Tag: fluency

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: 5 Phrasal Verbs Using “Call”

English Lesson: 5 Phrasal Verbs Using “Call”

If you want to sound more natural with your English speaking, it’s a good idea to incorporate the use of phrasal verbs— just be sure you don’t carried away and try to use them in every, single sentence.

Phrasal verb overload sounds very un-natural!

For those who don’t know, a phrasal verb is when you take a verb and add a preposition. For example, hang + out = hang out, which means to spend time together.

In this post, let’s cover 5 phrasal verbs that use “call” as the base verb.

  1. call on
  2. call off
  3. call up
  4. call in
  5. call out

1) Call On = to choose, to pick

Example: When I was teaching, I called on different students to answer the questions.

Note: this will be the least common one to use because it requires the speaker to be in a position of authority (i.e. a teacher speaking to students, a manager in a meeting speaking to employees, etc.)

2) Call Off = to cancel, to stop, to postpone

Example: We had to call off the meeting because the boss was sick.

Note: common word associations with “call off” are meetings, parties, plans, dates, and appointments

3) Call Up = to call, to phone

Example: I called up my friends to see what they were doing.

Note: this phrasal verb has no substantial difference in meaning, however, it can be used to sound more conversational and natural

4) Call In = to phone in a place, location, person (implied)

Example: I didn’t go in to work today. I had to call in sick.

Note: be aware of the context. Most of the time you won’t see “call in” by itself, but in the context of “to call in sick”

5) Call Out = to point out, to identify

Example: Jon called out Chase for trying to sneak out of the party.

In that example, Chase wanted to leave the party without anyone knowing. However, Jon didn’t let that happen. He drew attention to Chase, and everyone saw him.

Example: Valerie called out Richelle for not following her diet.

In this example, maybe Richelle made a New Year’s Resolution to lose weight. Valerie is her friend and wants to support her. But when Valerie comes over to hang out, she notices Richelle is eating a big bowl of ice cream. Valerie is pointing out that Richelle is not following her resolution.


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

CommDao Speak Easy Podcast: Updates

For 15 weeks in a row, I’ve put out an episode of the CommDao Speak Easy Podcast. I wanted to cover words and phrases that they don’t teach you in class, as well as give some listening practice that students really need.

But now that I’ve done more video, I think the podcast medium isn’t a really effective medium to teach English.

Don’t get me wrong, love podcasts! And, that hobby’s helped me cope with homesickness, reach new people, and become a better speaker myself.

I think there’s plenty of people who tune into different shows for some of those reasons. But, I just don’t think people who are learning English know how to take advantage of them just yet.

With the current format of the show, it might be too advanced for someone starting out. For advanced listeners, they’ll need something that really challenges them. Any kind of casual listening practice is going to be better served through in-person interaction rather than this podcast.

I’ve tinkered around with the format, but in the end, the show is getting too bare bones. That’s not the kind of show I want to produce. I want to make something more conversational, more reflective, and more fun.

Lately, I feel like I’m spreading myself too thin.  I want the materials I produce online to be even better than the coaching I provide in person. By pulling the plug on this show, I can make more videos, not just on English, but on public speaking and personal communication.

Disappointed? Don’t be! A much better show is in the works…

English Lesson: “Pardon”

English Lesson: “Pardon”

Sometimes a native speaker might be talking too fast. In order to get that person to stop, repeat, and clarify, you’ve learned how to say “pardon”.

The problem is that when you say “pardon” you’re making your English sound terrible. It’s going to be much easier to learn other replacement phrases instead.

You’re probably aware of “excuse me”. Just be sure to cut the first syllable so it sounds like “scuse”. Then, you can use it in combination with one of these phrases:

  • What did you say?
  • What was that?

To respond in disbelief or shock, you can use the phrase “Say what”.

Example: You got fired from your job– say what? = Am I hearing you right– you got fired? (I can’t believe it!)

If you’re really dead set on using “pardon”, you should extend it to “pardon me” and add another phrase. For instance, “Pardon me, I didn’t catch what you were saying.” Just be aware that sounds more formal (and European).