Category Archives: Business

458. The Rick Thompson Report: Post-Election 2017

Talking to my Dad about the results of the UK’s general election on 8 June 2017.

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Introduction Transcript

The story of British politics continues in this episode as I talk to my Dad about the most recent developments, specifically the results of the snap general election which took place on 8 June.

A general election is when all the MPs in the UK’s House of Commons are chosen by voters across the country. The party with the highest number of MPs wins the right to form a government. The leader of that party becomes the Prime Minister, the leader of the country.

At the moment our PM is Theresa May of the Conservative party and she called this election just 5 or 6 weeks in advance. I talked about it to my Dad last month. Her reason for doing it was to make sure she had a proper mandate from the people before beginning the brexit negotiations.

Everyone expected the Tories to win a bigger majority and for Labour to lose miserably.

But the results were quite surprising.

Here’s a very quick summary. www.bbc.com/news/election/2017/results

It’s a hung parliament. No party won enough seats to gain an overall majority.
The main parties are Conservatives and Labour.
Conservatives lost 13 seats. They now have 318.
Labour gained 30. They now have 262
This is a huge failure for the Conservatives.
SNP lost 21 seats. This is significant because they won so many in the last election and the SNP are all about gaining Scottish independence.
UKIP are out completely – they lost their single seat. They were the party campaigning for the UK to leave the EU and the immigrants to leave the UK.

Since the Tories are the incumbent party they get the first opportunity to try and form a government by making a deal with one of the other parties.

That’s the position at this moment. We’ll expand on it during our conversation but the words turmoil and disarray are again being used to describe the messy and complicated condition of politics in the UK today.

So let’s talk to my Dad – the professor of broadcast journalism and former BBC news man, for some much needed clarity on this whole subject in order to find out what happened, what it all means, how Northern Ireland and Scotland are involved and how this all relates to the ongoing story of Brexit.

As ever, watch out for all the key language as it appears. There is a lot of political language in this episode, which applies mainly to political systems in the UK but also could be used to talk about politics and international relations in other countries. Also, there are the usual fixed expressions, idioms and phrasal verbs that you normally find in any natural conversation.

Remember that in episode 352 of this podcast (nearly 100 episodes ago) I explained some key concepts and vocabulary related to this whole subject. So if you need some clarification and you want a reminder of some of the important words and terms relating to all of this, check out episode 352 in the archive.

352. BREXIT: Key Vocabulary and Concepts

82. Voting / Elections / Politics / Government

But now, let’s hear from my Dad, Rick Thompson about the current state of politics in the UK, just after last week’s snap general election.


Outtro Transcript

So there you are. I hope it’s all a little bit clearer now, but equally it might even be more complicated!

It is a complicated situation but I hope you agree that we’re quite lucky to be able to listen to my Dad talking about it in his typically lucid and articulate way.

Don’t forget that you can listen to previous episodes of this podcast in which I have gone into detail about the language of politics in the UK.

Episode 352 goes into detail about the vocabulary of Brexit and you can listen to that one again in order to learn some of the key language of this subject.

Also you can listen to episode 82 from way back in January 2012 when I did an episode about voting, elections, politics and government in the UK, in which I explain and teach all the essential language you need to talk about the political process and also you can listen to a funny sketch about a general election.

That’s it for now. As ever, I remind you to join the mailing list which will mean you get an email in your inbox whenever I post new content here.

That’s new episodes of the podcast but also I sometimes post something when I’ve been featured on someone else’s podcast and recently I was invited to talk on the English Across the Pond podcast, The Earful Tower podcast and the Rock n Roll English podcast. If you’re signed up to the mailing list you will get notified of those things and will easily be able to listen to those fun conversations I’ve had and find out about some other people’s podcasts that you might not know about.

I’m going to end this episode after the jingle by playing you parts of the speeches by Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn in the first session of Parliament since the election results came out.

Listen carefully to the voices of the PM and opposition leader as they make statements about the results and about the democratic process in Parliament over the coming months.

The cheering and jeering sounds you hear in the background are all the other MPs sitting in the House of Commons. It’s quite normal to hear them all shouting and cheering in agreement, or heckling and laughing at people they don’t agree with. I wonder if the parliament in your country is as loud and boisterous as it is in the UK.

So thanks for listening, and keep on listening after the jingle if you’d like to hear the words of Prime Minister Theresa May and leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn. (Image below, BBC.com)

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454. David Crystal Interview (Part 1) Professor of Linguistics

Talking about language with one of the world’s top linguists, Professor David Crystal.

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Introduction

Hello everyone, thank you for choosing to listen to this episode of my podcast. I am particularly pleased to be able to present this episode to you. It is, in fact, a privilege for me to say that today on the podcast I am talking to Professor David Crystal.

I’m now going to give a quick introduction just to make sure that you are all fully aware of the calibre of this guest and to emphasise to you just how lucky we are to have him on the podcast today.

According to The Guardian newspaper, David Crystal is the world’s foremost writer and lecturer on the English language.

He isn’t an English teacher, but he is an expert on linguistics. That’s the study of language and all the issues relating to it.

David Crystal

David Crystal has a worldwide reputation and has published something in the region of 120 books including numerous academic reference works and encyclopedias of language, and books for the general reader covering topics such as English grammar, spelling, punctuation, accents, connections to Shakespeare, the influence of technology and the development of language throughout history.

He is currently patron of the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language (IATEFL) and the Association for Language Learning (ALL), president of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders and the UK National Literacy Association, and honorary vice-president of both the Institute of Linguists and the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists.

He is honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales and in 1995 he was on the Queen’s honours list when he was awarded the Order of the British Empire (the OBE) for services to the English language. The OBE is the second highest honour which you can receive from The Queen – the highest being the knighthood or damehood.

So he’s Britain’s favourite language expert and he regularly makes appearances at literary festivals and teaching conferences, appears on British radio and television, writes articles for newspapers and magazines and researches all kinds of language-related topics.

But the main thing he does is to write books…

David’s Books

Some of his most popular books include:

  • The Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language
  • The Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary
  • The Story of English in 100 Words
  • You Say Potato: The Story of English Accents (written with his son Ben)
  • Wordsmiths and Warriors: The English-Language Tourist’s Guide to Britain (Written with his wife Hilary)
  • Txting: The Gr8 Db8
  • Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment – a fascinating project investigating how English was pronounced by the original actors in the Globe Theatre when Shakespeare was alive
  • Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling
  • Just A Phrase I’m Going Through: My Life in Language (which is both his autobiography and a highly accessible introduction to the field of linguistics)
  • And from this year “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar”

Many of those titles can be purchased as ebooks from David Crystal’s website – www.davidcrystal.com or from any good bookseller. There are also audiobook versions which are read out by the man himself.

David Crystal’s writing is clear, entertaining, informative and simply a pleasure to experience. The same can be said about his public speaking. I’m always impressed by his ability to take a complex academic subject like linguistics and turn it into the sort of thing that anyone can understand and enjoy.

I met David once at a teaching conference where he presented Andy Johnson and me with an award for a presentation we did. I had a chat with him afterwards and was delighted to discover how down-to-earth and friendly he is and I’ve always wanted to interview him for this podcast, but it’s only recently that I actually plucked up the courage to ask him. Thankfully he agreed.

David Crystal is a nothing short of a national treasure and I can’t believe I’m talking to him on my podcast.

Right – I think you get the idea now – he’s kind of a big deal for anyone interested in language and language teaching and so without further introduction, here is my conversation about language with Professor David Crystal.


Questions for David Crystal

Grammar

Your recent book from this year is called Making sense: the glamorous story of English grammar.

Is grammar really ‘glamourous’?

In my experience, a lot of learners of English feel a bit bored or intimidated by grammar, leading some teachers out there to say that you can learn English without grammar – learn English without thinking, etc.

Do you think it’s possible to learn English as a second language without studying grammar?
I know you’re not actually an English teacher, but do you have any tips for learners of English who want to improve their grammar?

You recently wrote a political history of grammar in the UK as a supplement to your book “Making Sense”.

What relationship does the average Brit have with grammar today, in your experience?
Has this attitude changed over the years? How has it changed?

Language Decline

I was recently having a conversation about language with a couple of friends on this podcast and we arrived at several questions that we couldn’t really answer. I thought you might be able to help.

People often complain about the so-called decline of the English language – citing things like poor grammar, punctuation, spelling, acronyms or text-speak as evidence that standards of English are slipping. Do you agree with that? Are standards of English declining? How do we even measure that?

People seem to be afraid that what they see as falling standards will result in “the death of the English language”. Has a language ever completely “died out” due to declining standards? What causes languages to die?

Are we better or worse at communicating than we used to be? (answered later)

‘Right’ and ‘Wrong’

Are you bothered by those so-called ‘errors’ in English that make some people angry?

Non-native speakers influence on English

My mate Paul says (as a bit of a joke) that because there are more non-native speakers of English in the world than native speakers, we’re actually the ones who are using the language incorrectly. E.g. because more Chinese people pronounce some English words in a certain way, it’s the native speakers who are pronouncing those words wrong.
Does he have a point or is he talking nonsense like he usually does?

French Pronunciation example

My French students often feel bad about their pronunciation because it’s so ‘French’. We understand everything that they say, but they’re really hung up on the fact that they sound so French – e.g. they can’t pronounce TH sounds in words like strengths, clothes, thirty three etc and it seems to be impossible to fix it.
Do they need to feel so bad about it?

How should my listeners feel about their relationship with English, and the version of English that they speak?


End of part 1

That’s the end of part 1. The conversation will continue in part 2 where you’ll hear me asking some questions sent in by listeners, and there were some really great questions including predictions about English in the future, the role of AI in language learning, the impact of Brexit on English in the world, and the way Donald Trump and Barack Obama use English.

I hope you’re enjoying listening to this, and that you’re able to follow some of the slightly complex points being made.

David gave so many really interesting answers and made some very important and useful points, and he continues to do that in part 2.

I think David speaks very clearly, with that slightly Welsh or Scouse twang in his voice. He lives in Hollyhead, in Northern Wales, not far from Liverpool, and he lived in Liverpool for a while as a child, which accounts for the slight accent that he has, if you noticed that.

As he said, his accent is a mix of different things, caused by the time he has spent living in different places and interacting with different people – RP speakers in the south east, locals in Wales and Liverpool and so on. It all contributes to the way he speaks. He also happens to be very articulate and I really admire the way he expresses his thoughts so clearly.

I hope you agree that we really are rather lucky to have David Crystal on the podcast and I think it’s worth listening to this episode several times so you can really absorb everything he’s saying because he really does know what he’s talking about and there’s a lot of knowlege there.

I think I should do a follow-up episode to this in which I just restate the main points that he made, just to consolidate it all, and I plan to do that. I could also talk about some of the questions which I didn’t have a chance to ask David.

I also hope you noticed that David Crystal helped to clear up some of the things I was discussing with Amber and Paul in episode 452. I should go over those things again if I do a follow-up episode, just to make it “crystal clear” – pun intended. I totally intended to make that joke and I think you should know it’s a brilliant joke which nobody has ever made before and this is sarcasm but it also isn’t.

Don’t forget to check out www.davidcrystal.com for all his work, his blog, videos of him speaking publicly and more information, including the opportunity to send him a message if you want to.

I strongly recommend getting some of his books, which should be available from any good bookseller. You could try “Making Sense: The Glamorous Story of English Grammar” for example.

Also, don’t forget that you can get audiobook versions of his work.

For example, I listened to You Say Potato – the one about accents in the UK and I think the audiobook is better than the printed book because you can actually hear his son Ben doing all the accents. You could get that as part of a trial with Audible – and remember I have that deal with them – you can get a free audiobook if you go to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke or click an audible logo on my site. They’ve got a lot of DC’s work there. Start a trial, download your audiobook, listen to it using the Audible app on your phone and you can cancel the membership and not pay anything, or continue your membership for about $15 dollars per month and get another free book next month and so on…

So, that’s the end of part 1. Part 2 should be available for you very soon and you can hear David answering questions from listeners, and that’s brilliant because the questions were very diverse and David Crystal answers them – what more do I need to say? I still can’t believe I spoke to him on the podcast. I need to contact other awesome people for interviews now I think.

Thank you very much for listening to this. Don’t forget to join the mailing list to keep up with every new episode and to get convenient access to the page for each one where you’ll find various bits of supporting information, transcriptions, links, videos and the comment section. Just visit teacherluke.co.uk and pop your email address in the subscription form and Bob’s your uncle.

I look forward to reading your comments in the comment section.

Reminders

LEPsters are still getting together and spending time socialising in English.
In Moscow there is a group that hangs out every Sunday. Their FB group is called “Conversational English for Free – Moscow LEP Club”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/

Also in St Petersburg there is a similar group which gets together on Sundays. You can find them on FB by searching for “SPB LEPsters Conversational Club” – I understand they have get togethers on Sundays. Kristina from Russia who won the LEP Anecdote Competition last year often takes part – friendly people, speaking English, playing games, hanging out. https://www.facebook.com/spbenglishLEPclub/

LEPsters in Tokyo have got together a number of times, and I attended one in April to do some stand up – you can hear all about that in my Trip to Japan episodes (part 2).

Also, recently a group got together in Prague in the Czech Republic – in fact you can hear their conversation because it was recorded and published on Zdenek’s English Podcast.

Again I’m flattered because they talked mainly about LEP – including, shock horror, their least favourite or “worst” episodes of the podcast.

Listen to both episodes below.

Also, if you’re in Spain I have heard rumour that there will be at least one meetup group getting together there, somewhere, sometime soon.

If you’re thinking of setting up something similar, let me know because I can publicise it on the podcast and get the word out.

Speak to you in the next episode!

Luke

433. British TV: Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares (Part 2) [Video]

Learn more authentic English directly from the mouths of these native speakers in an episode of the popular British TV show “Kitchen Nightmares” with famous chef Gordon Ramsay. Videos and vocabulary lists available below. 

**This episode includes swearing and some rude content** 

Audio


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Video

Video clips and vocabulary lists

Video 2 – The orange sauce looks like “sci-fi sperm”

Vocabulary

Let’s watch the family in action
Is there any chance you could talk to her
If you open up and ask…
You don’t remember after 5 minutes
Like fuck do I!
You try to make me look small
It’s like a one man band in there
It’s totally upside down
A backlog of orders
Mick starts to crumble
I don’t want no (*any) more food sent down
He can’t handle it
I’ll get my head bitten off / to bite someone’s head off
I’d rather you didn’t take it out on me

Video 3 – The family at war

Vocabulary

Michelle’s impressive
She’s left to face the fallout of Mick’s incompetence
The meals are now being sent back
He can’t handle it / can’t cope / can’t take it / can’t deal with it
I’ll go and sort it out
My husband’s big fucking dream is a complete farce
I’m not having a heart attack over this
My heart’s booming
He speaks to me like shit
I try and take all the knocks
Even I have a breaking point

Video 4 – Catching up with the Martin family at the end

The entire episode (with Korean subtitles)

407. Reflections on Language Learning & Working as a Translator: Interview with Kristina from Russia, Winner of the LEP Anecdote Competition 2016

In this episode you’ll hear me talking to Kristina from Russia, the winner of the LEP anecdote competition this year. We talk about her work as a translator and interpreter, her reflections on language learning, how she learned English to a good level and some other bits and pieces.

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Introduction transcript

Hello! Welcome back to the podcast. In this episode I am talking to Kristina from Russia. If you’ve heard episode 403 of this podcast you’ll know that she is a listener who won my anecdote competition this year. Her anecdote was about how she ended up having to interpret for Emir Kusturica – the famous Serbian film director, on stage at a film festival in front of an audience of movie industry people with absolutely no preparation.

It sounded stressful and it’s also impressive that she managed to get through the whole thing successfully, without running screaming from the building.

Kristina’s story was the clear winner in the final round of the competition. It was interesting to hear about how she described that stressful and exciting experience and how her language skills were involved. The prize for winning, as suggested by one of my podcast listeners, was to have a one-to-one Skype conversation with yours truly (that’s me).

We did that the other day. We chatted on Skype for nearly an hour, with her in Saint Petersburg and me in Paris, and I thought it might be interesting to record part of the conversation for an episode of this podcast. Kristina agreed and so, in this episode you can hear the result.

So in this episode you are going to hear Kristina talking about

  • How she became a translator and interpreter
  • The differences and challenges of those two types of work
  • How she has learned English to her current level, and some general reflections on language learning (by the way she speaks several other languages including Norwegian and German)
  • The way she maintains her level of English and how listening is an important part of that process

I think Kristina is an example of someone who has not only managed to learn English to a proficient level but has also built a career around her language abilities. It was lovely to speak to her and I hope you enjoy listening our conversation.

So, without any further ado, here is Kristina from Russia, the winner of the LEP anecdote competition 2016.

* CONVERSATION *

Announcement: LEP Meeting for Conversation in Moscow

Here’s a message from a listener in Moscow called Dmitry:

Is here anybody from MOSCOW?!
A friend of mine is organizing the first MEETING of The Moscow LEPsters Conversation Club – a club for those who study English, like Luke’s podcast and want to develop speaking skills as well! Everybody is welcome on Sunday, December 11th at 4pm in the Wooden Door anti-cafe. We intend to discuss Luke’s podcast, your favorite episodes, drink tea/coffee, eat cookies, SPEAK and have fun! The meeting itself is absolutely free BUT the anticafe charges everybody 2 roubles per minute. Coffee and cookies included in this standard price. [Luke: About 1.7E per hour for free cookies and coffee? Not bad!] REGISTRATION: just send your name and several words about you (if you wish) to smartnb@mail.ru or click “I will participate” on the Facebook page
Link here: www.facebook.com/events/275649646170689/
It will be great to share emotions and ideas! See you on Sunday at 4pm!

Let me know if you’re planning an LEP Get Together in your area

If you’re planning an LEP Meeting in your area, let me know and I can spread the word!
Getting together with like-minded people and having some fun speaking English is a great idea! It can be a great way to practise speaking and you can make some friends too.

Music

Background music (introduction): Jukedeck – create your own at http://jukedeck.com

Other background music: Jim Thompson soundcloud.com/jt-2000 and here jt2000.bandcamp.com

391. Discussing Language, Culture & Comedy with Alexander van Walsum

Here is a new episode featuring a conversation with a friend of mine who originally comes from the Netherlands but he has lived all over the world. You’re going to hear us talking about cultural differences, Dutch stereotypes, doing business in France, the UK and the USA, the different communication styles in those places, doing stand up comedy and getting Darth Vader’s signature. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as we enjoyed recording it.

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Alex performing at Le Paname Art Cafe in Paris

You can see Alex performing at “WTF Paris? – Comedy Therapy for Expats” with Amber Minogue at the SoGymnase comedy club in Paris every Friday evening at 8pm. Details here https://www.weezevent.com/wtf-paris
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390. The Rick Thompson Report: Hard Brexit / U.S. Election

This is a conversation with my dad about recent news, including a Brexit update, the US presidential election, Obama’s plans to send people to Mars and back and more…

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A reminder about the anecdote competition: Listen & vote here teacherluke.co.uk/2016/10/07/387-lep-anecdote-competition-entries-please-listen-vote/

I know this isn’t for everyone, but check out the anecdotes which have been sent to me. You might be pleasantly surprised. There are some great little stories in there and a lot of people are really showing off their good English. I’m very proud of everyone who got involved.

You can get all the competition entries on your phone like a podcast with this RSS feed: audioboom.com/users/1917559/boos.rss

Just enter that link into the search function in your podcast app and you’ll find it (including the iTunes store)

Then listen to the entries when you’re out and about. You could mark the entries you like by favouriting them (most podcast apps allow you to add a star to the episodes you like) then vote later.

I want to say a massive thank you to all the LEPsters in the comment section of my website recently, particularly all the amazing feedback they’ve been writing in response to the competition entries. I’m really impressed. Some LEPsters, particularly Olga, have written individual feedback for every single competition entry there. Generally the response has been absolutely brilliant and I urge you to get involved too.

I know it’s difficult to listen to all the entries because there are so many, but check them out and you’ll see that there are some really entertaining stories there. The other night I walked home from a restaurant for about an hour, just listening to the competition entries. I was going to take the metro but I decided to walk all the way because I wanted to keep listening. I’m really pleased that so many people got involved and told their stories, even if it was difficult.

Give yourself a big pat on the back if you sent me an entry, or if you have voted or left feedback. Some of you are feeling a bit embarrassed because you don’t like the sound of your own voices or you’re comparing yourselves to people you think are better, but never mind all that – everyone did really well so congratulations.

The voting in round 1 ends on 21 October, so you have another week left.

The Rick Thompson Report

Now, let’s move onto this episode, which is called The Rick Thompson Report. Yesterday I spoke to my dad on FaceTime and asked him to give us a report on some recent news. We ended up talking about a few things, including a Brexit update, some stuff about Barack Obama’s plans to send a manned mission to Mars and my dad’s thoughts on the US Presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I know some of you have been keen to find out what my dad has to say on that particular subject after I talked about it in the last two episodes of this podcast.

Because we’re talking about politics in this episode, I am sure that some of you will disagree with what you’re going to hear, which is fine, but if you’re planning on writing comments expressing your disagreement then I just encourage you to try to articulate those thoughts properly, explaining your reasons and developing your points, rather than just writing some angry knee-jerk reaction.

That’s if you disagree. If you agree with us, then of course you can write about that too.

Generally, I hope you respond in some way. You’ll hear us comment on some global events, and it’s quite interesting to me how we all seem to have different versions of those events depending on which media outlet we are exposed to. For example, the narrative about global events in the UK media is probably quite different to the narrative in the Russian media or the Chinese media. We are all subject to media bias, but let’s try to focus on the simple truths and facts at the heart of any story. That’s easier said than done, but I guess a starting point is to realise that things aren’t always the way they are portrayed in the media in any country. There’s always a certain amount of bias.

Anyway, that’s enough of an introduction. Now, I’ll let you listen to the Rick Thompson Report, with Rick Thompson.

*Conversation*

So that’s our conversation, I hope you found it interesting. As I said before, I look forward to reading your comments if you have any.

Don’t forget to get listen and vote in round 1 of the anecdote competition.

I got a message about why I don’t get many comments from Chinese listeners – apparently it’s because so many web services are blocked in China, and that included Disqus – my comments system, but my website is visible. So the Chinese listeners can listen to the podcast but can’t comment on the website unless they’re using proxy servers or something. So, China I just want to say hello and I wonder what you’re thinking. I’m assuming that you like the podcast because you’re my #1 country. Anyway, hello China, and hello everyone else too.

Thanks for listening and I’ll speak to you again soon. Bye!
rick-thompson-report

381. Discussing Cultural Differences (with Amber & Paul)

In this episode I’m talking to my friends Amber and Paul about cultural differences, particularly in the ways we communicate with each other in different countries.

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You should know that there is a bit of swearing in this one as well as a few dodgy jokes and references to previous episodes of the podcast, which you should probably listen to before you listen to this one in order to understand a couple of references and in-jokes. The previous episode is number 380. As for the swearing, I see it as just evidence of the fact we are all talking in a totally relaxed, genuine and natural manner, like we normally do in this social situation.

I just want to say that our aim in this conversation was to compare different cultures and not to criticise other cultures. We’re just expressing our own personal experiences from our point of view. Since we all live in France and we’re from England, there are quite a lot of comments about differences between French and English culture. If you’re French I’d love to read your points of view on many of the things we’re talking about and I am sure that you could make loads of similar comments about life in England – like, why the hell do we have separate taps in the bathroom? Or, why do girls go out on a Friday night with hardly any clothes on? Don’t they get freezing cold? And why do Brits drink so much? These are all things that might seem strange to visitors to the UK. So, I’m well aware that all cultures and behaviours can seem strange from the outside and it’s all just a matter of context.

In fact, I have already done several podcast episodes all about culture shock experiences of people moving to the UK (specifically London) from foreign countries. Check out the links to listen to those episodes.

192. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.1)

193. Culture Shock: Life in London (Pt.2)

I am sure you have points of view on this that you would like to express, so feel free to leave comments on the page for this episode. Don’t forget to join the mailing list on the website to get easy access to the page for every new episode when it is uploaded.

So without any further ado, here’s a podcast about cultural differences with Amber and Paul.

Discussing Cultural Differences

Luke’s Intro

Although we are all the same, we’re also different.

Ways we’re the same:

We all fall in love, go to the loo, get hungry, get tired, like laughing, listen to LEP.

But we’re all different – individually we are all unique, but we are also different as groups, tribes, nationalities or cultures.

Although it’s bad to generalise, it seems that cultures – like ethnicities or nationalities, tend to have certain shared behaviours and customs that mark them out as different to others. For example, although the English and French share a lot of things in common there are certain things which mark us out as different. Not just the language we speak, but the way we behave and the things we think are important. Like the way we queue.

 

So anyway, that’s just an example of culture shock I suppose. But it shows that there are cultural differences. Of course there are! Everyone knows it.

If you’ve ever been abroad or had contact with other cultures you’ll know that sometimes it’s incredibly obvious that our cultures are different. Sometimes it’s shockingly obvious, sometimes it’s hilarious, sometimes it’s frustrating, sometimes it’s just weird, but we have to remember that they’re just differences and while they can be confusing, frustrating and also funny, ultimately we need to find ways to look beyond these differences and not let them become a barrier to things like communication, understanding, business, diplomacy and relationships.

In this episode I’d like to have a discussion about cultural differences that we’ve noticed around the world. These could be different types of behaviour, like certain customs and habits, or just different values – like, what people seem to think is important, and how those values reveal themselves in the way things are done.

Amber & Paul

What are your credentials in terms of your cross cultural experiences?

  • How long have you lived in France?
  • Have you visited many other places? Which other places have you been to?
  • Have you had cross cultural experiences?
  • Have you been in a relationship with someone from another culture?
  • Have you done business with people from other cultures?

I have a list of different behaviours and values. Just stuff I’ve noticed or heard about. Well go through the list.

We can answer these questions:

  • Where do they do this?
  • Do we do this in the UK?
  • Do we consider this to be weird behaviour or not? Is there a reason for this behaviour?
  • Do you have any experiences of this? Would you like it if we introduced this into our culture?

The list: (please note that we are not talking about ‘two-taps in the bathroom’)

  • Kissing or hugging someone when you meet them (Paul did a successful video about this)
  • Looking people in the eye
  • Indirectness/diplomacy/politeness (or hypocrisy) vs directness/straightness/clarity (or rudeness) – e.g. certain cultures tend to be indirect when giving negative feedback, other cultures favour direct negative feedback
  • conflict vs non-conflict
  • Smiling in public

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For discussion in future episodes… PLEASE ADD MORE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN THE COMMENT SECTION SO WE CAN DISCUSS THEM IN THE FUTURE :) 

  • Eating early vs eating late in the evening
  • Having milk in tea
  • Eating scorpions / spiders / toads / frogs
  • Eating with your hands / chopsticks / a knife and fork / not your left hand
  • Burping or farting after eating
  • Girls wearing miniskirts in the middle of winter
  • Hawking / spitting in the street
  • Saying “good morning” or “good afternoon” in shops/post offices before you can get anything done
  • Kissing in public
  • Begging
  • Crossing the road – waiting for cars to stop vs just walking into the street vs using pedestrian crossings
  • Driving on the left
  • Queuing in an organised and patient way vs Not queuing – “every man for himself” (or something in between)
  • Public transport – following the rules vs no rules (e.g. queueing, letting people off before getting on, etc)
  • Falling asleep on public transport
  • Talking to strangers on public transport
  • Having a strict attitude towards health and safety (e.g. wearing safety belts in cars) vs Having a relaxed attitude towards health and safety (e.g. not wearing safety belts, overtaking on corners)
  • Bribing police or other people
  • Having more than one wife, or having affairs
  • Saying “yes” in order to save face
  • Having carpet in the bathroom
  • Wearing shoes indoors
  • Sitting down to go to the toilet vs Squatting on the floor when you go to the toilet (or any other toilet related comments)
  • Putting The UK at the centre of the map

Is there anything else you’ve found to be weird or different?

369. Pokémon GO – It’s just a game, OR IS IT?

Today I’m talking about Pokemon Go. It’s a global phenomenon and there are lots of things to say about it. It’s not just a stupid game, there’s a lot more to it than that. So, in this episode I’m going to describe Pokemon the game, then talk about Pokemon GO, including what it is, how it works, what people are saying about it, why it’s so significant, what some of the good points and bad points are, and what this might mean for the future.

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Introduction

It’s the craze that’s sweeping the world. Pokemon Go was released as a downloadable app for iPhone and Android about 3 weeks ago and suddenly millions of people around the world are playing it, everyone’s talking about it and the app is currently the #1 download on the iOS and Google Play app stores. It’s threatening even Twitter in terms of its number of active users. Just a few days after the release of the game, which can be downloaded onto your smartphone free, Nintendo’s stock market value soared, rising by a massive $11 billion. The number of downloads of the Pokemon Go app is estimated at over 100 million.

I wonder if it has arrived in your country yet. I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve either heard about it, seen stories about it online, seen people playing it in your area, or have actually downloaded and played the game yourself. Some people are addicted to it and can’t stop playing it. Other people just can’t stand it and think it’s a load of complete nonsense.

Just the other day I went out for a drink with my wife and we counted 11 people playing Pokemon Go just in the streets near our house. On my lunch break from work the other day I looked around the little garden area where I sat with my sandwich and noticed about 3 people who were obviously playing it. Even some of my students in class were playing Pokemon Go during lessons. Apparently, the British Council is a Pokemon Gym, where other Pokemon players can get together to challenge each other to Pokemon battles. Next time you’re out and about, look for small groups of people wandering around staring at their phones. That happens a lot anyway, but it’s an even more common sight to see at the moment. If you get the chance to glance at their screens, you might see them attempting to throw little red and white balls at wild little creatures that they can see. They’re probably playing Pokemon.

If you don’t really understand what I’m talking about here, don’t worry because I’m going to explain it all as clearly as possible in this episode, while also discussing some of the positive and negative aspects of this game.

Wherever you stand on this new phenomenon – maybe you think it’s brilliant, you might think it’s the end of the world, or maybe you have no opinion about it at all. In any case I think there’s no arguing that this game represents something significant about global culture. It’s being played everywhere – I’ve even seen photos of it being played in war-torn parts of Syria. Apparently the whole world is captivated by the desire to capture Pokemon. It has arrived with some controversy, as we will see.

The game itself might be a flash in the pan – just a brief craze that will last for a summer and then disappear – in fact I’ve come to the subject a little bit late because the general media buzz around the game has probably peaked now, but it does represent an interesting development in global culture – in gaming, technology, lifestyle, how we interact with public spaces and also ways in which huge companies are collecting and using our data. It’s definitely worth talking about.

Is this just a fun, social game or is it part of some sinister plot by corporations intent on gaining access to yet more of our personal data?

That’s what I’d like to talk about in this episode. If you’re a vocabulary hunter – listen carefully to hear the right words and expressions we use when talking about Pokemon and the issues surrounding it.

I should state right now that this story is developing pretty quickly and by the time you listen to it the world of Pokemon might have changed a bit, with possible updates to the app and other peripheral products that might come onto the market. Also, I am not the world’s Pokemon expert or anything, but I think I know enough about it to be able to talk on the subject in this episode. You might be more familiar with the ins and outs of Pokemon than me. If you’re an advanced Pokemon player then feel free to get into the comment section to give your opinion or add any details I might have missed. Also, if you’re new to Pokemon I want to know what you think as well.

Let’s get started

1. What is Pokemon?

– We know from my conversation with Alex Love that Pokemon is a portmanteau word from Japan which means “pocket monster”.
– It’s a franchise owned by The Pokemon Company (a sort of consortium of three companies Nintendo, Game Freak, and Creatures.) The first version of the franchise was a Game Boy game created in Japan in 1995. Pokemon Red and Yellow, then Blue and then Silver I think. Then there were TV shows, movies, trading cards and a Monopoly game. It has massive levels of appeal and a generation of kids grew up playing it. I was a bit old for it because by that time I’d moved on to more grown-up stuff like GoldenEye and Tekken and stuff like that (yes, I was still playing computer games).
– First time I heard about it.
– Playing cards in Liverpool HMV. “Have you got any Pokémon cards??”
– The principle of the game, as far as I understand it.

2. What is Pokemon Go?

– How the app version of the game works
– Pokestations – I think these are points of interest from Google Maps – interesting spots that I guess a lot of people have taken photos of or something – some point of interest. These have been converted into Pokestations in the game. If you go there you can collect more Pokeballs. For example, there’s a fountain outside my building and that’s a pokestop, then there’s a sandwich bar on the street, that’s a pokestop. At the top of the street there is a kid’s merry-go-round and that’s a pokestop too. ON the map you see different pokestops and it encourages you to go and visit them. When you get there you click on the pokestop in your phone and it shows you a photo of the thing. It could be another landmark, like a plaque on a wall with a bit of local information on it – for example a plaque that shows you that Picasso used to live in the building. There’s one of them near me too. That’s quite cool because you might not have discovered it otherwise, but to be honest I don’t think Pokemon can really be credited with teaching people about their local area. Honestly, if you find local points of interest through Pokemon you’re probably not that interested in the point of interest. Realistically, how long will a Pokemon player stop to read a plaque about Picasso when they have other Pokemon in the area to catch. In fact, it could be considered disrespectful to the landmark to create a pokestop there because what happens is that you just get these groups of people turning up, not looking at the landmark, just standing around like PokeZombies with their heads in their phones.
– Controversy – there have been a few incidents in which people have got very angry with Pokemon players playing at certain locations. For example, at war memorials where you should be very respectful. Standing around catching Pokémon at a World War 2 memorial is not really appropriate I think, especially if players are wandering across the monument, or standing on burial sites. Apparently Pokémon has been banned at The Auschwitz museum in Southern Poland, which is the site of one of the biggest WW2 Nazi death camps has asked Niantic Labs to block Pokemon users from playing there, after there were complaints from people who saw a lot of people playing the game while visiting. That’s totally fair I think – it’s really disrespectful to be playing Pokemon at a place like that.

– Then there are Pokemon Gyms where you can battle with other Pokemon trainers and develop your Pokemon. As I said, the BC is a Pokemon gym apparently. If you beat all the other Pokemon trainers there you’ll be the owner of the gym and your winning Pokemon is like the master of the gym, and I think your Pokemon is then displayed on the roof of the gym when you check the map in the app. So, if you look around you can see some gyms in the distance, with huge monsters guarding them.
– Other content too – there may be other interesting features within the game – other locations and interactive elements at various locations.
– In-app purchases.
– Venues might use it as a way of attracting people. “Lure modules” can be dropped at certain locations to attract higher numbers of pokemon (and then users who want to catch them)

What’s the appeal?

I think we are wired for collecting things – it’s the impulse to be hunter/gatherers. That’s a basic human instinct – to go out and find things, search the area, look for treasure, look for food or resources, keep a collection, build strength, even breed and rear animals which you can use as assets in your life, compete with other people. I suppose this comes from the many hundreds of years that humans evolved as hunter-gatherers or something, except now those instincts are what drives our interest in these games, which we play for their own sake. I don’t think we can gain anything material from these things. I guess only business owners can benefit if people are being lured to your businesses because of it. Then there’s the game makers who obviously are making money from in-game purchases, the general brand value, share-price value and the sharing of data collected from the game. There are lots of revenue streams.

Also there’s the novelty of the augmented reality. It’s pretty engrossing and captivating.

The future?

This is the first really big augmented reality game. I expect we will see more and more games that will use augmented reality, which essentially means that the real world will be the playing field in which the game is played, instead of going around in a virtual world, the game world is somehow mapped onto the real world. Now if we run with this idea, this could mean that in the future more people will be going around in the street playing a game. They might be interacting with the physical world around them, but in ways that you can’t see if you’re not playing the game. If you add different technology into that, it could be a huge step. Imagine using Oculous Rift or some kind of 3D headset but you’re not walking around the game world, you’re walking around the real world but with augmented reality. So, potentially we might be able to walk around with a headset, interacting with the real world, but seeing it in a completely different way. From the inside you might be battling with aliens in your street, or collecting treasure in the park, or possibly just touching objects in the real world in order to achieve things. In the game it would be amazing because there would be actual physical feedback from playing the game. But from the outside, you’d look like you’re on acid I expect. You’d look like you were on magic mushrooms – wandering around reacting to things that aren’t there. There are also the obvious safety issues with that. Also, perhaps it might be possible to play the game in the real world – using the real world map, while sitting at home on your sofa. That might mean that you’re controlling a drone which is flying around, or travelling around on wheels in the real world, while you are either watching a screen at home, or sitting at home wearing a 3D headset which essentially allows you to see from the perspective of your drone as it travels around outside your house or somewhere else in the world, interacting with real things and people. The mind boggles!

It could also be used not for gaming, but for general life – e.g. sending your drone robot to the supermarket to collect your shopping or to pick up your kids or something. We’re really not that far away from that sort of thing, but there are of course loads of legal issues that go along with that – relating to the safety of it, and who is responsible for what these drones do, or what people do when they’re playing an augmented reality game, and the implications of letting drones operate in public spaces – that’s related to privacy and health hazards and so on.

It’s certainly pretty crazy – and Pokemon Go is just the first step in this direction. We might not see it in the next 2-5 years, but in 10-15 years we might see this sort of thing. God knows what the world will be like then. I will probably have kids, possibly teenage kids at that time. I can’t imagine what kind of world they’ll be living in. They’ll probably be robo-kids, let’s face it. Will that be good or bad? Who knows.

3. Arguments for

– exercise (my student walked 20k in 2 days)
– a way to explore areas. Imagine combining it with tourism. You can discover interesting landmarks in your area.
– it’s harmless fun. It’s just fun! What’s wrong with that.
…or is it?

4. Arguments against

– safety (not looking where you’re going, playing while driving, going into areas that are not safe, muggings – slightly paranoid maybe?)
– bizarre social patterns and human behaviour – e.g. large groups of people all stampeding across a field to catch a pokemon, not looking where they’re going.
– trespassing, or nuisance
– personal data – it’s connected to your google account – Pokemon Go had full access to your Google account. This made it pretty exposed to a hack – anyone with access to the game’s servers would be able to access everything in your google account and yep, that means your email, photos, navigation history and so on. They’d be able to know where you live and what you look like and possibly stuff like your bank details and other sensitive info that you have put into emails. However, Niantic (the game developer) has released a statement that they’ve changed the app so that it just requires basic info and not your full account. Google also say they’re working on limiting permissions to basic profile data. Still, it seems pretty dodgy right? And this is the same story we’ve seen from other apps and I think it is a major part of modern life. Personal data – it’s a hugely desirable thing for companies and has become a precious commodity in business. Here’s the pattern: Social networks or other lifestyle apps offer us addictive and immersive experiences and services. We become hooked on them and engrossed by the speed at which we can do things, like play fun games, discover information, publish our photos or whatever. But while we’re distracted but that, the app collecting our personal data, claiming rights over the information we publish or allow access to and is then using all of that data as an asset which they can sell – to god knows who! People want our data though, presumably to be able to create fine-tuned marketing campaigns to get us to buy things or do things. Now, this is still a bit unsophisticated – you’ve heard me talk about how I find Google Ads to be stupid because they try to sell me shoes I’ve already bought. But in the future, who knows how sophisticated they will get when it comes to marketing to us, or using our own preferences. One day as our reality is more and more augmented by technology and the internet, we might find that our augmented version of reality are being shaped by the data that is collected about us. What I mean is that our reality could become mediated significantly by third parties that we don’t know, and who want to take advantage of us for their own profit. This is when the future sounds like some kind of science fiction nightmare in which even our sense of reality is manipulated so that we can be exploited by corporations. Perhaps that’s a bit paranoid, but the question is: Are we being too careless with our personal data? Are these apps just harmless games or are they more sinister than that? In Pokemon we are trying to “catch ’em all” but maybe for the companies that make these games it’s a case of “gotta catch all your personal data”.

– Google is mapping the world. At the moment, all public spaces are being mapped by Google. You can use Google maps and google street view to see an almost 3D version of the world. Since Pokemon Go is connected to Google, are they using our cameras to scan everything as we play the game? The app gives the game and Google access to your camera. Maybe they’re using the images to create scans of everywhere that we play the game, particularly the interiors of buildings, private spaces – including our homes. Maybe Google is using Pokemon to scan the interiors of our homes. It’s possible. This sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory, but it’s possible.

In the end, it’s about trust I think. Do you trust these companies? You might think – you’re crazy – Google wouldn’t use that data in ways that would harm us. But why do we automatically trust these companies? Who are they giving this data to? If it’s private companies, those transactions probably happen behind closed doors, not in a way that can be scrutinised by the public.

It’s not too crazy to imagine that our personal data, our images, even scans of the interior of our homes – all of these things could be being given to shady people that we don’t know and who don’t really care about us. In 50 years, who knows what the state of the world will be and who will be in power. I don’t like the idea that they might have all my info at their fingertips.

Technology is amazing. It could allow us to do so many incredible things. It has opened up the whole world to us, with the internet and everything. But it also could bring about massive levels of manipulation and limitations to people’s basic liberties. It would be ironic if the internet, which started out as this huge libertarian, open-sourced project, could ultimately be used as a way to keep everyone under control. I realise I now sound like a conspiracy theorist, because I’m just speculating, but it’s interesting isn’t it? It makes you think. It makes me a bit scared and I’m not sure where I stand on it.

A note on conspiracy theories – a lot of that is based on speculation, false logic, supposition and confirmation bias. Once you get the idea in your head that the world is controlled by shadowy, unknown powerful groups then it’s possible to interpret absolutely any phenomenon in the world as an extension of that. In reality, the world is probably a lot more chaotic and less sinister than we think. Pokemon Go is probably a little bit sinister – and that’s exaggerated by the fact that it appears to be a cute and innocent game, but I imagine that it’s no worse than just a little bit sinister. They want to get our data to sell it to marketing companies who are all desperately struggling to find ways of using it correctly. In the end, perhaps it will not be that bad and it’ll just be easier to buy shoes that you like. Either that, or we’ll all be enslaved by evil spider robots which steal all of our electromyography – they’ll steal all our body’s electrical impulses, so they can keep themselves alive in order to play Robo-Pokemon and feed batteries to their robot-children, like in The Matrix. Worst-case scenario.

5. Let’s play Pokemon Go! *Maybe in an episode soon – would you like that? Let me know*

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Leave your comments below :)

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Hello, how are you? How’s the weather? Wait, there’s no time for chit chat. We have a lot of things to cover so let’s get straight down to it. This is a vocabulary episode about the language of Brexit. See below for all the vocabulary.

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In the last episode you heard a conversation about Brexit with my Dad and it’s very encouraging to see lots of responses and comments from LEPsters about that. There’s definitely more to talk about and I’d very much like to talk freely about this subject again.

But now I want to focus on language. This topic involves so many things. It’s not just specific to the UK and the EU. It is connected to many other big areas like economics, political science and immigration and there is a lot of meaty vocab involved. What do I mean by meaty vocab? Just items of vocabulary that are quite substantial in terms of their meaning but also the significance they carry. These are big words about big things, and are therefore important enough to look at in more detail.

So that’s what this is about – using the subject of Brexit as a case study for learning some vocabulary items relating to economics, politics, lawmaking, immigration and more.

Where do these words come from?
– University notes from this semester’s classes.
– Conversation with my Dad in the last episode.
– Articles I’ve been reading on The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Week, The Telegraph and The BBC.

Collocations

One note about learning vocabulary – it’s good to remember that words always hang around with other words and it’s useful to be aware of which words go together. When you learn a noun for example, like the word ‘rhetoric’, you should learn which adjectives, verbs or prepositions usually go with it, and then learn words in groups – for example,  the word ‘rhetoric’ – do you do rhetoric, make rhetoric, or what? What are the most common adjectives with rhetoric? Is it ‘good’ rhetoric, or something else, like ‘colourful’ rhetoric or something? You start to realise that words on their own are no good to you – you can’t use words unless you learn all their collocates.

By the way, we ‘use, resort to or engage in’ rhetoric, and the adjectives are things like powerful, political, and even ‘empty’ rhetoric.

I have used a collocations dictionary in my planning, so listen out for collocations for the words I’m talking about in this episode.

THE VOCABULARY OF BREXIT

General

referendum (pl. referendums / referenda) = a vote by the electorate on a single question. The result of the referendum dictates the outcome of a particular decision.
to call a referendum / to hold a referendum / to put something to a referendum
When is a referendum usually called? What kind of decision? What’s the difference between a referendum and an election?

sovereignty = the authority of a state to govern itself, supreme power, independence
have sovereignty / give up sovereignty / claim sovereignty / undermine sovereignty / a loss of sovereignty
adj = sovereign, e.g. a sovereign nation, sovereign debt
democratic / undemocratic / anti-democratic / democratic deficit
Is the EU undemocratic? It depends on how you feel about it. It depends on your ideological position. For example, most of the eurosceptics are neo-liberals who believe in the power of free-market economics. They generally don’t like regulation because they believe it goes against the natural process of market forces. They distrust the regulators, and appear to disregard the benefits or purpose of it.
Bureaucracy / bureaucrats / bureaucratic
What is the EU? europa.eu/about-eu/basic-information/about/index_en.htm Is the EU undemocratic? www.quora.com/In-what-ways-is-the-current-European-Union-undemocratic
It’s easy to be biased (unfairly prejudiced against something) depending on how you view the European project as a whole. There are always several ways to look at the EU – several points of view, and those points of view will involve different types of language. E.g. if you’re a Eurosceptic you’ll describe the EU with very negative language, whereas pro-EU people will use more positive language, even though they are essentially saying the same thing. This is political rhetoric – ways of talking about something in order to persuade people to think in a certain way. Using certain words will imply certain emotions and associations. E.g. Describing the movement of migrants into the UK as a “tidal wave” of immigration. It’s language designed to create fear and hatred. The Eurosceptics use all sorts of emotional and dramatic language to talk about the EU, but in my opinion it’s mainly just rhetoric, and the same things could be said in far less dramatic language.

E.g. “The EU is composed of faceless and unelected bureaucrats who undermine the sovereignty of the UK by imposing petty legislation which stifles British businesses and kills the spirit of this great nation that I love.”

Let’s break that down.

“Faceless bureaucrats” – ok they’re not faceless of course. This is not iRobot. They have faces. Don’t worry. They’re all human beings. The reason we don’t know their faces is because they’re not on the news all the time, because they don’t have to be. They’re not there to get our attention or sell themselves like other politicians. They’re there to do boring things like propose legislation which could be used to help the EU do the things it does – which are mostly boring but useful, like laws to protect the environment or something. Fair enough, they are bureaucrats. They are lawmakers. Not that exiting.

“Unelected” – ok fair enough the EU commissioners are not elected. But even the UK government has a lot of bureaucrats who aren’t elected. There are undemocratic elements to most democratic governments. The Queen, for example, is a very important part of our constitutional framework, but she’s not elected. She’s not even chosen by people who we elected. There’s absolutely nothing democratic about the monarchy, but the eurosceptics rarely talk about the undemocratic parts of the UK’s government. Again, fair enough – the Queen is not involved in creating legislation (except for some routine powers which aren’t really used) and the EU commission seems to be the driving force behind the creation of new laws, but the other EU institutions are made up of elected representatives, so it’s not completely undemocratic. Also, the member states all agreed to the terms of the EU when they signed the treaties, so it’s not like the whole arrangement has been forced on us. So, it may be true that some of the lawmakers in Brussels are not directly elected, but is that a good or bad thing? It’s debatable.

“The EU undermines sovereignty by imposing petty legislation.”

The project was set up to ensure social and economic stability for the benefit of all the member states, who willingly signed the treaties and agreed to give a certain amount of control to the project. That’s the point of the project. And the spirit in which it has been carried out has been one of peaceful cooperation for mutual benefit. It’s unfair to label the EU as some kind of evil empire.

There is a lot of legislation, and some of it seems a bit petty (for example the laws regulating the shape of vegetables) but generally the legislation from the EU is imposed for good reason – e.g. to protect the rights of workers, to ensure that products are safe, to make sure customers are not being ripped off, to standardise equipment and services between countries (making life far easier for exporters), to establish environmental legislation (for everyone’s good) for things like clean air and water, and to help the poorer or less developed regions of the EU (such as parts of Scotland Wales Northern Ireland and northern England). What’s wrong with that?

Also, the word ‘imposed’ sounds pejorative (negative). In fact the law is imposed, but we accept it. They’re not forcing us to accept these laws at gunpoint.

Then, finally the bit about “this great nation that I love” – that’s nationalistic rhetoric – because most people love their country, so if you bang on about how great the nation is, it’s likely to inspire people. If you’re seen to be doing things out of a love for the country, how can you be doing the wrong thing? As long as you love the country and you think Britain is great, that’s what matters right? E.g. “I think we should get out of the EU, putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk, causing years of uncertainty that could seriously affect our economy – because Britain is a great nation!” Well, it might not be so great if we leave the EU, which is our project too – not some foreign power. We are the EU as well, so it’s not a foreign invader.

Anyway, back to the language.

Politics

a manifesto = a public declaration of policy promises – political parties publish manifestos before elections. A manifesto contains a set of promises, such as “if we get into power we will raise the minimum wage”.
backbenchers = senior members of a political party who are not in cabinet positions but who have a lot of influence over the general direction of the party. They tend to sit on the back benches of the House of Commons.
rhetoric = persuasive language or persuasive speaking. E.g. political rhetoric – the language used by politicians to persuade people.
E.g. statements like:
“The EU looks like a burning building but there’s an exit door and I suggest on June 23, we take it” (Nigel Farage)
“This is a moment for Britain to be brave, to reach out – not to hug the skirts of nurse in Brussels and refer all decisions to someone else.” (Boris Johnson)

People

Eurosceptics / a sceptic / to be sceptical of something (in North American English it’s skeptic)
Brexiteers
proponent / supporter of the EU
proponents / supporters of the leave campaign
opponents
those who are for or against
politicians / politics / political / policy
bureaucrats / bureaucracy / bureaucratic / red tape


Legal Details

a treaty / treaties = agreements between nations which are formally concluded and ratified
laws / legislation / controls / rules
regulations –
binding, must be directly applied as law
directives – set binding goals which must be achieved, but it’s up to the nation state to enact their own laws
to comply with regulations / to be subject to regulations
the Working Time Directive
to opt-out of something
to opt-into something
to get concessions / to make concessions

Economics / Finance

The budget = an annual estimate of revenue and spending (it’s basically a spending plan)
to contribute / to make contributions
EU spending (it goes mainly on creating economic and social cohesion in the region, which is the original plan, working together to create economic and social cohesion to prevent us all having a huge and messy fight again – another large area of spending is on sustainable development, environmental protection, agriculture and support for farmers)
net / gross
2015
UK contributed £13bn
We received £4.5bn in spending
That’s net contribution of £8.5bn
It’s less than 0.5% GDP
It’s 7% of what we spent on the NHS
We spend waaaaay less on the EU budget than on the UK budget. We give far more money to our own administration every year. All the money goes towards good things! Certainly, the bureaucrats receive expenses and salaries, but so do any administrative staff in similar positions in member states. They could probably do with a pay cut, but it doesn’t mean the whole thing is f*cked, does it?
rebate (it would have been about 18bn but Thatcher negotiated a rebate)
Eurozone
currency fluctuation
*there are more financial terms, like risk, confidence, investment and so on, which I’ve put into the next category

Trade / Investment

free trade
trade agreements
a free trade block
goods, services and people
tariffs (tariffs are imposed on exports and imports)
manufacturers
the gateway to Europe
risk
confidence
investments
finance
hedge-funds
a tax haven
a safe haven

Immigration

the workforce
the welfare state
benefits
housing
education
the NHS
unemployment
illegal immigrants
economic migrants
open door policy
security
intelligence networks
home-grown terrorism

351. BREXIT: Should the UK leave the EU? (A Conversation with my Dad)

Hello everyone, I hope you’re well. Here is an episode featuring a conversation with my Dad about Brexit – The UK’s referendum on the EU. Finally! I’ve been mentioning this for a while so here it is. You’ve seen it in the news, you’ve read it in the papers – the UK is having a referendum on membership of the European Union and who knows, we might end up leaving. It’s all over the news and the internet in the UK at the moment, everyone’s talking about it – you can’t escape it and it’s going to get more and more intense the closer we get to 23 June, the date of the referendum. I’ve had plenty of messages from listeners asking me to talk about this on the podcast, so here we go.

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Brexit: A Complex Issue

I’ve been wondering how to approach this topic for ages. It’s actually a very complex issue which I would like to cover properly, taking into account the different arguments in some detail in order to bring some genuine insight to the issue. I think that one of the problems with the subject of the EU and Brexit is that the issues are genuinely difficult to understand, and it takes proper effort and patience to understand them fully. I think it’s fair to say that these days people just don’t feel they have the time or the willingness to look deeply at the issues, and instead just arrive at their opinions based on an emotional reaction. There’s little tolerance for nuance or broad-mindedness it seems. So, I could just skate over the issues and cover this in just one short episode – but you know, I don’t like to do that on this podcast, and in fact podcasting as a medium is generally a great way to have an extended conversation on a topic. You rarely get extended, natural conversations on TV or on the internet about subjects like this. More and more there’s a pressure to make TV broadcasts short and quick, but as a result some of the subtleties are lost. There’s a tendency towards soundbites and short emotion-driven arguments. As a result, some of the more complex arguments are not heard. Certainly with the issue of Brexit in the media – our emotions are being played upon all the time – it’s either ‘fear’ like in the case of David Cameron who suggested that a Brexit could lead to World War 3 or it’s patriotic nationalism on a ridiculous level, like Boris Johnson comparing the EU to Hitler and saying that Britain could be the heroes of Europe. That’s all highly emotional political rhetoric. But let’s have a normal conversation about it shall we?

I think there are several ways to deal with the Brexit subject on this podcast. I could start with the vocabulary and terminology – because there’s a lot of specific language involved in this, when you consider that the whole thing relates to issues like the economy, immigration, sovereignty, legislative procedure, social policy, the environment, security and the workings of the EU institutions. So, I could take a bottom up approach and start with the terminology or the language of Brexit. Or I could go with a top down approach and just talk about the subject. In the end I’ve decided to go with the latter – and that’s to just jump right into the topic here by having a conversation about it. And who better to talk to than my Dad, Rick.

So this is the first thing you’ll hear on the subject – a conversation with my Dad – before I expect to go into Brexit in a bit more detail in some later episodes.

Now, you’ve probably heard my Dad on this podcast before. I thought it could be interesting for you to hear on this podcast a conversation between a well-informed, articulate and intelligent man, and his father. (ha ha)

 

Just one final point here before we listen to the conversation. The day before I spoke to my Dad for the podcast, I posted a question on social media, saying “My Dad’s going to be on the podcast talking about Brexit – do you have any questions?” I got loads of questions from interested LEPsters. Thank you very much if you wrote one. What I did was to consolidate all your queries and points into a just a few simple questions which I then used as a basis for this discussion. So, I don’t actually read out your questions or mention any names, but thank you for your questions – I think we managed to cover a lot of them in our conversation. Anything we didn’t deal with, I’ll come back to later on.

Alright, so without any further ado, let’s now hear the conversation with my Dad Rick about the UK’s referendum on Europe, and here we go.

*Conversation Begins*

The questions below are a summary of the questions I received from LEPsters on Facebook.

1. WHAT IS BREXIT?

2. WHY HAS THE BREXIT QUESTION COME UP NOW?

3. WHAT ARE THE MAIN ARGUMENTS FOR AND AGAINST BREXIT?

  • The ‘leave’ campaign
  • The ‘remain’ campaign
  • What are the main arguments of the ‘leave’ campaign?
  • What are the main arguments of the ‘remain’ campaign?

4. WHAT WOULD BE THE CONSEQUENCES? (I don’t think we really answered this – so I’ll come back to it)

5. WHAT DO WE THINK PERSONALLY?

*Conversation Ends*

I said there at the end that it’s all a bit complicated. While recording that interview I was thinking that it was bound to be very difficult to follow. Actually, after listening back to that conversation, I think we managed to deal with it in a fairly clear way, especially my Dad, who is very articulate and well-informed on the subject.

I have a variety of listeners with varying levels of knowledge of this subject, so I’m sure some of you followed that without too many problems whereas others might have been a bit lost at times.

So, I do think it’s worth talking more about Brexit on the podcast and I plan to go through some of the key vocabulary associated with this and also revisit the main arguments in forthcoming episodes. Also, as we move closer to the referendum date I am sure more things will happen in the news and it will be interesting to keep an eye on the opinion polls. So watch out for more Brexit-related commentary in the near future.

As ever I am very keen for you to express your opinions on the website. So please leave your comments. What do you think? What do you think about my Dad’s opinions in this episode, and how would you vote in the referendum?
Should the UK leave the EU or should the UK remain a part of the EU?

The LEP EU POLL

In fact, let’s do an LEP EU Referendum of our own, shall we? I wonder how the LEPsters would vote in this referendum.
I have opened up a Brexit poll on my website (you can see it below) – so please visit and cast your vote. It’s anonymous and you don’t need to add your email address.

Thanks very much for listening and take care! BYE!

Luke

Comments & Questions from LEPsters on Facebook

General questions and points of view

Luciano: What is BRETIX??!!
Elizabeth: Right now the UK has some bargaining power. Instead of leaving they should use that to see if they can’t get the worst transgressions off their back. Right?
Roland:  UK has been EU member since 1973. I am wondering why did brexit question come up now? Isn’t it because of the massive migration problem in continental Europe and part of Uk population tend to mix up the two different issues (migration vs. uk-eu renegotiation)?
Mollie:  Happy Birthday , Teacher Luke !
Luciana:  I’d like to know what is the real motivation behind the pro exit campaigners. Will they have any personal gain? Or is it only an ideological matter?
Alessandro:   Hello everybody, hi Luke, I’ve spoken to many Britons so far and all of them are for remaining in Europe. Is there anybody who’s really going to vote leave? In my view many are unable to decide what to do because they have different feelings or there are different things they want. My question is: is the referendum ripping apart British society?
PROs & CONS
What are the main arguments for and against us leaving?
Ricardo:   Hi Luke, my name’s Ricardo and I’m from Brazil. for that Reason I don’t understand why Uk still have a Queen and what’s pro and con for UK’s to be membership of EU.
Aritz:  Hello Richard! Hope you are fine!
My question: why do you think it’ll be better for the UK to stay or to go out? (depending on your point of view).
I’d like a precise answer, and nothing vague please. I’m from Spain and I live and work in London, so I am deeply interested in this issue.Thank you very much!!!
CONSEQUENCES

Anna :  If the UK finally decides to abandon the EU, would it still be a member of Schengen area? Yaron:   I would like to know how it going to affect you personally, if UK will leave (as English man who currently live and work in France)… In addition, I would find it interesting if you will discuss whether UK will leave the EU, would it be the start of the end of the EU. ie, would other countries will also leave the EU eventually (maybe not France and Germany… But other nations)

Kenichi : I would you like to summarise how people supporting the Conservative party or the labour one think about the Brexit. And If the Brexit happens, what would happen on daily goods imported from other EU countries such as wine, beer, sausage, etc. The reason why I’m asking is because I suppose the UK has been getting a lot of benefits from the cheaper trade as a member of EU so far, and those benefits would be lost after the Brexit.

Robert:  If UK leave UE, it will mean that citizens other EU other country (for example Polish) have to leave UK? What do you think. If UK leave UE it would be end of EU?

PERSONAL OPINION

Anna:  Luke, what is your personal attitude towards this issue? How are you going to vote?

Jairo:   I am going to borrow a question from BBC News and ask your dad :

What do you think the EU referendum says about Britain ? ,
tell us in ” six ” words 😊.
Adam:    However, I think I know how you are going to vote, but am curious to hear your father’s point of view, cheers
Piedad:  What will happen with EU citizens already living in UK?
Gabor:  and the same question from a different point of view, what will happen with the UK citizens living abroad in the EU?
Jean:   what will be the real consequences if UK choice to exits from UE… Try, please, to explain us this complicated topic with some examples. Thanks 😉
Abdelhmide:   Hi Luke , my question is ; if the UK leave the EU will you would need visas to go to EU ??Thanks
Other comments from listeners
Burak: Dont exit from EU ..
Adam :  I believe that if Brexit actually happens, the EU will then browbeat the UK to accept some new treaties like those of Switzerland or Norway so that the UK wouldn’t be totally free of the EU anyway. Moreover, this argument is actually being skated around by the Brexit campaigners. Not that I am particularly fond of the EU myself, but still don’t think there is an alternative to it than just being part of the block and fight for a shift.
Nataliya :  Boris Johnson VS David Cameron on this matter
Francesco :  I’m gonna answer you with a Pink Floyd quote: “Together we stand divided we fall”.
Konstantinos : Hello Luke. Thanks for asking.. I don’t think that the Euro-zone has any future in case that the citizens of the United Kingdom, would like / take the decision to continue their destiny as a country, outside from the Europe. The question there is, what are the advantages or disadvantages from this kind of catalytic decision? ..and what’s will be going on with a large group of people who live and work in the UK? Of course, and as we all understand, there’s a domino under the possibility of the negative answer, but from the other side, the British have the opportunity with that referendum to think finally, what are their interests for them and for their country.. My point of view..(?) I think the result surprise us positively.. The sure is that would be a historical moment for the England, which the humanity will remember forever.. and by the way If I have a title earlier in advance for this mini article that would be “The Funeral of the Europe”..
Francesco:   It’s more of an opinion than a question, but here it is: i think it would be really bad for us all if you left the EU and the UK would lose a great deal!