What’s up, my friends? Welcome to another episode of Speakeasy English, the number one podcast on the interwebs, if you ask my mother!
Alright. Thanks for joining me once again. This podcast is here to help you become completely fluent in English. And you can do that without ever studying – without ever sitting down and memorizing grammar and vocabulary. In fact, memorizing grammar and vocabulary is not an effective strategy to acquire a language. So if you are here right now, I assume that you want to be able to speak English and to understand English when it is spoken to you. That is the goal, right? To be able to use English as a tool to communicate! Well, good news for you, you can achieve that goal without ever studying. All you need to do is create the daily habit of listening (and I mean active listening). So, you need to pay attention. But if you create the daily habit of active-listening to English, you will become fluent. Period. There is nothing else you need to do. This will happen automatically and naturally. And over time you will begin to be able to think and speak in English without translating from your primary language. If you try to learn a language simply by memorizing the rules and memorizing the words and their definitions, you will not be able to speak English. You will never be able to translate fast enough to have a conversation with a native English speaker in real time. You need to be able to use English and understand English automatically (without thinking about the rules and without translating from your primary language). The only way to do this is to spend a lot of time listening to English. That is why I love podcasts. I believe that the most important thing is to listen every single day. And what better tool to do that than a podcast? Sure, you could watch YouTube or watch English movies and that’s great, but you can’t watch YouTube while you are driving a car and you can’t watch a movie while you are outside taking care of your property. Podcasts are so useful precisely because you can listen to them while you are doing other things. So I encourage you to create a habit. Think of something you do every single day. It could be washing the dishes or doing laundry, cleaning up the house or driving to work. Think of anything that you do every single day. Now, commit to listening to a podcast while you do that activity! So, every day, for example, when you drive to work, listen to this podcast. Or when you exercise, listen to this podcast. Or when you clean the house, listen to this podcast. And if you want to get fluent quickly, then do all of those things. Listen to an English podcast every single time you do one of those activities. If you can spend 30 or 40 or more minutes every day listening to English, you will notice immense progress very quickly.
Okay. That was just a quick recap of the principles that I describe in the first ten episodes. Additionally, don’t forget to listen to each episode multiple times. Repetition is the key that will allow your brain to absorb all of the constructions and vocabulary and sentence structure automatically.
Alright. Moving on. So, as you know, I love dogs. I love animals in general. But as far as pets go, I really like dogs. In fact, when I am out walking down the street and I see a dog, I normally ask its owner if I can say hello (if I can pet the dog). I know I’m a little bit crazy like that, but I do just really like dogs. When I was growing up, we always had dogs. And I firmly believe that having a dog (or really any pet, but for me, I prefer a dog) – I believe having a dog in the household is great for your mental health and also for your children’s development. Having a pet (like a dog) teaches children responsibility. It teaches them compassion and it is good for home security.
All this talk about dogs and it is probably no surprise to you that today we are going to talk about three more expressions (that is, idiomatic expressions) that involve dogs! As a reminder, an idiomatic expression is an expression (a phrase) that does not literally mean what the words say. It has a meaning that is different than the literal meaning of the words.
The first expression is “sick as a dog”. Sick means you are feeling ill. You are not well. You might have a specific illness like the flu (that is, influenza) or a cold, or even something more serious, perhaps Covid or pneumonia. So now, you know sick means. If I say I am sick, that means I am not feeling well and I am suffering from some sort of ailment. So the expression “sick as a dog” seems to imply that dogs are very sick – that dogs are ill. Specifically, if you say you are sick as a dog, you mean that you are very ill – you are extremely sick. Perhaps you are vomiting, or you have a high fever and you feel very bad. The exact origin is not known, but it is likely related to the very poor condition that many dogs lived in during the 16th and 17th and 18th centuries. Many dogs had diseases. They were malnourished and homeless, and in many cases they looked to be in very rough condition. Again, the exact origin of this expression is not known, but it is likely stemming from a long history of referring to dogs as creatures with a very difficult existence. So the next time you are feeling very ill, you can say, “Man, I can’t go to work today. I am sick as a dog.”
Okay, the next expression is “you cannot teach an old dog new tricks.” And this is saying, literally, that an old dog cannot learn anything new. But of course, idiomatic expressions have different meanings than the literal meaning. So what does this expression mean? This expression is actually referring to the common belief that older people cannot learn new things or that they are so set in their ways (that means entrenched in their habits) that they cannot change those habits. The expression itself is often used to celebrate when an older person does succeed in changing their habits or changing their beliefs. So, let’s say your father has never used a computer and has never used a smartphone. And then this year at Christmas, when you go to visit him, you see that he has a computer and a new iPhone and is enthusiastically using them without any problem. You might say, “Dad, when did you start using a computer!?” And he might reply, “Hey, who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” And by saying this, he is acknowledging that he was able to break out of his habits and try something new. He learned how to use the computer and the smartphone. In fact, this construction (saying “who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”) is probably the most common way to use this expression. You are essentially asking what authority, what rule, is there that says old dogs cannot learn new tricks? Of course, the answer to that question is implied. There is no rule saying that old dogs cannot learn new tricks – and therefore, they can learn new tricks. Another example, since you are all learning English, for those of you that are older than school age, the next time you see your family (maybe your children or brothers and sisters) and they find out that you are learning English, and you are capable of listening to podcasts that are completely in English, they might be very surprised and you can reply and say, “Hey, who says this old dog can’t learn new tricks?”
Okay, The last expression for today is that “bark is worse than the bite”. The “bark” is the loud sound that dogs make when they perceive danger or if they get excited for example. The “bite” is what happens when a dog uses its mouth and its teeth to grab ahold of something. And if a dog bites you, it is quite painful. So you can probably guess the expression that, if a dog’s bark is worse than his bite, that means that he sounds very scary and he sounds very dangerous, but in reality he does not bite. Or, if he does bite, it is playful and not going to hurt you. Of course, that would be the literal meaning of the expression. As we know, idiomatic expressions are not used literally.
So how do we use this expression? Let’s say you are at work and you have a new boss. Your old boss (your former boss) was very quiet and never yelled or reprimanded you or your coworkers. But the new boss has a habit of loudly correcting and scolding you and your team members. This has made everyone afraid of him. They think that he is going to yell at them, or fire them, and they might lose their jobs. At lunch, you and your coworkers are all talking about how scary and how unnerving this new boss is. But while you are talking, another coworker says, “Hey, I used to work with him for years at my old job and, don’t worry, his bark is worse than his bite.” In saying this, your coworker is letting you know that he has experience with this new boss and he knows that the new boss sounds scary, but in reality, he is not going to do any damage. He is not going to fire anyone. He is not going to punish anyone. And he sounds much more aggressive, and much more dangerous, than he actually is. Just like in this example, this expression is often used to describe people in a position of authority that sound scary. They talk “a big game”, as we would say in English. They “talk tough”. They want to seem strong and intimidating, but in reality, they are not going to take action. They are not going to do the things they are threatening to do. Another similar expression is to say that someone is “all talk”. If someone is all talk, that means they do a lot of talking, but they don’t take action. That expression is not exactly the same, but it does generally convey the same meaning as “the bark being worse than the bite.”
Alright guys, thank you for listening to this entire episode. I hope you are not feeling sick as a dog. And I hope that as you are acquiring English, you realize that you can teach an old dog new tricks! Alright, feel free to email me with questions or suggestions. My email address is Brandon@speakeasyenglish.club . Check out the free transcripts of this episode and every episode on our website, that is speakeasyenglish.club. And, as always, don’t forget to listen to this episode multiple times. Listen today, and then listen tomorrow morning, and maybe tomorrow at lunch you can read the transcript, and, again tomorrow before bed, you can listen one more time. This sort of repetition is the key to allowing your brain to absorb and to automate your understanding of English. If you appreciate this podcast, please leave me a five star review. That will help other English students just like you to find this podcast. Thanks so much and we will see you in the next episode. Cheers!