Tag Archives: Speaking

Funny English!

There are two joke types that came up in conversations at work today: “Knock knock” jokes and “Roses are red…” jokes. These both have a specific format, so let’s learn how to be funny in English!

Knock knock jokes need two people to participate.

Person A: Knock knock!

Person B:Who’s there?

Person A: [name]

Person B: [name] who?

Person A: [joke with name!]

Person A: Knock knock?

Person B: Who’s there?

Person A: Isabel.

Person B: Isabel who?

Person A: Isabel necessary on a bicycle? (Is a bell necessary on a bicycle?)

The best knock-knock jokes have a pun (a joke made from the sound of a word, not the meaning) that involves the name.

“Roses are Red” jokes are based upon a poem structure. The first two lines are always the same:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

After this, you add two more lines about something funny. The rhythm and the rhyme should match the first two lines.

I’m learning English,

And so are you!

We put the joke together like this:

Roses are red,

Violets are blue.

I’m learning English,

And so are you!

Most Canadians will be familiar with these kinds of jokes. Ask your homestay family or your Canadian friends to tell you some and post them here!


Five Parts Of a Story

I’ve been teaching some classes in creative writing lately, and I wanted to share some of the most important details in storytelling.

Every successful story has 5 parts. They may not always be in the same order, but they are always present.

1 – Where does it happen?
2- Who is there?
3 – What is the problem?
4- Why is the problem important now?
5- How does the problem get solved?

By explaining these to your reader, they will be able to follow your story clearly. You can use them in other areas too – I learned them at the Vancouver Theater Sports League as hints for improvising actors, but they also make sense in presentations, job interviews, and other formal situations.

Stressed Out?

By moving our sentence stress, we can change the emphasis of a sentence. I heard this great example from a friend:

“I never said she stole my money” can have seven different meanings according to the stressed word.

1. I never said she stole my money – I didn’t say it; someone else did.

2. I never said she stole my money – I didn’t say it, not even once.

3. I never said she stole my money – I never said it, but perhaps I wrote it or thought it.

4. I never said she stole my money – She didn’t steal it; somebody else did.

5. I never said she stole my money – She didn’t steal it; it was a gift.

6. I never said she stole my money – She stole someone else’s money.

7. I never said she stole my money – She stole something else.

Connotation and Denotation

When we learn a new word, we learn its meaning – the denotation. We also learn spelling and pronunciation, but we should also look at the context where we use the word. You see, there are words with the same denotation, like “examination” and “quiz,” but we would never say “I’m going to the doctor’s office for a quiz!” That’s because “quiz” has connotations of school and short duration, but “examination” has connotations of science, medicine, and detail.

The difference between a good user of English and a great user of English is often their mastery of connotations, which they use to help select the best word for each context.

How to choose? Good question.

  • The first item is our emotion. What is our attitude towards our topic? Angry, respectful, happy, sad, or something else?
  • The second is the formality. Are we speaking formally? Are we writing casually?
  • The last is the topic. Is there a clear context, like business, university, romance, or creativity?

If you’re choosing connotations for a school assignment, like a test, also be sure to check the grammar – singular/plural, word forms, and count/noncount may all be reasons to eliminate multiple choices that your teacher has given you!

Feminist and Sexist: Common Confusion

In an exercise, my students learn about a woman who thinks that women are better managers than men. When I ask them, many students will say that this woman has a feminist idea. It’s time to clear up the confusion. The idea that we need for this situation is sexist. A sexist person believes that one sex is always better.  A feminist is a person who believes that men and women are equal.

Please, also be careful with ‘sexist’ (believes one sex is always better) and ‘sexiest’ (the most attractive.)

Pronunciation Grab Bag

Just a few common problems from class:

  • weigh sounds like way
  • weight sounds like wait
  • high sounds like hi
  • height rhymes with fight, not hate.
  • ant sounds like aunt.
  • sun sounds like son
  • won sounds like one.
  • Yacht rhymes with ought or bought
  • Enough rhymes with rough, not off
  • Elementary = ell a men tree. The strong syllable is MEN.
  • Hierarchy sounds like “hire are key.” The strong sound is on the “hi” of “hire.”
  • Receipt sounds like re-seat. The “p” is silent.
  • Muscles sounds like mussels. The “c” is silent.

English Gaming

Playing games in English can be not just fun. Often you’ll use your language skills too! Learning vocabulary related to the story of the game, negotiating with partners or opponents, or discussing how to play can really focus your skills. Some of my favourite games include Scrabble, Pictionary, Monopoly, Settlers of Catan, 10 Days in Asia, and Taboo. Some pubs or restaurants have games you can play while you eat: Guilt & Co. in Gastown, Stormcrow on Commercial Drive, or Steel & Oak in New Westminster all have games to play. Do you know of more pubs with games? Tell me below!

Vocab: Condominium and Apartment

A condominium and an apartment are the same physical space, but the apartment is for rent. You buy a condominium.

“Condominium” is quite formal, too. Casually, most people will just call it a “condo.”

In England, people will call an apartment a “flat.” This is uncommon in Canada.

If you live in a house that is divided into two or more apartments, we call them “suites.” It’s pronounced the same as “sweets.” The lower suite is sometimes called the “basement suite” or the “garden suite.”