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Your Biggest English Fear

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013

Learning is not only hard, it can be scary at times. A classroom full of other people can be intimidating, but once you start to take your language skills out in the real world, you run the risk of not saying the right thing and getting embarrassed in public.

There are other things that can go wrong too. This radio show starts with a story about a girl who is new to the US and is learning English. Her biggest fear is someone simply not understanding what she said and asking her to repeat herself. It might not seem like a big deal, but it’s terrifying to her. See what happens when she confronts her fear.

What’s your biggest English fear?

R. Kelly, Vocabulary Instructor

Sunday, November 18th, 2012

kellyEnglish, baby! and R. Kelly have always had a lot in common. We both have extended web soap operas with shocking plot twists. R. Kelly’s Trapped in the Closet explores how long one man can keep the same riff going, and our As The World Learns is a meditation on how English idioms shape our lives.

But I just become aware of something truly amazing thanks to Aziz Ansari. In his new stand up special, Dangerously Delicious, Aziz explains some fans had a hard time understanding R. Kelly’s song, “Echo.”

“So what do you do if you’re R. Kelly in that situation?,” says Aziz. “Are you going to post a video online defining the word “echo”? Yes. That’s exactly what he did.”

Considering one of the things we do here at English, baby! is enlist the help of famous musicians in teaching English, I immediately looked up the video. Sure enough, R. Kelly went ahead and did our work for us this time.

Aziz goes on to imagine R. Kelly defining other terms. “Alright, some of y’all don’t know what a cheeseburger is. You know when you go to McDonald’s and you order a cheeseburger? That’s a cheeseburger.”

While he undoubtedly has a way with words, R. Kelly’s echo video could indeed use some help in the teaching department. He doesn’t even touch on the slang use he’s using in the song! That’s where we come in.

R. Kelly–we are here for you. Based on our soap operas, we clearly think alike. Anytime you want to continue your video dictionary, we are ready to help. Contact us anytime. If you need a reference, maybe you could give one of the guys from Bone Thugs a text?

Ebaby! Teachers at the 2012 London Olympics

Friday, August 10th, 2012

The 2012 London Olympic Games are almost over. It’s been an especially exciting Olympics for us at English, baby! because although we weren’t there as we were in Beijing and Vancouver, many of our guest English teachers were competing.

We were especially happy to see Karina LeBlanc, and the Canadian Women’s Soccer Team win bronze today. We were, of course, thrilled that our own American team won the gold, but it was bittersweet because our friend Ali Krieger did not participate due to injury.

One of our first celebrity English lessons ever was with French basketball player Nicolas Batum. He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet, but you wouldn’t know it from the punch he gave Juan Carlos Navarro of Spain. It’s great to see him being aggressive and passionate, but it’s a shame that this punch is probably what he is best known for now. Navarro’s squad, along with our friend Sergio Rodriguez, is heading to the semi-finals tomorrow.

Meanwhile, we’ve been back here in the States making sure all of our members around the world had plenty of Olympics-related English lesson topics to study these last couple of weeks. We featured lessons about the host city, competitiveness, underdogs, the 2012 Olympics in general, and helpful Olympic idioms like go for it and catch up.

Image: Karina LeBlanc celebrates with teammate Sophie Schmidt after winning the women’s bronze medal soccer match. By Paul Hackett of Reuters.

Ebaby! Teachers Win NBA Championship with Heat

Friday, June 22nd, 2012

juwanMost of the discussion today about last night’s NBA Finals victory for Miami is about LeBron James. It makes sense. He’s their most famous player, and this is his first championship. The Heat’s other star, Dwayne Wade, has won before.

But this is also the first championship for two very well-respected players who have helped us teach English. Shane Battier, one of the smartest players in the league, came to Miami this year. When he played for the Rockets, he taught our members the term “buzzer beater.”

Shane didn’t hit any buzzer beaters in the finals that I recall, but he made plenty of other shots. He averaged more than 11 points per game in the Finals, his best performance of the Playoffs.

One well-known Heat player has waited much longer than LeBron for a championship. Twice as long, in fact. Juwan Howard–who just finished his 18th NBA season–won his first title last night as well. It must have been especially sweet for him since he narrowly missed the NCAA title twice in his college days.

We talked with him about his time with the Fab Five and the Big Three when the Heat was in Portland last year.

It’s hard to think of two players who deserve a championship more than Shane and Juwan, so we would like to congratulate them and their teammates, and thank them again for helping us help the world learn basketball slang.

Image: Juwan celebrates with LeBron in the Heat locker room last night.

From Brazil to Turkey, Ebaby! Friends

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

Every now and then, we hear stories of people who met on English, baby! visiting one another in real life. We believe that a social environment helps people learn English. So when our members form bonds strong enough to make international trips to see each other, we think that is a really cool thing.

Recently, some Ebaby! members I got to meet a few years ago had another international guest. Zeus from Turkey and Kinski from Ukraine met on English, baby! and got married a few years ago. I went to their wedding and made a video about it. It was an incredible good time.

Another one of Zeus’ Ebaby! friends, Rita, traveled from Brazil with a friend to visit Zeus and Kinski in Istanbul last fall. They are amazing hosts, so I’m sure a fantastic time was had by all. Zues describes meeting his online friend of 6 years at the airport:

“You can not imagine at that moment, feelings were maximum. We hugged and get happy to see eachother. Than we went to their hotel. We showed them Istanbul’s beauties and they loved much Istanbul.”

From the look of it, Istanbul loved them back, too.

They also visited some of the sites I saw on my trip. I know I was right here:

And here:

I wish I had visited this place. Looks cool! Guess I’ll have to go back.

Have you met your Ebaby! friends in real life? Tell us about it!

Thanks for the Thoughtful Gifs

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

Our recent English lesson videos with US Women’s National Team star Ali Krieger have introduced us to the previously unknown world of fan-created animated gifs. Between Ali tweeting the lessons and the official US Soccer blog posting them, a lot of fans saw them, and a few were inspired to create these fun images.

Original post here.

Original post here.

Original post here.

Original post here.

Apparently, there are dozens of these gifs created by fans of the US Women’s National Team every day. We think it’s pretty amusing, and we’re glad they like our videos.

Soccer Slang with David Beckham & Bryan Jordan

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

The Los Angeles Galaxy is a team of stars. They have David Beckham, the most famous player in the world. They have Landon Donovan, the best active American player. Plus they have a former MLS rookie of the year, goal keeper of the year, and many other well-known players.

So it was no surprise that there was lots of media hoping to talk to Galaxy players when they came to Portland to play the Timbers yesterday. Since we weren’t able to talk to him one-on-one, we were thrilled that David Beckham used the term “buzz” in his press conference. Perfect for a celebrity English lesson!

In fact, there was quite a buzz around town yesterday. It seemed like every other update on facebook was about Beckham or the match. People started lining up outside the stadium early in the day. You can read more about the woman with the sign in the video in this column by John Canzano.

When the Galaxy were getting off the bus to go into the arena, Donovan and Beckham got the biggest cheers, but next was Bryan Jordan, or BJ as he’s known. He was on loan to the Timbers a couple of seasons ago and is still a fan favorite here. We grabbed a few seconds alone with him to help our members learn the phrase “man on“.

Ultimately, the Timbers won 3-0. You can watch highlights of the game here.

Ebaby! Teachers in the NBA Finals

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

The Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat are competing in the NBA Finals right now, and there are four players involved who have appeared in Celebrity English Lessons on English, baby!

Mavs guard JJ Barea, the smallest guy on either team, has been unstoppable all through the Playoffs. His moves under the basket are incredible, and that was the topic of an English lesson we taped with him last season.

I was happy to see Juwan Howard scoring a couple of points in the first game of the series. As one of the oldest players on the Heat, he is there more for his leadership than his scoring. We talked about team work and his college career for a lesson earlier this season.

The Mavs also have Roddy Beaubois, who is recovering from an injury. We hope he can get healthy in time to show off the alley-oop skills he talked about in his English lesson before the Finals are over. Zydrunas Ilgauskas hasn’t appeared in a Finals game for the Heat so far, but it’s good that he’s getting a second chance to win a championship after losing on his last visit to the Finals with the Cavaliers, since his lesson was on second chances.

What team do you support in the Finals this year? Leave a comment or answer our poll question on Facebook.

Ebaby! Buzz

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

To give someone a buzz means to call them on the phone. We know a lot of the students who use English, baby! to learn English would love to practice speaking English on the phone with an American. So we decided to start something we like to call the Ebaby! Buzz in which one of the actors from our Ebaby! cast, calls you on the phone!

For the first Buzz, we asked our Facebook fans to change their profile photo to the English, baby! logo. Jaider from Colombia was the first to do it, so I gave him a call! Listen in:

My favorite part was Jaider’s mom shouting for him to come to the phone. He explained that he was in the shower because he didn’t think I was really going to call. But Ebaby! Buzz is for real! Watch English, baby! and our Facebook and Twitter to find out how you can win one of the cast members giving you a buzz!

Greg Graffin of Bad Religion teaches English

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Usually, Greg Graffin, who has a PhD from Cornell, teaches life sciences and evolution at UCLA. But at a recently appearance in Portland, he gave an English lesson for the ESL students of English, baby! as part of our Celebrity English Lessons series.

Greg was on tour with his band, Bad Religion, while also doing events on the side to promote his new book. I met with him at the book signing at the Bagdad Theater in Portland and, in addition to getting a book signed and one for a friend, asked him to explain what “against the grain” means, since it’s the title of a well-known Bad Religion song and album.

It’s interesting–while talking about “against the grain” Greg brings in another, similar idiom, “swimming upstream.” It’s probably because after 20 years of singing the song, the two are closely related in his mind. Take a look at the lyrics of the chorus:

Against the grain: that’s where I’ll stay.
Swimming upstream, I maintain against the grain.

I discussed the carpentry origins of the phrase in the lesson intro on Ebaby!, but it’s actually helpful that Greg brought in another image so that the English students on the website will have an easier time remembering the meaning of the phrase.

Bad Religion is actually my favorite band, so I was extra thrilled that Greg was willing to do this. I interviewed him once over the phone back in 2007, but it was an honor to meet him in person!