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Posts Tagged ‘slang’

As The World Learns Season 5: Ch-Ch-Changes

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

A lot can happen in a weekend. This season of the English lesson soap opera finds Jeff coming into work on Monday after missing the previous Friday for dental surgery. He’s surprised to find that Amanda has not only been hired, she’s also dating Mason. At the end of last season, it wasn’t clear at all what would happen.

As the English lesson videos continue, so do the changes. Marni is pregnant, and we soon learn that someone might loose their job. By the end of the season, two characters will leave and two will be united a way no one ever thought possible. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. There are lots of cool English phrases to learn first.

5.01 – Make Someone’s Head Spin: All the changes at the office have Jeff confused.
5.02 – Let Someone In: Amanda is moving too fast for Mason.
5.03 – Under Wraps: Marni has a secret, but how long can she keep it?
5.04 – Go Overboard: Amanda tries harder than she has to.
5.05 – Let Someone Go: Someone at the office might lose their job.
5.06 – Step Up: Jeff offers to help Marni in any way she needs.
5.07 – Save the Day: Amanda comes up with a plan to save her job.
5.08 – Rat Race: Devan and Jason have enough of the city.
5.09 – Come Clean: It feels good to tell a secret, so everyone does.
5.10 – Let Go: Mason’s friends help him take a big step.

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 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.

English, baby! in the WSJ

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

Today’s edition of The Wall Street Journal includes an article about American slang that features several quotes from English, baby! co-founder and CEO John Hayden. It’s an honor to be alongside so many exciting companies and fascinating individuals in this story in one of our country’s most well-respected and widely read publications.

We had fun looking at our most popular English lessons and terms gathering information for the story, too. We can’t really give too much thought to what slang people want to learn and why. The writer of the piece, Alina Dizik, did a great job of pressing us to think hard about these questions and including some great perspectives and anecdotes in the piece.

I especially like the story about Jie Teng, a business student in China who misused the term “hook up.” This is exactly the situation we had in mind while creating an upcoming lesson on the term “fool around.” We walked a fine line to make it clear that this term has plenty of innocent meanings–and a not-so-innocent one–without being over the top.

In fact, I think someone like Jie Teng is often who we have in mind when we create our lessons in general. She’s driven and studying English for a purpose. It’s crucial that we be honest with her and show her how Americans really speak so that she can pursue her goals. Our members trust us not to lead them into embarrassing mistakes, and we take that responsibility very seriously.




Tackling Challenges with Aurelien Collin

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

Aurelien Collin is one of those people you meet and instantly wish was your good friend. He is so fun and energetic and you don’t even have to talk to him to see it–you can tell by the way he plays.

Even at training, Collin is a physical player, making plays for the ball, shouting and waving his arms. When he’s on the pitch representing Sporting Kansas City, he’s an animal–no one can miss this French star.

Naturally, we asked him to teach some fairly active terms when he agreed to be our latest celebrity English teacher. We started off with challenge because I had heard that Collin only had a couple of weeks to get ready for the season after joining his new team in KC. That sounded like a challenge to me. Of course, Collin said it wasn’t a challenge at all, but we talked about other types of challenges.

Next, we asked Collin to explain tackle.

Watching Collin speak English is kind of like watching him stop a striker. He has to get creative and he tackles the problem with confidence. MLS and Sporting KC are lucky to have this guy and so are we!

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!

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.

Slang from the Past!

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

While we were working with our local newspaper on this story they just published about us (click here for more behind the scenes info on this story), one idea that came up was to do a “hot and not” list of our slang lessons. That is, a list of recent lessons on cool slang and a list of older, out-dated slang lessons.

The idea was ultimately scrapped, but not before I spent a couple of hours creating just such a list. While I am proud to say that we never actually did a lesson on “gettin’ jiggy wit it,” here are six slang lessons that either because of the context or the ever-changing nature of slang, are now rather amusing.

6.old G” –  First off, the quote in this lesson comes from rapper Jadakiss. Um, who? But furthermore, I think even old Gs realize it’s not 1992 anymore and have quit talking about how gangsta they are.

5.dope” – While this term is still commonly used (although not around anyone’s grandmother, of course), what dates this lesson is one of the example sentences that was used: “Mark bought a dope CD yesterday. It’s by this group called the Gorillaz. Have you heard of them? I think they’re from England.”

4.  girlie men” – This one probably hasn’t seen much use since Hanz and Franz were on SNL, but the kicker here is that the quote for this lesson comes from none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger,  of Terminator and now Governor of California fame.

3.wife beater” – I’m glad this one went out of style. I haven’t heard anyone call an undershirt a “wife beater” in several years. It used to be kind of sketchy to walk around wearing a “wife beater.” Now it’s probably sketchier to use the term “wife beater” to talk about anything other than a criminal.

2. off the hook” – This phrase truly died only recently when Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele starting using it in interviews frequently. Nothing kills slang like someone who is completely and totally uncool using it to try to be cool.

1. the three R’s” – I’ve come to learn that some crazy stuff happened before I started working here two years ago, but even I am surprised that this phrase became an Ebaby! lesson. I mean, most of our out of date stuff comes from the ’90s. I don’t know how far back you have to go to get to when this was a cool phrase. Maybe you could ask Donald Trump, who gives us the lesson’s quote.

So there you have it, the “not” list. The “hot” list isn’t nearly as funny. That’s probably why this idea never made it into the newspaper. But nonetheless, here’s what I came up with.

5.bail out” – If you wanted to read a newspaper after October 2008, you needed to know this one.

4.Joe six-pack” – It’s hard to believe it’s been less than a year since the US presidential election launched an unknown plumber into fame. Give this one 5 more minutes and it will be in the “not” pile.

3.such as” – While not really slang, this one counts as “hot” because it was inspired by the incredible and viral misuse of this term by Miss South Carolina.

2.dialed in” – Maybe it’s just me, but I hear this one all the time now.

1.watered down” –  And finally, in the age when any band that was popular at any time can come back and make money on a tour with one or even zero original members, this one comes to us from Rage Against the Machine, who reached their prime back when most of the “not” list was in style and remained dormant until last year.

Thanks a Million

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Since we just hit one million members last week, we decided to make a week’s worth of lessons that had to do with the number one million. It doesn’t sound to hard, right? It’s a number you hear a lot. But once we had What Would You Do with a Million Dollars?, a lesson about the millions made by celebrities and a lesson about the lottery, we started to notice a trend. What would make a good one-million topic that didn’t have to do with money?

Of course! The phrase “thanks a million“! It pretty much sums how we feel about the occasion–very grateful that a more than a million people around the world have chosen to learn on English, baby! and give us a reason to what we enjoy doing! A lot of people in the comments of the lesson were sweet enough to say, “thanks a million!” right back at us.

There were also a lot of good shout outs to other things people are grateful for. One member Colombia, andrescisneros, said “thanks a million” to his mother who, “who knows about my needs.” Amido Hernan Rios, also from Colombia, is thankful for “persons who are protecting our planet against air pollution, water pollution, land soil pollution, etc…” A member from China named andysun actually saw the phrase as a way to meet hardships: “whatever you meet or suffer, it is a good way to say ‘thanks a million’ cause the good things make you better, the bad things make you stronger.”

I was happy to see how an EXTREME English lesson, which was designed to be really silly, made people think about what really means a lot to them and express it in English. Our million members continue to amaze me.