American Accent Roadmap – The New York Accent

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How the pop-singer Lady Gaga speaks is a telling example of standard New York accent. In the following, we’ll show some aspects of this accent highlighting Gaga’s answers during an interview at the David Letterman Show.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, was born in Manhattan, NYC, on March 28, 1986. In this interview, she and anchor David Letterman talk about Gaga’s album “Born this way”.

Here’s a short list of the New York accent aspects, with examples based on the video.

  • Dropping final consonants and -G endings

Listen to Gaga’s comments about her fans (1:25): “They’re so amazin’… They’re just so swee’…”. In addition, check her answer to Letterman’s question about what she is wearing (2:30): “I only like the jackee” instead of “I only like the jacket”.

  • Substituting D for “TH”

Check the following passage. Letterman: “Do you have a boyfriend?”. Gaga: “Why are you askin’?” and then “I do like a man in an orange tie. I don’t know about doze… AHAHA” (7:30) instead of those.

  • “O” sound becomes “AW”

During the interview, Gaga pronounces the word “over” with New York accent several times. When Letterman and Gaga talk about Gaga’s rebirth, Gaga explains: “You cannot be reborn awer and awer and awer again” (10:19).

 

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Funny facts about US fruit snack packages

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A foreign visitor may consider the US as the junk-food homeland. And if we notice that in 2012 there were 14.157 McDonald’s restaurants in the country, maybe we conclude she is right. However, a short tour in any supermarket may be even more persuasive.

Pre-baked toasted pastries "with REAL strawberries"

Pop Tarts: Pre-baked toasted pastries “with REAL strawberries”

Nutter Butter Bites

Nutter Butter Bites: Sandwich cookies “with REAL peanut butter”

Fruit Gushers

Fruit Gushers: Sugar fruit snacks “with REAL fruit”

I always found slogans as “made with REAL fruit” or “made with REAL strawberries” very funny. They are very common. They implicitly suggest the consumer to avoid products “made with FAKE fruit”. Even such the idea is funny, isn’t it? Fake fruit. For example, fake apples.

It is widely know that Americans do not eat often fruit and vegetables. According to research, the US state with less fruit consumers is Oklahoma, where 50.2% adult residents admit to consume fruits and vegetables less than one time daily. On the black list there are also Arkansas (47.5%) and West Virginia (47.2%). Among the good guys there are instead New Hampshire, where only 30.3% adults don’t eat fruit at least one time a day, California (30.4%) and Vermont (31.4%).

TOEFL Essay #5 – Children and television

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Do you agree or disagree with the following statement? Watching television is bad for children. Use specific details and examples to support your answer.

Mike Teavee, or how a child become by watching too much TV. Character of the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, 2005)

Mike Teavee, or how a child become by watching too much TV. Character of the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, 2005)

“Watching television kills childhood fantasy”, the well-know English writer Roald Dahl declared in an interview, and I strongly agree with him. Dahl has always been against “the grey screen”, as he called television. He also created a character in order to show the negative effect of television on children: Mike, the selfish, passive and spoiled 10-years-old boy who follows Charlie Bucket in his trip inside The Chocolate Factory.

Children should never be allowed to sit down by themselves in front of television, not only because television kills imagination, as Dahl claimed. As far as I am concerned, there are two further reasons. First, as neurosciences show, there is a close relation between watching television and bad results at school. Second, it is widely known that television broadcasts programs which are not appropriate for children.

First of all, let us examine some numbers. According to some data, children who watch more than four hours of television pro day have 60% more likelihoods to fail their classes. They also jeopardize their health, because another research describe rising 80% in children eyes diseases, such as myopia and uncontrolled tears, as a consequence of watching too much television. This demonstrates in an objective way that television is a children enemy.

In addition, is it sufficient turning on television at whatever time of the day in order to understand that television’s programs are inappropriate for children. Violence, bad news, dead people, natural catastrophes, sexual issues are broadcasted on the screen every moment. Besides, almost every kind of educational program has been erased. Thus, we have to protect our children against watching images they could be upset about.

To summarize, for all the aforementioned reasons, I strongly agree that watching television is bad for children. When I have sons, I will buy them instead a bike and lot of books.

Three free online resources to improve your English listening ability

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Looking for standard and non-standard English to listen? Have you sold all your DVDs with English subtitles to the local Tech History Museum to buy a tablet? Is your Netflix first month free just expired? Or maybe you’re fed up with Breaking Bad reruns (me, I am)? Don’t worry. There are plenty of online free resources to listen. Here’s the three I found more effective.

  1. TED Talks
TED Talks

“TED” stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. The set of conferences became annual in 1990

The greatest collection of videos with English subtitles on the web. Speakers talk about food, environment, education, politics, art, science and literature. Choose your favorite, put your headset on, and listen! New videos everyday.

2. Scientific American Podcasts

60-Seconds Science

Only 60 seconds to understand what the speaker is talking about. A great exercise!

Science, Earth, technology and space. These are the subject of the Scientific American podcasts, which always have the transcript available. I recommend those by Christopher Intagliata; his podcasts are informative, clear, and funny.

3. CNN website

CNN Live streaming

CNN Live streaming

The best news channel in the world live on your computer screen whenever you want, thanks to the section Watch Live TV. I strongly believe that news and movie trailers are the most difficult materials to understand in a foreign language, because they’re faster than every other type of communication. CNN Channel is the best way to make practice.

Word of the day #2 – To schedule an appointment

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Schedule-buttom

If you click here, nothing will happen. At least on Lucy’s English

I beg your pardon, readers. I am positive that most of you already know the expression “to schedule an appointment”. However, for those who don’t, my piece of advice is the following: try to use this expression every time you can. No other expression makes you seem more American, or more busy, or more well-connected. I’d say this expression is the essence of the American spirit, because of its implications of pragmatism, commitment, and hard-work. Let see together its meaning and some use examples.

Neither here

Neither here

“To schedule” means to set a timetable for something, such as a meeting, an event, an appointment and so on. It is clearly a verb belonging to the semantic field of work and business. As a noun, “schedule” is equivalent to “agenda”. It could be a businessman‘s schedule, which includes a trip to Toronto on Saturday at 3:00PM, Mark Zuckerberg‘s schedule, which includes chairing the Facebook Inc. board every Wednesday, Meryl Streep‘s schedule, which includes the 87th Academy Award ceremony in a month, or could be mine schedule, which includes a coffee break three times a day.

The first time I came in the United States, I found this verb very helpful to create a connection with American people. If you say “to schedule” to them, they will immediately understand what you mean, because they’ve heard this word since – I imagine – childhood. Everyone in the United States schedule appointments, meetings, interviews, or conference calls. The more you schedule, the more you seem important. Therefore… let’s schedule with enthusiasm!

Schedule

To schedule what, it is unknow

I am getting in touch with you to schedule a meeting. We can schedule as soon as possible. Could we schedule for tomorrow? Yes, the hairdresser appointment is scheduled at 5 o’ clock. All these sentences could be used also in e-mail writing.

My readers who like to travel have surely noticed this word in every U. S. airport. When a flight is on time, the expression “On Schedule” appears on the screens. I guess that, from an American point of view, if a thing is scheduled, that thing is good.

TOEFL Essay #4 – Means of transportation

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You need to travel from home to a place 40 miles (64 kilometers) away. Compare the different kinds of transportation you could use. Tell which method of travel you would choose. Give specific reasons for your choice.

Snoopy Barone Rosso

In order to travel for 40 miles, you can choose among one of the following means of transportation: car, motorbike or train. I would definitely choose the train, because it is safer than the others. In any case, let us compare advantages and disadvantages of each possibility.

Choice number one: the car.

Using your own car presents a lot of positive aspects. First of all, you can choose when to leave by yourself. Secondly, you can arrive exactly where you want. On the other hand, you have to cope with parking problems. Sometimes you could be compelled to double parking your car, which may result in an expensive fine. In addition, during the rush hour you can easily run into a traffic jam and waste your time in line. For all the aforementioned reasons, I would try to avoid using the car for my trip.

Choice number two: the motorbike.

Even though traveling by motorbike could be charming, as the movie The Motorcycle Diaries shows, using the motorbike in everyday life presents a lot of negative aspects. The first and the most serious one, in my opinion, is the rising cost of the fuel. Furthermore, motorbike accidents are the worst compared to car collisions. My father, who is an orthopedic M.D., always says: “In a collision between a car and a motorbike, the second one has the most chances to die”. I am scared to death by the very thought of riding a motorbike. In addition, what if it is raining? At least a car is a dry place.

Choice number three: the train.

As far as I am concerned, the train is the more comfortable and convenient mean of transportation that I know of. In my country, a ticket for a regional train costs less than 10 Euros. Seats are large, and during the trip you can always watch the view from the windows. You cannot do the same thing traveling by car or motorbike, unless you are willing to put your life in jeopardy. However, the most important reason I find the train preferable is that I do not like driving. I prefer someone else driving me wherever I want.

As a conclusion, I would absolutely use the train for my trip. Considering ticket price, the distance I have to cover and the type of person I am, the train is the best choice for me.

Seven ways to cook an egg in American English

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How many ways to cook an egg do exist? Several, at least in the USA. The first time I opened the breakfast menu in a cafeteria, I was totally lost. “I just want a fried egg!”, my thought was. Here the ultimate egg-dictionary, an useful guide to know exactly which kind of egg my readers could find in their plates.

  • Sunny Side Up Egg – Cooked on only one side. The yolk (the red part of the egg) remains totally liquid;

Sunny side up eggs

  • Over Easy (or Over Light) Egg – Cooked on both sides, with the yolk more liquid than solid;

Over Easy Eggs

  • Over Medium Egg – Cooked on both sides, with the yolk more solid than liquid (usually more liquid at the centre);

Over Medium Eggs

  • Over Hard Egg – Cooked on both sides, with the yolk fully hard;

Over Hard Eggs

  • Hard Boiled Egg – Fully cooked by immersion in boiling water, with the shells unbroken;

Hard boiled Eggs

  • Poached Egg – Fully cooked in water, with no shells. The yolk seems dressed up with the white;

Poached egg

  • Scrambled Eggs – Whites and yolks mixed up; usually served with bacon.

Scrambled eggs

 

TOEFL Essay #3 – Roommates

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You have been told that dormitory rooms at your university must be shared by two students. Would you rather have the university assign a student to share a room with you, or would you rather choose your own roommate? Use specific reason and details to explain your answer.

Photo: huffingtonpost.it

Photo: huffingtonpost.it

I have never had a misunderstanding, a problem or an argument of any type with my best friend Giulia when we used to share an apartment. From this experience, I have learned that if you want to have a pacific cohabitation, you have to know very well your roommate before starting living together. That is why I find strongly preferable choosing my own roommate, in order to check at least two things. Firstly, finding out whether she is a reliable person is mandatory. Secondly, having compatible routine is crucial to ensure we do not fight with each other.

As far as I am concerned, being honest and reliable is the most valuable quality for a roommate. There is no need to explain that a roommate could have access to the goods you store in your room, such as money, jewelery, clothes and electronic devices. Subsequently, she has to be the kind of person who would never steal anything. In other words, the first question you have to answer when you choose to live with another person is the following: “Would I be OK to leave this person the keys of our room?”.

Furthermore, it is also my belief that sharing a room with a person who has the same routine as yours it is easier. Let me tell to the reader my personal experience. When I used to live with Giulia, we were both students attending the same university. We would take the same classes, have final exams during the same period and spend free time with the same friends. Thus, thanks to our similar schedules we could plan things to do together, like going to the grocery store, inviting friends for dinner and so on. If we had had different schedules, we would have not managed our time so easily.

To summarize, choosing your own roommate is absolutely better than to be assigned one. This is because, at the end of the day, if you really get to know who is the person who will sleeps next to you, you will sleep better.

What exactly happens after an international flight lands in the United States

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A long series of events do happen between the moment the plane lands in the United States from a foreign country and the moment the passengers can leave the airport.

Photo: indianexpress.com

Photo: indianexpress.com

Knowing the process step-by-step is the best way to avoid surprises. During the flight, usually a tutorial is displayed on the screens of the plane, often both in English and in the language of the departure country. However, it is important being well-aware of the Immigration and Customs procedures before the landing. Hope this simple explanatory guide will help my readers find the way of the nearest taxi and the nearest rest.

1. STEP ONE: THE IMMIGRATION CONTROL

a) Waiting in the right line

You will reach a huge room with two different types of lines. The one for U. S. Residents and the one for Visitors, including ESTA travelers (tourists), visa holders (students or workers) and permanent residents (green card holders). Differences between these categories exceed the topic of this guide and will be analyzed in a following post. In most of cases, the visitors line is longer. Be prepared to wait. In my experience, I waited the longer at Miami (one hour and half) and the shorter in Chicago (half an hour). I advise my readers who plan a flight connection considering not less than two hours for the whole immigration procedure. While you wait, you should have in your hands three things:

  • Your passport;
  • Your U. S. Custom Declaration Form – a purple sheet that the cabin crew distribute to passengers during the flight. You should have filled out this form before landing;
  • Any other document required – such as ESTA declaration if you are a tourist, the I-20 document if you own an F-1 Student visa, and so on.

b) Passing the interview

At the end of the line, you will stand in front of an officer of the Customs and Border protection. He will shoot you a photo, asking you take off your glasses; he will take your fingerprint (thumb and four fingers separately, for both hands); and eventually he will ask you a few questions. He wants to know which is the goal of your trip and how long will be your stay. Answer accordingly. If he decides to admit you in the country, he will stamp your passport.

2. STEP TWO: THE CUSTOMS

a) Looking for your baggage

You will reach another huge room together with all international passengers admitted to the United States. Check the screens and find your luggage at the right conveyor belt. Than, there is another line, this time unique for every passengers.

b) Passing through customs

At the end of the line, you will stand in front of another officer. A lot of things can happen here. Maybe he will ask you a few questions, maybe not. Maybe he will read your declaration (the purple sheet), maybe not. In most of cases, he will just withdraw the form. Be aware: he can always ask you follow him for baggage inspection.

Pay attention. By the moment the officer withdraws your U. S. Custom Declaration form, you are officially allowed to go wherever you want within the United States. Leaving the purple sheet in the officer’s hands is in some extent a symbolic gesture: it means that the U. S. Customs and Border protection has ended his job with you.

At this point of the process, if the landing airport is the one of your final destination, you are done. Taxis or ground transportation will take you to your hotel. Welcome to the United States!

Word of the Day #1 – I’d bet my bottom dollar

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If you have one dollar only in your pocket, you may want to preserve it. However, if you are entirely confident about a fact, there is nothing to risk betting your last coin, right? That is the line of reasoning behind this expression, which I have read for the first time in a Facebook message sent to me by my American cousin (Hi Marco, how you doing?).

I’d bet my bottom dollar means being absolutely sure about the outcome of, say, a situation. Literally, bottom is the deepest or the lowest part of something. In this case, “bottom” is a metaphor for “the very last coin”, the one that lies lonely at the bottom of your wallet.

For example. Have you ever seen the movie Six days, seven nights (1998), starring an overweight Harrison Ford and a skinny Anne Heche? Two of them, they argue, they fight, they apparently hate each other. What else could happen? No doubts. At the tenth minute of the movie, I’d bet my bottom dollar they will fall in love!

A man, a woman, a desert island. Any suspense?

A man, a woman, a desert Island. And suspense?

If you want, you can use this expression also as an answer. “Do you plan enjoying some relax after the exam?”, ask a student to another student. “You bet your bottom dollar”, he answers, looking at the books on his desk and the pillow on his bed.

In conclusion, I encourage my readers adding this flexible sentence to their English toolbox. I find it a great trigger to start a conversation, or to express agreement in a colloquial way.

And now I’d bet my bottom dollar that my cousin Marco, who is now reading this post, is smiling.