Which quote is meaningful to you during this special week?

Originally posted on Learn English Online | English Outside the Box:
1) “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” -Oprah Winfrey 2) “As…

Describing Scenery with Adjectives and Descriptive Language

The first photo I shared in week 3 of #nostalgicnovember was taken in New Zealand. Spread across a bright green, rolling hillside were thousands of off-white dots. These off-white dots looked almost like a vast cotton field. The green grass that peeked from underneath the white specks appeared so bright because of the way its horizon met an almost white sky, an overcast day with one large, luminous cloud covering the sun. When you look at the off-white dots up close, you can see they are not specks of cotton, but sheep. Thousands of sheep danced around the field, in an enclosed area right off a dirt road. This is what I imagine when I think of driving through the countryside on the South Island of New Zealand.

I want you to try and imagine this photo, if you haven’t already, by using the descriptive language to “paint” yourself a picture. You can utilize the many adjectives (bright green, rolling, off-white, vast, overcast, large, luminous, etc..) to bring life to the nouns (things). You can think about the personification* I used to imagine what was happening (the grass peeked, thousands of sheep danced), and apply the comparisons I used to understand what to envision/see in your mind (looked like a vast cotton field). Finally, I gave details in my description that would allow you to visualize concrete things in the photo  ([the] horizon met [the] sky, the sheep, an enclosed area, dirt road), make sure these find their way into your photo.

You are going to see the photo that I was describing below, but I want you to really try and imagine it first to see how powerful descriptive language can be in writing and communication. Learning how to and becoming comfortable with descriptive language will enable you to express yourself more effectively, and use your English language in a more meaningful way. This week on my Instagram photo challenge, it’s the perfect opportunity to practice this skill. Why? Well for 2 reasons. The first is you will have the opportunity to read my posts (@jenesl760), Wanderful‘s posts (@sheswanderful), and other Instagramers, so you can see how we all use descriptive language. You can learn and expand your vocabulary, while improving reading comprehension. The next benefit of participating in the challenge is that you will have the chance to practice writing and using your own descriptive language. Practice makes perfect, right? So apply these new skills and practice using them; plus if you share with me, I will give you personal feedback! A final bonus that’s really amazing is one lucky participator (someone sharing posts, tagging us, and using #nostalgicnovember) will win a prize pack from me and sheswanderful.com! (WAHOO!)

A quick English lesson before we see my photo…

Vocabulary:
off-white [noun] a color that is a slightly gray (grayish) white – often used as an adjective
dots [plural noun]: small round mark (usually a circle)
vast [adjective]: very large in amount or size
peek [verb]: to look at something from a hidden place; to look at briefly
specks [plural noun]: a very small spot or piece of something
luminous [adjective]: very bright, filled with light
enclosed [adjective]: being surround by something, such as a wall or fence
to paint (one’s self) a picture [expression]: to imagine an image in one’s head and visualize it as if it were a real photo or picture
personification [noun]: a form of figurative language, when a human characteristic is applied to something that is not human (like an object or animal)

Personification Examples & Explanations:

As mentioned, personification is when a writer (or someone) gives a human characteristic (a verb, for example) to a non-human thing. In my photo description, I applied the verb PEEK when talking about what the grass was doing. Peeking, or “looking”, is a human characteristic because humans have eyes that can see and look at something, the object, grass, cannot. So I used this verb to help describe how the grass was “looking out” from underneath the sheep, how the grass was essentially looking from a hidden place which was below the sheep. This can help you visualize how little of the grass may be showing, or how many sheep (white specks) there actually are. Additionally, I described the sheep as dancing around the field. We know that a sheep, an animal, doesn’t really have the ability to dance (move to the rhythm of music), so this human characteristic was used to describe the way they seemed to move around (be spread out) across the field.
Other examples of personification:

“I am so hungry that I hear my lunch calling my name!”

“I could hear the leaves whispering in the wind today.”

Emily Dickinson used a few personifications, with adjectives and a verb, in this example: “..”Where bashful flower blow,  and blushing birds go down to drink, and shadows tremble so..”

Now that you have imagined my photo, and an idea of how to use descriptive language, take a look at my first scenery picture. Was it close to what you imagined? What was the same, what did you image differently?

It’s time to practice what you’ve learned in today’s lesson and share your own photos now with me and Wanderful over on Instagram. Participating is easy, remember all you need to do is:

  1. Go to Instagram and make sure you follow me and @sheswanderful
  2. Post your favorite scenic landscape from the past and hashtag #nostalgicnovember and tag the two of us so we can see
    1. Be sure to use as much descriptive language (as mentioned above) as you can for even more practice
  3. See if your photo is a feature on our page, we’ll tag you so you will know!
  4. At the end of the month, we’ll announce the prize winner

I hope you enjoyed your lesson today, and please share with someone you know studying English to help them too! Sharing is caring. Happy Monday and as always,

Happy Studying! ♥

Let’s Talk Culinary Experiences + #nostalgicnovember

You read the title, so you know what we’re about to do! But first, I’d like you to close your eyes and imagine the most delicious dish (meal) you’ve ever had. What did it look like, smell like, taste like? Was … Continue reading

Creativity Tuesday: Mariah

Let’s dive right into (begin) Creativity Tuesday today by exploring the idea of CONTRASTS (things that differ from one another in an obvious way): Black | White. Light | Dark. New | Old. Classic | Modern. Simplicity | Complexity. What makes these contrasting … Continue reading

#NostalgicNovember Instagram Challenge + Ways to Improve your English Participating!

Ahhh… November. A time to start bundling up in sweaters and scarves. A month to really kick off (start) the holiday season, to celebrate thankfulness, and come together with friends and family. This description may not fit for everyone reading the … Continue reading

Travel with Me, Part 2b: Of Monsters and Men

Happy Sunday! It’s the last day of the music festival here at Austin City Limits, and it’s been an amazing time! If you are just visiting the blog, WELCOME, and you’re not too late to travel with me on my current vacation. For the next couple of weeks, I’ll be posting a “Travel with Me” blog series that covers different aspects (parts) of my trip. Part 1 went over common vocabulary related to packing, and included many of the everyday items and products that you may be surprised to learn you didn’t know!

Because I have been in Austin, Texas at a music festival this weekend, Part 2a was all about ways to learn with a band from the lineup. On Friday, I shared 5 ways to learn and improve English with The Foo Fighters, the band headlining that night. You can access these past posts by scrolling through the blog, or clicking the links in the previous sentences!

Today will be all about music again, specifically one of my favorite bands on today’s lineup- Of Monsters and Men. What makes this group extra special is that they are from Iceland, and their first language is Icelandic! This means they, too, are English learners (or at least they once were). They sing, only in English, are internationally recognized and are proof that non-native speakers can reach professional success in English as their second language. I am challenging you with a reading comprehension task this post, and providing you a link from a magazine article that has an interview with band. In this interview they talk about how they learned English, amongst other things, but can you find this informationHow did the band learn English?

http://www.confrontmagazine.com/2012/06/of-monsters-and-men-2/

Post your answers in the comment section below. Good luck and 

Happy Studying! ♥

Travel with Me, Part 2a: The Foo Fighters at ACL + 5 ways to learn with them

“I’ve got another confession to make….”

I’ll be using music, again, to teach you some English today! The song, the lesson, and the reason is far from random, though, as you know I am at Austin City Limits this weekend! (WOO!) More than just a music festival with 8 stages, and 130 bands, Austin City Limits offers an experience into the city’s food, art, and local community charities and organizations! It’s my first year experiencing this festival, and to say I am excited is an understatement (a statement/sentence that makes something seem less important).  Read more abou the experience here.

 I am excited for so many of the bands playing this weekend! Several of them, every day on the lineup get me pumped up (excited, stoked, filled with energy). Tonight’s headliner is “The Foo Fighters,” an American rock band from Seattle formed in the ’90s. If you’ve heard of Nirvana, or Kurt Cobain, you’ve most likely heard of the Foo Fighters as it was founded by David Grohl, Nirvana’s drummer. I enjoy the music, but I also think Grohl’s clear voice make his songs an excellent opportunity to practice English. Today I am going to give you:

5 ways to practice and improve English with the Foo Fighters

1. Learn pronunciation with the song, “Best of You”

The song begins, ends, and includes several lyrics that are almost sung in conversational form, which gives you a clear idea of how these words are commonly pronounced in everyday English situations. You can do your own Google search of the lyrics (“best of you lyrics”) or open this link, since we are going to use it later. Use the lyrics page to read along with the song, see how the words are written, versus(compared to) how the sound songs. You can listen to the song in the Youtube video below.

  • WORD CONNECTIONS: many words are often linked together when spoken, and there are 4 main situations where this happens.
    • One of them we’ll review today: consonant/vowel. When a word ends in a consonant, and the next word starts with a vowel, these words are connected or linked together. EXAMPLE: the first line: “…I’ve got another confession to make…” The word ‘got’ ends in a T consonant sound, and ‘another’ begins with a short vowel a sound, so they connect to sound like, “gotta – nother”.
    • Another situation we’ll review: consonant/consonant. When a word ends in a consonant sound that has a similar position of a consonant sound that starts the following word, the words are connected. Check the position of your mouth [your tongue] when you say the ‘N’ sound. Do you notice your tongue upward, behind your top teeth? Now, say the ‘T’ sound. Your tongue should be in the same position. Because of these similarities, the words will just flow into each other, rather than putting effort to a start a new sound. EXAMPLE: using the same first line: “…I’ve got another confession to make…” The the “N” of ‘confession’ links to “T” of ‘to’ to sound like “confessionnA make”
  • CONTRACTIONS: just like conversations, songs will often use the contractions of words for a shorter, easier way to communicate. Native speakers use contractions more often than not when speaking casually, so you should definitely get comfortable saying these as well. You’ll hear the contractions (and see them written) for: I have-I’ve, I am-I’m, everyone has-everyone’s, did not-didn’t, can not-can’t, I will-I’ll, it is-it’s , etc….   How many more can you find in the song? I included those just from the first 1 minute and 50 seconds of the song.
  • ENDING -ING: not only are words often linked together, many sounds have modifications in spoken English, which include word reductions. These reductions happen when certain sounds of a word are eliminated, or just not pronounced. Sometimes your mouth/lips/tongue can be in the correct position, but you just don’t let out the air needed to make the particular sound. The “G” in ending “-ing” is often cut when speaking, so rather than hearing the word end in the “G” (the sound from the throat), you’ll only hear the “N.” EXAMPLE: “Everyone’s got their chains to break…holdin’ you.” (second 12 in the video below)  “Is someone gettin’ the best, the best…” (second 24) “You gave me somethin’ that I….” (second 54)

Do you need additional pronunciation practice?

pronunciationpractice

Join the online English pronunciation workshop to improve your fluency. Sign up for more details

2. Practice listening + improve spelling with lyricstraining.com

I’ve recommended lyricstraining.com and I’ll do it again! Why? It’s the 3 Fs: Fun, Fast, and FREE! You’ll train your listening skills, practice typing, and improve your spelling at the same time. The website has over 15 Foo Fighters videos and songs to practice with, so what are you waiting for? Let me know which song was your favorite!

3. Expand vocabulary + idioms with the song, “The Feast and the Famine”

It’s time to use the song’s lyrics again, so click here or do your own Google search. This song, as you will learn in the 4th way to learn with The Foo Fighters, is about Washington D.C. and its iconic music scene. Do you think you would understand any of that from the lyrics? Are there any parts of the lyrics that you don’t understand? Below I’ve pulled out some vocabulary that is a bit more difficult, or harder to find in a dictionary. The title in a way is an idiomatic expression, relating to “feast of famine” which means to have a very large amount (feast) of something, or close to nothing (famine). How does this title relate to the song’s meaning?

  • to burn for: to want something very much → “burning for truth”
  • to take (someone) for (something): to believe that (someone) is a certain way → “they took you for fools”
  • to be left to do (something): to be in an ending situation that you must do something, usually alone → “a poor man left to do”
  • nothing to lose: a situation that cannot be made worse by taking a risk → “Crossroads with nothing to lose”
  • heavy: very serious or important → “Come change now shit’s getting heavy”
  • gaping: very large/open → “gaping wound”
  • put back together: to reconnect parts or pieces of something that fell apart → ” Put back together by a….”
  • P.M.A: positive mental attitude → “What is that P.M.A.?”

4. Listen to authentic English in use with their HBO Documentary-Series

To create and later promote their newest album, The Foo Fighters toured across America filming the creation of their newest album and celebrating their 20th anniversary. They visit some of the country’s most influential cities on music and music’s history, document the writing and recording of the album’s songs, and interview many fellow musicians along the way. Use these interviews amongst native speakers as a way to practice listening, while learning common slang/expressions and some history of American music. Just watching the series will be listening comprehension practice! The series aired on HBO; however you can also access it via Amazon and Google. If you don’t have HBO, then hop on Google, which will lead you almost everywhere! Don’t forget to let me know what your favorite episode is!

HBOfoofighters

5. Get real life English [writing & reading] practice

One of the reasons I started this English blog was to give the students in my classroom some REAL English, it is what I am all about as I hope you have learned. I am definitely not one of those teachers who relies heavily on text books, and irrelevant material, so I am continually trying to connect English learners with more organically, authentic English in use. That is why I will be recommending a website that encourages readers (YOU) to contribute their thoughts and ideas to the site’s content. The last way you’ll learn with The Foo Fighters, is by reading what others have said about their song’s meanings and responding by contributing your own. You can definitely share your thoughts on the comment section, and I encourage you to do so, but connect with others on songmeanings.com; what do you think the song “Best of You” really means? Do you agree or disagree with some of the comments you read? Does someone open your mind/change your idea of what the song is really about?

 

Each of these 5 ways to learn with The Foo Fighters above will get you practicing different skills, some of which include: listening, vocabulary building, writing, reading, and speaking [pronunciation]). If you’d like even more speaking practice, I suggest making a video that has you practicing one of the ways above. For example, you can record yourself singing (or saying if you’re shy) the lyrics with word reductions and contractions to practice pronunciation, or you can create sentences using the new vocabulary. Another way could be to share your thoughts on some of the songs, lyrics, and their meanings; in a video, tell me! Share with me via e-mail or social media! Notice that each of the ways also include some questions in bold yellow, which are ways to connect with me. Answer them in your videos practicing speaking, or in the comments below where you improve writing! I look forward to talking with you soon!

Happy Studying! ♥

Please help me, help others learning English! Please share this post with someone you know learning English, teaching English, or just loves the language! I bet music fans would also enjoy it, so thank you. xo Jennifer

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Get even more free resources to improve your English. Sign up here.

Creativity Tuesday: Monsoons

#tucsonsunset Search that hashtag and you are bound to see (you’ll definitely see) some of the beauty that monsoon season brings to Tucson, Arizona. This is of course assuming you’re searching this hashtag during the season, July-September (ish). Everyone talked a lot about … Continue reading