Panama Canal: A Century Old

November 28, 2014

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. canal /kəˈnæl/ (n.) – a passage filled with water in which ships travel or pass through
Example: The canal was declared off-limits after too many ships sank using it.

2. route /rut, raʊt/ (n.) – a path that can be traveled on
Example: A route through air is the fastest way to get to our next destination.

3. in the making /ɪn ðə ˈmeɪ kɪŋ/ (idiom) – still in the process of being developed or created
Example: The ships are now in the making and are expected to be finished in two years.

4. shortcut /ˈʃɔrtˌkʌt/ (n.) – a route that is shorter and quicker to travel on
Example: The driver used a shortcut to avoid the traffic and deliver the package on time.

5. treaty /ˈtri ti/ (n.) – a formal arrangement between two countries regarding a mutual agreement, alliance, or commerce
Example: The two newly-elected presidents signed a peace treaty in order to stop the decade-long war.


Read the text below.
Known as one of the most legendary man-made structures ever built, the Panama [PAN-uh-mah] Canal turns a century old this August.

An 80-kilometer stretch of waterway, the Panama Canal is a ship route serving as a shorter passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Built across Panama, the canal is considered a celebrated landmark by both its country and its continent. It has established Panama as an independent country as well as a powerful economy.

Before opening in 1914, the canal lasted more than three decades in the making. It was, in fact, first conceptualized in the 1500s, when the Holy Roman Empire intended to create a shortcut across Central America in order to avoid the long journey of going around the continent. However, it was only in 1880 that the concept was put into operation by French engineer Ferdinand de Lesseps [duh-LES-eps; French duh le-SEPS]. Despite his efforts, de Lesseps failed to complete the canal due to financial and technological limitations.

Twenty-four years later, the United States signed a treaty with the newly-declared country of Panama to pursue the project. After a decade of speedy construction and over 27,000 fatalities from hard labor and diseases, the Panama Canal was completed.

Today, the canal is used by five percent of the world’s shipping trade. However, it remains to face competition with other major canals such as the Suez [soo-EZ] Canal in Egypt. Despite this, officials currently plan to improve and prolong the canal’s structure in the hope of strengthening the canal to withstand another century. 

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Do you think it is worth risking so many lives to build a great structure? Why or why not?
·         Do you think old structures should be kept as they are, or should they be replaced or renovated? Why?

Discussion B

·         What do you think is the greatest man-made structure that your country has built?
·         What great structure would you want to build in your country? Why?

November 28, 2014