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.

The family visits Harvard University and then plans their drive to another historical area of Massachusetts.


Claudine: I can’t believe I’m standing in the middle of Harvard Yard. This is the oldest part of the oldest institution of higher learning in the U.S.

Sam: Harvard University is definitely recognized around the world.

Paul: Yes, but did you know that the university was established not too many years after Plymouth Colony was founded?

Sam: And that was the colony founded by the Pilgrims who sailed on the Mayflower, right?

Gina: That’s right. And it’s not too far from here, so we’ll drive there next. There’s a lot of history to soak up in Massachusetts.

Claudine: Well, let me soak up all I can about Harvard first.

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

Harvard Yard is a large grassy area enclosed by fences on the Harvard University campus. It is the oldest part of the campus.

An institution of higher learning is a college or university.

In the context of the conversation, recognized means to be known.

Establish means to create or start an organization that is meant to last a long time.

Plymouth Colony was an area in Massachusetts that was formed by people (later called Pilgrims) who came to the New World from England. It existed from 1620 to 1691. The New World is used to talk about North America, Central America and South America, especially in the past.

To found means to be the first to start building and living in a town (or country). Plymouth Colony was founded in 1620.

The Pilgrims were the people who traveled by boat from England to America and started a colony in what became Massachusetts.

The Mayflower is the name of the ship on which a group of people traveled from England to America in 1620.

To soak up means to spend time experiencing something; to learn a lot of information in a short amount of time.

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.