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0936 Working With the IT Department

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 936 – Working with the IT Department.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 936. 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 probably know that already, but did you know that you can become a member of ESL Podcast and download a Learning Guide? You did? You knew that? Oh, okay.

Our topic today is working with an IT or Information Technology department – those are the people in your company who know how your computer is supposed to work. Let's get started.

[start of story]

Whenever I have a technology problem at work, I try to solve it myself. It’s not that I know a lot of about technology. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m pretty much a computer illiterate, but I still try.

Why do I bother? The answer is the IT department in my company. Every time I consult one of the IT specialists, they make me feel like an idiot. But this time, I had no choice but to call in the experts.

***

Leah: What seems to be the problem here?

Steve: My computer is acting up and I can’t get this file to open.

Leah: Move. Let me take a look. Ha, of course your computer is acting up. I don’t know what you did to it, but it’s really screwed up.

Steve: I’m not sure how I could have done that.

Leah: Me neither. This is configured all wrong. And the reason you can’t open this file is because it’s encrypted. Did that occur to you?

Steve: No, I guess I didn’t.

Leah: I’ll fix everything, but try not to screw it up again.

Steve: I’ll do my best.

***

See what I mean?

[end of story]

Our story begins with Steve describing his situation at work. He says, “Whenever I have a technology problem at work, I try to solve it myself.” “Technology” refers to anything, really, that is made by humans that helps you accomplish some goal or task. Normally, nowadays, we associate technology with things like computers and phones and other electronic devices. Steve is saying that if he has a problem at work with technology, he tries to solve it himself – to find the answer himself.

He says, “It's not that I know a lot about technology. In fact, the opposite is true.” If, for example, the water is cold and your friend says, “Oh, the water is hot,” you can say, “No, the opposite is true.” The opposite of “hot” would be “cold.” In our story it's a little confusing because Steve says, “It's not that I know a lot about technology.” We know that Steve does not know a lot about technology, because he's saying “it's not that,” which means “it is not true that.” The statement that is not true is, “I know a lot about technology.” Then, Steve says, “The opposite is true” – the opposite of that statement, “I know a lot about technology,” is true. In other words, Steve does not know very much about technology.

He says, “I'm pretty much a computer illiterate, but I try.” “Pretty much” means primarily, mostly, for the most part. “Literate” (literate) usually refers to your ability to read and write in a given language. “Illiterate” (illiterate) means that you cannot read or write. However, we use “literate” nowadays sometimes to means “skilled” – to have knowledge about something. “Computer illiterate” means he doesn't know very much about computers.

Steve says, “Why do I bother?” “Why do I bother” means “Why do I trouble myself?” Why do I make an effort to do something that may not be successful? “The answer is the IT department in my company,” Steve says. The “IT department” is the Information Technology department – the part of a company that is responsible for computers and other electronic devices.

Steve says, “Every time I consult one of the IT specialists, they make me feel like an idiot.” “To consult” (consult) can mean a couple of different things. Here it means to ask for someone's assistance, to ask for someone's help. We often use that in a professional or business context when we are asking for assistance from, in this case, another person in our company.

“Consult” can also be used as a verb to refer to the act of you providing additional services to another company. “I'm consulting for a textbook company” – I'm working for a company that makes books for students. The verb “consult” has those two meanings, one which means to provide assistance – usually for some small issue within your company, in this case. And, it can mean to work for another company temporarily, to help them with some larger problem.

The company where Steve works has “IT specialists.” A “specialist” (specialist) is anyone who knows a lot about a certain topic. You could have a specialist in ancient archaeology. You could have a specialist in Renaissance poetry. You could have a specialist in neurosurgery. All of those are possible uses of the word “specialist.” Here, we're talking about someone who knows a lot about computers. These IT specialists at Steve's company make Steve feel like an idiot; they make him feel stupid. Maybe that's because Steve is stupid. I don't know, I've never met Steve.

Steve says, “But this time, I had no choice but to call in the experts,” When you say you “have no choice but to,” that means you have no other options. You have to do a certain thing. I have no choice but to eat this piece of chocolate cake. If I don’t eat it, it will be wasted. I'll have to throw it out. I have no choice but to eat it. Steve has no choice but to call in the experts. “To call someone in” is a phrasal verb meaning to ask someone to come in and help you – in this case, with your problem.

So, then we begin our dialogue. Leah says, “What seems to be the problem here?” Leah is one of the IT specialists. Steve says, “My computer is acting up and I can't get this file to open.” The phrasal verb “to act up” here means to cause problems – to not work or function properly. Steve cannot get a file to open on his computer. A “file” is just a general term for any sort of electronic document. It could be a Microsoft Word file. It could be a PDF file. It could be an MP3 file. There are lots of different electronic files.

Steve cannot get this file to open. He wants to look at it or listen to it and he's unable to do that. Leah says, “Move.” “Move” means move over, leave your seat. There was actually a very funny comedy show a few years ago about an IT specialist, and the IT specialist was very rude – was very condescending, meaning he would talk to people as though they were idiots, as though he were the only person who knew anything about computers. That's what Leah is doing here. She’s saying, “Move. Let me take a look” – let me examine this situation.

She says, “Ha, of course your computer is acting up. I don't know what you did to it, but it's really screwed up.” “To be screwed up” means to have a lot of problems, to have a major problem. Steve says, “I'm not sure how I could have done that.” Leah says, “Me neither.” Notice that in informal English, we usually don't say, “I neither.” That would sound very strange to most native speakers of English. We say, “Me neither,” even though it's not technically grammatically correct. Leah is saying, “I don't know either.”

She says, “This is configured all wrong.” “To configure” (configure) means to establish the settings for a computer device or a piece of software – to go in and determine how it's supposed to operate normally. “This is configured all wrong,” Leah says. We're not sure what “this” is – perhaps the software program that Steve is trying to use. If it's “configured all wrong,” it is configured incorrectly.

Leah says, “And the reason you can't open this file is because it's encrypted.” “Encrypted” (encrypted) comes from the verb “to encrypt.” “To encrypt” means to protect something with a special code so that no one can understand what it is or no one, in this case, can open the file because you put some sort of special protection on it.

You can have encrypted messages where you are sending messages to someone, and perhaps you’re changing the letters in the words so that no one can understand what you're saying except the person who knows how to “decrypt” the code. “To decrypt” means to figure out what the message is trying to say because you know how it was encrypted. You know the way that they try to protect it. Sometimes, for security purposes, files are encrypted so that they are protected. No one can read them unless they know how to decrypt them.

Leah says, “Did that occur to you?” Did you think about that as being a possibility? Steve says, “No, I guess I didn't.” Leah says, “I’ll fix everything, but try not to screw it up again.” Leah is saying, “Try not to break it again” or “Try not to do something that would cause it to act up again.” Steve says, “I'll do my best,” meaning “I'll try not to.”

Then, at the end of the story, we hear Steve say, “See what I mean?” That expression, “See what I mean?” as a question is used to indicate that you have just shown an example or given evidence for some statement that you made previously. At the beginning of the story, Steve was saying that he didn't like to call someone from the IT department because the people who worked there were not very nice to him. They made him feel like an idiot. Then he gives us an example of this in his dialogue with Leah.

So, at the end of the story, he can say, “See what I mean?” meaning “I was right.” I showed you. Here is the evidence, and you should, therefore, agree with my statement.

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

[start of story]

Whenever I have a technology problem at work, I try to solve it myself. It’s not that I know a lot of about technology. In fact, the opposite is true. I’m pretty much a computer illiterate, but I still try.

Why do I bother? The answer is the IT department in my company. Every time I consult one of the IT specialists, they make me feel like an idiot. But this time, I had no choice but to call in the experts.

***

Leah: What seems to be the problem here?

Steve: My computer is acting up and I can’t get this file to open.

Leah: Move. Let me take a look. Ha, of course your computer is acting up. I don’t know what you did to it, but it’s really screwed up.

Steve: I’m not sure how I could have done that.

Leah: Me neither. This is configured all wrong. And the reason you can’t open this file is because it’s encrypted. Did that occur to you?

Steve: No, I guess I didn’t.

Leah: I’ll fix everything, but try not to screw it up again.

Steve: I’ll do my best.

***

See what I mean?

[end of story]

Our scriptwriter is not illiterate; the opposite is true. She's one of the best scriptwriters on the Internet. 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 was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
technology – equipment, machines, and ways of doing things based on scientific and technical knowledge

* The technology in cell phones has improved quickly over the past 10 years.

opposite – the completely different meaning of something else; entirely different

* The opposite of cold is hot, and the opposite of happy is sad.

pretty much – for the most part; mostly; primarily; largely

* The doctors have done pretty much all they can, so now we can only wait and see whether he recovers.

computer illiterate – unfamiliar with computers and how to use or repair them; not well education in the use of computers

* Harvey is a computer illiterate who can’t even figure out how to use email.

to bother – to make an effort to do something that is unlikely to succeed

* Why did you bother to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles? You could have just renewed your driver’s license online on their website.

IT department – the part of a business or organization that is responsible for information technology (IT), making sure that computers, phones, networks and other types of equipment and services are working well

* The IT department is implementing a lot of new security measures.

to consult – to request guidance or advice from someone; to ask someone for advice or their opinion

* Feel free to consult our customer service representatives at any time if you have questions about how to use your new camera.

specialist – someone who is an expert in something and knows a lot about it

* Rebekah’s primary care physician couldn’t figure out why she was in pain, so he referred her to a specialist.

to have no choice but to – to be forced to do something because one does not have any other options, especially when referring to something that one would prefer not to do

* If you continue to misbehave, I’ll have no choice but to call your parents.

to call in (someone) – to request the presence or assistance of someone; to ask or to get someone to help

* The military commander decided to call in reinforcements, asking for more soldiers to help with the fighting.

to act up – to behave or function improperly, not as something should

* The car has been acting up lately. Sometimes it won’t start if it’s cold outside.

file – an electronic document

* If you make any changes to the report, please save the file under a different name.

screwed up – with a major problem; with a lot of problems

* The airport’s reservation system is screwed up, so it looks like a lot of people are going to miss their flights.

to configure – to establish the settings for a computer or another electronic device in a particular way

* How can I configure my smart phone so that I can receive email messages?

encrypted – protected with a code that is difficult to open

* Any data that contains credit card numbers or social security numbers should be encrypted before it is sent over the Internet.

to occur to (someone) – to be thought of by someone; for someone to have a particular thought or idea

* It never occurred to me that my joke would have been offensive. I’m sorry.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why did Steve consult the IT department?
a) Because it’s the least expensive way to get technical support.
b) Because he couldn’t figure out another way to solve the problem.
c) Because his boss told him to do it.

2. According to Leah, why can’t Steve open the file?
a) Because he is a computer illiterate.
b) Because it was saved by using a special code.
c) Because it has a computer virus.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
pretty much

The phrase “pretty much,” in this podcast, means for the most part, mostly, primarily, or largely: “We’ve pretty much eaten everything in the fridge, so I guess we need to go grocery shopping soon.” The phrase “to cost a pretty penny” means to be very expensive: “Their house is huge! It must have cost a pretty penny.” The phrase “as pretty as a picture” means very pretty: “The view from the Hansons’ balcony is as pretty as a picture.” Finally, the phrase “to be sitting pretty” means to be in a favorable position and for success to be likely: “They saved everything they could while they were working, and now that they’re finally ready to retire, they’re sitting pretty, with plenty of money for international travel.”

file

In this podcast, the word “file” means an electronic document: “I’m having trouble opening the file. Could you please resave it as in a newer version of the program?” Or, “Are you able to open .psd files on your computer?” When talking about tools, a “file” is a piece of metal with a rough (not smooth) surface, used to make something else smooth: “If the sandpaper isn’t strong enough, try using this file.” A “nail file” is a tool with a rough edge used to shape one’s fingernails: “The manicurist cut Macey’s nails and then used a nail file to make the tips into an oval shape before painting them with pink polish.” Finally, the phrase “single file” describes a line where each person stands behind another person: “The children lined up in single file to enter the classroom.”

Culture Note
Milestones in Data Storage Technology

Technology “evolves” (changes over time) very rapidly, and there have been many recent “advances” (improvements) in “data storage technology” (ways to record information so that it is not lost).

One of the first types of data storage technology was “punch cards.” These were “stiff” (not easy to bend) pieces of paper that had many holes “punched” (cut into something) into them, and the position of those holes controlled the behavior of a machine. For example, punch cards were used to control “textile looms” (machines that weave cloth) and to play “organs” (large piano-like instruments).

“Magnetic tape” was a major “milestone” (an important point in the progress of something) in data storage technology. Similar to a “cassette tape” (devices used to record and play music before CDs were invented), they use a long piece of magnetic tape that is “wound up” (rolled in a circle) and then unwound as it is “read” (viewed and interpreted) by a machine.

“Floppy disks” (were large, flexible plastic squares containing a metal “disk” (a flat circle) that could be read by computers. Over time, they became smaller and the littlest ones had a hard plastic “case” (outer covering).

Most of these data storage technologies have been replaced by “flash memory,” which is used in “USB flash drives” (devices that plug into computers), “memory cards” or “memory sticks” (small devices that are placed in a cell phone or camera), and similar products.

Each “generation” (a group of items that use similar technology) of data storage technology “improves upon the last” (is better than the one that came before it), storing more data in less space, usually more quickly and less expensively.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b