Q and A with Rachel! I answer your questions here, from responses to ‘thank you’ to American culture and speaking English in stressful situations.
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Fans, this video is for you! Welcome to the first ever Rachel’s English question and answer video!
So I put a posting on Facebook asking for questions from my fans. Thanks guys, I got some really great questions, and good ideas for future videos on pronunciation. So I had to choose just a few questions to answer.
First, someone asked about what to say in response to ‘thank you’. Most people will say ‘you’re welcome!’ — and I do have a video on that! But you will hear other phrases, for example, no problem. Or you might hear ‘my pleasure’. That’s a little more formal.
Question: why is American English different from British English? Great question. Well, language is always evolving, and ours evolved an ocean away from Britain. So it makes sense that they would have evolved differently. But also, I think when the British came to America, there was some desire to be different. Noah Webster, who wrote the Webster dictionary, wanted to reform the spelling of British English, to simplify that and make it match the sounds better. Also, in Britain, there was a whole society structure in place. In America much less so, and there might have been a desire to be less formal, and maybe that is where a lot of our reductions have come from, things like the Flap T, which aren’t used in Britain. I don’t know, it’s just a guess!
I got a question about American culture. This guy talked about having a hard time socializing. I made a video about how to say hello to someone you know, check it out if you haven’t. And I think a lot of Americans are really open to conversation as a culture, but it depends on the personality if someone is going to start a conversation. So if you’re outgoing, you may have to start the conversation. I got another question about how to start a conversation with a stranger, and I think this is a great topic. I’m going to start working on a video for it.
Egle, who has been an active fan for many years, asked me if I gave up being a singer. The answer is yes, but I don’t usually use the term ‘give up’. Some of my fans out there might not know, but I used to be an opera singer, and I stopped. My last show was in 2009. When you say that you’re giving something up, that means that you don’t really want to stop doing it, but you will. For example, in the Christian tradition, people will give something up for Lent: like, I’m going to give up chocolate for Lent. It’s not because you hate chocolate, but because you’re going to give up something you like as part of your spiritual practice. So I don’t usually say I gave up singing, because I was ready to. I didn’t want to keep doing it. My interest in it as a career had completely gone away by then. So, I didn’t do it because I had to, I did it because I wanted to. So I usually say I quit singing, or, I stopped singing.
This brings me to the next question, why did I decide to do Rachel’s English? I didn’t really. I decided to start making some videos for fun, but I didn’t really think about whether or not people would actually watch them! I had no idea it would become this. I don’t think I was even wishing for that. If you want to know more about how I got into this, you can check out an interview I did a while back.
Here’s a question I got about driving: Can you start driving when you’re 16? Yes. Actually, 15, and in some states, 14, though for that first year, you have to have an adult in the car. But yes, I started driving when I was 16. And yes we have speed limits! Every single road. If you speed or get in an accident, you do get points added to your license, and if you get to a certain number, then your license gets suspended and you can’t drive for a while. But there are ways to take the points off, like taking a class. I’m actually not like most Americans, in that I don’t have a car, I haven’t had one for over 10 years, maybe even 15 by now. So I mostly take the bus or a train, or sometimes I get people to drive me around.
Yulia asked about stressful situations. I know Yulia because she took a Rachel’s English class. Hi Yulia! She’s asking about speaking in stressful situations, when the stress level is high, it becomes harder to pay attention to pronunciation. And of course, it’s in a stressful situation that you want to make sure you’re understood! I don’t actually think you can treat the pronunciation without treating the stress. So, the best way in the moment to bring yourself down from that stressful state, is actually to feel your breath and pay attention to it for a few seconds. So, I think you have to just for a moment of focus on your breath to help deal with your stress, that will help you communicate better. Rather than thinking of, how can I communicate better!?!?! That’s just more stressful.
This video is getting long, so I’m going to wrap it up with one last question. Someone asked about the process of making a video, and I do want to explain that because I think some people will put up a request for a video, and then get sad when I don’t post it the next week. But it is a long process! First I have to choose my topics, do my research and experimenting, to make sure I know how I want to explain it. Then I write the script. That whole process can take a couple of hours, even for a video that’s just a few minutes long. Generally I try to do around 20 so I can film them all at the same time. Then I reserve a studio. Obviously, this is not my studio. This is my living room. Also, it’s obvious that I didn’t take any time to make sure my hair looked nice or anything, but I do do that when I’m filming at the studio. I rent space at YouTube in Manhattan, and they have a lot of professional lights and cameras, a good microphone, I bring my own teleprompter. And I shoot them all. It takes all day to shoot those 20 videos, and often I realize when I get home that I’ve messed something up and I can’t make one of the videos I had been planning. But, then I edit the video, and that takes anywhere from 2-8 hours per video, depending what kind it is. Once I upload to YouTube there’s still a lot work to be done to make the captions, which see here, and also annotations and links. The whole takes about 10 hours per video. That’s why I only do 1 video a week. I used to do two, but it was just wearing me out. I’d love to do more at some point, but for now it’s just not possible. I get many more than 1 video request each week, and that is why most people who request a video will not get to see that video, unfortunately. But I hope at some point my life changes so I can do 2-3 videos a week. I really like the editing part. Actually this is a cool video I made behind the scenes in Los Angeles at the YouTube studios, so you can see that to get an idea of what it’s like.
Friends and fans, thank you so much for your questions! I’m sorry I wasn’t able to answer them all. Do me a favor, if you haven’t signed up for my mailing list, do! It’s the easiest way for me to keep in touch with you. You can follow this link, or go to the description below. Also, be my Fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter here. We passed 50,000 fans the week on Facebook, it was awesome! And finally guys, I would like to ask you to share Rachel’s English with your friends, or if you have a blog, or share it on Facebook, that’s really how Rachel’s English grows. Thank you so much for your support! By guys! See you soon!