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Learning Soccer Slang with International Stars

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

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We recently got a taste of World Cup action just up the street from the English, baby! office in Portland. The US Women’s National Team took on the Canadians, and two of the athletes were happy to teach some new vocabulary to our members around the world.

Canadian goalkeeper Karina LeBlanc talked about the number one term every goalie must know, “save”. She was tons of fun. We grabbed her right after she said hello to ESPN broadcaster and women’s soccer legend Julie Foudy (pictured above).

There were a few hundred fans there to watch the teams practice. Just before signing some autographs, US defender Ali Krieger gave us an interview. Since she’s such a smart player and a leader, we had her teach the more abstract term “distribution.” She also happened to use the phrase “sink or swim,” so we turned that into a second video.

We also recently featured a pair of lessons by the only Japanese player in MLS, Kosuke Kimura. He talks about last year’s MLS Cup in which his Colorado Rapids pulled off a come from behind victory, and he demonstrates how to “cut the angle” in a hotel lobby. This easy going attitude has made Kosuke a fan favorite, so it’s no surprise that these videos were covered by soccer blogs including Soccer 365 and Burgundy Wave.

You can find more soccer slang lessons on English, baby! See you next season.

International LPGA Stars Teach Golf Vocabulary

Friday, September 16th, 2011

With our Celebrity English Lesson series, the philosophy is, you might as well learn from the best. While we’ve had guest teachers from all sorts of sports and entertainment fields, it’s rare that we get someone who is actually the very best at what they do (gold medalists Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbo and Girl Talk come to mind). So we’re thrilled to have defending LPGA Champion and number female 1 golfer in the world, Taiwanese superstar Yani Tseng.

Yani shares some basic golf terms and talks about learning English. At 22, she’s the youngest golfer ever to win 5 majors, so the fact that she acquired excellent English skills along the way is no small accomplishment!

We spoke with Yani at the LPGA Safeway Classic in North Plains, Oregon. Our friend John Canzano even mentioned us in his coverage of the event for The Oregonian. It was the Pro-Am day, and a couple of other well-known players were available to help us teach English as well. Korean star IK Kim was practicing on the putting green when we found her and chatted about the phrase “hole in one”.

Beatriz Recari was actually checking out some sunglasses from a vendor on the fairway (Spaniards love them some shades), but was happy to share her favorite golf term, “stinger”, with us and talk about her mission to learn exotic languages.

After we talked to Beatriz, she headed off to lunch. Food came up in our interview with Yani as well, so we put together this bonus clip just for the blog.

The LPGA Tour is heading to Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia and Mexico this fall, as well as other places. Say hi for us if you see any of these athletes!

Girl Talk Teaches Slang

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011


Gregg Gillis, who makes music under the name Girl Talk, is a really smart guy. His music alone gives that away–it can’t be easy to mix parts of more than 300 songs into one very danceable album. Before Girl Talk became his job, he was an engineer, and you can hear how scientifically he speaks in these English lesson videos we recorded with him during his tour stop in Portland.

First, we talked about the phrase “out of the blue” and how his latest album, All Day, surprised everyone.

Then, we talked about the term “sample.”

It was so nice of Gregg to spend 15 minutes or so with us both in his dressing room and up on the stage. He really seemed to get the concept of our Celebrity English Lessons and said he had watched the one with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and liked it.

Interestingly, before this interview with Gregg took place, we had been planning to run a music English lesson about Girl Talk anyway. We recorded a conversation about him for the dialog. You can listen to me and Ella from the Ebaby! cast chatting about All Day below. And don’t forget, you can always download the album for free!

Yi Jianlian on Learning English

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

One of the most watched NBA games ever took place in November of 2007. Why would a game near the beginning of the season be watched by so many people? Most of the fans watching were in China. It was the first time Yao Ming and the Houston Rockets played against young star Yi Jianlian and the team that drafted him, the Milwaukee Bucks. More than 200 million people tuned in to what came to be known as the “Chinese Super Bowl.”

Though in the US, Yi’s fame is nowhere near that of Yao’s, he is a superstar in China and he’s still new to the NBA. His game has to improve if he’s going to take over where Yao leaves off, but his English is coming along nicely. When he first arrived in the US, he used an interpreter and spoke little English. But when we approached him–in English–for an interview at a recent Washington Wizards media session, he didn’t hesitate and confidently agreed. The result is our latest Celebrity English Lesson in which Yi teaches the phrase “put the ball on the floor.”

One thing we cut from this video is a part where I asked Yi if there were any basketball terms he had a hard time with when he first came here. The answer surprised me. He said he didn’t know what was meant by “cut to the basket.” Of course, this phrase means to run quickly toward the basket so that your teammate can pass you the ball and you can score. It’s not something I think of basketball slang exactly, so Yi’s comment may help us find more good basketball idioms we’ve been overlooking.

Bone Thugs 'n' English, baby!

Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011

The latest celebrity English teachers on English, baby! are none other than Layzie Bone and Flesh-n-Bone of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. When I saw the group was fully reunited and coming to Portland, I thought, “How cool would it be to get them to teach a lesson about being at a crossroads?” Thanks to our friend Cool Nutz who introduced us, that dream became a reality.

Unlike most of our English lesson interviews with famous musicians, which take place before the show, this interview occurred at about 1am, after a Bone Thugs concert. It was fun. The guys were loose and happy to chat. They liked the concept of English, baby! and didn’t want to stop at one lesson, so here is some bonus footage in which they teach some very high-level slang. This was an English lesson for me as well!

It is so cool that these guys spoke so slowly. They seemed really aware of the fact that they were helping people in other countries learn English with this interview. They were such nice people–and to think, the crossroads in the both of their lives involved going to prison! I hope Bone Thugs has lots of success with their new album.

Visit Bone Thugs’ website here.

Talking Speed Slang with Rip Hamilton

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011


You may or may not know that Tracy McGrady is huge in China. The anticipation of having the one-time leading scorer of the NBA on the same Rockets team as Yao Ming really excited the fans there. The dream never came to fruition due to injuries, but McGrady remains such a fan favorite that he was almost voted into the All Star game last year despite not having played that season due to injury.

Now McGrady plays for the Detroit Pistons, so we attended their practice planning to talk to him for our Celebrity English Lessons series. But he was unavailable. Who else on the team would have an international angle to discuss?

Luckily, the team’s PR staff suggested Richard “Rip” Hamilton because he had just been to China. I’m really glad we got to talk to him. He got excited as soon as we started talking about China and it seems like he had a really good experience there. He also did a great job teaching the terms “coast to coast” and “run the floor”.

At first, I didn’t recognize the NBA Champion and three-time All-Star without his famous protective mask. Somehow, the mask makes him look a little scary, so I was pleasantly surprised when he was so friendly and eager to talk to us. I suppose the intimidation factor is a bonus for him on the court. You know, in addition to avoiding a repeat of the facial injuries he suffered in the past.

Image: Rip guarding T-Mac before they were teammates. From Reuters.

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!

Basketball Star Carmelo Anthony Teaches Slang

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Carmelo Anthony’s nickname is Melo for obvious reasons. But it works on two levels because he’s famously mellow and easy going. You can see it when you watch him play in the NBA–he doesn’t ever seem to lose his cool and it enables him to do things like make game winning shots with four seconds left.

Sure enough, when we attended a recent Denver Nuggets to talk to Melo about Amazing, the upcoming movie he shot in China last summer, and to add him to our growing list of Celebrity English teachers, he lived up to the name. As I mention in the video, the guy has a lot going on, but seemed really calm and focused stretching and running defensive sets and then laid-back and focused on us when we started talking to him for this English lesson on the slang phrase, “mellow out”.

It’s really interesting to hear that Carmelo doesn’t like his Chinese nickname, Tian Gua (甜瓜), which means “sweet melon.” One commenter on the lesson explains that it came from “his sweet smile, lovely babyface and polite behaviors.” All good ways of gaining fans in China, but not necessarily intimidating to opponents, I guess.

Learning English on the Job with E-40

Monday, October 18th, 2010

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Our friend Cool Nutz did us a big favor and recommended to his friend E-40 that he do an English lesson with us. E-40 is a very well-known rapper from Oakland, California. He is actually the first artist to be the subject of a regular Ebaby! lesson made of a conversation between our actors and later to personally appear in an interview. We met with him when he played at the theater just down the street from the English, baby! offices in Portland earlier this month.

Maybe it’s his clothes, or maybe it’s the way he walks and talks, but any room instantly gets cooler as soon as E-40 walks into it. Before we met with him, he was signing autographs for a large group of fans. You could feel their excitement over meeting him.

E-40 is a natural fit for a Celebrity English Lesson because he uses a lot of interesting slang in his music. In fact, he used a lot of slang in our interview with him. We tried to include a lot of the simpler phrases and terms he used in the editing of this video so that English students with an intermediate level could understand it. I think it came out well. It’s interesting having a celebrity do an English lesson about time and work–subjects you would actually see in an ESL text book!

When I was preparing for this interview, I learned that E-40 invents a of slang phrases. You know the phrase, “What it do?” Apparently that’s his. I asked him what his latest slang creation was. It didn’t make the final cut of the lesson, but here’s E-40 explaining “for the energy.” You should be hearing this one on a daily basis in a year or two.

Finally, I love how E-40 threw up the metal sign for this photo. We didn’t even talk about metal, but somehow he must have known I am a metalhead. Maybe it had to do with the fact that Tech N9ne was running around looking like a member of Gwar that day.
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Visit E-40 online.

Far Out: Learning English with Tech N9ne

Monday, October 11th, 2010

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When we got on Tech N9ne’s tour bus, there were a few guys sitting inside. I didn’t recognize them, so I asked where I might find Tech.

“I’m the one you want to talk to,” said a voice from a scary mask. At first I was a little skeptical, but he proved who he was by showing us the tattoos on his arms. Once we started talking to him, the mask kind of made sense. We were there to help the English-language students who use English, baby! learn the slang idiom “far out,” and well, that mask was pretty far out. You can see the whole English lesson on Ebaby! or watch the video here:

It was cool that Tech rapped a little during the interview. It’s clear he’s a really smart guy. He makes a good English teacher.

After the interview, Tech showed us around his bus. In the back, he had a full bedroom with a king-sized bed and a granite shower. He bought the bus from Kid Rock.

I attended Tech N9ne’s sold out show that night and was really impressed. I didn’t expect to stay the whole time, but the hour and a half passed quickly because the crowd was so energetic. You can see what I’m talking about in the video. We interviewed another rapper that night as well, so watch the Celebrity English Lesson page and you’ll find out who it is soon!
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Visit Tech N9ne’s official website.

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