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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?

As The World Learns Season 4: Love, Old and New

Friday, October 19th, 2012

Once upon a time, there was a hilarious actress named Amanda. Her character by the same name broke Mason’s heart and she left the show. But this season, she has returned our English lesson soap opera and is funnier than ever!

We also said goodbye to Ella this season. Even though he was in love with her at one point, Mason didn’t mind. He has two women pursuing him this season! My, how things change. Unfortunately, one of them is trouble. You’ll have to watch to find out which one, and to learn all of the cool slang and idioms each episode has to teach.

4.01 – Work It Out: Jeff and Mason find a way to become friends.
4.02 – Drama Queen: Ella can’t handle peace in the office and takes off.
4.03 – Blast from the Past: After a couple of years away, Amanda suddenly returns.
4.04 – Catch Up: Devan and Amanda have a lot to talk about after a long time apart.
4.05 – Behind Someone’s Back: Dale doesn’t want to hang out with Mason’s girlfriend, but does.
4.06 – When It Rains, It Pours: Loveless Mason now has two interested women.
4.07 – Fool Around: Are Vanessa and Dale having friendly fun, or something more?
4.08 – Busted: Jason and Marni discover one of their friends is doing something bad.
4.09 – Break It To Someone: Jason and Marni discover one of their friends is doing something bad.
4.10 – Moment of Truth: With Mason, Dale, Vanessa, and Amanda in the same room, no one can hide anymore.

Ella Says Goodbye

Monday, July 9th, 2012

EllaOn today’s episode of our English lesson soap opera, Ella announces she is quitting her job and moving to Lake Tahoe. In real life, Ame Phitwong, the actress who plays Ella did just that.

Ame joined the English, baby! cast a few years ago when Amanda left. When she’s not modeling, she throws great parties, so we had a lot of fun working with her. She also loves to travel and kept a great blog on English, baby! of all of her adventures.

Since we film our videos well in advance, Ame has actually been in Tahoe since the end of last year. I got in touch with her to see how things are going and to reflect on her work at English, baby!


Jason: Tell us about your new life in Tahoe. How are things? Are you doing a lot of snowboarding?

Ame: Things in Tahoe haven’t quite turned out exactly as I planned. The winter season was dismal, one of the worse winters in nearly 100 years with barely any snow. The upside is because I live 5 minutes away from the mountain, it’s been my best season on record! I learned a lot of new tricks, but also got a lot of injuries. I busted my knee and face a few times, but had a lot of fun! Overall, it’s great living here. I can see the lake from my house and snowboard from the run to my backyard. This is the life I was dreaming of.

Jason: Are you doing any acting or modeling there?

Ame: I haven’t been doing any acting or modeling. I’m still trying to get things together with my daily life and return to school to get my masters. I hope to get back into both fields in the next year so keep an eye out for me!

Jason: What is your all-time favorite English, baby! lesson? Does one stand out as your least favorite?

Ame: I couldn’t decide on one, but my two favorite lessons are when I adopted Table as my son, and when I was Dale’s fitness instructor. Those were both really fun to do. Oh, and the musical for the 100th episode too. I don’t have a least favorite. I had fun working on all the lessons!

Jason: How are you similar to Ella? How are you different?

Ame: I’m not that much different from Ella. She’s really into fashion and friendly and hyper. Although I would have to say I’m a lot more altruistic and not as clueless compared to her. Coincidentally, a lot of the episodes seemed to mirror some real-life issues I was going through unbeknownst to the writers! It was quite funny. I never mentioned that to anyone. Also, Ella was a way better detective than I could ever be.

Jason: If the real you had to choose between Mason and Jeff, who would you have picked?

Ame: I think I would’ve chose Mason. He was just so sweet and funny. Jeff is cool too, but not really my type.

As the World Learns Season 1: The Proposal

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

After 165 nonstop episodes, it seemed time to start producing the English, baby! soap opera, As the World Learns, in seasons. Watch all 10 episodes of the romantic first season right here. Each episode is an English lesson focused on a particular phrase. See the episode guide below for links to the full lessons.

1.01 – Left Out: Get to know the Ebaby! cast while the men of the office get left out.
1.02 – Glass Ceiling: The women of the office have a plan to break the glass ceiling.
1.03 – Girls’ Night Out: On a girls’ night out, the women make a discovery.
1.04 – Plant the Seed: Devan starts planting the seed to get what she wants.
1.05 – Pop the Question: Mason catches Jason practicing to pop the question.
1.06 – Break the Bank: Jason asks Jeff how to get a ring that won’t break the bank.
1.07 – Have Second Thoughts: Trouble at the office gives Jason second thoughts.
1.08 – Spill the Beans: Mason spills the beans about Jason’s plan.
1.09 – Chicken Out: Jason has a plan, but will he chicken out?
1.10 – It Just Slipped Out: Jason let’s something very important just slip out.

Season 2 starts in November. Don’t miss the wedding planning drama! Thanks for supporting coolest English lessons anywhere. Tell your friends!

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.

Beren Says Goodbye

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

After more than three years of acting in our English lesson audio and videos on English, baby!, Beren’s last soap opera episode goes on the site today. She has relocated to a new city and since she may come back someday, we left her character’s exit open-ended. Perhaps one day she will resolve the disagreement that causes her to leave her friend group, but it won’t be any time soon.

Over the years, I’ve seen lots of comments from members saying that Beren was their favorite member of the cast. I remember one in particular said she was “only sensible person in the soap opera.” That seems about right, especially looking back on this description of Beren’s character that we put together for her early on:

Beren is mysterious, with a very unusual personal life that she regards as perfectly normal. Despite this, she’s a kind of oracle to whom the other characters go to for advice. She’s a good listener and the kind of person who comes through at the last minute with an obvious solution to a problem everyone else was wracking their brains about. She’s deadpan, sort of a straight man. She’s also lots of fun at parties. She’s a side character whose comic relief leaves you wanting more.

While it’s sad to lose her character, perhaps Beren’s greatest contribution to English, baby! has been her knowledge of pop culture, which really came in handy for our English lessons about American music and movies. As a musician, she was very aware of culture. I remember she knew who Lady Gaga was before anyone else on the cast. Even if she doesn’t appear in the English lesson dialog, Beren’s influence was often there.

Now that she is settled in her new home in Detroit, I asked her to answer a few questions via email.

Jason: You’re moving on and we’re so sad to see you go. Tell us why you are leaving and what are you going to do now.

Beren: I’m moving on because it’s time to move on!! I loved being in the Pacific Northwest, and will one day return, but for now I’m in Detroit. I’m going to be doing a lot of the same things I did at “home”: playing music, working at a pizza shop…

Jason: Is there a lesson you made that stands out as your favorite or least favorite?

Beren: Ah, yes. My favorite lesson: the infamous evil twin episode. It was fun to make, and still makes me cringe to watch.

Jason: Why should more Ebaby! members come see your band on tour?

Beren: HA!! They should come because the tunes are good, and fun to dance to. And because we will most likely need a place to crash and will hit you up for your couch/bed/kitchen floor.

The Olympic Spirit…Of Spandex!

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

In just over a week, the greatest event in the world for spandex will begin. No, it’s not a professional wrestling championship, it’s the Winter Olympics, of course!

From bobsledders to skiers, Olympic athletes from every country wear lots of spandex. Here at English, baby!, the team we’re sending to Vancouver to bring back lessons on winter sports idioms is no different. Today we launched our official Ebaby! at the Vancouver Olympics page, and the most important element of our Olympic uniforms just arrived–the Ebaby! blue spandex body suit!

The photo is me in my speed skating pose, and as you can see, the theme of “something you’d be a little embarrassed to wear in public” carries over from our 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics uniforms. I think that wearing silly outfits helps encourage people we meet to participate in our videos. Even if you stumble on your words or lose at the game we’re playing, there’s no way you’ll dumber than us!

We stood out so much on the streets of Beijing that strangers stopped to take pictures of us. I wonder if we’ll be such a spectacle in Vancouver. We can’t get too distracted being ridiculous–we’ve been hard at work planning the best ways to create educational and memorable English lessons at the Olympics. We’re dedicated to bringing home even more gold (so to speak) than the videos made in Beijing. Take a look at our new Olympic banner and get ready!

The New English, baby!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

When’s the last time you changed your look? Doesn’t it feel great to get a new haircut or wear some new clothes?

It’s been a while since English, baby! had a makeover or changed its appearance. But on Monday we launched a brand new site! We’re really proud of the way it looks. Like everything else, the Internet has trends and you have to stay up to date if you want to look cool.

But the changes aren’t just on the surface. We’ve introduced some new features for Super Members and made the site easier for everyone to use so you can focus on learning English and having fun.

You may have noticed that when you’re logged in to your account, your MyEbaby page is now merged with the homepage. This way if you’re checking out the lesson of the day you can also see if you have any new messages or friend requests at the same time.

Super Members now see a special Super Tool Bar at the top of the home page where you can download the full audio of the lesson of the day in one click, go straight to the Ask Ebaby! forum and keep track of the lessons and vocab you’ve saved to learn.

Have you ever logged on to Ebaby! and not quite known where to start? Well, now Super Members also have a My Exercises section on their home page which reminds you of cool stuff you can do like guess the definition of the next slang lesson or take an audio quiz.

Audio quiz? Say what? You asked for it and you got it. In order to help you improve your spoken English, we now have listening exercises for each of the thousands of lessons on the site!

Of course, you have to be a Super Member to take audio quizzes, and it is free to try it out. But all members are now enjoying notifications that let you know when someone comments on or likes your profile, blog, photos or lessons. And last but not least, you can now edit your profile right on your profile page so that you can look at the changes you’ve made more easily. So why not give your profile a makeover to match the site?

Let us know if you have any comments about the new site or notice anything that isn’t working quite right. We’re so glad you choose English, baby! as your place to have fun and learn English on the Web and we’re thrilled to bring you a better, more stylish version of it.

Teacher on the Move: What Would You Bring Abroad?

Sunday, April 26th, 2009

So you might remember that I went to the TESOL Convention. But you might have forgotten that I had a job interview while I was there.  Turns out I got a job offer! So the Ebaby! teacher might go abroad. The job is on the beautiful coast of Turkey at a university with small class sizes and motivated students.

I am super excited about the opportunity, but as I was cleaning my house it hit me: where is all my stuff going to go? And what will I do without the fifty teaching books that I regularly reference like Zero Prep and my huge file cabinet of lessons (which of course I only have paper copies of)? I have heard EFL teachers talk about bringing one boo abroad (usually Azar).  But I just can’t imagine it.

And then I start to think about my other stuff: My poor furniture, clothes and colorful dishes that I’ll have to leave behind.  I know that is silly. I have lived aboard before and it is actually surprisingly easy to pack a years worth of stuff in two bags. I know that is really the least of my worries.

But truth be told, I am so excited about the opportunity and not really worried. I know it will be perfect. I still have a few weeks before I have to sign the contract, but I think my mind is made up.

Amanda Says Goodbye

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

If only our members knew how funny Amanda really is. I have to cut brilliant jokes from at least half the lessons she’s in they’re just not suitable for English lessons. But they’re more than enough to make me and the rest of the Ebaby! cast laugh really hard every time we meet.

A couple of months ago, Amanda told us she was going to leave English, baby!. We tried to talk her out of it, but it was no use. When the time to tape Amanda’s last set of lessons was coming up, we had to find a way to have Jason and Devan be healed and for Amanda’s character to leave the soap opera. So we decided Amanda would miraculously heal her friends with prayer and then become a nun.

It’s tragic, really, since the whole idea of having a soap opera on English, baby! was inspired by comments from our users that they wanted to see Amanda and Mason get together. We spent months dragging out the tension between them, and when their characters finally got together, it really was kind of magical. So it’s not only a shame that the Ebaby! staff and members won’t get to see Amanda as much, but also that her character’s relationship had to end.

We haven’t posted all the movie and music lessons that we taped with Amanda yet, but since her final soap opera episode goes on the homepage on Tuesday, I asked her if she would answer a few questions over email so her fans could get some closure. Be sure to visit this look back on her character on the soap as well.

Jason: You’re moving on and we’re so sad to see you go. You were on the Ebaby! cast long before I was. How did you get involved with it? What are you going to do now?

Amanda: Over two years ago, I came across an interesting posting on Craigslist. I was a stay at home mom, just easing her way back into the workforce. In addition to working part time teaching baby/toddler song and dance classes as a glorified clown, I wanted to do something else on the side. Something that had nothing to do with being around little kids. No offense to my only and favorite son.

I loved the fact that Ebaby! was an online resource for those learning English. We’ve come a long way w/ESL programs. Plus, my old buddies from college (shout out to Phi Kappa Psi!) had created a group companies that Ebaby! is a part of, so that totally sold me.

Right now I am going to try and spend more quality time w/my kid. It’s funny, the grass is always greener. When I was a stay at home mom, I wanted nothing more than to get back to work. Now that I’m working my freaking flat ass off 24/7, all I wanna do is be with my kid. I will continue working my other 100 jobs: 1) Tradeshow/NanoPort Operation MGR at FEI 2) Property Manager 3) Actor/Model. I was burning the candle at both ends for a while and no one wins in that scenario. When your kid looks you in the face and says, “Why don’t you wanna spend time with me anymore? You come home from work and then you go back out to work,” it’s time to re-evaluate and take a breather. My bad.

Jason: What’s your all time favorite lesson that you’ve been in? Does one stick out as your least favorite?

Amanda: That’s easy. The phone call between Amanda and Jason. I could watch that one a hundred times, oh wait, I already have. There’s just something about the cadence between the two of us that is freaking hilarious. And there’s that special and perfect douse of awkwardness. Voila!

My least favorite (but not because it isn’t a good lesson) is between Amanda and Devan, when Devan announces that she has cancer. Yes, I think that it’s important to increase awareness of something that has taken loved ones from all of us, but at the same time, I felt uncomfortable acting as though she was sick when she really wasn’t. It seemed almost taboo to me. I felt uncomfortable the entire 60 seconds.

Jason: You’re really funny, and the members didn’t get to see a lot of your jokes because they can be a little too adult for the site. Where did you get your sense of humor?

Amanda: I actually don’t find myself funny at all. Usually, I figure people are just laughing at me. My father is a self-proclaimed pervert, a dirtbag, if you will. I guess I am my father’s daughter. When you grow up with Playboys laid out on the kitchen table like they were Good Housekeeping and a VHS collection of porn by the living room TV, you tend to become very candid about sex.

My biggest fear of all time is stand up comedy. I really admire those guys. I would pee my pants if someone put me on a stage with a mic and said, “Make us laugh!” Oh and by the way, Tina Fey is my idol. Unbelievable how funny she is. Delicious stuff right there.

Jason: You do a lot of acting outside of English, baby! What are some of the most interesting rolls you’ve played? Where can we see your work?

Amanda: About the same time that I started with Ebaby!, I dove into the ever challenging and humbling world of acting. I have no formal training so I’m pretty much fumbling my way through, simply giving it my best. It’s for fun more than anything, at least right now. Because I am always on Craigslist, I went to my first casting through a posting, landed the principle role, got an agent and the rest is history. Now I can’t imagine not having it in my life. Better late than never. I’ve always wanted to play a hooker but have yet to have the opportunity. Some of the more interesting roles have included: reporter, attorney, college sports fanatic and Asian Woman. That last one took months to prep for.

Some really exiting news: A feature film that I shot last summer is an Official Selection of the Phoenix Film Festival! We could not be more ecstatic about the recognition. I just booked my flight and can’t wait for a weeks worth of screening and parties. You can follow our journey on www.frontave.com, as we’ll blog about our experience at the festival.

Jason: You mentioned once that it’s hard for Asian women to be cast in comedic roles. Can you talk about that?

Amanda: With the exception of Margaret Cho, there aren’t a lot of comedic Asian female actors, nor roles for those actors. We are mostly depicted in a more serious, dramatic, dark, aggressive, competitive, cold and sometimes oversexed/vixon-esque light. Not that that’s a bad thing. But when was the last time you saw a slapstick style sitcom or film with an Asian as the lead? Jackie Chan, not included. It’ll come around some day, but for now, the audience isn’t gonna gravitate to the Asian chick for a chuckle right now.

Jason: Finally, in the last episodes of your character, you become a nun and leave town. If you were going to make a sudden, dramatic change in your real life, what would it be?

: This is a tough question as I am a total and complete creature of habit. I have to do what I normally do and if not, there has to be a plan. There are few things I’d drop everything for to chase. And I actually would never even do that. I’d have to convince my husband and kid to come with, otherwise it would be a no-go. The only sudden, dramatic changes I could think of would be:

1) Have a 2nd child
2) Quit my day job to be back home
3) Move to Bend or Palm Springs
4) Get my real estate broker’s license
5) Change my current cell phone plan

And there’s no chance I’d do any of these anyway. That’s what she said.