Archive for November, 2012

What is a “Loose Cannon”?

Friday, November 30th, 2012

This is a great phrase in spoken English.  There are these types of people in every culture around the world.

First of all, a “cannon” is almost like a kind of huge gun that was used in old wars.  They shoot huge and strong bullets that can kill several people on a ship.  These were used a lot in wars at sea.

A “loose cannon” would be a cannon that fires very easily.

In modern spoken English, however, a “loose cannon” has a very different meaning.  Imagine someone who has very little self control.  This kind of person may say crazy things without thinking of the consequences.  They don’t think before they speak.  Sometimes they are funny, but often their big mouth gets them into trouble.

A “loose cannon” is a person who is a bit wild and untamed.  You really don’t know what to expect from them.

They could get angry really quickly over a very small thing and say something that they will later regret.  I’m sure we all know “loose cannons” in our own lives.   This term is usually not meant to describe a good quality.

This is a fantastic phrase to know for a non native speaker.   Native speakers use it all the time in modern English when speaking with friends.

Here is an example sentence:  ”My boss is a loose cannon after he gets drunk.  Nothing he says would surprise me.”

I’d love to read your comments below.  Please let me know if there are some other example phrases you’d like to know the clear meaning of.  I’ll do my best to explain them for you.

Understanding People from Different Places

Wednesday, November 28th, 2012

Ok, so most people didn’t like the last video in my last blog.  Fair enough.

I appreciate your honesty and I’ll be careful when recommending that kind of thing in the future.  Sometimes learning what you guys don’t like is as important as learning what you do like.  For us to do the best job in the world of teaching you guys, we need to understand you at a deeper level.  I think this blog, and your comments, is helping this process a lot.

As you guys know, Add and I are Canadians living in Shanghai.

Shanghai is a pretty international city and we see interesting stuff here all the time.  There are tons of white people in the city.  When we see other Canadians or Americans and speak with them for just a few minutes, we know almost exactly what kind of people they are.  They know the same about us too.  It’s easy to “size up” or develop a pretty accurate idea about someone who comes from your own culture.

I can tell if they went to university or not, I can tell if they had a lot of friends in high school, I can even guess how they behave in a club.  Of course I won’t be right all the time, but I’ll have a pretty good idea if these are people from my culture.

I assume you feel the same way when you meet someone from your own culture in a new place.  If you were travelling in New York City, for example, and met a person from your own country, I guess you could quickly make some very good guesses about this person after only a few minutes of talking.   You will know if they are funny, shy, confident, arrogant, etc.  You’ll probably be able to guess if they grew up in a big city or a small town in the countryside.   This is because everyone has a deep understanding of their own culture and how people from their cultures should behave, and usually do behave in most situations.

It gets interesting when people from 2 totally different cultures meet for the first time.  It takes A LOT longer for each person to fully understand what kind of person are they meeting when they are from “different worlds”.  In our minds we may have questions like, “Do all Canadians act this way, or is this person just weird?”  The same could be said for people from any culture.  You get the idea.

This reality can be difficult and frustrating for Add and I with this website.  We want you guys to really know us and who we are as people, but it’s hard because we’re all from different places.  We totally understand this too.  We believe you should be skeptical when you see people you don’t really know trying to sell you stuff.

When we say that we have the best VIP program, or are teaching the most commonly used native slang on the internet, or we say we’ll make your English WAY better than it would be using any other method, how would you really know 100% for sure if we are telling the truth?  It’s easy for us to praise our own website because it’s our website, but is what we’re saying really true?  How would you know?

The only way I can think of that would help you, is for you to ask other native speakers what they HONESTLY think.  They will know immediately.  It makes me sick to see so many English teaching websites on the internet that totally suck.  They sound like they would teach useful stuff, but they really don’t.  How do I know this?  Because I’m a native speaker and I can see what they are teaching.  It drives me crazy!

I’m sure you’ve had many similar experiences.  Many Asian girls often see western guys choosing ugly Asian girlfriends and walking hand in hand all over the city.  They always ask me why this happens.  Do the western people have bad taste?  Do they have different taste?  What is going on?  There are millions of examples of people making weird choices when they are “outside” of their own culture.  It’s hard for each of us to really know the truth about who is who and what is what.  So if you have any doubts about anything in terms of learning English or how western culture really is, ask a real westerner you know in your own life and trust.  If you don’t know any, I guess you’ll just have to take your best guess and do whatever feels right.

I’m not suggesting that you just believe everything I say just because I said it.  I would hate that.  I just hope you think about it for yourself.  I totally believe that you should try out every English learning method or website that seems good to you.  You should use what YOU like and what works for YOU.  Use whatever gets you the best results.  Just please be careful when choosing.  Most language schools and websites teach the stuff THEY THINK you want to learn.  They really don’t care about making your English level better.  They just want you to use their program.  You should judge us and our website in the same way.  Choose what’s best for you.  Just be careful.  This is important for YOU.

I’d love to hear your thoughts as always.  Your comments are fantastic!  Keep writing guys.  Keep letting us know what you think and what kinds of stuff you want to learn.

I’d also like to know what you think about this idea of people from different cultures having a very hard time really trusting and understanding each other.  Do you have this experience?

Hilarious and Ridiculous

Monday, November 26th, 2012

Life should be fun.

It’s weird.  I’ve read that as the world is getting richer and richer, people are developing more and more psychological problems.  Life is almost too easy and people put too much pressure on themselves.  We all do it.

In English, there is a well known phrase that says, “laughter is the best medicine”.  In many respects, I believe it to be very true.

The main goal of today’s blog post is to make you laugh and feel good.  I hope this puts a smile on your face.  If it does, please email this blog to your friends or share it on Facebook so more people can laugh.

This video below is a 2 minute and 30 second clip from a hilarious guy.  In some sense, the video seems silly and very basic, but I really think it’s hilarious.  Add and I were laughing our asses off last night while we were watching this.  The guy who made this is a famous Canadian comedian.  The guy’s name is “Tom Green”.

This video takes place in a Subway sandwich restaurant.  I love eating subway.  Add and I just had a sub on our way to the gym today.  I had a tuna melt.  At Subway, you can order any vegetables you want on a sandwich.  Obviously, Tom is making a total mockery of this idea and ordering way more than what the owners of Subway had imagined.  At Subway, if the customer keeps asking for more toppings, the worker is supposed to keep adding toppings.  This is NOT how most people order a sandwich.  I think the funniest part is how calm Tom is while ordering the sandwich and doing this little joke.

I would guess that you’d find this video either hilarious or retarded.  I’d love to hear your comments so I can know your taste in humour and give you guys more of what you want.

By the way, thanks for all the kind emails about our Email Writing Course.  We’ve probably had about 100 emails about just this course so we haven’t been able to answer all of them.  We did read them and we’re super happy to see that it’s helping your writing so much.  If you use those tips, your writing will be so much better in no time.   Ok, now for the video…  Please comment below.  Enjoy!

Improving your English Writing

Friday, November 23rd, 2012

Add and I are working on making many useful bonus courses to help you guys in all areas of your English learning.

We’re going to keep doing the podcasts of course, we’re just going to add a lot to what we’ve been doing.  I have a lot of things that I can think of teaching you guys off the top of my head.  Here are 3 of them:

1.  How to negotiate to earn more money in your current job

2.  Modern and effective ways to look for a better job

3.  How to totally kill a job interview and make sure you get the great job you found.

Those 3 things above are about making more money and getting a higher paying and more interesting job.

I’d also like to make some bonus courses about lifestyle things like dating and relationships.  Add was thinking about making some cooking courses (possibly with video)  Add is a great chef.

Before we get too crazy with making this bonus material, we’d love to hear from you guys about what you’d like to see the most.  We can really make any kind of courses that you guys want.  It just makes sense to get your advice first before we go too wild.

We did already make a first course, however, on Email Writing for Business.  I think it’s an extremely important topic.  I haven’t seen any good information on this stuff either, so we decided to go ahead and make our first bonus course.  This is going to be the first of many to come.  Please help us out by saying what YOU would like to learn about and we’ll do our best to make what you want.

By the way, I love the comments you guys keep leaving on these blogs.  I hope that you keep leaving more.  It helps your writing, and it helps us see some common writing errors.  I’m considering making another course about correcting the top 50 common mistakes non-native speakers make when they write general comments.  What do you think about that?

Our entire goal is to improve all areas of your English to as close to the “native” level as possible.  I KNOW this really CAN happen.

Again, here is the first course:  Business Email Writing Course

Looking forward to your comments.  Thanks!


How Much Does Marketing Work On You?

Monday, November 19th, 2012

I used to think that marketing didn’t really work on me.  I wanted to believe that I was smart enough to know what I wanted to buy.  I thought marketing and advertising only really worked on “stupid people”.

Add and I were thinking about this question today when we were shopping for groceries and other basic stuff we needed.

We realized how important marketing was when we were thinking of which toothpaste to buy.  Shopping for something like toothpaste is interesting when you think about it.  I imagine that most people don’t care at all about the brand name in terms of “coolness”.  It’s not like BMW, LV, Apple, or even Starbucks.  People won’t judge you at all in terms of which toothpaste you use.  They won’t even know.

I also imagine that most people are looking for the same things when they are shopping for toothpaste.  I think we all want toothpaste to:

1.  Make our teeth clean

2.  Make them extra white

3.  Taste good

4.  Not be ridiculously expensive

I also guess that most people don’t spend any time researching toothpaste brands.  I know I don’t.  So, how do we make our decision?  We all buy toothpaste so our decision must be based on something.

I really don’t know how exactly I make my choice.  First of all, I don’t really want to spend much time thinking about this decision.  It’s not like I’m buying a new car or a new house.  I won’t spend more than 30 seconds thinking about it.  I won’t even look at all of the options or all of the prices.  I guess most people are the same, or similar.

I quickly look at all the boxes of toothpaste and just grab the box that looks like it would be the best one.  If it says “tooth whitening” and costs a bit more money, I’ll probably buy it, especially if the box looks and feels good.  I know that I’m probably wasting a bit of money on buying the nice box, but for some reason I don’t care.  Part of me feels more relaxed when I buy a better looking box of toothpaste.  Part of me believes that the toothpaste in the prettiest box is also the best in quality.  Logically, I know they are all almost the exact same product in different boxes, but I willingly allow myself to almost get fooled.

After I chose the toothpaste I wanted, I realized that I make almost all of my shopping decisions based on marketing.  I have almost no other information to make a choice on most of the stuff I buy.  I just buy the one that looks clean, fresh, and good.  A nice package made of nice coloured stuff makes a huge difference when you have no idea of how else to make a choice.

In many ways, I absolutely hate marketing.  I wish it didn’t exist.  In my little dream world, I wish that people bought only the best quality stuff.  Then companies could focus all of their time and energy on making the best products.  The best stuff would win and the terrible products would lose and those companies would fail.  The unfortunate reality, however, is that marketing is too important to ignore.  If you totally forget about it, you won’t make enough money to eat or turn on a light, even if you have the best product in the world.

Add and I found out how important it is with this website.  Our original plan was to only focus on making the VIP section as good as possible.  We hoped that just making a great product was all we had to do.  We really want this website to be the world’s best for learning English.  We don’t want to just say it is, we want it to be TRUE.  (We actually believe it is by the way).  Anyway… The problem is that we need to focus some of our time on marketing.  There is no way to totally forget about image, even if we want to.  That’s my experience anyway.  I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

I also want to thank everyone who has been writing comments on these blogs.  They are really interesting to read, and great practice for your writing.  It’s awesome to see your ages, countries, and jobs.  It makes the comments come alive.  It reminds me that this website is for real people.  That sounds kind of stupid but I think you know what I mean.

I’d love to read your opinion on a couple things:

1.  How much do you think marketing affects your buying decisions in your own life?

2. Does good marketing matter more for certain types of products?  Which ones?  Why?

3.  How do you think we could improve the marketing of our VIP page?  (We try our best on making the actual product as good as possible, we’d just love to hear if you guys have any marketing ideas too.  You guys are smart and we take your opinions seriously.