English Lessons from the American Musical “Hamilton”

By 8 January 2018 Video lessons 12 Comments
musical hamilton

Hey there, and welcome to Speak English with Christina, where you’ll have fun becoming fluent in American English. I’m your English coach Christina, and if you follow me on Facebook, you know that lately I’m obsessed with the musical “Hamilton”. Have you heard of it?

Lately, I’ve been listening to it non-stop, and I realized that the lyrics are full of chunks, expressions to make you more fluent in English! Because when you’re an English teacher, you notice these kinds of things… And I wanted to share them with you, because, well, it’ll help your fluency in English!

Let’s go!

First, what is Hamilton?

It’s a hip-hop musical about the life of Alexander Hamilton, one of the Founding Fathers of the US, the guys that created the United States at the time of the American Revolution in the late 18th century. Hamilton came from a poor, broken family in the Caribbean, and succeeded in rising up to become important. It’s the kind of self-made man story we love in the US.

The New York Times called the show “the most celebrated cultural phenomenon of our time.” It’s won 27 awards, a huge number. And it stars actors of different colors and backgrounds, because the creator wanted the cast, the actors, to look like the population of the US, very diverse. It’s really a fantastic show!

So, now that you know what “Hamilton” is about, let’s learn 6 expressions you’ll hear in the songs, and that we use in everyday English.

I’m not throwing away my shot

When Hamilton arrives in New York City, he sings “I’m not throwing away my shot”. He sings it better than me… But this expression means “I’m not going to lose my opportunity” or lose my chance.

Like “I have a big interview, and I don’t want to throw away my shot! So I’m going to really prepare!” I don’t want to lose this chance, I don’t want to throw away my shot.

Get the job done

Hamilton’s from the Caribbean, and in one song, he’s singing with Lafayette, the Frenchman who played a major role in the American revolution. So they’re both immigrants, and in the song “Yorktown”, they sing a famous line “Immigrants. We get the job done.”

To get the job done means simply “to do a task” or even “to finish a task”. Like “I can’t come to the movies, I need to get this job done first.” I need to finish this task.

And that line “Immigrants. We get the job done” is a quick tribute to the important role immigrants have played in the history of the United States.

Turned upside down

In the same song “Yorktown”, the entire cast sings “The world turned upside down.” The world turned upside down,” because after the battle of Yorktown, the British surrendered.

The United States were a free nation, and it was like the world was turned upside down. Like this. So when you turn something upside down, you do this. Turn it so the top is at the bottom. You could say “Turn the glass upside down” or “Turn the box upside down.”

Time’s up

In the song “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story”, Eliza, Hamilton’s wife sings “When my time is up, will they tell my story?” “When your time’s up”, that’s a metaphor for “when you die.” Like “When your time’s up, you don’t want to have regrets. So go out and live your life!”

But we also use it in everyday conversations to simply mean “We don’t have any more time.” Like “OK, time’s up, we have to go now.”  We don’t have any more time.

Running out of time

In the song “Non-stop”, the chorus hints at the fact that Alexander Hamilton will die relatively young, and at the peak of his career. They sing “How do you write like you’re running out time? Writing day and night like you’re running out of time.” He works so hard, like he knows that soon, he won’t have time to finish his life’s work.

And “running out of time” means that soon, you won’t have any more time to do something. In everyday conversations, we might say “We have to hurry! We’re running out of time if we want to go to the store before it closes!”

Take a break

“Take a break” is the title of a song, where Alexander Hamilton’s wife begs him to take break from his non-stop work. Hamilton was very ambitious and worked hard, all the time. Even during his life, his hard work impressed people.

To take a break means to pause, to stop for a short time. You’ve probably heard someone say “OK, so let’s take a break!”, stop working for a short time. And Hamilton responds “I’ve got so much on my plate,” or “I’ve got so much work to do.

So if someone says “Hey, you should take a break!” “You can say, I can’t I’ve got so much on my plate right now!”

Maybe you should take a break from reading and watch the episode!

Now, what about you?

Did you know any of these expressions? Did you know about the musical “Hamilton”?

Let’s continue the conversation in the comments!

Thanks so much for watching Speak English with Christina.

We’re running out of time and need to take a break, so I’ll see you next week!

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