Episode 53: The Great Lakes

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 53: The Great Lakes

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Note: You can visit Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish for FREE bonus material related to this podcast episode. You can download a pdf file containing maps of the Great Lakes. It really helps you understand the Great Lakes when you are listening to the recording.

Now for the podcast:

Transcript:

The Great Lakes are five very large bodies of water in the upper Midwest area of the USA, north of the Mississippi River basin. We think of them as inland seas and call them the nation’s fourth seacoast. They lie on the border with Canada and measure more than 750 miles from east to west. They touch eight states: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. The Great Lakes, along with their connecting rivers, form the largest fresh surface water system on earth.

The Great Lakes were formed by glaciers thousands of years ago, and they are very deep. They hold about 20% of the world’s fresh surface water supply and 90% of the USA’s. The Great Lakes provide drinking water for about 48 million people. In addition, the lakes are used for transportation, recreation, electricity, fishing and many other economic and ecological functions.

Weather can be very dangerous for ships on the Great Lakes, and there are dangerous reefs, too. Many terrible shipwrecks have happened there. One of the most famous was the wreck of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald in 1975. You may have heard the famous song about it by Gordon Lightfoot.

Because of pollution and other problems, the Great Lakes have been damaged. Now, there are lots of federal programs to help clean and restore them. Canada, 40 Native North American tribes and eight US states take part in the programs.

The lakes’ names are Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. You can remember the names of the Great Lakes by thinking of the word HOMES. Here is a little information about each one. They are listed in order from west to east:

Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest in surface area and water volume. The name comes from the French phrase for “upper lake”, lac supérieur, because it is north of Lake Huron.

Lake Michigan

The name of Lake Michigan comes from the Ojibwa Native American tribe’s word mishigami, meaning “large lake”. Lake Michigan is the third largest Great Lake in surface area. It’s the only one that is located entirely within the US. It is connected to Lake Huron by the Straits of Mackinac. Some people consider Lake Michigan and Lake Huron to be two halves of one larger body of water.

Lake Huron

The name comes from the Huron, or Wyandot, Native Americans, who lived there. It’s the second largest Great Lake with the longest shoreline. Manitoulin Island is located in Lake Huron; it’s the largest island in any inland body of water on Earth.

Lake Erie

The name of Lake Erie was taken from the Iroquoi Native Americans’ word for “long tail” (erielhonan), which describes Lake Erie’s shape. It is the fourth largest Great Lake in surface area, but smallest by water volume.

Lake Ontario

The Native American Huron word for “lake of shining water” is ontario. This is the smallest of the Great Lakes by surface area. Water from Lake Erie flows into Lake Ontario by the Niagara River. Lake Ontario is at the base of the famous Niagara Falls. Water flows out of Lake Ontario by the St. Lawrence River, which leads to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then into the Atlantic Ocean.

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That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

Episode 44: The Rocky Mountains

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 44: The Rocky Mountains

Before we begin, I want to thank my Patreon patrons for pledging a small amount every month to keep the podcast going. Your contributions help pay for web hosting and other expenses. Without you, I could not produce this podcast every month. Thank you!

If YOU think this podcast is helpful, please visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish and become a patron. It’s very inexpensive and helps everyone around the world who listens to this podcast.

Also, buy Slow American English workbooks on Amazon.com. Workbooks contain all the transcripts and Exercise Worksheets for each episode for an entire year: 12 episodes in each workbook.

In addition, you can become a website subscriber for free at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. Find free transcripts there PLUS links to become a patron and to buy workbooks.

Subscribe to the podcast feed via Apple Podcasts, Android, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and any other RSS feed reader.

Contact me directly via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net. Now for the podcast:

Transcript:

Note: You can visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish for a FREE downloadable physical map of North America. The map can help you understand the geography of North America while listening to this podcast episode. Please enjoy this bonus material.

The Rocky Mountains

The Rocky Mountains, also called the Rockies, form the largest mountain range in western North America. The Rocky Mountains were formed between 80 and 55 million years ago in the western part of the continent. The Rockies are much higher and younger than the Appalachian Mountains, the other major mountain range in the USA. The Appalachians are located on the eastern part of the continent and are about 480 million years old.

The Rockies stretch from New Mexico in the Southwest all the way into Canada and even to Alaska. They are the reason the Mountain Standard Time zone (UTC -7) is so named. The mountains cover a distance of about 3,000 miles. In some places the width of the mountain range is more than 300 miles. In addition to New Mexico, the mountains cover parts of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah and Wyoming. The highest peak is Mount Elbert in Colorado, at 14,440 feet.

The Rockies form the Continental Divide. It is a line that follows the highest peaks of the mountains from north to south. This is important because rain that falls on the east side of the Continental Divide flows east into the Mississippi River, then the Gulf of Mexico and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. Rainfall on the western side of the Continental Divide eventually flows into the Pacific Ocean.

Of course, Native Americans were the first inhabitants of the Rockies. Even some of the Native American tribal names for the mountains contain the word “rocky”. And, if you listened to the Native American podcast episode, you will know that European explorers and American settlers came to the area beginning in the 16th century.

The Rockies contain many valuable metals, especially gold and silver. Discovery of these precious metals caused gold and silver rushes in the 19th century. Many precious and semi-precious metals are still mined from the mountains today. In addition, nonmetallic minerals such as sapphires, limestone, coal and many others are mined as well. Oil and natural gas are in abundance, too. Unfortunately, mining and oil and gas extraction operations are harmful to the environment. Currently, there is much conflict over mining operations, especially the fracking process.

The Rocky Mountains are known worldwide for recreation, too. The beauty of nature and the opportunity for outdoor activities attract thousands of people for camping, fishing, hunting, skiing, snowboarding, boating, mountain biking, hiking, climbing and much more.

In addition, the Rockies are home to many species of animals, including the American bald eagle, which is the national symbol of the USA. Among the many other birds found there are osprey, falcons, owls, cranes and geese. Additional well-known inhabitants are mountain goats, elk, trout, bear, deer, mountain lions, wolves, marmots, beavers, coyotes, chipmunks and much more.

The natural wonders of the Rockies are the reason that many national and state parks and forests have been designated there. Probably the most famous of them is the Rocky Mountain National Park, which is only a 45-minute drive from my town.

The Rocky Mountains are a large part of American pop culture. They have served as the setting for famous books like Louis L’Amour’s western novels and The Shining by Stephen King. Of course, many movies are set in the Rockies, too, such as Cliffhanger with Sylvester Stallone and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid with Robert Redford and Paul Newman. The Denver baseball team is called the Colorado Rockies. Ansel Adams became famous for his photographs of the Rocky Mountains. Singer John Denver had a hit song in 1973 called “Rocky Mountain High”. It’s now one of the two official Colorado state songs. Many people think it captures the feeling of being in the Rockies perfectly.

That’s the podcast for this time. Slow American English is written and produced by Karren Tolliver. Copyright 2018. All rights reserved.

For a free transcript and to subscribe to the podcast, visit www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. You can also subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Google Play Music, TuneIn and any other podcast feed reader.

Theme music for this podcast is written and performed by SW Campbell and used by permission. Find more music by this artist at www.Soundclick.com/swcampbell.

This has been Slow American English. I’m Karren Tolliver. Thank you for listening.

Episode 40: The Mississippi River

Welcome to Slow American English, the podcast for learners of American English. I’m your host, Karren Tolliver.

This is episode number 40: The Mississippi River

But first, are you a regular listener to the Slow American English podcast? Do you think it is helpful? Show your support and become a patron. Patrons get free Natural-Speed Recordings and Exercise Worksheets for each episode. To become a patron, visit www.Patreon.com/SlowAmericanEnglish.

Also, you can buy Slow American English workbooks on Amazon.com. Workbooks contain all the transcripts and Exercise Worksheets for each episode for an entire year; 12 episodes in each workbook.

In addition, you can become a website subscriber for free at www.SlowAmericanEnglish.net. Find free transcripts there PLUS links to become a patron and to buy workbooks.

Subscribe to the podcast feed via Apple Podcasts, Android, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIn and any other RSS feed reader.

And, as always, you can contact me directly via email at info@slowamericanenglish.net. Now for the podcast:

Transcript:

For this episode, I recommend listening to the United States Regions episode of the podcast. Also, you can visit www.patreon.com/slowamericanenglish for a FREE downloadable map of the Mississippi River river basin. The map is helpful when considering the information in this podcast.

The Mississippi River

Geography

The Mississippi River is the second longest river in the United States, but it’s the most well known. From its headwaters at Lake Itasca in Minnesota, water flows about 2,300 miles south all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. It flows through or next to 10 states. The river is narrowest at Lake Itasca, only about 20 or 30 feet wide. It is widest, about 11 miles, at its confluence with the Ohio River at Cairo, Illinois.

Smaller rivers and streams that flow into a river are called tributaries. All of the tributaries together are known as its watershed or river basin. The Mississippi River’s watershed is the third largest in the world. It covers about 1.2 million square miles, which is about 40% of the continental United States. Water from all or part of 31 states plus two provinces in Canada drains into it. The eastern boundary of the watershed is the Allegheny Mountains; the western border is the Rocky Mountains.

The Mississippi is a slow-moving river and it is very muddy. It flows about 1.5 miles per hour (mph) on the surface as it leaves Lake Itasca. Even at the Gulf of Mexico, the water flows only about 3 mph, a little slower than most people walk. It takes about three months for water leaving Lake Itasca to reach the Gulf.

The muddy Mississippi River deposits all the sand and silt that it carries over its great distance into the Gulf of Mexico near New Orleans, Louisiana. Over time, this sand and silt has built up into low-lying land. This land is called the Mississippi Delta.

History

Oral histories of Native American tribes and some archaeological evidence show that Native Americans lived near the Mississippi River as long as 12,000 years ago. Unfortunately, there is no existing written history about the lives of these people, so it is difficult to know much detail.

Then, in the 1500s, Europeans began exploring the river. The first one, Hernando De Soto from Spain, led an expedition from the Gulf of Mexico northward up the river from the delta. His plan was to plunder the tribes living there. His group encountered floods and hostile Native American attacks. De Soto was killed in an attack near the present-day city of Memphis, Tennessee, and his body was left in the river.

Next came the French expedition of Marquette and Jolliet in 1673. They came from Canada southward. A few years later a French explorer named La Salle traveled all the way from the north to the delta. He claimed the entire Mississippi River basin for France, even though Native Americans were living there long before he arrived.

In the 1700s, Spain took control of the lower Mississippi south of Cairo, IL. Eventually, France regained control of the river then sold it to the young United States as part of a land-transfer deal called the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. For many years the Mississippi River was considered the western border of the United States.

Because the river is so shallow, boats with flat bottoms were used to carry goods in the early days. These boats had no engines and were propelled by people using small paddles, sails or long poles. In the early 1800s, steam-powered riverboats with wheel-shaped paddles were used to travel both ways. These paddle wheelers could operate in shallow water and were like floating hotels with restaurants, bars and casinos. The Mississippi riverboat gambler is a common stereotype. Today tourists can still ride on a historical paddle wheeler on the Mississippi.

Because of its shallowness, the river floods often and the channel changes. Therefore, modern flood-protection was engineered to control it, especially on the lower Mississippi. These controls include locks, dams, spillways and levees, which still exist today. Some of the dams help generate electricity, and the river’s channel is dug out regularly to allow ships to carry goods up and down the river. However, these controls have changed the environment drastically, and many groups are fighting now to remove them and let the river become its natural self again. This would greatly affect those living near the river because the unpredictable floods would return.

American Culture

The Mississippi River, especially the lower part, was a popular topic in blues, jazz, gospel, folk and country music. Even today, songwriters mention the river in their lyrics.

In addition, the river has been the subject or setting of much American literature. For example, Langston Hughes, an African-American poet, wrote a famous poem in 1921 called “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” which features the Mississippi. Tennessee Williams wrote plays and poems involving life on the river. William Faulkner is a famous author whose work reflects life near the river, too.

Probably the most famous author to write about the Mississippi River was Mark Twain. One of his books is even titled Life on the Mississippi. It contains stories about his experience as a steamboat pilot and what the river was like in the late 1800s from St. Louis, Missouri, to New Orleans.

There are many more examples of literature that is based on, mentions or features the Mississippi River. Just do an online search and you’ll see what I mean.

Language Notes

Certain Native American tribes near St. Louis, Missouri, called the river misi sipi, which literally means ‘big water’ or ‘father of water’. From this Native-American name we get ‘Mississippi’. The idea of the river as father continues in American English: the river is known as “Old Man River” in literature, songs and informal conversation.

In addition, the Mississippi River is so big and is such an important river to North America and US history that it is often called the Mighty Mississippi.

Lastly, remember that Mississippi is not only the name of a river, it is also the name of a state. Mississippi state lies to the east of Louisiana and has the Mississippi River as most of the border between them.