Everyday conversations: What do you want to drink? [audio]


Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

Two students (Peter and Akinyi) discuss the importance of clean, safe drinking water.

Peter: Is that a straw?

Akinyi: Yes. Isn’t it great? This is a solution to water scarcity.

Peter: You’re starting to sound a bit like Lee. Are you studying water scarcity in a class? And how is a straw the solution?

Akinyi: I’m studying the business model of one company that creates these filter straws. Believe it or not, this straw is a portable water purifier.

Peter: Is there really a large need for a water purifier to be portable?

Akinyi: Definitely. We all know that clean and safe water is essential to healthy living. But lack of clean water can affect the education of many children in the world.

Peter: Really? How?

Akinyi: Well, for example, students might get sick from drinking unsafe water and miss school.

Peter: And if students can carry filter straws, then they can always drink safe water?

Akinyi: Exactly. The straws have iodine, charcoal and filters – these combine to reduce harmful particles and remove bacteria. And they last up to a year!

Peter: Wow. That seems like a great solution for people without access to clean and safe drinking water.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

A straw is a thin, hollow tube that is used to suck water or other drinks from a container.

Water scarcity is the lack of water or the lack of access to clean, safe water.

A business model is a design for the success of a business, including its purpose, goals and ways to achieve its goals.

A filter is a device that removes unwanted things (such as particles) from a liquid or gas. In this conversation, a filter straw is a straw for drinking water. The straw has a filter, and this filter removes unwanted bacteria (very small living organisms that often cause diseases) and particles from the water.

When something is portable, it is easy to carry and move around.

To purify means to remove bad substances from something. A water purifier removes harmful substances from water.

Essential: necessary; extremely important; absolutely needed.

Iodine is a chemical element. It is used in water purification because it kills many bad small organisms in water.

Charcoal is a form of carbon. It is used in water purification because it removes harmful materials in water and improves the taste of water.

Bacteria (plural of bacterium): very small living organisms that often cause diseases.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.