An American Wedding

Posted on 08. Oct, 2015 by in Uncategorized

As I recently got married, I figured now was as good a time as any to make a post about an American wedding. In this post, you’ll learn lots of vocabulary related to American weddings, as well as some customs and traditions. As this is a language blog, you’re encouraged to practice your English as well, even if it’s at home by yourself!

An American wedding.

An American wedding.

Pre-Reading Questions

Before we get started, try answering these pre-reading questions about American weddings:

  • What do you know about American weddings?

  • Have you ever been to an American wedding?

  • Where have you seen American weddings (i.e. TV shows, movies, etc.)?

  • What English words do you know that are associated with weddings?

  • How are American weddings similar to those in your country? How are they different?


Who are these people? Use three of the vocabulary words!

Who are these people? Use three of the vocabulary words!

These vocabulary words are important for talking about weddings. Try to read them out loud, guess the meaning if you don’t know it, and then finally check your dictionary.

  • to get engaged

  • decorations

  • DIY

  • bride

  • groom

  • wedding party

  • bridesmaids

  • maid of honor

  • groomsmen

  • best man

  • bridal shower

  • bachelor/bachelorette party

  • ceremony

  • priest

  • to exchange vows

  • reception


Mmmm... cupcakes.

Mmmm… cupcakes.

Wedding customs in the United States vary depending on a person’s religious and cultural background. In fact, most wedding customs followed in America come from other cultures. Many aspects of weddings have changed in the past several centuries in America. Whereas weddings used to be small family gatherings at home, many weddings today are very elaborate. Some people even fly to a tropical island, which is called a “destination wedding.” Certainly people in the early 19th century couldn’t imagine flying to the Bahamas just to have a wedding.

While things are sure to change again in the future, there are certain aspects of American weddings that are quite common these days. Once a couple gets engaged, they begin the long process of wedding planning. You can even hire a wedding planner to do everything for you. There’s a lot to think about when planning a wedding, such as location, guest list, food and drink, entertainment, decorations, and much more. With more than two million weddings in the USA every year, the wedding industry is very big and quite profitable. Although many people are happy to hire a wedding planner, some choose to take a do-it-yourself, or DIY approach to save money.

Our wedding party.

Our wedding party.

One modern wedding tradition is for the bride to wear a white dress, which symbolizes purity. It’s common for the groom to wear a tuxedo, although some choose more informal attire. It is customary to have a wedding party in weddings to accompany the bride and groom. The bride will choose her bridesmaids and will designate one the maid of honor, while the groom chooses his groomsmen and appoints one the best man. Typically, the bridesmaids will throw a bridal shower and bachelorette party for the bride prior to the wedding. The groomsmen will also have a bachelor party for the groom. Bachelor parties in America can be a bit crazy, and Hollywood movies have even been made about them.

The bride being walked down the aisle.

The bride being walked down the aisle.

On the day of the wedding, the bride and groom may choose not to see each other until the ceremony. These days, some couples forego this tradition in order to take “first look” photos, where the photographer captures the moment they see each other for the first time after getting ready. Another interesting tradition is for the bride to have “something old, something new, somethng borowed, and something blue” with her. In the ceremony, the bride’s father will often walk her down the aisle. This is a symbol of his acceptance for the groom and the marriage. Usually a wedding ceremony is conducted by a religious official, such as a priest. Other traditions include exchanging vows, putting on the wedding rings, and a giving each other a kiss to seal the marriage.

Tossing the bouquet.

Tossing the bouquet.

Next is the reception, which is basically a big party. There are a few traditions associated with the reception. Couples will cut the wedding cake and feed it to each other, the bride and groom will have a first dance, and the bride will throw her bouquet of flowers to the single women in attendance. Whoever gets the flowers will be the next to marry. American weddings are a lot of work, but they sure are lots of fun!

Post-Reading Questions

Now that you’ve studied the vocabulary and done the reading, try to answer these questions:

  • What did you learn about American weddings?

  • How are they different from the ones you see in movies and TV shows? How are they similar?

  • Who are the people in the wedding? Use the words you learned!

  • Are you married? What was your wedding like? If not, what do you want your wedding to be like?

Hershey – America’s Chocolate

Posted on 06. Oct, 2015 by in Culture

Image by Michael Bentley on

Image by Michael Bentley on

Hershey’s Chocolate is America’s chocolate!  I won’t say this means Hershey’s is the best chocolate, everyone has a different opinion on that, but it is a chocolate that has a long history in American culture.

The Hershey Company is the largest chocolate manufacturer in America and it is also one of the oldest chocolate companies in this country. The Hershey’s Company headquarters is located in the town of Hershey, Pennsylvanian. But the town did not always have that name; it was originally called Derry Church, Pennsylvania. The name was changed because of the large presence this chocolate company has in the town. Like the chocolate company itself, the town is named after Milton Hershey, the founder of the Hershey Company.

Milton Hershey founded the Hershey Chocolate Company in 1894 after a successful career in making caramels. Milton Hershey thought caramels were a thing of the past, but chocolate was the future, so he changed careers from making one sweet treat to another. Hershey famously said, “Caramels are just a fad, but chocolate is a permanent thing.” He was certainly right that people’s love for chocolate wasn’t going away.

The Hershey Company makes many different chocolate treats, but some of these treats are more iconic in American culture than others. Here we are going to take a look at three of these. First of all, the simple Hershey’s chocolate bar. This is a thin bar of chocolate wrapped in a brown packaging with silver letters spelling out Hershey’s (like the large as life chocolate bar at the top of the post). This chocolate bar is used to make the classic American camping dessert s’mores. The Hershey’s chocolate bar has also long been used by the U.S. military as part of their food rations for its troops! Chocolate rations in the military serve two purposes: boosting morale and providing a high-energy, pocket-sized food. Another Hershey’s chocolate famous treat is Hershey’s Kisses.

Image by frankieleon on

Image by frankieleon on

These bite-size chocolates have been a favorite American candy since 1907. These chocolates are shaped like a flat-bottomed teardrop or rounded pyramid. They are wrapped in silver foil with a little paper banner sticking out the top and they are the perfect small chocolate to pop in your mouth.  The third Hershey’s classic I’m going to highlight is Hershey’s chocolate syrup, which American’s (especially children) love to add to milk or pour over ice cream! If you have never tried any of these Hershey chocolate treats, hopefully you will get the chance someday and see if you like them as much as millions of Americans.

Image by Daniel Oines on

Image by Daniel Oines on

Now that you know a little more about this classic American chocolate company, why not test your English listening and comprehension skills by watching a few Hershey’s Chocolate commercials. Here is a link to the Hershey’s Company website where you can see a number of different commercials about their chocolate products, including the three classic treats I introduced above. These commercials show how much a part of American culture this chocolate company is.

Let me know which commercial you like best, by leaving a comment below. Also, if you have any questions about what you hear in the commercials, feel free to ask them below.

Sorry, can you repeat that?

Posted on 29. Sep, 2015 by in English Language

Image by Dave Fayram on

Image by Dave Fayram on

Have you ever had to ask someone to repeat him or herself because you didn’t understand them? Of course you have! We all have had to do this at times, but it is particularly common for ESL speakers, particularly while you are still a beginner at speaking English.

Needing to ask a speaker to repeat him or herself is not something you should be embarrassed about. It is better that you understand the person than not.  That is, after all, what most speakers are hoping for in the people listening to them.

Today we are going to look at some polite ways for you to ask for someone to repeat them self, but first, let’s look at some reasons why you may have trouble understanding a speaker in the first place.

Some reasons you may have to ask someone to repeat them self are:
vocabulary – not understanding the words being used
pronunciation – not understanding a particular accent or way of speaking
annunciation – not understanding because sounds are being shortened and combined, so that each sound of a word is not pronounced
noise – not understanding due to background or surrounding noise
distraction – not understanding because you are not paying full attention
pace – not understanding because a speaker is talking too fast

Here are some general phrases you can use to ask someone, politely, to repeat what they said:

Sorry, I didn’t quite catch what you said. Can you say that again?
Could you repeat what you just said for me, I didn’t understand.
Could you say that again, I didn’t get all of what you were saying.
I’m sorry, but I didn’t understand you.

If you are having trouble understanding someone because of surrounding noise, you can say:

Could you speak up, I’m having trouble hearing you?
I’m sorry I could not hear you. Could you say that again?

If you generally understand someone, but hear a word that doesn’t make sense to you, you can say:

I’m sorry, but I don’t know that word. What does it mean?
Can you repeat that word? I don’t know it.
Could you tell me what _________ means? I don’t know that word.

If you need a person to slow down their rate of speech, you can say:

Could you speak more slowly for me?
I’m still learning English, and it would really help me if you could speak just a little slower.

Lastly, body language also helps a speaker comprehend that you are not fully understanding him or her. Two ways to show through body language that you are having trouble understanding are to:

Lean in toward the speaker or step closer to him/her.
Put your open hand to your ear (as though you are trying to use your hand to catch more of the sounds the person is making) and lean toward the speaker.

(See the picture at the top of the post for an example of these.)

I hope these phrases and tips help you next time you don’t understand someone. Remember it is always better to ask people to repeat themselves than it is to walk away not knowing what they said.