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English at the Movies: Robin Williams

English at the Movies: Robin Williams
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Welcome to American Mosaic from VOA Learning English.

I’m Caty Weaver.

People around the world were shocked and saddened by the death of entertainer Robin Williams. Many of you commented on the Learning English website. Several of you said you had learned from his movies and other work.

So, today we listen to some famous Robin Williams movie lines that can help teach English.

"Dead Poets Society"

A good place to start is “Dead Poets Society,” a 1989 film in which language is central. Robin Williams plays a professor of English at a respected private boys’ school in the northeastern United States. He teaches his students about poetry, prose and life.

“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The Latin term for that sentiment is carpe diem.”

In this part of the movie, he is teaching the boys about a poem hundreds of years old. The first line is “Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.” The teacher tells the students what the poet is saying.

“Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

Carpe diem means to seize the day in Latin. In other words, act now when you can. “No time like the present” is another way Americans sometimes express this thought. It means do not wait for a future you might not have.

"Mrs. Doubtfire"

“Mrs. Doubtfire” was another very popular Robin Williams movie. It was released in 1993. In it, Mr. Williams plays a man who separates from his wife and misses his children. He dresses as a woman to hide his identity so his wife will employ him as a nanny -- someone who takes care of children. That way, he gets to see his children every day. Here, Robin Williams, as Mrs. Doubtfire, explains what is important about family.

“But if there’s love, dear, those are the ties that bind and you’ll have a family in your heart forever.”

Mrs. Doubtfire is saying that love keeps people together emotionally even if they are separated physically. The “ties that bind” are good in this case. “Ties that bind” could also be undesirable. They could be restrictive.


Robin Williams acted in more than 70 movies. “Aladdin” was one of the most successful. But you could only hear him in the movie. That is because he played the voice of the Genie in the animated Disney film. A genie is a creature with magical powers. Robin Williams as the Genie sings to the boy Aladdin. The song “Friend Like Me” explains that Aladdin now controls how the Genie uses his magic.

One part says “Yes sir, we pride ourselves on service.” That is another way of saying “we do great work.” You can “pride” yourself on any activity. For example, a good bike rider might say, “I pride myself on cycling.”

Other terms in the song include “you’re the boss,” “in your corner,” and “you’ve never had a friend like me.” What do you think these mean? You can post your answers below.

We leave you with Robin Williams performing “Friend Like Me.”