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“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?
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!
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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When it comes to Breaking Bad, you may be one of 3 groups of people:
1. “I’ve never seen it.”
2. “Eh, whatever…didn’t care for it.”
3. “AMAZING, re-watching…[for the 3rd time]”
Perhaps number 3 is a bit of an exaggeration, but whatever group you may….or may not fit into, this post will still definitely appeal to you. I think that films and TV series are sometimes undervalued as a learning tool. Most shows can become “guilty pleasures” or seen as times when you’re being lazy on the couch; however, they carry such incredible language learning opportunities. Actually, the learning doesn’t stop at language…cultural references can be seen too! They’re an insight to so much more than just the words you can hear. Not only is there the entertainment value (assuming you choose a good one, and like films) but there is the personal challenge: your goal to watch a foreign film, without subtitles. This inner challenge can be a great motivational tool if you’re the kind of person who needs a little extra motivation.
Most students learning English want to speak fluently, but don’t fully realize the importance of all those other skills that make a fluent speaker. You know which skills I am talking about, the forgotten ones: listening comprehension, grammar, vocabulary, reading, etc…
But how can a TV show help with my grammar and reading?
The listening part is obvious, you watch a show or movie and you practice listening. What isn’t so obvious is the underlying grammar that you are also listening to and processing. You’re experiencing complete and accurate sentence structures, a variety of tenses, and just how it should sound in relation to pronunciation and intonation. If you have subtitles, in English, you’ll practice reading skills (pace, skimming/scanning, comprehension), and there will be new vocabulary, without a doubt.
Still not quite convinced at how much a TV show can help with your language skills? Try it out! I’ve included a PDF attachment of an example of the type of material that’s a part of my English Through Film & TV Series course. The first section has important vocabulary and expressions, and not ones that you can necessarily find yourselves in a dictionary or online. You can pre-study the vocabulary so you are aware of the meanings as you watch the show. While you watch, a variety of questions will check your comprehension and understanding of the episodes, and finally as a way to practice speaking and wrap it up, discussion questions that you can review with me. In this case, I encourage interaction through my comment section. Share your thoughts, opinions, and answers for others to read as well!
Students: Interested in more lessons and practice with English through Film and TV series? Contact me for class options: firstname.lastname@example.org
Teachers: Interested in a file without the watermark? Contact me for details: email@example.com
See the pilot episode of Breaking Bad’s lesson here: