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0950 Visiting a Construction Site

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Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 950 – Visiting a Construction Site.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 950. 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 of ESL Podcast and download the Learning Guide for this episode. This episode is a dialogue about someone going to visit a place where they are building a building. Let's get started.

[start of dialogue]

Bill: Ma’am! Ma’am!

Estelle: Yes?

Bill: Ma’am, you’re not supposed to be here. This is a construction site and you’re not allowed. Please don’t step on that scaffolding. It’s dangerous.

Estelle: Oh, I just wanted a quick look to see how the building is coming along. Look at all this lumber and brick. The foundation is already done and the beams and rafters are going up. This is so exciting!

Bill: Ma’am, this is a dangerous area, especially for someone not wearing a hard hat.

Estelle: I won’t stay very long. I just wanted to see the progress.

Bill: Watch out!

Estelle: Oh, I almost tripped over these pickaxes and shovels and landed in the wheelbarrow. Thank you for saving me.

Bill: You’re welcome. Now let me escort you off the site.

Estelle: But I wanted to see that bulldozer and crane over there.

Bill: You can see them just fine from the street. And from the street you won’t be my responsibility!

[end of dialogue]

Bill begins our dialogue by shouting to Estelle, “Ma’am! Ma’am!” The expression “Ma'am” (Ma’am) is a way of getting the attention of a woman, an adult woman. It's not as common anymore, though you may still hear it in certain formal circumstances, especially when you don't know the woman very well. Bill doesn't know Estelle at all, and that's why he is addressing her or referring to her as “Ma'am.” He's trying to get her attention.

In this case, Estelle says, “Yes?” Bill then says, “Ma’am, you're not supposed to be here. This is a construction site and you're not allowed.” A “construction site” is a place where they are building a new building. It could be a house. It could be an office building. It could be any kind of structure. Bill says that Estelle is not allowed, meaning she is not supposed to be there.

He then says, “Please don't step on” – or put your foot on – “that scaffolding.” “Scaffolding” (scaffolding) is a temporary structure that is made typically from metal and wood that is used to help the people building the building get up to a higher level. You can almost think of it as a ladder, but a ladder is something that just leans up against something. It doesn't stand by itself. “Scaffolding” stands by itself and is used to allow the workers to go up to a higher level, especially when they're building a house or building that is more than one level – more than one “floor,” we might say.

Estelle says, “Oh, I just wanted a quick look to see how the building is coming along.” “To come along” is a phrasal verb meaning to advance, to progress, to move forward. “How are you coming along on your homework?” a parent might ask a child. That means “How are you progressing? How are you doing? How much progress have you made?” Estelle wanted to see how the building was coming along.

She then says, “Look at all this lumber and brick.” “Look at all this” means look at this – look at all of what I am pointing to. In this case, Estelle is pointing to “lumber” (lumber) and “brick” (brick). “Lumber” is wood that has been cut to a specific size in order to use it to build something. If you are building a house or a building and you are making it out of wood, at least in part, you will need lumber. These pieces of wood are often referred to by their sizes – by the height and width of the wood. You may hear someone talk about a “two by four.” That's a piece of wood in the shape of a rectangle, two inches by four inches.

“Brick” (brick) are small rectangular blocks. Often they are a dark red color. They are typically made from clay and are used to build walls and other parts of the house. In the old days, many years ago, in certain parts of the U.S. you would see a lot of brick buildings. Nowadays it's not as common, probably because wood is cheaper and easier to work with. But you will still see some parts of houses that use brick.

Estelle says, “The foundation is already done” – is already finished or completed – “and the beams and rafters are going up.” “This is so exciting!” she says. The “foundation” (foundation) is the part of the building that touches the ground. It's the first thing you have to put in if you are going to build a building. It's what you build the building on top of. You don't just put the pieces of wood into the dirt. You first, especially if you are building a house or a large building, have to lay a foundation.

Notice we use the verb “to lay” (lay). “To lay a foundation” means to put usually concrete or some sort of stone on the ground, and usually underneath the ground, to support the house, to support the weight of the house. “Beams” (beams) are long, straight pieces of wood or metal that are used to support the wall or the roof of a building. “Rafters” (rafters) refer to one of several long pieces of wood that are placed at an angle on top of the walls to support the roof above. So, the rafters help support the top of the house or the building, which we call the “roof” (roof).

Bill says, “Ma'am, this is a dangerous area, especially for someone not wearing a hard hat.” A “hard hat” is just what it sounds like – a hat that you wear that's large and heavy that protects your head in case something heavy falls on your head. Of course, if a 16-ton weight falls on you, even a hard hat will not protect you, but it will protect you from smaller things falling on you. Estelle says, “I won't stay very long” – I won't remain here very long. “I just wanted to see the progress.”

Bill then yells, “Watch out!” “Watch out” is a phrasal verb meaning be careful. It's used to warn someone about some danger, something that might hurt them. If you say, “Watch out,” you mean that that person might get hit with something within the next second or five seconds. So, it's a way of warning someone that there is some danger. You could also say “watch out” if someone is walking and doesn't see a hole that is in front of them and might hurt themselves by falling down into the hole. That would also be a case of saying, “Watch out!”

In general conversation, people say “watch out” as a way of saying you need to be careful about this person or you need to be careful about this situation. It's not necessarily a case of you being in physical danger, but you might have problems in other areas. And so, we might use that expression “watch out” in that case as well. Estelle says, “Oh, I almost tripped over” – or fell over – “these pickaxes and shovels and landed in the wheelbarrow. Thank you for saving me.”

A “pickaxe” (pickaxe) is a large, heavy tool with a wooden handle – the handle is what you grab onto with your hands – and a large piece of metal at the other end. This large piece of metal has two sharp ends on it. The tool is used to make a hole in something very heavy, like a piece of rock or some part of the earth, the ground. A “shovel” (shovel) is a tool that also has a long wooden handle, but at the end has a slightly curved piece of metal that is used to go into the ground – to dig into the ground – and remove dirt or remove whatever you are trying to get out of the way. A “shovel” is used very often in order to dig a hole.

A “wheelbarrow” (wheelbarrow) – one word – is basically a little car or cart. It typically has just one wheel on the front. On the back are two legs made of wood or metal that you can rest on. But basically you push it on one wheel. It's used to carry heavy objects, or a lot of stone, or a lot of earth that needs to be moved from one place to another. When I say it is used to move those things, I mean it's used to move them a short distance. If you are going to move something a long distance, you wouldn't use a wheelbarrow. You'd probably use a truck. A wheelbarrow is small. It won't contain that much material, anyway.

Bill says, “You're welcome” after Estelle thanks him for saving her. He says, “Now let me escort you off the site.” “To escort” (escort) someone means to take someone somewhere, to accompany someone to a place. In this case, Bill wants to escort Estelle off the construction site. He wants to take her away from the construction site so she doesn't get hurt.

Estelle says, “But I wanted to see that bulldozer and crane over there.” A “bulldozer” (bulldozer) is a large vehicle that has a piece of metal connected to it that can be raised and lowered. It's often used to push or move a large amount of dirt or rocks. A “crane” (crane) is also a large machine used to move heavy objects, but a crane is a very tall machine that picks things up and moves them distances. Cranes can often be very tall. Cranes are used to move large parts of a building as it is being constructed or perhaps as it is being torn down, as it is being taken apart.

Bill says, “You can see [the bulldozer and the crane] just fine from the street. And from the street, you won't be my responsibility!” Bill means that if Estelle leaves the construction site, then he doesn't have to worry about her.

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

[start of dialogue]

Bill: Ma’am! Ma’am!

Estelle: Yes?

Bill: Ma’am, you’re not supposed to be here. This is a construction site and you’re not allowed. Please don’t step on that scaffolding. It’s dangerous.

Estelle: Oh, I just wanted a quick look to see how the building is coming along. Look at all this lumber and brick. The foundation is already done and the beams and rafters are going up. This is so exciting!

Bill: Ma’am, this is a dangerous area, especially for someone not wearing a hard hat.

Estelle: I won’t stay very long. I just wanted to see the progress.

Bill: Watch out!

Estelle: Oh, I almost tripped over these pickaxes and shovels and landed in the wheelbarrow. Thank you for saving me.

Bill: You’re welcome. Now let me escort you off the site.

Estelle: But I wanted to see that bulldozer and crane over there.

Bill: You can see them just fine from the street. And from the street you won’t be my responsibility!

[end of dialogue]

You don't need a hard hat to be a scriptwriter. You do need creativity, and that's something that our scriptwriter, Dr. Lucy Tse, has a great deal of. Thank you, Lucy.

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
construction site – an area where people are creating a new building

* The small businesses around the construction site have been complaining that they’re losing business, because customers can’t park on the street when so many machines are there.

scaffolding – a temporary structure made from metal and wood, used to help workers reach the higher parts of a building to build, repair, or clean it

* I’ll stand on the second level of the scaffolding, and you can pass the bricks up to me in this bucket.

to come along – to progress, advance, or move forward; to make progress

* Wow, the project is really coming along. Well done!

lumber – wood that has been cut into specific sizes to use in construction

* What kind of lumber do you need: two-by-fours or two-by-eights?

brick – a small, rectangular block, usually dark red and made from clay, used to build walls or chimneys

* Do you prefer brick fireplaces or stone fireplaces?

foundation – the part of a building that touches the ground and supports the rest of the building

* Was the home’s foundation damaged in the flood?

beam – a long, straight piece of wood or metal used to support the wall or roof of a building

* I don’t know if the beams can support the weight of so much snow on the roof.

rafter – one of several long pieces of wood placed at an angle on top of walls to support and give shape to the roof

* Most of the ceiling is painted a cream color, but the rafters are still unpainted wood.

hard hat – a large, heavy hat like a helmet that protects the head, mostly used at construction sites

* All workers are required to use hard hats, safety goggles, and heavy boots.

to watch out – to be careful; a phrase used to warn someone about some danger

* Watch out! You almost stepped into that hole.

pickaxe – a large, heavy tool with a wooden handle and a large piece of metal at the other end with two sharp ends, usually used to tear apart earth or rocks

* If you want to plant a garden here, we’ll need a pickaxe to get rid of all the grass and rocks.

shovel – a tool with a long wooden handle and a large, slightly curved metal end used to dig into the ground and scoop (lift) up dirt and rocks

* Do you have a special shovel for clearing the snow off the sidewalk?

wheelbarrow – a car with two wheels and one or two supporting legs at the other end, used to carry heavy objects when pushed by a person

* They filled the wheelbarrow with small rocks and pushed it into the backyard, where they were creating a new path.

to escort (someone) – to take someone somewhere; to accompany and guide someone to a particular place

* Would you like to escort Janice to the dance?

bulldozer – a large vehicle that has a flat but slightly curved piece of metal in the front that can be raised and lowered, used to push dirt and rocks

* The bulldozer will push the extra rocks and soil out of the way so that we can begin pouring concrete.

crane – a large machine that moves heavy objects by picking them up with a hook attached to a large rope hanging from the top of a long arm or beam

* They used a special crane to lift the railroad car and put it back onto the tracks.

Comprehension Questions
1. What would you expect beams to be made of?
a) Lumber
b) Brick
c) Rafters

2. Which of these tools can be used to carry heavy things?
a) Pickaxes
b) Shovels
c) Wheelbarrows

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
beam

The word “beam,” in this podcast, means a long, straight piece of wood or metal used to support the wall or roof of a building: “The fire damaged the beams, and now the building may fall down.” In gymnastics, a “balance beam” is a long, narrow, elevated bar that the athlete performs on: “Wow, she did three cartwheels in a row on the balance beam!” A “beam” can also be a column or line of light: “Plants always turn their leaves toward the beam of sunlight.” As a verb, “to beam” means to shine: “The lights are beaming down on the performers. Finally, the verb “to beam” can mean to smile broadly, or to have a very big smile on one’s face: “Chelsea was beaming on her wedding day.”

crane

In this podcast, the word “crane” means a large machine that moves heavy objects by picking them up with a hook attached to a large rope hanging from the top of a long arm or beam: “Cranes need to have a very heavy base so that they don’t fall over when they pick up heavy objects.” A “crane” is also a type of bird that has very long legs and lives near the water: “They saw a lot of cranes when they went bird-watching.” As a verb, “to crane” means to stretch or to move in one direction: “Everyone was craning their neck to see what was happening.” Or, “The entire time the children were downtown, they were craning their necks to look up to the top of the skyscrapers.”

Culture Note
Types of Construction Workers

A “general construction worker” is a “generalist” (someone who does a little bit of many different things, but has not specialized in any particular area) who can perform many of the “tasks” (duties; activities that must be performed) on a construction site. But there are many construction workers who have “expertise” (advanced knowledge and experience) in a particular area.

For example, a “cement contractor” specializes in “pouring” cement into “molds” (shapes) to form the foundation of a new building. “Carpenters” are “master” (very good) “woodworkers” (people who make things out of wood), and some of them specialize “even further” (even more) as “cabinet makers” (people who make the doors and drawers used to store items, especially in kitchens and bathrooms).

“Drywall workers” specialize in installing “drywall” (the textured surface on the walls of a home or office). “Brick layers” specialize in creating brick walls, chimneys and fireplaces, which “roofers” specialize in placing “shingles” (small pieces that make up a roof) onto the roof. A “plumber” specializes in “laying” (installing) and “repairing” (fixing) water “pipes” (tubes used to carry water or other liquids), while an “electrician” specializes in electrical work that brings electricity into a building.

Once “the bulk of” (most of) the home has been built, other construction workers begin to work on the interior details. For example, “flooring installers” specialize in installing wood, “tile” (small ceramic squares), and carpet “flooring” (materials that cover the floor).

The “general contractor” is usually “in charge of” (responsible for) coordinating the activities of all these other construction workers. He or she makes sure that the home or office building is “built to spec,” according the designs and plans for the building, and meeting the expectations of the person purchasing the home or building.

Comprehension Answers
1 - a

2 - c