Everyday English Conversation: Discussing the News

Activity 1: Listening Comprehension

Two roommates, Patrick and Winston, discuss their newspaper subscription and news in general. Listen to their conversation and mark the statements below “True” or “False.”


Discussing the news

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Question 1
Patrick doesn't remember the e-mail Winston sent
Question 2
The Springtime Examiner subscription has already expired
Question 3
Winston is not sure whether or not he will renew it
Question 4
Patrick is distracted by a text from a friend
Question 5
Patrick likes getting news instantly
Question 6
Winston dislikes online news because staring at a screen is bad for your eyes
Question 7
Winston admits that instant notifications are good in emergencies
Question 8
Winston is concerned that people are losing the ability to think critically
Question 9
Patrick believes that change is inevitable
Question 10
Patrick and Winston will split the cost of the newspaper subscription
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There are 10 questions to complete.


Activity 2: Learn the expressions

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Winston: Hey Patrick, did you get the email I forwarded you last week?

Patrick: Umm, I’m not sure… what was it about? Could you refresh my memory?

  • forwarded = received an e-mail from someone else and re-sent it to a new person
  • refresh my memory = remind me

Winston: The message saying that our Springtime Examiner subscription expires at the end of the month.

Patrick: You’re not seriously considering renewing it, are you?

  • expires = comes to an end, isn’t valid anymore
  • renewing = to renew a subscription means to pay for it and keep it active for another period of time in the future

Winston: I’m definitely renewing it. What I want to know is if you’re gonna chip in.

Patrick: Oh, come on, Winston, get with the times! Pretty much everyone in our generation gets their news online.

  • chip in = contribute money to a shared expense
  • get with the times! = update/modernize yourself 

Winston: You can’t call that news. What people read online is fluff. It’s like pure sugar that rots your brain, with a few facts thrown in to make you think you’re staying abreast of the news. Plus, the internet plays fast and loose with the facts.

  • fluff = (slang) content that isn’t meaningful, it just exists to fill up space
  • rots = makes something decay, decompose
  • staying abreast of = staying updated, accompanying the latest information
  • plays fast and loose with the facts = does not carefully check or prove

Patrick: (distracted) Ah!

Winston: What? 

Patrick: The little software company I invested in last week – it’s on the upswing. I get notifications about stocks on my phone.

  • on the upswing = on a trend of increase or improvement
  • stocks = elements of the stock market, the state of the economy

Winston: See? Case in point! You can’t even follow our conversation because you’re distracted by your notifications. It’s another thing that bugs me. Everything is so instantaneous. Do you have to know what’s happening with your stocks at this very moment? Why can’t it wait until tomorrow?

  • Case in point! = this is a good example of what I was just talking about
  • bugs me = annoys, bothers me

Patrick: Because I don’t want to wait until tomorrow. Why should I? That’s one of the perks of living in the twenty-first century. Something can happen on the other side of the world, and the news reaches me in a flash.

  • perks = benefits
  • in a flash = very quickly, instantly

Winston: Yeah, you learn the bare essentials, but the coverage leaves a lot to be desired. They take one or two points and talk about them to death. So you might find out that there was an earthquake in California, or a volatile situation in the Middle East, but –

  • bare essentials = basic facts/fundamentals
  • leaves a lot to be desired = is not as good as it should be
  • talk about them to death = talk about them excessively
  • volatile = unstable and may “explode”

Patrick: You’re saying that’s not important? What if your brother was in California when the earthquake hit? You’d want to know he was safe as soon as you could!

Winston: Well, sure. That’s what technology should be used for: spreading the word in emergencies. But when it comes to a complex, serious issue, a few soundbites or a simple notification just won’t cut it. Not everything can be boiled down to a few bullet points to browse on your phone.

  • spreading the word = sharing information with many people
  • when it comes to = an informal way to say “regarding”
  • soundbite = a very short audio or video clip
  • won’t cut it = won’t be sufficient
  • boiled down = summarized, reduced to the essentials
  • browse = look at casually

Patrick: But it doesn’t hurt to have the bullet points.

Winston: Yes! Yes! It absolutely does hurt! If you dumb things down for quick consumption, people are going to get used to it. They’re going to start thinking a political campaign or a pressing social issue can be squeezed into the amount of space it takes to read the weather forecast. People already have a much shorter attention span, and our critical thinking skills are going downhill, too.

  • dumb things down = make things overly simple
  • pressing = urgent, needing immediate attention
  • squeezed = compressed into a small space
  • attention span = the amount of time someone is able to focus on something
  • going downhill = becoming worse

Patrick: You may have a point, but you’re swimming against the current. People aren’t going to go back to reading dense papers if they can stay informed with less effort. Things change. Newspapers were once the height of progress, and now they’re becoming antiquated.

  • swimming against the current = going against the trend or the majority of people (also: swimming against the tide)
  • antiquated = old-fashioned, no longer relevant

Winston: Well, I’m still going to renew my Springtime Examiner.

Patrick: I figured you would. But you’re on your own for the subscription fee.

  • you’re on your own = you’re responsible; you won’t have help

Activity 3: Vocabulary Quiz

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Activity 4: Speaking Task

Do you identify more with Patrick or with Winston? Explain your beliefs on “instant notifications” and our relationship with technology. Do you tend to be an early adopter (use new technology as soon as it comes out) or do you prefer the old-fashioned ways of doing things?

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