Hey there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast episode 86: Learn English With Katy Perry ‘Roar’

My name’s Ola and I am an online English teacher, I teach through one to one classes and I want you to know I believe you can eliminate your language blockade. I’ve overcome a massive blockade myself and I know how to do it. 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 hello and welcome to another episode of TOP! My birthday is approaching, and I thought I’ll give you an episode with a song that is so empowering. I listen to a variety of music genres and pop is rarely in my headphones, nevertheless this song evokes power, confidence, fearlessness and courage. It’s uplifting.  I connect it with eliminating the language  blockade. 

Because communicating with people in English freely feels awesome! I wish you all the best. I wish you freedom from all the blockades. Be free, be happy, communicate with people, let nothing limit you. Ok. So these are my birthday wishes to you!

In this episode we are going to talk about Katy Perry’s song ‘Roar’. First, I’ll give you some song facts. Next we’re going to go through all the lyrics, line by line. We’ll stop now and again to discuss some vocabulary elements. You’ll learn the meaning of phrases like: to bite one’s tongue, to hold one’s breath, to rock the boat, and many more. You’ll find out what this song has in common with Rocky Balboa. And then I’ll give you sentences to repeat out loud. The sentences don’t appear in the lyrics. They are useful, everyday structures only inspired by Katy Perry’s song. Let’s begin with the song facts.

The song is a bouncy statement by Katy Perry of moving forward into the next stage of her life after the end of her marriage. Talking to BBC Radio 1 she revealed: “It’s a bit of a self-empowering type of song. I wrote it because I was sick of keeping all these feelings inside and not speaking up for myself, which caused a lot of resentment. 

Obviously I’ve been through a lot of therapy since my last record and that’s what this is about.”. In a different interview she said: “I spent a lot of time in my life, believe it or not, taking orders. Even though I seem like I’m very strong-minded and hard-headed, I am a people pleaser, and I feel like that has gotten in my way in my life – I feel like I’m living for other people and fulling other people’s destinies and wishes and just taking commands. So ‘Roar’ was a very important song for me, especially at that exact moment in my career, to really come out and say what I needed to say. It was born out of an abusive professional situation, and it paid off. So, it’s nice when you have a feeling and you put it out there. It felt like literally roaring. I felt like I had something important that I needed to say, and it was a big ‘fuck you’ to somebody. Then it went on to be a #1 hit forever and ever, so there’s something really gratifying about that. It feels like it comes full circle emotionally when a song like that works.”

Perry was criticized by officials at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for featuring exotic animals in the video. A spokeswoman for PETA, claimed to the Daily Star that by simply having the animals on set, the singer and crew were exposing them to unnecessary stress. 

She said “Animals used for entertainment endure horrific cruelty and suffer from extreme confinement and violent training methods,”
When Perry was the featured performer at the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show, she opened her set with this song, appearing atop a giant, mosaic-textured lion that was walked to the stage. 

Katy Perry appeared at the Democratic National Convention on July 28, 2016 to extol Hillary Clinton’s run for president. She entreated the crowd to “use your voice” before performing “Rise” and ‘Roar’, so this song we are talking about today. “Let’s roar for Hillary,” Perry said before going into this tune.

Time to dive into the lyrics. Listen and repeat them line by line.

I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath

Scared to rock the boat and make a mess

So I sit quietly

Agree politely

I used to bite my tongue – used to. There’s a whole episode on this topic, so I recommend checking it. ‘Used to’ can be a pain in the neck, so go there and practice. It’s episode 24: Used To vs. Be/Get Used To. I’ll link it in the show notes. To bite somebody’s tongue. This is an idiom. To bite one’s tongue means to hold back from speaking, to refrain from saying something that will annoy or hurt the listener. The idea is, you hold the tongue between your teeth to stop the words from escaping your mouth. I used to bite my tongue not in fear of making others annoyed but in fear of making myself a fool. Instead of speaking up in English, I used to prepare seven sentences in my head, bracing myself forever to gather courage and then I didn’t say a word. Can you relate? 

Hold someone’s breath – If you say that someone is holding their breath, you mean that they are waiting anxiously or excitedly for something to happen. To wait anxiously. And, here we go again. If you’re blocked, if you can’t speak English you’re just waiting. For others to speak up. In other words, when you’re on holiday and you get lost and want to ask somebody for directions you’re anxiously looking around waiting for someone to do this. You consider yourself the last person to talk with local people in English. That was me. Is that you? Well, let me know. And let me tell you, I know how it feels. Ok, but coming back to vocab. I should not forget to tell you that the negation is quite common too. I won’t hold my breath. What does that mean? 

It means I will not wait here impatiently for something that might not happen. Like, don’t get excited, don’t hold your breath. It’s not gonna last, it’s not gonna happen. Just don’t hold your breath. Good. Next one. 

Scared to rock the boat and make a mess – Let’s start with ‘to make a mess’. It means to leave a place for instance: placein disorder, in a state of dirtiness so to speak. You can also make a mess of something. Like the weather made a mess of our weekend plans. That means the weather ruined our plans, ok?  Good, and now: to rock the boat. She was scared to rock the boat so she didn’t. But what does it mean? So the idiom means to do or say something that might endanger a stable situation. Shake the ground. Like when someone’s in a  boat, stands up and starts to move it. It might even turn over, and that’s scary. So, to disturb, to cause trouble. Last week Meghan and Harry had an interview with Oprah and I’ve read somewhere that the media like to rock the royal boat – but they won’t sink it. Ok? That’s cool!

Let’s come back to our today’s song. Listen and repeat:

I guess that I forgot I had a choice

I let you push me past the breaking point

I stood for nothing

So I fell for everything

I let you push me past the breaking point – to push someone to the breaking point or past the breaking point. The breaking point is the time when a person can no longer accept or deal with a situation because of too much pressure or stress. Enough is enough. You can reach breaking point, or be at breaking point, you can also be stretched to breaking point. Perhaps you’ve noticed that I used the article ‘the’ in the first examples and later I skipped it. Both options are correct. I’m at the breaking point and I’m at breaking point.

I stood for nothing – to stand for something means to support something. To advocate, to represent. For example: I stand for freedom of the press.  She stood for nothing, so she didn’t have strong opinions, she didn’t have something to protect, to believe in. 

I fell for everything – I believed everything. I was deceived, I was tricked. It’s my fault because I didn’t confront, I didn’t question what I had been told. I fell for everything, all your lies.

Coming back to the lyrics. Listen and repeat:

You held me down, but I got up (Hey!)

Already brushing off the dust

You hear my voice, you hear that sound

Like thunder gonna shake the ground

You held me down, but I got up (Hey!)

Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough

I see it all, I see it now

You held me down – you limited me. My language blockade, you held me down. You limited me. 

Brushing off the dust – to brush off the dust or to dust off. To remove dust and dirt or something by patting or wiping. She got up and dusted off. Now she’s ready to move on. What had happened to her was unpleasant but now she got up.

Like thunder gonna shake the ground –  This saying refers to the feeling when thunder is really loud and seems to shake the ground and you can almost feel the vibration in your chest. It’s basically saying that she is very powerful and makes a huge impact, like thunder.

Get ready – to prepare. Prepare yourself, prepare, I have changed and you’re gonna hear me. 

I’ve had enough – Note the usage of present perfect tense. Up till now I have suffered enough. I have had enough. I’ve had enough.

Great, let’s move one. Next lines:

I got the eye of the tiger

A fighter

Dancing through the fire

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

Louder, louder than a lion

And once again:

‘Cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar

Eye of the tiger – The eye of the riger is the last thing that a prey sees prior to being killed. When a tiger attacks, it turns it’s ears backwards, showing the spot on the back of each ear, ‘tiger’s eyes’. If you see ‘the eyes of the tiger’, you are already dead.  It means the fierceness and strength of the tiger. When you look into a  predator’s eyes they look intense, cold and fierce.  So this phrase might as well have come from that look.  So you could say “Rocky had the eye of the tiger”. When Perry sings about having the “eye of the tiger,” it’s a mantra of courage and determination that Stallone’s character, Rocky Balboa, used in the 1982 movie Rocky III. Stallone saw the youth appeal in the phrase, and asked the band ‘Survivor’ to write a song around the title.  ‘Eye of the tiger’. That’s the title, I’m sure you know the song.

A champion – a person, team, that has won a competition, especially in a sport. There’s also an informal way of referring to a champion, often used in newspapers, that’s a champ. 

Let’s return to the lyrics one last time, the last section. Listen and repeat:

Now I’m floating like a butterfly

Stinging like a bee I earned my stripes

I went from zero

To my own hero

Floating like a butterfly – you might think that the verb ‘float’ refers to water only, but in fact it can refer to air as well. It means to move slowly, like  a butterfly. It has a figurative meaning as well, for example: ‘People seem to float in and out of my life’.

Stinging like a bee – The hole phrase is actually a quote by Muhammad Ali, I hope I pronunce this correctly, Muhammad Ali, who said: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” So she looks very fragile, delicate, beautiful, harmless like a butterfly. However, now she has learned how to sting like a bee. That’s what bees do, the sting, they  make a very small hole in your skin so that you feel a sharp pain. So, this idiomatic phrase means to deliver a powerful punch. 

I earned my stripes – To earn one’s stripes means to prove that you deserve a particular position. To gain enough experience to hold a given position. Position or other achievements, reputation. I’m wondering where have you earned your stripes? Let me know in the comments at teacherola.com/86. 

Now, my dear I have finished. That’s all I have, but don’t go anywhere because you haven’t practiced yet! Let’s have a look at some sentences I have gathered here for you. In those sentences you’ll find phrases and words from Katie Perry’s song. Listen, retain and repeat. I’ll say each sentence twice. Shall we?

He held his breath while the results were read out.

My nerves were at the breaking point.

I always make a mess when I’m baking, but I don’t mind cleaning it up afterward.

I’m not sure what the Republican candidate stands for.

I didn’t want to rock the boat so I sat quietly.

I can’t believe he fell for that!

I got up and dusted myself off.

She is a former Olympic skating champion.

The smell of new bread floated up from the kitchen.

I was stung on the arm by a wasp.

I told the recruiter that I had earned my stripes as a teacher before moving into administration.

Instead of complaining about her decision, he bit his tongue.

I’m not gonna let this happen again, I’ve simply had enough!

Take your time and get ready, I’ll be waiting downstairs.

Well done! Thank you and thank yourself because you’ve just done a great job.  Time to download the worksheet, it’s in your inbox. Grab it and complete the missing words. Play the song, sing out loud and complete the gaps. If you’re not  a member of TOPeople, download the worksheet from theacherola.com/86 and by doing so you will become a member. Don’t worry, it’s free. Each Wednesday you’ll get a message from me and a fresh worksheet. 

Let’s wrap up by listing all vocabulary items we’ve learnt today. 

I used to bite my tongue

To hold someone’s breath.

Scared to rock the boat and make a mess.

I let you push me past the breaking point.

I stood for nothing.

I fell for everything.

You held me down.

Brushing off the dust.

Like thunder gonna shake the ground.

Get ready.

I’ve had enough.

The eye of the tiger.

A champion.

Floating like a butterfly.

Stinging like a bee.

I earned my stripes.

That’s it for today! ‘Roar’ by Katy Perry explained and used in everyday sentences. I hope you liked it, if you did, please leave your rating in iTunes. One more request, tell someone about this podcast and help me spread the message. 

Next time we are going to talk about grammar. One tiny little thing connected with countable and uncountable nouns. Thanks for listening,  take care. Happy learning. Stay fearless and say it out loud. Bye-bye!