How to know everything that’s going on in American culture in 5 minutes without leaving your computer
Often when I teach at companies such as Google and the Gap my students will have a very high level of English. Since they are experts in their respective fields they often use terms and acronyms that I’ve never heard of.
However, they struggle when they need to have a 2-minute conversation with their coworkers. It’s not only the slang that can be confusing, but they don’t know who or what their coworkers are talking about. They don’t know our cultural reference points.
Basically, they have passed English 101, but they’ve never taken American culture 101.
So, a few of my students have asked me to put together a high level summary of American culture. I struggled with this task for a few weeks, trying to condense 26 years of American culture into a page or two.
Then I had an Epiphany.
There is a site that already does this. Allow me to introduce it to you, although I’m sure you already know it well.
No one knows me better than Google (sometimes it’s a little scary actually). But if you want to know what’s going on in Americans heads than you need to know what they’re searching for.
This is an excellent site with many great tools, but for the sake of simplicity here are the best three ways to use it.
1.Search what is trending in real time
Stay ahead of the conversation by knowing what is happening in real time. Instead of constantly being lost in conversations with American friends and coworkers, now you can bring topics to talk about.
“Hey, what do you guys think of that Jared Leto story?
Controlling the conversation makes you look cooler, and feel more confident.
2.The year 2014 in review
After you know what is trending, you’re going to need some context. To start a year is enough time. Check out the most searched topics by American in 2014.
This is a great way to get the background information on the buzzing topics of the year. Also you might find some of the articles interesting.
Learning new vocabulary about interesting topics, while discovering our cultural reference points, that’s what I call a win-win.
3.Trending by Topic
You can also search what is trending by topic. I am a big fan of learning a language by topic as I talk about more in this (Article). You can become fluent in one topic rather quickly.
If cooking is one of your hobbies see what topics are trending around cooking. Now next time your talking to your friend who also likes to cook, the conversation will flow naturally.
So, I hope this helps you understand what Americans are talking about.