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0810 Switching Cell Phone Plans

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 810: Switching Cell Phone Plans.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 810. 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. Just six letters – “eslpod” (eslpod) – well, a dot and then “com,” of course. Go there, become a member, download the Learning Guide, and improve your English as fast as possible.

This episode is a dialogue about cell phone. These are cellular or mobile phones. We're talking about the plans that you get from the phone company. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Paul: I need a new cell phone plan. These roaming and overage charges are killing me!

Shauna: I thought you had a good calling, messaging, and data plan.

Paul: I do, but I’m still going over each month.

Shauna: Have you thought about a prepaid plan? You’ll never be charged extra.

Paul: That’s not an option. I think I need an unlimited plan.

Shauna: Okay, but I don’t understand. Why do you have roaming charges? Doesn’t your carrier have good coverage all over the country?

Paul: I’ve been taking trips to Mexico to see my new girlfriend and the coverage doesn’t extend to Mexico.

Shauna: Oh, I see. And the overage charges?

Paul: When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you have to do a lot of calling and texting, not to mention updating social media websites to stay in touch. I keep exceeding my allotted 5000 minutes of calling time and 100 megabytes of data.

Shauna: What?! To exceed that, you’d have to be on the phone all the time!

Paul: Not all the time, but I’m talking to her now. Do you want to say “hi”?

Shauna: You’ve been on the phone with her the entire time we’ve been having this conversation?

Paul: How else can we keep up on everything that’s going on in each other’s lives?

[end of dialogue]

Paul begins by saying to Shauna, “I need a new cell phone plan,” an agreement that you sign with a telephone company about how much you're going to pay for your cell phone service. Paul says, “These roaming and overage charges are killing me!” “Roaming” (roaming) refers to using your cell phone outside of the normal area where the cell phone company provides a connection to its telephone network. So, if I have a phone here in Los Angeles from a certain company and then I go to a different city, and let's say my cell phone company doesn’t have any of its equipment in that city, I could still use my cell phone, but I would have roaming charges. I would have to be paying for the service that I'm using in that city because it wasn’t from my company.

“Overage charges” is money that you have to pay because you used more minutes than are in your plan. Most cell phone plans in the United States give you so many minutes a month. Let's say it's 500 minutes or 250 minutes. After you talk for that long in one month, you have to pay extra for each minute. That extra amount is your overage. “Charges” of course just refers to money you have to pay. Paul says the overage charges are “killing him.” He doesn’t mean they're actually killing him. That’s just an expression. When you say something as “killing you,” you mean it's bothering you, it's hurting you, it's something that is having a bad effect on you.

Shauna says, “I thought you had a good calling, messaging, and data plan.” It used to be, when cell phones first began, that the only thing you could do was talk on them, just like on a regular telephone. Now, of course, you can also send text messages and with the wonderful world of the Internet, you can also get on the Internet with your phone – not all phones, but many phones. So, “messaging” is text messaging, sending messages to another phone with your phone. “Data” refers to Internet connection with your phone.

Paul says, “I do – I do have a good plan, but I'm still going over each month.” “To go over” is a two-word phrasal verb that here means to exceed, to use more than what you are supposed to, to use more than the maximum amount. So, if I have 250 minutes of calling on my cell phone and I call 300 minutes, I've “gone over,” I have used more than my maximum. “To go over” can also mean to review, to look at carefully: “I want to go over these plans with you.” But here in the dialogue, it means to exceed, to go more than the maximum. People might say I don’t want to go over my “limit.” It could be a limit for other things, too. I have a limited number of girlfriends. My limit is three. I can't have more than three girlfriends. I'm just kidding, of course. I don’t have girlfriends. You understand the idea though. Paul says that he’s going over his limits each month for minutes, not girlfriends – not even sure if Paul has a girlfriend!

Shauna says, “Have you thought about a prepaid plan?” “Prepaid” (prepaid) is when you pay for something in advance, before you actually use it. A prepaid plan, when we're talking about a cell phone, is when you often buy like a card and you use the card to add minutes to your phone, and when those minutes are up, that’s it. You don’t have the company send you a bill every month. You can only use the number of minutes that you buy and after that’s gone, after you have completed those or finished those minutes, then you can't talk anymore. You’d have to buy another card. That’s a prepaid plan. Shauna says, “If you do that, you'll never be charged extra.”

Paul says, “That’s not an option. I need an unlimited plan.” Unlimited means not limited, without limits, without a maximum value, so you don’t have 500-minute limit. You don’t have any limit. You can talk for a million minutes if you want. You won't have a lot of time to do much else, especially if you have three girlfriends. Paul wants an unlimited plan.

Shauna says, “Okay, but I don’t understand. Why do you have roaming charges? Doesn’t your carrier have good coverage all over the country?” A “carrier” (carrier) here refers to the telephone company that provides you your phone service. That’s a carrier. Carrier can have other meanings in English, as can the word roam, we mentioned earlier. Check out our Learning Guide for additional definitions of those terms. “Coverage” (coverage) is a measurement of the geographic or physical area that you can use with your cell phone carrier, so when we say a carrier has good coverage, we mean that there are lots of different areas where you can use their service.

Paul says, “I've been taking trips to Mexico.” Why? “To see my new girlfriend.” Notice he says new girlfriend. Obviously, he has other girlfriends. See! I told you! Paul is going to Mexico to see his new girlfriend and the coverage doesn’t extend to Mexico. “Extend to” means go as far as or simply to include, and that’s actually pretty common. Most cell phone companies don’t extend their coverage to other countries.

Shauna says, “Oh, I see. And the overage charges?” Paul says, “When you're in a long distance relationship,” that is, if you live in one place and your boyfriend or girlfriend lives in a different city or a different country, “you have to do a lot of calling and texting.” “Texting” is text messaging we talked about earlier. “…not to mention (or in addition to) updating social media websites to stay in touch.” So because Paul’s girlfriend is so far away, he has to call her a lot, he has to text her a lot, and he has to update his social media sites. “Social media” would be things like Facebook and Twitter. Paul says, “I keep exceeding (or going over) my allotted 5000 minutes of calling time.” My “allotted” (allotted) means my assigned or my given. “Your allotted minutes” are the minutes that you are given by the telephone company. Paul has 5000 minutes – 5000 minutes! That’s a lot of time, Paul. He also has 100 megabytes of data. Well, that’s not very much data. A “megabyte” is a way of measuring how much information, electronic information if you will, is passed up and down to an Internet connection, and 100 megabytes is not very much.

Shauna says, “What?! To exceed that” – and she’s talking now about the 5000 minutes of calling time – “ you’d have to be on the phone all the time!” Paul says, “Not all the time, but I'm talking to her now. Do you want to say ‘hi’?” Shauna says, “You’ve been on the phone with her the entire time we have been having this conversation?” So, Paul is talking to Shauna about this issue, and his girlfriend is on the phone right now from Mexico. What kind of idiot is Paul? I mean, seriously. Well, maybe not so stupid – I mean, he has more than one girlfriend, you know.

Paul says, “How else (in what other way) can we keep up on everything that’s going on in each other’s lives?” To “keep up on” something is to be aware of what is happening, to know the most recent information about something, especially something that might be changing quickly.

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

[start of dialogue]

Paul: I need a new cell phone plan. These roaming and overage charges are killing me!

Shauna: I thought you had a good calling, messaging, and data plan.

Paul: I do, but I’m still going over each month.

Shauna: Have you thought about a prepaid plan? You’ll never be charged extra.

Paul: That’s not an option. I think I need an unlimited plan.

Shauna: Okay, but I don’t understand. Why do you have roaming charges? Doesn’t your carrier have good coverage all over the country?

Paul: I’ve been taking trips to Mexico to see my new girlfriend and the coverage doesn’t extend to Mexico.

Shauna: Oh, I see. And the overage charges?

Paul: When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you have to do a lot of calling and texting, not to mention updating social media websites to stay in touch. I keep exceeding my allotted 5000 minutes of calling time and 100 megabytes of data.

Shauna: What?! To exceed that, you’d have to be on the phone all the time!

Paul: Not all the time, but I’m talking to her now. Do you want to say “hi”?

Shauna: You’ve been on the phone with her the entire time we’ve been having this conversation?

Paul: How else can we keep up on everything that’s going on in each other’s lives?

[end of dialogue]

If you want to keep up on the real English used by Americans, then you want to listen to ESL Podcast and read the scripts written by our wonderful scriptwriter, 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
cell phone plan – an agreement for a cell phone company to provide someone a certain number of minutes of phone time and related services in exchange for a certain amount of money each month

* The phone company is offering a free smart phone to anyone who signs up for a 24-month cell phone plan.

roaming – referring to the use of a cell phone outside of the normal area where a cell phone company provides a connection to its network

* This company says it has a national network without any roaming fees anywhere in the country.

overage charge – an amount of money that must be paid because one used a cell phone for more minutes than the number of minutes included in one’s monthly plan

* Last month, Elbert’s overage charges were greater than his regular monthly bill!

messaging – the practice of sending short, written text from one phone to another

* A lot of teenagers prefer messaging over talking on the phone.

data – digital information, especially when sent over a network

* A hundred years ago, who would have imagined that we could send data electronically in seconds?

to go over – to exceed; to use more than the allowed amount; to have or use more than some maximum or limit

* Perry has been gaining weight for years, but when it went over 250 pounds, he knew he had to make some changes.

prepaid – a service that is paid for before it is used, not after

* Some utility companies are beginning to offer prepaid electricity options for homes.

unlimited – without any limits; without a maximum value

* This car wash facility lets people buy a $24.99 pass for unlimited car washes for one month.

carrier – a company that provides phone service and is responsible for operating and maintaining a communications network

* Which carrier offers the best service in North Dakota?

coverage – a measurement of how much of a geographic area can have access to a cell phone network

* The company has great coverage in cities, but the coverage isn’t very good in mountainous areas.

to extend to – to go as far as; to include; to cover

* Our store allows people to return purchases they don’t like, but that policy doesn’t extend to clothing that they’ve already worn for months.

to text – to send short, written messages from one phone to another

* Do the teachers allow their students to text during class?

social media – websites that connect people and help them communicate with each other, such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter

* Finn uses social media to stay in touch with his friends from high school.

to exceed – to go over; to have or use more than a certain amount of something; to go beyond the limit of something

* If your suitcase exceeds 55 pounds, the airline will charge an additional fee.

allotted – given, assigned, or designated for a particular purpose

* The conference organizers have allotted 30 minutes for your presentation and 10 minutes for questions from the audience.

megabyte – a unit for measuring data (digital information)

* How many megabytes are in a 30-gigabyte hard drive?

to keep up on – to be aware of the latest developments; to be up-to-date; to have the most recent information about something that is changing rapidly

* How do pharmacists keep up on all the new medicines that are introduced each year?

Comprehension Questions
1. Why is Paul spending so much for his cell phone service?
a) Because he didn’t pay his bill on time.
b) Because he has poor credit.
c) Because he is using it too much.

2. Which of these activities would use megabytes of data?
a) Talking on the phone.
b) Checking email on a smart phone.
c) Using a phone’s alarm clock.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
roaming

The word “roaming,” in this podcast, refers to the use of a cell phone outside of the normal area where a cell phone company provides a connection to its network: “When Gregory travelled internationally, he realized it would be cheaper to rent a local cell phone than to pay the roaming fees for his own cell phone.” The verb “to roam” means to walk for a long time without any particular direction or purpose: “Buffalo used to roam over the grasslands.” Or, “Why don’t you go outside instead of roaming around the house?” Finally, when talking about eyes, the verb “to roam (over)” can mean to look slowly at something, perhaps searching for something: “She walked into the room and her eyes slowly roamed over the crowd.”

carrier

In this podcast, the word “carrier” means a company that provides cell phone service and is responsible for operating and maintaining a communications network: “We don’t like our cell phone carrier, but we can’t switch to a different one until our contract ends.” A “carrier” can be an object or container that is used to carry and transport something else: “You can take your dog on the bus, but you have to keep it in a pet carrier.” Finally, a “mail carrier” or a “postal carrier” is a person whose job is to deliver the mail to homes and businesses: “Today the mail carrier left a big box at our front door.”

Culture Note
Switching Cell Phone Carriers

In the United States, people can “switch” (begin working with a different company) their cell phone carrier at any time, but there may be “penalties” (money that must be paid as a punishment for or consequence of doing something). Most individuals have a “contract” (legal agreement) with their cell phone provider, and that contract may have a “duration” (length in time) of one or two years. Individuals who want to switch carriers before the “term” (length of time) of their contract has ended may need to pay an “early termination” (ending sooner than expected) “fee” (money paid to a company) which may be a few hundred dollars.

When people switch carriers, their phone number is “portable” (able to be moved or transferred). This means that they don’t have to change their telephone number. However, that rule “applies” (is applicable or relevant) only if they “remain” (stay) in the same geographic area. If they move to an area far away, they may not be able to continue to use the same number, although this usually is not a problem.

Switching a “SIM card” (subscriber identity module; a memory chip used in phones) can be more difficult. Some phone companies’ SIM cards cannot be switched when a user switches carriers. This means that the data stored on the SIM card, such as phone numbers and text messages, might need to be “exported” (sent to another computer program) or retyped “manually” (by hand; without help from a machine). Carriers know that this is a strong “incentive” (motivation; desire to do something) for users to “stick to” (continue to use; not change from) a single carrier.

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - b