Category Archives: listening

Tacky

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WEIRD AL: TACKY music video (I’m sorry — I can’t put the video in my post. Please click to go watch it.)

You’ve seen Pharrell’s video “Happy,” right?

This video is a parody video. In other words, it’s almost the same song, but it has funny new words. The musician is “Weird Al” Yankovic. He was very popular with people my age when we were young. He’s still making funny songs, so I’m still a fan.

In this video, Weird Al and several comedians dance and sing. It sounds like “Happy,” but it’s about being “tacky.”

Adjective: tacky

Noun: tackiness

The Longman Dictionary of English says

if something is tacky, it looks cheap or badly made, and shows poor taste:

tacky ornaments

especially American English showing that you do not have good judgment about what is socially acceptable:

It’s kind of tacky to give her a present that someone else gave you.
It’s a little hard to define “tacky,” because it’s based on social rules. Those rules are different for different people. Here are some things that people I know think are tacky:
- Ed Hardy brand clothes
- Anything that Paris Hilton does
- Wearing a lot of brand logos, like Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, etc.
- Asking directly for money as a wedding gift
- Telling everyone your big salary at your new job
- Many things that are for sale in souvenir shops (warning: some images might be “adult” — don’t look at work!)
- Bringing fast food to a potluck dinner party
- Taking a selfie at a funeral
I think that “tacky” is connected to being inappropriate, showing off, and being self-centered. Still, it’s really hard to define, and people often don’t agree on what is tacky. (For example, giving money for a wedding gift is normal in many groups. Potluck dinner parties are common in the US, but asking guests to bring food is very rude in some other countries.)
Similar words: crass, crude, tasteless, over the top, kitschy, inappropriate.

Practice Listening and More with Music

Hi! This is just a quick post. I’ve just started a new job, and I’m very busy. (I’ve promised you posts on Facebook and more. Those posts are coming, I promise!)

Right now, I want to tell you about a free site called Lyrics Training. At Lyrics Training, you can watch a music video with English words. At the same time, the words are shown under the video — but some of the words are missing! You need to type in the words while the song plays. There are harder and easier levels, and you can find old and new songs. If you like music, it’s a good way to improve your listening.

Remember that song lyrics often have strange or poetic words and grammar. Still, they’re fun and a nice way to enjoy learning English.

Meet the World: Part 3

Meet the World is a set of three posts about sites where you can meet visitors to your area and speak English or another language with them. This is the third post.

Finally, you may have heard of Couchsurfing. Their main service is connecting travelers and people who have room in their home for sleeping. (That’s right: You let strangers stay in your home! However, like Hospitality Club, they have some safety features–you can only decide to accept people who have already stayed with other users, etc.)

But Couchsurfing also lets you just meet visitors for lunch, etc. When you register, there’s an option called “Couch Availability.” The question is “Are you able to host anyone now?” This is about whether people can stay overnight at your place. Your choices are “Yes,” “Definitely!” (meaning you really want to), “No,” “Maybe,” “Coffee or a drink,” and “Traveling at the moment.” If you’d just like to meet people, and maybe be their guide, choose “Coffee or a drink.” That’s fine!

When you confirm your account, you can choose to make a small donation to become “verified.” CouchSurfing uses that information to check your information and to send you a postcard. That proves to CouchSurfing and other users that your name and address are real. You don’t have to do this (I didn’t). Just choose “Continue to Edit Your Profile” if you don’t want to. You can also do it later, if you want to. When you use the site, you might feel more comfortable contacting other users who are verified.

If you don’t want your real name to be displayed to other users after you join, go to “privacy settings.” Change “Hide name” to “Yes.” It’s up to you. There are a lot of settings, so look at them all.

Couchsurfing.org is extremely popular, so if you really want to meet international travelers, you can try it without having people actually stay in your home. There’s lots of advice here. You can also change the language in the top right corner. (And here are messages from people who’ve tried it.)

To write this post, I registered for all three of these websites. So if you need help getting started, I can try to help you.

And remember, you don’t need to stress about your language level too much.

If you’ve already tried them, or if you know about a better site, please tell me!

Meet the World: Part 2

Meet the World is a set of three posts about sites where you can meet visitors to your area and speak English or another language with them.

The second site is Hospitality Club. It seems to be much bigger than Hi Everywhere!. People can use it to request guide services or or to ask to be able to stay at someone’s home. For that reason, they have more security features than Hi Everywhere! Here’s how to use it.

  1. You register. You give them information including your country, region (province, etc.), city, name, and address. You may not be comfortable with this, but they request this information so that members know that you are really the person they expected to meet. If they meet you, they are supposed to ask to see your passport to make sure it matches. You can choose to not show this information in your profile in general.
  2. In step 2 of registration, you fill out your profile. One part says “I can offer accommodation: yes, maybe, no” and “I can offer: show around town, have someone over for dinner.” If you’d like to be a guide only, then you choose “no” for accommodation. After that, choose “show around town”. You can also choose “dinner” if you’d like to invite someone to your house for dinner).

Meet the World: Part 1

I know that many English learners would like to meet other people to speak English with. It’s great to talk to other people from your country, Europe, and so on. Having someone to talk to is fun, can help you learn things, can make you want to learn more, and gives you a reason to really speak English. It can also be stressful and scary, but that’s part of learning!

Anyway, for a lot of people it’s hard to find someone to talk to. But there are ways…

shokunin_backpacker_on_a_phone from openclipart.org

As I said on the Improving Your English in Asia page, one way is to find out if your city or province (etc.) has a volunteer guide program, like Goodwill Guides. If you can’t do that, I recently found out about two other sites. (I already posted them to our Facebook page–remember to “like” it if you use Facebook!) I’ll introduce a third site, too, in three posts here. All of these sites are free to use.

The first site is Hi Everywhere! The site says “Hi Everywhere!” is a volunteer local tour guide exchange community.” Here’s how it works:

  1. You register. Your information includes a username (not your real name), your e-mail (not shown), the languages you speak, your city, and whatever you want to say about yourself.
  2. Travelers post information (requests) about where they are going and what they need. For example, a British woman is going to Japan for a month. While she’s there, she would like to go anywhere in the countryside. Even if she can meet someone for an hour, it’s okay.
  3. You look at the requests and decide whether you can help. If you want to be someone’s guide, you can click “Book it!” Or you can leave a comment to discuss it with the person.

After their trips, some users write journals about their good experiences. I don’t know how active the site is, but you can try it!

Don’t worry about your English level too much. If you’re not fluent in English yet, just tell them before you meet them. When international visitors come to your area, they will probably be happy to meet anyone who speaks ANY English. If you need help, you can find information about food, history, and so on in English in advance using Wikipedia, Wikitravel, and so on.

Here are the next two posts:

Contest Winners – Most Thoughtful

Here is the final contest winner, for “Most Thoughtful” writeup of a technique.

I’d like to entry the  contest!

My way to study English is watching DVDs of ”Friends”.
To begin with, I often watch it subtitled in Japanese to understand its outline, after that,I watch it subtitled in English, then without subtitle several times.

sometimes, I consult this script to understand the plot: http://www.friendstranscripts.tk/

I think  watching TV drama is useful for English learners to learn and we can not only  learn English in an enjoyable format, but also learn it from the situation so  vocab is also easy to stick in your head.

besides,reading the script aloud  is also helpful to speak English.

That’s why I pick this way up & I  believe it works well for me.

It was submitted by the Twitter user @turningpoint6. Even though her entry was short, I think she did a great job of thinking about several ways to use and benefit from technique:

  • It’s fun, which always helps!
  • Watching TV episodes several times can help you with listening and vocabulary.
  • You can practice multiple skills this way–listening, speaking, and reading.
  • The new vocabulary is in a context, which makes it easy to remember. (It also helps you learn about who uses that kind of word, when to use it, etc.)

Contest Winners – Most Fun Technique

The next-to-last category is “Most Fun Technique.” This sounds like fun to me!

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share tools for learning English. I really want to know how everyone’s learning it. And CONGRATULATIONS on your 100th blog!!

I like music and alway listen to the web radio during the work all day. When I come across a song that I like, I look up the words I didn’t understand. Here is my tool. http://www.tube365.net/ and then I get to know the meaning of the lyric. After that, I sing the song over and over again. In the radio I usually listen to, they seem to bring songs, which are routine. It means that I can take a test if I can sing the song I liked well everyday.

I’m not really sure if it works for improving my English. But It’s really fun to sing a song in English. That makes me feel as I’m a real English speaker at least at that time! ;)

I look forward to another great tools!

Thanks a lot!

@pakuchi5 on Twitter sent in this idea. I think it’s a really fun idea! I’m trying to learn some Japanese songs for karaoke myself. Song lyrics aren’t perfect for learning grammar, but they’re good for other things. They’re definitely fun and motivating if you like music.

Contest Winners – Best Technique for EFL Learners

The third category in the contest is the “Best Technique for English as a Foreign Language Learners.”

I use VOA special English program ( http://www.voanews.com/learningenglish/home/ ) to practise “shadowing”.

“Shadowing” is an established method most Japanese interpreters use for their training.

My level isn’t that high, so I chose VOA special English programs for the materials because they speak slower in the program than regular speed.

How to practise “shadowing” is easy. You listen to the program and imitate just as you just heard. It’s fun and I feel as if I’m playing a game; I need to concentrate to catch up with their speaking. I like “shadowing” better than simply listening. I feel thrilled :)

If you find some point you can’t follow/catch, you can check the manuscript on VOA website anytime. After you read and figured out which words you’d missed, you repeat “shadowing” until you can “shadow” it fluently.

I guess this helps my listening skill a lot. Also, it’s more fun than just reading or listening as I wrote above, which means it’s easier to continue. You can practise listening and reading at the same time, too :)

Twitter user @kaorie3 sent in this technique. Shadowing is good for EFL learners who live in areas without many fluent English speakers. By listening to the VOA speakers and copying them, you can practice American English speech patterns. This can also improve your listening skills. The VOA website, as @kaorie3 mentioned, uses slower language, so it’s easier to do.

If you want to try some more natural language, try NPR (National Public Radio). I’ve noticed that some of their programs have speakers who talk kind of slowly compared to live radio news. Try different programs until you find one that you like.

Thanks for entering the contest, @kaorie3!

Spam

You probably know about Spam, the meat product. Do you know about the connection between Spam and the English verb/noun “spam”?

The noncountable noun/verb “spam” means “e-mail and other internet messages that you don’t want.” Usually, these messages are advertising something (“BUY SOFTWARE CHEAP NOW”). People also use this word to mean “posting too often” or “posting a message over and over again.” Imagine that your Twitter account has a problem. It accidentally posts your Tweet 5 times. You might apologize by writing “Sorry for spamming everyone. It was an accident!”

You can get advertising spam on your blog, in your e-mail, on Twitter, etc. Recently, someone spammed Readable Blog on Facebook! That’s why I started thinking about the word “spam.”

Spam (the meat product) is not very common or popular in the US. However, we don’t usually use it as an insult. So how did it become the word for internet messages that you don’t want?

Monty Python is the name of a British comedy group. They were most active during the 1970s, but they are still popular today. In the US, they are especially popular with geeky people. Below is one of their famous sketches (comedy performances). The “Spam” sketch starts around 0:32 and ends around 2:41–sort of. Two people are in a cafe trying to order breakfast. The server or shop owner is telling them what she can serve them. (Yes, all of the main performers are men.) Warning: There are a couple of body-part words in here. Don’t watch it at work, and don’t watch it if you are under age 16 without your parents’ permission.

It might be hard to understand all of it (Monty Python’s comedy is very strange). But I think you’ll get the main idea. You can watch a higher-resolution official video with no subtitles here.

When the internet was still new, there were online games and message boards. People who used these games and message boards sometimes typed the words of the “Spam” sketch or just “Spam, spam, spam, spam, spam.” After a while, people started to call this kind of annoying activity “spam.” Later, people also started to post messages to message boards trying to sell things or get others to join money-making plans.

In 1998, the New Oxford English Dictionary added this definition to “Spam”: “Irrelevant or inappropriate messages sent on the Internet to a large number of newsgroups or users.” (There’s a long explanation about all this on Wikipedia.)

And now we get spam all the time. It’s everywhere, just like the Spam in the comedy sketch.

Annoying!

New Links

bookmark-new from openclipart.org

I’ve added some new links to the sidebar on the left.

Here’s some information about each one.

  • Learning English from Friends: Terry is a non-native English speaker from Korea who’s been working in the US as a systems application engineer since 2006. This cool blog is about his and his friends’ experiences learning English. (The way you really learn a language when you live overseas is that you talk with people, you make mistakes, and you learn new things from your friends. That’s what he’s writing about. It’s fun!) I really like this blog. Terry is a great example of an enthusiastic language learner who likes thinking about language.
  • Jukugo: If you are Japanese and use Twitter, you probably know about Jukugo already. This blog is bilingual (English/Japanese) and focuses on idioms. The author includes cute drawings with each post.
  • Business English in 5 Minutes: Naturally, this blog is about business English. Each post is short.
  • ESOL Courses Blog has short posts to help you study English.
  • ESOL Courses – Free English Lessons Online has grammar practice, vocabulary, and other activities.
  • Listen a Minute: This site gives you listening practice. You can listen to a short speech about something (Harry Potter, the World Cup, fast food, etc.). You can read the words, too, and test yourself on it. The English is at an low-intermediate to intermediate level. There are no definitions or explanations, so you might have to use a learners’ dictionary.

I’m going to change the organization of the site when I have time. If you like these links, you should save them. I recommend using Delicious, Xmarks, or another bookmark manager. If you do that, you can have the same bookmarks on every computer that you use.