Piece of cake: How a Montreal teacher used YouTube to teach English idioms

MONTREAL — Teacher Nick Galanogeorgos is known affectionately as Mr. Nick, and his unique teaching methods have made him so popular with students, they would prefer the school year not end.

“Because of his classes, everybody understands me and I didn’t give up, never. All the time I was motivated to learn more and more,” said Ani Dumitrache, who immigrated to Canada from Romania speaking no English, but can now carry on a conversation with ease.

Mr. Nick’s secret is he doesn’t just teach the basics of English, he teaches the idioms like “out of this world” or Tthat’s the way the cookie crumbles.” He said as his students would watch movies, they would always come back perplexed the expressions they heard.

“They would ask me questions like ‘make a bundle, down in the dumps, have a blast,’ and I started to put it together and say it seems to be a lot of idioms, a lot of expressions that are giving them trouble when they’re watching movies and it takes away the context,” said Galanogeorgos.

Because some of his students were down in the dumps during the pandemic, Mr. Nick decided to take online learning to the next level. He produced a series of YouTube videos so his students could keep learning idioms, and students say they’re out of this world.

“I thought it would be something uplifting, something fun for them to do while I was home with my own children. It gave me and my kids something to do together as well,” he said.

Mr. Nick has a natural presence and fun sense of humour which students say makes it easy to learn, although some idioms are still baffling.

“The one that is very difficult is ‘throw someone under the bus,'” said student Tam Ta, who came to Canada from Vietnam, adding he originally thought it meant someone was involved in a bus accident.

“I always stress to my students, you don’t really need to use them in your speech if you’re not comfortable, but understanding is very important because, as native speakers, we do use idioms quite a bit, so much so that we don’t realize they’re idioms,” said Galanogeorgos.

Mr. Nick said he loves teaching these students and loves knowing that he’s giving them skills they’ll need to succeed.

“The first thing I felt when I stood in front of my class and I saw a room full of immigrants trying to learn English, in a weird way I started to see my parents’ faces when they first came to Canada,” he said.

One student paid her teacher the ultimate compliment wrapped in an idiom:

“He makes learning a piece of cake.”