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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.

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!

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!

Donald Trump Impersonated on ESL Soap Opera

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

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!


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.

Learning English on the Job with E-40

Monday, October 18th, 2010

e40 003
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.
e40 001
Visit E-40 online.

Far Out: Learning English with Tech N9ne

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Tech N9ne
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!
Visit Tech N9ne’s official website.

English Lesson at the Bowling Alley with Jared Dudley

Friday, May 7th, 2010


The Phoenix Suns were here in Portland to play against the Trailblazers in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. I had approached some of them about doing celebrity English lessons for English, baby!, but hadn’t heard back. I figured they were probably too busy staying focused.

But then one of my friends posted on facebook that the Suns were hanging out at Grand Central Bowl. This was very exciting news because it’s just across the river from our office and we know it’s OK to film there–we shot some scenes for the beginning and end of our Winter Olympic videos there.

Everyone was gone for the day from the office, so I sent a taxi for Devan at her house. Normally she just acts in our lessons, but she was the only person available to hold the camera! On the way over to Grand Central, I made a plan to have Channing Frye introduce me to Steve Nash so I could interview him. I came up with some questions.

The facebook post made it seem like the whole team was at the bowling alley. I pictured them bowling against each other in small teams. But when we arrived, we found there were only a few players, Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, and Jared Dudley watching the NBA Playoffs on TV.

Quickly, I had to come up with new questions for each. After gathering some courage, I walked up to Amar’e, explained who I was, and asked if he’d like to do an interview. He was nice as he declined, saying, “Nah, I’m good.” Jared overheard me explaining to Amar’e that English, baby! gets a lot of traffic in China.

“How much traffic do you have in China?” Jared asked.

I told him and gave him my card.

“I’ll hit you up sometime,” he said.

“Oh come on, let’s do an interview right now.” I replied.

He agreed. But as we began to set up, I realized that in my hurry to get to the bowling alley to catch the Suns, I forgot to put a tape in the camera! Jared said he was going to hang out and watch the rest of the game (Milwaukee was playing Atlanta). So we ran back to the office and came back. He was still there, and still happy to be interviewed, thank goodness! What a good guy. And what a good interview too. He’s a natural on camera. No wonder he makes daily videos and posts them to his twitter account. He even let Devan get a picture with him, which you see above. Without further ado, the interview video. You can see the whole lesson here.

Making an Educational YouTube Video

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Mark RoquetVideos can be really fun in the classroom. In older posts, I have explained a few ways to use YouTube videos in the classroom. They can be used in esl lessons about food. Students can also learn to use YouTube videos in their presentations or you can integrate them into lectures. Well, now, I have a slightly new challenge for you. Make your own educational video!

TeacherTube is full of videos teachers and/or students have made. You can use YouTube and TeacherTube to find videos for your esl classes, but when you just can’t find what you are looking for it might be time to make your own video. The next few posts will explain how to make a YouTube video.

First, you have to start with some video clips. Use your cellphone, a video camera, a web cam, whatever to capture some video and audio. I used the built in video camera and microphone on my Macbook to make this video. It will be used in an international studies class. The final project in the class is to make an annotated bibliography and this explains how to do it.

Once you have the video, you have to find video editing software. You probably have one on your computer. On Macs, there is iMovie. On PCs, there is Movie Maker.

So from here out, the directions are for macs on iMovie. But I have used Movie Maker and it is pretty simple too.

Once you have the video recordings, you need to import them into iMovie (File > Import Movie). A simpler option is to record video in the iMovie program using a webcam. Then, go through the recordings and drag the parts you want to use into the video screen. The process is a simple drag and drop. (There is a link at the bottom of this to a more detailed video tutorial.)

The next step is to add titles. There is a little “T” for text or maybe for title. Click on the “T” and the different formats of titles come up. Drag and drop the title that you want to the place where you want it.

Once you’re finished adding video clips and titles, press Share in the toolbar and then select YouTube. Follow the steps (including creating a YouTube account) and before you know it you will have a video on YouTube.

Here is an iMovie tutorial. It may seem a little complicated. But I opened the iMovie program for the first time last week and was able to completely finish a YouTube video in less than one hour!

Cast Session in Bike Messenger Territory or the Curse of No Country for Old Men

Friday, April 4th, 2008

Every month or so, the cast gets together to make lesson videos. We call this a cast session.

We had a session a couple of nights ago at a mellow and supposedly haunted pizza joint near the office. Amanda knows one of the owners and emailed to ask if we could film there. He didn’t reply, but we figured it would be cool.

But after about one video we got kicked out. I guess video cameras anger the ghosts. As we walked down the street looking for a new location, I suggested we stop outside another mellow local business so we could recreate a scene that happened in real life.

I commonly flip coins and roll dice to make decisions. Ever since Devan saw No Country for Old Men, this freaks her out, because apparently the killer in the movie does something similar (I am the only person in America who hasn’t seen it yet). We recorded a lesson on the movie a few months ago, but one of the microphones was accidentally off, so I figured we’d do it again.

We started setting up to film a quick video at an outdoor table. Now, this bar happens to be frequented by bike messengers. And bike messengers are usually good folk. I interviewed one the other day. Anyway, a stocky messenger came out of the bar and started looking at us a little funny. Mason asked him if we were blocking access to his bike. He said no and continued to stare.

“It’s not a joke, you know, this is what we do,” he said out of nowhere.

“Oh we’re just making videos that help people learn English. Nothing to do with bike messengers,” I said.

“This is bike messenger territory.”

I laughed.

“Oh you think that’s funny?”

I laughed some more. I mean, I expected him to say he was joking at any minute.
“Just keep laughing!” He yelled.

“I just don’t understand what we’re arguing about,” I laughed. ‘Cause, really, I didn’t, and it was quite silly.

“Why don’t you just go back where you came from?”

Now, noticing a Canadian flag patch on his jacket, and perhaps a hint of a Canadian accent, I dropped the wise-guy line, “OK, we’ll go back to Canada.”

“Say that again.” Dead serious.

“Um, we’re from Canada?” Then he mumbled some expletives and went back inside. We shot the scene, but I was in such a hurry to get out of there that I forgot to hit stop on the recorder at the end before I turned it off, which causes the audio to get erased. Mason’s going to check if the audio from the camera might be good enough, but my guess is that we’re going to have record a third lesson on No Country for Old Men. Oh well, that one was probably a little rushed for ESL students anyway.

Mason said if I had gotten in a fight he would have filmed it. I told him that was the right thing to do.