Hey there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast episode 51: Learn English With Coldplay ‘Viva La Vida’. 

My name’s Ola and I am an online English teacher, I teach through one to one classes.

This podcast is for you if you’re an English learner who wants to speak English with more confidence and get rid of speaking barriers. You’ll boost your vocabulary, brush up your grammar, improve your pronunciation.  Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Hello again, thank you for showing up. It’s so great to have you here!  As you may know, this is the episode in which we dive into song lyrics. If it’s your first time here, I’m excited you’ve picked this podcast from so many out there. Thank you! In this series, you listen to a line from a song and then you repeat it. Next, you learn fixed phrases in context. I give you even more sentences to repeat. The main thing is, you speak those words out loud. 

Recently Monika, a podcast listener, a student and a friend has told me the pauses for repeating are a bit too short, so I’ll make sure they’re long enough from now on. In fact, my husband takes care of editing so. Yes. Speaking out loud will help you gain more confidence, and that’s exactly what we want here, don’t we?

So, today we’re talking about ‘Viva La Vida’ by Coldplay. Personally I love Coldplay and I’ll never forget their concert in Warsaw in 2017. Pure magic. I have great memories, that show exceeded my expectations in so many ways. 

Ok. Coming back to ‘Viva La Vida’.

Coldplay were the first British group to hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for over ten years. The previous British group was the Spice Girls with “Wannabe” in 1997.

There were many other songs that also hit number 1 on hot 100 and had Spanish title. For example: “Bailamos,”La Bamba,” “Livin’ La Vida Loca, “Macarena”. In 2008 ‘Viva La Vida’ was the best selling album worldwide with almost 7 million copies sold. The second best seller that year was an album by AC/DC’s 2008, followed by the Mamma Mia! Soundtrack.

The song we’re looking at today also for Song of the Year at the Grammy Awards in 2009. What a success! I’m sure you also know this song but! Do you understand it? 

Chris Martin said in one interview that he had titled the song ‘Viva La Vida’ because he saw this phrase on a painting by Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. That’s where the inspirations came from. 

It’s a story about a king who’s lost his kingdom. It’s a story of the French Revolution from the perspective of King Louis XVI. I mean that’s obviously one of the options because like poetry I think lyrics are open for interpretation. I’ve done my research and I’ve also found that for some people this song is like an anti-religion manifesto. 

I think we’re ready to jump right into the lyrics. Listen and repeat the first verse:

I used to rule the world

Seas would rise when I gave the word

Now in the morning, I sleep alone

Sweep the streets I used to own

Used to – Check out the pronunciation here. It’s not used to, but used to. Connected speech. I mean, when speakers of English speak fast, they blend words together and you should do that too. If you want to sound natural of course. It’s not obligatory. Try again:

Used to.

I used to rule the world. 

I know that you might feel confused about the meaning of ‘used to’. What’s the difference between ‘to be used to’ and ‘to get used to’. Here, it means it’s past. He used to rule the world means I ruled the world but it’s not true anymore. I don’t rule the world anymore. If you’d like to learn more or just revise this go to teacherola.com/24 I have a whole episode on ‘to be used to vs get used to’. The link will be also in the show notes to this episode.

To give the word – means to give an order. To make a request. It’s not intuitive, is it?  Let’s see this phrase in a context:

If you want us to tell more details, just give the word.

If you don’t want me here anymore, just give me the word.

Give me the word, and I’ll be gone.

In the morning – who doesn’t love prepositions? Ha! Everybody hates them. Me too. But this one? It’s super common phrase, so please make sure you remember it’s ‘in the morning’. Listen and repeat:

I always drink hot tea with lemon in the morning.

I don’t take a shower in the morning.

I love practising yoga in the morning.

Sweep the streets –   to clean the dust and dirt etc from the floor or ground, using a brush with a long handle called ‘a broom’. So, now he sweeps the streets. He used to be a king and now he sweeps the streets of his own town. Life is humbling. And this verb is irregular. Sweep – swept – swept. This word has more than one meaning. It also means to remove something from the surface, using you hand for instance. It can also be connected with feelings. Strong feelings. If you’re affected by some strong feeling, you’re swept. Like in that song: ‘You sweep me off my feet’.  Listen and repeat:

Will you sweep the leaves off the patio?

You don’t have to sweep and mop every day.

She swept me off my feet.

He swept the clothes onto the floor and began to fold it. 

Coming back to the lyrics. Listen and repeat:

I used to roll the dice

Feel the fear in my enemy’s eyes

Listen as the crowd would sing

Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!

To roll the dice –  a dice is a small cube of wood or plastic, with a different number of spots on each of its sides, used in board games, for instance. You can roll it, shake it or throw it before you make your move on the board. In less literal meaning, it shows that somebody takes a risk and hopes for some fortune. Let’s practice the sentences:

The old – pronunciation alert. Note that we don’t pronounce it the old but the old and it’s because old starts with the vowel sound. It would be odd to say the old. It’s very unnatural for your mouth to force it. It’s more natural to say ‘the’ and, what’s more, we also add another, extra sound, the sound ‘j’. 

The old, the old. Not the old but the old. Connected speech, yet again! You can find it in: I always. I always. Not I always, I always.  Another example: I own it. I own it. Not ‘I own it’ (saying that makes you sound like a robot) but I own it.

The king is dead, long live the king – or simply ‘long live the king!’ is a traditional proclamation made after new monarch gets the throne. It seems contradictory but it’s used to show the people, to reassure them that the death of the previous monarch won’t jeopardise the country. The continuity is reassured and they can welcome a new king or queen. Succession, replacement. That’s what it conveys. 

Listen and repeat the next four lines:

One minute I held the key

Next, the walls were closed on me

And I discovered that my castles stand

Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

I held the key – when you hear the word ‘hold’ you know it, right? It’s an easy word, isn’t it? But when it comes to producing a sentence with the verb ‘trzymać’ I see lots of my student struggling. Remember it’s an irregular verb: hold – held – held. Sentences for practice:

Could you hold my bag for me, please?

He was holding the baby in his arms.

They were holding hands.

Castles – it’s never too late to learn to pronounce it correctly. It’s a castle. The letter ‘t’ is silent. Castle.

Time for the chorus. Listen and repeat:

I hear Jerusalem bells are ringing

Roman Cavalry choirs are singing

Be my mirror, my sword and shield

My missionaries in a foreign field

Choir – Roman cavalry choirs are singing, a choir is a group of people who sing together. I wanted to draw your attention to this word for its pronunciation. It’s a tricky word and its spelling doesn’t convey the pronunciation by no means. Choir. Listen and repeat:

She sings in the school choir.

My student is a choir conductor. 

Mirror – I’m sure you know that a miror is a special piece of flat glass that reflects images so that you can see yourself in it. It’s all about pronunciation again. Listen and repeat: mirror, mirror, or (American English) mirror, mirror.

Sword and shield – a sword is a bladed weapon that cuts and it’s got a handle and it’s made of metal and it’s pronounced: sword, sword.  A shield is a piece of personal armour. It’s used for protection. If you have a sword and shield you’re well equipped for any fight. You can attack with a sword and stay protected by the shield. You wanna have someone to be your sword and shield.

The second part of the chorus:

For some reason, I can’t explain

Once you go there was never, never an honest word

And that was when I ruled the world

For some reason – I don’t know why exactly but apparently there must be some reason. So it’s used to convey that I do not know the reason for a particular situation, often it’s said with the implication that I find it strange or surprising. Listen and repeat:

For some reason he likes you.

For some reason I can’t explain, I know she’ll come.

For some reason, they wouldn’t let me help them.

Let’s continue with the lyrics:

It was a wicked and wild wind

Blew down the doors to let me in

Shattered windows and the sound of drums

People couldn’t believe what I’d become

Wicked – I love this word because it’s fun to use. It’s got many meanings. It means: evil, like morally bad for example  a wicked witch. Or it wicked might mean slightly bad, sort of amusing, like in a wicked sense of humour. We also have slang: wicked song meaning a very good song. Cool word, don’t you think?

Time to repeat the final four lines:

Revolutionaries wait

For my head on a silver plate

Just a puppet on a lonely string

Oh, who would ever want to be king?

Revolutionaries – a revolutionary is a person who starts or supports a revolution, especially a political one. Are you a revolutionary? Speaking of politics… I hope you remember that this Sunday we all have to go to the polls and vote in a presidential election. Listen and repeat:

French revolutionaries, wanted to unify the country.

This band is made of young revolutionaries.

On a silver plate – or on a silver platter. If something is given to you on a silver platter, you do not have to do much in order to get it. It’s an idiom. Listen and repeat:

She gets everything on a silver platter.

You expect me to hand you everything on a silver platter.

He expects to be handed everything on a silver platter.

Finally, one more line:

I know Saint Peter won’t call my name – Chris Martin said once that this line is about not being on the list. He said: ‘It’s always fascinated me that idea of finishing your life and then being analyzed on it. And it’s that runs through most religions. That is the most frightening thing you could possibly say to somebody. Eternal damnation.’ 

Ok! That’s about it! I hope you enjoyed it! I have one big task for you now. Think about a sentence with the word ‘wicked’. Write this one sentence in the comment section at teacherola.com/51.

While you’re there don’t forget to download a worksheet and practice some more.

If you know someone who likes learning English and enjoys good song lyrics let them know about me. 

Thank you for being here, come back next Wednesday. I’ll talk to you about conditionals, again! Till then, take care. See you really soon, happy learning. Bye bye!