what's inside a Christmas cracker

What’s inside a Christmas cracker? Let’s see!

What are Christmas crackers? They’re a British tradition. Just about everyone has a cracker with their Christmas meal.

And what’s inside a Christmas cracker? Watch us pull a cracker and we’ll show you. You’ll also learn some Christmas cracker vocabulary along the way.

There are always three things in a cracker – a paper hat, a joke and a novelty.

We’ll show you hats that don’t fit, corny cracker jokes with puns that will make you groan and some typical Christmas cracker novelties.

You’ll learn the history of Christmas crackers and lots of vocabulary like puns, corny and fickle.

Click here to see another video about Christmas traditions. 

What’s inside a Christmas Cracker?

Do you know what this is?
Hi everyone. I’m Vicki and I’m British.
And I’m Jay and I’m American.
We’re going to tell you about a British tradition today.
And you’re going to learn lots of vocabulary along the way.
This is a British Christmas cracker and it’s an important part of a British Christmas dinner.
They’re not a tradition in the US, though Vicki’s found some in the stores here.
Yes. But I never know if I’ll be able to find them here so I get them delivered from England, just to be sure we’ll have them.
She orders them every year.
They’re very pretty. Sometimes we put them on the Christmas tree as decorations, but when we’re having our Christmas meal everyone gets a cracker.
Cracker means something different in American English.
What’s that?
Well, it’s something you eat. This is a cracker.
We call them crackers in British English too.
And we also have firecrackers They’re fireworks that go bang!
We usually call them bangers. But I think the explosion is how crackers got their name.
In 1847 there was a confectioner in London called Tom Smith. A confectioner is someone who makes cakes and sweets.
She means candy.
He introduced London to French bon-bons, sweets wrapped in paper and tied with a twist. And they were very popular. He had competition though, so to increase sales he added a motto – a little piece of paper with a message.
Like you find inside a Chinese fortune cookies.
Then later, Tom Smith had another idea. He took out the sweet and put a gift inside instead.
It was a very good idea.
And then in 1860 he added an explosion and the cracker was born!

Oh, so that piece of card had some chemicals on it.
Yeah. There’s one inside every cracker. A cracker is just a hollow cardboard tube.
Can you pull a cracker on your own?
No, you have to pull it with someone else. One person holds one end and the other person holds the other, and we tug at the same time. To tug means to pull hard.
One, two, three!
When you pull a cracker, one person always wins, and you won.
Yes, I won this one. Now there are always the same things inside a cracker. There’s always a hat.
A paper hat, huh?
Uhuh. It’s like a crown. And you wear them when you’re eating your Christmas dinner. Like this. They’re always too big for you. They always gradually go down like this.
Yeah. They are always too big for me.
They fall off a lot of people’s heads. They’re average size and they don’t fit anyone.
And there’s always a joke inside, right?
Yes, yes, yes. OK. Hang on. There’s a joke here. What delivers presents to baby sharks at Christmas?
Err, Err. Shark-Claus?
Well think about… think about the sharks.
Err, Err. Tooth-Claus? I give up. What?
Oh right, of course. I’ve got another one here. What does Santa suffer from if he gets stuck in a chimney?
The jokes are often puns. A pun is a joke that’s a play on words.
Perhaps there’s a word that has two different meanings. Or perhaps there are two different words that sound the same.
Like Santa Claus – claustrophobia.
Claustrophobia is a fear of being in very small spaces.
Like a chimney.
Exactly. Erm. I’ve got some more. OK, what do you get if you cross Santa with a duck?
Err. A… a Christmas cracker. A Christmas quacker.
I got it. I almost never get them.
I know but you’ve got better over the years.
Cracker jokes are often corny jokes, so old jokes you’ve heard before.
They’re the sort of jokes where you might not laugh. You might groan instead.
A groan is a long deep sound you make when you’re in pain.
And you can groan with pleasure too. Let’s have another one.
What did Adam say the day before Christmas.
OK. We call the day before Christmas Eve – Christmas Eve. So he said ‘It’s Christmas Eve!’
Urgh! That’s terrible!
What do you get if you cross a bell with a skunk?
A bell with a skunk.
A bell skunk.
And your clue is it’s a popular Christmas tune.
Errr jingle smells.
Jingle smells!
I got it!
Listen. If you have any good jokes for us everyone, please leave them for us in the comments. And we can share them perhaps in a video.
They don’t have to be about Christmas.
And there’s always a novelty inside – so some kind of small object. This came flying out of the cracker.
Oh well this one is a top. You spin it.
So I’ve got some things here that I saved.
Where did you get these?
I kept them from last year’s Christmas dinner.
You kept them?
Yes. I knew I wanted to make a video about them. They’re very typical novelties. So we often find toys in the Christmas cracker. There you are.
Oh. A deck of cards.
And what about these. I don’t know if you can see them. They’re marbles and they’re little glass balls that you can play with. Did you play with marbles when you were a child?
I did. We played with marbles when I was a kid and you would always shoot them out and try to hit the other kids’ marbles.
That’s right, and if you hit the other one’s marbles, you could win their marble.
That’s right.
I used to play with my brothers and I never had any marbles left at the end of it.
I thought you lost your marbles a long time ago.
What? To lose your marbles means to go crazy. OK. If you’re hot at the dinner table you can have a fan to cool yourself down.
I bet you can use it to cool the turkey.
If your dinner’s too hot.
The novelties are normally very cheap so they’re not something you keep.
And here’s another one that’s very common. There’s a little jigsaw puzzle here. You see. You’ve got all the pieces. So the children can sit at the dinner table and they can do the jigsaw puzzle if they start to get bored.
Sometimes I’ve seen expensive crackers with expensive novelties, like silver penknives or gold jewelry but I don’t want them.
You don’t want nice gifts?
No, I want games you can play – novelties that are fun for the kids.
So don’t spend your money on expensive crackers.
This is my favourite. It’s actually a fish. It’s red and it’s like a piece of cellophane. And what you have to do is put it on your hand and we see what happens. And then according to what happens I know what you’re lik, you see. This is a fortune teller fish.
Oh, the tail’s going up. OK, the tail…
Look it twisted together. Both ends. Look at that.
OK, a moving tail means you’re independent.
But if the head moves as well, it means you’re jealous.
Uhuh. Is there something you want to tell me?
No. And if it’s both… hang on. Oh. And if it’s both then it means you’re in love.
It’s both. Enough. Enough.
Do you want me to try it?
Oh Jay. The sides have curled in.
Oh curling sides means you’re fickle.
Fickle! Fickle means I can’t be trusted. I keep changing my mind. I’m not reliable.
The thing about Christmas crackers is they solve a problem.
What’s that?
Christmas dinner is a long meal and you’ve got adults and children and sometimes the kids get bored. But the jokes and novelties keep them amused.
They’re things to play with.
So that’s it. Now you know about Christmas crackers.
Do you have anything similar in your country?
And how do you keep the kids amused when you’re having a big family meal?
OK, we should wrap this up.
Yeah. If you’ve enjoyed this video, please share it with a friend.
See you all next Friday everyone. Bye-bye.

Halloween vs. bonfire night

Halloween vs. Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night.

Halloween is a big holiday at this time of year in the US. Folks are carving pumpkins to make jack-o’-lanterns and getting their costumes ready for trick-or-treating.

Halloween is growing in popularity in the UK, but the big event for us is Bonfire night or Guy Fawkes. It’s a celebration of a historical event from 1605, when a plot to assassinate the king was thwarted.

You’ll hear about both celebrations this video and learn about British and American traditions. Our friend Jennifer describes how her family celebrate Halloween in the US and Vicki tells the story of Guy Fawkes.

Have you seen our other video, with scary words for Halloween?

Halloween vs Bonfire Night

Hi, I’m Vicki and I’m British but I live in the US now, and this season of year is what I call autumn, but Americans call fall.
America and the UK both have a have a special celebration at this time of year, but they’re different.
In the US it’s Halloween and in the UK it’s Guy Fawkes night, or Bonfire Night. You’re going to learn about both celebrations in this video and you’ll also learn vocabulary along the way.
To help me, I’m teaming up with my friend Jennifer, from Jennifer ESL. Jennifer’s American and she knows lots about Halloween. And I’ve got lots to tell you about Guy Fawkes, and British history. We’ll also to show you some family photos, and when we’ve finished, you can decide which holiday you think is best.
OK Jennifer. You can go first because Halloween comes first.
That’s right. We celebrate Halloween on October 31st.
Halloween combines different traditions and lots of fun. Halloween is also known as All Hallows’ Eve, and it’s actually been around for centuries in one form or another. Halloween has ancient Celtic roots, so the holiday came from what is now Ireland, the UK, and France.
At this time of the year, when the warm summer ends, and the cold weather sets in, people believed that the line between the living and the dead blurs. That’s how Halloween came into existence.
So the living and the dead get mixed up! Is that why people think of ghosts and zombies and scary creatures at Halloween?
Yeah, when the tradition first started, some people thought that wearing costumes would scare the real ghosts away. Today both children and adults participate in Halloween simply for the fun of dressing up and wearing costumes.
Dressing up is a huge part of Halloween in the US. The costumes can be scary, funny, beautiful… whatever you’d like. Take a look.
Oh that’s your kids! Wonderful!
In the UK, if we dress up, we generally dress as things like Dracula, or Frankenstein or mummies – so costumes that have a spooky theme. But in the US, people dress up as anything they want. It’s part of the tradition of trick-or-treating, isn’t it?
Yes. Trick-or-treating is a community event. It’s a lot of fun to see families all around the neighborhood celebrating in costume and giving out candy. For about two hours, kids go from door to door in costume. They know which houses to go to because families turn on their porch lights to signal that they’re participating in Trick-or-Treating.
The kids ring the doorbell if no one’s already waiting at the door. Each time they say, ‘Trick or treat’, and receive candy. No one plays tricks, by the way. It’s just a custom to say ‘Trick or treat’, like a greeting or a request for candy.
Often the adults giving out candy are dressed up too. Parents who are waiting back near the street remind their children to say thank you for the candy. Parents also hope to get some of that candy later, or at least I do!
Now, sometimes my students ask if Halloween is a religious festival or a celebration of the devil and dark forces, but it’s not. It’s just an excuse to party. I think it’s my favourite American holiday now.
How can you live in the U.S. and not love Halloween? It’s a huge deal for my children and me. We get ready a few weeks in advance because it takes time to prepare our costumes and decorate the house. And don’t get me started about carving the pumpkins! I can go on and on about the time it takes to make jack-o-lanterns.
Jack-o-lanterns. You’d better explain what they are.
That’s what we call the pumpkins after we carve them and place candles inside to light them up at night. Traditionally, we carve a scary or funny faces, but in more recent years, it’s become fashionable to carve different things.
Some people are really good at it. I’m learning, but it’s not easy to cut through the hard shell.
I know. I’m very impressed. They’re really hard to make.
I wonder if people in the UK have as much fun around this time of the year?
Well, when I was growing up, we didn’t pay attention to Halloween. It was no big deal. It’s growing in popularity now but it’s still a small holiday compared to the U S.
In the UK, we like to party a few days later on the fifth of November. That’s when we have Guy Fawkes night, or bonfire night.
This is a celebration of a historical event and it dates back to the year 1605. King James was the King of Great Britain and some people planned to assassinate him – so to kill him.
They got barrels of gunpowder and hid them in the British parliament building and waited for the king to arrive.
So it was a plot. They planned to blow up the building and kill the king.
However, the king’s supporters heard about the plot. They searched the building and discovered a man, called Guy Fawkes, hiding in the basement under the building with 36 barrels of gunpowder.
So the king was saved and the people of London celebrated by lighting bonfires. That’s how the tradition started.
Every November the fifth we have bonfires and lots of fireworks. When I was a child, bonfire night was probably the most exciting night of the year.
Preparations started a week or two before. We’d go to the shop and buy big boxes of fireworks and very importantly, we’d make a guy. A guy is a kind of effigy or model of Guy Fawkes. We’d get some old clothes, stuff them with newspapers and sew them together so they looked like a human body. Then we’d build a bonfire, put the guy on top and set fire to it.
Vicki, are you the little girl on the left?
Yes, that’s me! I think I was about 8 or 9 years old.
The stuffed guy reminds me of a scarecrow. We use scarecrows on farms to scare away the birds. Here in the US, scarecrows have also become common fall decorations. We don’t burn them though!
Looking back, it was quite dangerous because our garden wasn’t very big. Most people these days go to big firework displays instead. They’re a lot safer.
Wow. Talk about strange but oddly fun traditions! Do any of you have the tradition of building a bonfire? What fall holidays do you celebrate? Tell us in the comments.
Yes, and don’t forget to subscribe to both our channels. Happy Halloween everyone! Bye!

This video includes an image of Standard fireworks published by ‘Epic Fireworks’ which can be found at https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicfireworks/4820206541. It is available under an Attribution 2.0 Generic (cc BY 2.0) licence.

Click here to see our other Halloween video and learn lots of spooky words.

Potato Chips with ESL students from the New York Film Academy (NYFA)

Potato Chips with ESL students from the New York Film Academy (NYFA)

We’re proud to present a video called Potato Chips that we made with students studying ESL and filmmaking at the New York Film Academy (NYFA).
It includes some useful slang and informal English expressions: stressed out, chill out and screw it.
The students came up with the concept for the video and they were our cast and crew. They were also a joy to work with.

Click here to watch more of our stories and songs

Potato Chips with ESL students from the New York Film Academy (NYFA)

We have something very special for you today.
Last month we collaborated with students from the ESL school at the New York Film Academy.
They’re studying English and filmmaking at the same time.
The students came up with a concept for a video and we shot it together at the YouTube Space.
They were our cast and crew and we’re very proud to present their story today!
You’re going to hear some informal English expressions and slang, so keep watching and we’ll talk about them on the other side.
Great, let’s roll the video.

Hey, is everything OK?
Not really.
What’s going on?
I have so much to do.
Oh you’re stressed out.
Hey, hey. Calm down. Relax.
No. I need to get to work.
No, no, no, no. You need some ‘lazy skills’.
Lazy skills?
Yes, so when you’re alone and you want to chill out. Let me teach you.
So show me how you sit on this chair. No. It should be more like this. Yeah. It’s better. You need some practice. Second step. Eat some chips.
No thanks.
Come on…
Mmm. It’s delicious. I love it.
No, but you should eat like a pig. Watch me.
It’s perfect! Now step three. OK. Let’s dance!
No, no, no, no.
Dance, dance, dance. Yes! You can. You can. Come! Here! Ah no, you should be more relaxed. Now follow me. Yeah.
Mmm. Ah. I feel so good. I’m much more relaxed.
Yeah. What we need now is a party. Let’s call some friends.
I don’t have any friends.
Don’t worry. I do.
Hi everyone. Come in.
How are you?
I’m fine.
Hallo. Hallo. Hallo. Thank you for inviting us. We love a party!
It’s great to see you, Mao. We’ve brought some drinks and chips.
Oh thank you. So I want you all to meet my friend Sherry.
Oh, where’s Sherry?
This is a great apartment, Mao.
Thank you.
It’s a great party too. Have a chip, Sherry.
Thank you.
She is very hungry.
Hey, let’s put some music on.
That’s a great idea.
Sherry, Sherry, Sherry. It’s so embarrassing!
That’s what you taught me right? Just have fun! Come on.
Oh. Yeah. Screw it!

Ha! Wow! They were terrific, weren’t they?
Yeah, it was such fun to work with them.
Now what about the language we heard?
There were several expressions we should look at. The first one was stressed out.
Let’s hear it.

What’s going on?
I have so much to do.
Oh you’re stressed out.

Stressed out is an adjective and it means you’re so worried and tired that you can’t relax.
We can also say stressed, with no out.
Yes, but when we’re speaking informally to our friends we often say stressed out.
If you’re stressed out you need to calm down and chill out.
Chill out. That was another one.

You need some ‘lazy skills’.
Lazy skills?
Yes, so when you’re alone and you want to chill out. Let me teach you.

Chill out is informal as well.
Yes, it means spend time relaxing, so you’re not tired or nervous.
Now what about those lazy skills? We don’t usually use that phrase.
Yes, this was a joke. The joke works because of the word skills. Skills are normally things we work at.
A skill is the ability to do something well. We have to learn and practice to develop skills.
But we don’t have to practice to be lazy. We just have to do nothing.
We don’t say lazy skills, but we do say relaxation skills. Breathing and yoga can be relaxation skills.
And they’re things we have to work at. Not like eating potato chips.
OK, one more.
Yes, this one is really informal – it’s slang.

That’s what you taught me, right? Just have fun! Come on.
Oh. Yeah. Screw it!

Screw it – it’s slang and it’s pretty rude slang.
It’s something we only say when we’re with friends – close friends.
Don’t say it to your boss.
OK, so what does it mean?
It means I’m giving up. I’m not going to try any more.
Yes, if we’ve been trying to do something and it’s not working, we can say ‘Oh screw it’, and then stop trying.
So it’s like I don’t care any more. I’m not giving any more time or thought to this.
Yeah, Screw it. I’ll stop.
But be careful who you say it to.
OK, if you’d like to see more of our videos, make sure you subscribe.
And share them with your friends so they can learn English too.
And that’s it for today
But before we stop I want to say a BIG thank you to the ESL students at the New York Film Academy.
I think they’re all going to be stars.
See you next week everyone.
Bye now.
Click here to watch more of our stories and songs

dog shelter story

A dog adoption story with two essential phrasal verbs

Here’s a dog adoption story to steal your heart. Learn how to use the phrasal verbs turn out and come up with and lots of other vocabulary in this holiday video.

Dog Adoption Video Script

Hello everyone. We’re celebrating the holidays this month, so in today’s lesson we’re going to have a Christmas story. We’ll look at a couple of phrasal verbs and some other vocabulary too.
Let me introduce you to my friend Geri. At this time of year she sends us a Christmas card with a picture of her dogs. Geri currently has seven dogs. Seven! But I’ll let her tell the story.

I started making Holiday Cards after I first adopted my dog from a shelter in 2008. Every year, my Holiday Cards are getting bigger and bigger.
It started with Lou, who was so puppy-like, the shelter staff thought he was just two years old. He turned out to be a senior, a 10-year-old, but nevertheless he was the perfect dog.
My next dog was 15-year-old Bitty Bear, who had no idea he was old, had warts, no teeth and several medical issues.
Then came Cisco who was saved from death row.
And so my holiday card had three old gentlemen with me.
And then there was Benji, who I saved after he was dumped in shelter with a broken leg. And then came Selena who was stuck in a rescue for six months because she was plain-looking.
Even with Lou and Bitty Bear gone, my family continued to grow. I adopted Dora, who was left in the yard without food for days at a time by her former owners. My next dog, Fluffy, loved to pose for pictures and videos and he figured in two of our two holiday cards.
And then came Spencer. Spencer, to this day, is very anxious dog, except with me.
Lastly, I adopted the duo of Dino and Tino. I was only going to adopt Dino but Dino turned out to be blind and Tino was his seeing eye dog!
My friends have been taking the photos I have been using for my holiday cards, year after year. And so for 2017, here is the holiday card we came up with. I think we’re all going to have a very merry Christmas.

Did you understand everything? Let’s look at some of the vocabulary Geri used.
Adopt – this means she took the dog into her family. We can adopt dogs and we can adopt children. What else can we adopt? Tell us in the comments if you think of something.
And a shelter – that’s is a place where people put dogs that have no home. It’s sometimes called a rescue too.
Let’s hear what Geri said about her first dog again.

It started with Lou who was so puppy-like, the shelter staff thought he was just two years old. He turned out to be a senior, a 10-year-old, but nevertheless he was the perfect dog.

Turn out – this is a phrasal verb and it means to happen in a particular way, and we often use it when something happens that we don’t expect.
So Geri expected Lou to be 2 years old, but then she discovered he was ten. He turned out to be ten. That’s pretty old for a dog. And her next dog was even older.

My next dog was fifteen-year-old Bitty Bear who had no idea he was old, had warts, no teeth, and several medical issues.

What do you think warts are? They’re small hard lumps on your skin, caused by a virus.
You don’t need to know this word. It’s not a common word so forget it. Make room in your head for more useful words.
Bitty Bear had medical issues – health problems. We often use the verb ‘have’ with different health problems – so with pains, diseases and illnesses. We can have headaches, we can have the flu, we can have diabetes, and warts. No, forget that word!
OK. Bitty Bear was fifteen years old. Could you say Bitty Bear had 15 years? Is that correct? No. In some languages you can, but not in English. We’d say he was fifteen years old or he was fifteen. And we can’t say fifteen years. It’s fifteen years old or fifteen. I don’t know why. It just is.
OK, the next dog.

Then came Cisco who was saved from death row and so my holiday card had three old gentlemen with me.

A row is a line of something – a row of houses, a row of trees, a row of seats in the theatre. Can you think of more kinds of row. And can you guess what death row is? It’s a line of cells in a prison where they put people who are going to be killed. So prisoners who have committed very serious crimes. But here Geri’s talking about the dog shelter. If nobody adopts the dogs, they’re often killed. Luckily Geri saved Cisco when she adopted him.
OK, next one.

And then there was Benji, who I saved after he was dumped in shelter with a broken leg.

What’s the missing word? It’s dumped. To dump means to get rid of something that you don’t want any more. Benji’s owner didn’t want him so he dumped him in a shelter.
We also use this verb when we’re talking about dating. If you don’t like your girlfriend or boyfriend, you can dump them. Finish the relationship.
OK, next one?

And then came Selena who was stuck in a rescue for six months because she was plain-looking.

Plain or plain-looking means not pretty, so I’m surprised because I think Selena looks quite pretty. What do you think? I expect you know the verb ‘stuck’?. If you’re stuck, you can’t move. So it means Selena couldn’t leave the shelter or rescue.
The next dog we met was Dora, she was pretty too, and then after that we met Fluffy.

My next dog, Fluffy, loved to pose for pictures and videos and he figured in two of our two holiday cards.

To pose – it means to stand in a particular position in order to be photographed. And figured. This is a verb here and it means to play an important part in something.
OK. Another dog.
Do you remember this one? His name is Spencer and he’s very… anxious. Anxious means nervous. He’s always worried about something.
And now the last two dogs.

Lastly I adopted the duo of Dino and Tino. I was only going to adopt Dino, but Dino turned out to be blind and Tino was his seeing eye dog.

Dino is blind so he can’t see, and a seeing eye dog is a guide dog that sees for him and helps him.
Can you guess the missing words? You heard them before.
It’s ‘turned out’ again – that phrasal verb. She didn’t expect Dino to be blind, but it turned out he was.
Now there was another very useful phrasal verb she used. Can you remember what it was?
It had three words.

And so for 2017, here is the holiday card we came up with. I think we’re all going to have a very merry Christmas.

If we come up with something we produce something. Often it’s an idea, or answer to a problem. So they came up with the idea for a nativity scene.
And that’s it. Now you know the story of Geri’s dogs. Which one did you think was the cutest? And have you ever adopted a dog from a shelter? Would you like to? Write and tell us in the comments.
And have a very, very merry Christmas everyone. Happy holidays!

Holidays around the world

Christmas and New Year’s Eve Holidays around the world

Celebrate the holiday season with us. Learn about some of the things we do at Christmas and the New Year in the USA, in the UK and in Australia.
In this special holiday video Vicki is joined by two friends to share stories of different holiday traditions and customs around the world. You’ll meet Jennifer of JenniferESL and Emma of MmmEnglish and you’ll learn about Christmas trees in America, English Christmas turkey dinners and Australian New Year’s celebrations.
If you have holidays you celebrate, then we’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Click here to see more stories and collaboration videos

Holiday Season Video Script

This lesson is very special.
Today we’re going to travel round the world together and you’re going to learn how we celebratethe holidays, Christmas and the New Year, in the US, in England, where I come from, and in Australia.
You don’t want to miss this!
Today you’re going to meet two of my friends, though I think you might know them already, because they make YouTube videos too!
There’s Jennifer, from Jennifer ESL, who’s American. And there’s Emma from mmmEnglish and Emma’s Australian.
And we thought, if we get together, we can show you how we celebrate the holiday season around the world.
So are you ready to travel with us? Let’s get going.

Christmas just wouldn’t feel the same without a Christmas tree. I live in Massachusetts and here in New England, it’s easy to find a Christmas tree farm.
Many people buy a real evergreen tree every year.
Other families, like mine, have an artificial tree.
My children and I start decorating for the holidays in early December.
We put on music, we put up the tree and then we decorate it with ornaments, lights and candy canes.
The days are short, so we get to enjoy the Christmas tree lights in the evening.
The really magical moment is Christmas morning when we find gifts from Santa Claus under the tree, and in our stockings, that are hanging from the mantel of our fireplace.

Let’s go over some key vocabulary.
Real and artificial are opposites when we’re talking about Christmas trees.
A real tree grows in a forest or on a tree farm.
And artificial tree comes in a box, so you have to assemble it.
‘Put on’ is a phrasal verb. If you put on some music, you cause it to be heard.
Let’s put some music on. Let’s put on some holiday music.
‘Put up’ is another phrasal verb. When you put up a tree, you erect or build it.
When are we going to put the tree up?
Did you put your tree up already?
Stockings, at one point, were regular old socks. But today they’ve become much larger and decorative.
Kids like big Christmas stockings because they can hold more treats from Santa.
When are we going to hang the stockings? Did you hang up your stockings already?
This is the mantel. As you can see, it’s like a shelf above the fireplace.
People often place photos, clocks and knick-knacks on the mantel.
At Christmas time, it’s where the stockings are hung.

Ooo, that’s interesting. In England, we usually hang our stockings on the ends of our beds, so we can start opening our presents the moment we wake up.
But let me tell you about my Christmas Day.
I get up early on Christmas morning to make some stuffing.
I mix up sage, that’s a herb, breadcrumbs, and onions.
And that sticky stuff I’m adding is peanut butter. Our dog loves it.
This mixture is called stuffing because we stuff the turkey with it – put it inside.
Turkey is a very traditional English Christmas dish and it takes a long time to cook.
But that’s good because I have a lot of other stuff to do.
There’s more food to prepare and the family are coming so I need to get everything ready for the meal.
When the turkey is cooked, Jay takes it out of the oven and it looks great, so everyone congratulates him.
Great job Jay, and Vicki, of course.

Do you remember what I put inside the turkey? It was stuffing.
If you stuff something, then you fill it.
So you saw me stuffing the turkey with stuffing – filling it with the mixture.
But stuff has other meanings too.
It’s an informal word that we use a lot in spoken English.
Sometimes it means substance. So, for example, that peanut butter was sticky stuff.
Stuff is a very vague and nonspecific word. WE use it if the name of something isn’t important, or if we don’t know the name.
So if you want to know what a substance is called, you can ask ‘What’s that stuff?’
We also use stuff to talk about actions and jobs, and again, it’s nonspecific.
So when I said I had stuff to do, I meant jobs. But I didn’t say what jobs exactly. It was just a group of different things.
One more stuff word? After we’ve eaten a big British Christmas dinner, we feel stuffed. ‘I’m stuffed!’ is an informal expression and it means full of food.
OK. That’s enough stuff about Christmas. Let’s go to Emma and find our about New Year in Australia.

While Christmas time is about family and food, New year is about letting your hair down and celebrating with friends.
We reflect on the year that’s finished and we wish each other luck and good fortune for the year to come.
Here in Australia it’s summer time, so our New Year’s celebrations are usually outside – at the park, at the beach, on a boat or at someone’s house.
We’re usually drinking champagne or other alcoholic drinks, and everyone is excited and in a festive mood.
Around New Year’s Eve, you’ll hear this question a lot: What are your New Year’s resolutions?
At the start of a new year we make promises about how we’re going to do better for ourselves in the following year.
We promise ourselves that we’ll exercise more, or lose weight, or learn a new language, or any other skill.
But, to be completely honest, most of these resolutions… they get broken within the first month of the year.
Of course, the highlight of New Year’s Eve is the countdown to midnight, when the year officially changes.
During the final ten seconds of the year we count down from ten to one, out loud, at the top of our lungs.
And then we call out, ‘Happy New Year!’ and hug everyone around us, whether you know them or not. And of course, that’s when the fireworks begin.

OK. Let’s take a closer look at the vocabulary that I used.
I said, ‘to let your hair down’. Now this expression is used when you want to relax and enjoy yourself and behave much more freely than usual.
I also said, ‘a festive mood’ and we use this word festive to describe someone’s feelings when they’re happy and excited because they’re celebrating something special, like Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, or Thanksgiving, or even a birthday.
Ooo, what about a New Year’s resolution? A resolution is a promise to do or not to do something to try and improve yourself.
There are a few collocations that you need to remember when you’re using ‘resolutions’ – verbs that are usually used with this noun, like make, have, keep and break.
Do you have any New Year’s resolutions? If you do, share them in the comments.
Do you usually make New Year’s resolutions? I don’t keep any of my New Year’s resolutions. I usually break all of my resolutions by the end of January. I’m hopeless!
I also used the noun highlight, which means the best part.
The highlight of the night is the best part of the night.
I mentioned the countdown, but I also used the phrasal verb, to count down, and that means to wait for something to happen.
When you’re watching the clock and you’re waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen, you’re counting down the minutes until something exciting happens.
The countdown is a compound noun and it looks different. The two words are together.
And finally, at the top of our lungs. And this just means… well this is an idiom, and it means as loudly as you can possibly say something.
At the top of your lungs.

Happy Holidays and happy studies everyone.
Merry Christmas everyone.
Happy New Year!

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halloween english

Halloween English. Learn 21 spooky and creepy words

Halloween English! Come shopping with us at the Halloween store and learn 21 words you need to talk about this American celebration. You’ll find words about costumes, decorations, scary creatures and more.
You’ll hear three English words we use to talk about our fears. Scary , which means frightening. Spooky , which means strange and frightening. Spooky things can make us think of ghosts. And creepy . If something is creepy it makes us a little nervous and frightened. It’s not a pleasant feeling. A good way to learn their meanings is to see the words in use in the video. Enjoy!

Click here to see lots more vocabulary videos
Click here to see our songs and stories videos

Halloween English video script

Hello everyone. You’re coming shopping with us today!
Yeah, we’re going to the Halloween store.
Halloween’s great in America. People buy costumes – clothes that make them look like somebody else. You can be anyone you want.
Do you want to be a pirate?
Or Michael Jackson?
Or Elvis Presley? The King.
If you want, you can be a superhero.
When you buy your costume, don’t forget to buy your accessories. They’re the extra things that make your costume great.
If you’re going to be a chef, you’ll need a big chopping knife.
And if you’re going to be a pirate, you’ll need a sword.
You might want a mask that covers your face, or maybe a wig to cover your hair.
And if you’re a policeman, you’ll need hand cuffs.
At Halloween people decorate their homes with pumpkins. They’re like big orange vegetables.
We cut holes in them to make a face and put a candle inside. Then they become jack o’ lanterns. They can look pretty evil.
And people decorate their homes with other things too.
Yes, spooky things. Spooky means strange and frightening. Skeletons. Yes, we decorate our homes with skeletons – they’re spooky.
This Halloween store is pretty spooky.

Is it cold in here?
Yes. You don’t think there are any ghosts here, do you? Like spirits of dead people?
No, of course not. Ghosts don’t exist.
Oh good because that would be creepy. If something’s creepy it makes you a little nervous and frightened.
I’ll tell you what’s creepy. I feel like we’re being watched.
Yes, like there’s a evil eye or something.

Spiders are creepy. We associate them with Halloween.
Yes. And bugs! They’re creepy too!
And another Halloween creature is bats. Bats! They’re creepy.
They’re scary too. Scary means frightening!

When I was a kid, I read scary stories about witches. You know, women who ride around on brooms and they have magic powers .
But witches don’t really exist. Everyone knows that.
Well I know that now. What’s in that box?
It’s a Werewolf. A person who becomes a wolf when the moon is full.
Can I see?
Jay, I saw a grave and a grave stone and then a big hand came up.
Oh that was a zombie – someone who’s half alive and half dead.
A zombie!
And there are vampires here too – creatures who drink your blood. But don’t worry, I’ll keep you safe.

Hey. I enjoyed that.
Yeah. If you liked this video, please share it with a friend.
And don’t forget to subscribe to our channel.
Have a great Halloween everyone.
Bye. Bye-bye.

Do you think the wig suited Vicki? Click here to see a video about the verbs fit and suit.
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Click here to see our songs and stories videos

21 Halloween English words

Could you remember the 21 words? They were costumes, accessories, mask, wig, pumpkins, jack o’lanterns, spooky, skeletons, ghosts, creepy, spiders, bugs, bats, scary, witches, brooms, werewolf, grave, gravestone, zombie and vampires.

copper coffee pot

A proper copper coffee pot – an English tongue twister song

Can you say a proper copper coffee pot three times fast? This tongue twister song is for English learners who want to improve their speaking and pronunciation. ‘All I want is a proper cup of coffee’ will get your mouths moving, improve your diction and best of all, it’s a whole lot of fun.

Proper Copper Coffee Pot Lyrics

All I want is a proper cup of coffee.
Made in a proper copper coffee pot.
You can believe it or not.
But I want a cup of coffee from a proper copper pot.
Tin coffee pots or iron coffee pots, they’re not good to me.
If I can’t have a proper cup of coffee from a proper copper coffee pot, I’ll just have tea.
All I want is a proper cup of coffee.
Made in a proper copper coffee pot.
You can believe it or not.
But I want a cup of coffee from a proper copper pot.
Click here to see some students trying this tongue twister.

April Fools

Can you spot a lie in English? Happy April Fool’s Day!

April Fool’s Day is April 1st, a day when we play jokes on our friends and family and try to get them to believe something that isn’t true.

In this video, five English teachers get together to see if they can fool you! Happy April Fool’s Day!

Click here to see another collaboration video for World Story Telling Day.
Click here to see more story and song videos.

April Fools Day Video Script

Ready for an April Fool’s Day lesson?
Wait. Does everyone watching know what April Fool’s Day is?
I can sum it up in a single line: it’s a day when people play silly jokes on one another.
Right. We try to fool friends and family. And it’s all done in fun. And when people discover that it’s a joke, the joker can say, “April Fool’s!”
So five of us teachers have come together to see if we can fool you.
We’re each going to ask a true-false question. Some of us will tell the truth. Others are going to try to fool you.
Do I look like a person who can handle weapons?
Actually, I know how to use three types of weapons. True or false?
I briefly studied tae kwon do. And that’s when I learned how to use a long staff, a short stick, and nunchucks. Double and single.
Did you hear how I stated my list? A long staff, a short stick, and nunchucks. A common pattern is to use rising intonation on all but the last item of a list, as in one, two, and three. We use falling intonation on the last item.
For more information and practice, please check out my lesson on intonation patterns for stating lists and presenting alternatives.
I’m from the United States of America but do you know which state I currently live in? Well, if you follow ‘go Natural English’ you probably know the answer. I live in Missouri. True or false?
The answer is false. I made one of the Go Natural videos in Missouri when I was visiting family. My father lives there. But I am not from there and I don’t currently live there. But you can see the video I made and learn about how to use words stress correctly to sound more like a natural English speaker.
I went to graduate school to study Linguistics. True or false?
False! I went to graduate school to study opera singing.
Check out this video I made about intonation in American English and how it can help you sound more native. I have a short clip of me singing opera in that video!
I’m British and this is my husband, Jay. He’s American.
That’s true!
So he says tomahto and I say tomayto.
Is that true or false?
It’s false! It’s the other way round.
I say tomayto and she says tomahto.
So watch our video on British and American pronunciation differences to learn more.
Check this out. I used to work at a fish market. True or false?
True! Actually I worked at a fish market for six summers when I was a teenager.
Did you notice the rhythm while I was speaking? Did you? When we speak we stress the words that are most important for people to understand. Those words are on the beat in English. The other words – usually little grammar words – they shrink, they get smaller, or link together. That’s the shrinking and linking. If you’re interested in this topic – so important for practicing English – please check out this video I made.

Check out everyone’s YouTube channel and make sure you subscribe: https://www.youtube.com/collolearn


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Click here to see another collaboration video for World Story Telling Day.
Click here to see more story and song videos.

beach boys

Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys

Here’s one of the happiest songs in the world from the Beach Boys. English learners should sing along because it also provides excellent practice of the meanings and pronunciation of the suffix -ion.

I-I love the colorful clothes she wears
And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair
I hear the sound of a gentle word
On the wind that lifts her perfume through the air

I’m picking up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
I’m picking up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
Good, good, good, good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
Good, good, good, good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations

Close my eyes, she’s somehow closer now
Softly smile, I know she must be kind
When I look in her eyes
She goes with me to a blossom world

I’m picking up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
I’m picking up good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
Good, good, good, good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
Good, good, good, good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations

Ah, my my, my, what elation
I don’t know where but she sends me there
Oh, my my, my what a sensation
Ah, my, my my, what elation

Gotta keep those loved good vibrations a-happening with her
Gotta keep those loved good vibrations a-happening with her
Gotta keep those loved good vibrations a-happening with her


Good, good, good, good vibrations
She’s giving me excitations
Good, good, good, good vibrations

For more information on the suffix -ion click here

A US election playlist – 2016

A US election playlist – 2016

Hello everybody! I’m making this quick extra video this week to tell you about a playlist.
Tuesday is election day in the United States and then it will be over. Phew! We are sooooo overloaded with political ads and news. I just want to know the results now. But before they come in, you might enjoy some great videos from some other YouTube English teachers.
Gabby and Jennifer have both made videos on how the election system works. For pronunciation practice, you can see Gabby on political vocabulary, and also Rachel, where Rachel will teach you how to say Clinton and Trump. And if you haven’t already seen it, I’ll take you with me on a trip to an American political rally.

So if you’re interested in the election, click here to see the playlist and get ready to understand the results when they come in. Can you guess who I want to win?

Here’s the link to the playlist: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLwrM2Wcy_MsCFPI70Qk4LsU20_PfPt6rs

And I also have another video that I shot at an US election rally! Click here to see it.