Author Archives: Luke Thompson

About Luke Thompson

I've been teaching English for about 15 years in London, Japan and France. I also do an award-winning podcast for learners of English called "Luke's English Podcast". In my free time I'm a stand-up comedian who regularly performs shows in English in Paris and sometimes London.

418. The Rick Thompson Report: Technology and The Future (January 2017)

Talking to my Dad about developments in technology in the future.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. Thank you very much for choosing to listen to this episode. How are you? Are you doing alright? Are you ready to listen to some English? You are? Good! (I’m assuming that you all said yes to that) OK, well let’s go then shall we?

It’s the new year period and it’s normal at this time to look forward to the year ahead and to think about the future in general, so in this episode I’m talking to my Dad about technological developments that we can expect to see and read about in the coming months and years and the implications of those developments.

Of course neither of us are experts in this field (my Dad is a broadcast journalist and I’m an English teacher) but we both like to keep fairly up-to-date on technological issues, and since CES happened earlier this month in Las Vegas (that’s the Consumer Electronics Show where all the latest tech products are presented) there’s been quite a lot of coverage in the media about new technology. My Dad has been reading about it, I’ve been reading about it, and maybe you’ve been reading about it so let’s talk about it.

And that’s what we’re going to do and that’s what you’ll hear in this episode – two blokes, talking about technology, including some bits about driverless cars, green energy, drones, virtual reality headsets, augmented reality, and superintelligent computers that talk to you in that slightly threatening and disturbing sounding voice. “Good morning Mr Thompson”, “Did you sleep well?” “I have noticed that you are late with your banking payments Mr Thompson.” “It’s the 3rd time this year.” “I’m afraid I am going to have to turn off your oxygen supply unless you pay the outstanding credit on your account Mr Thompson”.

As I said, we’re not experts but I am sure that I have many tech-minded listeners who know a thing or two about this subject, so if you have anything to add to this conversation then I invite you to write your comments and predictions in the comment section on my website.

From a language point of view, you’re going to hear a lot of terms relating to technology of course, but also the natural conversational English that you’ve come to expect from episodes of this podcast.

If you’re interested in transcribing this episode as part of the Orion Transcription Team, go to my website and click transcripts – the details are all there. The team is growing all the time and it’s a good way to get some intensive language practise while helping to add value to my website by working together with other podcast listeners.

OK, so without any further ado, here’s a conversation with my Dad about technology and the future.

***

Moore’s Law
(n.) Moore’s Law is a computing term which originated in around 1970 based on an observation made in 1965 by Gordon Moore (not Ian Moore), co-founder of Intel. The simplified version of this law states that processor speeds in computers, or overall processing power for computers will double every two years.
So, it starts as 2 and becomes 4, then 8, then 16 – doubling every two years, resulting in massive levels of development at an ever-increasing rate.

Basically: computers are getting more and more advanced all the time and eventually they’ll take over the world and make us their slaves like in The Terminator or The Matrix, maybe.

What is Moore’s Law? Webopedia Definition
www.webopedia.com/TERM/M/Moores_Law.html

How driverless cars could solve our traffic problems

Dad’s footballing predictions (wishful thinking I think!)

Leicester City will win FA Cup
Liverpool will win the Premiership

***

Outtro Script

What do you think? I am sure many of you have interesting things to add to this conversation. There’s bound to be a lot of things that we missed, including things like chatbots, Uberisation and plenty of other things. Get into the comment section to share your thoughts.

Did you understand everything we said in this episode? There’s a lot to be gained from that conversation in terms of vocabulary. Taking part in the transcript collaboration is a way for you to focus on that, but also perhaps I should do another episode just focusing on the language you heard in this one. Just let me know.

Don’t forget to do these things:
Join the mailing list on my website.
Like the Facebook page for LEP and follow me on Twitter. @englishpodcast

If you’re a ninja listener, hiding in the shadows, I invite you to come forward and leave a comment on my website saying who you are and how you found the podcast.

Thanks very much to those of you who have written recently. It’s good to hear from you and to know exactly who is out there downloading my episodes.

Take care and have a good day, etc!

Luke

417. New Year’s Resolutions and Language Learning in 2017

Let’s look towards the coming year and talk about new years resolutions for language learning in 2017. I talk about the UK’s most common new year’s resolutions, my resolutions for improving my French and then talk about ways we can work on our language learning this year.

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The UK’s Most common New Year’s resolutions

Source: ComRes poll

  1. Exercise more (38 per cent)
  2. Lose weight (33 per cent)
  3. Eat more healthily (32 per cent)
  4. Take a more active approach to health (15 per cent)
  5. Learn a new skill or hobby (15 per cent)
  6. Spend more time on personal wellbeing (12 per cent)
  7. Spend more time with family and friends (12 per cent)
  8. Drink less alcohol (12 per cent)
  9. Stop smoking (9 per cent)
  10. Other (1 per cent)

www.telegraph.co.uk/wellbeing/health-advice/common-new-years-resolutions-stick/

www.theweek.co.uk/80420/the-most-common-new-year-resolutions-and-who-has-stuck-to-them

Making New Year’s Resolutions about Language Learning

We don’t usually stick to our new year’s resolutions. I think it helps to make one resolution which is quite specific.

There are a lot of things I would like to achieve this year but I’ve decided to focus on my French because I’ve neglected it.

Stop making excuses, release the pressure and enjoy it.

I want to improve my French because it’s still not good enough, even though I live in France.

As I often say, my French isn’t doing very well but my excuses are improving all the time.

So, as ever I plan to stop making excuses and to apply my own knowledge about language learning to my learning of French. Olly Richards’ advice from episode 332 still stands of course, and we know it to be true:

  • Add little bits of language learning practice into your daily routine and make it a habit.
  • With regular, habitual practice your learning will progress properly.
  • Then you can build on those habits and spend more and more time per day.

I’m pretty embarrassed by my lack of French and so I have to pull my finger out. It just shows, and we already know this, that learning a language doesn’t happen magically, that you also have to use specific techniques, work at it, do it regularly and be organised.

I should do an episode all about my French and I plan to.

My specific aim for my French this year is to read graphic novels in French, like this one. (pics)

Some suggestions for resolutions about English

It’s important to start the year in a positive and determined way and then keep it up! Not many of us maintain our resolutions.

Maybe we should to maintain our resolutions for 3 months, and then revisit them, making new ones or reestablishing the old ones. So, perhaps at about Easter we can evaluate them.

I encourage you to make some resolutions about your English. Just choose to do one thing on a regular basis and make it a habit. You could write about it in the comment section.

Another idea is to get a Netflix account and switch on the subtitles. Then get addicted to a show (e.g. The Crown) and before you know it you’ll have binge watched 10 hours of TV in English while noticing all the language in the subtitles.

You could keep your vocab notebook with you to note down new words, or note them down in your phone. Perhaps you could use the voice recorder on your phone to record yourself saying some sentences with those new words and then at the end of the month you review them all and listen to yourself saying the words and phrases – in some sort of meaningful sentences. That could be a great way of teaching yourself some language.

Remember that when you’re practising language, like new words or expressions, to use meaningful examples. Make sentences that are expressions of your real opinion or which are about something important to you. You might find the words stick more easily that way.

Think about one area of your English that you need to improve and focus on that this year. For example if you need to improve your writing in particular, try getting a book on email writing (e.g. Email English by Paul Emmerson) or if you have a job interview coming up consider getting some italki lessons specifically to practise interview scenarios.

There are plenty of other ideas that you could come up with. Feel free to share some ideas in the comment section if you like.

Thanks for listening. Speak to you soon.

Luke

416. What was the most popular episode of LEP in 2016? + more podcast statistics

Here is an overview of how 2016 was for Luke’s English Podcast including some details about the top 5 episodes, the top 20 countries, and more statistics for the last 12 months.

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Plenty of people said that 2016 was a pretty crap year, mainly because of what happened in politics but also because of the number of well-loved celebrities that we lost. But it was a pretty good year for LEP.

In fact 2016 was the best year ever for this podcast.

It got nominated for a BC Elton award, and I’ve had more listens this year than in previous years. In fact the figures have been going up steadily since I started the podcast. For some reason the downloads shot up in September and continued to climb, reaching a peak in December.

Here are some stats for you

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 16.00.14

Top Countries in 2016

  1. China
  2. Russia
  3. Japan
  4. United Kingdom
  5. Spain
  6. South Korea
  7. Poland
  8. Germany
  9. Ukraine
  10. United States
  11. Italy
  12. Brazil
  13. Australia
  14. France
  15. Turkey
  16. Vietnam
  17. Taiwan
  18. Czech Republic
  19. Thailand
  20. Canada

Thanks for listening!

Why do you think episodes 396, 398, 337, 409 and 392 are the most popular of 2016?

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 16.00.14

 

 

Also, what’s your favourite episode?

415. With the Family (Part 3) More Encounters with Famous People

Here’s the final part in this trilogy of episodes recorded at my parents’ house on Boxing Day. In this one my mum, dad and brother tell us a few more anecdotes about their encounters with some well-known people.

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Introduction Transcript + some ad-libs

The conversation you’re about to hear was recorded with my family on the same day as the last couple of episodes. It was quite late in the evening, after my uncle and aunt had gone home and after dinner and number drinks had been consumed. Picture a very warm and cosy living room with a wood burning stove going in the background.

After listening to Nic describing his encounters with some famous rock stars earlier in the day, the other members of my family wanted to get in on the action too with their stories about brushing shoulders with the stars. So here are a few other anecdotes from my dad, my brother and my mum.

It turns out that my family have met some genuine legends. I didn’t even realise that a couple of these things had happened. You’ll have to wait and see who they are. But here are some slightly cryptic clues.

Can you guess which people I’m talking about?

  • One of the UK’s favourite authors who wrote a series of beloved books which have also been made into successful films.
  • A British comic actor who likes eating ice-creams and fighting zombies, criminals and aliens, in his movies (not real life of course).
  • A small but very important woman who often appears in public but is also a very private person.
  • A nonagenarian who once said that he was “the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” A nonagenerian is someone in their nineties – also, septuagenarian (70s) and octogenarian (80s).

There are others too, including an American punk rock star with lots of tattoos and muscles, a Shakespearean actor who has become a successful film director and an actor who had a bit part in the British TV series The Office.

I should perhaps remind you of several other anecdotes which you might have heard on this podcast before, which are mentioned in this conversation.

Anyway, you can now sit back and enjoy some more time with The Thompsons.

***

Outro Transcript + ad-libs

Funny, isn’t he? My brother. I would like him to be on the podcast more often, if he’s up for it. The thing is that he’s a bit modest really and isn’t the sort of outgoing person who likes to broadcast his thoughts and opinions over the internet, although he obviously should because he’s got a lot to offer. He ought to do a podcast or something like that, right? He does have a YouTube channel but it’s mainly skateboarding. www.youtube.com/user/VideoDaze/videos

*All the background music in this episode was also made by James*

The people mentioned in this episode

If you liked this one, try listening to these ones

79. Family Arguments and Debates

322. With The Thompsons

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Narrative Tenses / Four Anecdotes

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414. With the Family (Part 2) My Uncle Met a Rock Star

Listen to my uncle Nic telling some stories about British rock stars he has met over the years, including an encounter with one of the most famous musicians in the world!

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Introduction (transcript)

In this episode I’m going to play you another conversation which I recorded during the recent Christmas holiday. In this one you’re going to hear my brother and me talking to our uncle Nic about some of the amazing rock stars that he’s met over the years.

Nic has always been a huge fan of rock music and because he was born in the early 1950s he saw many of Britain’s greatest rock stars performing live on stage quite early in their careers. I’m talking about the late 1960s, throughout the 70s and beyond.

So, Nic has met a lot of musicians at gigs but he also just has a knack for bumping into rock stars in normal everyday situations and then being very cool, calm and casual in their company. It’s almost like they’re on the same wavelength or something.

Anyway, my brother and I have always enjoyed hearing Nic’s anecdotes and I’m very glad to have recorded some of those stories for this podcast.

If you’re a fan of rock music, especially some of the classic bands of the 60s and 70s then I’m sure you’re going to be impressed by some of the people my uncle has met, talked to, and even had breakfast with.

And there is one person in particular that he once bumped into – who is not only a bonafide legend of the music world, but also just one of the most famous people on the planet today. Any idea who that is? Well, to find out just listen on.

So, here’s a chat with my Uncle Nic, with some help from James.

I say “help” from James, what I mean is that he just takes over the interview at one point because he thinks he can do a better job than me, and maybe he’s right. Anyway, that’s enough rambling… here’s the conversation.

***

Thank you very much to Uncle Nic and belated happy birthday to him too.

Let us know what you think, and which one you think is the most impressive story. Because they are impressive stories, aren’t they. Come on! Paul McCartney of The Beatles. Pink Floyd! Fast Eddie from Motorhead!

I realise there will be people out there who don’t really know a lot of the people we were talking about. I’m sure you know Paul McCartney, but you might not know The Who, Motorhead, Pink Floyd (hard to imagine), The Damned, Slade…

And I’m sure there are others too, not necessarily in the toilet but in other situations, but who knows.

VIDEOS

The Who – Pete Townshend, Keith Moon, Roger Daltry, John Entwistle

Motorhead – “Fast Eddie” & Lemmy

Free “All Right Now” live at The Isle of White Festival (1970)

Paul McCartney & Wings “Junior’s Farm” (Nic’s favourite)

Pink Floyd recorded at Live 8, Hyde Park in 2005

Slade in 1973

The Damned

Have you ever met a famous musician? Let us know in the comment section.

audience-868074_1280

413. With The Family (Part 1) Mum’s Cooking + Vocabulary (with Uncle Nic)

Happy New Year! I hope you’re well! Here’s the first episode of LEP in 2017 featuring a conversation with my family and then some vocabulary explanations.

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spoken_full_logo_transparentThis episode is sponsored by Spoken – to get 2 free lessons and 20% off all their courses, click here: www.getspoken.com/lep  

Introduction

I had a lovely Christmas and New Year. We played games, ate loads of food, went to the pub, took walks and generally had a good time with each other, as planned.

My uncle Nic (my mum’s younger brother) and my auntie Rose (Nic’s wife) were with us too, which was really nice because it’s always great to spend time with them, and I’m glad to say that I managed to get Nic on the podcast, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for ages because he’s great and he has some good stories to tell, as you will hear.

I didn’t get a chance to do a lot of recording with my family because it was the holiday period and I didn’t want to stick microphones in people’s faces too much.

But on Boxing Day I managed to do some recordings with my uncle, my mum, my brother and my dad.

I’m going to play those recordings to you over the course of the next two episodes.

In this episode you’ll hear these things:

  • My mum and my uncle talking about specific methods of cooking a really good Christmas dinner
  • Some vocabulary explanations – because there are loads of good words and phrases relating to cooking and food preparation, and also some other general bits of vocab that crop up in the conversation that are worth learning.
  • A bit of rambling at the end of the episode about the holiday period, including a quick report about the Christmas Olympic games that my Dad organised for us and some other bits and pieces

Part 1 (overview)

We start with James and Uncle Nic talking about how early in the morning it is, because we recorded this before breakfast on Boxing Day. This is probably the first pre-breakfast podcast I’ve ever done.
My wife accidentally spills some coffee down the back of one of the armchairs in the living room and you’ll hear that there’s a bit of commotion and disturbance in the background as people run around and she desperately tries to clean it up.
My uncle and I ask my mum about the secret to cooking a succulent, moist turkey, which apparently is done using a process called basting.
My uncle expresses some concern about the cleanliness of the microphone covers I’m using, asking if they have been sterilized, and that leads to a slight tangent about Health & Safety in the workplace.
We then get back to talking about my mum’s turkey technique with some explanations of exactly how to make sure the meat stays moist all the way through the cooking process. Moist is the key word here obviously, as the word is repeated a few times until my brother interrupts by shouting “stop saying moist!”
We then turn to the vegetables and go on a bit about how my Mum prepared the sprouts, carrots, potatoes and parsnips. There are a couple of other interruptions from James, including a joke about the secret of comedy and then an explosive sneeze. Throughout all of this my wife is still rushing around in the background and searching the internet for “how to get coffee stains out of an armchair”.
We talk briefly about the complications of preparing Christmas lunch with a vegetarian at the table, as my auntie Rose is a veggie.
Talk then turns naturally to sweet food and my uncle Nic expresses some disappointment about the lack of a traditional Christmas pudding at the table the evening before.
Finally, my Auntie Rose arrives in the room and sits in the chair that my wife spilled coffee onto, but thankfully my wife has already managed to clean it all up, without my help, there’s no evidence of a spillage, so it looks like my wife got away with it.

So, now you can actually listen to that conversation as it happened and when it’s over I’ll go through some of the vocabulary in more detail so you can not only understand everything my family say but also so you can actually learn loads of vocabulary properly and add it to your active English.

Conversation extract starts
Conversation extract ends

That was quite a short bit of conversation, wasn’t it! By the usual standards of LEP, it was quite short. But there’s more coming in the next episode.

Vocabulary

I said before that I would go through some of the words and phrases in that conversation in order to help to boost your learning process.

A lot of phrases related to specific ways of cooking and preparing food were in there. There were also lots of other nice bits of vocab too.

So, this is the language section of the podcast. As I am explaining the vocabulary, you can think about these things:

  • Did you notice these words and phrases while you listened?
  • Did you already know them or are they new to you?
  • Did you misunderstand or mishear any of them?
  • What other words go with these words? Try to notice words in groups, chunks or phrases.
  • How exactly are these words and phrases pronounced? How is the pronunciation different from the spelling. Remember to check the page for the episode to see the words written down in order to check their spelling.
  • After my help, would you be able to use these words in your own conversations?
  • And will you use these expressions? That’s a question, but also a request! I wonder if you will use them, and I suggest that you use them too because that’s how you will make them a part of your active vocabulary.

As I’m going through this list you can test your knowledge – see if you really know these words and phrases properly.
You could repeat some of this language after me as well. Do some shadowing.
And I suggest that after listening to me explain all this vocab that you go back and listen to that conversation extract again, try to notice the vocabulary when you hear it and see how much more you understand.

Vocabulary List

You can tell what time it is based on the rapidity of his response. (rapid – adj / rapidly – adv / rapidity – noun)
My wife’s just spilled/spilt tea all over the armchair.
To spill / spilt / spilt (UK spelling)
To spill / spilled / spilled (US spelling)
A spillage (noun)
The secret to a succulent, moist turkey is basting.
Succulent (adj) = tender, juicy and tasty (for meat)
Moist (adj) = slightly wet (can be used to describe food, e.g. moist turkey or moist cake, but it also can describe anything else which is slightly wet and for that reason the word is a bit suggestive and rude-sounding)
Moist / moisture / moisturise
Paul Foot – Moist Cake bit. Essentially he’s making the observation that when someone serves you some home-made cake you have to compliment the person by saying how moist it is! Even if it’s not that moist. “Oh, this cake is so moist! How did you get it so moist!” There’s social etiquette which dictates that you have to compliment the person on how moist their cake is, and you have to do it quite quickly. “Mmm, it’s lovely this cake – so moist! How did you get it so lovely and moist! Whenever I make cake it’s so dry! I’m an awful cook, but your cake is so moist!” – it’s polite to compliment the person who made the cake.

A ladle (noun) / to ladle (verb)
They make a heck of a din. (the bells)
A hell of a …
A heck of a …
A din = a loud and unpleasant noise
“You’ll be the judge of that” – a way to emphasise that someone has to make their own judgement about something.
Also: “I’ll be the judge of that” – used to express some anger while saying “I will make that judgement – not you!” e.g. “I make the best tea in London”, “We’ll I’ll be the judge of that!”
Have these microphone covers been sterilised?
To sterilise something (verb)
Health & Safety legislation
Fire extinguishers are in good order.
To trip over the carpet.
To sue you for a lot of money. To sue the shop.
Line the dish with lots of foil and then put some turkey stock in the base of the dish.
Giblets
Sprouts
She sliced the sprouts.
I saw it in a recipe book.
It cuts the cooking time down.
Stove / oven / cooker / cook
Oven = a large metal device with a door in which you cook food at high temperature.
Stove = an oven, with gas or electric hobs on the top where you can cook things over heat
It’s also something which heats your room. You burn wood and coal in it. E.g. a wood-buring stove in the living room.
Cooker = a device which cooks things – it can be an oven, a stove, or just an electric pot, slow cooker etc.
“What’s the secret of comedy?” …Timing.
Parsnips (root vegetable)
“Tatties and neeps” (Scotland) = potatoes and parsnips
You have to parboil them, drain the water off, roast them in hot oil in the oven (just a little bit).
You mean like, deep-fry them?
No, just roast them.
In the last minute rush and fluster I forgot about the potatoes.
Gill took it upon herself to do poached pears and caramelised oranges.
She’s sitting in the chair that Luke’s wife spilt coffee on so it might be a wee bit damp.
wee = little (typical word in Scotland)

In forthcoming episodes…

More conversations with my family, including some anecdotes about meeting famous people – with stories about meeting members of the royal family, some legends of TV comedy and perhaps the biggest rock and roll star on the planet right now. Who do you think that is? Well, my uncle met him once. You can hear that story and others in an upcoming episode.

Also on the podcast soon I’m hoping to record a ramble about some general stuff that happened over the Christmas period, including some words about a few books I received as presents, some comments about the well-loved celebrities that we lost in 2016 including, notably Carrie Fisher and George Michael during the Christmas holiday. We lost some great people at regular intervals during the year. Let’s hope 2017 doesn’t continue that trend.
Also, I’ve seen Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I will be doing a full episode about that too.

So, brace yourselves, more podcasts are coming!

But for now – GOODBYE!

Background music – JukeDeck – make your own tunes at www.jukedeck.com

412. British Festivals and Holidays (Part 2)

Here’s part 2 of this episode all about special days and celebrations in the UK throughout the year. Below you will find a transcript and videos.

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May
1st and 29th – Bank holidays. There are two Mondays in May when people have the day off work or school and (if we’re lucky!) spend some time outdoors enjoying the spring sunshine. The first bank holiday in May is known as the May Day holiday and it is vaguely associated with workers rights (like Labour Day) although this is not expressly stated as the purpose of the day. As I said earlier – officially all bank holidays were set up to give workers some time off.

The second May bank Holiday is known as the Spring Bank Holiday or the Late May Bank Holiday and this one is associated with the beginning of Summer. It always lands on the last Monday of May and often there’s good weather. Typically what happens on this day is that people are surprised by the good weather which leads to a feeling of optimism about the coming summer. People say things like “Ah, summer’s going to be great – let’s have barbecues!” and then they wait for summer to arrive and they wait and wait, and it stays cloudy and rainy, and they wait and it rains and they wait all the way until late September before realising that Summer is over and the week of sunshine we had at the beginning was all we were going to get, and then suddenly at the end of September the sun comes back and we have what’s known as an Indian summer – that’s a late summer.

Usually at the end of May we have the F.A. Cup Final – that’s England’s most traditional football cup and it’s pretty special because all the teams in all the leagues get to play each other and the final happens at Wembley Stadium, and it’s usually pretty sunny when it happens.

Also throughout May you can check out the Brighton Fringe Festival. It’s a great time to visit Brighton, which is just one hour from London and is on the south coast of England – so you can enjoy the seaside (even though the beach is made of stones not sand) and all the attractions of an English seaside resort. In the festival there are comedy shows and other attractions and most of it is free. I did a few podcasts from the Brighton Fringe a few years ago when I was performing comedy there. You can check those episodes out here:
teacherluke.co.uk/2012/06/07/brighton-fringe-festival-1/
teacherluke.co.uk/2012/06/17/brighton-fringe-festival-2/
teacherluke.co.uk/2012/06/29/brighton-fringe-festival-3/

Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling

June

13th – The Queen’s Official Birthday. Although the Queen’s real birthday is on the 21st of April, it has been a tradition since 1748 to celebrate the king or queen’s birthday in June.

A military parade known as Trooping the Colour is held in London, attended by the Royal Family. I think the reason the monarch’s official birthday is marked in June is simply because there’s a better chance of good weather for the military parade. It’s as simple as that.

19th – Father’s Day. Father’s Day is a day to show appreciation to fathers, grandfathers, stepfathers and fathers-in-law. Many people in the UK give their father a card or gift, have a meal together or go out for drinks. We don’t do it in my family! This is probably because of a feminist idea that men already have plenty of days and blah blah blah.

21st – Summer solstice – midsummer’s eve – the longest night of the year. The ancient monument of Stonehenge in Wiltshire has its true moment in the sun on this day as people celebrate the longest day and shortest night of the year. Stand inside the monument facing northeast, toward a stone outside the circle called the Heel Stone, and you’ll see the sun rise like a blazing fire – a sight that brings in pagans and sun-lovers of all beliefs! In fact, there’s usually some sort of pagan celebration at Stonehenge on this evening. Everywhere else we just enjoy a really long evening, with long shadows and light until about 11pm or more. Summers in the UK are fantastic for long days and despite what I said earlier about barbecues we do have some wonderful weather sometimes, and I have good memories of these never-ending summers with days that just went on forever. Sitting in a pub garden all evening on the 21st is a particular pleasure.

Wed 21st to Sun 25th – Glastonbury Festival
This is the biggest music festival in Europe and is now one of the most important music festivals in the world. Every year about 200,000 people travel to a farm in Glastonbury in the Somerset countryside not far from Stonehenge in the South West of England. It used to be a hippy music festival a bit like Woodstock. These days it’s a place to check out music and all kinds of other performance art, and all the biggest bands of the moment perform there. It tends to be headlined by the biggest names in music. Recently we’ve had groups like The Rolling Stones, Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young, Beyonce and Kanye West headlining the event. The BBC usually cover Glastonbury throughout the festival. In 2017 one of the headliners will be Radiohead. We don’t know who is going to headline on Saturday yet – it might be Guns & Roses, Rihanna, The Stone Roses, The Foo Fighters, Ed Sheeran – the list of speculations goes on.

I’ve never been to Glasto, but I almost always watch it on TV and I have to say it’s often a bit of a disappointing experience, probably due to the poor sound quality you get through recording a live concert and putting it on TV. It completely lacks the power and punch that you get from seeing someone live. It just sounds like you can’t hear the drums properly and it all sounds weak and clinical sounding. There’s nothing like seeing music live and I think to really enjoy Glasto you need to be there, soaking up the atmosphere, up to your knees in muck. I expect it’s not what it used to be.
Here’s a podcast episode about music festivals from the archives teacherluke.co.uk/2009/10/20/summer-music-festivals/

Link to the biggest music festivals www.festicket.com/magazine/top-20-music-festivals-in-the-uk/

26th – Eid. Marking the end of the month-long fast of Ramadan, Eid is widely celebrated by Muslim communities in the UK. Each community usually organises its own events, but there are some large celebrations and feasts in city centres, such as in London and Birmingham. I’ve never been part of an Eid celebration but I remember when I worked in London that a lot of my students fasted during Ramadan, and then disappeared completely during the Eid celebrations! I wonder what it is like to go without food during the daylight hours – it must be pretty hard. I know that fasting is an important part of Islam (one of the 5 pillars of Islam) and it’s all about abstaining from earthly and material pleasures and focusing on prayer and a sort of spiritual detox. It must be a big celebration when it’s over and you can eat during the day again!

July

Monday 3 July – Sunday 16 July – Wimbledon Tennis Championships. Wimbledon, the world’s oldest tennis tournament, is a summer highlight for sports fans. Held at the All England Club in London since 1877, Wimbledon is known for the tennis players’ white dress code and the tradition for spectators to eat strawberries and cream. For me this is usually something you watch in the evenings while eating summer food like a melon or something. It’s also another opportunity to be disappointed by British sportsmen, although Andy Murray did win in 2013 and this year too. Well done Andy.

Also during the summer we have cricket test matches going on. A test match is one game of cricket that happens as part of a test series. So, a series is 5 matches, and the series goes on throughout the summer – it can take a couple of months for a series to be completed. Each test match lasts up to 5 days. The biggest rivalry we have is with Australia and we regularly play a test match series against the Aussies called The Ashes – it’s been going for decades and it’s a big deal if you like cricket. You might think that 5 days is rather long for a game (and yes they pretty much play all day – from about 10AM until the light fails in the evening – they even stop for tea in the afternoon) but it’s really great when there’s a test match going on because you can keep up with it during the day (just quickly check the scores or listen to it on the radio here and there) and then watch the highlights of the day’s play on the telly in the evening. I should do a whole episode about cricket.

August

Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 4-26 August 2017 (5th–29th August 2016). The largest arts festival in the world, ‘the Fringe’ features over 40,000 performances and more than 2,500 shows at 250 venues. Any type of performance may participate, across theatre, comedy, music and dance, and many students visit Edinburgh to put on their own shows. For more, read our Edinburgh Festivals guide.

296. Learning Comedy is like Learning a Language

374. Alex’s Edinburgh Fringe Report

Notting Hill Carnival. August Bank Holiday Weekend – last weekend of August (27-28th August 2016) Held in west London over a bank holiday weekend, Notting Hill Carnival is Europe’s biggest street festival. Around 1 million people go to see colourful floats and dancers in flamboyant costumes, hear music from salsa to reggae, and taste Caribbean food from street stalls. Bring your party spirit, enough cash and a lot of patience – it can be very crowded.

Check it out – I did a video podcast about Notting Hill Carnival.

September

18-20th Sept 2017 (16th–20th 2016) London Fashion Week. London Fashion Week sets the global fashion agenda, alongside the other big shows in Paris, Milan and New York. These fashion shows during fashion week are mainly for industry insiders, but you can get tickets to London Fashion Weekend for a taste of the fashion show experience. There are two each year – the first London Fashion Week is in February (3rd weekend). Students get involved too, with events including student and graduate showcases and networking opportunities.

October

31st – Halloween. The modern way of celebrating Halloween is based on the Christian feast of All Hallows’ Eve and the Celtic festival of Samhain. Children go trick-or-treating (knocking on neighbours’ doors to ask for sweets) or carve pumpkins, while older students go to parties and Halloween events at pubs, clubs or Students’ Unions. The important thing is to dress up as gruesomely as you dare!

November

All month – Movember. If you’re seeing more moustaches than usual, you’re not imagining it – throughout November, the charity campaign of Movember invites men to grow a moustache and raise awareness of men’s health issues. It’s a bit annoying and I don’t really know why.

5th – Bonfire night. Historically, this marks the anniversary of Guy Fawkes’ plot to blow up the House of Lords and assassinate King James I in 1605 – the failed ‘gunpowder plot’ is remembered in the children’s rhyme ‘Remember, remember the 5th of November; gunpowder, treason and plot’. Today, it is commemorated with spectacular displays of fireworks.

There will be firework displays in most cities, but one of the best places to be is in the medieval town of Lewes, East Sussex – here, the fireworks are accompanied by colourful parades, music, costumes and the traditional ‘guy’, an effigy made of straw or paper to burn on the bonfire.

Find out more in my episode about Guy Fawkes Night. teacherluke.co.uk/2016/11/05/from-the-archives-halloween-guy-fawkes-night-5th-november/

11th – Remembrance Day. Each year in the UK, 11 November  is a memorial day to honour  those who lost their lives in battle – especially during World War 1, so many peace campaigners also support the event. The Royal British Legion charity sells paper poppy flowers to raise funds for veterans and their families (the poppy is a symbol of Remembrance Day), and it is customary to observe a two-minute silence at 11am. Around this time it’s common to see people wearing red poppies on their shirt or jacket. In TV studios they have boxes of poppies on hand so that nobody appears on TV without one, which would not be a good idea because it would make you look disrespectful.

30th – St Andrew’s Day (Scotland). Honouring its patron saint, St Andrew’s Day is Scotland’s national day. There are many events across Scotland, including traditional meals, poetry readings, bagpipe music and country dancing. This is a great opportunity to go to a ceilidh – a party with Gaelic folk music and dancing. Fortunately, there is usually a ‘dance caller’ to teach the steps! I’ve never done it, but apparently this is a thing in Scotland!

Thurs Oct 19 2017 – Diwali. Diwali (or Deepavali) is the Festival of Lights for Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities. Cities including Leicester (which hosts one of the biggest Diwali celebrations outside India), London and Nottingham have extravagant street parties with traditional food, music, crafts and dancing – and of course, displays of lights, lanterns, candles and fireworks.

December

Throughout December, there are loads of winter markets and festive visitor attractions across the UK. Look out for events advertised in local magazines like TimeOut!

Winter Wonderland in London’s Hyde Park. In addition to a traditional Christmas market, this huge site features carnival rides, two circuses, an ice skating rink, fake snow and an exhibition of ice sculptures… and enough hot chocolate and mulled wine to keep you warm.

Jamie Oliver’s Mulled Wine recipe www.jamieoliver.com/recipes/recipe/jamie-s-mulled-wine/

Hogwarts in the Snow, a wintry version of the Harry Potter tour at Warner Bros. Studios in Leavesden (near London). Watch snow fall over the original model of Hogwarts castle, and see the Great Hall set for Christmas dinner.

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market, the largest German market outside Germany and Austria, complete with glühwein (mulled wine), wursts (sausages), pretzels and sweet treats. You can also shop for unique gifts from local artists at the Craft Fair.

The winter festival at the Eden Project in Cornwall. Usually an educational ecology park, in December the Eden Project is transformed with Christmas trees, a choir, real reindeer and an ice rink, with ice skating classes for all ages.

Belfast’s Christmas Market. If you’re studying in Northern Ireland, visit the multicultural market outside Belfast’s City Hall for festive food and drink from around the world, crafts, gifts and Christmas decorations.

Pantomimes. The traditional Christmas ‘panto’ is a mix of slapstick comedy and musical theatre, with silly costumes and audience participation. Pantomimes are usually for children, but it’s worth seeing one for a uniquely British experience.

24th–1st Jan – Hanukkah. Jewish communities across the UK will be celebrating Hanukkah (Chanukah), the Festival of Lights. In London, the Menorah in Trafalgar Square is the largest in Europe. It’s usually lit by the Mayor of London on the first day of Hanukkah, at an event with free doughnuts and live music.

25th – Christmas. Most people in the UK celebrate Christmas, even if they are not religious. There will be Christmas trees, presents, carol singing, mulled wine (warm, spiced red wine), mince pies (small pies with a sweet fruit filling) and if it snows, snowmen and snowball fights! The traditional Christmas dinner is a whole roast turkey with roast potatoes, vegetables, gravy and Christmas pudding for dessert.

26th – Boxing Day. The day after Christmas is called Boxing Day, and is a bank holiday in the UK. It’s believed to have been named after the ‘Christmas box’ of money or gifts which employers used to give to servants and tradesmen. Nowadays, there are no particular Boxing Day customs, but most people spend the day with their families, going for a walk, watching sports or eating the Christmas leftovers.

Other festivals

May 4th is unofficially Star Wars day, just because of the date “May the fourth be with you”. I think some Star Wars fans get together and there might be special screenings but as far as I can see it’s just a chance to post something on Facebook wishing everyone a happy Star Wars day.

A listener to this podcast wanted me to mention Sea Odyssey: Giant Spectacular – a kind of street theatre event that happens sometimes in Liverpool. That looks fantastic.

There are many arts festivals too, where you can sample literature, theatre, arts & craft, dance and poetry. Click here to read more about arts festivals www.artsfestivals.co.uk/festival-details

411. British Festivals and Holidays (Part 1)

Here’s an episode all about special days and celebrations in the British calendar. You’ll hear cultural information about holidays and customs, and some pronunciation work on how to say dates and the months of the year. Transcript and videos below.

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Introduction

This episode is being recorded before Christmas. I’m going to upload it sometime around Boxing Day I think. You’re probably listening during the Christmas period or the new year period. I hope you’re having a lovely time wherever you are and whatever you’re doing.

This episode is all about British festivals and holidays that occur throughout the year. Let’s look ahead to the coming year of 2017 and see what kinds of things Brits will be doing for certain special occasions.

I’m recording this because at some point earlier this year I got a message from a listener challenging me to talk about all the major British festivals and holidays in one episode and I said “challenge accepted”, and so now, finally, here is that episode! I don’t remember your name – I’m sorry! But here it is ok! The thing is – the challenge was to do it all in one episode and I have a feeling this is more than one episode because I’ve got lots of things to say about this!

The UK calendar is absolutely full of festivals of many kinds. In fact, there are festivals and special days in every month of the year. These festivals mark various special occasions connected to the passing of the seasons, important historical or religious events and significant people in the UK.

In this episode let’s explore those main festivals and public holidays, in rather fast style.

I’m from England, so my version might be a bit Anglo-centric, but I have tried to include a variety of festivals and not just the ones that seem significant to me as an individual.

This episode should be a great little journey through the UK calendar, and it should help you learn some more British culture. Also we’re going to look at how to pronounce the months, dates and days in British English.

So, without further ado, let’s get cracking! Here’s our whistle-stop tour of British festivals and holidays.

So, there are public holidays – days of statutory leave – days off given to us by law, and these are generally known as bank holidays, and there are festivals. Not every festival is a holiday.

So, bank holidays and festivals.

Bank Holidays
If you’ve lived in the UK you’ll know that a bank holiday is usually a wonderful, wonderful thing in theory. They usually happen on a Monday and sometimes on other days, but usually on a Monday. So a bank holiday is a long weekend. They’re usually associated with an old religious occasion or some other important reason for the state.

Three of these bank holidays take place in the summer, so everyone imagines they will be out in the garden having a barbecue or in the park having a picnic or something. In reality they probably involve getting caught in the rain in some way, perhaps while attempting to have a barbecue in the garden or picnic in the park or something.

Having our public holidays on Mondays is a great thing though, because it means you get a day off, and a long weekend. Shops and services are sometimes closed, which can be a bit annoying, but less so these days – in fact the shops tend to do quite well on a bank holiday weekend and so they stay open. So it can be a good day to go out shopping.

Banks are closed though, which can be a bit of a pain in the neck if you need to use your day off work to get something done at the bank.

These public holidays are originally called Bank Holidays because in 1871 certain days were designated in law as being days on which no financial transactions should take place, just like on Christmas Day. I suppose this was to give workers a few guaranteed days off a year – so that they didn’t get completely exhausted working in factories every day of the year. These days people have more statutory paid holidays – in fact everyone is entitled to 5.6 weeks of paid holiday per year. That may or may not include the bank holidays – it’s up to the employer. At the last company I worked for in London we had to work on bank holidays, which sucked a lot. While all my other friends were out attempting to have barbecues and getting caught in the rain, I was teaching English. But, it was a good school to work for so they allowed us to take our bank holidays as ‘days in lieu’ – days off which replaced the bank holidays that we worked. I would always take all my days in lieu during quiet periods at the school in December so I could do all my Christmas shopping.

These so-called Bank Holidays are scattered throughout the year, and they’ve been arranged to land on Mondays, corresponding to certain periods or events in the year.

So, instead of having specific dates, our holidays are matched to Mondays in the year, unlike in France where the public holidays always arrive on the same date – even if it’s a Saturday or Sunday (nightmare). Sometimes public holidays in France land on a Tuesday or Thursday and a lot of people ‘do the bridge’ which means that they take the Monday or Friday off as well, and enjoy a massive long weekend. If that happens, it seems the country grinds to a halt because everyone’s gone on holiday for most of the week.

We have 7 bank holidays in the year in the UK. A bank holiday weekend is a truly wonderful thing about life in the UK. It’s a long weekend, and you’re always guaranteed to get it. There are two in May, which makes that month a particularly good one in the UK. It’s normal to celebrate by having a barbecue or a party, or just going out and having fun in the sunshine.

Upcoming bank holidays in England and Wales

2017

2 January – Monday – New Year’s Day (substitute day) (if it falls on a weekend, they give you the next Monday off, which is nice)
14 April – Friday – Good Friday
17 April – Monday – Easter Monday (Easter is a fantastic 4-day weekend)
1 May – Monday – Early May bank holiday (it’s also called May Day and probably originates from Roman celebrations of the beginning of the summer period – in some countries there is Labour Day on 1 May, which celebrates the rights of workers, but we don’t do Labour Day – instead ours is the early May bank holiday – I think this is because the whole concept of bank holidays covers essentially the same purpose as Labour Day)
29 May – Monday – Spring bank holiday (This is also called the late May bank holiday and is connected to Pentecost – in fact it’s the first Monday after Pentecost. What’s Pentecost? It’s the Christian festival celebrating the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples of Jesus after his Ascension, held on the seventh Sunday after Easter. So, the first Monday after the seventh Sunday after Easter. Are you following this? Most people just find out from their employer, from the newspapers, friends or from a calendar they probably got for Christmas.
28 August – Monday – Summer bank holiday (Barbecue & disappointment season – it’s there to mark the end of the summer holidays)
25 December – Monday – Christmas Day
26 December – Tuesday – Boxing Day (Again, if Christmas Day or Boxing Day land on a weekend, then they give you the next available days off –  like in 2016 when you get a day off on the 27 because 25 landed on a Sunday)

How to say months and dates

In a moment I’m going to go through festivals and days of celebration or commemoration which happen in every month during the year.

Before I do that – let’s look at the pronunciation of the months of the year. I know you did this at school but I’m often surprised at how people still pronounce the months wrong. So just repeat the months of the year with me and think about how you’re saying them. Think about vowel sounds, the number of syllables and which syllable is stressed.

Let’s go. January – February – March – April – May – June – July – August – September – October – November – December

Also, let’s consider the way we say dates in the UK.

Day first and then month.

When we write we just add the number then the month. We add the little ‘th’ ‘rd’ or ‘st’ as well next to the number, but you don’t always have to. So we write 21 December or 21st December.

But when you say a date you have to remember to add the before the number, the ordinal – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th etc and also of.

So it’s the 21st of December.

What’s the date today?

It’s the 21st of December.

In America they don’t know what they’re doing, so they put the month first.

Just joking, it’s fine. For the Americans they start with the month and don’t always include of.

“It’s December 21st” for example.

“What’s the date Mom? It’s December 21st, honey.”

Tell me these dates.

What date is Christmas Eve?

What date is Christmas Day?

What date is New Year’s Eve?

What date is New Year’s Day?

What date is Valentine’s Day?

What date is St Patrick’s Day? (17 March)

What date is your birthday?

What date is the summer solstice?

What date is Halloween?

What date is it today?

Festivals Throughout the Year

The following information is based on an article by the British Council, although I have paraphrased quite a lot and added quite a lot of stuff. Click here to read the full article where you can read more about each festival www.educationuk.org/global/articles/festivals-and-holidays/#january

Here’s a list of the festivals and celebrations throughout the year in the UK. This list includes traditional events, sporting events and I’ve also included some major music festivals in the UK – and if you spend some time in the UK I really recommend that you go to a music festival, they’re usually a lot of fun as long as it doesn’t rain!

January

1st – New Year’s Day. On New Year’s Eve (31 December), it is traditional to celebrate midnight with your friends or family and to sing ‘Auld lang syne’, a folk song with words by the Scottish poet Robert Burns, although to be honest I have never ever sung that song in my life! The party can last well into New Year’s Day! Many people make ‘New Year’s resolutions’, promising to achieve a goal or break a bad habit in the coming year. For me, New Year’s Eve is about these things: struggling to plan something to do, going to a house party and getting drunk, going out to a club or something and then having a nightmare getting home (no taxis), freezing cold outside, staying in and drinking wine, watching Jools Holland on the TV, not really wanting to do anything because you’ve already spent the week drinking and eating too much anyway.

In Scotland, the celebration of the new year is called Hogmanay. There are big parties across the country – expect lots of music, dancing, food and fireworks – but Edinburgh hosts some of the biggest.

25th – Burns’ Night (Scotland). This is the birthday of Robert Burns – who is basically the national poet of Scotland. Many Scottish people hold a special supper (dinner) on Burns’ Night, with toasts and readings of his poetry. Men might wear kilts, there may be bagpipe music, and people will almost certainly eat haggis (the traditional Scottish dish of sheeps’ heart, liver and lungs) with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Sounds disgusting? It’s actually pretty tasty. I’ve never been to a Burns Night celebration because I’m English and it’s not our thing, but I bet it’s a lot of fun.

28th – Chinese New Year. Outside Asia, the world’s biggest celebration of Chinese New Year is in London – each year there is a parade through Chinatown in the West End, with free performances of music, dance and acrobatics, a feast of food and fireworks. There are many more events around the UK, so find out what’s on in your area – cities including Manchester, Nottingham, Liverpool and Birmingham usually host colourful street parties.

February

28th – Shrove Tuesday or ‘Pancake Day’. Lent is the traditional Christian period of fasting, which lasts for 40 days. Shrove Tuesday is the day before Lent, when households would traditionally use up their eggs, milk and sugar by making pancakes. Nowadays, even if they are not religious, many people still make and eat pancakes on this day.

Some towns in the UK also hold ‘pancake races’, where contestants toss pancakes in a frying pan while running for the finish line. One of the most famous is in Olney, Buckinghamshire, where it’s believed the first Pancake Day race took place in 1445.

I’ve never been to a pancake race. For me pancake day is all about making your own pancakes, probably ruining the first one because you have to burn one before the pan is ready. My favourite pancakes are just covered in nutella. Far too much nutella.

14th – Valentine’s Day. Historically this was the date of the Feast of St Valentine, nowadays this is a celebration of romance. Many people in the UK go out for dinner with their boyfriends or girlfriends, and give them a Valentine’s card, chocolate or flowers. If you’re single, you might receive an anonymous card from a ‘secret admirer’! For single people, Valentine’s Day can be a bit of a nightmare because you see all these smug couples getting together and going on dates. It can make you feel a bit lonely, or you might just reject it completely and do something totally at odds with the day. But couples can also have a slightly difficult time on Valentine’s Day – usually there’s pressure on the man to come up with some special romantic plan, and generally there is a feeling that Valentine’s Day is a sort of manufactured event by companies and marketing people. It’s actually quite unromantic, and some people just shun it completely, but in my experience if your girlfriend or wife says “Oh you don’t need to do anything for Valentine’s Day” then you definitely DO need to do something. Don’t be fooled by what she says. That also includes birthdays and anniversaries.

March

1st – St David’s Day (Wales). St David is the patron saint of Wales, and March 1 is a celebration of Welsh culture. People in Wales might wear a daffodil and eat a soup of seasonal vegetables and lamb or bacon. I’ve never eaten that in my life and to be honest I’d never ever heard of it, because I’m English. Events are held across Wales, including a large parade in Cardiff. As an English guy I’ve never been part of St David’s Day celebrations. All I remember is some people wearing daffodils at school when I was a kid.

17th – St Patrick’s Day (Northern Ireland). The Feast of St Patrick is a national holiday in Ireland, and is now celebrated by Irish communities all around the world. In the UK, there are St Patrick’s Day events in cities including Birmingham, Nottingham, Manchester and London, as well as Belfast. Many people go out with friends, wearing green or a shamrock symbol (the lucky clover) and drinking Guinness, the Irish dark beer. The tradition is to get completely pissed and wear a massive hat shaped like a Guinness glass or shamrock or some weird combination of the two – a shamrock beer glass hat thing that won’t protect your head against a hangover or any other form of brain damage that you might suffer on this evening as a result of alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, or all three if it’s a really good night.

26th – Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday). Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate motherhood, and to thank mothers for everything they do throughout the year. Many people give their mothers a card or gift, treat them to a day out or cook a meal. I usually send a big bunch of flowers to my Mum and try to make her feel special. It’s the least I can do.

April

1st – April Fools’ Day. For one day of the year, it is acceptable – even encouraged – to play tricks, pranks and practical jokes. Even newspapers, TV and radio shows often feature fake stories on April 1. It’s customary to reveal the joke by saying ‘April fool!’ (the person who falls for the joke is the ‘fool’), and you’re supposed to stop playing tricks at midday. Some famous April fool jokes include ones done by the BBC – like in 1957 when a respected news programme called Panorama broadcasted a report about how spaghetti was harvested from trees in Switzerland.

It showed people climbing ladders to pick spaghetti that was hanging from the trees and collect it in baskets. Needless to say, many Brits were fooled by it.

Other tricks are things like, telling your students they have an emergency test that day, or just changing all the clocks in your house so everyone things they’re late. That kind of thing. It’s all harmless fun, until someone has a terrible accident or someone gets very upset and there’s a huge argument resulting in the end of a relationship or someone getting fired from their job. Just harmless fun.

Here’s that 1957 BBC April Fool’s Joke – check out the old-school heightened RP accent!

14th–17th – Easter weekend. Easter is a Christian holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The date depends on the next full moon after the Vernal equinox (the first day of spring), so the dates change each year. It is always on a Sunday in March or April (called Easter Sunday), and the previous Friday (Good Friday) and following Monday (Easter Monday) are bank holidays. People celebrate Easter in different ways, but many give each other chocolate eggs and eat ‘hot cross buns’ (sweet buns with a cross design), while children decorate eggs or take part in Easter egg hunts. To listen to an episode I’ve already done about this, click here teacherluke.co.uk/2009/04/14/episode-2-easter/

23rd – St George’s Day (England). The legend is that St George was a soldier who killed a dragon to rescue a princess in the middle east somewhere. He is now the patron saint of England, and this is England’s national day. Yes, I don’t understand it either really. You might still see St George’s Cross (a red cross on a white background, England’s national flag) or events with morris dancing (an English folk dance), but it is not a bank holiday and most people don’t hold special celebrations. That’s right – we just don’t really care about St George’s Day. In fact, this is quite interesting as you’ll see that English people are quietly a bit modest about their country. We don’t celebrate the national day, we have some negative associations with our flag (although I’m sure plenty of people would disagree with me – I think it’s true), and we’d rather be patriotic about the UK than about England. Honestly, this is because England has done some pretty naughty things in the past like colonising other countries, going on crusades, smashing up towns after football games, invading our neighbouring countries and tying them into a union with us, then dominating that union with our values – unfortunately these are the values that many people associate with the English flag, and we don’t really know how to celebrate our saint’s day. I think, with Scottish Independence, there are moves to reclaim Englishness from the nationalists, and redefine it, but I feel like whenever someone proudly claims they are English and waves the English flag – it just smells of right-wing nationalism, hooliganism, skinheads, violence and stuff like that. Pity really because there shouldn’t be anything wrong with being English any more, especially if Scotland is given its independence. Also, I guess it is hard for many English people to feel a connection to Saint George considering the story is about a guy who probably wasn’t English anyway – it turns out he was actually born in Turkey and became a Roman soldier – and that confuses us. Still, it is about a knight who killed a dragon which sounds pretty cool.

Here’s a version of the story from a website called “Project Britain” which sounds like it was created by a Brexiteer – but then again my podcast is called “Luke’s English Podcast” which could also sound like a nationalistic right-wing podcast run by the English Defence League or something. You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast and we want England to be back English again! No thanks.

Anyway, here’s a version of the Saint George & The Dragon Story – I have no idea who wrote it or to what extent it is fact checked or even based on anything that actually happened. In fact it reads like pretty much every other fairy tale story of a knight defeating a dragon to rescue a princess. projectbritain.com/stgeorge2.html  

A Quick Message About Donations – Please consider donating to “Doctors Without Borders” to help people in need

This is a quick message not a full episode and I just wanted to say a few words about donations, essentially this: If you’re thinking of sending me a donation this Christmas, you could instead consider sending your donation to a charity in order to help people who are in need of our assistance at the moment. So, rather than sending something to me, send it to others, by using a reputable charity like Doctors Without Borders, or Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) by going to www.msf.org/en/donate

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CLICK HERE TO DONATE TO MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES (DOCTORS WITHOUT BORDERS)

In a recent episode I mentioned that you might want to donate to LEP as a way of wishing me a Merry Christmas and saying thanks for my work.

I’ve already received a few donations – so thank you very much if you’re one of the people who sent me something. It’s really kind of you to support my work on this podcast. I appreciate your contributions, I really do.

But today I was thinking about this, and I would like to say again, that instead of sending a donation to me for this podcast this Christmas, that instead you might consider donating some money to charity.

Because there are loads of people out there who right now are having a really bad time, and through no fault of their own they’re suffering – either because they are living in a place with no system of care, or they’re just stuck in the middle of a political or military conflict or an environmental situation that they have no control over.

There are many people all over the world in impossible situations, and in the vast majority of cases it’s not their fault – it’s nothing to do with them really – it’s governments, corrupt politicians or the effects of climate change. These people are just trying to live their lives but forces outside of their control mean that they can’t – not even in the most basic way – they’re being stripped of the absolute basics.

I think about the people of Aleppo in Syria for example – thousands and thousands of civilians are caught up in this extremely messed up international conflict, a conflict in which so many different factions are involved – the governments of many of our countries together with extremist groups like ISIS are all involved in this extremely complicated situation. It’s a horrendous conflict and there are just ordinary people stuck in the middle of it – whole cities of people just smashed to the ground and what for? They’re the victims of an ideological and economic proxy war which we don’t even really understand.

The fact is, these people need our help, quite frankly.

So I’d like to say – actually, don’t send any contributions to me because I’m alright this Christmas. I’ll be with my family having a good time – maybe having an argument about the rules of Monopoly or something or perhaps feeling a bit sick because I’ve eaten or drunk too much, but I’ll be doing more than alright, all things considered.

And since I’ve got some people who listen to this podcast, I thought I might just suggest that you send money to a charity that will use that contribution to give medical care and support to people who have basically been forgotten or ignored.

Because your health is the most important thing, right?

As long as you’ve got your health, you’re alright. Obviously, we’re all striving for more than that – we want success, to achieve things in our work or in our language learning. But ultimately, your health is the basis for any type of quality of life.

Some people can’t even be sure of that. They can’t even be sure about just the most basic of human needs.

So, I think you get it – I’m not trying to guilt trip you or anything. I just want you to consider making a contribution to a charity for Christmas.

Obviously you don’t have to, it’s just a suggestion.

Now, it’s a little bit tricky donating to charity – because by giving money to an organisation you’re saying to them – Here you go, now I completely trust you to actually use that money for good things, and that you won’t just spend it yourself on some cake or something, or give it to corrupt leaders for whatever reason.

When you give to charity you are basically putting your trust in that organisation to spend it properly and in the most effective way possible.

  • It seems that before you make a donation you need to make sure it’s a reputable charity with good ratings in areas like:
  • Their overall mission and to what extent they actually accomplish it
  • Their goals and how they measure their own performance and evaluate their achievements
  • Their financial records – including details of exactly how the money is spent
  • Guarantees that they are neutral, impartial and independent – and not affiliated with governments or other organisations that might take a cut of the money
  • Where and how they actually use the money
  • To what extent they use emotional blackmail in their campaigns, or to what extent they prey on weaker people to give donations – both of which I think are signs of disreputable organisations

There are services that allow you to check the trustworthiness and effectiveness of charities, like for example charitynavigator.org

So, with all those things in mind I’m recommending that you donate to Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontiers or MSF. www.msf.org/en/donate

On their website:
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare. MSF offers assistance to people based on need, irrespective of race, religion, gender or political affiliation.
Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of neutrality and impartiality.

They are performing a vital role in giving basic medical care to people who have been forgotten or ignored by people in power. Much of their work is done in Africa, in Asia and also in the middle east providing care for Syrian refugees.

One of the things I like about them is that they take a politically neutral position.

More words from their website:
MSF’s work is based on humanitarian principles. We are committed to bringing quality medical care to people caught in crisis, regardless of race, religion or political affiliation.
MSF operates independently. We conduct our own evaluations on the ground to determine people’s needs. More than 90 per cent of our overall funding comes from millions of private sources, not governments.
MSF is neutral. We do not take sides in armed conflicts, we provide care on the basis of need, and we push for independent access to victims of conflict as required under international humanitarian law.

Doctors Without Borders is one of the most widely known international charities involved in many Middle Eastern conflicts, including the Syrian civil war. Doctors Without Borders has been crucial in their medical aid to Syrian Refugees, especially in the neighbouring nations of Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan. Their stellar work has landed them very high rankings on Charity Navigator.

So, they seem to be a charity who will do their best to spend as much of our donations as possible on actually helping people.

So, please consider sending something to them over the Christmas period.

It’s really simple to do – just go to MSF.org and click donate. You can choose how much you give, but I am sure that every penny counts. It could make a massive difference to someone’s life, allowing them some relief, comfort or care at this time of year.

OK, so that’s all I wanted to say! Thanks for listening and have a good Christmas.

Luke

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410. Teaching 12 Idioms in the Street / On the Set of Paul’s TV Show (with Amber)

Amber & I teach you 12 idiomatic English phrases while attending the filming of an episode of Paul’s TV show on the street in Paris. See below for videos and photos, and a list of the idioms with definitions.

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Introduction

In the last couple of episodes do you remember what happened? Do you remember what our plans were? Yes, Amber & I talked about Christmas and all that. But also, you might remember that we were planning to go and visit Paul on the set of his TV show and record a podcast while we were doing it, and that’s what we did last Thursday afternoon. We went to the 7th Arrondissement – a rather posh district on the left bank of the river Seine. We saw the film crew, a few scenes being filmed and Amber & I even appeared in one of those scenes as extras in the background. When the video is released you’ll be able to see us, briefly! It will be the one about French cinema, when that is released. By the way Paul’s TV show is broadcast on Saturday evenings on French TV station Canal+ and then released onto YouTube the following week. His YouTube channel is called “What the Fuck, France?”

Unfortunately they weren’t filming in the English pub as expected because they did that in the morning – so no beer or crisps or warmth or beer. Instead we joined them while they were filming in the street outside a little church. So, a street, a church and no warmth or beer.

Despite the harsh conditions and lack of beer I brought my recording equipment and we did a podcast while standing around with the film crew there, and all the local Parisian people in the street going about their lives, walking past us and even talking to us at certain moments.

You’re going to hear descriptions of what was happening during the recording, and some general chat with Amber. There were also a couple of moments where Paul stopped shooting and came over to join us, with a few other people too in some cases, including Robert Hoehn who you might remember from the “Have you ever…?” episode recently.

As well as the conversation and descriptions, there’s some English teaching in this episode because while standing there on the street I realised I had 12 idioms in my pocket, written on little bits of paper. Of course I did because as an English teacher that’s the kind of thing I have in my pocket – a bunch of idioms in pieces of paper. It pays to always be prepared as an English teacher! I sometimes have teaching materials in my pocket or up my sleeve! I actually had the idioms on me for another podcast episode that I’d planned ages ago but didn’t do – but the idioms came in handy this time and provided us with some teaching content for you.

All of the idioms you’re going to hear were taken from the Oxford Idioms Dictionary and I chose them quite carefully because I think they’re all expressions which are commonly used today.

You can find the list of those idioms on the page for this episode. I wonder if you know them all. You might know some, but do you know them all, and do you use them?

Now, I could list them all for you here in the introduction in advance, and even teach them to you in advance, but I’m not going to do that because I want to encourage you to notice them for yourselves. That’s a good skill to develop if you can. You should always be on the lookout for bits of language which you can identify and eventually make part of your active vocabulary. So, listen carefully to notice the idioms, and then keep listening because in the second part of the lesson Amber & I explain all the idioms for you.

So, that’s what you’re going to get – a podcast recorded in the street in Paris, with all the sound effects of what was happening around us, a couple of guest appearances, and then 12 common English idioms taught by Amber and me!

So, I hope you are feeling comfortable and that you’re cosy and warm – because it was bitterly cold on the streets of Paris when we recorded this! I recommend listening to this one when you are indoors, with the heating turned on and a hot drink nearby, or if you are outside make sure you’re wearing a pair of thick woolen mittens or gloves and a warm hat – unless of course you’re in a hot place like Australia or something, in which case you can just bask in the hot weather and try to avoid being bitten by a snake or spider or something. If you’re in Brazil then go to the beach or something like that and get ready for that big party you’re going to have on Christmas Eve.

Anyway, now let’s go back in time to last Thursday afternoon on the very chilly streets of the 7th Arrondissement of Paris with a film crew and rich old Parisian ladies walking around, and let’s begin the episode, and remember – can you spot the 12 idioms, do you know them and can you use them? Here we go.

The 12 Idioms

  1. To cost an arm and a leg = to be expensive (those cameras must have cost an arm and a leg)
  2. As a rule of thumb = as a general rule
  3. To flog a dead horse = to be futile
  4. To get back to the drawing board = to start again
  5. To be over the moon = to be delighted
  6. To hit the nail on the head = to say something which is totally accurate
  7. To drive someone up the wall = to drive someone mad / to make someone very annoyed
  8. To find your feet = to establish yourself
  9. Break a leg! = good luck! (for performers)
  10. Hold your horses! = hold on! Wait! Slow down!
  11. To go the extra mile = make an extra effort
  12. The ball is in your court = it’s your turn to make a decision

Also

  • To get fired / to be let go
  • A housewarming party
  • To see red
  • To have your cake and eat it too

Over to you!
What is your version of the idiom “You can’t have your cake and eat it too”?

Photos & Videos

Introduction

On the street

From left to right: Rob, Amber, Luke, Josephine (costume lady), Paul

From left to right: Rob, Amber, Luke, Josephine (costume lady), Paul

 

with Josephine (costume lady), Vlad (Director of Photography) & Robert Hoehn

Outro (with mistakes & no edits!)

Other stuff

Message from a Chinese LEPster about “Pudong” near China

I’d like to just clarify something that was said on the podcast in episode 408 when Paul and I made some silly jokes about the word “Pudong” and we talked about Pudong area near Shanghai in China. Paul brought it up when we were talking about pudding and none of us were too sure about the name Pudong and what it really means. I got a message which clarifies that.

Here’s the message from Sylvia from China. I was a bit worried that she was offended by our crappy jokes (particularly mine), but she assures me that she’s not offended and that she still loves us, so that’s alright. In any case I wanted to read this out because it’s got proper information about Pudong. If you remember, Paul said that he wasn’t sure exactly what the name meant and that one of our listeners could clear it up. Well, here is that clarification.

Dear Luke,

I want to make several things clear here in episode 408, in which Paul talked about Pudong in Shanghai. I live in Shanghai now, and the content of the conversation made me a bit uncomfortable.

1. It’s not ‘Pudong River’, it’s called ‘Huangpu River’.
2. It is ‘Pu’, not ‘Poo’.
3. ‘dong’ in Chinese means ‘east’, Chinese character ‘东’.
4. ‘Pudong’ is an area, which is on the east bank of the Huangpu River.
Pudong is situated on the east coast of the Huangpu River of Shanghai, and sits at the intersection of China’s coastal belt for international trade and the Yangtze River estuary. It is backed up by the Yangtze River Delta urban megalopolis and faces the boundless Pacific.

Pudong New Area (“Pudong” or the “New Area”), in eastern Shanghai, is named because it is located to the east of the Huangpu River.

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Now Pudong New Area has become the economic, financial, trade and shipping center regionally and internationally. In 20 short years, a dramatic change has taken place in Pudong, changing from farmlands into high buildings and from out-of-the-way villages into a prosperous urban area. Pudong has become the “Pearl of the Orient” with world attention, acclaimed as the “epitome of Shanghai’s modernization” and the “symbol of China’s reform and opening up”.

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Cruising on the Huangpu River, you can see many European style buildings on the western bank, because Shanghai used to be a foreign concession before 1949. At that time, Shanghai was known as the ‘paradise of foreign adventures’. Many foreigners, mostly Europeans, came to try their luck here. That’s why you can see buildings of different architectural styles here, Spanish, Greek, Roman and Russian. While on the other bank, skyscrapers in the Pudong New Area rear high into the sky, which were all built by Chinese people after 1990.

Luke, welcome to China, welcome to Shanghai, welcome to Pudong. And I hope when Paul comes to your place again, you can show him this, and let him make it clear.

Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!

Luke
I’m sorry this made you uncomfortable. No offence intended – I was just making a joke, and failing (as usual). I appreciate the information about Shanghai – would you mind if I read out your message on the podcast?

Sylvia
hello Luke
I knew it was a joke, that’s okay. It’s just that Pudong New Area has alway been a prosperous Area in my mind, but from now on everytime i think of it or come to there it will remind me of those jokes you made…Haha…
It would be great if you could read it on the podcast. Because i don’t want Paul to mislead people around the world thinking that China has a ‘poo dong river’. You can say my name, that’s okay.
And I know Amber And Paul didn’t mean any offence.
Always love you!
Sylvia

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