Enrich Your English through Ads

Advertisements are rich sources of idioms and they’re often fun to watch.  Take a look at this funny new Smirnoff advertisement starring actor Ted Danson and listen for these two idioms:

  • What’s that supposed to mean? – What are you saying?; I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying (note: sometimes said when you’re offended by what the person is saying)
  • regular Joe – an average person (note: also sometimes known as an ordinary Joe, Joe Sixpack or for women: an ordinary Jane, an average Jane)

American College Slang & Idioms

College students in the USA can be very creative with their English. Going to college or university in the United States? Just want to learn how American college students speak these days? This lesson on college slang and idioms is for you!

Download the PDF mini e-book on American College Slang

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Speak English Like an American Just Released for Android

Now users of Android-based smartphones and tablets can enjoy the Speak English Like SELA_iconan 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.

Versions of the Speak English Like an American app are also available for the iPad and iPhone.

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.”

English Word of the Year for 2012

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.

American English Idioms for the Holidays – Christmas eBook

Ho ho ho, it’s holiday time and we at Language Success Press are celebrating with the release of Speak English on Christmas Day. This new lesson teaches 14 American English idioms and expressions related to the upcoming holiday. It’s the Johnson family celebrating Christmas. You’ll remember them from our book Speak English Like an American. The target idioms and expressions in the dialogue are highlighted and defined below. You can also download an eBook edition of Speak English on Christmas here: Christmas English eBook. The eBook also includes a quiz. We hope you will enjoy this English language learning material. If so, print out the ebook, wrap it up, and give it as a holiday gift. It makes a great stocking stuffer! (A stocking stuffer is a small gift given at Christmas).

CHRISTMAS MORNING WITH THE JOHNSONS

The Johnson family is celebrating Christmas. The kids, Ted and Nicole, are home from college for the holidays. Ted’s girlfriend Amber is also with them. Now it’s time to gather around the tree and open the presents. 

Susan: Merry Christmas, everyone!

Bob: It’s wonderful to have the family here for the holiday. Now that Mom and I are empty nesters, the house is usually so quiet.

Nicole: I’m sure you miss Ted’s loud rock music at 2 a.m.!

Susan: Who would like to start out the day with one of my fresh-baked gingerbread cookies?

Nicole: Mom, it’s 10 o’clock in the morning. Who eats cookies so early?

Ted: Get in the holiday spirit! I’ll take a cookie, Mom.

Amber: Mind if I take one too?

Susan: Be my guest.

Bob: Let’s get started with the presents.

(everyone sits by the Christmas tree)

Bob: Here’s one for Amber from Ted.

Amber: (opens box) A beautiful silver nose ring! Just what I wanted. How did you know?

Ted: You dropped a few hints!

Bob: This big box is for Mom from Ted.

(Susan unwraps present and takes out a sweater)

Nicole: Oh, it’s an ugly Christmas sweater!

Bob: Nicole, it’s the thought that counts. Besides, that sweater is quite a conversation piece.

Susan: Thanks, Ted. I love it. Look at all the smiling snowmen on the sweater. Looking at their happy faces would help anyone beat the holiday blues!

Bob: And this present is for Ted from Nicole.

Ted: (unwraps present) It’s a book. Chemistry for Dummies. Just what I wanted. Did you save the receipt?*

Nicole: Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!

Bob: And here’s a present for Ted from Mom and me.

Ted: (unwraps present) A new iPad. Great! Thanks a lot.

Nicole: Now Ted can spend even more time playing video games.

Ted: Mind your own business!

Susan: That’s enough, guys. I hope you two won’t be at each other’s throats for the entire holiday.

Bob: Right. Don’t forget what Bing Crosby* said: “Christmas has a way of bringing out the best in everyone.”

Ted: Bing Crosby never met Nicole!

* Ted is asking for the sales receipt so he can return the book.
* Bing Crosby was an American singer and actor (1903-1977). His most popular song was his 1941 recording of “White Christmas,” written by Irving Berlin.

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IDIOMS & EXPRESSIONS

at each other’s throats – arguing with each other; fighting

Example: Gina and Jim are always at each other’s throats. I can’t believe they’re still married!

be my guest – help yourself; go ahead and do something

Example: “Do you mind if I slice the apple pie?” — “Be my guest.”

(to) beat the holiday blues – to do something so that one does not feel stressed and depressed during the holidays

Example: Susan always says that helping others is a great way to beat the holiday blues.

(to) bring out the best in someone – to cause someone to behave in the best way; to bring out their best qualities

Example: With her great sense of humor and positive attitude, Amber always brings out the best in people.

conversation piece – something unusual that attracts attention or makes people talk

Example: My boss gave me a sparkling angel pin for Christmas. It’s a real conversation piece!

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth – don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift

Example: “These earrings Jane gave me are so ugly!” — “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

(to) drop a hint – to give a small hint or clue about something

Example: I don’t know what you want for Christmas. I wish you’d drop some hints!

empty nester – a parent whose child has grown up and left the house

Example:  Now that Tina and Carl are empty nesters, they’re planning to travel around the world.

(to) get in the holiday spirit – to start having good feelings about the holidays

Example:  Anna put on a Bing Crosy Christmas CD to try to get in the holiday spirit.

How did you know? – asked when someone gives you just the gift that you wanted

Example: Great, a new Hermès tie! How did you know?

it’s the thought that counts – it doesn’t matter what the gift is, at least the giver was kind enough to give something

Example:  “Look at these bunny rabbit slippers my friend gave me. They’re ridiculous!” — “It’s the thought that counts.”

mind your own business – don’t interfere in matters that you are not a part of

Example:  “Nicole, who was that guy you were talking to on the phone?” — “Mind your own business, Ted.”

(to) start out the day with – to begin the day with

Example:  Nicole always starts out the day with a jog around the block.

ugly Christmas sweater – a tacky sweater with holiday themes like Christmas trees, reindeer, or snowmen and bold colors

Example:  Mike always wears his ugly Christmas sweater to his office holiday party.

Note: Ugly Christmas sweaters became a trend about 10 years ago. They are often worn with irony (the wearer knows they look a little silly, but they enjoy it). There are even ugly Chistmas sweater parties.

Talk Turkey on Thanksgiving: an ESL ebook

In honor of Thanksgiving, here’s a brand new 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.”

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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!