h2g2 ESL Lesson: Improving Your English with MacArthur Park

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Is English your second, third, or twenty-fourth language? Here’s an easy way to practice your language skills. Fun for native speakers, too.

Improving Your English with MacArthur Park

Daniel Radcliffe, who plays Harry Potter in the film series.

Speakers of English as a second language are often puzzled by some things that seem to entertain native English speakers. For example, bad puns and endlessly long confessional love songs. Learn to enjoy this popular song in ten easy steps:

  1. Go to ’MacArthur Park’ on this website. As you listen, make a list of the images that strike you. Are you more worried about the ‘striped pair of pants’ or why ‘someone left the cake out in the rain’?
  2. Now read the lyrics to this epic tale of love and melting icing at this website. Add all the phrases that confuse you to your list. No, don’t copy the whole song, that’s cheating.
  3. Pretend you are the spokesperson for The Association, the music group that Jimmy Webb wrote this song for. List five reasons why you refuse to sing it in public. (They did.)
  4. Pretend you are Richard Harris, who did sing it in public. Write a letter to your wife, giving five reasons why you embarrassed the family like this.
  5. The composer of this song, Jimmy Webb, was in love They used to meet in MacArthur Park for lunch. But his gf [=girlfriend] married another guy – in their park. As the composer watched from a garden shed, rain dripped down the window. You guessed it – it looked like the cake was melting.

    There is no word on whether the groom wore striped pants [=trousers].
  6. Web research: Jimmy’s gf married a telephone engineer from Wichita. Find another song that refers to this event.
  7. ’MacArthur Park’ has been voted the most popular song of all time. At least 50 artists have recorded it. On the other hand, readers of commentator Dave Barry have voted it the #1 worst song of all time. Make a short list of reasons why this song is loved, and why it is hated.
  8. Write a note to your wedding planner. Explain why you want ‘MacArthur Park’ banned from the playlist at your wedding reception. Mention cakes.
  9. British people make up one of the subgroups of native English speakers. In addition to liking bad puns and long confessional songs, British English speakers are very fond of movies that feature Harry Potter, because these stories remind them that they once had a vast empire based on technology, here disguised as magic. Try to enjoy this video. Write a thank-you email to your British BFF [=Best Friend Forever], pretending to be enthusiastic about this kind of humour. You do not need to be too subtle – he will not believe you don’t really like it, just as he will not believe that his people aren’t the only ones on the planet who know how to tell a joke.
  10. US native English speakers prefer dinosaurs to wizards. This is because they like second-hand ‘science’ and don’t want to think too hard. Also, they find it exciting when the dinosaurs eat people. The only things Americans like better than dinosaurs are cartoons. Study this Claymation video of the song ‘Jurassic Park’ by Weird Al Yankovic. Write a review, giving the song ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’. ‘Weird Al’ won’t mind – like all people in the US, he believes that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

We hope this music lesson has been helpful to you in your quest to improve your English, and your understanding of native English speakers.

Next time, we’ll take up the difference between Belfast English and Glaswegian, and give tips on how to survive football season in both places.

Fact and Fiction by Dmitri Gheorgheni

Dmitri Gheorgheni

05.08.13 Front Page

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