Learn from natural English conversation – Give me a ballpark figure

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In some situations you can’t be exact, so you have to estimate a number. There are tons of reasons why this happens, and we talk about some in this episode. And of course, we also share some fun expressions to talk about guessing and estimating. How many people were at the concert last night? How much do you think that gold watch is worth? You may have to give a ballpark figure. Listen to this episode to learn more!

sample dialog

Maura: The first expression today is a ballpark figure.
Andrew: Yup. A ballpark figure.
Maura: Hey, yeah. We say that second word a little bit differently, don’t we? I say a ballpark figure.
Andrew: And I say a ballpark figure
Maura: Yours sounds actually right. It sounds like how it’s spelled. Mine sounds strange.
Andrew: Yeah, well, I think this is interesting because Canadians don’t really have too much variation in their accent, but I am from the West Coast and you’re from Ontario, and sometimes there are some slight vowels that we say differently and this is an example of that. I say figure and you say figure.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Stoked To pass away
Expressions to use when someone has died The best way to go
Yuppers Full blast
A ballpark figure On the spur of the moment
In the market for something A beater
Happening An educated guess
A margin of error A cut of something
The more you know A stag and doe
To blow money

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Death and cultural traditions

funerals
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When learning another language, we need vocabulary for all kinds of situations. That’s why we decided to do an episode on a more difficult topic. We also got a request from a listener! In this episode, Harp and Andrew talk about expressions that you can use when someone you know has a friend or family member who has passed away. They also share their own experiences with funerals in Canada. This is something that is very cultural!

sample dialog

Harp: So what we’re gonna do is we’re gonna start with talking about what to do when you find out that someone has died that’s close to you. And then we’re going to talk about funerals. And we’re gonna finish with talking about some of our personal experiences.
Andrew: Mmhmm. So today, why we’re talking about this is that we had a listener request, actually. And this person emailed us and asked us for some explanations on what you can say when somebody passes away, or dies. So that’s what we’ll start off with today.
Harp: Yup. So let’s get started. OK. So I want to start with talking about some pretty simple, but very important vocabulary, because talking about death is quite difficult and it’s awkward. It’s awkward for us, so we’re going to try to make it a bit easier. And for me, I think, one thing I do when I find out, let’s say, a friend’s father has died, I always use the expression pass away. I’m so sorry to hear your father passed away. I don’t like to say dead. It seems very harsh to me.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Stoked To pass away
Expressions to use when someone has died The best way to go
A wake/a viewing Open-casket and closed-casket funerals
Funerals In lieu of
Yeah, no Mkay
Sikh funeral traditions

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Dancing at different ages

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Whether you love it or hate it, at some point in your life, you’ve probably danced. In this episode, Harp and Maura talk about dancing in Canada throughout a person’s life. What do children often learn about dancing? Where do people dance when they get older? As always, they also share their personal experiences with getting down. Listening to this one might give make you want to cut a rug!

sample dialog

Maura: So, Harp, when you were young, when you were a kid, did you take any dance lessons?
Harp: I never did, but I really always wanted to.
Maura: Oh yeah? Well, what kind of dance lessons did you want to take?
Harp: Well one of my friends took tap dance, and I always wanted to try that because it just looked fun. ’Cause you’re doing very little motion. ’Cause she did very little in terms of movements, but she made so much noise. It was just such a cool dance to do.
Maura: Yeah. It is fun to hear the clickity-clack of your feet when they’re moving around with the steps.
Harp: Yup. I would always try to do it with just normal shoes and pretend I was being a tap dancer.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To roll around Mouth-watering
To cut a rug To break something down
Hardcore An extracurricular activity
One hundred percent VJs and DJs
Choreography To pop up
A fix To dance up a storm
To be game

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You killed it

killed it
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Would you ever guess that to kill something could mean to do it well? In English it can mean exactly that! In this episode, we’re looking at expressions that mean to do something very well. They’re casual expressions that can be used to talk about a big performance or a small school project. Check out this episode if you want to give someone a high compliment in a natural way!

sample dialog

Andrew: So our first expression is to kill it.
Maura: Mmhmm. It sounds so violent. To kill it.
Andrew: Yeah. It’s very violent, I guess, when you think about it. But in reality, this just means that you performed well when you were doing something.
Maura: Right. So, when a person does something really well, you can say that that person killed it.
Andrew: Mmhmm. And it does sound gruesome, I agree. But this just means that this person did an excellent job on a certain task.
Maura: Right. It could be also maybe a performance or something like that, where you could say that somebody killed it. And again, it’s not violent. It just means that someone did something very well. They succeeded in some way.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To reach peak something To kill it
Gruesome A hit
Harsh Ultra
To nail it An antique
To be down someone’s alley To go easy on someone
A prodigy To rock it
To pull off a look To cross someone’s mind

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Movers and Shakers

movers and shakers
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In these times of international business, many movers and shakers find it important to be able to speak English! In today’s episode, we talk about people who have ambition and drive, and can make things happen. Some people are really motivated to innovate, make changes, and work hard, so we’ve got names for them. Check out this episode to learn some terms that describe these kinds of people. Are you a go-getter?

sample dialog

Andrew: Usually we call people who are very successful, who are rich or good businessmen or politicians, these are movers and shakers. These are, like, really big figures in society.
Harp: Yeah. Rich and powerful people. We call them movers and shakers. And with this expression, when I think of a mover and a shaker, I think of someone who’s really energetic and actually physically moving a lot to try to get things done.
Andrew: Yeah. And we should warn you that when you use this expression, you have to use both mover and shaker together. You have to say somebody is a mover and a shaker. If you say they’re just a shaker or just a mover, it doesn’t work. Both together.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

An outlet A mover and a shaker
To move (on) up the ladder Drive
A go-getter To give your all
What a/an… Quicker or more quickly
To float around To pick up
A self-starter Thanks for having me
To pull the trigger

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Let’s just play it by ear

Play it by the ear
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Are you the kind of person who likes to plan everything? Or would you rather just play it by ear? This episode is about being in the moment, not planning too much, and accepting what happens. To play it by ear is a very common expression used when people are deciding not to make plans. Listen in to hear more about this expression and some similar ones.

sample dialog

Maura: Andrew, do you have any guesses about the origin of this expression?
Andrew: Hmm. To play it by ear. It sounds musical to me.
Maura: Yes. That’s why I asked you, because you’re a musician. So I thought you would probably figure it out.
Andrew: Mmhmm. Yeah. When I play music, actually, I play a lot of different instruments, and I’ve always been really bad at reading music. And music theory is not something that comes easily to me. So usually when I play music, I play it by ear. I just listen and try to figure out what I’m doing while I’m playing.
Maura: Exactly. So that’s where this expression comes from. That people would play music without looking at any notes and they just improvise the music in the moment. Maybe they’re jamming with some other musicians. And so it’s the same idea, except now we’re not talking about music anymore. We’re talking about plans for something.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

To take things as they come To play it by ear
Set in stone On the spur of the moment
To come easily (to someone) To be down (with something)
Or what To pull it off
To go with the flow To roll off the tongue
A big step When in doubt
To roll with the punches It’ll happen for you

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Interview with Jade

Jade
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A Culips listener on Facebook recently requested that we do more interviews, so here’s another one! This time it’s our friend Jade who’s talking to you. In this episode, Andrew asks her about her life growing up in the province of British Columbia, about going off to university, and about what she’s up to now. Listen in to learn about Jade and the dynamic life of another Canadian!

sample dialog

Andrew: Did you have any special farming jobs? Like, I know some country kids have to wake up at the crack of dawn every day and go and milk the cows. Did you have any special farm chores?
Jade: Well, we actually didn’t have the farm for too long. It was a pretty-short lived hobby, I think, of my parents’. So when I was maybe three until seven was the only years our farm was really that active, so I mean, a three-year-old isn’t that functional as a farmhand. But I did really like helping slaughter the chickens. I don’t know. Does that count?
Andrew: OK. That’s a little strange. Yeah, that definitely counts. That’s part of country life. Right? So I guess I wanna skip forward a little bit now. And when we first met was when we were both living on Vancouver Island, in Victoria. And we both moved there to go to the University of Victoria.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

I wouldn’t miss it for the world At the crack of dawn
A farmhand Does that count?
UVic and UBC Guess I wouldn’t have met you
To bounce all over the place To branch out
The common denominator To hold something in a very special place in your heart
To move on to bigger and better things If you will
Shoot A morning person or a night owl

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Secrets

Secrets
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Do you have many secrets to hide? Don’t worry, we won’t make you share any of them! But that’s what we’re talking here. What should be kept secret and what do you share with people in your lives? Everyone has a different answer, and in this episode Andrew and Maura give their opinions on secrets and privacy. Shh!

sample dialog

Maura: So let’s start with keeping secrets. First I would like to know Andrew, do you think that you’re good at keeping secrets? If someone told you a secret, for example me, if I said, Andrew, I gotta tell someone something and then I said please don’t tell anybody, could you keep it?
Andrew: This is a good question. I think I’m a good secret keeper, yeah. I think I’m good at keeping secrets. Absolutely.
Maura: OK. So if someone told you something and they said don’t tell anyone you would really just keep it to yourself?
Andrew: Yeah. I would lock it up. It would stay inside. I wouldn’t tell anyone for sure. But, to tell you the truth I don’t like it when people tell me secrets, you know. You have this special responsibility to hide something and it’s a lot of pressure.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

Shh I would lock it up
To tell you the truth On the other hand
To air Themselves
To unload on someone Everybody and anybody
Dirty laundry The thing is
To put someone on the spot To be juicy
To be a good call

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Tickets and scalpers

scalpers
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Whether you go to a show once a year or once a month, there’s some fun vocabulary related to going to one, and we’ve done an episode all about it! In this episode, Andrew and Harp also share their experiences of going to concerts and buying tickets. Listen to this episode to find out whether you’ve ever sat in the nosebleed section. Have you ever bought tickets from a scalper? And did you know that Harp was a fan of Puff Daddy?

sample dialog

Harp: When I think about tickets and going to an event, I always think about the people who get the box seat tickets.
Andrew: Yeah. The people in the box seats. Those guys are super lucky because the box seats are absolutely the best ticket you can get.
Harp: Yeah. It’s usually a bit higher up, so you have a really good vantage point of whatever you’re watching, whether it’s a concert, or if you’re watching a hockey game or a football game. You have, like, pretty much the perfect view to be able to see the whole field or the complete concert stage. And usually you have a waitress in there so you’re getting drinks and food served to you. It just seems so luxurious.
Andrew: Yeah. Absolutely. You have a little table where you can eat food, and, like you said, there’s the waitress bringing you your order, and it just seems like the best way to enjoy a concert or a sporting game is in the box seats.
Maura: Yes. And I’m sure they probably even have their private bathrooms, so that you don’t have to line up with everyone else.
Andrew: Yeah. I was actually doing a little research into the cost of a ticket for a box seat, and they are super expensive.
Harp: I’m sure. ’Cause oftentimes, it’s companies that actually own the full box and they take their clients there. So they’re quite expensive.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

My jaw dropped The best seat(s) in the house
Nosebleed seats Nuts
A free-for-all Back in the day
Sketchy A scalper
The last resort On the side
A markup Underground
A horror story To miss out (on something)

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Travel stories

Thailand
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This episode we’re all here sharing our favourite stories from some of our journeys abroad. Andrew talks about an interesting place he visited outside Berlin, Harp tells us about her search for tigers, and Maura shares a story about being lost in Thailand. We take turns interviewing each other to bring the stories to life. We dare you not to get the travel bug after listening to this episode!

sample dialog

Maura: And do you remember how you heard about this place?
Andrew: It was just my friend that was living there. She recommended that we go, and it took us maybe an hour and a half to bike it there. It was a really beautiful day and we biked through the German forest, and it was nice.
Maura: Ah nice. You know by the end of this episode, I’m sure I’m going to feel like booking a ticket and travelling somewhere again.
Andrew: Yeah. Definitely. You’ll get the travel bug.
Maura: Yeah. That’s right. All right. Good story.
Andrew: Yeah. Thank you.
Maura: So, Harp, are you ready?
Harp: I am.

Expressions from this episode included in the Learning Materials:

While you’re at it… Little travel story
Teufelsberg To get up to
Man-made To listen in
A music guy The travel bug
To backpack Sundaraban forest
To hook up WWOOF
To cross your fingers In the middle of nowhere

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