Listening Topic: History – conversation about the discovery of America

A. Listen to the conversation between Aidan and Sandra. Number the people in the order that they are discussed.

___ The first people to come to North America

___ Leif Erikson

___ Christopher Columbus

___ Zheng He

B. Listen to the conversation again. As you listen, write T for true or F for false for each item. Correct the false statements.

 Sandra is studying for a history test.

 The first people to come to America came from South America.

 There is evidence that the Vikings reached Newfoundland.

 At the time of the Vikings, many Western Europeans believed that there was land in the West.

 Zheng He lived around 1500.

 Zheng He’s ship and fleet were larger and more sophisticated than those of the Europeans.

 Zheng He opened up trade between the Chinese and people in other countries.

 It is certain that Zheng He reached America.



2 3 1 4


1 F   2 F   3 T   4 T   5 F   6 T   7 T   8 F


A = Aidan, B = Sandra

A:   Hi.

B:   Hi.

A:   Are you working on something?

B:   Yeah, preparing a presentation for my History class.

A:   What’s it about?

B:   It’s about the different people that “discovered” America.

A:   I thought Christopher Columbus discovered America.

B:   Well, not…

A:   “In fourteen hundred and ninety two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

B:   Yeah, well, he did. But it turns out that Columbus wasn’t the first person to get to the New World at all.

A:   Was he the first European?

B:   No, not even that.

A:   Really? Sorry, I don’t mean to disturb you. Do you want to work? I’ll go.

B:   No, actually it’s OK! Actually, do you mind if I go over the presentation with you? It would help a lot.

A:   Oh, sure. No problem. Sounds really interesting.

B:   Well, my first point is that the Europeans didn’t really “discover” America anyway. The Native Americans were already here, so if anyone really discovered America, it was them.

A:   But then where did they come from?

B:   I’ll explain. It seems that the very first people to come to the American continent came from Asia, across the Bering Strait. They came in from the North and moved down the American continent, all the way down to South America. Those people became the Native Americans, the Aztecs, the Mayans and the Incas.

A:   Really? I didn’t know that.

B:   Well that was in pre-history, a long, long time ago. But, then I’m going to talk about some of the other explorers who reached the New World before Columbus did.

A:   I see.

B:   I’m going to talk about two of them in particular.

A:   OK.

B:   Well, Leif Erickson was the most famous. He was a Viking, probably from Norway. He colonized Greenland. And then sometime in the 10th century, he sailed from the southern tip of Greenland to Newfoundland, five hundred years before Columbus. There are remains of a Viking settlement there – in Newfoundland I mean. 

B:   And what’s interesting is, Leif Erikson went to the New World because he’d heard stories about it. So it seems like people did know, or at least they suspected, that there was land there, even as early as the tenth century. In all of the Western European countries, there were lots of myths and stories about land in the West. It’s understandable really, because, take Newfoundland, for example. It’s not all that far from Western Europe.

A:   I never realized that, but it makes sense.

B:   But then apart from the Western Europeans, there was the Chinese.

A:   The Chinese? Really?

B:   Yeah. The most famous Chinese explorer was Zheng He. He was a very powerful commander in the Chinese army, during the Ming dynasty. It was the golden age of Chinese exploration – the early fourteen-hundreds. The Chinese had these beautiful, treasure ships. They were huge, much larger and way more sophisticated than anything in Europe at that time, about ten times the size of Columbus’s ships. In one expedition they had like three hundred ships and twenty eight thousand men. Zheng He was in charge. He went all over the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, Africa, opening up trade and taking treasure from different places.

A:   Really?

B:   Yeah. It seems that he might have reached Australia as well. And, well, some people believe that he got to America in 1421, well before Columbus.

A:   Wow! That’s really interesting. Sounds like a good presentation.

B:   Thank you. I need to get some pictures…

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