Understand more in English: Expressions from pop culture

Download video Channel: English Lessons with Adam - Learn English [engVid]

Can’t understand native speakers? Sometimes the problem is not your level of English – it’s the topic that’s giving you trouble. In this lesson we look at cultural references you should become familiar with in order to understand native English speakers. I will teach you some common phrases and expressions including “catch-22”, “show me the money”, “off the rails”, “lifehacks”, “the ball’s in your court”, and more. More importantly, you’ll learn about the general areas of life that you need to learn more about in order to understand these types of casual references in English conversation. This is language you won’t learn from a textbook, but once you know it, you will significantly improve your comprehension, and you will feel a lot more comfortable talking with native English speakers.

Test your understanding with the quiz at https://www.engvid.com/expressions-from-pop-culture/

Take your understanding of North American culture further by watching these videos next:

1. Vocabulary & slang that YouTube doesn't want you to know: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pv-ZkQEd-A&list=PLxYD9HaZwsI5C0d8CivHvoI_-0rs8XMfc&index=6

2. Common military vocabulary in everyday English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=437ExXEvYzc&list=PLxYD9HaZwsI5C0d8CivHvoI_-0rs8XMfc&index=44


Hi. Welcome to engVid. I'm Adam. In today's video I want to talk to you about how to improve your listening. Now, there're a few things I'm going to talk about. And, again, this is all from my own personal experience having taught for nearly 20 years. And I've taught people from all over the world, and there's one aspect of listening to English that I think is very troublesome for a lot of people. And it doesn't really even have to do much with English itself; not with the language. Okay? It has to do with culture.

Now, a lot of people who are studying English are using textbooks; they're only studying from textbooks to improve their listening and improve their vocabulary, their grammar, etc. The problem with textbooks is that they are very limited in terms of the exposure you're getting to the language. Now, "exposure" means what you're basically coming in contact with; what you're seeing, what you're hearing, what you're reading. So, if you're only looking at textbooks, you're getting very simple English, even if you're doing high-level... Like, advanced-level textbooks, they're still very focus on very specific contexts that they want you to study. And another thing they're not doing is they're not putting a lot of informal language into these books. Okay? So, now, that's why we're going to look at culture.

Now, the thing to remember about language, and again, this is not only English; this is... This is any language that you might want to study. Language is a living thing. It evolves. Okay? Language evolves - means it changes over time. But it has a memory. Okay? And this is the problem because you have to keep up with the new language, plus you have to understand the references to the old language or to the old points of reference. Okay? And that's what we're talking about, here: Lack of reference.

So, you might be watching a movie or even a TV show, or you're speaking to some people in... Local people in the place where you're speaking English, and they might say something. They may say a joke, for example, or they may talk about a situation, like politics or anything like that, and they're making a reference to something. Now, you heard it correctly, you heard the words, but you have no idea what they're talking about. Okay? And the problem, here, again: It's not the language; it's the fact that the thing that they referred to, you just don't know what that... What they're talking about. Okay?

So, for example: Sports, literature, movies - these are major points of reference for a lot of people. Okay? And think about, again, where you're going to be studying... Where you're going to be speaking English. If you're planning to go to the US and you're studying American English, but then you come to the States and you have no idea what anybody's talking about half the time - again, some of it is just the language, but a lot of it is the cultural references.

So, let's talk about sports as an example. Americans love sports, and sports is such a big part of everyday life in the US that a lot of the language from sports makes its way into everyday speech. Okay? So, if somebody says: "Okay, well, the ball's in your court." They're talking about a situation: "I've done everything I can." Like, my friend and... My friend and his girlfriend had a fight. And he apologized and he bought her some flowers, and he did everything he could. Now the ball's in her court. And you're thinking there, like: "Ball? Like, what does 'ball' have to do with anything? What does 'court' have to do with a girlfriend/boyfriend fight?"

What this means: "The ball is in your court"... So, think about basketball. You have a basketball court. […]

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