Learn from natural English conversation – Hanging by a thread

hanging by the thread
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Do you use things until they almost stop working and become useless? Maybe you have a TV that’s hanging on by a thread. Or do you have an old t-shirt that’s on its last legs? This time Andrew and Harp talk about expressions used to describe these kinds of things. This episode might make you realize you’ve got some stuff that’s almost dead!

sample dialog

Andrew: That’s right. So, if we’re talking about a thing that’s on its last legs, it means it’s almost totally useless, and it’s broken.
Harp: Yes. That means that it’s still working a little bit, but really not very well or only a little bit. Or only one function of it is working. So maybe for our fridge, just the fridge works but the freezer doesn’t work anymore. That’s how you use this.
Andrew: Right. So a part of it is broken and you have the sense that it is going to completely break really soon. And then it is on it’s last legs.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Super To be hanging by a thread
Here you go To be dead
Aw To make someone look bad
To run To be on its last legs
To skip To almost kill yourself
To have one foot in the grave Is that a …. you’ve got there?

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Home is where the heart is

Home_Sweet_Home
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Home is a special place, so it makes sense that we’ve got a bunch of expressions to talk about it. Andrew and Maura start by explaining the difference between house and home, then review the most popular expression with home. They also talk about their experiences being away from home, including culture shock and homesickness. Oh, there’s no place like home!

sample dialog

Andrew: Right. Expressions with home. So our first one is home sweet home.
Maura: And you see, there’s even a kind of way that you say it. You stop and you take the time to say home sweet home.
Andrew: Yeah. Because when you say home sweet home there’s a certain sentiment. A certain memory that’s attached to home, right. It’s special for me so, yeah, when I use this expression I’m sort of, it’s like what we were talking about earlier, how it’s a warm and cozy place, your home. Because you think about it differently than another place. This is a special place. It’s your home.
Maura: Right. This expression is used when someone is talking about their home and they love it and they think it’s a really great place. They might be saying this when they’re away from home because when you’re away from home sometimes you start to realize all the great things about it and you really start to miss it. So someone might start to use this expression, home sweet home, when they’re away from their home.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To be near and dear to our hearts House and home
To house Home sweet home
To live out of a suitcase This is news to me
There’s no place like home Home is where the heart is
Hometown To know what you were getting into
Different strokes for different folks Culture shock and reverse culture shock
To push your horizons A home away from home

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Go call your folks

tight family
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Everyone’s got some kind of parental unit, so there’s gotta be some slang to talk about it. We’re talking about mommy and daddy in this episode and reviewing some of the fun names we can call them. We also review some of the standard names for these important people and the difference between using mom or mother. If you haven’t seen your old man lately, this episode will make you want to give him a call!

sample dialog

Maura: So in this example we heard from someone whose parents were coming to visit her and instead of saying my parents are coming, she says, “my folks are coming.” And in this case my folks just directly means my parents. It’s just a more casual, familiar way to talk.
Andrew: That’s right. And while we’re talking about folks maybe we should we talk about the word itself. So folks is spelled F-O-L-K-S. If you notice when you hear the word folks, you don’t hear an L sound, even though there is an L in the spelling. So when you’re reading this word, don’t say folks, it sounds strange, just say folks. Pretend the L is not there.
Maura: Right. That’s good advice. You know there are so many of these words in English that just have a strange spelling.
Andrew: Absolutely.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To get the hang of Lingo
To get sidetracked A tight family
Mum or Mum Folks
To be in town The slopes
‘Rents Come to think of it
To get to it A hand
Mama and ma Pops and old man

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You pulled a fast one on me

trick someone
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Do you know someone who always likes to joke around? In this episode, we talk about expressions that can be used to describe when one person tricks another. It could be just for fun, or someone might intentionally try to deceive someone else. Whatever the situation, listening to this episode could help you figure out whether someone is trying to pull the wool over your eyes. Listen and learn!

sample dialog

Andrew: So today’s expressions are all about tricking somebody.
Harp: Yes. And they all have the word pull in them.
Andrew: That’s right. So they have two things in common.
Harp: All right, so let’s get started with our first expression, which is to pull a fast one.
Andrew: That’s right. To pull a fast one on somebody.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

No? To stop and look at something
To pull a fast one To mail something out
To take a car for a spin The shop
A junker To pull someone’s leg
To kid To pull the wool over someone’s eyes
A toque To be up to no good
To deke

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High school cliques

High School Cliques
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High school is a special kind of world with all different kinds of people. If you’ve ever watched an American movie, you’ll probably recognize some of the characters we talk about here. In this episode, Andrew and Maura talk about high school stereotypes, and share their own experiences. Was Andrew a band geek? Was Maura a jock? Reminisce about your own high school days while you listen to this episode!

sample dialog

Maura: Let’s talk about some of the typical kinds of people or groups of people who you’ll see in high school.
Andrew: Yeah. So, one of the major groups that you always see in high school movies is jocks.
Maura: That’s right. Jocks are the athletes. They are the kinds of people who play sports; and usually not just one sport on one team, but often, a jock plays on a few different teams and is involved in whatever sport they can be a part of.
Andrew: Yeah, absolutely. These are the people who really love sports, play on all the teams, watch all the games, and really sort of make it known throughout the school that they are the athletes. So they’ll wear their team jerseys all the time, even when they’re not playing sports, and they’ll always hang out together and talk about sports.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To come together For better or for worse
A clique A jock
A nerd A stoner
A drama kid Black clothes
In the same vein A band geek
To have a hand in something At the top of the totem pole
You know what? A telltale sign
To get a kick out of something To pop up

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An interview with Roberto

Roberto
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In this episode, we interview Roberto, a Canadian who partly grew up in Trinidad and Tobago, spent 10 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, and is now known as the Vegan Yoga Dude. Roberto and Harp discuss his experiences learning French, and what it’s like to edit English-as-a-second-language textbooks. Oh, and did we mention that he was in Germany for the fall of the Berlin wall, and worked security for Celine Dion? Listen to this episode to find out more!

And check out Roberto’s blog, Vegan Yoga Dude, at veganyogadude.com. You can also find Roberto on Twitter @VeganYogaDude, or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Vegan-Yoga-Dude/1421251401426454.

sample dialog

Harp: And you were in the army for 10 years, you said?
Roberto: Ten years, but I broke it up. I have to keep things interesting. I broke it up into two segments of 5 years. I did 5 years, and then while I was in Germany, which was a wonderful posting, I left the Armed Forces to work for a while as a musician. And having had a very limited amount of success as a musician, I re-enrolled in the Canadian Forces and did another 5 years.
Harp: As a logistics officer again?
Roberto: As a logistics officer again, yes. While in the Canadian Armed Forces, they sent us to French school. And so I became bilingual, and that has been a huge addition to my life. I’m very grateful for that, to be able to speak English and French now.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To follow in someone’s footsteps Off to
For all intents and purposes To take something for granted
Storybook To never step foot somewhere
By no means A groupie
Chapters A, B, and C
To put yourself in someone else’s shoes Off the top of my head
A baptism by fire The Vegan Yoga Dude

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The Winter Olympics

winter_olympics
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It’s Olympic time again! All around the world people are tuning into sporting events happening in Sochi, Russia, so we decided to do an episode about it. Harp and Andrew talk about their own favourite events, and also discuss what Canadians love about the Winter Olympics. There are also come cool new events being added this year. Are you watching?

sample dialog

Harp: So let’s get started. Our first topic, what the Winter Olympics mean to Canadians.
Andrew: Yes. As many of our listeners will know, Canada is a winter country. We have long, cold winters and because of that I think most Canadians really enjoy the winter Olympics more so than the summer Olympics.
Harp: Yup. And I think that there’s two reasons for that.
Andrew: OK. Why?
Harp: First reason is ‘cause it’s freezing outside so we don’t want to go outside and can watch TV.
Andrew: Yeah. I agree with that. Yeah.
Harp: The second thing is, again, it’s freezing outside. So we can actually practice some these sports that we’re good at.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To cheer on A hub
To bring heart to something A zoo
To be biting your nails Better safe than sorry
Lucky Loonie Rumour has it
To roll around A hotbed
Golden A recipe for disaster
To do a 360 Phew
To have guts A ‘fraidy car

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Aleks: Part 2

Tango
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This episode is a continuation of our previous interview with Aleks. If you missed that one, go check it out. We left off as Aleks was talking about her first trip to Canada. In this episode, she tells us how she ended up moving to Montreal and where her career has taken her. She also talks about her passion for tango. Did you know that Montreal is North America’s tango capital? Neither did we!

sample dialog

Harp: Did you miss the city, or you were just enjoying nature and being in a smaller town?
Aleksandra: I’d say I’m a split personality in a way. I wilt, shrivel up, when I’m only immersed in an urban environment, and I start to get itchy and lonely when I’m only in the bush. I cannot be without one or the other.
Harp: I see. I see. OK, and then how, after this love affair with Vancouver and the beautiful city, did you end up on the East Coast?
Aleksandra: That was a love affair with a job. I really got a very interesting opportunity to work for the National Cancer Institute of Canada, and being that it’s a very large organization with lots of superbly interesting research projects, it was an offer I could not decline. Absolutely. So that, in and of itself, was enough to move me east.
Harp: OK. So you worked with the cancer research institute for a couple of years?
Aleksandra: It was about somewhere around 8 years. And it was a very steep learning curve.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Legend has it To come into the picture
A steep learning curve At the snap of a finger
Hard-pressed And so on and so forth
A win-win situation To cherry pick
Anyone’s guess Tough going
To be over one’s head Uncharted territory

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Don’t rock the boat

To stir the pot
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We don’t like making trouble at Culips, but we do like making episodes about it! The expressions in today’s episode are all about causing problems and making changes when everything was just fine to begin with. Are you someone who likes to stir the pot? Or would you rather stick with the status quo when things are already working well? Either way, check out this episode to know when someone’s making waves.

sample dialog

Harp: And this expression, to stir the pot, means to cause trouble or to cause dissent when you bring up something.
Maura: That’s right. Now, for this one, I like to imagine, of course, a big pot on the stove, maybe it’s some kind of soup that you’ve been making and there are lots of little pieces. Now, if you just leave it cooking, all these little pieces fall to the bottom, but if you stir the pot, all of these little bits that were on the bottom come up to the top again. OK, now, you may be asking yourself: What does this have to do with causing trouble?
Harp: I am asking myself that.
Maura: So if you imagine these little bits are like the trouble or the problem, or the issues, they were at the bottom. No one was thinking about them, no one was talking about them. And then when someone stirs the pot, they bring up these problems and all of these little bits or little problems come to the surface again.
Harp: Yes. That does make sense.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

So far so good To be big on something
To rock the boat Seasick
To start from scratch To stick to something
To stir the pot Tempers flare
To get in someone’s head To make waves
To hop to it To hop to it

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Aleks: Part 1

Culips English Podcast
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We recently interviewed our friend Aleks about her life and adventures, so that she could share her stories with you. Aleks is originally from Serbia, but she’s also lived in the US, Denmark, and Canada. Her English is pretty impeccable, but she actually learned it as a second (or third, or fourth?) language, like many of you are doing now. Harp and Aleks had so much to talk about that we needed to make two episodes! So stay tuned for the continuation, and find out what happened to Aleks after she moved to British Columbia, Canada.

sample dialog

Aleksandra: It was a road trip and a camping trip.
Harp: Wow. Very cool. So you travelled all across the US. Which was your favourite part?
Aleksandra: The deserts. No doubt about it. You see the West Coast of the United States, and I would say British Columbia is much prettier. New Zealand is comparable; been there as well. But the deserts, specifically the so-called four corners: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The deserts there are absolutely amazing, the whole entire landscape, the colour cinnamon, and incredible rock formations, and it’s so different that you discover a whole new self under the stars and under the sky there. Definitely my number one favourite travel adventure.
Harp: Wow. So you camped in the desert?
Aleksandra: Yes. Yes, it was a summer trip, so camping was taking place in the desert and it was actually very, very, cold. Despite the fact that temperatures were going up to way over 40 degrees during the day, nights were very, very cold, calling for real down-filled sleeping bags and outfit—whole-body outfit.
Harp: OK. So it’s true that the temperature changes drastically during the day in the desert.
Aleksandra: It does.
Harp: Wow. K, so then after the US, you went to Denmark?
Aleksandra: You got that!
Harp: You’ve travelled so many different places! I’m trying to keep up.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Sharp A turning point
To call for something I.e.
The Københavns Intensive SprogSkole (KISS) Rusty
K Slash
To boil down to something A leap of faith
To know something in your heart of hearts

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