AMERICAN HISTORY: Eighteenth Century Conflicts in Europe Affect North America

AMERICAN HISTORY: Eighteenth Century Conflicts in Europe Affect North America

November 15 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News


Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.

Fort Ticonderoga in the modern era
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STEVE EMBER: From VOA Learning English, this is THE MAKING OF A NATION – American history in VOA Special English. I’m Steve Ember.
This week in our series we tell about the conflicts among the nations in Europe during the eighteenth century and how they affected North America.                                                      
During the eighteenth century, Spain, France and Britain controlled land in North America. Spain controlled Florida. France was powerful in the northern and central areas. Britain controlled the east. All three nations knew they could not exist together peacefully in North America. The situation could only be settled by war.
The powerful European nations already were fighting each other for control of territory and riches all over the world. These small wars continued for more than one hundred years. They were called King William’s War, Queen Anne’s War, King George’s War and the French and Indian War.
The French and Indian War was fought to decide whether Britain or France would be the major power in North America. France, its colonists and their Indian allies fought against Britain, its colonists and their Indian allies.
The war began with conflicts over land. French explorers had been the first Europeans in the areas around the Great Lakes and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. France had sent traders and trappers to these territories and had established trading centers there.
Britain claimed the same land. When the king gave land in North America to someone, the land was considered to extend from the east coast to the west coast — although no one knew where the west coast was. The land along the east coast had become crowded, and settlers were moving west. White people were destroying the Indians’ hunting areas. And Indians became worried that they would lose the use of their land.
The Indian tribes might have been able to resist the people moving west if they had been united. But their own conflicts kept the tribes apart. When Britain and France started fighting each other, some Indians helped the British. Others helped the French.
The French settlers lived mainly in what was called New France. Today it is part of Canada. Life there was different from life in the British colonies to the south. For example, there was no religious freedom. All settlers in French territories had to be French and belong to the Roman Catholic Church. So, many French people who belonged to Protestant groups settled in the British colonies. These French Protestants were known as Huguenots.
France also did not like the fact that the British paid the Indians high prices for animal furs. France was more interested in the fur trade than in settling the land. The British hurt the French traders’ business when they bought fur from the Indians.
One of the French trading centers was built in the area where the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is today. The French called it Fort Duquesne. The British claimed it was in Virginia and – therefore – that the land belonged to them. In seventeen fifty-four, the governor of Virginia sent a twenty-one-year-old colonist named George Washington to tell the French to get out. This was the same George Washington who would later become the first President of the United States.
The French refused to leave Fort Duquesne. So Washington and one hundred fifty men attempted to force them out. They attacked a group of Frenchmen and killed ten of them. The French and Indian War had begun.
British troops under the command of General Edward Braddock joined George Washington at Fort Duquesne. The British general expected to fight the way battles were fought in Europe. There, troops lined up on open fields and fired their weapons as they marched toward each other. The French and Indians did not fight this way. They hid in the woods. They wore clothing that made them difficult to see. They shot at the British from behind trees. The British had more troops than the other side. But the French and Indians won the battle of Fort Duquesne. General Braddock was killed.
Most of the French and Indian War was fought along two lakes in an area of what is now New York state, near the border with Canada. One was Lake George. The other, Lake Champlain north of Lake George. It reaches almost all the way to the city of Montreal in Canada.
These lakes provided the best way to move troops and supplies during the French and Indian war. Few roads existed in North America at that time. The military force, which controlled the lakes and rivers, controlled much of North America.
The French had military bases in the cities of Quebec and Montreal. The British had bases along New York’s Hudson River. The area between them became the great battleground.
Fighting increased after the British defeated the French near Lake George in the final months of seventeen fifty-five. The French then built a new base to control Lake Champlain and the surrounding area.
The French base was at the southern end of Lake Champlain. They built a strong camp or fort.  They called it Fort Carillon.
The fort would control Lake Champlain and the area needed to reach the northern part of Lake George. The fort was designed to provide a strong defense against attack. The French built two big walls of logs, several meters apart. The area between the walls was filled with dirt. Later, a strong stone front was added. Troops inside the walls were well protected. The British built a similar fort at the southern end of Lake George. They called it Fort William Henry.
France sent one of its best military commanders to take command of its troops in America. His name was the Marquis de Montcalm. General Montcalm attacked several British forts in seventeen fifty-seven. One of these was Fort William Henry on Lake George. The British commander was forced to surrender.
General Montcalm promised that the British troops would be treated fairly if they surrendered. But the Indian allies of the French did not honor the surrender agreement. They began to kill British soldiers and settlers. No one is sure how many people died. It could have been more than one thousand.
In seventeen fifty-eight, a strong British force attacked Fort Carillon on Lake Champlain. General Montcalm was the French commander. Fort Carillon was strong enough that the smaller French force was able to defeat the larger British force. The British withdrew, but attacked again the next year. This time the British commander was General Jeffery Amherst.
Amherst was successful. The British defeated the French. They changed the name of Fort Carillon to Fort Ticonderoga. It became an important military center in the French and Indian War. Fort Ticonderoga would also become important later, during America’s war for independence.
The Battle for Quebec was the turning point in the conflict. Britain and France signed a treaty to end the war in seventeen sixty-three. The British had won. They took control of the lands that had been claimed by France.
Britain now claimed all the land from the east coast of North America to the Mississippi River. Everything west of that river belonged to Spain. France gave all its western lands to Spain to keep the British out. Indians still controlled most of the western territory, except for some Spanish colonies in Texas and New Mexico.
Today, you can still visit the two forts that were so important in the French and Indian War. Not much remains of the original buildings. However, both have been re-built using the original designs. The area surrounding both forts is very beautiful, including the two lakes, Lake George and Lake Champlain.
Many people travel to this area to enjoy the outdoors. The area includes one of America’s national historical parks, Saratoga. It also includes the Lake George Beach State Park. Few people who visit this calm and peaceful area stop to remember the terrible fighting that took place there two-hundred fifty years ago.
The events following the French and Indian War will be our story next week.
You can find our series online with transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and pictures at You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter at VOA Learning English. I’m Steve Ember, inviting you to join us again next week for THE MAKING OF A NATION — American history in VOA Special English.
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Improving ‘Feed Efficiency’ in Cattle Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.

Improving ‘Feed Efficiency’ in Cattle Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.

November 15 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News


Science & Technology

Improving ‘Feed Efficiency’ in Cattle

Read, listen and learn English with this story. Double-click on any word to find the definition in the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary.

University of Idaho Professor Rod Hill with part of the university’s purebred herd (VOA/T. Banse)


Play or download MP3 of this story
From VOA Learning English, this is the Agriculture Report in Special English.
Animal feed is the biggest cost for most cattle producers. In the United States, the cost of hay, grains and other feed has risen sharply because of a drought. At the same time, wildfires this year burned more than a million hectares of North American rangeland.
Jack Field raises cattle in the northwestern state of Washington. To save money, he made plans to truck his small herd of cows three hundred kilometers to feed on crop stubble. Crop stubble is what remains after crops have been harvested.
Moving his cattle from farm to farm costs money and time. But he says if he can avoid feeding them hay, he can still make a profit.
Tim DelCurto is a beef scientist at Oregon State University. He is working with ranchers and feedlot owners to help them find lower cost ways to feed cattle. He says cattle can eat things like grass-seed straw and distillers grains. These grains are left over from ethanol fuel production.
He says cattle can also eat cannery waste and items rejected by vegetable processors — like misshapen green beans, carrots, even French fries.
“Now I think one of the unique attributes of beef cattle — and sheep would fit this, too — is that they can virtually digest anything.”
The rising cost of feed has led agricultural research universities to give greater attention to what experts call “feed efficiency.” The University of Idaho has a cattle barn where sensors measure exactly how much food each cow eats.
Professor Rod Hill says just because animals are growing at the same rate does not mean they eat the same amount of food. In fact the difference in how efficiently their bodies convert feed into meat, fat, bone and hide might be surprising. 
“These animals are — for your eye and mine — they look quite homogenous. But the variation in intake for animals growing at the same rate is of the order of thirty-five percent.”
This is a case where humans and animals have something in common.
“You know, we talk to people who say, ‘All I have to do is, is, is look at the candy store and, and I put on three pounds.’ We don’t actually quantify it so precisely in humans, but we know in humans that some people can eat a little and they can put on quite a bit of weight and some people can eat a lot and hardly put on any weight. So it’s a biological phenomenon.”
Rod Hill says ranchers can use selective breeding to get the same growth with less feed. But he says not to focus too much on one thing, like reducing fat.
“Less-efficient animals are slightly fatter, and more-efficient animals are slightly leaner. So we wouldn’t want to just go after efficiency and then forget about the body composition. So, we wouldn’t want animals to become too lean, so that might reduce marbling in the product, especially in the quality cuts where the profit is.”
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“Board” the history and development of an English word

“Board” the history and development of an English word

November 15 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News


“Board” the history and development of an English word




Board – vocabulary developed from floors and boats

As I said in my article   Board – a simple word, with many uses, BOARD is a magical word in the sense that a simple piece of wood has become many things; this shows how a free language can evolve and take shape.

Let’s look at how it could have developed:

Boards were first used to make floors in houses. The “floorboards” were laid on other pieces of wood to raise the floor off the ground.

This technique was adapted for boats as well. The wooden boarded floor was where the sailors moved around to control and manoeuvre the sails. Under this floor was the storage area, or hold. With time the crew* would say they were “on the boards”, which later became “on board”  Soon “on board” had the meaning of “on the ship”

If a person falls off a ship into the water, we say “the man fell OVERBOARD

If the engine (motor) of a boat is outside the boat that it drives we say that it is an OUTBOARD motor.

Now we can say that someone goes “on board” a ship to mean that they go onto the ship.

– People going on board now also is “the passengers are boarding

But this phrase can also now be used for trains or planes. The typical railway guard in the films blows his whistle and shouts “all aboard” so that the passengers get on the train because it is going to leave.

At airports you check the screen to see when you have to get on your plane, when the sign changes from “Wait in departure lounge” to “now boarding” you know that your plane will be leaving soon.

So just following the simple idea of a wooden floor we arrive at an internationally recognised phrase: “boarding now at Gate 23″

In another article we  will see how board is now an important word in hi-tech and big business


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“We’re still assessing the extent of the damage.”

“We’re still assessing the extent of the damage.”

English Lesson: We're still assessing the extent of the damage.

There’s been a hurricane. The governor of your state is giving a press conference to talk about the results of the storm. A reporter asks how bad it was. The governor doesn’t exactly know yet, so he says this.

We’re still assessing the extent of the damage.

the extent of the damage


The “extent” of something means how much, how far, how bad, etc.

English speakers often use this word in the phrase “the extent of the damage”. After some kind of accident or disaster, you have to check the extent of the damage, which means how badly things are broken and messed up. For example, a car mechanic can check the extent of the damage to your vehicle after a car crash.


assess the damage


The word “assess” means to check or test. “Assessing the damage” to something means figuring out how badly it was damaged. 

You “assess the damage” in situations like these:

  • You assess the damage to the body of someone who’s been injured.
  • The government assesses the damage to homes and businesses when there’s been a natural disaster.
  • An insurance company representative assesses the damage to your car when you’ve gotten in a car accident.



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Board – a simple word, with many uses

Board – a simple word, with many uses

November 12 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News



Board – a simple word, with many uses

The word “BOARD” comes from the Old English word bord

It is one of those magical words that started with a simple meaning: a relatively long, wide but thin and flat piece of wood used in construction; especially for making floors


Over time this word has been used in many situations, it’s use has evolved to such a state that it has become  such a common day word in many ambits of life. Many of these situations, printed circuit board or board of directors for example, often seem to be far removed from the original meaning.


Here are a few words and expressions that come from the word board:


cupboard, surfboard, skateboard, diving board, notice board, blackboard, white board, board games,  chess board, scrabble board, cheese board, backboard , etc all are or use a board type material usually made of wood

chipboard, cardboard, fibreboard, corkboard,

board of directors, school board, exam board, board and lodging, boarding school

circuit board, switchboard, offboard, dashboard

on board, starboard

to board

For more vocabulary go to Vocabulary index


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Easy does it!

Easy does it!

November 10 2012 , Written by John Currin’s Blogs and News



Reference : Idioms : E : Easy does it!

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Easy does it! Informal

Meaning: You can say “Easy does it!” when you want someone to do something more carefully or more slowly.

For example:

  • I was on the back of Suzie’s motorbike and she was going really fast, so I said “Easy does it!”
  • Harry and John were carrying the sofa up the stairs, and we heard Harry yell “Easy does it!” … and then they dropped it. 

Quick Quiz:

I was riding in a taxi, and I said “Easy does it!” to the driver because
  1. we had arrived
  2. he was going too slow
  3. he was going too fast
 Click for answer c. 

Discuss: Easy does it!

Idiom of the Day

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“My my! Don’t you look dapper?”

“My my! Don’t you look dapper?”

English Lesson: My my! Don't you look dapper?

Your brother is getting ready to go out on a date. When he comes out of his room, he’s dressed nicely. You say this to him.

My my! Don’t you look dapper?

My, my!


“My, my!” means something like “Wow. I’m impressed.” 

However, English speakers rarely use “My, my!” when they’re honestly impressed. More often, they say “My, my!” to tease someone. For example, if someone in your family usually wakes up late, you can say this when they wake up earlier:

My, my! You’re up early.

Although we use “My, my!” to tease people, it doesn’t seem mean or offensive. It’s fun and playful.


Don’t you (do something)!


Use the phrase “Don’t you ___!” to mean “You really ___. Wow!” For example:

Don’t you smell nice!

This only works with positive things; you can’t say things like “Don’t you stink!” This phrase is especially used to compliment how someone looks.

You stress the word “you” when you’re using this phrase. Although the sentence is formed as a question, you should pronounce it as a statement, not a question.

You can also use “Aren’t you (something)!” in the same way:

Aren’t you smart!


(a man) is dapper


“Dapper” is an old-fashioned word that means “handsome”. You call a man “dapper” when he’s clean, dressed nicely in a formal way, has a neat and stylish haircut, and so on.

Aside from calling a person “dapper”, you can also say that a man’s clothes are “dapper”:

He wore a dapper white suit.

The word “dapper” sometimes appears in the combination “a dapper gentleman”.



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