Everyday conversations: What’s your Halloween costume? [audio]

Students dressed in costumes for Halloween (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)
Students dress up before going to a haunted house on campus. (State Dept./D.A. Peterson)

Six students from around the world meet. What do they have in common? They are all exchange students studying at a U.S. university for a semester. Throughout the semester, they learn more English, learn about U.S. culture, and learn more about their fields of study. This series of Everyday Conversations is about these six students and their experiences during a semester at a university in the U.S. These conversations are for intermediate-level English-language learners or higher.

Students plan their first Halloween in the U.S. They talk about the costumes they will wear and the activities they will do on the holiday of Halloween.

Peter: Halloween is in just a couple of days. Does anybody have a costume?

Akinyi: You want to dress up and go trick-or-treating? Isn’t that only for kids?

Lucía: Halloween isn’t just for kids. There are a lot of events happening on campus.

Ajay: Like what?

Lee: The environmental club is putting together a haunted house.

Jana: Are you going to be part of it?

Lee: Yeah, but I can’t tell you what I’ll be doing. It has to be a surprise. Otherwise, it won’t be as scary. You should all come to the haunted house on Saturday night.

Peter: Yes, we should all dress up and go to the haunted house.

Lucía: I’m in! Also, there’s going to be food and games, like apple bobbing, in the student center that night, so we could go to that too.

Ajay: Okay, I’ll dress up too. What should I be?

Jana: Well, there are six of us. Should we think of a group of six characters and dress up as those characters?

Akinyi: We could be a group of superheroes.

Ajay: Yes! I’ve always wanted to be a superhero.

Peter: Why does that not surprise me?

Now let’s review the vocabulary.

Halloween is not a formal holiday, but it is one of the major celebrations in the U.S. It is celebrated on October 31 each year. On Halloween, children dress up in costumes and go trick-or-treating. Adults sometimes dress up as well and attend parties.

A costume is the clothing worn by someone who is trying to look like a different person or thing.

To dress up is a phrasal verb. In this context, it means to put on a costume. It can be followed by the word as to state what the costume is. For example, “I dressed up as Cinderella on Halloween.” “She will dress up as a robot.”

Trick-or-treating is a Halloween custom. Children knock on people’s doors and say “trick or treat” to ask for candy.

In colleges and universities in the U.S., there are often clubs. A club is a group of people who meet to participate in activities or events, such as a sport, hobby or other shared interest.

A haunted house is a Halloween attraction. A building or series of rooms is decorated to frighten people as they walk through the house.

Apple bobbing (also known as bobbing for apples) is a game played, often by children, on Halloween. A large tub is filled with water. Apples are put in the water, and they float to the surface. Players try to pick up apples using only their teeth. They cannot use their arms.

A student center (also known as a student union) is a building on a university campus. A student center is a place for students to socialize, etc., and is the community center of the university.

Ready to learn more English? Our materials can help.

The American English website offers a variety of free resources for learners and teachers of English. The American English Facebook page posts learning materials for English-language learners daily.

Everyday Conversations are developed by the State Department’s Heidi Howland, a senior program officer in the Office of English Language Programs, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.