Hey there, this is Teacher Ola Podcast episode 94. Learn English With Spice Girls ‘Mama’

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, and improve your pronunciation.  Go to my website for full transcripts and worksheets to each episode. Happy learning!

Welcome back and happy Mother’s Day! The first song that came to my mind when I thought about this day was obviously this one. Spice Girls! I think you’ll be surprised at how much we can take away from these lyrics. 

Please stay till the end, to the practical part where you repeat out loud the sentences I made up for you. All sentences are based on the vocabulary elements picked from the lyrics. Of course, you learn the original lyrics here, you repeat them all, line by line, you learn what they mean but the additional upgrade if you will to these lyrics are the sentences. Useful, everyday, common, conversational sentences. But first, let me remind you about TOPeople. I’d like to encourage you to get to this closed group. It is free, all you need to do is subscribe to my email list. Then you’ll receive a message from me, some recommendation, motivation, I’ve got your back. Content I saher in those emails is exclusive. You will not hear me talking about any of those things here in the podcast. Every week I send you a reminder of a new episode and a worksheet. Ok, time to dive into today’s topic. 

Mama was released in 1997 and it is a pop ballad  that features instrumentation from keyboards, a rhythm guitar, a cello, and a violin, and its lyrics deal with the difficulties in relationships between mothers and daughters that appear during their childhood. Once I read that the mother daughter relationship is the toughest kind of relationship among people. 

‘Mama’ was highly successful and became a number one in the UK. Listen to what Mel C had said about this song: ‘We wrote ‘Mama’ when I was going through a bad phase with my mum. The sentiments are really that your mum’s probably the best friend that you’ve got. Whether she’s an over-protective mother or a bit of a landmine, she probably knows you better than yourself in some ways. Mama’s all about how you’re such a cow to your mum when you’re going through that rebellious teenage stage. Then when you get a bit older, you realise that whatever she was doing, she was only doing it for your own good. And you think: ‘God, I was really horrible.’ The song did very well commercially but it received a lot of critical reviews. The Daily Mirror criticised the song saying “Yuk! We don’t want our Spice Girls sweet, ta very much.”

Yeah, so now we’re ready to begin. Now you’re going to repeat each line of the first verse of the song. Let us jump right to it.

She used to be my only enemy and never let me free

Catching me in places that I knew I shouldn’t be

Every other day, I crossed the line

I didn’t mean to be so bad

I never thought you would become the friend I never had

Used to – she used to be my only enemy – she is not anymore, now we are friends. That’s past simple, she used to be my only enemy means she was my only enemy. If you struggle with ‘used to’ or ‘be used to’ or ‘get used to’ fix it. Make sure you understand the difference and know how to communicate the message. I happen to have an episode on this topic so you can have a grammar/ vocabulary revision with that episode. Episode 24. The link is in the show notes to this episode as well, or you can easily find it typing in google: teacherolapodcast, used to. 

Enemy – in broad sense it’s anything that harms something or prevents it from being successful. It’s also a person who hates somebody. Be careful not to be your own worst enemy. This is an idiomatic expression meaning that you can be the real cause of your problems. 

Never let me free – she never let me free, she never allowed me to do what I wanted. You can let a person free or you can let an animal free. We can also say set someone free. Set me free. 

Every other day I crossed the line – two things here. First of all ‘every other day’. That means ‘every second day’. One day on, one day off. She crossed the line every other day, I say it’s quite often. The second thing is ‘to cross the line’. To do something unacceptable, to go too far, 

I didn’t mean to be so bad I didn’t mean to do something. It wasn’t my intention to be so bad. I didn’t want any of that, I’m sorry it happened, I regret that.

I never thought you would become the friend I never hadand here you might be tempted to feel like it’s ok to say: ‘I never thought you will become the friend’. Because these were your thoughts exactly, right? Many years ago you thought to yourself, quote: ‘’Hm, she will never become my friend’. Instead of quoting your own words you are reporting them. Hence we need reported speech, ok? Of course we can report people’s thoughts! Your own thoughts as well. There’s no episode on reported speech yet, but I’ll add it to the list. 

Phew! That was just the first verse! Let’s listen and repeat lines of the bridge and the chorus:

Back then, I didn’t know why

Why you were misunderstood

So now, I see through your eyes

All that you did was love

Mama, I love you, Mama, I care

Mama, I love you, Mama, my friend

You’re my friend

Back then – simple yet highly useful. Back then is essentially a conversational expression used at the beginning of a sentence or at the end of one when someone is recounting what things were like before or in the past. I reckon it’s got a slightly nostalgic flavour. For instance:

Back then we used to play outside a lot.

Misunderstood – if something has qualities that people don’t see or fully understand, bob’s your uncle. That’s it, this thing or a person is misunderstood. 

I see through your eyes – If someone sees or considers something through your eyes, they consider it in the way that you do, from your point of view. She put herself in her mother’s shoes to choose another idiom meaning the same thing. Now she knows how it feels. Now she understands her decisions. 

You’re my friend – My dear listener, we have talked about this pronunciation issue some time ago, let me bring it up again. Well, we do not have to separate words here. You’re my friend. Instead, and listen to the song, what you’re hearing there, in the last line of this verse is: You’re my friend. listen and repeat: you’re my friend. 

Well done. Let’s move one, the second verse. Listen and repeat each line.

I didn’t want to hear it then, but I’m not ashamed to say it now

Every little thing you said and did was right for me

I had a lot of time to think about

About the way I used to be

Never had a sense of my responsibility

I’m not ashamed to say it now when you are ashamed you feel shame or you feel embarrassed about somebody or something or because of something you have done. She is not ashamed to say it now, to admit her mistakes. 

Every little thinghere I just wanted to steer your attention to this common collocation. It occurs in various songs and I reckon this is useful. People speak fast, you know? You want to be able to understand the people. Let’s hear it, let’s repeat it: every little thing.

A sense of my responsibility notice the pattern. Sense of something. Sense of humour, sense of dignity, sense of purpose, sense of belonging.

The last bit of the lyrics. The bridge and a fragment of coda. You’re doing awesome, let’s go on!

But now, I’m sure I know why

Why you were misunderstood

So now, I see through your eyes

All I can give you is love

And loving you and loving me

And love that’s true and guaranteed

Guaranteed – from this fragment I picked one words. Guaranteed. Please notice the pronunciation. There’s no /u/ sound in ‘guaranteed’. You can see in it, it’s written G – U – A – R – A – N – T – E – E – D. Don’t pronounce it though. The verb is ‘to guarantee’. Please repeat: to guarantee. 

This is it when it comes to the lyrics of ‘Mama’ by Spice Girls. Time to practice. Lie always,  I say the sentence you repeat after me. Out loud.  Listen, retain and repeat out loud.

The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

After six years in prison,  she was set free.

You can’t cross the line, that’s the rule.

You only need to water plants every other day.

I didn’t mean to cause you any trouble.

I never thought you would hang up on me.

Her indecisiveness makes her her own worst enemy.

Love will set you free.

Back then we used to play outside a lot.

She felt very alone and misunderstood.

She tried to see things through his eyes.

Try to put yourself in my shoes.

You’re the only one I need.

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.

Every little thing’s gonna be alright.

She has no sense of responsibility.

These days getting a degree doesn’t guarantee you a job.

Well done, you did it! See? Wasn’t that bad, huh? The most difficult part is showing up. Now, have some rest and later, maybe tomorrow or some other day this week do the worksheet. Please download the worksheet now, so that you don’t forget about it. Play the song, sing out loud and complete the gaps. If the worksheet is not in your inbox, you have to subscribe to my TOPeople list. Go to teacherola.com/94 and download the worksheet. It’s fun, it gives you a bit of motivation, suggestions and worksheets every Wednesday morning.

Let’s have all the phrases we’ve learned today listed. Ready? Let’s recap:

Used to 


Never let me free 

Every other day I crossed the line 

I didn’t mean to be so bad 

I never thought you would become the friend I never had 

Back then


I see through your eyes

You’re my friend 

I’m not ashamed to say it now 

Every little thing 

A sense of my responsibility 


That’s about it! I hope you liked the episode, if you did, please leave your rating in iTunes if you can. If you want to support this podcast there’s only one way to do it. Tell someone about this podcast and help me spread the message. 

Be here next, same time, same place we’ll tackle one tiny grammar point.  Thanks for listening,  take care. Happy learning. Stay fearless and say it out loud. Bye-bye!