Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 3.05.20 PM

Tom Cruise is famous for his acting. Barack Obama is famous for his politics. It is common for celebrities to go to jail.

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:

COMMON
com·mon
ˈkämən/
Occuring Often. dOne Often. Ordinary.
The letter “O” is common in the description for “common.” The letter “O” occurs often in the description for “common.”
Do you see how easy it is to remember? Now, let’s try some real-life examples:
♦ Train delays are not common in Japan.
♦ Ramen shops are common in Japan.
POPULAR
pop·u·lar
ˈpäpyələr/
liked by many PeoPle.
P‘s” are PoPular with the PeoPle learning English. Just remember- if its PoPular, many PeoPle like it.
♦ Fast Food restaurants are popular in the United States; a lot of people eat there every day.
♦ Recently, Hybrid cars have become popular. Everyone wants to own one.
FAMOUS
fa·mous
ˈfāməs/
known about (by many people).
If something is famous, is is known about by many people. The people may not like it, but they know about it. Its famOUs.
♦ England is famous for its tea and biscuits. (Many people know about its tea and biscuits. People may or may not like the tea and biscuits, but it doesn’t matter- they are famous because people know about them.)
♦ Apple is a famous computer company.
So, here is an example using all words and showing their unique meanings:
Justin Beiber was a popular pop artist. (Many people liked him.) Now, he is famous for going to jail (He is not necessarily liked for this). It is common for celebrities to go to jail. (Celebrities often go to jail.)
Now that you have an easy way to remember the meanings, what are some ways that you can use common, popular, and famous in a sentence?

How the turntables…

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

*turn the tables (on someone)*

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:

(transcript)
“Hello.”
“Hi.”
“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.

“Oo” vs. “W” – Especially for my Japanese students!

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.

For example,

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!

oo

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).

w

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:

Winter.
Weather.
Where.
Win.
Sweet.
Rewind.
When.
Why.
While.

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!

Lets Learn aLL about *L’s*

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*.

Image

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)