Showing posts with label colloquial English. Show all posts
Showing posts with label colloquial English. Show all posts

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Meghan Trainor- "All About That Bass"

Teaching ESL often implies selecting material with a social message for teenagers and when it comes to dealing with eating and bad habits, we know how much it is fundamental nowadays to stress upon complex concepts, i.e. awareness, healthy habits and self acceptance, etc. 
In choosing today's song, "All About That Bass", I'm thinking that all these aspects are positively expressed by the US singer Meghan Trainor, a testimonial herself of real beauty. Although some of you may object that the language is pretty colloquial, I believe it can easily become subject matter itself, therefore why don't you make reference to it, if you are planning a lesson on colloquial/plain English and synonyms to enrich your students' poor vocabulary?

Level: pre-intermediate/intermediate students

Grammar focus on: colloquial/plain English and synonyms

Activity: rewrite the words given into plain English and find synonyms for informal expressions


Let's talk about:  Photoshop and real beauty. 1) Who do you admire most: VIP celebrities or ordinary people? 2)Do you agree with the message conveyed by the song? 3) Would ever go under plastic surgery (or nip and tuck?)?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Bruno Mars- "When I Was Your Man"

This week we listen to a great heart-rending ballad sung by Bruno Mars, "When I Was Your Man", the latest hit released from his lucky "Unorthodoxy Jukebox". Here I decided to work on conjunctions but the lyrics can be also useful if you wish to teach or learn phrasal verbs, US colloquial English, present continuous and so on.

Level: elementary

Grammar focus on: conjunctions

Activity: fill in the gaps exercise (non prompts provided)

When I Was Your Man

Lyrics taken from:


Linguistic aspects: let's take a close look at the verbs and at the phrasal verbs that you find in the song. Firstly, talking of you tears me down is an other way of saying that talking of you makes me feel very sad. Broadly speaking, this verb is referred to a structure or a part of it collapsing down. 
Secondly, I should have given you all my hours is to say that I wish I had devoted myself to you, i.e. a regret expressed for something that wasn't done in the past.
Thirdly, someone walks out of your life when he/she leaves you alone and goes away perhaps even when you need him/her most or you grapple with a difficult situation.
Fourthly, if a friend suggests that you should clean up the mess, he is clearly telling you that you should put your life into order
We conclude by quoting "it haunts me every time I close my eyes", where the verb haunt means that the very thought of my ex-girlfriend is always on my mind.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Bon Jovi- "Because We Can"

Bon Jovi is finally back again with a new album, "What about Now", to be released next March. In detail "Because We Can" is the first single of the American band and, what's more, a good chance to propose here a new type of activity. As you know, this blog usually offers listening activities, whereas this time, starting from the subtitled video, we are going to work on a comprehension and vocabulary activity.  Enjoy it!

Level: beginner

Grammar focus on: vocabulary, colloquial forms, phrasal verbs

Activity: find synonyms in the lyrics, match verbs and prepositions, write the expressions in plain English (+ keys)

Lyrics taken from:


Linguistic aspects: you can find lots of words related to willpower in this song. Let's start from the expression "I don't wanna be an other wave in the ocean", i.e. any ordinary person or, in other words, every man jack (informal English). 

Secondly, everyone knows that a rock is strong and cannot be easily moved; in fact you can say that someone is as solid as a rock, meaning that he/she is very calm but also strong , or in a single word, sturdy.

Thirdly, when you make an effort to accomplish something almost impossible, you move a mountain/mountains, e.g. Love can move a mountain (see MacMillan Dictionary).
Finally, the word soldier can be both a noun and a verb: in the lyrics it is used as a noun, but you can also find it elsewhere in the pharsal verb to soldier on, implying that you continue doing something although it is very hard for you.  

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Pink- "Raise Your Glass"

Pink's lyrics usually give me a thrill but this one seems like an energetic drink not only for its rhythm but also because it has a very interesting text from a linguistic point of view. By the way, Urban Dictionary has proved to be an excellent tool to understand the US slang and colloquial terms of the song and hereafter I will often refer to this updated dictionary written by a very large community that you can also emjoy and/or follow via Facebook and Twitter. So here's my suggestion to you: don't lose time, add it among your favourite online dictionaries!

Level: upper-intermediate / advanced

Grammar focus on: adjectives

Activity: circle the right option exercise

Raise Your Glass

Lyrics taken from:


Linguistic aspects: let's start right from the title of the lyrics, "Raise Your Glass", i.e. an invitation to drink together with someone and celebrate his/her success, happiness, health, etc. What's a dealeo? Urban Dictionary explains that is an Idaho expression for closing a tupper ware sales.
Let's pass now to informal expressions: if you are underdogs, it means here that you have little money and you feel depressed. The nitty-gritty is a detail that you have to specify. Besides the word gangster is here used to make reference to an illitterate inhabitant of a downtrodden ghetto who hangs around in gangs.
In conclusion let's analyse an idiomatic expression: if you are too school for cool you are very committed and prefer education or work over social life and friends.

If you want to know more about other informal expressions, please go to

Monday, 25 June 2012

Kasabian- "Man of Simple Pleasures"

What concept do you have of  the simple life? In "Man of Simple Pleasures" Kasabian express the point of view of a plain and simple man, often excluded from our own society. This is a pleasant song rich in idioms and phrasal verbs which we are going to analyse together.

Level: pre-intermediate, intermediate

Grammar focus on: prepositions

Activity: fill-in-the gap

Man of Simple Pleasures

Lyrics taken from:


Linguistic aspects: as said above, there are many interesting expressions to focus on. To start with, a measure  is the amount of alcohol served by a bar or pub; in this case 'Give me me whisky measures'  means 'Try out me! '.

Absolutely new is the figurative 'You throw stick and bones'  (Does it come from the idiom 'Sticks and stones may break my bones (but words will never hurt me)' ?)meaning perhaps that all humans are wasting their time hurting the feelings of other people.

Reassuring (but also disapproving) is the proverb 'Every dog will have its day', i.e. that everyone, although mediocre,  can become famous/rich/ successful once in his/her lifetime at least for one day.

In conclusion  let's consider the idiom take sb. for a ride which means 'to fool sb.' or 'to cheat sb.'.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

John Legend- "Tonight"

Colloquial language plays an important role in lyrics and quite common students get familiar faster with forms, like ain't, gotta, wanna, rather than those of plain standard English. It's part of the dilemma of many ESL teachers: shall I teach informal English or let my students find out on their own?Nice question, let me know what you usually do!

Level: intermediate

Grammar focus on: colloquial English

Activity:  Tonight

Lyrics taken from:


Monday, 9 April 2012

Adele- "Rumour Has It"

Here's a song from one of the most talented contemporary singers that I hope you will appreciate as much as I do. Today we are working on contracted forms, just to get more familiar with colloquial English.

Level: intermediate/ upperintermediate

Grammar focus on: contracted forms

Rumour Has It

Lyrics taken from:


Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Planet Funk- "These Boots Are Made for Walkin' "

This song is a classic: from time to time it is rediscovered, remixed and partially renewed. For this reason you can't miss it! If you want, you can listen to it and work on present perfect continuos, contractions, colloquial English. Today we are simply focusing on verbs with -ing form.

Level: intermediate

Grammar focus on: -ing form

These Shoes Are Made For Walkin' .

Lyrics taken from:


Cultural hint: Do you know that this song was sung by Nancy Sinatra for US servicemen during the war in Vietnam?
 It also inspired Kubrick ....learn more at