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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

ESL Phrase Lesson #2: "On The Back Burner"

The phrase, "on the back burner" is used when the speaker is trying to indicate the priority or importance of the subject in relation to another.

Background: The object "burner" is talking about a stove top where there are 4 burners used for cooking food. There are 2 front burners and 2 rear (back) burners, usually the person cooking will have the back burners on low heat to be used for keeping the food warm.

The front burner(s) are used to cook the food that requires a higher temperature.

Usage: When someone is talking and use the phrase, "I'll put it on the back burner" what they're saying is, they will assign the object to a lesser priority, consider the conversation below:

Bill: Say Tom, I was giving some thought to the unusual weather patterns that we've been having lately. You know, when I was growing up, summer was summer and winter was winter. You knew what to expect concerning the weather. But now, the seasons are really weird!

Tom: I know what you mean Bill, I don't know the answer to all of this, but I do know that when some companies pollute the environment, it doesn't help. Furthermore, when they put their proper environmental responsibilities"on the back burner" for the sake of profits, it's enough to make you sick!

Bill: Hopefully, someone in upper management in those type of companies will see the light and put their environmental responsibilities on the front burner, where they belong!

As can be seen from the conversation Tom was telling Bill that some companies assign their environmental responsibilities a lower priority than their profits, since it would cost them more money to properly dispose of their hazardous waste.

This phrase would be used informally in everyday American English . I hope this will help some ESL (English as a Second Language) students.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

How to Understand American English Phrases

ESL Phrase Lesson #1 "The Bottom Line"

Hello everyone! I live in Southern California outside of Los Angeles where there are people from many parts of the world. I have worked with people who are learning and using English to actively participate and communicate in American Society. To their credit, they do a fantastic job of living in the United States using a minimum amount of English and some cannot understand English at all. On the other hand, there are many people who understand formal English, however, they cannot understand American English that is used in everyday life. American English is filled with verbal phrases, idioms, proverbs and slang that is difficult to understand to ESL students. Many people who are not a native of the United States simply ignore what is being spoken. I can understand how it would be difficult to learn what was spoken.

Because of this situation, I have a passion to create a website devoted to learning American English, it is currently in the development stages. Therefore, I request any suggestions from you for my consideration to include in this website. I currently work with ESL students on a one-to-one basis and afterwards they are delighted to understand the meaning of various phrases. Actually, it’s really not that difficult, if someone gives you an understanding. That’s one the objectives of the website!

For example, the phrase: “the bottom line“ is a term that is used in Finance which means the point of profitability, that is, the point where a business will start to lose money. However, this term is used as a commonly used phrase in American English to mean the main point of necessity.
Consider the conversation below of how it would be used:

John calls his friend Tom on the telephone: Hello Tom, how’s it going? Say, I just bought a new computer and I have to get an important letter typed, you know I don’t know much about setting up a computer and you do. Can you come over to help me?
Tom: For you John, sure! You’ve helped me get out of many jams (difficult situations).
There’s a knock at the door.

John: Hi Tom, come on in. How’s the family? Tom: The family is doing fine! How’s your’s (family)? John: They’re fine, they left to go to my mother-in-law’s so I thought this would be a good time to set up the computer, it’s over here.

Tom: I was inspecting the items that came with the computer but the speakers are missing.

John: Well, if you could set it up without the speakers, I’d appreciate it, since “the bottom line” is getting this important letter typed, I can deal with (handle it) the speakers later!

Tom: Okay John, you’re “the man!” (an informal friendly way of saying you’re the boss!)
As you can see from the scenario above that the language used was very informal and casual and totally understood by each person.

After you have read this, you will now understand what is meant by "the bottom line” but remember to consider the context in which it is spoken, since it could have the literal meaning as used in speaking of financial matters.
I hope this helps someone, and if the response is there, I plan to provide additional mini American English lessons in this blog. Looking to hear from you!