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July 2013

English Expressions

English Expression: Freaked Out

My understanding of the term “freaked out” is that it originated in the 1960’s, when people tended to take drugs which could cause people to “freak out”, or act very strangely or uncontrollably. The word “freak” by itself can refer to someone who acts strangely, someone who does not fit in with everyone else. So, believe it or not, “freaked out”, “freaking out”, and other variants are quite common expressions in American English today, used by both young and old people.

freak out

It does not usually refer to the effects of drug use, or to refer to someone who really is crazy. It is used more as a fun expression, or a way to express a strong reaction to something, for both positive and negative situations. For example, let’s say a student was very surprised to find out that she received the highest grade on a test, even though she did not study. She might say to her friends: “Oh my gosh, when I received that A+ I just freaked out!”. Or, when your boss informs you and your colleagues that everyone will be headed to Las Vegas for a company outing, you could say: “When he told us the news, everyone was just freaking out.” As far as calling someone a “freak”, it can be used lightheartedly amongst friends: if your friend just loves to play video games all the time, you could say to him: “you are such a freak.” Or, it can be used in a more negative way: if the pretty teenage high school girls are discussing the boy who has some bad habits they can say to each other: “he is such a freak.” You can even say something is “freakish,” r even “freakin” (short for “freaking”, “that was freakin’ awesome”). Try to use some of these “freaking” expressions on your American friends. I guarantee they will “freak out.”


Oliver Teaching Director

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How to Learn English

How to improve English listening skills: Grammar!

One of  our answers to how to improve your English listening skills is grammar.

If you try to read English newspapers, you may encounter sentences you cannot understand though you know all the words in the sentences. This is mostly due to needing to learn more about English grammar.

Try to understand the following:

“It should be emphasized that the intrinsic subjective nature of pain and recognized difficulties in pain evaluation and measurement do not render the pain experience any less physically and psycho-emotionally significant and disabling.”

This is the quotation of an expert from a medical magazine. It is natural that it will be difficult to understand this sentence on listening to it, if you also do not understand what it means when you read it. Once you know the words, the next step is being able to understand the grammar.


Grammar Gorillas look  big mountains. but it’s not that big if you ever try.

English Expressions

English Expression: Money Related Words

Many people dream about having lots of money. Here you can learn several money related words.

I would love to make money “hand over fist” – I would like to earn large amounts of money. Some people are lucky enough to win lotteries or at gambling. If your combination of numbers is chosen, or you are otherwise lucky enough, you could win a huge amount of money – you could win a “windfall”. For me, I was not born with a “silver spoon in my mouth”, my parents were not rich.  I never had “money to burn” as a child, so I learned how to “scrape by” and “earn my keep” – I was always frugal and have become accustomed to working very hard.

Hand over fist make money very fast and in large quantities
Windfall [NOUN] A windfall is a sum of money that you receive unexpectedly or by luck, for example if you win a lottery
Be born with a silver spoon in your mouth be born into a very rich family


Be born with a sliver spoon


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How to Learn English

How to improve English Listening Skills: Phonetics

Based on our extensive research at LEC, we have concluded that it is very important to expand your English vocabulary about the issue of how to improve your English listening skills. You may understand this by reading our previous post about how our brain understands English. Knowing vocabulary only, however, is not enough to understand English by listening.


If you try to listen to Hollywood movies, documentaries or TV dramas without subtitles, and then discover later when you read the script that the sentences you did not understand were actually just easy expressions, you may learn quickly that English native speakers enunciate (sound-out) their words differently for different situations.

American people usually pronounce [innər|nӕʃnəl] rather than [int ər|nӕʃnəl] for “international”. “should have been” is ‘ʃurəbin]. Of course, people from UK or Australia may pronounce the same words in different ways. Also, a person’s English may sound a bit different when they are talking with friends, as opposed to talking with co-workers at the office. The rule that you need to learn phonetics applies for the case of any type of English.

Learning English phonetic rules is not difficult. You can learn this rather quickly, perhaps over a few days, by reading a book on English phonetics. Once you learn about this, your listening skills advance rapidly.

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How to Learn English

How to improve English Listening Skills: Vocabulary

We talked about the importance of reading to improve your English listening skills. (See our posts about why reading is important to improve English speaking)

Now, we suggest that the next step is to learn some general rules of thumb about how to improve your English listening skills.


To understand English by listening means that you can imitate or dictate the words that you heard. If you see the script of the movie <Batman Begins>, you will encounter this expression: “He poignantly imitated the reactions of other people.” To understand this sentence, you must know every word in this sentence. Do you know the word, ‘poignantly’? You will likely not understand the Batman sentence completely if you do not know the word. (Poignantly means to do something with strong feeling).

You may know the word, “crane”, meaning a machine which lifts heavy materials. But “crane” also refers to stork-like birds with long necks. If a person knowing only the first meaning of “crane” faces a sentence using the word “crane”, meaning a type of bird, he may feel embarrassed: how can a “crane” have wings, let alone be able to fly!

What about “toucan”, a word which some elementary students in the USA are familiar with. It may seem like a relatively simple word, but not an easy word for people learning English as a second language. “Toucan” is a bird with big bills living in jungles of Latin American countries.

All examples in this post will probably make clear why it is useful to improve your English vocabulary in order to improve your listening skills. If you do not know the meaning of what you heard, or alternative meanings of a word, you may experience difficulty with understanding and comprehension.

Next time, we are going to study the importance of phonetic rules of English.

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