When Americans asks “How are you?” it is typically a form of greeting, like saying hello. They are not expecting a detailed response of how you are REALLY doing. Here is a guide to answering “How are you?” when speaking with an American.
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LinkedIn recommends that you avoid using buzzwords when marketing yourself. Their advice: “Demonstrate your skills and experience by providing examples of your talent rather than using buzzwords.” Drawing on the English-language profiles of LinkedIn users around the world, the company put together a list of the most frequently used buzzwords. And here they are:
There were some differences in buzzword usage by country:
* Interesting to note that Americans pride themselves on their patience!
In honor of Thanksgiving, here’s a lesson teaching American English idioms and expressions related to Thanksgiving. It’s the Johnson family celebrating Thanksgiving. You’ll remember the Johnson family from our book Speak English Like an American. The target idioms and expressions in the dialogue are highlighted and defined below. You can download an eBook edition of Talk Turkey on Thanksgiving here: Thanksgiving eBook. The eBook also includes a quiz. We hope you’ll enjoy this English language learning material!
A THANKSGIVING DAY FEAST
The Johnson family is celebrating Thanksgiving with a traditional Thanksgiving day feast. As usual, Ted and his sister Nicole are having trouble getting along. Fortunately, Ted’s girlfriend Amber is with the family and helps break up the tension.
Amber: She’s got a carving knife, she knows how to use it!
Susan: Amber, what a pretty song!
Amber: I’m killing two birds with one stone. I’m coming up with new songs while helping you get Thanksgiving dinner ready.
(ten minutes later)
Susan: Everything’s on the table. We’re ready to eat.
Bob: Before we dig in, I think we should count our blessings.
Susan: I agree. We have so much to be grateful for. For starters, we have our whole family together with us today.
Bob: I’m grateful to the National Cookie Company for buying Susan’s Scrumptious Cookies. That helped us buy our new house.
Ted: I’m grateful to Amber. With her beautiful singing voice, she helped us land a recording contract with Big Deal Records.
Susan: Yes, Amber is certainly blessed with a lovely voice.
Amber: I’m grateful that Ted was able to quit smoking this year, cold turkey!
Susan: What? Ted smoked?
Amber: Oh, not that much.
Nicole: Not much at all. Only about a pack a day!
Ted: It’s a mixed blessing being here today. On the one hand, I get to see Mom and Dad. On the other hand, I have to put up with my sister!
(Everyone is eating)
Susan: Amber, you’re eating like a bird. Everything okay?
Amber: I stuffed myself on turkey while I was cutting it in the kitchen.
Nicole: I thought I noticed a leg missing. I though it walked away by itself!
Ted: Everything was delicious. I’m stuffed!
Susan: I hope you saved room for dessert. We have pecan pie and pumpkin cookies for dessert.
Nicole: Pumpkin cookies?
Susan: Yes. Now’s a good time to break the news. The National Cookie Company* has hired me as a recipe consultant. I’m having all of you test out my new recipe tonight.
Amber: Talk about killing two birds with one stone!
* In the book Speak English Like an American, Susan and Bob sell their cookie business to the National Cookie Company for a “small fortune.”
IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS
(to) kill two birds with one stone – to get two things done at the same time; to solve two problems with one action
Example: Susan killed two birds with one stone by listening to the new Stephen King novel on audiobook while cooking Thanksgiving dinner.
(to) dig in – to start eating
Example: Dig in! Everything will get cold if you don’t start eating.
(to) count one’s blessings – to think about the good things in one’s life; to express gratitude for all that one has (and not focus on what one does not have)
Example: We need to count our blessings. Many houses in town were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy, but ours was hardly touched.
for starters – as a first step; to begin with
Example: We need to clean the house before our company comes. For starters, let’s vacuum downstairs.
(to) land a contract – to get a contract; to finalize a contract (note: land in this context means to gain or secure; you can also land a deal, a job, a contract)
Example: The National Cookie Company landed a contract to distribute its cookies in the largest supermarket chain in California.
blessed with – lucky to have a special quality or character
Example: Nicole finds her chemistry and physics classes very easy. She’s blessed with a scientific mind.
cold turkey – immediately, not gradually (when you quit a habit cold turkey, you stop doing it immediately instead of gradually stopping it)
Example: I drink five cups of coffee a day. If I quit cold turkey, I’m sure I’d start getting headaches.
mixed blessing – a situation or event with both good and bad aspects
Example: Having house guests over Thanksgiving is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we need to prepare rooms for them. On the other hand, we have people to help us eat all that leftover turkey!
(to) put up with – to endure without complaint
Example: Tina’s husband always complains about her cooking. I don’t know how she puts up with him.
(to) eat like a bird – to not eat much; to have a small appetite
Example:That’s all your having? A turkey wing and a small blob of mashed potatoes? You eat like a bird!
(to) stuff oneself / to be stuffed – to overeat; to eat too much / to feel very full
Example: Unfortunately, the dinner was so delicious, I stuffed myself. I don’t think I’ll be able to eat dessert.
(to) save room for dessert – to not eat too much so that one can still eat dessert
Example: “May I have seconds?” – “Sure, but be sure to save room for dessert. We’ve got pumpkin pie.”
(to) break the news – to make something known
Example: Ted said, “Now’s a good time to break the news: Amber and I are getting married!”
Talk about … – That’s an example of; we were talking before about … (often used when a topic has recently mentioned and another example has come up, or to add emphasis to a point you are making)
Example: Talk about overeating. Ted just ate two turkey legs, a big pile of stuffing, and half a green bean casserole!
Now users of Android-based smartphones and tablets can enjoy the Speak English Like an American app too! It’s just been released on Google Play. Click here to visit Google Play and download it. You get 5 lessons free (no strings attached!). If you like it, you can keep in improving your English with the remaining 20 lessons for $9.99.
In the app, learners will join an American family as they go about their day-to-day lives. Along the way, they’ll master over 300 of today’s most common English idioms and expressions.
While idioms can be tricky for non-native English speakers, author Amy Gillett explains that they are a key part of gaining fluency in English. “Idioms add color to the language. They make it come alive. They make English learners’ speech sound more natural and less foreign.”
The app includes native speakers reading all the dialogues aloud. Users can record themselves reading the lines and play them back, comparing themselves to native speakers. “The record and playback features helps learners remember the idioms and is also a handy way to practice American pronunciation,” says Tanya Peterson of Language Success Press.
Each lesson features an interactive quiz with immediate feedback and reward icons.
The app is based on the bestselling ESL book, Speak English Like an American. Since its original release 10 years ago, Speak English Like an American has helped tens of thousands of English as a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) speakers master everyday English. The book and CD are popular for both self-study and for the classroom, in use at dozens of universities and language schools around the world. A fifth edition of the Speak English Like an American hard copy book and audio CD was released in January.
Midwest Book Review calls the Speak English Like an American book & audio CD “a highly recommended self-teaching tool for those who are familiar with the English language, yet who seek to take their fluency to new heights by mastering common English idioms.”
We all know that visuals help with learning. So we decided to do something really special for our new iPad app, Speak English Around Town: we integrated short 3D movies into them! Learning English has never been so entertaining. And we’ve added subtitles to these mini-movies so learners can read along. Target expressions are even highlighted. So grab a bucket of popcorn, turn on your iPad, go to iTunes, and download the new Speak English Around Town app.
Through lively and realistic dialogs, Speak English Around Town teaches the expressions you need for everyday life. You’ll use these expressions when shopping, dining out, traveling, and during a dozen other daily activities. Recommended for intermediate & advanced students of English.
The new ESL app features lessons on:
We are pleased to announce the release of the Business English Power Idioms app.
The innovative new app for iPhone & iPad teaches over 100 American English idioms useful for business. The Business English Power Idioms app is available on iTunes here.
The app is the perfect tool for those who need to improve their business English. Users will learn to use the business English idioms and expressions that are most popular today. Idioms include: “aha” moment, stay the course, hit a sweet spot, gain mindshare, and sweat equity. Two usage examples are given for each expression. Usage examples are taken from real situations in today’s business world and feature companies such as Amazon, LinkedIn, Kickstarter, LinkedIn, and Pandora.
The app features native speakers reading the idioms and usage examples aloud. Interactive quizzes give immediate feedback with reward icons.
It’s available on iTunes for $3.99. It’s the latest release in our growing line of ESL apps. Our other mobile apps for learning English include Business English Power Verbs, Speak English Like an American, Speak Business English I & II, and Say it Better in English. Please visit our apps page for more details.
The new app release was featured in the Houston Chronicle. Read the coverage here.
If you teach accent reduction courses either in the classroom or one-on-one, you’ll benefit from reading these terrific tips we’ve gathered from some very experienced accent reduction experts.
#1: Practice for Success
Tell your students that an accent is a speech pattern. We all have an accent! Despite its name, accent reduction is fundamentally about acquiring a new speech pattern. This involves changing the muscle memory of the mouth so that the new speech pattern becomes “second nature.” The process is similar to learning to play an instrument, and it’s most successful when students make a daily commitment to practice. Make a practice plan with your students and include an accountability measure so they can own their progress. Suggest that when speaking aloud, students focus on one sound per day. Set aside 5 minutes in the morning, in the afternoon, and again in the evening to specifically concentrate on words having that particular sound. This is “mindful practice.” The goal is to build an awareness of both the sound and how to produce it, consistently, in context. Reading aloud is another great way to build proficiency.
This tip and several tips that follow are from Judy Ravin and Barb Niemann of the Accent Reduction Institute. They are co-authors of the book, CD-ROM, and audio CD set “Master the American Accent,” published by Language Success Press. Judy Ravin is also the author of the bestselling accent reduction guide, “Lose Your Accent in 28 Days.” Both of these accent reduction guides are used by accent reduction teachers and trainers around the world.
#2: Set the Stage
Prior to program launch, ask your student to listen for sounds in English that don’t occur in their first language. This begins the process of “tuning their ear” to what’s missing in their own repertoire of sounds. Have them make a list and bring it to the first class.
— Judy Ravin and Barb Niemann
#3: Have Your Students do “Reverse Imitation”
Have students do “reverse imitation” by having them think how an English speaker sounds when attempting to speak in their native language. Those funny sounds are clues to how they need to change their way of speaking in English. (For example, in Spanish, English speakers usually “slide around” too much with the vowels, so therefore a Spanish speaker needs to be much more active with their tongue for English vowels). This also can apply to facial movement , comparing the faces of newscasters (with the volume muted) in both languages.
—Laura Elias, The Pronunciation Coach
#4: Assessments: Keep an Open Mind (Ear)
Just as in English, there are many regional dialects in most languages. Don’t assume all speakers from a particular language background have the same need. One size does not fit all. For example, some native Chinese speakers have difficulty distinguishing ‘r’ from ‘l’, while others substitute an ‘n’ for an ‘l’. Remember to keep in mind your student’s objectives. Is it important for them to become familiar with contractions and informal speech patterns? Design a learning plan that’s customized and relevant. At the end of the program, provide a continued growth plan.
— Judy Ravin and Barb Niemann
#5: Phoneme Discrimination is more than Auditory
Adults learn differently than children and adolescents; it’s much more of a visual and kinesthetic process. Therefore, it’s essential to create an awareness of what each sound looks like. Are the lips in the shape of a box for /ɑ/ or an oval for /ɔ/? Is the tip of the tongue visible between the teeth for /ɵ/ and /ð/? Practice in front of a mirror to verify lip, tongue, and teeth placement. Also pay attention to what the sound feels like. Can the top teeth be felt on the lower lip for /v/? Providing many techniques for phoneme discrimination is critical for adult learners and gives them an increased ability to self-correct.
— Judy Ravin and Barb Niemann
#6: Think about Sound, not Spelling
We all learn that we have five (or six, if we include ‘y’) vowels. This is true … for grammar. Yet pronunciation is altogether different. English is particularly challenging because the same letter can be pronounced in several ways. In fact, we use these same five (or six) letters to produce 21 standard vowel sounds. For example, the letter ‘o’ has ten different pronunciations in English: “conduct”, “coffee”, “cook”, “cool”, “no”, “none”, “woman”, “women”, “coy”, “coil”, and “clown”. Learn to associate specific articulation techniques with the sound …not the spelling!
— Judy Ravin and Barb Niemann
#7: Have Students Use a Mirror
Using mirror is simple and low tech. The instructor should ask the student to closely watch her mouth as she exaggerates the pronunciation of a “difficult” sound and then use the mirror to make their mouths “do the same thing.” Works every time on “th.” Once they have successfully made the sound, they know they can and can use visual practice with the mirror to build a new habit (and confidence!).
— Sharlene Vichness, Language Directions, LLC
#8: Have Students Slow Down Their Rate of Speech
Have students slow down their rate of speech, model the speech for them, and explain the articulation.
— Judi Srebro, Speech and Communications Coach
#9: Teach Students Casual English
Casual speech patterns help students understand native speakers. And when they begin using it themselves they do sound more like a naive speaker instead of as if they are reading aloud from a book. In casual speech, “got to” becomes “gotta.” “What are you doing? ” becomes “Whaddaya doing?” “Let me help” becomes “Lemme help.” Students really enjoy learning casual English and find it very useful.
— Anne Maki, Clear Speech Specialists
#10: Praise, Praise, Praise
Guided feedback is far more than providing instruction! Begin with praise that’s specific and meaningful. Affirmation goes a long way in building confidence and easing apprehension. Most students are aware of their pronunciation weaknesses; few are tuned in to their strengths. There’s a direct relationship between increased confidence and a willingness to engage in conversation. Helping students excel means creating an environment where they’re recognized for their progress on a consistent basis.
— Judy Ravin and Barb Niemann
As it says in the introduction of our ESL book Speak English Like an American, the English language is very dynamic, always changing to let in new words and expressions. ESL students are challenged to “stay on top” of emerging new slang and expressions (many native speakers are similarly challenged!).
Believe it or not, a lot of people spend a lot of time trying to decide what the English Word of the Year is each year. In fact, hundreds of people went to Boston last week to cast their votes for the English World of the Year at the American Dialect Society’s annual meeting.
And the 2012 Word of the Year is … hashtag. That’s right, the written out version of this symbol #. Twitter users will recognize that as the symbol put before a word to make searching posts for that word easier, like: #ESL. This usage started in 2007. In 2012, its popularity apparently exploded. Says Ben Zimmer of the American Dialect Society:
“This was the year when the hashtag became a ubiquitous phenomenon in online talk. In the Twittersphere and elsewhere, hashtags have created instant social trends, spreading bite-sized viral messages on topics ranging from politics to pop culture.”
Thus, the little hashtag got cast into the spotlight. It got its fifteen minutes of fame as we say in English when talking about something or someone that gets a lot of media publicity (often for a short period of time — hence the reference to “fifteen minutes”).
Many people thought the expression “fiscal cliff” would win the Word of the Year (threat of spending cuts and tax increases hanging over the end-of-year budget negotiations). We certainly heard a lot about that from the media!
In addition to the word of the year prize, new expressions and words can win in a variety of other categories. In the most creative category, the new American English expression gate lice was one of the runners up. Gate lice are those annoying airline passengers who rush to the gates waiting to get on board the plane. How nice to now have a simple way to describe these people. Instead of having to say, “Look at all of those silly people rushing to get on the plane when boarding hasn’t even started” we can now simply say, “Look at the gate lice!”
In the least likely to succeed category, the expression YOLO was the winner (tied for first place with phablet — which is an electronic device sized between the smartphone and the tablet). As just about any American under 30 probably knows, that is an acronym for “You only live once.” It is often used sarcastically (“Go ahead and take the last cookie, YOLO!”). It was popularized by the rapper Drake, who sang about YOLO in one of his songs. YOLO nearly also won for the category of “most useful” — clearly the expression has its supporters, despite being judged “least likely to succeed.” Perhaps it became too popular, too quickly and it’s time has already passed (in other words, maybe it’s no longer cool or trendy to use the word YOLO. I plan to keep using it for another few months, YOLO!).
Since we publish books for learning business English, we are always looking for new business English expressions. We were pleased to see the word disruptive as a runner-up in the “most euphemistic” category. Disruptive in its new sense means “destroying existing business models.” This concept was introduced into business vocabulary by Professor Clay Christensen of Harvard University (who writes a lot about disruptive innovation, meaning innovations that create new markets, as the automobile disrupting railroad transport and the GPS navigation system disrupted the navigational map).
For a complete list of all the words nominated for prizes in 2012, visit the American Dialect Society’s website.