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

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

letgo
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.

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.

As The World Learns Season 3: The Wedding

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The end of last season last left the characters of our English lesson soap opera series in bad shape. Jason and Devan had broken up and called off their wedding. Dale was gaining weight and his life was out of control.

The most recent cycle of episodes resumes the excitement of the first season in which Devan and Jason got engaged, and takes it to the next level. Each episode, which teaches a particular slang term or idiom, saw things slowly improve for the characters and move toward the wedding finale.

We had a lot of fun with this season–about half the episodes feature musical sequences. We hope you enjoy learning from them or sharing them with your students. As always, these videos are semi-scripted in order to show authentic English dialog.

Watch all 10 videos here and see the guide below for links to the full lessons.

3.01 – Misery Loves Company: Devan and Mason watch a sad movie together.
3.02 – Man Up: Marni gives Jason advice about how to fix things with Devan.
3.03 – Face the Music: Ella (and music by Workout) helps Dale with his weight problem.
3.04 – Take Someone Back: Jason asks for Devan’s forgiveness…in song.
3.05 – Hottie: Mason tells everyone at the office that he has a girlfriend.
3.06 – Get Over Someone: Ella considers that maybe Mason has gotten over her.
3.07 – Heartbroken: Ella has a strange feeling. What could it be?
3.08 – Bro Down: Jason holds his bachelor party at an arcade (music by Spamtron).
3.09 – Held Up: A robbery makes Devan late to the wedding.
3.10 – Without a Hitch: After she arrives, Devan and Jason’s wedding goes perfectly.

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!

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.

Donald Trump Impersonated on ESL Soap Opera

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

donald_crew
On the most recent episode of As The World Learns, the English, baby! soap opera, one of our long-time cast members, Marni, impersonates Donald Trump.

Normally, as co-writer and director of the show, I have to convince the actors up to this sort of thing. Not this time. This was all Marni’s idea. She knew the slacking character of Ella was going to have to change her ways soon, and she suggested that she could impersonate the billionaire star of The Apprentice to scare her straight. When she presented the idea, it seemed so thought out that I assumed she had dressed up as Trump before.

Turns out she hadn’t–it was just a crazy idea. So the day before the shoot we needed a wig to match Trump’s trademarked messed up short hair. I picked one up that would have worked, but in the mean time Marni made one out of a rug that was just so terrible that we had no choice but to use it.

Compare the two and watch the video!
donald_head

trump


Top Image: Everyone wanted a picture with fake Donald Trump, including the crew who only rarely ends up on camera. From left to right, sound engineer Shawn Willis, co-writer and director Alexis Nelson and Director of Photography Scott Ballard.

Amanda and Mason: A Look Back

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Since Amanda is leaving English, baby! and her character is breaking up with Mason on the soap opera, I thought I’d put together a few highlights from their relationship, which was at the center of the soap opera plot when it began in late 2007, and has continued throughout it’s first 60 episodes. (It was also loosely based on my real life.)

Crush on a Friend

Before there was the soap opera, there was this lesson. I asked Mason and Amanda to improv a conversation on the topic, and the members demanded more.

 

 

Mason’s Date

This was the first soap opera episode and the first in a long series of episodes in which Mason is oblivious to the fact that Amanda likes him.

 

 

Cuddling on the Couch

One the best Mason-is-oblivious lessons and probably our most sexually suggestive lesson ever. It’s also worth watching for hilarious Friends references.

 

 

Foul Ball

Meanwhile, my character tried to hook up with Amanda. It didn’t go very well. This was the first of several episodes in which Amanda and I are fantastically awkward.

 

 

Triangulate

And Devan developed a crush on Mason, which made for tension between her and Amanda. I love lighthearted Mason is when he enters the scene.

 

 

It’s Raining Men

Amanda couldn’t decide what to do. Was it worth it to try to wait for Mason? What if he never noticed her? Marni gives her advice, and Amanda wonders if maybe Jason would be a good option after all.

 

 

Magic Moment

But just in time, they finally got together in a very unique, pre-scripted English, baby! lesson, which was filmed in Amanda’s actual living room.

 

 

Trouble in Paradise

After some months of happiness, Mason and Amanda had a fight that was rooted in the drama that took place before they got together.

 

 

Awful Flirty

During her fight with Mason, Amanda spent some time with Jason in order to make Mason jealous. Amanda is so good at acting flirty, that I actually got king of embarrassed here and had a hard time thinking of things to say.

 

 

Make Up

But before too long, Amanda and Mason realized they were being silly and made up on an afternoon walk. I wanted this scene to recall the cover of The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, but in the take we wound up using, they didn’t lock arms.

 

My True Love Gave to Me

When the holidays rolled around, Amanda got Mason a great gift and he got her a not so great gift…and then surprised her with 7 more!

 

 

Healed

Then, when Devan and Jason were both in bad health, Amanda prayed for them to get better. It worked, and she shocked everyone by announcing she would become a nun.

 

 

Farewell

And in her last Ebaby! appearance, Amanda leaves Mason to become a nun. It’s a sad and awkward scene that’s difficult to watch. Just minutes after shooting this, Amanda left Ebaby! forever and Mason and everyone else were sad to see her go in real life too.

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?

Amanda
: 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.

Language Learners Love to Love

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Guess which of our nearly 3000 English lessons has the most comments? Last year’s Will You Be My Valentine lesson is the winner with 230. I think it has a lot to do with that hilarious photo (thanks, iStockphoto)!

This year we have a whole series of Valentine’s lessons planned for next week, but our members beat us to it with a love poem forum thread. The topic of romance is definitely a favorite among Ebaby! members. Almost every week we feature at least one, sometimes two lessons about relationships and dating. The response to our Crush on a Friend lesson was so positive that it inspired us to start a soap opera that’s now on its 58th episode. The most popular episodes and plot lines are ones where couples get together, like the first time Mason realizes he likes Amanda and when Marni starts her long-distance relationship with a guy she met online. My favorite episodes to act in were actually the ones where my attempts at romance were failing, and people liked those too.

And don’t forget the most popular of all pages on the site, our Turkrainian Wedding video.

I think it’s really great that this topic is so popular. I was just reading today about how you can get in trouble for kissing in public in India, so it’s kind of amazing that despite great cultral differences about love and dating, people from all over the world can relate to stories about it.

Devan Doesn't Actually Have a Problem

Friday, April 25th, 2008

You were never supposed to see the photo to your left. It’s from a lesson that we shot in my semi-abandoned house that we decided never to use because it was “too dark.” But the plot development it inspired stayed in the English, baby! soap opera, much to Devan’s dismay.

See, when the cast arrived to film some scenes at my house–which has holes in the walls and very little furniture– we thought, “What can we do with this apocalyptic setting?” It occurred to me that Devan should be addicted to drugs. We already established her supposed propensity for substance abuse in this drunk driving lesson, and she was recently broken hearted.

So we threw a sheet on the ground and some empty bottles and did a really depressing scene where I come in to Devan’s apartment and discover that she’s sold everything for drugs.

I should say depressing in retrospect because it was actually hilarious at the time. First of all, Devan was supposed to be addicted to pot, which you can’t get addicted to. But in a lot of countries, pot a major crime so no one doe it, so we had a good laugh about people in Asia believing someone could get addicted to pot and sell all their stuff to buy it.

Second of all, Devan and I used to be roommates and I happen to know that pot treats her very poorly (like, vomiting for days) so she never ever smokes it. So it was a little inside joke for us too.

But then we got to the next cast session a month later, filmed on the streets of downtown Portland, and I told Devan we had to shoot a new scene about her being addicted to drugs. Suddenly she really didn’t want to do it! I finally convinced her that she should do it for the members because they need to know a lot of the good drug vocabulary that would come with the lesson and for me because I already had the rest of the plot build around it.

But it took four takes to get the scene we ended up using. Devan kept going silent when someone walked by because she was embarrassed. So if you see Devan around, tease her about her pot addiction for me, will ya?

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