430. Discussing Language Learning & Life with Fred Eyangoh

Talking to Fred about history, geography, comedy, learning English and cutlery.

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On the podcast today I am talking to a friend of mine called Fred Eyangoh. English is not Fred’s first language but he’s learned it to a proficient level – enough to complete a Master’s’ program in Business Management and Marketing in English and to do regular comedy shows in English too.

I’ve invited Fred onto the podcast because I want to talk to him about, how he develops and maintains his English, what life is like in the country that he originally comes from, and we do talk about those things – Fred says some interesting points about how he’s has pushed his English on his own, but also we ended up talking about lots of other things like history, geography and cutlery (that’s knives, forks and spoons).

You’ll hear that Fred speaks with an accent which is quite difficult to put your finger on – it’s hard to identify exactly where he comes from, and I’m not going to tell you right now, because I want you to guess, based on his voice. Where do you think he comes from?

You’ll see that although it’s his second language Fred’s English is precise and accurate in terms of grammar and he uses a wide range of vocabulary, and to a large extent that is down to the way he has applied himself to his acquisition of English.

We ended up talking for about an hour and fifteen minutes in this conversation, and I’ve decided to publish all of it in this one single episode, rather than dividing it into two episodes because I think it’s best enjoyed without interruption, as one continuous flowing conversation.

OK, let’s begin. The first thing you’ll hear us talking about is the First World War, because Fred has been listening to a podcast called Hardcore History, and he’s been listening to an episode of that podcast about the First World War. Click here to check out Hardcore History with Dan Carlin about World War I.

And that is the first thing that we talk about.

Recap – What Fred said about Learning English

Let’s recap some of the things Fred said about improving your English.

Now, I know some of you are thinking – but he had some English lessons when he was 4, that’s cheating! Sure, that must have helped, but I know people who had English lessons from childhood at school but they still don’t have a great level of English. It’s not just that, it’s also the other things you do in your life.

  • Immerse yourself in English content that you really like – in the case of Fred it’s comedy and films. We all know about this, but it’s worth repeating. Get some English into your everyday life and make it some content that you’re fascinated by.
  • Notice/Track vocabulary and go the extra mile. This doesn’t just mean watching films with subtitles on. That bit of advice has been said a million times, and it is true. But while you’re watching, listening or reading you should ‘track’ the language or ‘notice’ the language while you’re consuming it. Make a point of noticing specific bits of English, like vocabulary items and then research that language by investigating it online, reading around it, finding more active examples of it using google or wikipedia. As Paul Taylor has said “Just Wikipedia it!” and it’s good advice of course when you’re doing self study. Find examples of new words and expressions, not just definitions and read plenty of examples (e.g. by using the News tab in Google search results, or by exploring Wikipedia) until you’ve made plenty of connections and associations with that new word and you know it well enough to start using it.
  • Work with audio and transcripts. Listen and then check out some words that you don’t know by circling or highlighting them and then researching them as we just said. For example, most TED talks have transcripts on the TED.com website. Now, we all watch TED talks from time to time, but how often are you playing around with the interactive transcripts and really exploring the vocabulary that you can find there?
  • Broaden your range. Push yourself to use the language you’re picking up by finding new ways to say the same thing – e.g. avoid just using the simple verbs like ‘be’ or ‘have’.
  • Be creative – write down your ideas. You could write some comedy, some poetry, some stories and if you feel like it, find a place where you can share your work, like a spoken word open mic night or something like that.
  • Socialise and be outgoing. Go out and meet people who you can speak English to. Find your own peer group for socialising in English.

OK, that’s it! Go the extra mile and push your English, but do keep enjoying it – that’s one of the most important things.

Check the website for some videos of the comedians Fred mentioned.

Join the mailing list!

Speak soon, bye!

Comedians Fred Mentioned

Fred is a great fan of comedy, and I always think that stand-up must be a great source of English you can listen to, and there’s so much of it on YouTube, and if you have Netflix you can find lots of great stand up comedy shows and they all have subtitles, so switch them on and go for it!

Here are some of the comics Fred mentioned.

Maria Bamford
She’s one of the top comedians in the USA right now. She tells stories using different voices to let us understand (and laugh at) the problems she experiences in her everyday life. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder, and she deals with both of those subjects in the most adorable and hilarious way, changing her voice to represent the different people in her life, cleverly revealing their attitudes and treatment of Maria. This video is a good example of the way she changes her voice to become a different person in her routines.

Chris Rock
An absolute mega-legend in comedy. Brave, sharp, honest and one of the funniest stand-up comedians ever. *Warning: rude content*

Louis CK
He’s generally considered to be one of the hottest standups in the world at the moment. Comedy is a question of taste of course (and Louis talks about some quite dark, edgy and offensive subjects) but Louis is really great. *Warning: rude content 


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  • Orion team

    Hi people, we have finished this episode

    so you can work with or improve it correcting the mistakes or filling he gaps.
    Thanks a lot for your help.

  • Naomi

    There are a lot of good tips for learning English from this episode.
    Thank you very much Fred and Luke!
    Fred’s impression of angry Paul was brilliant!
    I’d like to listen Fred’s spoon joke!
    I think spoon is the strongest in cutlery.

  • Cat

    It was a pleasure to listen to Fred! He is an easy-going and very funny and pleasant guy. Thank you, Luke! I’m sure you have a lot of things to share (like stand ups, living in France, Roque One, languages, Taken etc…) :)

    Fred’s English is almost native level. I don’t know which category to use here exactly. To me, it’s like my Russian (= which is also a nearly native level). I started to learn it with around 4 years too, like Fred.

    The tips he gave (thank you, Fred!) apply for the learning of the first and second languages alike. We have to develop our vocabulary even in our mother tongues (especially words with foreign origins like “pejorative”). :)

    • Agnes

      Hi Cat

      Do you happen to know where exactly I can find the transcription of the TED talks which Luke mentioned on this episode?

      By the way, tracking the words we learn is the best way of learning them, and I think this is an advanced thing, gaining more and more vocabulary, which is not that easy. I see that in my example, I listen to various stuff like Luke’s podcast, Ted talks, Ted talks radio hour, sometimes AJ’s news and some American shows. I know I should listen to one thing, focus on certain words from it then repeat them over and over. But I’m so curious on new stuff so that I listen to all almost at the same time:-) So that’s why it takes me more time to acquire and remember new word or phrase, sometimes basically simple.

      Everything what Fred said is true. If we want to achieve proficient level of English or any other language, we have to immerse in it ourselves.

    • Jack

      you are near native in English too :-)

      • Agnes


      • Jack

        And Agnes you are near native too :)

      • Nick

        We all here near native…. His name is Luke ;))

      • Jack

        King-wan kenobi :P

      • Cat

        I’m the nearest! About 600 km. :))

      • Nick

        That’s why you have the stronest influence on him :))

      • Cat

        Oh, I’m sure, we all are equal to Luke. ;-)

      • Cat

        Danke für die Blumen, Jack! :)
        (Thank you for the flowers! – So they say in Germany to someone who compliment you).

        It’s, of course, a HUGE exhaggeration, but nethertheless nice to hear. :))

      • Jack

        Thank you for teaching me new phrase Catherine :)

      • Cat

        What do you get, if you cross a teacher with a vampire? :)

      • Jack

        Terminator liquid metal :-D

      • Cat

        Lots of blood tests! :-D

      • Jack

        When teacher announces surprise test and you haven’t got a clue about the subject – makes for an epic scene :)

      • Cat

        … yes — pain in the neck (those tests and those vampires) :))

      • Jack

        And after some time poor student gets a souvenir – 0 out of 10 :(

      • Cat

        (this joke is from a childrens’ book). :))

  • An inspiring spirit drawn to this adventure . We’re interacting with immersive digital English learning. LEP has gradually melted into a mixture of socialising and interviewing . There’s so much in it . Your English is powered by being on a roll and coming into fashion . LEP lovers have a lot to look forward to !!!

  • Eri Taguchi

    I just wanted to put one good web site to serch example sentences which my italki teacher teached me to use.

    Reverso Cntext
    Altough your native language is not there, same as Japanese, but it is still very useful to find lots of example sentences which contains your target word.
    I will come back some point when I get a time!!!

    • Nick

      Yeah! Extremely useful site! I use it a lot.

  • Agnes

    Awesome:-) I like hearing about successful people!

  • Hiro

    Thank you, Luke, for the new episode! Fred is just amazing. He’s become my best model of an English learner, as well as Korean Billy.
    And Maria Bamford just blew my mind! This is the first time I watched her, but I can’t recognize which is her true voice. She’s really good. Because I’m a woman, and I’ve been learning English mainly with American accent, her performance sounds very natural to me.
    As for learning with podcasts which have transcripts, I’ve been listening to these:
    “The Allusionist” (one of Luke’s favorites)
    “This American Life”