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Articulate This

Articulate This English, baby! Video Lesson

Date: May 22 2007

Themes: News


1. Learn Vocabulary - Learn some new vocabulary before you start the lesson.

2. Read and Prepare - Read the introduction and prepare to hear the audio.

A person who is articulate speaks clearly and pronounces words correctly. One who is articulate also expresses his or her thoughts very well. So how could it ever be a bad thing to call someone articulate?

Sometimes, either accidentally or on purpose, people say nice things that can also be insulting. Listen to Marni and Mason talk about how calling someone articulate in the wrong context could be taken as an insult.

3. Watch - Watch the video without reading the dialog.


1. Listen and Read - Listen to the audio and read the dialog at the same time.

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2. Study - Read the dialog again to see how the vocab words are used.





Mason:  What is that, the New York Times?

Marni:  This is a fascinating article. It’s all about articulation.

Mason:  Art…articulation?

Marni:  Articulation, and how it applies differently to Caucasians and African-Americans.

Mason:  Really?

Marni:  Yeah, it’s directly related to Joseph Biden the senator who made the comment about Barack Obama...

Mason:  Yeah, I heard that. I know he was like…

Marni:  It’s actually quoted in here, and just referring to Barack Obama as being this articulate individual and how that sort of seemed as a rarity…

Mason:  It’s kind of a backhanded compliment, isn’t it?

Marni:  Exactly, because it’s sort of implying that most African-Americans aren’t articulate.

Mason:  Aren’t. And uh yeah…Well there was the whole Ebonics movement, right? And that would send…you know… and credence…

Marni:  Exactly, and I think that sort of feeds into it and that’s sort of the pre…the notion that that’s how African Americans speak, and that when African Americans don’t speak that way, that that’s sort of the exception.

Mason:  Yeah. But I mean, I suppose it’s sort of a majority rules sort of thing ‘cause, you know English, it’s not even an American language, we descended from a completely different spoken form.

Marni:  It’s derived from so many different Romance Languages.

Mason:  Uh huh, and accents…really? What is the right way to articulate anything?



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Marni is reading an article in the newspaper about how Senator Biden called Senator Obama articulate. Since Obama, who is running for President, is African-American, what would normally be a compliment could have implied that African-Americans aren’t usually articulate.

Ebonics is a form of English used by some African-Americans that differs in slang, pronunciation, and grammar from standard English. Marni and Mason wonder if Ebonics contributed to the stereotype that African-Americans are inarticulate.

Mason points out that Americans took their language from the British and that English has many different forms. He and Marni wonder if it’s possible to say what the “correct” form is.

Have you ever received a backhanded compliment? What do you think Senator Biden meant when he called Senator Obama articulate?



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United States

All i can say is every country who speak english use is own accent, and i think it’s a good thing to be unique.

07:10 PM Apr 21 2013 |




backhanded compliment is interesting. A compliment and the fact at the same time. I’m wondering if backhanded compliment is one act of sarcasm

06:05 PM Mar 30 2013 |




  • hi
  • in fact i agree with some of you
  • and desagree with athers

12:02 PM Jul 05 2010 |




maybe i got it before ,but i can not figure it out now!

04:47 AM Jun 07 2010 |



unfortuantly you did not understand very well this article. i mean the articulate depend on the tong of the speaker as far as his own language. forexample, we are in mauritanie pronunce very well the french language but not as well as our english because of the colonisation as you know. so finaly this point for me is not a disaster i mean is not a big problem even you considere it like a insulte it is surely a nice insulte youuur sincere friend dradam


10:18 PM Aug 19 2009 |




good lesson

07:01 AM Mar 16 2009 |




i m also learnin

11:04 PM Dec 26 2007 |



I think Articulation is behind native speakers, I mean how to get your ideas across and make life easier to the person/s in front of you. As far as I know, there are many white Americans people who aren't articulate they're just complicated and confused, whereas some African American can inspire their audience. Although, most natives are most likely to be articulated 'cause it’s their mother-tong language so they're supposed to know what and how to say it by choosing the correct word in the correct situation. 


04:21 PM May 28 2007 |




fantastic conversation with a good point of view about Amercian culture.I`m loving it!

06:44 AM May 28 2007 |





06:15 PM May 26 2007 |

Josh K

Josh K


what's the right way to articulate; that is a unseay question. all speak differents languages, it's difficult find a referring rule.

08:44 AM May 23 2007 |

Josh K

Josh K


it’s time start to talk about politic

08:22 AM May 23 2007 |




well,this is a big article,i means,if someone saying that im articulate,i'll think it is kind of insult too.Are you trying to tell me that the other person cant speak articulate? Or i finally can work out how to speak the way caucasians do.

I think it is a dilemma,accents doesnt shameful at all,we already succeed to learn another languages that we donno before,but if we cant pronounced it clearly and people get us wrong,yeah,"majority rules" things,it become meaningless to learn other languages.

11:26 PM May 22 2007 |



i'm also learning

03:35 AM May 22 2007 |



i am learning

09:01 PM May 21 2007 |

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