Using the adjectives “common,” “popular,” and “famous” are often some of the most confusing to use. I hear even the most advanced students have difficulty choosing one of these to use in conversation. Here is a way to easily remember the differences, so next time you know exactly how to describe something:
I usually write my daily idiom only on my English Facebook page as a short, simple way to remember them. However, today’s idiom is very easy to remember, thanks to a funny clip from one of my favorite TV shows!
IDIOM OF THE DAY
To change a situation so that you now have an advantage over someone who previously had an advantage over you.
“Michael turned the tables on his demanding boss by bringing his successful co-workers to the office.”
Watch the following video about Michael Scott on the hit show “The Office.” In this episode, he changed jobs because of a disagreement, and wanted to show his old boss how “the tables had turned” (meaning, his boss had the advantage, but now Michael has the advantage. The tables have turned on his boss). He tries to say “How the tables have turned!” Instead, he makes a mistake:
“Michael Scott paper company to see Mr. David Wallace. I believe we’re expected. Well, well, well; how the turntables…”
As you can see, even native English speakers make mistakes with idioms! Its not so terrible, but it does make the situation a lot funnier like in this TV show. So now, maybe next time you won’t forget how to say “How the tables have turned!” like Michael did. Don’t be like Michael, learn from him mistakes. He makes a lot of them.
For the majority of my students, making “small talk,” or short conversation with strangers or co-workers, is the most difficult part about using their daily conversational English. Here are some tips that I have found useful when making small talk:
1) Talk about the weather.
This one seems to be common in most cultures. Some examples are,
- “The weather today is beautiful, isn’t it?”
- “I can’t believe how (hard it is raining/sunny it is/much snow is) outside!”
- “What are they calling for* tomorrow?/They are calling for* (rain/snow/sunshine/clouds) tomorrow.”
*A main point you should remember is to use the phrase “calling for.” This is another way to say “to forecast,” or “to predict.” In American English, it is much more common to use “calling for” than “forecast” (“forecast” seems too professional or proper in some cases). Try using this next time you talk about the weather.
2) Talk about the latest news
Here are some ways to bring up a topic:
- “Did you hear about….”
- “I can’t believe the news about….”
- “What do you think about….”(used often for discussing opinion)
- “Did you see….” (used often for news stories on TV)
3) Talk about something you have in common.
If you are talking to your co-worker, this is a great chance to talk about things you have in common. Some examples are:
- “What do you think about the new (item in the office)”
- “I love your shoes! Where did you get them?”
- “Did you watch the game last night? What did you think?” (for talking about sports)
- “Have you eaten at any good restaurants lately?”
The list could go on and on! I’ll update it again soon, but for now, try to use these phrases next time you’re making small talk! You might even be surprised that you’re talking too much at work!
I’d be happy to answer any questions, and leave your own tips if you have them!
This topic is one that doesn’t seem to be a problem for some people when learning English, but I’ve seen that it can be especially difficult for Japanese learners. Because most Japanese learn with カタカナ(katakana), some of the sounds are not exactly right.
ウ is the English sound for “oo,” as in “blue,” “chew,” or “do.”
Unfortunately, sometimes theウ sound is also understood to be the “w” sound as in “would” or “winter.” Actually. these “w” sounds do not exist in the Japanese language. It will take some extra training to learn how to move your mouth to pronounce this sound. You can do it!
Above is a picture of pronouncing “ウ” or “oo,” that most of you know how to do. Simply make a small circle with your lips when you are pronouncing the sound (find the full lesson here).
This picture, however, is more difficult to do. Try to focus on closing your lips a little more, and bringing them in closer to your teeth. Also, the “w” sound is not a whole syllable like the “ウ” sound, it is only the first part of a longer sound. So, say it quickly.
Try to pronounce these words without using the “ウ” sound:
Did it sound different from the “ウ” sound? If not, try again and listen to the lesson here. Keep trying until you get the sound you want, practice makes a better English speaker!
What is connected speech?
Simply put, connected speech is when a speaker puts words or sounds together in a sentence such as “gonna” (going to) or “wanna” (want to). Usually, this is not understood at all by the English learner!!
Have you ever heard something like “I’m gonna go ta tha store, do ya wanna come?” What does this mean??
When the native English speaker says things like this ^, it is usually just to make their speech easier and more efficient. In fact, the main goal of a native speaker is usually not to be correct, but to be efficient. So, when you are trying to speak perfectly, remember that even native speakers don’t always sound perfect! Elemental English discusses this topic here.
So, let me explain the sentence “I’m gonna go ta tha store, do ya wanna come?”
Correctly written, it is “I am going to the store, do you want to come?”
“Going to” changes to “gonna,” “to the” changes to “ta tha,” “you” changes to “ya,” and “want to” changes to wanna.” Of course, this is not correct English and should never be in writing… However, if you want to better understand native speakers, I would recommend practicing listening for these connected words.
Below is a great example of connected speech in a scene from the classic movie “Remember the Titans.” Watch the video and see if you can understand what they’re saying. If it is difficult, try reading the text below and notice the connected speech. Does it make sense this time? Great!
Bertier: Aight man. Listen, I’m Gerry, you’re Julius. Let’s just get some particulars and get this over with, alright?
Big Ju: Particulars? Man, no matter what I tell you, you ain’t never gonna know nothin about me.
Bertier: Hey- Listen, I ain’t running any more of these three-a- days, okay?
Big Ju: Well, what I’ve got to say, you really don’t wanna hear ‘cuz honesty ain’t too high upon your people’s priorities list, right?
Bertier: Honesty? You want honesty? Alright, honestly, I think you’re nothing. Nothing but a pure waste of God-given talent. You don’t listen to nobody, man! Not even Doc or Boone! Shiver push on the line everytime and you blow right past ’em! Push ’em, pull ’em, do something! You run over everybody in this league, and everytime you do you leave one of your teammates hanging out to dry, me in particular!
Big Ju: Why should I give a hoot about you, huh? Or anybody else out there? You wanna talk about the ways you’re the captain?
Big Ju: Captains supposed to be the leader, right? Bertier: Right.
Big Ju: You got a job?
Bertier: I have a job.
Big Ju: You been doing your job?
Bertier: I’ve been doing my job.
Big Ju: Then why don’t you tell your white buddies to block for Rev better? ‘Cause they have not blocked for him worth a blood nickel, and you know it! Nobody plays. Yourself included. I’m supposed to wear myself out for the team? What team? No, no, what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna look out for myself and I’m gonn get mine.
Bertier: See man, that’s the worst attitude I ever heard. Big Ju: Attitude reflects leadership, captain.
How difficult was that sentence to say? If you are like most ESL learners, it wasn’t so easy. Below are some of my favorite resources on how to pronounce the English *L*.
Start with this lesson from pronuncian.com. It will explain in detail the mechanics, or step-by-step movements, of how to move your mouth in the sound of an L.
Next- I have a really fun video to watch. This is Amy Walker, who is not an English teacher but a professional actress who has excellent accent skills. In this video she clearly explains how to practice the L sound, and also does a warm-up for the first minute or two. It may seem silly, but warm-ups and practice are the key to mastering English!
*NOW: go back and re-read this blog post using your L skills!!*
(the L’s are highlighted in bold)