Friday, July 30, 2010

Not just British or American... 21 Accents

It's safe to say that users of English as a Second language have for the most part learned English either from British or American English methodologies. In terms of listening and pronunciation, this means that in many cases, they learned from someone with a British or an American accent. And sure, some prefer the former, while others the latter. This might even apply to you.

But are there really only two accents in all of English? Hardly. First of all, there are many other English-speaking countries. Then, within each country there are many regional accents. In addition to that, just like you, people from all over the world speak English, often although not always with a distinct accent.

To get a taste of this, for today's post, we'll let YouTube accent trainer and actress Amy Walker walk you through at least 21 of them. The first 3 alone are only from London, mind you. So if your ears are ready, check out this entertaining video and see the many different ways to say, "Hi, my name is Amy Walker, I'm 25 years old and I was born in ...". Enjoy!

If you'd like, share your thoughts in the comments box below. Let us know which Amy Walker accents are easier for you? Which are more difficult? Which one did you like the most? And last but not least, can you guess where Amy Walker is really from?
(After you listened to it a couple of times, you may check the transcript posted in the "comments" section down below")

Saturday, July 17, 2010

UP IN THE AIR (Listening Comprehension)

As an English User, you may have on ocassion traveled abroad. Who knows, you may even be a frequent flyer. Well, regardless of how much time you've spent "up in the air", today we'll be practicing some listening comprehension with a scene from UP IN THE AIR, the film starring George Clooney.

If you haven't seen it. UP IN THE AIR is an American comedy-drama film directed by Jason Reitman. It's about a corporate downsizer named Ryan Bingham (Clooney) who spends most of his time traveling. The film follows his life and philosophies along with the people he meets along the way.

In fact, Bingham is a frequent-flyer because he makes his living traveling to workplaces around the United States and conducting layoffs for bosses who don’t want to do it themselves. Ryan also delivers motivational speeches, using the analogy "What's In Your Backpack?" to extol the virtues of a life free of relationships with people and things, like his own life.

Yet events happen along the way that make him change the way he looks at his life up in the air.

WATCH the scene where Bingham delivers his typical "What's in your backpack?" Speech. Only try to understand the main idea. Then READ the transcript below and STUDY the vocabulary. Finally, WATCH the video again and try to APPLY the vocabulary the next time you use English. Enjoy the video and good luck, English Users!

Now this is going to be a bit difficult, so stay with me. How much does your life weigh? Imagine for a second that you’re carrying a backpack. I want you to pack it with all the stuff that you have in your life. You start with the little things. The shelves, the drawers, the knickknacks, and then you start adding larger stuff. Clothes, tabletop appliances, lamps, your TV the backpack should be getting pretty heavy now. You go bigger. Your couch, your car, your home. I want you to stuff it all into that backpack.

Now I want you to fill it with people. Start with casual acquaintances, friends of friends, folks around the office and then you move into the people you trust with your most intimate secrets. Your brothers, your sisters, your children, your parents and finally your husband, your wife, your boyfriend, your girlfriend. You get them into that backpack; feel the weight of that bag.

Make no mistake. Your relationships are the heaviest components in your life. All those negotiations and arguments and secrets, the compromises. The slower we move the faster we die. Make no mistake, moving is living. Some animals were meant to carry each other to live symbiotically over a lifetime. Star crossed lovers, monogamous swans. We are not swans. We are sharks."


Up in the air: Expression to refer to something that is undefined or has not yet been decided.
Corporate downsizer: A person whose job it is to assist a company to reduce its operational cost, often implying the task of laying off staff.
Along the way: Expression that refers something that happens while traveling from one place to the other
layoff: the act of dismissing an employee from his or her employment
extol: praise, glorify, or honor someone or something
Knickknacks: A small trivial article intended for ornament
Appliance: a machine or device, esp an electrical one used domestically like a microwave oven
To Stuff: To pack (a container, a suitcase) tightly, almost to the limit
Acquaintance: a person with whom one has been in contact but who is not a close friend