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May 9, 2016

How do Americans Talk Outside Work?

Have you noticed that Americans talk differently in casual situations than in business situations? It's true (for most people!). Just like many Indian languages have formal and informal forms (often in verb conjugations), American English speakers tend to use different words, tones and phrases when speaking casually; among friends, family, and strangers. 

This is especially true if interacting with Americans outside work; in places such as grocery stores, gas stations (asking for directions), parks, out on the street (making small talk) or if you go to church or attend community events or hobby groups in the community. The English you will encounter will tend to have very simple vocabulary. But, sometimes this simple vocabulary can be deceptive. Why? In some cases, some strings of very simple words when put together in a phrase create an idiom which can be confusing to understand. While idioms can be used in the office, idioms are more commonly used in everyday conversation. 

Recently, I have come across some videos on YouTube created by RVerTV. The conversational approach taken by the host of the videos on this channel is very close to the kind of casual English I am speaking about. I have watched a few of his videos that highlight travel in the northern midwestern states of Montana, Nevada, and Idaho. Take a listen to his videos and share your thoughts about this kind of English in comparison to the English you hear Americans use at work in the comments section below. 

Note on phrases in the video:
Get the show on the road. Notice how this idiom is a string of simple vocabulary. But, this phrase doesn't have anything to do with show or road, although he is using it in reference to traveling by road! People can use this phrase, "get the show on the road," whenever they want to get anything started. It can be used at work also when starting a big project. Before the kickoff, to get people motivated, someone may say, "Let's get this show on the road!" 

Dropping down into. This phrase is used to mean, arriving at a destination. 

Trains roaring through. "Roaring" in this case refers to going through. Trains are "going through" town.

Notes on phrases in this video:
Clear sailing. Obviously he is not sailing! He's driving! Here, clear sailing means an easy path. This idiom can be used at work also when something is easy to do. For instance, "Oh, yes, we only have two more deliverables left before we finish this project. It's clear sailing from here!" This means that the last parts of the project are easy and shouldn't cause problems. (Another similar idiom is "walk in the park.")

Cooped up. This means to be confined to a tight spot without much movement. Russ refers to his dog being cooped up because she's always in the truck. We can use this in the office, too, when people are not leaving due to working long hours. For example, "Jennifer's been cooped up in the office for 20 hours straight trying to get this project done." Obviously, it wasn't clear sailing for Jennifer that day! 

Other Questions/Facts:
What is an RV?
RV stands for Recreational Vehicle. These vehicles often are like tiny houses inside a truck. They can have beds, kitchenetts with stoves and sinks in them and a bathroom. People will park them overnight at RV camps, where they can hook them up to electric and water sources at an RV campground for a small fee. Some people may tow their personal car behind an RV so when they park their RV (as seen in the video still, to the right), they can drive around their car, which is easier to do (as the video still from the Idaho video in this post). Note, that Russ from RVerTV also refers to this RV in the Idaho video as a 'motorhome.' Some RVs are one unit, while some are detachable meaning the house/livable area is towed behind a truck. There was a famous movie with Robin Williams about vacationing in an RV. You gotta see it. It's a great movie! Check out the movie aptly titled RV.  

Images in this video are stills from the video Idaho Bound... Elko...Cactus Pete's RV Park...Jackpot Nevada....RVerTV. 

Thank you for spending your time on this site. Jennifer Kumar, author of this post, helps offshore teams to build relationships with their U.S. counterparts through innovative and fun sessions on small talk, conversational approaches, accent tips, and more. Contact us for more information today. 

Search keywords: ESL, English listening comprehension, idioms, meanings of idioms, conversational English

Authentic Journeys: Bridging Culture on Virtual Teams

We help build effective, culturally competent global teams with focus on the cultures of the USA and India. Jennifer Kumar, Managing Director, an American citizen, has almost 10 years experience living, studying and working (owning a business) in India. Authentic Journeys Consultancy is registered as a Private Limited in India (Kerala) and an LLC in the USA (Salt Lake City, Utah). We provide onsite and live-online instructor-led courses, facilitation and corporate coaching.