Tag: english phrases

English Lesson: To Wrap My Head Around

English Lesson: To Wrap My Head Around

To understand feels good. Not being able to understand feels bad. And, being able to express you don’t understand is super important.

Having a variety of expressions is also helpful. Too often, non-native speakers will jump straight to “I don’t understand”. Depending on the context, straight and to the point can be best. Unfortunately, if you’re always too direct and basic, it makes your language comprehension skills seem lower than they are.

If you’re in the intermediate-advanced range, you should know different ways to dance around your unfamiliarity:

  • I tried, but I still don’t get it.
  • I’m not sure I follow.
  • I think I might, but I’m not positive on what you mean.

Those kinds of phrases, while natural, are a bit harder to utilize.

It might be easier to use a substitute like “to wrap my head around” (to comprehend, to visualize, to understand fully/well).

Most of the time, you’ll use this phrase in the negative form:

  • I hear you, but that’s so hard for me to wrap my head around.
  • I can’t quite wrap my head around it.
“The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree”

“The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From The Tree”

There’s a saying…

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…”


This isn’t talking about actual apples, but influence. If we use the image of an apple dropping from a tree, you can imagine it’s still going to be close.

The apple is still within reach of the tree. The apple is still under the tree’s shadow.

Most of the time, this phrase will be used in reference to children taking after their parents.

Similar Phrases:

“Like father, like son…”


The big thing you have to remember about language is that it ages and evolves. I think most native speakers will be familiar with this phase, but no one actually says it either.

The concept itself is a great observation and talking point, but the phrase isn’t something you should commit to your vocabulary.


English Lesson: Don’t You Think?

English Lesson: Don’t You Think?

I play Final Fantasy Brave Exvius a lot. Probably too much. It’s the first and last thing I see in a day. My girlfriend says “addicted”. I like to say “you just don’t understand”. (Add me: 369,648,444)

A couple weeks ago, the game announced a special collaboration with Ariana Grande. The community lost their minds… in a bad way. You saw a lot of shit talk going on, despite the fact that the Final Fantasy games have always collaborated with J-Pop stars in the past. And you got to admit, Ariana is way more talented than Koda Kumi. Maybe not any classier, but who’s keeping score, right?

Square Enix went full hype and released this promo:

I think I prefer the original version— just sayin’.

In the video, you have a couple of the game’s producers making the announcement. Both giving English a shot. Hiroki Fujimoto clearly having more flair and personality than Kei Hironi, but that’s what happens when you go tie-dye vs. suits.

Hiroki is pretty emphatic. I think it’d be clear to understand him even without the subtitles.

Something I want to point out, however, is his use of “~don’t you think?”


When I saw this, I definitely wanted to make a note for all the Japanese English-learners I know because I hear it a lot.

You see, I know English is hard. And if you can speak half as well as Hiroki, that’s a huge accomplishment! The thing is, when you get “good enough”, it’s hard to keep improving. When you’re “good enough” people don’t ever try to correct a bad word choice or phrase.

That’s why a non-native English speaker could feel like s/he’s not getting any better, even though s/he’s hanging around American friends all the time. Those American friends aren’t going to point it out. Often times, they’re not even aware.

“~don’t you think?” is one of those hard-to-catch phrases. Good enough for the context and message, but unfortunately not quite fluent.

I think it’s important to understand why people, particularly Japanese people, want to use this phrase. In Japanese, there’s a power word ね (ne) — pronounced like “watch me whip, watch me ne ne”.

In Japanese, the vocabulary’s really strong. I like to call things like these power words because they can be interpreted lots of different ways. “ne” could mean:

  • right?
  • you know?
  • isn’t it?

All to the same effect, but in Japanese just a single word. Makes you stop to wonder if English is actually more colorful and intellectual with its variety or incredibly inefficient.

But wait, Jon! Don’t Americans say ‘~don’t you think?’

Yes part one: with a different delivery. “Don’t you” becomes “doncha”. You can hear this demonstrated in the timeless classic “Don’t Cha”. I always wondered why Nicole Sherzinger never made it bigger, hm…

Yes part two: I can’t remember the last time I’ve actually hard “~don’t you think” in an actual conversation. In movies and TV, sure. I know I’ve heard it in real life at some point too. But these days, on a regular frequency? No. And for that reason, that’s why I’m not going to endorse it.

Try using one of these alternatives instead:

“A really amazing song…”

  • ~wouldn’t you agree? (way more formal)
  • right? (casual, but be sure to add emotional inflection– needs to be very emphatic)
  • ~ain’t it? (super casual, also southern)

TL;DR don’t use “~don’t you think”.

If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for online private English coaching or face-to-face sessions in Boston

English Lesson: 13 Reactions & Responses

English Lesson: 13 Reactions & Responses

A quick and easy English Lesson for this week. This requests come from Masaya who wanted to learn how to react to a conversation besides saying “Oh really?”

  • Ya don’t say?
  • Oh yeah?
  • Huh (it’s better to extend the sound on this; if you keep it short it sounds more harsh)
  • Wow (can also be extended for added effect)
  • Geez (can also be extended)
  • Whoa (can also be extended)
  • Seriously?
  • No way
  • What?
  • Ah, I gotcha
  • Ah, I feel ya
  • Oh, I totally get what you’re saying (be sure to have your rhythm and cadence in order)
  • OH. MY. GOD. (the slower you say this, the more impactful it is)

If you’re interested in learning more conversational English like this, connect with Jon to sign up for online private English coaching or face-to-face sessions in Boston. We’ll work on making you sound like a native speaker.