Friday Idiom: break a leg

Learn an English idiom every Friday with Groupetude!

This idiom is used in theatres; before an actor goes on stage, rather than saying “good luck”, which incidentally is supposed to bring bad luck, you say, “break a leg!”

I have always wondered why we say break a leg… it is a bit strange after all. Its origins, however, are uncertain, so we’ll just have to remember not to say “good luck” to anyone about to perform!

Saint Patrick’s Day

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!

This year, as last year, celebration won’t be quite as raucous as usual, but let’s tip our hat to Ireland’s patron saint anyway and talk a little about the day.

For starters, in many of the social circles and cities I’ve floated around in, Saint Patrick’s Day is a wonderful excuse to go out to the closest Irish Pub and party. Everyone wears green, or a least a big green hat, and drinks beer in the numerous beer gardens that wake up slowly after a long winter.

But what is Saint Patrick’s Day, and what are some of its traditions?

Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Ireland. He was born in the 4th century in Roman Britain and was brought to Ireland after he was kidnapped at the age of 16 and enslaved. After he escaped captivity, he returned to Ireland to convert it to Christianity. He opened schools, churches and monasteries around the country and is now celebrated on the day of his supposed death.

Some of the traditions surrounding Saint Patrick are: wearing green (this is supposed to render you invisible to Leprechauns, who apparently like to pinch people), attending parades, parties, brandishing Ireland’s symbol, the shamrock, or clover; in Chicago, the city even dyes the Chicago river green in celebration!

Traditionally, Saint Patrick’s Day is a feast day in celebration of the saint, however, it became a secular holiday with Irish immigrants to the United States, who introduced many longstanding traditions (like dyeing the Chicago River green) that are celebrated to this day!

So what are some ways in which you can celebrate today?

  • Wear green!
  • Listen to some Irish music.
  • Go exploring outside with your kids in search of shamrocks, maybe you’ll even find a four leaf clover and reap its good luck!
  • Bake a green cake and decorate it in more Irish colours.
  • Learn how to spell “Leprechaun” (this is one I struggle with)!
  • Have a beer, you can even dye it green!

So what did you do this Saint Patrick’s Day? How do you normally celebrate it? Personally, I rarely do, the bars and pubs have always been too full in the past and I like to get comfortable with my beer!

Okay, so where did I learn all this? See below!

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Saint-Patricks-Day

https://kids.nationalgeographic.com/celebrations/article/st-patricks-day

Word of the Day: preposterous

Have you read The Book with No Pictures? It’s a children’s book by B.J. Novak and it’s brilliant. It really has no pictures and is quite hilarious. My son just loves it and rolls around on the floor in stitches (laughing very hard)! Well, the word preposterous is in it, so I thought I’d make it today’s word, because I like the sound of it!

Examples:

What a preposterous thing to say!

It is absolutely preposterous to think that I would do the dishes for you.

What a preposterous idea, I would never sky-dive in a bikini!

Grammar Mondays: adjectives 2

Did you notice, also, how the nationality always comes right before the noun? So, the order here would be: adjective, color adjective, nationality, noun.

Example: The old blue book. Or, a black French bulldog.

Of course, don’t worry if you mix some of these up, people will still undersand you, and the point is to be understood. The main thing to remember, really, is to keep nationalities right next to the noun. Example: a tall Polish man.

Now it’s your turn to try. Look around you and write a paragraph describing what you see. That could mean: describing the room you are in, the view from your window, or the person sitting next to you at the office. The best way to improve is to practice a specific skill until you get it right. So if that skill is descriptive writing, then you must describe things as well as you can, then go back and edit. Ask someone who has already mastered the skill to give you feedback, then edit again, etc.

Good luck. If you have any questions, let me know, I’m here to help!

TOUT LE MONDE PEUT APPRENDRE UNE LANGUE ÉTRANÈRE, MAIS IL FAUT S Y METTRE SÉRIEUSEMENT!

Nous avons tendance à penser que dès qu’il s’agit de quelque chose qui nous demande de l’effort, on est forcément ‘nul’, or, quasiment tout demande de l’effort d’une manière ou d’une autre.

Quand les gens découvrent que je suis trilingue, et que je leur parle de l’apprentissage d’une autre langue, ils me disent : ouais mais c’est facile pour vous car vous êtes douée. Vraiment ?! Non, pas de tout, je ne suis pas douée. Le polonais, j’ai appris car c’était la langue que parlait ma famille. Bon, là-dessus, pas trop de choix, surtout quand on est bébé. L’anglais, j’ai appris car, encore une fois, pas de choix; mes parents ont décidé quand j’étais très très jeune, de déménager au Canada. Jusqu’ici, on est d’accord, qu’il n y a rien de ‘talentueux’ dans mon parcours. Maintenant pour le français.

scenic view of city
Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

J’apprend le français depuis l’âge de 6 ans. Au Canada, un pays bilingue, on y est obligé. Par contre, entre 6 et 22 ans, où j’ai passé 15 ans à essayer d’apprendre cette langue, j’arrivais à peine à m’en sortir quand je voulais commander un café dans un restaurant. Voilà, on peut dire que je ne suis vraiment pas douée, si j’ai passé 15 ans à apprendre une langue sans résultats.

Donc, comment se fait-il qu’aujourd’hui j’arrive même à écrire des articles entiers en français ? Eh ben, quand je suis arrivée en France en 2008, à 22 ans, j’ai travaillé très très dur; j’ai passé des mois à fréquenter des personnes et aller en soirée où je ne comprenais et ne disais RIEN, or, j’adore parler. Je me suis mise à la lecture en français, avec un petit dictionnaire électronique posé sur mon livre (c’était encore les jours avant la démocratisation des smartphones et des liseuses électroniques); je me suis forcée à parler uniquement en français même avec des personnes qui parlaient parfaitement l’anglais, car je savais qu’il fallait que je pratique; j’allais aussi à l’école pour apprendre, le CUEFA à Avignon, et je faisais des exercices, j’écrivais, je passais des tests… Bref, j’ai bossé, je me suis concentrée comme jamais, et je continue d’apprendre.

Donc, voyez-vous, il n y a rien de naturel dans l’apprentissage d’une langue. Il y a, parfois, des facilités de prononciation. J’admets que même si j’ai un accent quand je m’exprime en français, après beaucoup de pratique et peut-être un peu grâce à mes deux autres langues, je n’ai pas énormément de difficultés à prononcer les mots en français. Cependant, ces facilités là pourront uniquement vous donner un coup de pouce dans l’apprentissage, elle n’apprendront pas pour vous.

Ma conclusion est donc celle-ci : les français ne sont pas plus nuls que les autres en langues étrangères, mais avec une attitude aussi défaitiste et sans être exposés aux autres langues, tel que l’anglais, par exemple, comment voulez-vous apprendre ?

wood man people desk
Photo by Thirdman on Pexels.com

Ce n’est pas que les scandinaves, les allemands, les polonais ou les tchèques sont plus doués que les français, c’est que dans ces pays, l’anglais existe plus naturellement. Les enfants regardent leurs séries américaines en anglais, les adultes aussi; puis avec la pop culture, la musique, la communication, etc., tout devient plus simple.

Si vous avez vraiment envie d’apprendre une langue étrangère, la première chose à faire c’est de vous enlever de la tête que vous n’êtes pas doué. Ensuite il faut s’exposer à la langue, puis il faut travailler, pratiquer et s’acharner pour le faire. Trouvez des activités que vous appréciez, à faire dans votre langue cible, et faites les. Il n y a pas de raccourcis, il faut s y mettre.

*Si vous avez besoin de conseils ou les cours que propose mon école vous intéressent, n’hésitez pas à me contacter!

Friday Idiom: spill the beans

So how about a few examples?

“I worked so hard to plan the perfect birthday party for Tim, I can’t believe you spilled the beans and spoiled the surprise!”

“Okay, I did all the housework, but don’t spill the beans before we get home, I want dad to be surprised!”

“She spilled the beans before I could even begin to tell the whole story!”

So what’s the origin of this funny old idiom? Apparently, from ancient Greece. It is said that black and white beans were used to cast a vote, once you ‘spilled’ them, you found out the results of the election. Well, this is one myth of the origin story, if you’d like to find out more hypotheses, click on the link below!

https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/spill-the-beans.html

This idiom is always incorporated into a sentence, like the examples above. Now you try it!

Word the Day: thorough

A quick note on pronunciation: /ˈθɜːrəʊ/ go to the link below to hear the word

https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/thorough?q=thorough

Do you need some more examples? Here they are:

  • The supervisor made a very thorough evaluation of her staff.
  • The police carried out a thorough investigation into the Deewitter case.
  • André is very thorough when he cleans his teeth; he never has cavities.

Thorough is an adjective, but you can also turn it into an adverb: thoroughly. Here are some examples:

  • Please check the premises thoroughly.
  • He went through each drawer quite thoroughly.
  • It was a thoroughly tiering affair.

Newsletter: Week 9

Weekly English Fix

This week: Brownie Bonanza

Photo by Klaudyna Piatek

By Klaudyna Piatek March 2, 2021

Welcome everyone to this, the week before we open officially! Our very first event: the Brownie Bonanza. Join our baking workshop and learn how to make brownies for free! You can easily sign up by clicking on the link: https://groupetude.com/event/brownie-bonanza/ and filling in our sign-up form. 

This first week of March is proving to be a little unnerving due to Covid uncertainty. Nobody really knows what the government has planned, and this does nothing to help our collective anxiety. However, here is one way in which we can try to counter this. 

Hiking! My husband and I have discovered hiking with our 4 year old son. Of course, we don’t climb to the highest heights, but our kiddo has surprised us by being quite resilient and happy and even excited to go on our weekly hike. This way we not only enjoy the outdoors, but we’ve been able to see what our lovely region has to offer. Highly recommended to help with cabin fever. So, have a look around where you live, even a nice walk can do so much good! 

THIS WEEK’S TOP STORIES

10 virtual tours of spectacular buildings around the world

Phoebe Taplin

https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2021/mar/02/10-virtual-tours-spectacular-buildings-around-world-vr

If you have the travel bug without the possibility of travel, check out these virtual tours. The English level in this article is perhaps a bit difficult, but remember, the point is not to understand everything, the point is to practice and get used to the language. So don’t sweat it if you miss even 50% of the meaning, the point is to immerse yourself! 

Documenting emperor penguins in Antarctica

https://www.bbc.com/news/in-pictures-55857380

This is a beautiful story if you like nature. This photographer spent two winters alongside a colony of emperor penguins; the link will take you to the BBC article where some of his photos are documented. It’s worth checking out, if only for the pictures!

THIS WEEK’S TOP TIPS

Long Term Improvement

Download an English news app on your phone and make a vow to read at least one article everyday. I promise, this will not only improve your reading, but also your vocabulary and your general ease in the language! 

Some examples: BBC, The Guardian, The Observer, The Times, The Huff Post

Vocabulary

The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary has a Word of the Day; follow it! Make it your goal to use your new word at least once that day. If you don’t have anyone to speak to in English, then write a diary entry or join a Facebook English learner’s group and use it there! 

Grammar Spot

Did you know that adjectives in English are always invariable and always go in front of the noun? If you have trouble assimilating this, try to practice by looking around you and describing what you see. If you practice a little everyday, you’ll be a pro in no time! 

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Word of the Day: watertight

The definition I provided above has to do with the more figurative sense of the word, because I think we can all figure out what it means literally. So, here are a few more examples of watertight with the meaning above.

  1. Jeremiah must have a watertight alibi if he wants to be beyond suspicion.
  2. The contract is watertight, you don’t have to worry.
  3. That’s a pretty watertight argument, well done.

Can you think of any other examples?