English With Your Coffee: Technology Edition

Learn some vocabulary about technology in this short video.

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What is the Secret to Remembering New Words?

How can you remember all the new words you read and listen to in English?

I have the answer.

And it will surprise you.

Keep reading . . .

My answer has two parts.

#1: We’ll start with the wrong answer to this question: Spend lots of time “studying” a list of words, trying to “memorize” and “review” words over and over again.

This “just study” method is actually the slowest possible way to improve your vocabulary.

In fact, it is up to 10 times slower than the right way to do it!

Part of the reason is this: there are just too many words to try to study and review them one by one.

You will probably die before you have enough time to memorize words individually.

But the main reason “studying” is so inefficient (slow) is that the brain learns new words fastest by doing something much easier.

That leads us to . . .

#2: The right way to learn new words is: Get a LOT of “comprehensible input.”

What’s “comprehensible input”?

Comprehensible input is just a scientific name for “reading and listening to things you can understand” (comprehensible = “able to understand it”).

So the “secret” to remembering lots of new words is simply to read and listen, especially to things you enjoy. (If you enjoy it, you’ll do more reading and listening.)

Now, you may be thinking: “Jeff, this must be wrong. I read and listen to many things but I still can’t remember some of the new words I see!”

Of course you don’t remember many of them, especially after seeing them only once. Neither do I.

But here’s what you do NOT notice or see: Every time you read a new word in a book or hear it somewhere, your brain is learning a small percentage of what that word means.

Maybe it’s only 5% or 10% or 15%.

But the next time you see it, you will gain a little more knowledge. And so on and so on.

Before you realize it, by doing lots of reading and listening, you’ve picked up (learned) 100% of the word.

A recent study found that reading can give you anywhere between 5 and 10 new words an hour.

That’s much, much faster than trying to study or “memorize” words.

Obviously, the most important and useful words are the ones you will see over and over again. So just reading and listening will give you all of the words you really need to know.

“But do you have proof this works?”

“And will it work for speaking, writing, grammar etc.?”

I’m glad you asked!

I wrote a special 9-page special report that explains in detail how we learn languages, including not only vocabulary, but grammar, speaking, pronunciation, and more.

You can get it below by filling in your name and email address.

It will change the way you learn languages, I promise.

Get the report today:

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~Jeff

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What’s the Difference Between “Sleep” and “Asleep”?

I’ve been feeling rather lazy this week. So it’s a good time to talk about a few confusing words in English related to sleeping.

Sleep is both a noun and a verb. As a noun, it means that time when you are unconscious (aren’t aware of the world around you), usually at night.

For example, we can say “I need some sleep because I am very tired.” (Notice we say “some” sleep and not “a” sleep.)

To sleep (verb) means to be in the condition or “state” of sleep. We might say, “He is sleeping” or “He sleeps at night for 8 hours.”

The past tense of sleep is slept, so we say “He slept for seven hours yesterday.”

But what about asleep? Well, asleep is neither a noun nor a verb. We do not say “I need some asleep” or “He is asleeping.”

However, there is a phrasal verb, “to fall asleep,” which means to go into the state of sleep, as in “He fell asleep after drinking a bottle of whiskey.”

Normally, asleep is used as an adjective (and less commonly, as an adverb).

For example, you can say “He was asleep by 11:00 PM last night” or “He is asleep now.”

To say that someone is asleep is the same as saying that the person is sleeping.

We also use asleep to describe a computer that has become temporarily inactive – “My computer is asleep.”

And there’s one more related use of asleep: when your leg, arm, or feet become numb (you can’t feel them), it may be because they are “asleep.”

All the talk of sleep is making me even more tired, so I better stop before I fall asleep!

~Jeff

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What does “I can’t be bothered” mean?

I can’t be bothered” means “I don’t want to make the effort (work) to do something.” For example:

Elisa is too busy watching TV and can’t be bothered to answer the phone.

“I can’t be bothered” (or, if in the past, “I couldn‘t be bothered”) can also mean “It isn’t very important to me so I don’t want to do it or think about it.”

Dan wants me to meet him for dinner tonight, but I can’t be bothered. I’m going to read a book instead.

Alex is so rude! He passed us in the hall and couldn’t be bothered to say hello.

Notice that we often follow the phrase “can’t be bothered” with the “to” form of a verb (what we call the infinitive), such as “to answer” or “to say” in the above examples.

Another meaning of “can’t be bothered” is that a person cannot or should not be disturbed or interrupted. If someone is very busy with an important meeting or phone call, we might say this person “can’t be bothered”:

Derek needs to ask his boss a question but she is in a meeting and can’t be bothered.

The verb “to bother  means to trouble someone, to cause a problem for someone (including yourself).

If you have a sad face, someone may ask you, “Is something bothering you?” meaning “Do you have a problem?”

Finally, when you tell someone, “Don’t bother!” you mean “Do not do (something)!”

For example, if you have to go somewhere, a friend may offer you a ride in his car. If the place is close by, you might say, “Oh, don’t bother! I’ll just walk.”

~Jeff

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What’s the Difference Between “Accountability” and “Responsibility”?

Learn how we use accountability and responsibility in English by watching this short video.

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Who’s the Head Honcho Here?

The term head honcho is sometimes used to describe the leader, president, or most powerful person in an organization or company.

The word head here means “top” or “best.” In some schools in England, for example, there is a “head boy” or “head girl” who is chosen to be the leader of the students, and is often one of the best students in the school.

The headquarters of a company is the main or “leading” location for that business. On a car, the headlights are in the front position.

The word honcho is an unusual one, and you will typically only find it in the expression, “head honcho,” although it can be used by itself. The word is thought by some to come from the Japanese word hancho, which was a leader of a group.

One story is that American soldiers returning from World Word II brought the word back with them and popularized it in American English.

Sadly, I am not really the head honcho of ESLPod.com (or anything else), but I did find this nameplate (see photo) at a store last weekend I may put on my desk.

~Jeff

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What Does “To Be Short For” Mean?

Here’s a 90-second video explaining the use of the common English expression to be short for.

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What Does “Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen” Mean?

We see in this cartoon a group of people sitting around a conference table, most of them with chef’s hats on, the tall hats sometimes worn by the main cook or “chef” in a restaurant.

The man leading (running) the meeting announces that they have “too many cooks in the kitchen.”

This cartoon is related to an old expression in English, “Too many cooks spoil the broth.” To spoil something means to ruin it, to make it so bad you can’t use it. Broth is a liquid usually used in making soups.

The original expression, then, says that if you have too many cooks in a kitchen, the result will be bad food.

The more general idea is that you can’t have more than one boss, one leader, in any project. If you do have too many “leaders,” things won’t turn out well (have a good result).

~Jeff

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60-Second English: What Does “To Rule Something Out” Mean? (Video)

Learn what the popular phrasal verb “to rule something out” means in this quick video lesson.

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“To Make the Grade” versus “To Make the Cut”

Watch this short video to learn the differences between “make the grade” and “make the cut.”

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