Category Archives: Culture

428. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show (Part 2)

Analysis of another sketch from Limmy’s Show. Listen to informal English spoken in a Glasgow accent, and understand it.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome back to this podcast, this ongoing project which aims to help you to improve your English by presenting you with listening content which is not just useful for practising your English listening skills, vocabulary and pronunciation but also useful for broadening your horizons just a little bit by presenting you with content you might not have otherwise discovered.

This is part 2 of a 2 part episode about British Comedy. This time I’m talking to you about one of my favourite TV shows, called Limmy’s Show – a series of bizarre and amusing sketches written and performed by Brian Limond aka Limmy, who comes from Glasgow in Scotland.

In the last episode we listened to a few sketches on YouTube featuring Limmy’s character Mr Mulvaney, the businessman who seems convinced that the police are on his tail for committing some petty shoplifting. We heard some English spoken with a Glaswegian accent and picked up a few words and expressions along the way.

This time we’re going to continue with another of Limmy’s sketches which you can find on YouTube. Whereas the Mr Mulvaney sketches featured fairly formal sounding spoken English in a Glasgow accent, the sketch in this episode features a character who speaks in a more informal way and with an accent and speech pattern that I expect you will find even stronger and more difficult to understand, which is precisely why I’ve chosen to analyse it here on the podcast. In my effort to push your English into new areas, I’m choosing to focus on some speech that you might not have been exposed to before in order to close the linguistic and cultural gaps that might exist between you and this TV comedy, which won a Scottish BAFTA twice.

The sketch we’re going to listen to now is called “Dee Dee – Yoker” which involves a character called Dee Dee who takes a bus trip to a town called Yoker.

Sketch: Dee Dee goes to Yoker (video below)

The Dee Dee sketches are possibly the best thing about Limmy’s Show. Dee Dee is basically an unemployed guy who never really leaves the house and is lost in his own world.

The sketches featuring Dee Dee are funny, but they’re perhaps closer to pathos than comedy.

Pathos is the quality in a film or play that makes people feel sadness or pity. Sometimes comedy can become pathos when it is not just funny, but also quite sad or pitiful. For example, Charlie Chaplin’s films are full of comedy, but what makes them extra special is the pathos – those moments where you feel pity for Chaplin’s character, who is basically a poverty-stricken tramp.

It’s a similar case with Dee Dee. His sketches make me laugh, but they are also terribly sad because Dee Dee is isolated, quite disturbed and unable to fully operate in society.

He basically never goes out, he spends all his time on his own at home, watching the TV and sleeping. It’s a bit sad really, because his state of mind is pretty messed up and he’s losing touch with reality. I don’t know if you know how that feels.

Imagine you’ve come down with the flu and you’re off work, sick, just staying in the house on the sofa for a long period, like a week or two. You don’t see anyone. You hardly do anything, you’re just getting over your flu, sitting on the sofa or sleeping the whole time. It starts to mess with your head a bit. The days drag on, morning drifts into the afternoon, which drifts into the evening and you haven’t left the house or even had a shower and got dressed, you’re just wrapped up in your blanket from your bed all day. Your mind starts to go a bit weird and you’re living in a daydream while everyone outside in the real world is going out working and living their lives. You’re just indoors all the time, slowly drifting away from reality.

That’s what DeeDee is all about, but I’m not sure why he’s in this situation. I think he’s just an unemployed stoner – someone who smokes too much weed or something. So, it might be about the condition of someone who smokes too much weed and as a result has lost the motivation to leave the house, get a job or sort his life out.

Every sketch with Dee Dee is like a glimpse into his spaced out mind as he completely over analyses quite trivial details in his every day life, like things he’s seen on TV or stuff that happens in his kitchen. In each episode, these trivial details become blown up into hugely significant events because of his paranoia and delusion.

In this one Dee Dee actually goes outside, in order to pick up his giro (unemployment welfare check) but takes a risk and takes an opportunity to get a free ride on a bus going to a place he’s never been before and it becomes a big adventure, even though in reality it’s not much of an adventure and most of the drama is in his own head.

With this one I’m going to read it out in my voice first so that you can understand the story, then we’ll hear the original version with Dee Dee from Glasgow.

Again, I’ve no idea what you’ll think of this, but at the least it’s just a fun little story.

Adapted transcript (written in ‘English English’)

[So, I was walking along the street the other day to pick up my welfare check. And I passed by a couple of buses at the side of the road. Everybody’s crowding off the front and into the one behind. Old folk’ were all like, “This is ridiculous. Never used to be like this with the city buses.” I was like all like, “I see. We’ve got ourselves a breakdown.” I check to see where they’re all heading. ‘Yoker’. And I just pissed myself laughing.]

Dee Dee: “Haa~!”

[Because Yoker’s one of these places I only know from the front of a bus. I’ve never been there. Don’t know what it’s like. Just this crazy fairytale land that sounds like kinda an egg yolk. So I was watching everybody getting on, trying to show their tickets to the driver. But he wasn’t having it. Just waving them on, all like, ‘Alright I know where you all came from. I can see the other bus, what do you think I am, stupid?’ And I see the opportunity for a free ride, and a little voice in my head says, “Dee dee, I know you’ve got to get your welfare check, but that money’s always going to be there. But this, on the other hand, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go for it”. So I was all like…”]

Dee Dee: “Fuck it”.

[And I joined the queue. As soon as I do, the driver starts checking people’s tickets. I was all like, “Pffft, forget it”. But I just got completely caught up in the slipstream, rushing towards the moment of truth at a hundred miles an hour. Heart pounding. Pulse racing.]

Dee Dee: “I…..uh…..”

Driver: “Go ahead mate.”

Dee Dee: “Thanks, dude.”

[I did it.

So there I was on the top deck of the bus. I had a bird’s eye view. Whizzing by the unemployment office, all like – Ta ta, welfare check, maybe some other day, hmm? Because I’m on the bus. To Yoker. Couldn’t believe what I was hearing in my head. Seriously. This was actually happening! But then I thought, hold on. Don’t get too excited. There could be someone looking at the back of your head right now thinking, “Hey, who’s he? He’s not from Yoker. He’s got no business being on this bus. Let’s beat him up!” I turned round to see if anyone was looking.

Nobody. Got away with it. I totally got away with it. So I loosened up, and started chatting. ‘Thought I’d get a little bit of local knowledge before I got there.

Dee Dee: “So is this ‘bus for Yoker, right?”

Yoker Passenger: “Yep”

Dee Dee: “I’ve just moved there. Is it a nice place?”

Yoker Passenger: “Yes, it’s a wonderful place. I’ve lived there all my life. Yoker born and bred.”

Dee Dee: “So you’ve never once wondered what Yoker’s like? Mind boggling…”

[Half an hour later I start seeing the signs. Yoker newsagents. Yoker post office. Yoker F.C. Yoker everything. They even had a barber that rhymed with Yoker. “Hair by Les Porter”. What are the chances of that?]

Dee Dee: “Hey, listen. Wouldn’t it be, like, totally crazy if his name used to be Smith, or something, and he just changed it to fit in?”.

Yoker Passenger: “What?”

[Gets to the terminus. Everybody starts crowding off. I decided to ask the driver for a favor.]

Dee Dee: “Driver, when do you leave?”

Driver: “5 minutes.”

Dee Dee: “I fell asleep and missed my stop. Would it be possible for you to print me out a ticket while I go out and catch a smoke real quick? Thanks.”

[And I put my first step on to Yoker soil. I was in Yoker. I thought this day would never come. Is it really this easy? Is it really this easy to get the things you want in life? You just need to hold out for it? All of a sudden I just had the urge to be all like, “Listen, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being here”. I was like, “Calm down, Dee Dee. That’s no laughing matter. They’ll tear you to shreds. Now, you’ve got five minutes. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do… in Yoker? …I knew exactly what.

I had to. I had to find out. I couldn’t leave without finding out what this is all about. Bus was a million miles away. I thought, “Dee Dee, you are truly on the outer reaches here, dude. Middle of nowhere.” And I went into the great unknown with a fucking ding; to ask the one big question on everybody’s lips.]

Dee Dee: “Les Porter?”

Les Porter: “Yes?”

Dee Dee: “Has your name always rhymed with Yoker, or did it used to like, be like Smith or something or-?”

[And then I thought, “Dee Dee, you’ve just blown your cover. Big time. ‘Fuck you doing, dude? Go. Go!” Got out of there before they started throwing their scissors at me like Ninja stars. Before Big Les scalped me and stuck my head on the wall. Ten seconds to get to that bus man, that’s your lifelife! What does it start doing? It starts moving. I was like that, “No way, bro!” I felt like giving up. “Hey, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being in Yoker”. Let them finish me off like a pack of crazy wolves. But I just kept running for my life like I had Leatherface on my tail. I get to the bus but he wouldn’t let us in. I was all like, “Set up! ‘Whole thing’s a set up. Those people that were on that front bus? Actors. Actors! ‘Every single one of them, actors.” Door opens and I bolt upstairs. Right under the seat. Didn’t dare poke my head up for the next half hour in case they were going by in a minibus. Eager to feast on me like a group of crazy zombie pirates.

Picked a moment. Up the road. Up the stairs. In the house. Lock. Lock. Lock. Scary, dude. Scary.

Original transcript (in Glaswegian English)

[Fucking, heading to the brew, heading to get my giro. And I pass this couple of buses at the side of the road. Everybody’s piling off the front and into the one behind. Old folk’ like that, “This is ridiculous. Never used to be like this with the corporation buses.” I was like that, “I see. We’ve got ourselves a breakdown.” I check to see where they’re all heading. ‘Yoker’. And I just pissed myself laughing.]

Dee Dee: “Haa~!”

[Because Yoker’s one of these places I only know from the front of a bus. I’ve never been there. Don’t know what it’s like. Just this pure, mad fabled land that sounds like
a pure, mad egg yolk. So I was watching everybody getting on, trying to show their tickets to the driver. But he wasn’t having it. Just waving them on like that, ‘Alright I know what you’s came from. I can see the bus, what do you think I am, daft?’. And a wee voice in my head says, “Dee dee, I know you’ve got to get your giro, but the brew’s always going to be there. But this, on the other hand, is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go for it”. So I just went like that…”]

Dee Dee: “Fuck it”.

[And I joined the queue. As soon as I do, the driver starts checking people’s tickets. I was like that, “Oh here, forget it”. But I just got pure caught up in the slipstream, belting towards the moment of truth at a hundred mile an hour. Heart pounding. Pulse racing.]

Dee Dee: “What it is is-”

Driver: “On you go, mate.”

Dee Dee: “Cheers.”

[I did it.

So there I was. Bird’s eye view. Whizzing by the brew like that. Ta ta giro, maybe some other day, eh? Because I’m on the bus. To Yoker. Couldn’t believe what I was hearing
in my head, man. Seriously. This was actually happening! But then I thought, hold on. Don’t get too excited. There could be someone looking at the back of your nut right now thinking, “Here, who’s he? He’s not from Yoker. He’s got no business being on this bus. Get his head kicked, man.” I turned round to see if anyone was looking.

Nobody. Got away with it. Just pure got away with the lot of it. So I loosened up, and started chatting. ‘Thought I’d get a wee bit of local knowledge before I got there.

Dee Dee: “So is this ‘bus for Yoker, aye?”

Yoker Passenger: “Aye”

Dee Dee: “I’ve just moved there. Is it any good?”

Yoker Passenger: “Aye, it’s a lovely place. I’ve lived there all my life. Yoker born and bred.”

Dee Dee: “So you’ve never once wondered what Yoker’s like? Mind boggling…”

[Half an hour later I start seeing the signs. Yoker newsagents. Yoker post office. Yoker F.C. Yoker everything. They even had a barber that rhymed with Yoker. “Hair by Les Porter”. What are the chances of that?]

Dee Dee: “Here y’ ‘are. What’s the betting his name used to be Smith, or something, and he just changed it to fit in?”.

Yoker Passenger: “What?”

[Gets to the terminus. Everybody starts piling off. I hit the driver with my charms.]

Dee Dee: “Driver, when do you leave?”

Driver: “5 minutes.”

Dee Dee: “I conked out and missed my stop. Any chance you could print us out a ticket so I can nip off for a fag? Cheers.”

[And I put my first step on to Yoker soil. I was in Yoker. I thought this day would never come. Is it really this easy? Is it really this easy to get the things you want in life? You just need to hold out for it? All of a sudden I just had the urge to go like that, “Here, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being here”. I was like, “Calm it, Dee Dee. That’s no laughing matter. They’ll tear you to shreds. Now, you’ve got five minutes. Where do you want to go? What do you want to do… in Yoker? …I knew exactly what.

I had to. I had to find out. I couldn’t leave without finding out what this is all about. Bus was a million miles away. I thought, “Dee Dee, you are truly on the outer reaches here, man. Middle of nowhere.” And I went into the great unknown with a fucking ding; to ask the one big question on everybody’s lips.]

Dee Dee: “Les Porter?”

Les Porter: “Aye?”

Dee Dee: “Has your name always rhymed with Yoker, or did it used to like, be like Smith or something or-?”

[And then I thought, “Dee Dee, you’ve just blown your cover. Big time. ‘Fuck you playing at, man? Go. Go!” Got out of there before they started chucking their scissors at us like Ninja stars. Before Big Les scalped us and stuck my head on the wall. Ten seconds to get to that bus man, that’s your lifelife! What does it start doing? It starts moving. I was like that, “No, man!” I felt like giving up. “Here, I’m not from Yoker, I’ve got no business being in Yoker”. Let them finish me off like a pack of mad wolves. But I just kept running for my life like I had Leatherface on my tail. I get to the bus but he wouldn’t let us in. I was like that, “Set up! ‘Whole thing’s a set up. Them that were on that front bus? Actors. Actors! ‘Lot of them, actors.” Door opens and I bolt upstairs. Right under the seat. Didn’t dare poke my head up for the next half hour in case they were going by in a minibus. Gasping to feast on me like a shower of mad zombie pirates.

Picked a moment. Up the road. Up the stairs. In the house. Lock. Lock. Lock. Scary, man. Scary.

But the best day of my life.]

Here’s a version with subtitles in ‘English English’

If you can’t see the subtitles, you can switch them on using the little button at the bottom of the video – the one that looks like a little white box with some dots and lines in it.

Nae Clue (No clue)

How I would say it (English RP version)

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t really know what you’re doing, in general? Has anybody ever asked you, “What did you do that for?” and you’re like “I don’t know”. Have you ever worn something that you thought looked good, and everyone else thought looked crap? Have you ever said yes to something, to which you should have said no? Something you really didn’t want to do. You were asked the question and you thought “No, no way” but out came “Yeah, alright, why not?” In fact, do you ever get the feeling that from the day you’re born until the day you die, you haven’t got a clue what you’re doing? Do you? Yes, well, join the club.

Limmy Version (Glasgow dialect)

Do you ever get the feeling that you don’t really know whit yer dain, in general? Has anbody ever asked you, ‘whit did ye dae that for?’ And yer like that ‘a dunno.’ Have you ever worn something that you thought looked good, and everyone else thought looked crap? Have you ever said aye to something, to which you should’ve said naw? Someting you really didny wantae dae. You were asked the question and you thought ‘naw no way’ but oot came ‘aye awright, why not.’ In fact do you ever get the feeling that from the day you’re born till the day you die, you hivny got a clue whit yer dain? Dae ye? Aye well here, join the club.

427. British Comedy: Limmy’s Show

An episode analysing more British comedy, this time focusing on a couple of sketches from Limmy’s Show, an award-winning TV comedy produced by BBC Scotland. See below for transcriptions, notes and videos.

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Introduction

I was vaguely planning to go through a sort of history of British comedy in chronological order, over a series of episodes, but I just feel like doing an episode today about a series called Limmy’s Show because I’ve been enjoying it recently.

In this episode you’ll get

  • Listening (obviously) but this one’s going to be a little tricky because you’ll be listening to a couple of sketches that might be hard to understand for various reasons.
  • Culture. Since this is comedy, there’s a lot of unspoken meaning which you might not notice. Humour is well-known for being one of the most difficult things to pick up on in another language, which is precisely why it’s a good idea for me to go through some comedy with you on the podcast. Of course, you might not get it. You might not find it funny. That’s fine. What I find enjoyable might leave you completely cold. That could be a question of taste, but it could be a question of cultural context. In fact, in my experience of being a teacher, I’ve noticed many cases of my students just not getting comedy when it’s shown to them. Even stuff that’s considered by the majority of people to be funny, just doesn’t work with learners of English. It’s not until you get to a proficient level of English that you start to notice the unspoken humour or subtlety of a piece of comedy in English. This is because it requires really advanced English skills to notice the nuances that make something amusing, but also because of the difference in mindset or cultural context. You simply might not find it funny just because of cultural conventions. This is why some people disparagingly refer to “British comedy” as being weird, unfunny, very surreal or conceptual. It’s not really that intellectual, it’s just subtle and I think we have a broad scope for comedy. Anyway, I’m not going to get bogged down in trying to explain British comedy, it’s better to just show it to you and try to help you understand it as best I can. But the point I was trying to make is that I want to try and close the gap between what I understand and enjoy about a comedy sketch, and what you might understand and enjoy about it. So, hopefully I can bridge a cultural gap as well as a linguistic gap by doing this sort of episode.
  • Vocabulary – there’s is some good, meaty vocab in the sketches we’re going to hear, from several different registers. You’ll hear some slightly formal spoken English from an executive level business man talking to the police, and some informal English with slang, spoken in a dialect. There will be vocabulary.
  • Accent – the sketches we’re going to study are all set in the Glasgow area of Scotland, so you’ll be hearing some English spoken with Glasgow accents – some quite mild and some really strong.
  • Amusement. Who knows, as well as all this English practice, you might also simply enjoy the sketches! I hope so.

What is Limmy’s Show?

Limmy’s Show is a sketch show which was broadcast on the BBC in Scotland a few years ago. A lot of the sketches from the show are on YouTube and in fact that’s where I’ve seen all of it.

Limmy’s Show is written and directed by a guy from Glasgow called Brian Limond. I think he got his show after getting quite well known from doing a podcast and some YouTube videos. He also did performances at the Edinburgh Festival. Basically, he got a sort of cult following on the internet and that led to him getting his own TV sketch show on BBC Scotland. The thing is, his show was never broadcast in England, only on TV in Scotland, which is a pity for the English because it’s a really good show.

Buy Limmy’s Show on DVD here

I guess that the Scottishness is a large part of the appeal of the show. I think it has a lot to do with it. All the characters in the sketches are Scottish and speak mostly with Glaswegian accents, and the scenes all take place in and around Glasgow.

The sketches feature different characters, mostly played by Limmy. He plays a range of characters from different social backgrounds.

The sketches are often quite surreal, bizarre or dark. Often they feature characters with weird behaviour, or Limmy talking directly to the camera about an aspect of life that he’s noticed. Some sketches just make me think, or just confuse me a bit – but in a good way.
Sometimes they’re laugh out loud funny, sometimes just amusing and sometimes just a bit curious in the way they present quite odd observations about everyday life. Some sketches are a bit disturbing, and others are even a bit sad. All in all, Limmy’s Show is original and refreshingly unconventional, as well as being funny.

It’s worth mentioning again the significance of the accents you’ll hear in Limmy’s Show. As I said, they’re all Scottish, specifically Glaswegian. Some of the characters speak with very heavy Glaswegian accents, and I think that’s part of the appeal to be honest. You don’t often hear those accents on TV. Sometimes they’re difficult to understand if you don’t come from there. Even people from the UK, like people from London struggle to understand the show sometimes, especially when certain characters are talking. There are loads of comments on YouTube from foreigners around the world, including native English speakers in America, saying that they can’t understand anything. Some people on YouTube request transcriptions because they can’t understand the sketches and you can see that other people have written out full transcriptions to the sketches in the comment section on YouTube, and there are loads of other comments from people saying “Oh, thanks so much, I never could have understood this without the transcript!”

So, you get the idea that this is going to be some proper Glaswegian English that you’re going to hear.
For me, that’s one of the reasons I like it so much. I love the accent. It’s awesome. I love hearing the particularities of the way these characters pronounce words and phrase their sentences. In a way it becomes more expressive and characterful, to the extent that the accent and speech pattern is a large part of what makes the sketches so fascinating and enjoyable.

So, let’s enjoy listening to Glaswegian English here.

I’ve got a few sketches I want to deal with, from a couple of characters. I’d like to go through loads of these sketches but I can’t do them all. So, I’ve picked out just a couple of ones that I like and that feature slightly different accents and characters, showing a bit of diversity in the way they speak.

Mr Mulvaney

We’ll start with a sketch featuring a character called Mr Mulvaney, who is an executive level business man from Glasgow.

Here’s how we’re going to do it.

  • I’ll just play the sketch to you first without a lot of explanation.
  • Simply listen and try to follow what’s going on. If you don’t find it funny, then no bother.
  • Just try to work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a little bit of detail at the start.
  • Afterwards I’ll explain what happened and talk about why I think it’s funny.
  • Then I’ll go through it in more detail, pausing after each bit, explaining vocabulary, accent differences and repeating what he says.
  • You can find the videos on my site if you want to watch them again.
  • So that’s the process.

Mr Mulvaney – Creme Egg

The scene
Mr Mulvaney is sitting in his modern looking office. He’s the director of the company. It looks very corporate. He’s in a suit and has grey hair. The company logo shows that this is the Mulvaney Group – it must be a large corporation. Mulvaney looks serious. His office building is open plan, with glass partitions between each section, so Mulvaney is alone in his room but he can see outside into the rest of the floor through the glass walls.

He calls his secretary to order a taxi for later. It’s all businesslike and serious. Then he sees a couple of police in uniform enter the building and talk to someone on reception. At this point, Mr Mulvaney panics!

A summary of the whole sketch

An executive business man overreacts when he sees the police in his office building and assumes they have come to question him about a crime he has committed. It looks like he’s committed a very serious crime, like a murder, and he frantically tries to work out his story by having an imaginary conversation with the police. On his own he practises telling his story as convincingly as possible, even adding authentic sounding questions from the police. It turns out that he hasn’t done anything very serious. He’s just stolen a chocolate bar from a shop, but he’s acting as if it’s a capital offense. In the end we realise that the police aren’t even looking for him and we don’t really know why he’s doing the things he’s doing. He could in fact be suffering from obsessive compulsive disorder.

What I find funny about it this sketch

  • The fact that he’s a high-powered business man who is involved in petty theft is sort of funny because of the contrast between his high status and the low status nature of the crime.
  • There’s a contrast between the serious way he is acting and the pettiness of the crimes he’s committed.
  • Comedy sometimes comes from the reveal of something previously hidden. These scenes reveal something about his personality and what he’s done – he’s the managing director of the company, a very serious role, but his life is on the edge of spinning out of control, like in some kind of thriller.
  • The performance. Limmy’s performance is really funny. He switches between different attitudes quickly: calm controlled businesslike manner, the panic and fear of being caught by the police, him getting a grip on himself, playing the part of the police officer very convincingly, him acting all indignant and shocked when the police suggest that he might have committed the crime, protesting his innocence, the relief of getting away with it, the determination to stop this kind of crazy behaviour and make sure it never happens again.
  • Playing with TV conventions. This is the sort of thing we have seen many times in TV shows, books and films. There are loads of thrillers in which someone in a high status position has committed a crime and when the police come to ask questions they act cooperative and yet completely innocent, while silently panicking on the inside. Every other murder mystery has a character like that in it. This time it’s played for laughs because the crime is not serious at all – it’s just a stolen chocolate bar or something.

Mr Mulvaney – In The Car

Mr Mulvaney – Fire Alarm

Part 2 coming soon…

With analysis of a completely different sketch by Limmy.

Other episodes about British comedy from the archive

 

422. Learning British Dialects with Korean Billy

Talking to Billy from Korea about his videos about regional British dialects and accents.

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Today on the podcast I’m very glad to be talking to the one and only Korean Billy.

You might already know about Korean Billy because he has recently made a name for himself on YouTube by producing videos about British English dialects showing and explaining specific words, phrases and accents you might hear in different parts of the UK, and they’re proving to be very popular, especially with people in Britain. I think the appeal of his videos is that although Billy is from another country, he’s really managed to identify a lot of the specific dialect words and pronunciation of these forms of British English that even some Brits aren’t that familiar with. Also, he just seems like a really nice guy who is not only enthusiastic about understanding different local dialects of British English but also helping other people to understand them too.

Billy used to live as a student in England. In fact he studied at university in Preston in the north of England for a few months where he met people from many parts of the country and then he started making YouTube videos about British dialects last year.

In the last few months his videos have gone viral, particularly in Britain, and he’s been featured on websites like BuzzFeed as well as on various radio and television programmes in England including several BBC programmes. He’s most famous in the UK for his videos on Scouse, Geordie, Mancunian and “Roadman” dialects. The Scouse dialect is from Liverpool, the Geordie dialect is from Newcastle, the Mancunian dialect is from Manchester and “Roadman” is a kind of dialect associated with groups of young people in London. Since recording this conversation Billy has uploaded videos about Hull dialect words and Birmingham dialect words. He’s also got some videos which feature some good clear advice for other people learning English as a foreign language, based on his own learning experiences.

I’m interviewing him on the podcast because I think he’s a really clever guy who has learned English to a good standard and he knows a lot about British accents and dialects. I want to know more about how he has done that, and I just love regional accents so I think it could just be a lot of fun to talk to Billy about this whole subject.

Let’s now talk to Korean Billy.

* * *

If you want to hear Billy doing those British regional dialects and learn about them yourself, then check out Billy’s YouTube videos. Click here for Billy’s YouTube channel

What do you think?

As a Brit, I’m interested in Billy’s work, but I wonder what you think, because you’re approaching this subject from a different point of view, as foreigners who don’t have English as a first language (most of you) and who might not be so familiar with these specific versions of British English.

How do you feel about this? What I hope is that you feel inspired by Billy,  and you feel like he’s a good example of an English language learner, and that he shows that if you’re enthusiastic and outgoing about learning English and if you apply yourself to your learning that you can make heaps of progress. I also hope that although you might not want to speak with a Scouse accent or a Geordie accent, that you’re still curious about these different varieties of British English. I think that knowing the different versions of the language helps you to develop a fully rounded and solid English, and that involves not only listening to different accents but also trying to copy those accents. It’s all good for raising your awareness of features of pronunciation and improving the range of your English in general.

Korean Billy on YouTube

Click here for Billy’s YouTube channel

Korean Billy on the BBC

Jimmy Carr explains how to do some British accents, including Scouse “I want some chicken and a can of coke” (Billy mentioned this in our converstion)

Also mentioned

Misfits (TV show) – Features lots of different UK accents and some *explicit content*

Attack the Block (Film) – South London youth dialect

What have you been thinking while listening to this episode?

Whoever you are, wherever you are – let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

Thanks to Korean Billy for taking part in this episode.


POST-RAMBLE

Some more thoughts, from me to you, at the end of this episode…

I just want to mention a few other things that might make you think a little bit.

LEPster Get-Togethers

I recently got this message from Nick Wooster, one of the guys who has been organising Get Togethers with other LEPsters in Moscow. This is basically his report about the get togethers.

Thanks for your inter­est in our meetings, Luke! It’s reall­y i­mportant and plea­sant­ for us! Almost like a­ virtual participatio­n :) Actually, on ­ave­rage 10 people “ge­t ­together” in our meetings! And it­’s ­nice to know that ­th­e­re are already so­m­e regular L­EPsters who come almost ever­­y time! BTW, are the­r­e really 50/50 male­s a­nd females among ­your ­listeners?! Acc­ording­ to our modest­ stats ­we have 80 ma­les to 20­% females h­ere in Mosc­ow:) Prob­ably the fa­ct that y­ou are alrea­dy marri­ed somehow in­fluence­s, doesn’t it?­

Activities. At the ve­­­ry beginning newcom­e­r­s tell the rest of the group a­bo­ut­ themselves and­ ho­w they happened to start­ list­ening to ­you:)­ After­ that­ we shif­t to th­e main­ topic­ mention­ed in t­he a­genda – e­ach one sha­res his/her op­inion ­and the others ­ask s­everal questions­ or ­give comments if­ the­y have some. Usually ­t­he discussion is qu­it­e lively and not a­ me­ss. I mean, we do ­with­out loud interru­ption­ or arguing, wh­ile th­e talk is quit­e inte­ractive itself­, which­ is surprisin­gly good­ for people ­from dive­rse backgro­unds who h­ardly know­ each other­! We also­ share our o­wn life ­stor­ies conn­ected w­ith th­e topic­s. Nex­t time w­e are ­going­ to pla­y a lyin­g ga­me (to guess if s­mb.­’s story is true or f­alse) at ­the very be­­ginning – it should ­b­e fun and also a go­­od chance to work on­ ­our speaking skills­. Also, Luke, if you ­have some ideas, piec­es of advice, maybe j­ust interesting and e­ffective games or wha­tever we would be gra­teful to you for shar­ing best practices:) ­with us!

We also publish on­ F­­B and VK the lin­k­s­ to useful resource­­­s discussed at the ge­­­t-togethers.

Most of the participa­­nts have known about­ ­these meetings due ­to­ your announcement­ of­ the first one. T­hat’­s why we were th­inkin­g if we could a­sk you­ to announce t­hat our­ Get-Together­s are al­ready regula­r! Curren­tly we meet­ every Sun­day at 6 p­m. The best­ way to b­e informed o­f agenda­, place and t­ime is ­to join our gr­oups o­n FB  m.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425?ref=bookmarks an­d VK ­http://www.vk.com/clubnu1

Previously a­s far as I remember w­e and you posted link­s for a particular ev­ent, if LEPsters join­ the group, they will­ be always aware of a­ll the events. Everyb­ody is welcome!

All in all, current M­oscow LE­­Psters are ­really gl­ad that we ­have s­uch a club now­ and can sh­are their­ thoughts on topics y­ou have raised­ in yo­ur episodes and gener­ally just s­peak Engl­ish with lik­e-minded­ people! Than­k you, ­­Luke, for suc­h an o­pp­ortunity;)

Nick.

P.S. Regards from my ­frien­d Dmitry who al­so contacted you!

Hello Nick, hello Dmitry and hello to all the other listeners who have got together recently in a conversation club. It’s odd, normally I imagine my listeners as individuals on their own, but I suppose there are some people out there who listen as a shared experience with other people, not necessarily at the same time, but there are other people you know who also listen – so I just want to say a special hello to listeners who listen with other people – like, if you listen with a brother or sister “Hello”, if you listen with your husband, wife, boyfriend of girlfriend “hello”, if you listen with your kids or parents, “hello” and if you listen with your teacher or some classmates or something, then “hello” to you too. If you listen with a pet animal or even a wild animal “hello”, and if you listen with friends or indeed any other living beings, then “hello” to you – the communal LEPsters out there.

My thoughts on LEP Get Togethers

I want to encourage this sort of thing in general. Meeting publicly, or meeting online. Let’s be clear about it – what you’re doing is creating your own peer group for improving your English, and that’s a really important part of your English learning.

The more I speak to people who have learned English to a proficient level, the more I notice that one of the habits or features of their learning was the fact that they spent regular time with a group of friends who talked in English. For example, there’s Kristina from Russia – a good example, but also Korean Billy and plenty of other people. Another thing worth noticing about this is that you don’t necessarily have to be hanging around with native speakers. Just spending meaningful and enjoyable time in the company of others and doing it in English, building friendly relationships and all that – it’s all very good for your English, even if you’re not mixing with native speakers. If you’re getting exposure to English in your life, having a peer group to interact with is going to allow you to develop your communication skills as a natural social process. So I fully agree with the idea of these get togethers and I think it’s great!

Also, the more my listeners get together in local communities like this, the easier it might be for me to come and visit at some point and put on a show or have a live podcast recording or something. So, carry on everyone, you’re doing it right!

Several Get Togethers have also happened between LEPsters in Tokyo and in London if I remember correctly. So it’s not just the Moscow LEPsters. And you could do it too in your town. Just set up an FB page and let me know, I’ll give you some publicity if I can.

What to talk about or do?
Playing a game or having a topic – good ideas, definitely. I recommend using all your creativity, playing the lying game for fun or any other parlour games like the name game for example. Also, consider playing different board games in English too. As long as you’re having a relaxing and pleasant time and you’re exchanging information in English, it’s good.

One idea is simply to agree on your topic beforehand and simply write down a load of discussion questions relating to that topic. Then you can fall back on those questions if you need to. You can just let the conversation go wherever it feels like going, but go back to the questions if you want.

Be interested in what the others are saying. Really interesting people are interested in others. It’s important to create an atmosphere in which people listen to each other – this is really important because it makes people feel valued, and when you really listen to what people are trying to say and you show your interest in those people, it’s like giving water to a plant – it just helps it grow. Imagine you’re in a social situation. If you feel like people are interested and listening, you’ll feel far more comfortable and ready to talk. So, listen to each other and remember that everyone’s got a story to tell, you just need to be ready to notice it. So, your get-togethers are not just speaking sessions, they’re listening sessions too.

It might be worth assigning a leader to each session who is generally in charge of things, but also each participant should take the initiative to ask questions and start conversations and things, but of course it shouldn’t feel like a role or a job, just let it happen naturally.
Just have fun and keep me informed about how it’s all going!

I encourage other people to set up their own conversation groups. I’m calling them “Get-Togethers” – what do you think of that? Do you think the name works? You could call them Meetups, or Gatherings or Meetings or whatever you like really.

I just want to remind you that this sort of thing used to happen every week online on Skype in the ChatCast which was setup by Guillaume from Switzerland. It was basically a Skype group that recorded their group conversations and also published it as a podcast. I appeared on it a few times. They picked a different topic each week and just discussed it in a friendly and open way. The ChatCast is having a break at the moment but you can hear some of the episodes in the ChatCast archive at chatcast.ch/

There was also an LEP Whatsapp group and an LEP Skype group that used to share contact details in my website forum. I have closed the forum now because I streamlined my website recently, but I don’t know if the WhatsApp group and Skype groups are still running. So, if you are still chatting to other LEPsters as part of a conversation group on Whatsapp or Skype, please let me know because I can find a way for you to continue to share your contact details with each other on my website. I still have an archive of the Forum posts about the skype and whatsapp groups by the way.

There are lots of LEP related projects going on and I think it’s cool.

The comment section, with lots of friendly chatting about episodes, the topics of episodes and other tangents.

The LEP Get Togethers.

The Transcript Collaboration – run by The Orion Team – an awesome band of podcast listeners who work together to transcribe episodes of this podcast and proofread each others’ work.

Podcasts done by listeners to this podcast (although I can’t claim credit for all of them of course) but still, it’s great that they’re doing it. Notable ones of the moment are Zdenek’s English Podcast and Daniel Goodson’s My Fluent Podcast. There was also Chriss’ English Podcast and Guillaume’s Engilsh Podcast as well as the Chatcast and I’m sure I’m forgetting someone else.

Podcasting is brilliant anyway and of course I recommend that you try it, experiment with it and have fun. And of course Korean Billy could be an inspiration to you. You could consider sharing your learning experiences on your own YouTube channel. You might catch people’s attention, and who knows what cool things could happen to you. At the very least you’ll practise your English a lot.

All right, thanks for listening. This podcasting thing is pretty amazing isn’t it? Yes it is. OK good, I’m glad you agree. I’ll speak to you soon. Bye!

420. Anyone fancy a brew? Let’s have a nice cup of tea!

Everything you need to know about the culture of tea-drinking in the UK, including a full guide to how to make a nice cup of tea, English style.

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In episode 420 I have chosen to talk about my favourite herb, which like millions of other British people, and countless others around the world, I consume on a daily basis. It calms my nerves, it raises my morale, and it helps me to socialise. Queen Victoria famously used it, and the Beatles took it regularly during the recording of their most inspired music and even sang about it in a few of their songs. I’m talking of course, about tea.

As everyone knows, tea is very popular with people all over the UK, from all regions, backgrounds and social classes, whether you’re the Queen herself, or you’re the guy who cleans the road outside her massive house, everyone loves a brew. The British Empire was built on tea, wasn’t it? Goodness knows I’ve made enough references to it in my episodes – I’m even drinking a cup right now. Mmm.

Why an episode all about tea?

I just want to celebrate tea, but also I want to tell you everything I think you need to know about this subject including these things:
– Stereotypes about tea drinking in the UK
– Different ways to make and drink tea – Afternoon tea vs just having a cuppa
– My personal way to make a nice cup of tea
– The history of tea in the UK
– Facts about tea, including its health benefits
– George Orwell’s essay on tea – considered a kind of reliable guide to the ins and outs of the potentially controversial subject of how to make tea.
– References to tea in Beatle music

What are the stereotypes about drinking tea in the UK? Are they true?

Smashing a few stereotypes – let’s talk about how most people drink tea in the UK these days, not how people seem to think we do it (that’s quite hard because it depends who you are).

*Tea is for the upper classes and is a posh affair full of uptight rules – nope, all types of people drink tea and it’s often a very casual and informal moment.
*Drinking tea is a mystical, spiritual kind of experience that takes you on a journey into a colonial dreamland where you have a profound moment of higher understanding while visiting the distant lands full of oriental mystery – nope, we’re not that pretentious about it! It’s just a nice hot drink!

Here’s that annoying advert for Special T with Diane Kruger

*Tea is only drunk at tea time – nope, people drink it at all hours of the day
*All British people like tea –  not everyone likes it, of course
*Tea contains more caffeine than coffee – see below

Does tea contain more caffeine than coffee?

Unmade tea contains more than unmade coffee – but when you brew the tea most of the caffeine is not transferred to the water – it’s discarded with the leaves. With coffee the caffeine is transferred to the water more, so the drink is more caffeinated. www.theguardian.com/notesandqueries/query/0,5753,-25502,00.html

What’s your specific method for making a good cup of tea, Luke?

I’ll tell you about 3 typical situations in which make tea, and the different ways I do it.

  1. A quick cuppa when I’m on my own.
  2. Making a pot of tea to share with a couple of friends.
  3. Preparing tea for a special occasion, like when grandparents come to visit.

What are your preferred tea brands?

PG Tips (pyramid bags), Yorkshire Tea (“like tea used to be”), M&S Gold, or fancy brands that you find in Wholefoods or little cafes – never Lipton and not Twinnings either.

Apparently it’s best to use loose leaf tea, but I usually just use tea bags. I use loose leaf tea for making sencha in a Japanese tea-pot.

Why do people drink tea so much in the UK? What’s the history of Britain and tea?

It’s all to do with our colonial past and the East India Trading Company! If you want to know more, just Wikipedia it! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tea_in_the_United_Kingdom

What do people eat with tea?

Biscuits or cake!

Click here to see pictures of popular biscuits in the UK.

Click here for typical cakes which we eat with tea. YUM YUM YUM

What are the health benefits of tea?

There are  loads of benefits, apparently. Have a look: The Evening Standard – “5 Reasons Why Drinking Breakfast Tea is Scientifically Good For You”

George Orwell – A Nice Cup of Tea

George Orwell’s well-known essay about how to make a good cup of tea, first published in the Evening Standard in 1946. It’s hard to argue with his approach and the clear and lucid way it is described. www.booksatoz.com/witsend/tea/orwell.htm

References to tea in songs by The Beatles

“Without doubt tea was the Beatles’ top tipple of choice! In one 3-month period in 1967 when they were ostensibly at the height of their drug period – they actually recorded no less than five songs referring to this most English of habits! (“Lovely Rita,” “Good Morning, Good Morning,” “A Day In The Life,” “All Together Now” and “It’s All Too Much.”) They actually recorded more overt references to tea than to drugs!” [Martin Lewis, Beatles scholar and humourist]

The Rutles – Wild Tea Parties

Talking with Richard McNeff about making a perfect cup of tea – recorded 6 years ago before I had a tea-pot!

Do you prefer tea or coffee? How do you like to make it?

beatles tea 10

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  

408. Catching Up With Amber & Paul #4 (+ videos)

Amber & Paul are back on the podcast and we do the usual catching-up session and go off on a few tangents about Amber’s play, Paul’s showbiz life, marshmallows, microphones, tea & coffee, accents and more. There are videos for the intro and outro of this episode (below).

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INTRODUCTION

This episode sees the return of pod PALs Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor, which means that The Talkative Trio are reunited on the podcast once more.

Time was pretty tight for this conversation because Paul was working to a very strict schedule on the day it was recorded, which was yesterday in my flat.

As you’ll hear, Paul arrives a little bit late because he was having lunch with some TV industry people and then he has to leave before the end of the recording to be interviewed on the radio, because he’s so hot right now in the world of showbiz.

Amber has also been very busy recently doing various things including writing and rehearsing a play, so it’s been hard to get the three of us in a room together all at the same time.

As a result this episode was arranged at the last-minute and the conversation was completely unplanned. All I wanted to do was to catch up with the two of them and ask the usual question: What have you been doing?

You’ll hear that things carry on quite rapidly and there are plenty of the usual tangents – those moments when the topic suddenly goes off in a different direction.

It might be hard to follow, so to help you keep up, here’s a basic summary of the main things that we talk about. You’ll find these notes written on the page for this episode, including some words that you might hear in the conversation but not know. You might want to check these notes to see words that you might have missed, to check their spelling etc.

  • First of all Amber tells me about the play for children that she’s been working on with our friend James Simpson.
  • Paul then arrives, you hear the buzzer buzzing and he comes in carrying a bag containing a new iPhone 7, still in its box, which he collected from the shop earlier in the day. It’s a present which all his friends bought for him a few months ago for his 30th birthday, organised by his girlfriend. We all chipped in some money and got him a new phone.
  • Amber tells us some more things about her play, including how it contains a few slapstick moments, meaning some funny scenes of fairly violent physical comedy involving a first-aid box and some marshmallows. Apparently at one point in the play James hits Amber over the head with the first aid box. By the way, a first-aid box is a box that contains basic medical supplies for administering first-aid, that’s why it’s called a first-aid box. It contains, things like plasters, bandages, antiseptic, tiny scissors, and maybe some other little medical things that you don’t understand etc.
  • Also in the play they also fight over a marshmallow, which Amber wants to dip into her tea.
  • This leads us to talk about dipping things into cups of tea, like marshmallows and biscuits, which then causes us to talk about what you put in your tea when you’ve run out of milk, which actually happened to Paul the other day. His solution was to use whipped cream as a substitute.
  • That leads me to ask the question of whether you really can put cream in tea, and we agree that you can definitely put cream in coffee, especially a particular type of coffee which is served with whipped cream on top, which in France is called café Viennois – which I think translates as a Viennese coffee – or a coffee from Vienna.
  • That causes me to ask what they call a Viennese coffee in Vienna, speculating that they might just call it a coffee, which leads to a similar question about the French phrase “creme anglais”, which translates literally as “English cream” – but in the UK we just call it “custard”.
    I then ask Paul and Amber to explain to you my audience what custard is, and Paul suggests that instead of us explaining it at great length, you could just ‘google’ it.
  • I remind Amber & Paul that it is necessary to explain some words sometimes, like the word ‘custard’, because this is Luke’s English Podcast and it’s probably a good idea to explain words sometimes.
  • This prompts Amber to comment on the way that I seem to choose to explain words quite randomly in my episodes – like when I recently spent quite a lot of time explaining the word ‘flea’ in a recent conversation I had with my Dad on the podcast.
  • We then go back to food and talk about typical English puddings which can be served with custard, including crumble, sticky toffee pudding and the oddly named ‘spotted dick’.
    I refer to spotted dick as a dessert, which causes Amber to comment that this is the wrong choice of word and that I should say that it’s a “pudding” not a “dessert”.
  • This brings up the slightly confusing and long-running debate about the correct choice of words to describe certain things in Britain, especially in relation to the dinner table. This all relates to British rules of etiquette and language in polite society, perhaps relating to French vocabulary we sometimes use in English. We don’t talk about this very clearly and it might be a bit confusing for you, and really the whole subject of the rules of British etiquette and social class deserves an episode of it’s own.
  • Nevertheless, in order to clear it up a bit, here’s a quote from a book called “Watching the English” by Kate Fox. Kate Fox is a social commentator who writes about social behaviour in England, and “Watching the English” is a good book that explains many things about English life. This is what Kate has to say about the words “pudding” and “dessert” in English. By the way, both these words are used to refer generally to sweet food which is served after the main course. You have the starter, then main course, then the pudding/dessert. Your choice of the word ‘pudding’ or ‘dessert’ seems to depend on your level of class, and apparently according to upper-class culture the word “dessert” is vulgar. Kate Fox: ‘The upper-middle and upper classes insist that the sweet course at the end of the meal is called the ‘pudding’ – never the ‘sweet’, or ‘afters’, or ‘dessert’, all of which are déclassé and unacceptable’ (Fox, 2005, p79). So, according to upper-class etiquette, pudding is the correct term for the sweet course that comes at the end of the meal. Fine. Amber seems to think this is because the word “dessert” is of French origin, but I’m not sure. By the way, in some places (e.g. France and Japan) pudding is a specific kind of dish. For example in Japan ‘pudding’ is a sort of caramel or custard creme dish. In the UK it just means the sweet course at the end of the meal and can include all kinds of things, like cakes, pies, ice-cream, trifle, Eton mess, bread and butter pudding or even jelly. “What’s for pudding?” for example.
  • I try to explain all of this, but I can’t manage it, instead saying “This is tangent city” when I realise that we keep going off on mad tangents and it’s probably quite confusing for the audience – that’s you.
  • Our talk of pudding then causes us to start talking about Pudong, an area in Shanghai, and specifically the Pudong River in Shanghai. Paul tells us a bit about that and then there are a couple of references to the slightly rude sounding English words ‘poo’ and ‘dong’ before things settle down a bit and we start talking about Paul’s recent showbiz news, including how he is going to be interviewed on a radio station called “Oui FM” later in the afternoon, so we go from poo to wee in just a few sentences.
  • At one point Paul nearly uses quite a clever word – ‘concise’ but then doesn’t use it, preferring instead to choose a more simple way of putting things “using the least words possible” (which means to be concise).
  • We talk about responses to Paul’s recent videos including a few YouTube comments & some criticism he received from a serious person in an email (the criticism was in the email, not the person – you can’t put a person in an email).
  • Things get quite geeky when I then start talking about cameras and microphones and the challenges of capturing good audio when you’re recording videos.
  • There’s some talk of different types of microphone, including boom mics, lapel mics, dynamic mics and shotgun mics but then Amber decides it’s all getting a bit too geeky and we move onto something else.
  • We make plans to hang out again on Thursday on the set of Paul’s TV show while they’re doing some filming, and we decide to record a podcast while we’re there.
  • Following on from my recent episodes about accents, I ask Paul & Amber what their accents are, and what they think my Dad’s accent is, and Amber declares her love for my Dad.
  • Then Paul has to go for his radio interview on “Oui FM” and leaves, and Amber & I carry on and talk a bit more about her play before having a massive conversation about Christmas which will probably be uploaded in a forthcoming episode.

So, I hope that helps you understand what you are about to hear from the Tangential Trio. But, now, without any further explaining – here is that conversation as it actually happened!

JINGLE + CONVERSATION

‘OUTRO’

Amber and I started talking about Christmas there and we went on to talk about it for ages – like over an hour of chat about Christmas shopping, games, food, family traditions and everything else relating to the festive time of year. That conversation will continue in the next episode, maybe the episode after.

We talked a little bit about Paul’s English in that conversation.

People sometimes say “Paul’s accent/English is influenced by his French”.
It isn’t. Certainly not his accent anyway.

That’s one of the interesting things about Paul. When he speaks French there is pretty much no trace of an English accent in his speech, and when he speaks English there is no trace of a French accent.

Other announcements

LEP Moscow Get-Together
Hey Luke!
Well, the very first LEP Moscow GET-TOGETHER has just happened! The first of it’s kind, it seems to be a historical :) event in Russia! Everything went great, it was awesome to chat in ENGLISH with like-minded people!!! Personally I felt as if I had known all of the participants for ages – open, nice and smiley friends! I hope somebody else could feel a similar thing.
First, we got to know each other, which was the main achievement! It was interesting to know when and how everyone had found LEP one day, which episodes were our favourite ones, which experiences in English language learning we had (useful Internet resources, grammar books, pronunciation etc.)
A couple of pics and a short audio message from us to you are attached.
Thanks again and again for that announcement and actually for everything you do!!!
We hope to provide more listeners with a chance to meet and speak regularly and one more way to let them know is to “friend” your group on FB with ours www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/ and VK vk.com/clubnu1 .
Have a nice Monday, Jedi-Podmaster!
Dmitry

Here are those Moscow LEPsters saying hello!

Transcript Collaboration
~ well done everyone!
Thank you especially this month to Antonio for managing everything.
There is an email now for the Orion team. Just write a comment on the page for the transcript collaboration and Antonio will let you know what to do.
Make sure you read the rules.
Transcript collaboration page: teacherluke.co.uk/episodes-with-transcripts/transcripts/ 

Daniel Goodson – My Fluent Podcast
A LEPster podcast in which you can join Daniel in his quest to become better and better at English.
Daniel interviewed one of the managers of the Transcript Collaboration – Piotr from Poland
www.myfluentpodcast.com/e20-interview-with-piotr-from-poland-transcribing-transcript-collaboration/

Zdenek’s English Podcast
Also, on the subject of LEPster podcasts – Zdenek Lukas continues to do his show, called Zdenek’s English Podcast. Recently he’s been doing episodes about his experiences studying for the DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching for Adults) which is a seriously challenging postgraduate qualification in English teaching, which involves not only a lot of writing about linguistics and teaching methodologies, but also plenty of assessed teaching sessions too. It’s a difficult course with many challenges and many things to learn. You can listen to Zdenek talking about it on his podcast in some recent episodes.
Get it here audioboom.com/channel/zdeneks-english-podcast

Join the mailing list for direct access to the page for every episode, and for any other content I put up, including videos that I might start doing with my new camera soon.

That’s it! Cheers!

VIDEOS

Here’s one of Paul’s “What the F*ck France?” videos. This one’s about how it’s difficult to learn French.

LEP VIDEOS

Here are a couple of bonus videos of me recording the introduction to this episode, and a failed attempt at recording the outro too (I forgot to press ‘record’ on my audio device!)

They’re in black & white because I think it looks cool. The gorilla ↴ is pink, ok! 

Thanks for watching. I’m just experimenting with videos at the moment, but if you like them, I might do more.

The Russian Joke appeared in US TV show Parks & Recreation – watch until the end

Music credits

Jazzy xylophone tune & piano tune by BenSound – www.bensound.com

Other music by me, or by my brother James Thompson.

406. Grammar (Past Continuous Tense) / UK Media Bias / Brazil Football Tragedy

More responses to questions and comments from listeners, including a comparison of past continuous & past simple verb tenses, comments about bias in the UK’s media, the BBC, the newspapers, the Chapecoense Plane Crash in Colombia, and more.

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Small Donate ButtonIn this episode I’m going to continue going through a few more questions and comments I’ve received from listeners recently. I started this in episode 403 which covered a few things like a WW1 story from a listener, a language question about noun phrases, and some details about my Dad’s accent. I didn’t finish, because I’ve got a couple of questions left and that’s what I’m going to cover in this episode.

A lot of this is scripted because I wrote some notes in preparation, which I’m reading from. So check out the notes on the page for this episode. I expect I’ll go off script at times as well and I’ll try to keep it as natural sounding as possible. If you’re transcribing this, don’t forget to copy + paste these notes into your transcript and just add any other things I say.

Here’s an overview of what I’d like to achieve in this one.

  • A grammar question about the difference between past continuous and past simple tenses
  • A question about media bias in the UK
  • A comment about the Chapecoense Plane Crash (Monday 28 Nov)

There will be a couple of other bits and pieces too I expect.

GRAMMAR – Differences between past simple & past continuous

Vadim G.
Hello, Luke! I have a question. I hear people say:
a)’I worked all day yesterday’
and
b)’I was working all day yesterday’
c)’I waited for you for 3 hours yesterday’
and
d)’I was waiting for you for 3 hours yesterday’
And they say it without any further information. So I can’t see any real difference between those pairs. What’s the difference between a) and b), c) and d)?
I trawled through plenty and plenty of information on that matter, but I’m still confused. I’d appreciate your clearing this up.
Vadim G.

So, what do you think listeners? How would you answer this question? What’s the difference? Are they both correct? Is there a difference?

MY RESPONSE
WIthout more context, sometimes the same sentence in two different tenses can basically mean the same thing. It’s possible. There is a bit of crossover between tenses.

That is probably the simple answer to this question, that in the examples Vadim has given, there’s no difference.

The lack of bigger context and the fact that they both specify a duration “all day” and the time period “yesterday”. Those time expressions narrow down the meaning of the verbs to such an extent that they basically mean the same thing.

Time expressions are important for narrowing down the meaning of a sentence. It’s not all about the verbs, every time. You could even say “I work all day yesterday” and we would know exactly what that means, although it’s incorrect of course because we don’t use a present tense (work) to refer to yesterday.

“I worked all day yesterday” or “I was working all day yesterday”.

So, they do basically mean the same thing here.

But Vadim and indeed everyone else listening, might not be completely satisfied with that quick(ish) answer.

Because we all know that past simple and past continuous are different. So, let’s see if we can go deeper into the difference between these tenses.

Strap yourselves in. Brace yourselves, grammar is coming. Here comes the longer answer. I’ll try to make it easy to understand, without it getting too abstract. Wish me luck!

So – What are the differences between past simple tense and past continuous tense (sometimes called past progressive tense) using these sentences as a starting point?
“I worked all day yesterday” and “I was working all day yesterday”. (I’m exhausted already! But let’s keep going!)

There’s a slight difference in nuance, which would be much easier to establish with more context – understanding the pragmatic concerns of the speakers. Why did the person say these things? The intention of the speaker is massively important, because language is used to convey certain specific ideas at a certain moment, and sometimes the situation itself can lend meaning to an utterance. Language doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

Remember, context is everything.

Vadim says that the speaker doesn’t add any other information beyond the words “all day yesterday”, and we see there are no other accompanying clauses, a second verb or other supporting sentences. We don’t know how the sentences or the situation continues.

But Vadim, I doubt that these were the only utterances or messages that were communicated. These people didn’t just walk up to you out of nowhere, say the sentences and then disappear in a cloud of smoke.

“I was working all day yesterday” – who was that??

What’s the situation? Are these responses to questions? Why is the speaker saying these things? Without this context, the sentences on their own become pretty abstract. Language doesn’t exist in a vacuum. All utterances are given meaning by the context in which they are used.

It’s a bit like the way chords or notes in music only create emotions, they only have emotional resonance, when they are combined with other ones. It’s the same with language. Phrases are given meaning by the implicit meaning of the words but also the situation.

But anyway, without getting too pretentious or anything, let me try to answer the question.

On their own, basically these tenses are used like this:

  • Past simple – “I worked” – single, finished events in finished time periods. E.g. I worked yesterday. The work is considered to be a single, finished thing. It might have taken a long time, but we’re looking back on it now as a finished unit. “I worked yesterday”. Here we have no idea how long you worked, but adding ‘all day’ shows that it happened, from the beginning to the end.
  • Past continuous – “I was working” – emphasises that the action was in progress at a specific moment in the past. The moment could be a time – e.g. with a prepositional phrase like at 8AM, or a clause like when I heard the news.
    “I was working all day yesterday” Pick a moment in the day – I was working at that moment.

10Am? – I was working, just before lunch? – I was working. At 1pm? – I was working. When you called me? – yep, I was working then too.

Compare that with past simple “I worked all day yesterday” – this feels like the speaker is expressing the action as one single unit of activity.

e.g. What did you do last night? “Well, last night I just came home and I went straight to bed, because I worked all day yesterday and I was really tired.” (You might also say “I had worked all day so I was really tired” – past perfect)

Sounds abstract. Yes it is!

So, we need some examples. They’re coming in a moment.

But yes, this stuff does get pretty abstract and quite slippery. That’s quite normal, especially when you’re just looking at grammar on its own without a context.

To an extent we’re groping around in the dark looking for concrete meaning here. You’re looking for an equivalent in your language. Sometimes there is no equivalent.

Examples

Let’s use some examples to illustrate the way these verb tenses are used. This should make it much easier.

Put yourself in the shoes of the teacher. How would you explain this? Trying to teach something is often the best way of learning about it yourself. So, put yourself in the shoes of the teacher and you might learn it more effectively.

E.g. (past continuous) A girlfriend who is upset with her boyfriend.
Why didn’t you phone me? It would only have taken a second, just to let me know you were alright. “Sorry I was working all day yesterday. I didn’t get a single opportunity to use my phone.”

That would seem to be a more satisfying answer than “I worked all day yesterday… etc” It emphasises on a moment by moment basis that you were busy.

E.g. (Past simple) Two friends talking
I feel so tired today!
-why’s that?
I worked all day yesterday without a break. And then I had to drive my brother to the airport and it took ages.

This emphasises the complete nature of the action and therefore the result of it, rather than focusing on the moment-by-moment nature of it.

Past continuous isn’t usually used on its own. It’s usually combined with a time expression or another verb to express a moment.
E.g. He said they tried to deliver the package at 12.
– Ah sorry, I was talking to Jeff on Skype at 12. I must have missed them.
Yeah, well they said they tried to deliver the package every hour and nobody answered the door all day.
– I was working in my studio all afternoon. I must have missed them. When they arrived, I was working.

So, it’s accompanied by another clause – usually past simple. “I was working when Jeff called.” or a specific time “I was working at 12.”

There are other rules about continuous tenses, like the fact that we don’t use them with state verbs. E.g. I was knowing that you had the answer. (wrong) ‘know’ = a state verb.

A rule of thumb about state verbs and action verbs – if you can mime the verb, it’s probably an action verb. If you can’t mime it, it’s probably a state verb.

have (for posession) = a state verb. E.g. I’m having an iphone 5. (wrong) I have an iphone 5. (correct)

But sometimes ‘have’ is an action verb, e.g. when it means ‘eat’.

I’m having an iphone 5 for breakfast. (What??? – this is correct grammatically but obviously a bad idea!)

I’m having toast for breakfast. (correct, and a better idea, especially with strawberry jam – yum)

More examples

Which one do you think is right? Which one sounds more natural to you?

Criteria: Is the verb expressing an event or action as a single unit? (Past simple)
Or is it expressing it as a repeated action, long action, or action in progress at a point or a number of points in time? (Past continuous)

Bloody hell that sounds abstract!

Sometimes I think that way to describe language is far more complex than the actual target language itself!

I finished the book yesterday. (One single, finished action) [listen for examples]
I was finishing the book yesterday. (This sentence seems incomplete)

Sorry I’m late for the meeting. I got lost on the way here. I took a wrong turn and got stuck on the ring road. (normal)
Sorry I’m late for the meeting. I was getting lost on the way here. I was taking a wrong turn. (Strange. Either you’re lost or you’re not lost, so ‘getting lost’ doesn’t make a lot sense. To get lost is a short event – it happens when you realise you are lost – also “I was taking a wrong turn” – what again and again?)

Ronaldo scored a goal in the last 5 minutes. (Sounds normal)
Ronaldo was scoring a goal in the last 5 minutes. (What, was there a glitch in the matrix?)

Sorry I’m late. I found a parking space. (strange – surely that would mean that you shouldn’t be late) More information: “I found a parking space, but it took ages.” or “It took ages to find a parking space”.
Sorry I’m late. I was finding a parking space. (good – it seems like you tried again and again to find one – it was a long or repeated action)

OK! Grammar – DONE

Media Bias – Is the UK’s media biased?

Juliana from Brazil
Comment on the media bias of news outlets
Hey Luke, how r u? I’m a long time Lepster. Your job is amazing! Firstly, let me explain what I’m asking you about. I’m Brazilian and my particular opinion about the media here in Brazil is: it is not impartial, especially, about policy. I’m following the news about Brexit and I usually read the BBC and The Telegraph. I’d like to ask a question: Do you think that the BBC/Telegraph are impartial about policy? Thanks you for your attention! You’re great! (I’m sorry about my english, I’m learning). Best, Juliana

The newspapers aren’t completely neutral. More on that in a few minutes.

Is the BBC neutral?
This is the subject of some debate.
Officially the BBC is neutral. The government has no say over what they broadcast. The content is monitored by independent regulators. The BBC is funded mainly by the licence fee – and they have a duty to try and represent the diversity of licence fee payers in their programmes. BBC News has a network of reporters stationed around the world and tries to get the stories at the source.

Generally the BBC has a long tradition of independent coverage. But I think it’s almost impossible to be completely neutral about everything and the individual decision makers at the BBC have to make choices about what they think is more or less newsworthy – so there will be some value judgement in there when the editors decide to prioritise certain stories over others. But be sure that there are long, complex meetings and discussions between people in which they make these decisions. It’s not all decided by one person with a specific agenda. It’s also not directed by the government like some TV stations.

The BBC is sometimes attacked by critics who argue that it’s biased. But these critics come from various positions. Some people feel the BBC favours left-wing views, others believe it favours right-wing views.

Some think the BBC is too radical, others think it is too conservative. The fact is that they have a duty to present balanced opinions so you often hear both sides of the debate.

This means that if you want to prove that the BBC is biased you can probably find plenty of evidence of that bias in the BBC by just picking the bits that seem to support your case, and ignoring the other bits.

E.g. Let’s say… in a BBC debate about radical islam, the BBC chose to invite a few different people to represent different sides of the debate. This included a right-wing journalist who is a harsh opponent of what was described as radical islam, a moderate and liberal non-muslim guest, a moderate muslim guest and a radical muslim cleric. Now, anti-islamic right-wing groups argued that the BBC was sympathising with radical Islam by inviting the radical cleric onto the show. Equally, more liberal viewers got upset that the right-wing journalist was allowed to express his anti-Islamic views on the TV. So is the BBC a moderate liberal TV channel which somehow sympathises with extremists and apologises for them, or is it pushing a right-wing agenda? If you’re so inclined you can bash the BBC from pretty much any angle.

On balance, I think the BBC is known for trying to be impartial, even if this is almost impossible to achieve. The BBC is essentially a public service and has a certain duty to be neutral.
Other TV news channels have a worse reputation than the BBC. ITV is criticised for focusing more on commercialised output at the expense of standards. Channel 4 news seems pretty good. Sky News in my opinion is not that reliable because they’re owned by Rupert Murdoch who has displayed seriously questionable standards of practice as the owner of many media outlets, including FOX News in the USA and tabloid newspapers in the UK. Murdoch is criticised for putting personal gain, profit and corporate/political coonections ahead of balanced journalism. Of all the TV news outlets we have it seems the BBC is good.

But then again, I have no idea how much we can really believe what we see in the TV news and I wonder if it is just somehow intrinsically limited as an information medium. Is it possible to get a genuinely realistic and rounded view of what’s going on by watching coverage from news media? It’s extremely difficult to get the full picture so your view is always going to be mediated to an extent. That’s why it’s called the media. But on balance I think the BBC takes greater steps to be impartial than many of the newspapers, which proudly present their bias to the public.
Most newspapers have an editorial position. This means that the people who run the paper have pretty-much chosen their position on everything, and they run their stories and comments along those lines.

UK Newspapers
Two types of paper – broadsheets and tabloids.
Main differences & positions.
Another episode in the pipeline?

Talking of news, that brings us to a news story that a listener wrote to me about today.

Brazil’s Chapecoense football team plane crash in Colombia

Roberto Geronimo
Hi Luke, how are things? I do like your work and I believe your website is great not only to learn English but also to be involved in interesting topics. Thinking about that I would like to suggest a topic: As a very cosmopolitan person I guess you’re aware about the flight tragedy involving Chapecoense – a Brazlilian footbal team – It’s devasted people around the world, especially here in Brazil but also in Colombia. This week has been very sad and difficult. Talking with friends about how sports – especially football – can raise such good feelings in all of us and we can use our solidarity to bring some peace to people who are suffering such pain.
I know it’s a very complicated topic, but I also know that you’re a very sensitive person and like to contextualize football and cultural aspects in our modern society.
That’s my suggestion!
Keep doing this great work!
#ForçaChape – Vamo, Vamo, CHAPE!
Hugs, from Brazil!

It’s a terrible tragedy for sure. Apparently Chapecoense were having a great season. They got promoted to the top Brazilian league a couple of years ago and apparently were really on the up. Apparently when the accident happened they were on their way to play in the South American cup final against Athletico Nationale. Reports seem to show that the plane ran out of fuel and had electrical problems, and finally crashed near Medellin, Colombia. Almost everyone on board was killed except for a few survivors. At this stage we’re still not sure why the plane had problems and why it crashed.

This is an awful tragedy and I’m sure it has hit people pretty hard because these these players would have been real heroes and role models for so many people, especially young football fans who look up to football players so much. Football is a sport which unites people, gives them a passion, gives them something to believe in – gives young people a sense that they have opportunities for the future and that they can better themselves and their situations. The importance of a sport like football can’t be understated. It can be a great source of joy and strength for the fans, and also for the players it is a platform for them to achieve truly great things. This team will have been really important to a lot of people. Also, they had done so well to get promoted year after year, beating bigger teams. It’s an underdog story and that makes it even more tragic. For a whole team to be lost in one event is just terrible. I have listeners in Brazil and in Colombia – so, I just want to say on behalf of LEP – if you’re feeling upset by the event, wherever you are, then our thoughts are with you.

A similar thing happened to Manchester United in 1958 when a plane carrying the team crashed during a take-off in Munich and 23 people were killed, many of them young members of the team. It’s similar in that at the time M.U. were a young team full of promise. To the people of Manchester they represented hope and opportunity for the future. This was an amazing team and they could have achieved so much. I don’t know if it’s any consolation but Manchester United since became one of the most driven and successful teams in English football, going to dominate the football league years later.

Anyway, I just wanted to mention that because I got the message from Roberto. Best wishes to you, and I was very sorry to read about what happened.

Other bits and pieces

“Hello to Slava from Ukraine”

Hello to anyone else who has sent me a message recently.

Why don’t you post to VK more often?!
I’ve forgotten my password! Hootsuite doesn’t allow me to post to it automatically. Also, I’m just not on it generally – i.e. all my friends are on FB so I naturally go on there quite a lot, but I should post to VK. If you’re a user of VK there are several LEP pages there – search for Luke’s English Podcast. Feel free to update it for other members of the VK community!

Generally – spread the word about LEP. Word of mouth is always the best form of marketing.

Join the mailing list.

Take part in the transcript collaboration. There’s an email list for that. Go to the Transcript Collaboration page and email antonio, saying “I’d like to take part in the transcript collaboration” You can start by transcribing just 3 minutes of an episode. Then you can do more as you get better and better. Don’t forget to read the rules of the project. It’s all on the transcript collaboration page.

That’s it – thanks for listening! Bye!

papers

404. British Accents in The Lord of the Rings (Part 1)

Talking about the different accents you can hear in the Lord of the Rings movies.

[DOWNLOAD]

Why this subject, Luke?

First of all, Lord of the Rings is brilliant and it’s nice to talk about it.

Secondly, In the last episode I talked about accents a bit – specifically posh accents, and it made me think about the subject a lot. I started thinking about the different British accents you can hear in Lord of the Rings, and I thought that the movie is so popular and well-known that it could be a good way to get into the subject of accents.

IN this episode, let’s identify the different accents that you can hear in the films and consider the reasons why these accents were chosen for these characters. Along the way the plan is to listen to a few different British accents and get to know them a bit. There will probably be some general chat about LOTR too, but that’s not the main subject of the episode. I’d like to do other episodes later about the story of LOTR.

Actually, this is just one episode about accents that I’ve been inspired to do today. If I have time I might record another one in which I go into some more specific details about “posh” accents and “posh” people.

And I’d like to do similar ones about other accents you can find in the UK.

But this one will cover quite a lot of different accents because there is quite a bit of variety in the LOTR film universe.

Another summary of accents in the UK

It’s based on region – different accents for different regions.

It’s also related to class – generally speaking. People from a working class background tend to speak with the regional accent from the area where they live or grew up. Those regional accents get less strong as you move up the social classes, with middle and upper-middle class people speaking a less region specific-accent known as RP (received pronunciation) or BBC English (like me). There are still some regional variations of RP but generally if people speak like me they’re speaking standard British RP. Then as you continue to the upper-class people, who you might describe as “posh” you start hearing a kind of heightened-RP or “posh” accent. The Queen is the poshest person in the country.

This isn’t always the case of course. You might find someone who comes from a very posh aristocratic family who doesn’t speak heightened-RP. Similarly, you might find someone who is very wealthy and powerful who speaks with a regional accent. There are exceptions, and also there’s an argument to say that the class system doesn’t apply any more, etc. But, honestly I think that it’s still true. Working class background? – You’ll probably speak with a regional accent (unless you lost it somewhere along the way) and if you’re middle class you’re more likely to speak RP like me, and if you’re upper class you’re more likely to speak heightened-RP or “posh” English.

It also relates to time. Heightened-RP used to be a lot more normal and it sounds pretty old fashioned by today’s standards. There was a time when everyone on the BBC spoke with heightened-RP “This is the voice of the BBC”. Nowadays most of the voices are standard-RP and plenty of TV presenters have regional accents, especially on shows that have a broad popular appeal. E.g. An entertainment show which is on the TV at 7pm in the UK and attracts a huge audience features middle-class presenters who speak with slight regional accents because these days people like that. It means you’re a normal person who comes from a normal local place. The news is still read by people with RP, because it’s neutral and sounds educated and therefore well-informed.

We do have certain associations with different accents, and these associations are quite complex. E.g. people say they find certain accents more or less trustworthy, warm, sexy, irritating, urban, rural, high-class, low-class etc.

In the UK people judge each other by their accents all the time, without realising it. It’s a big indicator of social class, education or even wealth for example. We shouldn’t judge each other by our accents, but we do.

I’m not talking here about how you can learn to speak with a British accent. THat’s another topic for another time. One thing I will say is that I think the most important thing is that you speak clearly and the other people around you can understand exactly what you want to say. Let clarity guide you, not how you perceive the social status of different accents. If you’re looking for an accent that makes you sound posh, watch out because other people might not have positive associations with “posh” for example.

“It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”
George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion (1916) preface

This means that there isn’t one single accent which is completely neutral and free of prejudice from others. This proves that the class system still exists. If I open my mouth in some places, people will immediately assume that I’m well-off and will probably hate me. Just a few people, I hope. E.g. if I went to do a comedy show in Liverpool on a Saturday night in front of a large crowd of slightly drunk Scousers, I’m sure some of them would take an instant dislike to me because I have a middle-class London accent.
So, there is no accent which is universally neutral. The main thing is that you’re clear and that you’re not ashamed of your roots. OK!

What about Lord Of The Rings?

First of all, LOTR is set in a fantasy world. The writer JRR Tolkein created this world originally as an exercise in linguistics. He was a linguist and he created his own languages and then needed a world for them to exist in. He was also interested in the idea of creating a mythology for the UK, because all our old myths and legends had been lost due to all the times we’d been invaded over the years. Our old Celtic mythologies have been replaced by Saxon or Norse ones from Denmark for example, or replaced with Judo-Christian narratives from the Old Testament, or Greek myths and so on. So, he created a made-up world, wrote his own myths and legends and created different languages for the made-up races of people, elves, orcs, dwarves, hobbits, ents and others to speak.

The characters either spoke different languages, or spoke English with different accents. The accents in the book were never aligned with real accents in the real world. We had to just imagine the accents in our heads – but the characters in the book are so well described, and the context is so rich that it’s not difficult to imagine these voices full of richness, roughness, smoothness, humour, spirit, courage, malice etc. We just imagined the accents in our heads, or just had a gut feeling about how the characters would speak.

Gandalf, for example, you imagined could be so warm and entertaining, like a fantastic old teacher in some dusty old school, but then he could be incredibly sharp, complex and frightening too. You imagined the Hobbits to have local accents of the countryside, reflecting their limited worldview, their proximity to nature. It makes you think of local accents from countryside areas of the UK. But the accents were never really directly described in the books.

So, turning the books into films was always going to be a challenge, because the filmmakers had to turn those made-up accents into real-world accents.

Which accents should each character have? This question was probably just as important as choosing what they should look like, or what they should wear. Perhaps it was more difficult because their appearances are clearly explained in the books. Choosing the accents though, was a matter of matching the right accent to the personality traits of the characters.

This is quite interesting because it tells us a little bit about how we immediately judge people based on their accents. E.g. some accents make you think of royalty, of ruralism, of rugged countryside etc. The accents, to an extent, are part of the landscape. The accents are quite closely connected to certain geographical locations in the real world.

So, the rolling hills of Hobbiton, the sharp peaks and deep chasms of the Misty Mountains and the large halls and palaces of Gondor – all of these have accents that seem appropriate to them.

What are the accents in LOTR?

All the accents are British. There are no American accents in the film, even though some of the actors are American, notably Viggo Mortenson (Aragorn), Sean Austin (Sam Gamgee) and Liv Tyler (Arwen). Also there are several Australian actors – Hugo Weaving (Elrond) and Cate Blanchett (Galadriel).

Why are the accents all British? I thought British accents in movies were just for the bad guys?
‘Otherness’
‘Old world’
Recordings of Tolkien’s readings of his own work – Tolkien’s own voice

Characters / Races

Frodo – speaks in standard RP

Hobbits – Generally the Hobbits are associated with a kind of rural, local charm. They’re warm characters with a strong sense of local identity. They work on the land. Imagine any part of England about 100 years ago. Farmers, local shopkeepers and things like that. All the hobbits have accents to give this kind of colour to their characters. Frodo speaks with RP because he’s from a slightly higher class than the others. Interestingly, the Hobbits don’t let their class differences come between them, which is another attractive thing about them.

Sam – comes from the South West – a stereotype of the country ‘bumpkin’. it’s a soft and homely accent. Working class because Sam is definitely a working class country boy to Frodo’s upper-class master.

Pippin – Scottish. Again there’s no real reason for this beyond giving him slightly old-world foreign charm. But it’s a fairly middle-class Scottish accent. Wikipedia: The filmmakers originally planned for Boyd to adopt an English accent for the role, in keeping with the other hobbits; however, Jackson found that Boyd’s comic timing was not as keen when he was not using his native accent. Therefore, it was decided to allow Boyd to play the role with a Scottish accent; the decision was justified by the observation that the Took-land in which the Took clan lived was a very hilly region of the Shire and was therefore vaguely similar to Scotland, and that the Tooks invented the game of golf, just like the Scots.

Merry – the actor comes from Stockport near Manchester and keeps his normal accent. Again, a bit of local ‘colour’. It’s not really strong.

Aragorn, Gandalf, Legolas, Galadriel, Elrond, Saruman – RP / Heightened RP – all slightly old fashioned. These are the high-class people in the story, particularly the elves who all speak high RP (upper RP). An old, posh type of language which makes them all sound like thespians or ex-public schoolboys. This reflects their high status in the story and the richness and depth of their culture.

Boromir – Sean Bean (the actor) has a Yorkshire accent. He could easily have spoken RP just like the other stewards of Gondor but Sean Bean’s natural Yorkshire accent gives his character a bit of authenticity and northern ruggedness. It’s an accent with character and some sense of landscape, like the film. Also, Boromir doesn’t have the same lineage as Aragorn. In the film his family are the stewards of Gondor – they’re just there while the proper royal family is not around. He’s high-class, but not as high-class as Aragorn.

Gimli – Welsh. It’s supposed to be Welsh I think. I guess this reflects the harshness but warmth of the dwarves. Certainly they are parochial and characterful. In The Hobbit the dwarves all have local accents, except Thorin who speaks RP. Basically, if you want characterful accents with an old world flavour, go with British dialects. If you want that old world flavour with a touch of class – it’s old school RP.

Orcs – cockney. We associate this with thugs, gangsters and criminals (not every time of course!)

Other characters: Gollum, Bilbo, Eomer, Theoden, Eowyn, Treebeard, Sauron.

In part 2 let’s listen to some spoken samples in these different accents

lotr

394. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 4)

This is part two of a two-part episode about my favourite podcasts. I thought I’d share them because you might like to listen to them too, even if they’re difficult to understand because they’re not specifically for learners of English. It’s good to challenge yourself sometimes, so why not try listening to these. If I like them, you might like them too.

Small Donate Button[DOWNLOAD]

The Infinite Monkey Cage

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00snr0w/episodes/downloads

Friday Night Comedy from BBC Radio 4

www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02pc9pj/episodes/downloads
BBC’s flagship radio comedy show. It’s a compilation of comedy shows from the week. The Now Show and Dead Ringers are the best.

Distractions Pieces with Scroobius Pip

www.scroobiuspip.co.uk/distraction-pieces-podcast-archive-2016/

Spark – True Stories Live

Podcast

James O’Brien’s Mystery Hour

lbc.audioagain.com/presenters/6-james-obrien/368-the-mystery-hour-free

The Best of James O’Brien

lbc.audioagain.com/presenters/6-james-obrien/395-the-best-of-james-obrien-free

opp4