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About the AuthorI learn languages, teach Australian English, and love all things science and nature!
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By pete — 1 year ago
In this series of episodes you’re going to learn to pronounce the 2000 most common words in English in an Aussie accent!
AE 369: 201-300 Most Common Words
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By Admin — 11 months ago
Learn Australian English in this interview episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I chat with Christian Saunders from Canguro English about 6 big English-learning mistakes you should avoid when learning or teaching English.
AE 453 – Interview: 6 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Learning English with Christian Saunders
G’day, guys. Welcome to this episode of Aussie English. Today, I have a special interview episode for you guys and this one is with Christian from Canguro English.
So, Christian’s been on the podcast a couple of times now and one of the other interviews I did with him was episode 347 – An Interview with Canguro English. Go check that one out if you want to learn more about Christian.
But, in today’s episode, I asked him to come on because I wanted to chat to him about the biggest issues he sees that are out there with regards to teachers and the way they teach English, so the way that English is taught, and also the way in which English is learnt by English learners, obviously.
So, today, Christian has 6 tips that we’re going to go through one by one on how to better learn English or how English should be better taught. So, 6 main issues that he sees with the way in which it’s taught and learnt.
So, without any further ado, guys, let’s get into it, and again, thank you Christian for coming on the podcast.
G’day, guys, and welcome to this episode of Aussie English! I have Christian back again. And today it’s going to be a bit of a bitch fest. It’s going to be a bit of a complaining session, I guess, about how English is taught and how English is often learnt by… English as a second language learner. So we want to talk about it, have a bit of a chat and I know Christian, I’m always following him at Canguro English on his Instagram, his YouTube and his Facebook page. If you haven’t, follow him. But he’s always complaining, he’s always bitching about how people are learning English or teaching English wrong. And so, I wanted him on the podcast to discuss this with me. So Christian, welcome!
Thanks. Thanks Pete. Thanks so much for inviting me. It’s always a pleasure to talk to you and I’m sorry that I come across as so much of a complainer.
You don’t! a good complaining you know. it’s like you smile was doing it so I don’t feel as bad inside. I feel like “here come the knowledge bombs! I’ll put my helmet on. I’ll get some cover and then I’m ready to receive the onslaught of how I’m teaching English wrong.
Yeah well I try to bring everything with positivity. As you say, it’s negativity with a smile, right?
Exactly. And the purpose of it is to build confidence. It’s to give people… It’s to empower people who are learning English and to sort of relieve their anxiety with regards to “Am I good enough? should I make mistakes? Am I good enough to talk to other people blah blah blah?” So I love that aspect of it.
Yeah Exactly. Well I mean you asked me to sort of think about the things that I think are wrong with the world of English teaching and so I came up with a list of six things. And the first thing on my list, which I think is the biggest problem, is what I call false promises.
So can I guess what this is relating to?
Is this relating to teachers? Teaching people who are who are learning English and giving them the idea that they can become native speakers or..?
1. Ignore False Promises
Yeah Exactly. So there’s, for example, people saying you can have a native accent. You can get fluent in 30 days. You can be like a native speaker in [x] amount of time.
So that’s one of those things where I think that’s true. But it depends. Right? It depends on how much time you’re talking about. It depends on how obsessive the learner is and it depends on they have raw talent for it. So not everyone can do it but it depends on the person right? Because there are definitely people I’ve met where I’ve been blown away to know they’ve been speaking English for five or even 10 years and I would never have known they were foreign!
Yeah! No, look sure. Of course, everybody’s individual level of motivation is different and, yeah, some people are obsessive and they can produce incredible results within a year. You know you can see… You can have people who are very confident – able to not only speak but listen and have a really engaging conversation, of course but… But I think the thing is more that… I think the philosophy in, general, about what it means to learn a language is very similar to the idea of healthy eating and exercise.
I was about to draw the analogy!
Because my sister is a fitness instructor. And when she talks with me about the whole idea of being healthy and exercise, there’s so many similarities because it’s the reason that people fail at diets, you know, they try to lose 10 kilos in a month. Yeah maybe you’ll do it – through dehydration and malnutrition. But really, like healthy living and healthy life is not something you do for 30 days and then it’s over. It’s a mentality. It’s a commitment for life. And I think…
I had to tell my dad that…
Language learning should be the same, right?
Exactly I had to tell my dad that. My dad has had trouble with his weight for a lot of his life and I remember recently… Like, he’s been on a diet, lost 10 kilos, he’s gained it again. He’s been on a diet, he’s lost 12 kilos, he’s gained it again. And I had to say to my dad you can’t just treat this like it’s a short term thing. This is your life: Your habits, your behaviour, your psychology has to change permanently. It doesn’t have to change overnight like dramatically but you have to be thinking of it more like “These are habits you’re trying to build to use forever,” as opposed to “I’ll just do this for 30 days and then I’ll be sweet for the rest of my life.”.
Exactly! And I think the other problem with false promises is if somebody has the idea that learning the language is something that sort of begins and ends, that you can do in 90 days. When the 90 days is up, and of course they haven’t got very far at all because you can’t do anything in 90 days, when the time is up what do they do? They quit. So you have a whole generation of people quitting, giving up, because they… Because nobody tells them, “Hey if you’re going to do this, it’s just like a dog; It’s not just for Christmas.”.
Exactly Exactly. And it’s almost false expectations too, right? I remember I was learning a language in high school, French, and I thought I could if I wanted I would go to France and I would learn French fluently if I really wanted to get good at it. And I would spend a year there and then I would be good forever. That’s it. And you realize that’s not the case and that it is… I used to get so sick of people telling me “You’re just good at French”, “You’re just naturally good.” Like people who are like “You’re just thin naturally.” It’s not that you exercise and you eat well and that you worked your ass off, you’re just like this and you’re like “That’s such trash!” You just have to rearrange those thoughts in your head and realize that anyone can do this. It’s just not that anyone can do this easily and quickly. It’s that you have to get the expectations in your head that this is a long commitment, it requires hard work and it requires consistent hard work, right?
Yes, exactly. And when you stop your skills disappear. You know, it’s not like you say; you learn French for one year and then it’s good but if you don’t do it for another five years it’s gone!
Oh man, I wish I could go out and run run a marathon or two and then just hit pause on my physique and that’s it. You know forever I’ll be ripped. I’ll have a six pack and I’ll eat what I want. But it’s just… It’s not like that is it?
No, it’s not. And so yeah. So for me that’s that’s problem number one…
So what mind set should people come in with? How should people be thinking about learning a language if they’re… Say you meet a new student tomorrow who’s picked up English, it’s the first language he’s he’s ever attempted to learn, what would you say? “Okay these are the expectations you need to have.”
I think there is definitely individual variation as you said before. I think if the person is highly motivated, especially if they if they need it for if they’re going to move to the country or they live in the country or they are going to have a job, you know they’re more motivated and so they’re going to they’re going to advance faster. So you know, you could say “Well, if you work really hard you’re going to get faster results.” You know, I would expect you to be able to maintain a really good conversation within sort of six to 12 months. Yeah not grammatically perfect, sure with misunderstandings and bad pronunciations, but you know… But another person who maybe is… Who wants to do it more as a hobby, has an interest in languages, wants to go to class once a week, study a little bit at home. Then that’s something that, you know, that your expectations are different. In 10 years, maybe. I think part of the mindset is when you know what you’re getting into then you can adjust your expectations and then you can say “Okay I’m willing to work really hard, I’m not… I know that I’m going to be able to speak or I’m not.” It’s like…
And you have to be honest with yourself, how much can you handle? And I think you need to be consistent. Even if it’s a little bit do it every single day. Consistent. And I think… I remember jujitsu when I was learning that. When I first started it I remember my coach when I said I’m not that talented I can do this but I wish I was talented because I’d be so much better so much faster. He just said to me hard work and consistency will kick the shit out of talent any day of the week.
It’s so right. So I mean anybody who’s successful at anything, you know, at business, sports. They will tell you that they always seem like an overnight success.
Yeah But we only see the final product.
Exactly but my favourite example of this is… Success is like being pregnant. Everybody says congratulations, but nobody knows how many times you have…
So Does that mean that you and I are never going to know what success is?
2. Stop Using Workbooks
So number two, number two. Workbooks: what’s wrong with workbooks? isn’t that how you learn?
Workbooks. I have a real problem with workbooks and I think… Okay this is what I think. I think that workbooks are necessary. You know I think that people should have some type of book where they can look at grammar and do activities and you know sort of have a more… Like a study mode, like a study moment in the day. But my problem is that people use them as 100 percent of learning, especially bad teachers. You know, and I’m talking about teachers especially in public education. I remember when I learnt French we had a book. Did you have a book in your class?
Yeah absolutely it was crap!
It was awful! I hated that book! And that’s all we did! all we did every day was the book!
But that’s the teachers… The teachers come in, they’re like “Okay, I have to teach this lesson. Tick, done,” like, “I did my bit!”
Yeah, exactly and it’s like… There is no faster way to kill motivation and interest and joy than the workbook, surely! Is there a faster way to make people hate a language?
You’ve got to be that kind of person. For me I kind of… I love them but it’s kind of like I have to be in the mood. I have to be sp… I use them as a reference. Depending on how much I hate myself, I’ll work through the whole book you know if I really want to… If I’m starting a new language I might pick a really basic grammar book and I’ll just go “Okay you know what? I’m just going to for the next week two weeks three weeks I’m just go through each exercise.” But after that it’s kind of like I just use it as a reference. I don’t fixate over it. I want to get out there and use the language to read, to watch TV, to interact with people!
Yeah, exactly! I mean it could never be, as part of any language learning program, it could never be 100% because it’s just not… You know all the other components that are so important like listening. I mean listening is so important, not just not just being able to catch the words but really really listening.
Well, That’s the funny thing with listening, right. Initially you’re like “Okay shit! I need to catch every single word when I hear people or else I’m failing,” and you realise that… You realize as a native speaker I don’t catch every word you say. I don’t even pay attention. I get the meaning. The meaning kind of hits me and then I sort of induce or I deduce what you’ve said as a result of just being smacked with the meaning of all those phrases. I don’t think he said “What. Are. You. Doing. Today.” It’s just bang the message. And so the quicker I get to the point.
Yeah exactly. I mean I was actually… I developed this when I was learning Spanish. I developed this habit and even to this day I don’t know whether it was good or bad, is that I would pretend that I could understand people perfectly even when I was only catching one or two words because the other option for me was too painful! To stop people and say “sorry what?” I mean, because not only do they hate it because they have to speak to you like you’re a baby, but I hated it because then they treated me like a baby so I just sat there like, “Oh, si, si!”. Even though I was only catching 5 percent the meaning.
And that’s the worst thing when they ask you a complex question and you’re like, “Yes! No!” And they’re like, “What time are you getting here tomorrow?” “Yes!”.
“Do you agree with what Hitler did?” “Yes! Si!”
So what do you do in that case then? If you don’t think… If you encourage people to sort of go along with conversations and not sort of break it up by constantly asking people to repeat themselves what do you suggest people do? Is it okay to not understand 100 percent and just let it flow? Is there a threshold?
Absolutely! I think if you’re… it’s really important to learn to understand language from context and yet as you said a lot of meaning, a lot of words are sort of superfluous, you know. A lot of words we don’t really need them, they’re there for maybe grammar reasons or for reasons of politeness or whatever. If you’re sort of catching a large proportion of the meaning then I would say keep going because at least then… At least then what you’re receiving is realistic input. Because…
I love that aspect in Portuguese. My girlfriend often says stuff to me and she’ll be like, “Do you understand?” and I say “Yes,” and then she be like “Can you say what I said?” and I’m like “No.” I totally understood. I just… It was so fast. The meaning hit me but I can’t… I don’t know the words.
Well, no… But that’s the thing. But I mean do you feel like it’s it’s helpful to you? To sort of go with it?
That’s it. And I kind of prefer that. And again like you I feel awkward asking constantly for people to repeat themselves. There is a time and place for that. If she and I chatting at night and I really want to know “What did you just say? What’s this word? how do I use it?” of course. But if you’re interacting with people in the street or people you don’t know or even other situations with friends and there’s a certain flow happening in the conversation you don’t want to be the one constantly like “What did you say? what did you say? what did you say?” And I think it’s a good sign when you get to the point where you do understand even though you miss bits, you know. And you can let that go if you get to the point where you can relax and you can allow it sort of to wash over you and you don’t have to analyse everything under a microscope then yeah… That’s you know… You’re most of the way there and it’s going to happen faster, right.
Yeah. I agree 100 percent. I mean this is not based in any type of research. I don’t know if empirically it is actually better or not but I just feel like my instinct tells me it’s good.
I mean if your understanding nothing yeah of course no that’s not good. But if you’re getting meaning you know if you can sort of maintain that conversation then great I say go with it.
You’re allowed for things to drop out a bit. I didn’t get that but now I’m back in the game, and you know you can miss bits, hear bits, and that’s kind of how it goes.
3. Outdated Teaching Philosophy
So number three: Outdated teaching!
Outdated teaching philosophy. Well let me tell you a little sort of story because I live in Spain and out of the out of the teaching sort of philosophies that I’ve encountered personally I think that Spain is one of the most sort of outdated… Traditional…
Have you been to France?
And I haven’t ever taught in France, no. So I couldn’t… I couldn’t say…
Not to dig at French people. I know a lot of French people. I know a lot of people have learned English in France and they hate the way that they have been taught it and it’s a constant complaint that I hear.
Yeah. I mean yeah… Well speaking about teacher…
So speaking about… What did you say?
I’m speaking about teaching that I have encountered personally. I have a limited personal contact with with being in those teaching environments but I hear the same story from students all over the world. So I’m sure that it’s a universal problem. So I’ll tell you the story; So in Spain in order to get a job for the public service you don’t just submit your CV and then they sort of look through the CVs and choose the best applicants, no. They have these competitive state exams and the people who perform best in the state exams get the job. Now when I tell you this you’re not even going to believe that it’s even real, I promise. So each exam may have let’s say 30 different potential topics right. So if you want to be an English teacher there and there are 30 different possible things they can test you on in the exam but they go really deep with each topic and so they only actually test you on two out of the possible 30. So they are they have the machine right. It’s like a like a lottery machine with the balls. So they spin the lottery machine and they pick out the ball and the ball might say, I don’t know, “phrasal verbs,” and then they spin the machine again and they take out another ball which might say “modal verbs,” and then you have to… Then you’re “examed”… You’re examine… Examinated?
Oh my God I can’t believe I don’t even know…
English brain-farts for the win!
You’re examined on those two things. But what it means is when you’re preparing for the exam you need to study all 30 of these things. So people go to these special preparation classes and they they study… Sometimes they study for 2 years, repeating these 30 possible subjects and this is the scary part: They actually call it “Cantar las Termas,” which means “to sing the topics,” because the teacher says “Okay let’s do phrasal verbs,” and you literally repeat like a robot, like you’re singing, all of the phrasal verb stuff. and that is not learning.
That’s how they teach you to remember something whether or not you know how to use it, right?
Exactly. That’s just memorization. That’s not learning. Learning is when you really understand something.
I can memorize a song in Spanish but not know what it means, you know.
Yeah exactly and the problem is that philosophy of memorization, repetition, kill-and-drill, whatever you want to call it, I think it pervades a lot of teaching.
I hate that aspect, yeah. It doesn’t it doesn’t support the idea that improvisation is the real thing you want to teach people. What you want to teach people how they can improvise and how they can work on their feet. Well, you know, how they can deal with situations. They don’t necessarily have to just remember “this is the situation, this is the answer,” you know. Is it that that proverb from the Bible right? “You give a man a fish and you feed him for a day but you teach him to fish and you feed him for life.”.
Yeah exactly. I mean either you maybe you had a similar experience with your French at high school. You know we had in the workbook we had these, like, conversations. These imaginary conversations like, you know, “Bonjour. Ça va? Je voudrais un croisant.” And so you sort of memorize these these these phrases but you memorize the phrase so you memorize the exact phrase. You don’t understand that in phrase you have a person a pronoun and then you have a verb and the verb changes depending if it’s “I” or “You”. So so when you arrived in France and somebody deviates from the script just one tiny bit you know you’re lost. Yeah. You totally lost and too much teaching I think is based in this old philosophy of repetition. It’s not what I consider learning. Yeah I’m sorry if that’s. I’m sorry…
It’s like there’s a path through the jungle right. and you can see along the path you know how to take the path you could take it blindfolded and someone walks up to you and pushes you slightly off the path and your fucked. You’re like “I can see the end and I can see the star but I don’t know what to do. I’m just going to die right here.”.
Yeah exactly. I mean I didn’t… I mean… Because the French that you have now is from your high school?
No. I crapped all over my high school. Six years of French, I surpassed that in six months of self study from just following my passion. Right. I mean I I did the Duolingo thing and then I studied a few grammar books and I systematically worked through two of them and then I effectively threw them in the trash and just started reading books. I read like Harry Potter 1 to 5, watched TV, watched movies and it was much more about talking with people after that. So it was kind of like I worked hard at the start for a few months and then I just went over it and I just went to dive in. Because now I I have the tools for me to work out how to do this, how to use this and how to improvise and that was more what I wanted.
Well I mean this is the thing that I think anybody listening to this needs to take note that Pete just said that he condensed six years of bad teaching into six months…
Well you can show up to class and not learn anything, right?
Yeah but I think people… some people have this idea that you’re only going to get results if somehow it’s not enjoyable. the same as exercise. People will think that it has to be horrible to lose weight, that you have to suffer through the diet to lose weight. No. You could have a great time you can eat delicious food and still get the results.
And it’s just it’s the false expectations and changing your psychology. You have to start enjoying the process and if you’re not enjoying the process what the hell are you doing? Why even bother? If you don’t actually like what you’re doing do something else. Stop learning English if you hate it and it’s a punishment. I’m telling you now stop. Go and do something you enjoy.
Exactly. And that’s the philosophy for life right surely as well.
Exactly yeah. What the hell are you doing? I was watching something today I think it was Gary V. Gary Vaynerchuk who’s this online guru with regards to business online and he was like “do you want to earn a hundred nineteen thousand dollars a year being an accountant or do you want to earn eighty nine thousand dollars a year selling Star Wars figurines online?” it’s like take that hit. If this is what you enjoy for less money do that, than earn a little bit more for something you freakin hate. And it was like that message was just like… that hit home. I’m like “exactly, I keep always thinking I want to be rich. I want this. I want that.” and it’s liked “do I want that? would actually use it? Do I care?” No. So…
I love Gary V. I think he’s… I think he’s great. I think he cuts through so much nonsense. They’re really good. I think yeah I think there are a couple of them that’s someone that… maybe students who are listening to this should follow because you know a lot of his philosophy applies to not just learning languages but to everything.
Exactly and he’s like you can be the best. You can be the best at whatever you want but one you’ve got to work out: Is it something you want to do? You know there’s no point in trying to be the best at something you hate, you’re wasting your life. And two it’s like you just have to know that you have to work at it. Bust arse. work harder than everyone else. And so bringing you back to English. if you’re learning and you hate it you don’t have to give up English. Reassess how the hell are you learning and how can you turn it into something you enjoy? you know, you don’t like using a grammar book? Piss the grammar book off! Read Harry Potter. Read about cars. Watch YouTube channels on science in English. You find your passion already, do it in English. Or find a way of making it fun and enjoyable but don’t give up on English if you’re having a shit time. Reassess how you’re doing it. It’s like with exercise for me. I fucking hate running. Okay but that doesn’t mean I say I’m never going to exercise ever again. You know what screw you exercise. I don’t like running so therefore no exercise. It’s okay I’ll try swimming or try jujitsu or try karate or do something else with my body but I’ll still exercise.
Yeah I agree 100 percent with everything you just said. Yeah and the best thing is I love I love that you used to piss off as a verb. That’s such an Aussie verb!
4. Don’t Focus On Fear
Exactly right. Right number 4 number 4. Don’t focus on fear.
No, no. I wrote that badly. Oh no what I actually meant was that I think that a lot of teaching doesn’t deal with the fact that a lot of students actually are really afraid of of ever using their language. And it was a shock to me to discover that that was such a such a big problem. I think that I would say in my experience at least 50 percent of people they have this language but they’re just totally… They’re totally paralyzed and mortified and terrified of ever speaking because they think that their accent is bad and the grammar is terrible and people are going to laugh at them and I think it’s a big part of teaching – should be helping people to overcome this fear.
Yeah exactly exactly. That’s a big problem and that’s something I face too in learning a foreign language, but I think it’s… It is one of those things where the more you do it the less important it is and you’ve got to remember too, it’s like… Here’s a good story; I remember Ayaan Hirsi Ali, right. She wrote this book about being Islamic, growing up in Somalia and she had to leave Somalia and she had to go to Holland. And she had been taught her entire life that if she took the hijab off that she would be yelled at, that people would accost her, that she could be raped, she could be assaulted and she went to Holland with these huge fears of just wearing the hijab and being an openly Muslim person to begin with and nothing happened. And then after a few months she decided to take the hijab off because “I want to blend in,” Even I’m worried that that God might smite me or whatever. She did it and she realized it wasn’t a big issue. No one – everyone ignored her. No one cared. And I feel like it’s a bit of a on-the-side story but the idea here is I guess that often you have all these fears in your head and you’re worried about all these things happening and then you go out and do the thing and you realize that it’s completely unfounded and that no one gives a shit. No one cares about you. It’s like no one is going home after a conversation with you and has a list of the errors that you made and are sitting in a dark room laughing and drinking a beer.
“Did you hear the way ‘music’ was pronounced!? What a fool!”.
No one cares! No one remembers! You remember, maybe. But no one else remembers and no one cares. People want to understand you. They want to communicate with you and that’s it. If you make a mistake as long as you can get your point across and communicate no one gives a shit. And if they do are not the person you should be talking to.
Exactly. I think anybody who is feeling afraid. That’s the message. …Maybe you don’t want to go to the beach in a bikini because you’re worried that you’re too fat. Nobody cares, nobody is looking at you.
No one cares, they’re too busy worrying about what everyone else thinks of them!
Exactly! And you know I think everybody, you know even native speakers, you know have sort of their own fears about maybe about their accent because you know native speakers also have their own problems like you have a posh accent or a common accent or you know maybe you you don’t know the vocabulary to talk about fancy things like you don’t know how to have a conversation about the economy or… These things are not just limited to foreign learners. And I think foreign learners need to realize that native speakers are not perfect either… At all.
You know you have to you have to be… I think it’s one of those things to ; the older you get the more your distance… That distance grows between when you’re a beginner at something and you’re too used to, at least the majority of people are too, used to being experts at something, a small field and they’re not prepared to take up that position of being a child… Asking questions, not understanding something because they think “I’m 30 I’m 40 I’m 50 years old I can’t be a beginner, that’s embarrassing. I can’t be taught English by someone who’s half my age like,” and it’s like, get some humility. This isn’t about, you know, like no one cares. They want you to do well. Like the average person in an encounter with English in the street is more interested in helping you than “Oh my god this person just said ‘the’ when they meant ‘a’ AHAHAHAAHAHA!” No one gives a shit, just… I think it’s just remember; “You are not that important to every stranger in the world.”
Yeah exactly. I agree 100 percent.
5. Exams Are Stupid
Exams…. whoof! Exams… H ere’s what I think is wrong with exams: so I have this really good… I have a really good student. She’s a friend. She’s a professor at the University of Barcelona and one day we were talking about… We were talking about exams and I was like “I hate exams! I never do exams at my school! exams are the worst things! they’re shit! I hate them!” And she said “listen Christian, I understand what you mean but exams have a really important purpose,” and I was like “No they don’t! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” She said “Exams are an opportunity for teachers to assess the students and see where they have problems so that then they can help them to solve the problems.” And I was like “ughhhhh”.
Isn’t it too late by the time they work that out? At least for the students that took that exam. maybe next year’s students…
But she is absolutely right. This is what apart from maybe what your government or your school wants to use the exam to create a measurement to say is this school performing as well as the school. I mean that’s a different thing. But I’m talking about in the classroom for the students. The real purpose of an exam should be so the teacher can help the student with their problems. But what’s happened now is exams are seen as the end result. They are seen as the reason to study and it’s totally backwards. They should be giving exams at the beginning of the classes and then working on the problems.
That’s the goal right? if the goal is to work out what people don’t know it’s kind of like “maybe find that out first instead of afterwards instead of at the end of the year when it’s too late for the people you’re trying to help.”
Exactly. exactly. And so for me that’s the first problem, is that they are used as almost like a type of punishment. And so people have developed this this hatred I mean if you mentioned the word exam to students like oh my God!
It irks me too is that too often they’re about memory and not about understanding or about improvisation. It’s too much. Do you remember this verb and what it means? And it’s like “no” but I could use my English to go around that and solve whatever problem I would have by not knowing that verb.
Yeah. Yeah exactly. And you know they’re not realistic. Another problem is that people – students feel that if they have a good result in an exam then they have good English or if they have a bad result in an exam they have bad English, but things are not related at all. As you say, maybe you don’t know… Maybe you do terribly in an exam but put that person in a conversation and they’re engaging and funny and you know it’s like it’s not… It’s just a tiny part of being a good language learner. Right.
Exactly. So I do think you’re right you need to focus a lot less on that and measuring yourself against how well you do in exams. And again just to reassess. You know, get those false expectations out of the way. Stop thinking about those things and think “Can I use English in my daily life? can I communicate?” and that’s a lot more important. Even if you fail an exam… You could pass up 100 percent but if you can’t communicate with people that means fuck-all right? That means nothing. 100 out of 100 on a piece of paper doesn’t mean you can ask for milk or get directions to the shops.
Yeah and it’s the same thing as “nobody cares.” You know as you said like if… Nobody cares about your mistakes but also nobody cares about your certificate. Yeah you know if you’re in a conversation and you’re terrible at conversation you can’t say “Well look at my Cambridge Certificate-“.
“Please respect me. there’s 100 100 here that I got in grade three on an English exam.” I know, it doesn’t mean anything. Exactly, that’s it.
Yeah and I think you know when and this is this is a problem that sometimes teachers they can’t escape when they are forced by their school administration to teach to the test. It’s like the students need to learn this because this is in the exam. And so teachers get caught in this cycle of having to just tick the boxes. But you know that’s a fight that teachers need to have with their administration and they need to have that fight because because we’re raising a generation of people who who just know how to regurgitate information…
I think I was watching something today online a documentary or a documentary an interview with Stefan Molyaneux. I am always talking to my girlfriend about this. She’s going to rage up up, but he was saying something like “People go to school for 12 years in the Western society and they leave with the ability to get a job as a waiter.”. They get 12 years of education and all they come out with is the ability to work in a cafe. Like, what the hell? And that’s from studying for exams. That’s from… They could have got 100 percent on every exam they’ve ever taken and they aren’t qualified for anything when they leave school. So that’s our system. The way it’s set up is broken.
I’ve never thought about it in exactly that way but that’s quite a shocking summary of the reality actually.
It’s just sad to think that everything hinges upon whether or not you do well and even if you do you’re not necessarily set up for anything good. So again, you know with English, learn English but you know upscale yourself. Try and use it to do other things. Don’t just worry about getting a certain score thinking that’s going to help you. If you can use your English and go and get a job or get work experience or do you know anything else. Those relationships you build with English are going to mean so much more than a mark on a piece of paper.
Yeah absolutely. Exactly. And that sort of leads into the final… My final thought…
This isn’t a criticism though. This is positive. This is a positive one.
6. Follow The Fun
Have fun. Have fun, that’s it. Number 6 is Have Fun. I think that if you’re not having fun then you not only are you probably not learning but also you’re probably not going to continue. You’re going to give up because you’ve got to have fun and there’s not enough focus on fun in the classroom.
There’s not a lot of fun with anything anyone’s learning, right? The same with exercise. It shouldn’t be seen as a punishment, as something you hate. Should be seen as something you enjoy. Though those two things don’t have to be mutually exclusive you know. Self-improvement is dreadful and fun is gluttony and self-indulgence. It’s like NO! We can push those two things together!
Yeah exactly. Exactly exactly.
And it’s effortless, right? It just takes over. Yeah it is true and again it seems to be this similarity between sort of healthy life and an exercise as long term commitments and also, you know, learning a language that’s fun. You know you got to have fun but otherwise you’re not going to do it.
And that’s what I think it comes back to teaching in the classroom. The problem is that the teacher has this idea in their head of this is how I have to teach and that all the students have to be exactly the same so I can measure them against one another but no one enjoys the same stuff. Everyone has different hobbies. And so I think people need to view learning English that same way; Through the lens of “what do I already enjoy and how can I do this in English?” So that’s where I think classes with regards to learning anything are going to become so much more functional and enjoyable when teachers are going to be empowered to empower their students to learn by having fun. Whatever metric that is you know. If it’s a kid who likes learning about cars on YouTube in English, bam! Do that for an hour as opposed to reading this book. And another student who likes reading Harry Potter – go do that for an hour, you know, like it’s it’s so important to be enjoying what you’re doing so it doesn’t seem like work. It doesn’t seem like work.
I agree 100 percent. We need to give teachers back the freedom that they don’t seem to have anymore. the freedom to just sing a song in class or just sit in the corner and read a book. And the sad thing is that when they do these these limited trials in schools with more freedom they always produce better results. But we’re so reluctant to change you know. we feel like it has to be horrible or you don’t learn. and you have to have the list and do the repetition. But the fact… The truth is no and I hope it changes. I hope that you and I see it change.
So that’s it and I think people need to just have… one good anecdote I guess I have again with my girlfriend Kel is quite often, and she’s lying in front of me here so she is going to she’s going to laugh. Quite often we just swear at each other in Portuguese. So she would just call me the filthiest things and I’ll be like “what is this and what does it mean and how do I?”, and then I’ll make up some story. And again it’s like it’s all about having fun and as a result I kind of learn the gravity of different swearwords too. Because I’ll look something up and then I’ll use it and she’ll be like “that was too far. That was too far.” It’s kind of like it’s all about having fun and you’re just mucking around and just playing and it doesn’t have to be serious 100% of the time.
Exactly. You’re so right and… Well I hope that one day soon I can hang out with you guys because I think it would be it would be great fun.
Oh man I think there’s a lot of changeover between Portuguese and Spanish with regards to swearwords.
Definitely! And for some reason a lot of the swear words involve milk. I don’t to say but Portuguese.
I don’t think so, do many of the swear words in Portuguese involve milk? No, she’s shaking her head. So apparently in Spanish they do. Most of the swear words involve your bottom in Portuguese.
I can understand that.
Exactly right. So before finishing up what would your key suggestions be to people listening for how to learn English? how would you suggest they go about it if they’ve been doing all the wrong things? What is sort of a small quick summary of some advice that you could give them for how to jazz things up a bit? Mix it up and make it more interesting?
I think the first thing they should do is forget about the whatever whatever relationship they had with studying in the past. Like you with your French in high school. Whatever happened is in the past. It’s over okay that that that was really learning. Okay. And today’s a new day and it’s a new start and your aim should be I think really and I know this is going to sound ridiculous because we just spent an hour talking about did these detailed points but I think that your objective should only be to have fun. If you do that everything else will come with it.
That’s true if that’s true. Fun before everything else.
Yeah. I think why not. Why not.
And if you are having fun you tend to sort of let your guard down a bit and you don’t focus as much on your insecurities and your problems and your fears sort of you get get quenched a little bit they get pushed down they’re not as much of a problem and you can just enjoy yourself and enjoy the moment.
Alright, well that’s the challenge for you, listeners. How can you make learning English right now more fun than it currently is? And if you’re not having fun at all what the fuck are you doing? Change it up! Do something for the sake of English. For the sake of English change it up, do something else.
Awesome, well Christian. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast. I really enjoyed this one as a lot of laughs.
Yeah yeah I had a great time. It was really good and I feel like… I feel totally cleansed now. I feel like I got all the negativity out of my system.
So he’s good for the rest of the day.
So where can we find out more about you mate? Where can they see more of your knowledge bombs?
Well on my website www.CanguroEnglish.com there are links to my YouTube channel or Facebook group, Instagram, podcasts you know. In 2018 you have to be everywhere.
What happened man? you’d gone like three years with no website, you were like “I don’t need this”. You’re selling out!
It’s just a basic website with links that’s all. That’s all.
A landing page’s all you need. Awesome dude, t o anyone who is listening. Go and check him out. He’s another Australian as well. Obviously if you haven’t worked that out from the accent. So if you want to learn from another Australian English teacher check Christian on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, SoundCloud. Check out his podcast too. It’s much more in-depth than mine. I think you put a lot more effort into your podcast.
Mine is my opportunity to be really nerdy.
Have you come up with a sort of routine? for that yet or is it just still sporadic? Are those episodes just whenever you feel like dropping one?
I’m trying to do one every two weeks but it depends on if I’m inspired or not.
Man, just remember to keep having fun.
Alright guys thanks for joining us and we’ll chat to you soon. See ya!
Alright, guys. So, I hope you enjoyed that episode.
Remember to check out Canguro English, whether it’s on YouTube, on Facebook, or on his website. Just go to Google and search “Canguro”, but it’s spelt as the Spanish would spell this, “Canguro”, and then “English”, Canguro English.
And he’s another Australian who is obviously teaching English. And so, if you’re interested in Australian English, in learning the Australian accent, and obviously improving your English at the same time, Christian’s channel, website, and Facebook group and page are all resources that I thoroughly recommend that you guys use.
So, until next time, guys. I will chat to you later. See you!
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By pete — 1 year ago
AE 421 – Expression: To Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth
In 1930, life in Australia was tough. Jobs were hard to get, money was scarce, but there was a guaranteed way to make some cash. If you could scrape together a shilling, a pound, or a fiver, you could put it on a horse. Not just any horse, but a horse that was bound to win. A sure thing. Phar Lap.
G’day you mob! How’s it going? (I) Decided to call you guys “you mob”, you know, come up with a name for the listeners. Get you guys a little bit more Australian culture. “You mob” is the kind of expression that people often use in Australia to refer to a group of people, and it comes from the idea that a mob of kangaroos is a group of kangaroos. And so, you use the collective noun “mob” to talk about a group of kangaroos. And so, a lot of Australians will say “you mob” instead of “you guys” or “you lot”. So, g’day you mob. How are you going?
Today’s intro scene is a snippet from a story by AnimalXTV on YouTube, and again, (the) link is in the transcript or on the website. It’s about Australia’s, and maybe the world’s, greatest ever racehorse Phar Lap. So, ask any Australian and they’ll know the name Phar Lap. It seemed like a good time to tell you guys about him considering today’s expression is related to horses. So, his death was nearly as mysterious as his career was successful, but we’ll get into that in today’s Aussie Fact.
So, as usual guys, get a welcome to The Aussie English Podcast. This is the number one podcast for anyone and everyone wanting to learn Australian English. Whether you want to learn to understand Aussies or you want to learn to speak like an Australian, this is the podcast for you, and it’s brought to you by The Aussie English Classroom an online learning environment where you get all the bonus content for these expression episodes and the interview episodes on the podcast with courses, lessons, quizzes. You can meet other people. There are speaking challenges. There’s a whole bunch of extra content in there designed to help you learn Australian English even faster. So, don’t forget to sign up and give that a go if you haven’t already. It’s a dollar for your first month. (The) link’s in the description.
And also, don’t forget to get the free downloads for today’s episode as well. Make sure you go to the website and download the transcript and the MP3 if you want to study this anywhere, anytime.
So, today guys, let’s get into the Aussie joke. Today’s Aussie joke, again related to horses. You’ll remember in the last expression episode, to stab someone in the back, I told a joke about so-and-so walking into a bar. So, those ‘walking into a bar’ jokes are very popular in English, and today’s is another one, and it fits well with the horse theme for today’s episode. Okay. So, here’s the joke:
A horse walks into a bar one day and the bartender says, “Hey!”, and the horse says, “You read my mind!”. “You read my mind”. Do you get that guys? A horse walks into a bar one day and the bartender, the guy behind the bar, says, “Hey!”, and the horse says, “You read my mind!”, as in, “You knew exactly what I was thinking”, because horses like to eat “Hay”. Except “hay” the food the grass that horses eat is spelt H-A-Y, and the greeting “Hey”, which the bartender use there is H-E-Y. So, it’s another pun for you guys with the word “Hey!”.
Alright, today’s expression guys is “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. I wonder if you guys have heard this expression before. “Don’t look at gift horse in the mouth”. So, it’s a proverb, a short and expressive saying in common use recognised as conveying an accepted truth or useful advice.
So, I’m sure you’ve got two questions, though: What the hell is a gift horse? And, why should I not look it in the mouth?
So, this is one of those expressions I’ve heard and I learnt from a very young age, but I never really understood what it meant literally until I was much older, and I’m sure that happens to you guys in your native language too.
Anyway, before we go through the definition of the expression and its origin, let’s go through the definition of the words in the expression.
Okay. So, “to look”. The verb “to look” is to examine with the eyes to examine with the eyes. And if you “look something in the something”, say you can look something in the face, you could look something in the back, whatever it is, it’s to face something with your eyes and look at that thing. So, if you look something in the mouth, you’re examining it and looking into its mouth with your eyes. You’re looking something in the mouth.
“A horse”. I’m sure you guys know what “A horse” is. It’s a four-legged farm animal often ridden by people as a hobby or for farm work or in sports. It’s a mammal. “A horse”. It’s got a long neck they tend to be about, what, eight nine 10 feet high. They tend to be pretty tall.
“A gift horse” is a horse given to someone as a gift. “A gift horse”. A horse given as a gift, given as a present.
And the last word “a mouth”. I’m sure you guys know what “a mouth” is. “A mouth” is what I’m currently using to talk. It is the orifice on an animal’s head in which food is placed, chewed, or swallowed. Or in the case of me right now, it is the thing I am using to talk.
So, those are the different words in today’s expression. But let’s go through the expression itself and define that, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, and I should add, you are going to hear this in the negative most often. “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. You probably won’t ever hear, “Oh yeah, look a gift horse in the mouth” in the affirmative there.
Expression Definition & Origin:
Alright, so the definition. We’ve established that “A gift horse” is a horse given to someone as a gift or as a present. So, when purchasing horses, back in the day, you know, back in the past, it was a good idea, (it) probably still is a good idea, to check the horse’s health and age by examining the quality of its teeth. And in order to look at the teeth, you have to look the horse in the mouth. Longer teeth obviously mean the horse is older, because they have teeth that keep growing, and fewer teeth obviously suggests the horse might be in poor health, and you don’t want a horse that can’t eat.
So, the idea behind the expression, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, is that it’s bad manners to examine, to inspect, or to scrutinise a gift and wish for more than you’ve been given. It shows mistrust towards the giver, right? You don’t get something for free and then examined to see if it’s up to your standards. So, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, effectively just means, don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift.
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So, the origin of this expression. This was another one of these cool English expressions that is quite old, and some of the sentences that I’m about to read to you in Middle English. So, I really recommend reading the transcript and checking out the spelling of some of these words. Okay?
So, anyway, as with most proverbs, the origin of “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” is pretty ancient and unknown. It’s at least 450-500 years old in the English language, and it appeared in print in English in 1546, in John Heywood’s A Dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue. And again, I recommend looking up how that spelt. So, you’ll see the old English spelling before it was standardised. So, it was written in this book. “No man ought to looke a geuen hors in the mouth.”
So, make sure you check out the spelling guys. There one thing you might notice is that there are lots of U’s where there should be V’s. And so, prior to the standardisation of English spelling, U was obviously used instead of a V.
So, Heywood likely obtain this phrase, though, from a Latin text from St. Jerome, The Letter to the Ephesians, and this is from 400 A.D., so 1,600 years old, which contains the text, “Noli equi dentes inspicere donate”, which is Latin that I have probably mispronounced, and it means, “Never inspect the teeth of a given horse”. So, where St. Jerome got it from who knows. But one thing for sure is that this is a very old expression.
So, as usual guys, let’s go through some examples of how I would use the expression, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. We’ll go through a little listen and repeat exercise, and then we’ll go through today’s Aussie fact.
So, examples. Example number one. Imagine you’re a young kid. You’re 18 years old in Australia. You’ve finally gotten your license. So, you’ve gotten your P-plates, your probationary plates, once you’ve completed your license test to drive. You got your license. Your dad and your mum have scraped together all this money. They’ve scraped together some savings to buy you your first car. This is something that I didn’t have the luxury of. My parents helped me. They gave me a little bit of money, but they didn’t buy me the car outright just for me. So, your parents tell you it’s out the front of the house, and that you guys should walk outside and check it out, and the first thing that you do, once they take you out there, is look under the hood of the car to see if there’s an oil leak, to see if there’s anything wrong with the engine, and maybe you noticed something, and then you complain about it, and you say, “Oh, there’s an issue with the car that you’ve given me!”. Your folks might tell you, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, mate. It’s a free car. Why are you complaining? Don’t be ungrateful. Don’t question what you’ve received as a gift. Just take it and be happy. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”.
Example number two. Imagine that you’ve gone on a road trip through the Aussie Outback. Maybe you’ve gone to see Uluru or maybe you’ve gone to see… I don’t know, any of these other places out in the Australian outback. You’ve gone with your mates, and the car that you’ve had has broken down. You’ve waited for a few days and you’ve run out of food and water. So, now you guys decide together that you’ll have to set off on a hike back down the road, which is incredibly long, maybe it’s a hundred kilometres, and you know that it’s dangerous, but you need water and food. Just as you guys get ready to set off, someone happens to drive down the road and find you. You turn to your mate and you say, “What are the chances of this? Why on earth is someone here? Why would they be driving down this road? It’s so desolate.”, and your friend might say, “Dude! Don’t question it! Be happy that someone saved us from dehydration, from an unpleasant death in the desert. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”. Don’t be ungrateful. Don’t question what you’ve received. Just take it and be happy. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth Michael Jackson.
Alright last example. Example number three. You and your friends are getting ready to go out on the town. So, maybe some girls, you’re some sheilas, you’re putting on your makeup, you’re doing your… you’re tarting yourself up a little bit, making yourself look nice, so that when you go out on the town, you know, you can have a good time with your friends. So, you call up an Uber or you call a taxi, and it’s really busy that night. You know, it’s a Saturday night. The busiest night of the week for people going out. And they say they’re going to take an hour to come and pick you up. So, you guys reconcile yourselves to waiting, but one of you decides, your mate decides, “Ah, screw this! I’m going to message one of my friends and see if they can give us a lift so they can come and pick us up and drive us to this place.”. So, this person calls their mate who says, “No dramas! All good! I’ll come get you now”. And you say that you don’t actually like that person. So, your friend’s friend you don’t like, and you’d rather not get a lift with them and just wait instead, and your friend turns to you and says, “Dude! Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Don’t complain. Let’s just get this lift it’s a short trip. We’ll be there in no time and we can start partying. Don’t be ungrateful. Don’t question what you’ve received. Just take it and be happy. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”.
So, I hope you guys understand now what the expression, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth” can mean. It can mean: Don’t be ungrateful when you receive a gift, don’t be critical of that gift, don’t refuse something you’ve been given, or don’t be unappreciative of or question a gift that you’ve received.
So, as usual, let’s go through a little listen and repeat exercise, guys. So, this is your chance to practice your pronunciation, your Australian or your English intonation, the rhythm of speaking. Imitate me exactly as I speak in order to practice your pronunciation, guys. This is your chance to do so. Let’s go.
Listen & Repeat Exercise:
To look a
To look a gift
To look a gift horse
To look a gift horse in
To look a gift horse in the
To look a gift horse in the mouth
I’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
You’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
He’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
she’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
we’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
they’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
it’d never look a gift-horse in the mouth
Great job, guys. Great job. Remember if you want to practice your pronunciation and focus on the connected speech in more depth from today’s episode, from today’s listen and repeat exercise, make sure that you join up to the Aussie English Classroom where we go through this in detail. This is the place where I try to really teach you guys how to speak with an Australian English accent, and you can focus on all the nitty gritty detailed stuff. So, remember you can try that for a dollar for the first month when you sign up. Just head over to theAussieEnglishClassroom.com.
So, today guys we’re going to go through Phar Lap, we’re going to talk about Phar Lap, in the Aussie English fact.
So, Phar Lap was a champion thoroughbred racehorse, and he was born on the 4th of October in 1926, so about 90 years ago. He died at the age of 5 on the 5th of April 1932 under very mysterious circumstances, which we’ll get on to in a bit.
So, the name Phar Lap derives from a Zhuang and Thai word for lightning, and literally means “Sky flash”.
He had other nicknames too, including, “Wonder Horse”, “Red Terror”, “Bobby”, and “Big Red”. He was foaled in New Zealand and trained and raced in Australia by Harry Telford, and Phar Lap was a chestnut gelding and was sired by a horse named ‘Night Raid’ from a black New Zealand bred thoroughbred mare called ‘Entreaty’.
He was purchased at auction for a mere 160 guineas in 1928 by an American businessman named David J. Davis who had been persuaded to buy the horse by a Sydney trainer named Harry Telford. Initially, thinking it was an amazing bargain, Davis became pretty angry once he received the colt and it arrived with a face covered in warts, a very gangly figure, and a very awkward gait when it was walking. In order to placate Davis Telford agreed to train the horse for free in exchange for a two thirds share of any winnings, which was a good choice as you guys will find out.
Although standing a winning racehorse at stud can be quite lucrative, Telford gelded Phar Lap, meaning that he castrated the horse, so that it couldn’t have babies in the future, hoping that the colt would then concentrate on racing instead of obviously concentrating on female horses.
Phar Lap lived up to the saying, “Looks can be deceiving” and “Don’t judge a book by its cover” as he received training from Telford and began to win races. His achievements captured the public’s imagination in Australia during the early years of the Great Depression, and he had a very distinguished career and dominated Australian racing winning a Melbourne Cup, two Cox Plates, and an AJC Derby, as well as 19 other weight for age races.
So, he won 34 out of 38 races that he was entered into, including 14 of these in a row. He won 14 in a row. He was the only horse to have been favourite for the Melbourne Cup three times in a row, and as a result of his success, bookmakers started to lose a lot of money, and the Mafia and other groups were not happy about this, especially when he headed over to the U.S..
So, soon after doing really well in Australia, he went to a race in the Americas Agua Caliente Handicap in Tijuana, Mexico, and he won this in record time in his final race.
At the time, he was the third highest stakes winner in the world. He had been bought for only 160 guineas, which was USD$130 at the time, and he’d won nearly £67,000, which is AUD$6.3 million dollars in today’s money. So, he was bought for the equivalent of about AUD$13,000 dollars and ended up earning his owners AUD$6.3 million. Not a bad return on investment, hey guys?
So, Phar Lap suffered a sudden and mysterious illness in 1932 in Atherton, California. Phar Lap’s strapper, Tommy Woodcock, found Phar Lap in severe pain with a high temperature early on the 5th of April 1932. Within a few hours, Phar Lap had haemorrhaged to death. An autopsy revealed the horse’s stomach and intestines were inflamed leading many to believe that the horse had been deliberately poisoned.
Later research found evidence suggesting other possible causes though including: an acute bacterial gastroenteritis, so an infection of the stomach and intestines; or that it could have been poisoning by a single dose of arsenic.
On top of this, anecdotal evidence from a friend of the late strapper for the horse, though, Tommy Woodcock, suggests the horse was allowed to graze on pasture covered in a poisonous plant the night before his death.
It was also thought that the Mafia at the time were getting frustrated with him winning all of these different races, and they may have played a part in the horse’s death as well.
So, it’s uncertain whether or not we will ever know how the horse Phar Lap died, but one thing for sure is that he lives on in the imagination of many Australians and had an amazing career.
And if you would like to check out lap. You can see his taxidermied body at Museum Victoria in Victoria, in Melbourne, or you can check out his huge heart, a massive 6.2 kilos, nearly twice the size of a regular horse’s heart, at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.
So, that’s it for today guys. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I hope you enjoyed learning about Phar Lap. And just remember, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth next time someone gives you something, and I’ll chat to you mob later.
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