This series of Everyday Conversations is about a family traveling to each of the 50 states in the U.S. Join the family members as they learn about local pastimes and history. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

In this conversation, the family travels to New Orleans in Louisiana and enjoys the food, music and architecture of the area.


Paul: We’ll take a ghost tour tonight in the French Quarter, so let’s figure out what we want to do until then.

Claudine: I’d like to walk around and admire the architecture. I love the large balconies that so many of these houses have.

Gina: And after that, we should go to a restaurant known for its jambalaya.

Sam: Can we go to a restaurant that also has a live jazz band?

Paul: Of course. We can’t visit the birthplace of jazz without seeing live jazz.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

New Orleans is a port city and the largest city in Louisiana. It has a unique culture that comes from the mix of European, African and Native American cultures.

A ghost tour is a guided walk around a town, building, etc., to learn about the stories of ghosts in the area. A ghost is the spirit of a dead person that a living person believes he can see or hear.

The French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood of New Orleans. Many tourists visit this area of New Orleans.

In this context, the phrasal verb figure out means to decide something.

Architecture is the design or style of buildings.

A balcony is a platform that is built onto the side of a building, off the ground, and that has a wall or rail around it.

To be known for something means that someone or something has a particular quality or feature that many people know about.

Jambalaya is a spicy dish of meat, seafood and vegetables mixed with rice. It is a Louisiana Creole dish that is similar to rice dishes from France and Spain.

Jazz is a style of music that started in the African-American communities in New Orleans in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has strong rhythms, and musicians often make up the music as they play it. New Orleans is considered the birthplace of jazz because it is where jazz began.

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. The American English for Educators Facebook page posts teaching materials for English-language teachers 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.

Learn more about planning a trip to the U.S. and applying for a tourist visa.