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0917 Types of Families

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 917 – Types of Families.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 917. I'm your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

You can become a member of ESL Podcast by going to our website. Our website address is ESLPod.com.

This episode is a dialog between Patricia and Ed about some of the names and terms we use in describing family members. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Patricia: Okay, we’re nearly done setting up for the neighborhood party. I got some nametags with “father,” “mother,” and “kids” printed on them, with a space for people to write their names. It’ll be easier for people to introduce themselves and make friends.

Ed: The nametags are a good idea, but we have to keep in mind that in this day and age, there are a lot of unconventional families. We won’t just have nuclear or traditional families coming.

Patricia: I don’t see how that makes a difference.

Ed: Don’t you? What if we have same-sex families? We need to be ready to hand out two “father” or two “mother” nametags. There are also a lot of stepfamilies with more than one set of parents.

Patricia: Well, the men are all “fathers” and the “women” are all mothers – that’s simple. I still don’t see the problem.

Ed: What if the children are being raised by grandparents? Some of the men could be grandfathers and some of the women grandmothers.

Patricia: Okay, we might have some of those families.

Ed: And don’t forget that some parents are divorced or are single parents. Their current partner may not be their spouse. It wouldn’t be appropriate to give them “father” or “mother” nametags. We might even get foster families, in which case, the nametags may not be applicable at all.

Patricia: I give up. Forget I ever brought up these nametags. I’ll get blank ones with nothing on them.

Ed: That’s a good idea. Given the complexity we live in today, choosing simplicity might be the way to go!

[end of dialogue]
Patricia begins our dialog by saying to Ed, “Okay, we’re nearly done setting up for the neighborhood party.” Apparently they're having a party for the people who live around their house, in their neighborhood. Patricia says, “I got some nametags with ‘father,’ ‘mother,’ and ‘kids’ printed on them with a space for people to write their names.” A “nametag” (nametag) is usually a small piece of paper, or something that you write on that has your name. You usually put it on your shirt at a party where perhaps people aren’t going to know each other, and so this helps people know what other people's names are. This is very common at large events, such as conferences and conventions.

Patricia is not having a convention. She’s just having a neighborhood party, and she wants these nametags to say “father,” “mother” and “kids.” Ed says, “The nametags are a good idea.” He likes that idea, “but,” he says, “we have to keep in mind” – we have to remember – “that in this day and age, there are a lot of unconventional families.” “In this day and age” means nowadays, in the current period, or we might even say, “in modern times.” Usually, we use this phrase when we’re about to talk about something that has changed in society, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

Ed says, “There are a lot of unconventional families.” “Conventional” (conventional) means traditional, normal, expected – what you would expect in this situation. “Unconventional” means not conventional, something you wouldn't normally expect in a situation. Ed uses this adjective to describe families nowadays. The traditional family, the conventional family, was always a father, a mother, and child or children. Now we have “unconventional families,” and that's what we're talking about here in this dialog.

Ed says, “We won't just have nuclear or traditional families coming.” The “nuclear family” refers traditionally to the father, the mother, and the children. It's the traditional family, the family that has been most common in the last, I don't know, 10,000 years. Ed says that “we will not just have those kinds of traditional families coming to the party.”

Patricia says, “I don't see how that makes a difference.” I don't see why that is important. Ed says, “Don't you?” He’s surprised that she doesn't. “What if we have same-sex families?” One of the more recent changes in some countries, in Europe and parts of the United States, has been for the government to recognize marriage as being not just between a man and a woman, but possibly between two men or two women. This is obviously very controversial. A lot of people don't like this change, but it is a change that has taken place, and so we need to know how to describe it. And when you read about it, usually, the phrase that you will see will be “same-sex.” A “same-sex couple” would be two people who are of the same sex – two men or two women. So, a “same-sex family” would not be a family where everyone is the same sex. You might expect that, but instead it means that the leaders of the family are both of the same sex. The children, of course, could be of different sexes.

Ed says, “We need to be ready to hand out” – or to give – “two father or two mother nametags.” Again the traditional use of the word “father” and “mother” refer to their biological functions. You can only have one father, and one mother, but here we're using the term more loosely to describe two heads of the family, neither of which could be (potentially) the biological father or mother.

Ed says, “There are a lot of stepfamilies with more than one set of parents.” A “stepfamily” is a family where the mother or the father has married again to another person, who is not the mother or father of their children. So, a mother and a father get married. They have a child. They get divorced, and the mother remarries another man, and that man legally becomes the father of the children. We would call him the “stepfather.” So, a stepfamily is a family that either the parents divorced and remarried – one of the parents divorced and remarried – or perhaps the person was never married before, had a child (the woman) and then married. That might also be a stepfamily.

Patricia says, “Well, the men are all fathers and the women are all mothers – that's simple.” Of course, that's not true in a biological sense. Patricia says, “I still don't see the problem.” I still don't understand what the problem is.

Ed says, “What if the children are being raised” – are being brought up – “by grandparents?” “Your grandparents” are the mother and father of your mother and father. So, your mother has two parents, your father has two parents – those are your “grandparents.” Ed says, “Some of the men could be grandfathers and some of the women, grandmothers.”

Patricia says, “Okay, we might have some of those families.” Ed also says that there could be some parents who come who are divorced, or who are single parents. “To be divorced” means that you legally end your marriage. The person that you said you were going to live with until you die…well, you don't. You get divorced and then you can go out and find a new person that you will live with until you die.

Ed says that there will be divorced parents and single parents. A “single parent” would be a man or a woman who is raising his child or his children by himself, or herself, without the help of the other parent. Single-parent families are typically women who have children without getting married, but it could also be a man who has a child with another woman and the woman leaves, or dies, or something, and the father raises the child. There are all sorts of possibilities in modern life, and that is one of them.

Ed continues, “Their” – meaning the parent who is divorced or who is a single parent – “current partner may not be their spouse.” Your “partner” (partner) is a very general term to describe someone with whom you are in a romantic relationship. It could be a girlfriend. It could be a boyfriend. It could be a husband. It could be a wife. The term could apply to any of those cases.

Ed says, the current partner of the single parent or divorced parent may not be their spouse. The word “spouse” (spouse) refers to someone's husband or wife. You have to be married to have a spouse, but you don't have to be married to have a partner. Generally speaking, when someone introduces you to their “partner,” they are not talking about their spouse. They could be, but if the person is married, you would just say, “Well, this is my husband,” or “This is my wife,” or, “This is my spouse.” You probably wouldn't call them “partner.” “Partner” is just a term that has been used in the last 20, 30 years or so because there are so many people who are involved in romantic relationships who are not married.

Ed says, “It wouldn't be appropriate to give these people ‘father’ or ‘mother’ nametags. We might even get foster families, in which case the nametags may not be applicable at all.” A “foster (foster) family” is a family where the children aren’t legally the children of the two parents or the parent that is taking care of them. What happens is that, unhappily, in some families, the parents are not able to or unwilling to take care of their children, and so the government takes the children from the families and gives them to other parents who take care of them. They don't legally become the children of those “foster parents,” as we call them, but they are raised by them. They are helped by them.

Ed says, “We might even get foster families, in which case, the nametags may not be applicable at all.” “In which case” means in that situation, or under those circumstances. “Applicable” means that it applies to them, that it is appropriate for them. If they’re foster parents, then the terms “mother” and “father” may not be considered appropriate for them.

Patricia says, “I give up.” When someone says “I give up,” they mean, “I'm not going to try anymore,” usually because something is too difficult for you to do. Patricia says, “Forget I ever brought up these nametags.” “To bring up” here, as a phrasal verb, means to begin to talk about something, to mention something. Patricia is saying, “Just forget I even started talking about nametags.” “I’ll get blank ones with nothing on them” – blank.” “Blank” (blank) means nothing is written on the piece of paper. The piece of paper, or possibly the screen on your computer, is empty. We would say it is “blank.” “Blank” is normally used for talking about pieces of paper, however.

Ed says, “That's a good idea. Given the complexity we live in today, choosing simplicity might be the way to go.” “Complexity” and “simplicity” are opposite ideas. “Complexity” refers to how difficult or complicated something is. “Simplicity” refers to how easy to understand, or how easy to control, a situation is. “Simplicity” comes from the word “simple.” “Complexity” comes from the word “complex.” These are opposite ideas.

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

[start of dialogue]

Patricia: Okay, we’re nearly done setting up for the neighborhood party. I got some nametags with “father,” “mother,” and “kids” printed on them, with a space for people to write their names. It’ll be easier for people to introduce themselves and make friends.

Ed: The nametags are a good idea, but we have to keep in mind that in this day and age, there are a lot of unconventional families. We won’t just have nuclear or traditional families coming.

Patricia: I don’t see how that makes a difference.

Ed: Don’t you? What if we have same-sex families? We need to be ready to hand out two “father” or two “mother” nametags. There are also a lot of stepfamilies with more than one set of parents.

Patricia: Well, the men are all “fathers” and the “women” are all mothers – that’s simple. I still don’t see the problem.

Ed: What if the children are being raised by grandparents? Some of the men could be grandfathers and some of the women grandmothers.

Patricia: Okay, we might have some of those families.

Ed: And don’t forget that some parents are divorced or are single parents. Their current partner may not be their spouse. It wouldn’t be appropriate to give them “father” or “mother” nametags. We might even get foster families, in which case, the nametags may not be applicable at all.

Patricia: I give up. Forget I ever brought up these nametags. I’ll get blank ones with nothing on them.

Ed: That’s a good idea. Given the complexity we live in today, choosing simplicity might be the way to go!

[end of dialogue]

Her scripts are always full of complexity, but always interesting. Thank you, Dr. Lucy Tse.

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

English as a Second Language Podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
nametags – a small sticker or a small piece of paper with a pin on one side, used to write one’s name and place on one’s shirt so that other people know what one’s name is

* At the conference, everyone wore nametags with their name, title, and the name of their company.

in this day and age – in modern times; nowadays; these days

* In this day and age, it’s unusual to hear people say words like “thee,” “thou,” and “shall.”

unconventional – not traditional, normal, or expected

* The company is trying some unconventional marketing techniques, like putting advertisements on the mirrors in public bathrooms.

nuclear family – the core members of a family: father, mother, and children

* Pasindu always received a lot of support from his nuclear family, so it was difficult for him to he move away to attend college.

same-sex – referring to a romantic couple with two men or two women, not a man and a woman

* More and more countries are making same-sex marriage legal.

stepfamily – a family where a mother/father has remarried, so the children from the first marriage live with the mother/father and the step-father/step-mother

* Karina had two kids from her first marriage, and Damian had three kids from his first marriage, so when they married each other, they had to learn how to manage a large stepfamily with five children.

grandparent – the mother or father of one’s mother or father

* Claire’s grandparents sometimes take care of her for the weekend so that her parents can have some time alone.

divorced – with a marriage that ended when two people decided to stop being husband and wife (not because one of them died)

* Gwyneth has been divorced for four years, and now she wants to start dating.

single parent – a man or woman who is raising his or her child/children alone, without help from the other parent

* Lorenzo is having a difficult time as a single-parent working a full-time job.

partner – a broad term for a person with whom one has a romantic relationship, but the two people are not married and do not want to use the term boyfriend/girlfriend, often used when one doesn’t know whether the partner is a man or a woman

* How long have you been living with your partner?

spouse – a husband or wife; the person to whom one is married

* Every year, the company has a big holiday party for employees and their spouses.

foster – a program where families take care of children temporarily until a permanent family (often adoption) can be found, for children who had been living in a dangerous or abusive situation

* Wynona’s father was in jail and her mom was an alcoholic, so she grew up living in several foster families.

in which case – in that case; in that situation; under those circumstances

* We might not get any qualified applicants in this area, in which case we’ll have to advertising the job opening in nearby cities.

to give up – to stop trying to do something, especially because it is too difficult or challenging and one does not believe one will be successful

* It’s always hard to start a new business, but don’t give up!

to bring up – to begin talking about something; to raise an issue or topic; to mention

* Whatever you do, don’t bring up money when Christina is visiting. It’s a very sensitive topic for her.

blank – without anything written on a piece of paper or without anything showing on a screen; empty

* Wow, Michael must really trust you a lot. He gave you a blank check, knowing you could have written in whatever amount you wanted to.

complexity – a measure of how difficult, confusing, and complicated things are; difficult to understand, comprehend, or manipulate

* The complexity of the calculations the teacher showed us in physics class is intimidating.

simplicity – a measure of how easy and straightforward something is; easy to understand, comprehend, or manipulate

* The beauty of those photographs is in their simplicity.

Comprehension Questions
1. What is a stepfamily?
a) A family with children who were adopted.
b) A family where one or both parents have children from another marriage.
c) A family with multiple generations.

2. What is Patricia going to do?
a) She’ll buy nametags that don’t have anything written on them
b) She won’t use nametags for the party.
c) She’ll destroy the nametags she already purchased.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
partner

The word “partner,” in this podcast, is a broad term for a person with whom one has a romantic relationship, but the two people are not married and do not want to use the term boyfriend/girlfriend: “Randall isn’t married, but he and his partner have been living together for more than 18 years.” The word “partner” also describes one of two or more people who share ownership of a business or are working together to complete some task: “Harold doesn’t have enough money to open his own business, so he is looking for some partners.” The word “partner” is also used by cowboys to address each other, especially as “Howdy, partner!” Finally, the phrase “to partner up” means to select another person to work with, especially in school: “I want all of you to partner up for our next class activity.”

to bring up

In this podcast, the phrase “to bring up” means to begin talking about something, to mention something, or to raise an issue or topic: “I’m glad you brought that up.” Or, “Why did you bring up the possibility if you didn’t want to talk about it?” The phrase “to bring up” also means to raise a child, or to care for a child until he or she becomes an adult: “Yesinia was brought up by her aunt and uncle because her parents died when she was a baby.” The phrase “to bring (people) together” means to arrange for people to meet: “The conference brings together industry leaders to discuss the most important problems we face.” Finally, the phrase “to bring (someone) down” means to sadden someone or to make someone feel depressed: “Reading that article about the school shooting really brought me down.”

Culture Note
Unconventional Families on TV

In the past, American television shows such as Leave It to Beaver mostly “portrayed” (showed) “conventional” American families with a father, mother, and children. Over time, however, popular television shows have “featured” (shown; highlighted) more unconventional families.

Some of the first “departures” (moving away) from conventional families were simply “dysfunctional families” (families with poor communication and relationships). For example, Married with Children portrayed a family where the father hated his job and seemed to dislike his “annoying” (irritating) child, his “airhead” (not intelligent) daughter, and his “mischievous” (creating trouble for others) son.

Other shows deal with unusual relationships and “living arrangements” (who lives with whom). The Brady Brunch and Step by Step each portrayed a “blended family” (a family where each spouse has children from a previous marriage) in which the mother and father each had three children from a previous marriage. A show called Full House portrayed a “widow” (a man whose wife has died) living with his three daughters, his “brother-in-law” (the brother of his “deceased” (dead) wife), and his best friend. A show called Two and a Half Men portrayed a man who helps his brother and nephew by inviting them to live with him when they need help.

Finally, some shows “tackle” (address; deal with) social issues “head-on” (directly, in a straightforward way). Big Loveportrays a “polygamous” (someone married to more than one person) man living with his three wives and his children. And Modern Family portrays a “gay couple” (two men in a romantic relationship) with an adopted daughter.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - a