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.

Word Crimes Part 1: Vocabulary

Weird Al Yankovic is back! Who is Weird Al? Do a quick Google search, and you may recognize his iconic look, or perhaps his song parodies. My memory of his music dates back to the ’90s, and his comical (funny) versions of trendy (popular) songs make it hard not to dance and sing along. One of his current hits off the album, “Mandatory Fun,” is a song that’s perfect for this blog, and for language learning! It’s called “Word Crimes.” I was stoked (so excited) when a dear friend shared it with me, and it has inspired me to use it for multiple learning opportunities. The first being… VOCABULARY.

What is a word crime?
Oh, we’ve all seen them. It’s the incorrect use of articles, using “it’s” as a possessive instead of a contraction, saying eXpresso rather than espresso, and using letters and numbers to spell words. These, of course, are just a few, and Weird Al points out a lot more in his song. I will definitely be highlighting some of the grammar mistakes he pokes fun at (makes fun of), but will start off defining some of the vocabulary so you fully understand the song and meaning. You can watch the video here, which includes some of the lyrics.

However, to read all of the lyrics, go here. (if these links don’t work, just Google the video and lyrics: Weird Al Yankovic – Word Crimes)

VOCABULARY

  1. conjugategrammar: to list the different forms of a verb that show number, person, tense, etc..
  2. flunk: to get a failing grade in a course/subject / [+ object] to give a failing grade
  3. mock (someone):  to laugh at or make fun of (someone or something) especially by copying an action or a way of behaving or speaking
  4. familiarize: to make someone familiar with, give them knowledge about something
  5. nomenclature: a system of names for things especially in science
  6. literacy: the ability to read and write
  7. stammer: to speak with many pauses and repetitions because you have a speech problem or because you are very nervous, frightened, etc.
  8. raised: chiefly US : to take care of and teach (a child) : to bring up or rear (a child)  [*EX: “..like people who were, Never raised in a sewer..” -Word Crimes]
  9. sewer: a pipe that is usually underground and that is used to carry off water and sewage
  10. moron: an idiot, someone stupid
  11. apostrophe: the punctuation mark ʼ -used for contractions, possessives, or plural form of letters/numbers
  12. mangling:  to do (something) badly : to ruin (something) because of carelessness or a lack of skill
  13. danglin’: shortened from- dangling: grammar: when a word isn’t accurately attached to another part of a sentence
  14. drama: a situation or series of events that is exciting and that affects people’s emotions
  15. cunning: cleverness or skill especially at tricking people in order to get something
  16. homophones: a word that is pronounced like another word but is different in meaning, origin, or spelling
  17. emphasis: special importance or attention given to something
  18. coincidence: a situation in which events happen at the same time in a way that is not planned or expected
  19. smack: to hit something/someone hard
  20. crowbar: a metal bar that has a thin flat edge at one end and is used to open or lift things
  21. apparent: easy to see or understand/ obvious
  22. incoherent: not able to talk or express yourself in a clear way that can be easily understood; not logical or well-organized : not easy to understand
  23. prose: writing that is not poetry : ordinary writing
  24. lost cause: a person or thing that is certain to fail
  25. give up: [phrasal verb]- to quit; to stop trying to do something
 Vocabulary: Courtesy of Merriam Webster Learner’s Dictionary

Hopefully this list of vocabulary will enhance your repertoire (collection) of English vocabulary, and help you understand the song. Check back soon for some grammar explanations related to this song, and…

please share this information with someone who loves English, grammar, vocabulary, Weird Al…or just, life ♥  Happy Studying ♥ 

Are there any other words you don’t understand, or other lyrics that do not make sense? Don’t be shy! Feel free to ask for more explanations and definitions in the comment section below.

Improve your English skills with Music

Love music as much as I do?

If the answer is yes, then I really hope you are using music to improve your language skills. If you’re not, or you’re not quite sure how, then this suggestion and these tips will help you make the most out of something you love.

A great way to find music in English, if you don’t already have some favorites, is to check out the Billboard Charts. Here you can find many lists, including the Hot 100 or lists by genre of music, so you will be sure to find something that you like. For a greater chance of appealing to the majority of you, I choose the Hot 100’s number 1 song right now: “All of Me” by John Legend. This is just to use as an example, and to show you some of the exercises you can do, but please feel free to use anything that strikes your fancy (interests you).

Exercises with music to improve listening:

1. Music Cloze (listening, writing/spelling, reading)

A music cloze is an activity that has blank spaces within the lyrics of a song. The goal of the activity is to listen to the song, and fill in the blanks with the words you hear. This is helpful for overall listening skills, as well as helping with your spelling and phonetic awareness through dictation (hearing & recognizing sounds). This activity also helps reading, because you’ll be following along with the words written down as you listen. You can try it here with the music cloze I created for John Legend’s “All of me”. Feel free to print and try it yourself! *NOTE: if you’d like a cloze created for your favorite song, please comment below and give me the artist and song title, and I will upload a copy to the post!*

all of me_johnlegend_cloze

2. Sing along with the lyrics (pronunciation, intonation, reading, listening)

The lyrics for just about every song are available on numerous sites across the Internet. All you need to do is do a Google search: “song name” + lyrics You will definitely find something! There are also videos available on YouTube with the lyrics in the video. Not sure of every song’s availability though, due to YT’s copyright rules. Following along with the lyrics, and reading aloud can help you identify correct pronunciation, and help with some English intonation (I know a song is different than speaking, but still helpful). In addition to this speaking practice, you’ll also practice reading and listening skills as you follow along.

3. Write about the meaning (writing, creative thinking, reading)

Practice your creative and critical thinking skills, while improving your writing, by expressing your thoughts on what the song means. The beautiful thing about music, is this art can be interpreted in so many different ways, it just depends on how you look at it! Is it about someone, or something, an experience, something positive, negative, beautiful or ugly? What do you think about John Legend’s song?

4. Learn and expand vocabulary (vocabulary, writing/spelling, reading)

Can you find last weekend’s ” Word 2 of the Weekend’s ” vocabulary word in the lyrics for “All of Me” ? 🙂 You can find many different collocations, expressions, or new vocabulary words when reading the lyrics to your favorite song. A great way to learn new vocabulary is to write down the words you can’t recognize, and look them up in a dictionary. You know my favorite is Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary! Want to expand on those words? Visit an online thesaurus, and type in your new vocabulary to learn even more ways to express the same idea. Don’t forget about identifying the different related words in the same word family: nouns, verbs, adjectives, and verbs. Knowing these related parts of speech will help you understand how to use the words correctly, as well as other ways to express them in sentences. Finally, a different way to use lyrics to expand vocabulary is to create word webs, or connections/associations. Identify your target vocabulary, and make associations with that word. What comes into your mind when thinking about it, what ideas can you connect.

Let’s look at the word: dizzy.

1st: definefeeling you’re moving in circles and going to fall, even though you are still; or, mentally/emotionally upset.

2nd: thesaurus: according to thesaurus.com, the most related words: dazed, distracted, groggy, wobbly, shaky.

3rd: word family: dizzy (adjective) dizziness (noun) dizzily (adverb)

4th: word web/connections: when I think of dizzy, I think of sick, nauseous, fainting, roller coaster, spinning, circle, illness, etc….

Bonus exercise:

Lyricstraining.com

This is a great website, with MANY songs to choose from I might add, to practice listening, reading, and typing (spelling) skills. You can find this week’s song, “All of Me” here.

How it works:

It’s the same concept of a music close, but already online and with a video! You choose your skill level, beginner to expert, and then listen and follow along with the song, typing in the blanks with the word you hear. The beginner level has you fill in about 10% of the song, intermediate is 25%, advanced 50%, with expert requiring 100% of the song lyrics (good luck!)

 

Your challenge:

Practice your language skills using the exercises above, and use the comment section to let me know about it:

  1. Complete the music cloze. It may be easier to find it online rather than printing mine.  *Comment: how did you do?
  2. How was your pronunciation?
  3. What do you think the song means?
  4. Identify new words or phrases, or practice expanding your vocabulary with these words and expressions:
  • draw me in
  • kick me out
  • out of my mind
  • distraction
  • risk

5.  What was the word of the weekend in these lyrics?

 

Happy Studying, and enjoy the Music ♥

related posts:  
     * Music Idioms 
     * Learning for your Style
     * Improving Speaking Fluency