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Archive for the 'Karaoke English' Category

Tuesday - September 6, 2016

“Welcome to the Fourth Grade”

The kids are back in school! Hooray! (Great!) Most schools in the U.S. begin their school year either in last two weeks of August or right after Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September (yesterday).

To get you and especially our youngest listeners in the mood for (in the right emotional state for; ready for) school, here is a song created by a teacher who works just outside of Chicago, Illinois, that’s making the rounds (being shared by many people). He made this video and sent it to his new fourth grade students (ages nine and ten) and their parents to introduce himself and get students excited about the new school year.

I give it an A+! It’s fun and entertaining. (See the words to the video below to help you understand it.)

~ Jeff

Welcome to the Fourth Grade
by Dwayne Reed

Welcome to the fourth grade
So happy to meet you
Can’t wait ’till I see you
We’re gonna have a good time (have fun)

We’ll learn about science
Find ways to apply it (use science in the real world)
I bet (I’m sure) that you’ll like it
We’re gonna (going to) have a good time

Welcome to the fourth grade
Hello, I’m your teacher
My name is Mr. Reed
It’s very nice to meet you

I’m from Chicago
I love eating pizza
I dress to impress (to get others to have a good opinion)
But I still rock (wear and look good in) sneakers (tennis shoes)

This is my first year teaching
So it’s all really exciting
Got some ideas
And I’d really like to try them

Like making songs to remember what you hear
We’ll be learning so much by the end of the year

To my friends and my peers, the parents and the students
I’m ready, you’re ready, we’re ready, let’s do this (let’s begin) [yeah!]

But absolutely no daydreaming (not paying attention and thinking of other things)
Working hard until the bell starts ringing*

Welcome to the fourth grade
So happy to meet you
Can’t wait ’till I see you
We’re gonna have a good time

We’ll study mathematics
Division (÷) and adding (+)
And don’t forget fractions (for example, {\tfrac {1}{2}})
We’re going to have a good time

Welcome to the fourth grade

I’ll always greet you (say hello) with a smile
I’ll always try to make the lessons worthwhile (have value; worth learning)
When you do good work, I’ll acknowledge (show appreciation of it)
(Be)cause you’re headed off to (going to) work or to college
So we’ve got to keep it positive, that’s the key (most important thing)

Have respect for (be kind to and behave well toward) each other, and don’t forget me
Have respect for yourselves and the staff (workers in the school) and the school
Having fun can be cool when you’re following the rules
Time’s going to fly (time will go by quickly)
Before you know it you’ll be moving into grade five

But for now we’ll be working and learning and singing
All the way ’till the bell starts to ringing

Welcome to the fourth grade
So happy to meet you
Can’t wait ’till I see you
We’re gonna have a good time

We’ll learn about English
Write papers and read them
A-plus (A+, the best possible grade) and we’ll see them
We’ll have a good time

Welcome to the fourth grade
Go teacher [repeat]

* Schools ring (make sound) bells at the beginning and end of classes in U.S. schools

Tuesday - June 14, 2016

You’re A Grand Old Flag!


Today is Flag Day in the United States. On this day, in 1777, the Second Continental Congress of the United States adopted (decided to officially use) the design of the American flag:

Resolved (It is decided), That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes (long lines), alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field (background), representing a new constellation (group of stars in the sky).

In 1916, 100 years ago this year, President Woodrow Wilson declared (officially announced) that today, June 14th, would be Flag Day, a day Americans should honor (give respect to) their flag. While it is not an official government holiday, there are many cities and towns that remember this day with parades and small celebrations.

I’ll celebrate Flag Day this year by introducing you to a popular song about the American flag, one most Americans still know (even if they don’t remember that today is Flag Day), George M. Cohan‘s “You’re a Grand Old Flag.”

Cohan wrote the song as part of his 1906 musical, George Washington, Jr.  The words of the chorus (the main part of the song that repeats) are the most famous part of the song. They are:

You’re a grand (wonderful) old flag,
You’re a high-flying flag,
And forever in peace may you wave (move in the wind).
You’re the emblem (symbol) of the land I love,
The home of the free and the brave (courageous).
Ev’ry (poetic version of “every”) heart beats true
Under the Red, White and Blue,
Where there’s never a boast or brag (being too proud of something).
But should auld acquaintance be forgot*,
Keep your eye on the grand old flag.

* = This is a line from the popular song sung traditionally on New Year’s Eve, “Auld Lang Syne.” In the original song, it was meant as a question, “Should we really forget our old friends?” (The answer, of course, is no.)

Here’s a recording of the entire song by the great American actor, James Cagney, from a movie about the life of Cohan, Yankee Doodle Dandy, released in 1942. (The chorus begins at around 1:12 on the video.)

If you live outside of the U.S., does your country have a similar day to honor your flag?


Image credit: Wikipedia

Tuesday - February 17, 2015

The Worst Valentine’s Day Song Ever

Last Saturday, February 14th, was Valentine’s Day, the holiday that celebrates love. If you celebrated it, I hope you had a romantic (inspiring love and warm feelings) time with your sweetheart (the person you love romantically). We talked about this popular holiday on one of our regular podcasts (ESL Podcast 659) and in one of our English Cafes (English Cafe 13).

Now that the holiday is over, I can introduce you to the worst Valentine’s Day song ever composed (written (music)). It’s called “My Funny Valentine” and it was most famously recorded by the great Frank Sinatra. The song actually debuted (was performed for the first time) in 1937 in a musical (play with songs) called Babe in Arms. But since then, many famous singers have covered it (sung their own version), and it is considered a standard (classic song known and sung by many people).

You’ve probably heard this song in one form or another, but have you ever listened to the lyrics (words in a song)? I hadn’t until last week. And now I consider (judge) this to be the worst song you could ever sing to your valentine on Valentine’s Day.  I’ll explain the lyrics below and you can tell me if you agree.

“My Funny Valentine”
by Frank Sinatra

My funny (making one laugh or strange) valentine (loved one)
Sweet comic (funny; making one laugh) valentine
You make me smile with my heart.

Your looks (appearance) are laughable (so ridiculous that they makes others laugh)
Unphotographable (cannot be photographed because of its ugliness)
Yet (Despite this; Even so) you’re my favorite work of art (artwork, such as a painting or statue).

Is your figure (curves of a person’s body, usually a woman’s) less than Greek (as in a Greek statue, often showing an ideal human form)?
Is your mouth a little weak (small and not strong looking)?
When you open it to speak
Are you smart? (This is a rhetorical question, one that doesn’t need to be answered because we all know the answer. In this case, it’s no.)

But don’t change a hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay, little valentine, stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day

Is your figure less than Greek
Is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak
Are you smart?

But don’t you change one hair for me
Not if you care for me
Stay little valentine stay
Each day is Valentine’s Day

There you have it (That was what I wanted to show you). The singer tells his sweetheart she is ugly, she has a bad figure, and she is stupid. Yes, the larger message is that despite all of your flaws (faults; things that make you not perfect), my valentine, I love you and I don’t want you to change. That’s a lovely sentiment (emotional message) and certainly something I would want to hear from my sweetheart. But after being insulted (treated disrespectfully), do you think your sweetheart would hear the real message of the song? I’m not sure. Maybe it would only work for someone as suave (charming (man)) as Frank Sinatra.

Now that Valentine’s Day is over and the pressure is off (there is no stress to do something good or nice), please try this song on your sweetheart and let me know if you get a slap (hit with an open hand, usually on the face) or a kiss.

– Lucy
Tuesday - September 25, 2012

Misheard Lyrics: I Get No Sprouts

I got an email from a listener the other day (recently; a few days ago) about listening to song lyrics (words) in English. His question was why, even after listening to English for many years, he was still having problems understanding the words of popular American songs.

This is a common question among language learners. The best answer I have is this: I am a native speaker of English and I, too, have difficulty understanding lyrics sometimes!

I remember teaching a university language class back in 1992 or 1993, and telling my students one day about one of my favorite songs then playing on the radio. I didn’t know the name of the song, but I told them that the first few lines (phrases or sentences) went something like “I get no sprouts/But I get up again.” (Sprouts, commonly called Brussels sprouts, is a green vegetable used in salads.)

My students got a big kick out of that (found it funny; laughed at it), because, you see, the actual words to the song are “I get knocked down/But I get up again.” (To get knocked down means to be pushed down to the ground, usually by being hit by another person.) I had misheard (heard incorrectly or wrongly) the lyrics. (The song is by the British group, Chumbawamba, entitled (with the name) “I Get Knocked Down.”)

Lyrics are difficult to understand because they often have weird or unusual pronunciations, especially when singers are singing quickly. For that reason alone, you should never judge your English based on whether or not you can understand song lyrics.

Mishearing lyrics is so common that there are websites devoted to (focused on) funny examples of them.  Here are a few:

  • The Beatles, “I Saw Her Standing There”:
    Original: And the way she looked was way beyond compare (something you could not compare anything else with).
    Misheard: And the way she shook (moved quickly) her wavy (not straight) armpit (hair under your arm) hair.
  • Michael Jackson, “Beat It”:
    Original: Just beat it (beat it), beat it (beat it)/No one wants to be defeated (lose).
    Misheard: Just beat it (beat it), beat it (beat it)/No one wants to be deleted (eliminate or remove something).
  • Elton John, “Candle in the Wind”:
    Original: You lived your life like a candle in the wind.
    Misheard: You lived your life like a sandal (type of shoe) in a bin (large bucket or container).

As you can see, even native speakers have problems understanding the words to a song!


P.S. THANK YOU to all who gave me their warm birthday greetings here on the blog and via (by) email! It’s great to be 29 again…and again…and again.

Photo credit: The Beatles, Wikipedia PD

Thursday - November 24, 2011

“You Can’t Gobble Me”

Today is Thanksgiving Day and we want to give thanks once again to all of our fantastic listeners, especially our members and donors, who make it possible for us to continue our work here at ESL Podcast.

In past years, we’ve talked about Thanksgiving in regular podcasts and Cafes ((ESL Podcast 91 and English Cafe 60).  We’ve also talked about it on the blog, here, here, and here.

This is a happy holiday for everyone, except perhaps for the poor turkeys.  For them, we play this song. We hope you like it, too.  (You can also access the video here.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Lucy

P.S. Gobble has two common meanings:  It means to eat a lot of food very quickly, and it also refers to the sound that turkeys make.

“You Can’t Gobble Me”
(Original Song:  “You Can’t Hurry Love” by The Supremes)

Keep way (far) back,
I’m not your meal
Plan another meal
Hear my appeal (plea; serious request)

You can’t gobble me
on Thanksgiving Day
Why not eat tofu
feed yourself the vegan (without meat) way

You can’t gobble me
try as you may (even if you try)
Fill up on veggies (informal way of saying “vegetables”)
have yourself a deli tray (a large plate of cut meats and cheeses, often served at parties)

Now why can’t I find a place
to live in peace
Where I’m not a part
of someone’s Thanksgiving feast (big celebration meal)

Don’t want my giblets (heart, liver, neck and other parts of a chicken or other bird before it’s cooked) touched
Don’t want my drumsticks (lower part of the leg) gnawed (eat slowly with one’s teeth)
You know we turkeys think
It’s a major faux-pas (socially unacceptable behavior)
(Hear my appeal)

You can’t gobble me
on Thanksgiving Day
Why not eat tofu
feed yourself the vegan way

You can’t gobble me
try as you may
Fill up on veggies
have yourself a deli tray

Wednesday - May 4, 2011

“Buffalo Soldiers” by Bob Marley

In today’s English Cafe 292, Jeff was nice enough to invite me back to talk about the U.S. military soldiers called “Buffalo Soldiers.” In the Learning Guide under “What Insider’s Know,” we also talked about the song called “Buffalo Soldiers” by Bob Marley.  In case you want to hear it, here it is, with the lyrics (words).  Keep in mind that Bob Marley was from Jamaica and spoke Jamaican English, so he won’t sound like the Americans you’re used to on the podcast.  Enjoy!

~ Lucy

“Buffalo Solders”
by Bob Marley

Buffalo soldier, dreadlock rasta:
It was a buffalo soldier in the heart of (in the middle of) America,

Stolen from Africa, brought to America.
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
I mean it, when I analyze the stench (strong, bad smell)
To me, it makes a lot of sense
How the dreadlock rasta was the Buffalo Soldier

And he was taken from Africa, brought to America
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival (trying to stay alive)

Said he was a Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock rasta
Buffalo Soldier, in the heart of America

If you know your history
Then you would know where you coming from
Then you wouldn’t have to ask me
“Who the heck do I think I am?”

I’m just a Buffalo Soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Said he was fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
Said he was a Buffalo Soldier, win the war for America

Dreadie, woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe
Woe yoe yoe yo, yo yo woe yo, woe yoe yoe

Buffalo Soldier, trodding (walking on top of something) through the land
Said he wanna run, then you wanna hand
Trodding through the land, yea, yea

Said he was a Buffalo Soldier
Win the war for America
Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock rasta
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
Driven from (pushed out of) the mainland
To the heart of the Caribbean

Singing, woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe
Woe yoe yoe yo, yo yo woe yo woe yo yoe

Trodding through San Juan
In the arms of America
Trodding through Jamaica, a Buffalo Soldier
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock rasta
Woe yoe yoe, woe woe yoe yoe
Woe yoe yeo yo, yo yo woe yo woe yo yoe

Wednesday - February 23, 2011

“The Sound of Silence” – Simon and Garfunkel

In today’s English Cafe, Jeff talked about the movie The Graduate. The soundtrack of the movie (music used in the movie) contains several songs that have become classics (judged to be good overtime and is known by a lot of people). One of the songs that is best-known is “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel.

Paul Simon didn’t actually write “The Sound the Silence” for the film, although it is very closely associated with The Graduate today.  He wrote it several years earlier after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.  The song was released in 1965, two years before The Graduate.  The song hit (arrived at) number 1 on the charts (ranking of the most popular songs) on New Year’s Day in 1966.

~ Lucy

“The Sound of Silence”
by Simon and Garfunkel

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision (seeing something, like in a dream) softly creeping (moving slowly and carefully)
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted (placed there by someone else) in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence (with no sound)

In restless (unable to relax) dreams I walked alone
Narrow (not wide) streets of cobblestone (round stone used to cover the surface of a road)
(Be)neath the halo (circle of light, usually around the head of a holy person) of a street lamp
I turned my collar (piece of material around the neck of a shirt) to the cold and damp (a little wetness)
When my eyes were stabbed (hit by something sharp, like a knife) by the flash of a neon light
That split (divided; interrupted) the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked (uncovered) light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared (had the courage)
Disturb the sound of silence

Fools (unwise people)”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer (serious disease where the cells of the body behave in a destructive way – see Cancer) grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells (deep places) of silence

And the people bowed (lowered their heads) and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out (turning on and off its lights) its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets (people who are believed to have special information or knowledge from God) are written on the subway walls
And tenement (buildings with small apartments, usually for people with low income) halls”
And whispered (spoke very softly) in the sounds of silence

Wednesday - November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow, November 25 (the fourth Thursday each November), is Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. Learn more about the holiday here and here.

Once again, it is time for us to give thanks for the support of our fantastic ESL Podcast listeners, members, and donors. The song below is a parody (funny song based on another song) of the popular 1970’s Gloria Gaynor hit song “I Will Survive.”  Happy Thanksgiving!

~ Lucy

“I Will Survive” – Thanksgiving Version

At first I was an egg, I was petrified* (very scared; very frightened)
Kept thinking I’d be lost or I’d get cracked (for something hard to be broken so that a line appears on the surface) and fried
But you took me to your nest (bird’s home) before it was too late
and kept me warm and you helped me incubate (for an egg to be kept warm until a bird is hatched or born).

And now you’re back, think you’re the boss
Wanna put me on a plate next to your wife’s cranberry sauce (a sweet jelly sauce made from cranberries, eaten at Thanksgiving)
I should have known this day would come
I should have known not to relax
If I thought for just a second that you’d come in here with an ax (tool for cutting wood).

Go on now go, walk out the door
Just turn around now
Ain’t chopping (using a sharp tool to cut) my head to the floor.
Weren’t you the one who prized (highly valued) this dark meat on my thighs (upper part of a leg)?
Do you think I’d gobble (make the noise that a turkey makes)?
Did you think I’d lay down and die?

Oh on, not I.
I will survive.
Oh as long as I know how to peck (for a bird to use its hard mouth (beak) to hit or bite), I know I’ll stay alive.
Got my wings so I won’t fall,
Ain’t selling me to Butterball (popular U.S. company that sells turkeys).
I will survive.
I will survive.

* “Petrified” can also mean for a living thing to turn into something very, very hard because it is very old, like a fossil.

Friday - October 22, 2010

“Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers

We’ve had a week of wet, cloudy, and windy weather here in (slightly less) beautiful Los Angeles, and it made me think of this classic song by Bill Withers. It’s also in my mind because, as I’ve mentioned before, Jeff likes to sing in his office throughout the day, and he has been singing it all week, which means I’ve been humming it (singing it with my lips closed) all week.  Now, it’s time to get you singing it, too.

~ Lucy

P.S. Here’s a wonderful cover (another version, originally recorded by someone else) of this song by Eva Cassidy.

“Aint No Sunshine”
by Bill Withers

Ain’t no sunshine (direct light from the sun) when she’s gone.
It’s not warm when she’s away (not here).
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
And she’s always gone too long, anytime she goes away.

Wonder this time where she’s gone,
Wonder if she’s gone to stay (permanently; not to return).
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.
And this house just ain’t no home anytime she goes away.

And I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know,
I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know, I know
Hey, I ought to (should) leave the young thing alone, but ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone.

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
Only darkness (being without light; unhappiness) everyday.
Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,
And this house just ain’t no home anytime she goes away.

Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.
Anytime she goes away.

Tuesday - September 7, 2010

You Got Punked!

Have you ever had friends or family play a trick on you? If you have, then you may have been “punked.”

If you’re playing a prank or playing a practical joke on someone, it means that you’re deceiving them in some way to have fun or to make other people laugh.  In recent years in the U.S., people have started using the word “punked” to describe being the victim (the person harmed or tricked) of a practical joke or prank.  In fact, the actor Ashton Kutcher had a show on MTV, the music cable television station, called Punk’d in which he played practical jokes on other celebrities.

Recently, I saw a prank on the website “Funny or Die.”  Here’s the setup (arrangement; plan):  The producers (makers) of “Funny or Die” asked popular singer Jewel to disguise herself by wearing a wig (false hair) and a fake nose, and to go to a karaoke bar and to sing her own songs.  A karaoke bar is a bar where any customer can sing a popular song on stage while recorded music plays, usually performing in front of friends or coworkers for fun.  The producers asked her to sing her own hit (very popular) songs as a woman named “Karen” to see how the other bar patrons (customers) would react.  After Jewel got her disguise, she was also given some fake coworkers, “business associates,” who went to the bar with her.  They all wore badges, which she calls “laminants” in the video, which are identification cards worn on a string around the neck or pinned to a shirt/coat, showing that they were in town to attend a frozen foods convention (large meeting).

When they arrived, Jewel said that their group “really stood out,” meaning that they were very noticeable because they were different from the typical customers in the bar.  Her “business associates” were trying to get her to sing, but she pretended to be reluctant (not wanting to do something), until the entire bar was “pulling for her” (wanting her to succeed).

Watch the video below or here at “Funny or Die“.  I’ll explain below a few more things people said in the video in case you have difficulty understanding them.

2:48  “She’s kind of homely (not attractive; plain looking).”

3:02  “That’s the first time there’s ever been an encore here (the first time someone has been asked to sing again because the audience enjoyed the first performance so much).”

3:04  “That was pretty off the charts (amazing; better than anyone had expected) there.”

6:14  “That was all set up (all arranged; not real).”

6:18  “I was duped (successfully tricked).”

What do you think of the prank?  How would you have reacted if you had been one of the other customers?

~ Lucy