites within the country or region, especially on weekends. The programs might also organize events in the evening, such as going to the theater or a concert.

Many study abroad programs include an “internship” (opportunity to work with professionals in one’s chosen field), especially for business students. These programs usually require that the students have a high level of “proficiency” (ability to communicate) in the local language.

Sometimes students stay in “dorms” (dormitories; student housing), but other students choose “home stay” arrangements, where they live in the home of a local family and eat meals with them. Participating in a home stay generally offers the best opportunity for full cultural “immersion” (being surrounded by something) and language-learning. However, it can be difficult for older students to adapt to life with a “host family,” especially if they have been living “on their own” (independently; without others) for a few years.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - c