Stuart Mill English

How to Learn, How to Teach English

How to listen to this scene: Good Will Hunting

How to listen to this scene: Good Will Hunting Park Scene

Learning Idioms from “Good Will Hunting”. A high-level listening exercise.

Here are some other links if that one doesn’t work for you…

Watch this clip from the movie “Good Will Hunting”. You can also read the transcript below. Use a good dictionary to look up any words you don’t know.

Below the transcript, there are explanations for all of the idioms in the clip. There are also a few extra notes on what’s happening. After you’ve learned them, write practice sentences with them and post them in the comments. We’ll let you know if you’re using them correctly.

This exercise is best for students who have seen Good Will Hunting. For those who haven’t seen the movie, here’s an explanation of what happens before this scene.

Will (Matt Damon) is a young man who is a genius. It seems like he knows everything. However, he also gets in a lot of trouble. He fights a lot. One day after he is arrested, he has a choice. Either, he can go to a psychologist Sean (Robin Williams) or he has to go to jail. He chooses the psychologist, but the psychologist has trouble helping him. During their first meeting Will is very mean. He says some bad things about the psychologist’s wife. He didn’t know that she had died. The psychologist gets very angry. The scene below is their next meeting.

Now read the transcript of the movie clip.

WILL: So what’s this? A Taster’s Choice moment[1] between guys? This is really nice. You got a thing for swans[2]? Is this like a fetish? It’s something, like, maybe we need to devote some time to[3]?

SEAN: I thought about what you said to me the other day, about my painting.


SEAN: Stayed up half the night thinking about it. Something occurred to me, I fell into a deep peaceful sleep, and I haven’t thought about you since. You know what occurred to me?


SEAN: You’re just a kid. You don’t have the faintest idea what you’re talking about.

WILL: Why thank you.

SEAN: It’s all right.[4] You’ve never been out of Boston.

WILL: Nope.

SEAN: So, if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny[5] on every art book ever written. Michelangelo. You know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientation, the whole works[6], right? But I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling. Seen that….

If I ask you about women, you’d probably give me a syllabus of your            personal favorites. You may have even been laid[7] a few times. But you can’t tell me what it feels like to wake up next to a woman and feel truly happy.

You’re a tough kid. I ask you about war, you’d probably uh…throw Shakespeare at me, right? “Once more into the breach, dear friends.”[8] But you’ve never been near one. You’ve never held your best friend’s head in your lap, and watched him gasp his last breath looking to you for help.

I ask you about love, you probably quote me a sonnet. But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable…known someone that could level you[9] with her eyes. Feeling like God put an angel on Earth just for you…who could rescue you from the depths of Hell.

And you wouldn’t know what it’s like to be her angel, and to have that love for her be there forever. Through anything. Through cancer. And you wouldn’t know about sleepin’ sittin’ up in a hospital room for two months, holding her hand because the doctors could see in your eyes that the terms visiting hours don’t apply to you. You don’t know about real loss, because that only occurs when you love something more than you love yourself. I doubt you’ve ever dared to love anybody that much.

I look at you: I don’t see an intelligent, confident man. I see a cocky, scared shitless[10] kid. But you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you. But you presume to know everything about me because you saw a painting of mine and you ripped my fuckin’ life apart.

You’re an orphan, right? Do you think I’d know the first thing about how hard your life has been, how you feel, who you are, because I read Oliver Twist?[11] Does that encapsulate you?

Personally, I don’t give a shit[12] about all that, because you know what? I can’t learn anything from you I can’t read in some fuckin’ book. Unless you wanna talk about you, who you are. And I’m fascinated. I’m in. But you don’t wanna do that, do you, sport[13]? You’re terrified of what you might say. Your move, chief[14].

Now write sentences Now write sentence with the new words and idioms you learned. Post them in the comments if you’d like them to be corrected.

Finally, answer these reaction questions.

How would you react if you were Will?

Do you think Sean is a good psychologist? Why/Why not?

What do you think will happen to Will in the future?

[1] A Taster’s Choice moment: Refers to a TV commercial for the coffee Taster’s Choice. In the commercials, people shared nice moments together

[2] You got a thing for swans?: To have a thing for me to be attracted to something.

[3] To devote some time to something: This is a common expression used when describing what a patient and a psychologist discuss. Will is using it to suggest that he is the psychologist and Sean is the patient.

[4] Why thank you…It’s all right: Will is being sarcastic. Sean pretends he was serious.

[5] Give me the skinny: To give all the details.

[6] The whole works: Everything

[7] Been laid: To be/get laid means to have sex.

[8] Once more into the breach, dear friends: From Henry V by William Shakespeare. It means to go start fighting again.

[9] Could level you: Could overwhelm you.

[10] Scared shitless: Very scared

[11] Oliver Twist: A book about an orphan by Charles Dickens

[12] I don’t give a shit: I don’t care.

[13] Sport: An affectionate word for a younger man or boy.

[14] Chief: An affectionate word for a friend.

August 31, 2010 Posted by | How to listen to this... | , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Website Review:

In short: A lot of pretty good stuff. Nice dialogues present idioms and expressions. The TOEFL vocab quizzes are good. Proverbs are well-defined. The readings will help intermediate to upper-intermediate students and they come with excellent comprehension questions.

Unfortunately, a lot of things also seem incomplete. For instance, the conversations from movies are nice, but readers can’t understand them because you don’t know what happened before you start reading. And there are no comprehension questions to go with them.

In general, the whole site is organized/labled poorly. After clicking around for over an hour, it was pretty easy to find everything, but it shouldn’t take that long.

For students: You might enjoy visiting this site every morning and clicking on “Conversations” to learn a new expression. Then, you can try to use it later in the day.

For teachers: If you’re preparing your students for a test like the TOEFL, but the TOEFL readings are too difficult, these readings are excellent preparation while the students work to raise their levels a bit more.

August 1, 2010 Posted by | Website Reviews | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Talking about Movies

This is another speaking topic for students. Click here to read the introduction to the series.

Students, remember, you can only speak English while you do this activity. Don’t speak your native language for at least one hour. You can do it!

Teachers, you can adapt these for lessons, or give them as homework.

Topic: Movies

Objectives: After the discussion, you should be able to discuss movies

Materials: Paper and Pens

Grammar: Present Simple, Present Perfect, Stative Verbs


Listen and repeat these expressions.

I really like action movies. Say one of these after someone asks you: “What kind of movies do you like?”
I really like comedies.
I really like horror movies.
I really like dramas.
I really like romantic comedies.
That sounds interesting. Say these after someone suggests going to see a good movie.
Oh, yeah. I’d love to see that.
Oh, I heard that was good. Let’s go!
Mmmm. I don’t know. Say these after someone suggests going to see a bad movie.
I don’t think that’s the movie for me.
That’s not really my favorite kind of movie.
How about something else?
It looks exciting. Say this about an action movie that you want to see.
It looks funny. Say this about a comedy that you want to see.
It looks scary. Say this about a horror movie that you want to see.
It looks interesting. Say this about a drama that you want to see.
It looks sweet. Say this about a romantic comedy that you want to see.

Vocabulary: genre, action movie, comedy, horror movie, drama, romantic comedy, anime, documentaries, sci-fi

Draw Movie Posters. On three pieces of paper you should draw three movie posters. Each poster should be for a different genre.

Guess Movie Genres. Now, look at your partner’s pieces of paper and guess what genres they drew. How do you know? Say at least three things that represent the genre. (For example: “That’s a romantic comedy. I know because the guy and girl are kissing. Also, they’re falling off of a boat, which is funny. And it looks sweet.”)

Ask your partner if he/she likes each genre and why/why not?

Do you like action movies? Why/Why not?

Do you like comedies? Why/Why not?

Do you like horror movies? Why/Why not?

Do you like dramas? Why/Why not?

Do you like romantic comedies? Why/Why not?

Discuss movie questions

What movies are in the theater now? (It means: What movies can you watch in a theater now?)

Which movies do you want to see now? Why?

What are some movies you’ve seen recently? Did you like them? Why/why not?

What are some of your favorite movies? Why did you like them?

What is your favorite kind of movie? (Action, drama, etc.) Why?

Do you like to eat popcorn at the movies?

Do you prefer to go to a movie theater or stay at home?

Your movie questions Write five movie discussion questions. Ask your partner the questions.

Watch a movie Now, discuss which movie you’d like to watch and watch it with your partner. Then discuss it. Don’t forget the popcorn.

July 10, 2010 Posted by | Speaking, Studying Strategies | , , , | Leave a comment