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1161 Traveling by Light Rail

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 1,161 – Travelling by Light Rail.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 1,161. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to ESLPod.com and download a Learning Guide for this episode. You can also take a look at our ESL Podcast Store that has additional courses in Business and Daily English. If you’re on Facebook, go to facebook.com/eslpod and like us.

On this episode, we’re going to listen to a dialogue between Jean and Gordon about using a light rail train. Let’s get started.

[start of dialogue]

Jean: Look out!

Gordon: Don’t worry. That’s just a light rail train. The new light rail system shares the road with street traffic.

Jean: Phew! For a second there I thought we were going to collide with it.

Gordon: Didn’t you see the operator seated at the front of the train? She watches out for other drivers.

Jean: I didn’t know they have operators. I thought they were automatic.

Gordon: No, they’re not like some forms of rapid transit.

Jean: I see now that they ride on tracks and are powered by overhead electric lines.

Gordon: That’s right.

Jean: I’d like to give light rail a try.

Gordon: Really? Well, there’s no time like the present. I’ll take you to the nearest stop. There’s the platform over there.

Jean: But I thought you agreed to give me a ride into the city.

Gordon: And deprive you of a new travel experience? Never!

[end of dialogue]

Jean begins our dialogue by yelling to Gordon, speaking very loudly to Gordon, “Look out!” “Look out” is an expression we use to tell someone they need to be careful – to warn someone that something perhaps bad is about to happen to them. In particular, something is about to hit them or they are about to accidentally hit something and injure or hurt themselves. Another way of saying “Look out!” is “Watch out!”

If you were standing next to a bookcase, a large piece of furniture that holds books, and the bookcase was about to fall on you, someone might yell, “Look out!” or “Watch out!” The person is warning you to look around and notice the danger that might affect you, and of course, to do something about it – to get out of the way, in this case. Gordon says to Jean, “Don’t worry. That’s just a light rail train.” It appears that Gordon and Jean are driving and Jean is telling Gordon, who is the person driving, to look out. Why? Because apparently the car is near a light rail train.

A “light rail train” is a train that usually goes inside of a city, from one part of a city to another. It might also go from two different cities. Light rail trains are not trains that go for long distances like, say, between Los Angeles and New York City or between Paris and London. A light rail train would be a smaller train that’s usually used for what we might call “commuting.” Here in Southern California, we have a light rail train that goes from different suburbs of Los Angeles into the downtown area.

Gordon says, “The new light rail system shares the road with street traffic.” “Street traffic” refers to cars, trucks, and other vehicles that travel on the streets and roads. Buses, motorcycles, vans – these are all examples of vehicles that use the streets. In some cities, the light rail train goes on the same street as the cars travel. In many cases, however, the light rail train is on a different part of the street. The cars aren’t driving exactly on the same part of the street as the light rail train, except perhaps when the street crosses another street.

Jean says, “Phew!” This is a word that we use to express relief, or perhaps when we’re really tired, we might go “Phew!” People pronounce it differently, I think. It’s spelled (phew). Jean continues, “For a second there,” meaning for a very brief moment or brief time, “I thought we were going to collide with it.” “To collide (collide) with” something means to run into something. “The two cars collided with each other.” They hit each other. They ran into each other.

Gordon says, “Didn’t you see the operator seated at the front of the train? She watches out for other drivers.” The “operator” (operator) is the person who, in this case, drives a large vehicle or a train. The operator of the train could also be called the “conductor.” The word “operator” is a more general term to describe a person who operates or controls a vehicle or machine. “Conductor” specifically refers to the operator, if you will, of a train.

Gordon says the operator of this train “watches out for other drivers.” “To watch out for” something means to look for possible problems so that you can avoid them. Someone may say to you, “If you visit Los Angeles, watch out for crazy drivers” – people who don’t know how to drive and could cause an accident. I mentioned earlier that you can use “Watch out!” in some of the same situations as you would use “Look out!” You might also say “look out for” in similar situations as you would use “to watch out for.” “Look out for the dangerous drivers in Los Angeles, especially me.”

Jean says, “I didn’t know they have operators. I thought they were automatic.” Something that is “automatic” (automatic) is something that is controlled by a machine – often nowadays by a computer – not a “real live human being,” we might say. Jean is surprised that the train has the actual human being operating it, running it, conducting it. Gordon says, “No, they’re not like some forms of rapid transit.”

“Transit” (transit) refers to moving something or a group of people from one place to another. “Rapid” (rapid) means fast or quick. So, “rapid transit” refers to something that can move people from one place to another quickly. Usually “rapid transit” is a kind of public transportation. “Public transportation” refers to transportation or modes of transportation that anyone can use as long as he pays money. This would include buses, subways, light rail trains, and so forth.

Jean says, “I see now that they” – meaning the trains, the light rail trains – “ride on tracks and are powered by overhead electric lines.” The “tracks” (tracks) of a train are the long metal pieces that the train sits on and moves across. “To be powered by” something means to get the energy in order to operate. Something that is powered by gasoline is something that gets its energy from some form of gasoline, usually gasoline that goes into a motor or an engine.

The trains are powered by “overhead electric lines.” Something that is “overhead” (overhead) is something that is above you, something that is literally “over your head.” “Electric lines” are cables or long thin pieces of metal that carry electricity. “Overhead electric lines” would be cables or lines that go above the train but that are connected to the train and allow the train to move. The electric lines carry electricity that power the train, that give it energy to move.

Gordon says, “That’s right,” meaning yes, Jean is correct. Jean says, “I’d like to give light rail a try.” “To give something a try” (try) means to do something, usually something you have not done before. Gordon says, “Really? Well, there’s no time like the present.” The expression “There’s no time like the present” means that we should do something right away. We shouldn’t wait and do it later. He says, “I’ll take you to the nearest stop. There’s a platform over there.”

A “stop” (stop) here refers to a station, or a place where a train or a bus regularly stops to let the people on the train or bus off and to allow different people to come on. In most cities, there are “bus stops” every couple of blocks where the bus stops to allow you to get on and off. A “platform” (platform) is a place where you get on a train. Specifically, “platforms” are used for trains, typically. We don’t talk about a “bus platform.” A “platform” is an area that is usually above ground and higher than the ground around it. It allows you to get on and off a train.

Jean says, “But I thought you agreed to give me a ride into the city.” Jean is wondering why Gordon is telling her to get out of the car and get on one of these light rail trains when he promised to give Jean a ride into the city. Jean and Gordon are obviously not in the city but are going in that direction.

Gordon says, “And deprive you of a new travel experience? Never!” “To deprive” (deprive) someone of something is to not allow someone to have something or do something. Gordon doesn’t want to deprive, or prevent, Jean from having this new travel experience. We’re not so sure if Jean herself wants that new travel experience right away.

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

[start of dialogue]

Jean: Look out!

Gordon: Don’t worry. That’s just a light rail train. The new light rail system shares the road with street traffic.

Jean: Phew! For a second there I thought we were going to collide with it.

Gordon: Didn’t you see the operator seated at the front of the train? She watches out for other drivers.

Jean: I didn’t know they have operators. I thought they were automatic.

Gordon: No, they’re not like some forms of rapid transit.

Jean: I see now that they ride on tracks and are powered by overhead electric lines.

Gordon: That’s right.

Jean: I’d like to give light rail a try.

Gordon: Really? Well, there’s no time like the present. I’ll take you to the nearest stop. There’s the platform over there.

Jean: But I thought you agreed to give me a ride into the city.

Gordon: And deprive you of a new travel experience? Never!

[end of dialogue]

There’s no time like the present to thank our wonderful scriptwriter for her wonderful scripts.

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 2015 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
look out – watch out; be careful; a command to use caution

* Look out! You almost hit your head on that low doorframe.

light rail train – small trains that run within or between cities, designed to carry many passengers

* Our city is considering putting in a light rail train system to downtown to ease car traffic.

street traffic – cars, trucks, and other vehicles that travel on streets and roads

* There’s so much street traffic today, I think I’d get home more quickly if I were walking instead of driving.

phew – a word expressing a sigh of relief and/or tiredness

* Phew! That was a steep hill to climb!

to collide – to run into something, especially in a vehicle; to hit against another object

* The hockey players collided in the middle of the game and one of the players got a bloody nose.

operator – a person who drives a large vehicle or machine, especially by operating computers

* The operator uses this lever to control the vehicle’s speed, but can also hit this button to activate the emergency brakes.

to watch out for – to be aware of something and look for potential problems so that one can avoid them

* When walking on the side of this mountain, it’s important to watch out for falling rocks.

automatic – happening without the involvement of humans, usually controlled by a computer

* There isn’t a door handle on this door, because it’s an automatic door. When you step near it, it will open.

rapid transit – public transportation that moves quickly within or between cities, usually referring to trains or subways (metros)

* Some employers give discounted rapid transit passes to their employees to encourage them to not drive to work.

tracks – the long, straight or curved pieces of metal placed on the ground for trains to ride on top of, with their wheels resting on them

* The little boys put pennies on the tracks and waited for trains to go by, because they wanted to see if the coins would be flattened.

powered by – receiving energy from a particular source

* These street lights are powered by solar energy.

overhead electric lines – wires charged with power that are suspended in the air, especially so that the part of a train that extends upward from the roof can power a train when touching those wires

* The storm caused many overhead electric lines to fall to the ground, but the power company is trying to fix them.

there’s no time like the present – a phrase meaning that something should be done right away, without any delay or hesitation

* Why don’t you start writing that book you’ve always talked about writing? There’s no time like the present.

stop – station; a place where a train or bus regularly stops to let passengers off and to pick up new passengers

* Please get off the bus at the Evergreen and Broadway stop. I will be waiting for you there.

platform – a large, flat, raised (elevated) surface where people can stand and wait for a train or similar vehicle

* Please stay behind the painted yellow lines on the train platform, so you don’t accidentally get hit.

to deprive – to not allow someone to have or do something, especially when talking about something that is very enjoyable

* I could never follow a diet that deprived me of chocolate.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Jean says, “Phew!”?
a) Because she thinks the train smells very bad.
b) Because she is relieved that they didn’t crash into the train.
c) Because she doesn’t believe what Gordon has said.

2. What does Gordon mean when he says, “There’s no time like the present”?
a) There isn’t enough time for them to ride the train right now.
b) The trains rarely run on schedule.
c) He thinks she should ride the train right now.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
operator

The word “operator,” in this podcast, means a person who drives a large vehicle or machine, especially by operating computers: “The company has a strict policy against operators using heavy machinery while under the influence of alcohol or medications.” An “operator” is also someone who operates a large number of telephones, transferring calls to the appropriate person or department: “Thank you for calling Acme Corporation. Press one for sales, press two for technical support, or press three to speak to the operator.” Finally, a “tour operator” is a company that arranges and sells tours and other excursions: “The tour operator sold us a package that includes all flights, ground transportation, lodging, and admission fees for three days, but not meals.”

platform

In this podcast, the word “platform” means a large, flat, raised (elevated) surface where people can stand and wait for a train or similar vehicle: “Which platform should I stand on to wait for a train to uptown?” When talking about politics, a “platform” is all the ideas, objectives, and promises of a political party or a candidate: “Lowering unemployment, improving education, and repairing streets are some of the main issues in her platform.” The phrase “a platform for (something)” refers to a venue or opportunity to share one’s message with many people: “They turned the protest into a platform for their religious beliefs.” Finally, “platform shoes” are shoes that have a lot of wood or leather all along the bottom of the shoe, making the wearer appear taller: “These platform shoes would make me look taller, but I would break my ankle if I walked in them!”

Culture Note
Streetcars

Beginning in the 1800s, “horse-drawn” (pulled by horses) “trolleys” (vehicles for many passengers, riding on tracks) were a common sight in large cities in North America. Between the 1860s and 1890s, some of the horses began to be replaced by other sources of power, such as steam engines and “cable cars” (vehicles that are pulled over tracks because they are connected to a cable that moves underneath them), and eventually electric systems.

By 1895, there were 900 electric street “railways” (systems of trains) in the United States. This was the “heyday” (the period of time when something was most popular) of streetcars. But many of those systems were closed and/or “dismantled” (taken apart) during the Great Depression (a period of very bad economic conditions in the 1930s; see English Café 327). “Automobiles” (cars) became increasingly popular, and busses were seen as a better “alternative” (option; something that could be used instead) to streetcars, because they did not require tracks. Many people believe that oil companies and automobile manufacturers were responsible for the “demise” (death and destruction) of America’s streetcars.

Today, the streetcars and cable cars in San Francisco, California are the “best-preserved” (kept in its original state or condition) system. And the St. Charles Streetcar Line in New Orleans, Louisiana may be the world's oldest “continuously operating” (never having stopped) streetcar line.

Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Dallas, Texas; and other cities have recently introduced modern streetcar systems. And several other systems are “under construction” (being built) in Washington, DC; Detroit, Michigan; and Cincinnati, Ohio.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - c