Category Archives: Movies

430. Discussing Language Learning & Life with Fred Eyangoh

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that is the first thing that we talk about.


Recap – What Fred said about Learning English

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

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

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

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

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

Join the mailing list!

Speak soon, bye!

Comedians Fred Mentioned

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

Here are some of the comics Fred mentioned.

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

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

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

fred

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!

419. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – SPOILER RAMBLE with James

Talking to my brother about the latest Star Wars film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Spoiler alert!

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Introduction Transcript

Hello, in this episode you’re going to hear me talking to my brother about the latest Star Wars film, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”, which was released in cinemas just over a month ago.

There will be spoilers – you have been warned.

I’ve had a few comments and messages from listeners expressing their interest in hearing us talk about this film, so here it is – a conversation about Rogue One with James.

What the critics have said about Rogue One

The film has received generally good reviews. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an 85% rating which basically means that the majority of critics liked it. Their critical summary is this:

Critics Consensus: Rogue One draws deep on Star Wars mythology while breaking new narrative and aesthetic ground — and suggesting a bright blockbuster future for the franchise. (Rotten Tomatoes)

There has been criticism too of course, with some people suggesting the film is just recycling old ideas, doesn’t have enough character development and is basically just a cynical way for Disney to squeeze more money out of the massive cash cow that is the Star Wars universe.

For example, Amy Nicholson of MTV said:

Audiences once packed theaters to gawk at the future; now, it’s to soak in the past. The emphasis is on packing in as much nostalgia as possible and tersely editing it together to resemble a film. (Amy Nicholson, MTV)

For the fans

Rogue One was arguably made to please the fans, and this episode of the podcast is for the Star Wars fans too. As you know, I’m a lifelong Star Wars fan myself. I’m a Jedi. I sometimes talk about Star Wars on this podcast. James and I talked about Episode 7 last year, which we liked. I think that was exactly 100 episodes ago. I also did an episode which was all about Star Wars in general and why I am a fan. That was episode 241. Check the page for this episode to find links to those old episodes from the archive.

From the archive:

241. Star Wars

319. Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens – Reaction (No spoilers!)

321. Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens – SPOILER REVIEW

If you’re not a Star Wars fan, I hope we manage to get across what we find appealing about the Star Wars universe, while also dissecting the film as a piece of entertainment in itself. Our conversation is quite rambling, and we end up talking about quite a lot of other things along the way, including World War 2 movies, the moral ambiguity of war, the actions of Winston Churchill during WW2, Sherlock Holmes, Carrie Fisher, and some other films including one called “Aaaaaaaah!”, “Trainspotting 2“, “The French Connection 2“, and a couple of Jim Jarmusch films including “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai” (starring Forrest Whittaker – also in Rogue One) and his documentary film about Iggy Pop & The Stooges called “Gimme Danger“.

Also we make up a couple of possible Star Wars crossover films including a Han Solo film starring Indiana Jones in the Star Wars universe and an ObiWan Kenobi film set in Scotland starring Ewan McGregor, in which Obiwan is a heroin addict living in Edinburgh (like in Trainspotting).

Spoiler alert!

There will be major spoilers in this episode because we’re going to give away plot points for Rogue One and the Star Wars universe in general. So if you haven’t seen the films yet, you should probably wait, see the films and then come back to this episode later.

Plot Summary

I don’t actually read this bit in the introduction, but here it is anyway…

This is the 8th Star Wars feature film we’ve ever had, although it is not one of the numbered episodes in the series. It is set right before the events of episode 4. So this is a bit like episode 3.5.

So the Star Wars universe still can’t count, because it’s 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 7, 3.5. and next will be 8, with possibly a few other spin off films arriving too. I think the plan is to release a Star Wars film every year until the end of time.

Rogue One tells the story of an impossible rebel mission to get the plans for the Empire’s super weapon, the DEATH STAR.  We know that they get the plans in the end, because they are used to destroy the Death Star in the next movie, episode 4. But this film shows us how they did it and also explains a couple of plot points for the rest of the series.

The main character, played by British actress Felicity Jones (apparently from Birmingham) Jinn Erso is the daughter of the man who designed the Death Star. She is given a mission to find her father in order to get the death star plans which will allow the Rebels to prevent the Empire from completely dominating the universe forever. The film ends just moments before Star Wars episode 4 begins.

What did James and I think of the film? Well, listen on and you’ll find out.

Leave your comments below. What did you think of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story?

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405. British Accents in The Lord of the Rings (Part 2)

In this episode we continue to analyse the various British accents that you can hear in the film version of The Lord of the Rings. Let’s consider the accents of some of the main characters, such as Frodo, Sam, Pippin, Merry, Treebeard, Elrond, Boromir, Gandalf, Saruman, Legolas, Gimli and the orcs.

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Frodo and Sam at the river (Frodo: English RP, Sam: English West Country)

Merry, Pippin & Treebeard (Merry: mild Manchester – Stockport, Pippin: Glasgow Scottish, Treebeard: old fashioned Scottish? RP with traces of Tolkien’s made-up elvish accent?)

Boromir at the Council of Elrond (Elrond: Heightened RP, Boromir: RP with traces of Yorkshire)

Sean Bean interview with Larry King (Sean Bean: Sheffield in Yorkshire, England / Larry King: Brooklyn NYC)

Gandalf and Saruman (Heightened RP / trained thespian actors at their best!)

Gimli & Legolas (Legolas: Heightened RP, Gimli: Welsh, which sounds Scottish at times)

Orcs (Cockney! Oi Oi!)


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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.

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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

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397. An 80-Minute Ramble

Talking spontaneously about gloves, mittens, OO7, Bob Dylan, an LEP app, The Walking Dead, Oasis, Black Mirror, The Crown, a bit of politics and some 10-year cave-aged cheddar cheese.

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TV shows mentioned in this episode

Black Mirror

The Crown

Supersonic (the Oasis movie)



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

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

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Alex performing at Le Paname Art Cafe in Paris

You can see Alex performing at “WTF Paris? – Comedy Therapy for Expats” with Amber Minogue at the SoGymnase comedy club in Paris every Friday evening at 8pm. Details here www.weezevent.com/wtf-paris
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371. In Conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool (PART 2: Film Analysis / Hidden Meanings / Stanley Kubrick / Conspiracy Theory)

This is part 2 of my conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool, who makes documentaries about films and publishes them himself on his website Collative Learning. If you haven’t heard part 1 yet, you should check that out before listening to part 2. In this conversation we talk about Rob’s approach to film analysis, hidden meanings in films, the work of Stanley Kubrick and the conspiracy theory about the moon landing. More details below.

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Click here to visit Rob Ager’s website collativelearning.com

In part 1 we talked about Liverpool and what it’s really like to live there. Then we talked about how he developed his approach to film analysis. In part 2 we talk about films in more detail, including some of the films which struck a chord with him when he was younger, and films which have inspired him to make his analysis videos. We focus on the work of Stanley Kubrick, a filmmaker whose work has really fascinated Rob over the years. We also discuss the idea that directors add hidden messages into their work, and how this is sometimes interpreted wrongly by viewers and critics. We also discuss the so-called conspiracy theory about Stanley Kubrick and the moon landing, and whether there are hidden messages about this in the film The Shining.

Links & Videos

Rob’s website www.collativelearning.com

Some interesting videos from Rob’s YouTube channel


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370. In Conversation with Rob Ager from Liverpool (PART 1: Life in Liverpool / Interest in Film Analysis)

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Rob Ager from Liverpool, who is probably best known for his film analysis videos on YouTube in which he discusses classic Hollywood thrillers, sci-fi and action movies in quite astonishing levels of detail, often focusing on deep psychological and political themes and hidden messages that most viewers probably wouldn’t even notice. His videos are carefully constructed documentaries, made for educational purposes and all of them feature a voice-over commentary by Rob in which he analyses the film and gives his observations.

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Click here to visit Rob Ager’s website collatedlearning.com

I think I first came across Rob’s work on YouTube about 5 or 6 years ago. Sometimes I start watching YouTube and I get sucked into a kind of YouTube worm hole. That’s where you start watching one video, and that leads you to watch another one and then another one and eventually you find yourself watching something really fascinating and unexpected and that you wouldn’t normally have come across. I think that’s what happened with Rob’s videos. I think I first came across a short documentary he made about a horror movie called The Thing by John Carpenter, which is one of my favourite films. It’s really scary, tense and well directed, and it has a terrifying monster in it. Also it has a complicated story line which creates an eerie sense of paranoia that invites the viewer to speculate on who is or who isn’t a monster. It was really interesting to listen to Rob talking about The Thing in so much detail and it made me think about the movie in ways that I hadn’t considered before.

Then after that I kept noticing other videos by Rob and I would always watch them with interest. He has videos about The Matrix, Star Wars, The Shining, Alien and more.

Sometimes I find his comments to be a bit too specific, like he is perhaps over-analysing the films, but then again I think this is what’s great about movies – that everyone can interpret them in any way they want – and that a film might mean one thing to you, but mean a completely different thing to someone else. Even the director of the film might have a very specific message in the movie, that most of us don’t even notice. I think most modern film makers understand these ideas and they often leave their movies open to interpretation. Think, for example about the ending of Inception starring Leonardo DiCaprio – what does it really mean? We’re supposed to imagine and discuss our own interpretations of it, and I think it’s one of the strengths of the film and one of the reasons it is so popular. Everyone can leave the movie with their own theory on what it was about and what had happened at the end. Rob Ager takes this principle – that there are multiple readings of a movie – and really runs with it in his documentaries, suggesting that many of these great films that we love could in fact be about political events in the real world, our deep desires and psychological motivations or even about hidden power structures.

Another interesting thing for me is that Rob comes from Liverpool. He’s a scouser (that’s the word for people who come from Liverpool) and he speaks with a scouse accent, which really reminds me of the people I used to meet, talk to and work with when I lived in Liverpool years ago. The Liverpool accent is really distinctive, and I always want to feature different British accents on this podcast, so on this one you’ve got the chance to get used to listening to a scouse accent, or Liverpool accent.

Also, I think Liverpool is a fascinating city and not enough people know about it. Most people know The Beatles or Liverpool and Everton football clubs, but there’s more to Liverpool than that. I’m hoping that Rob will tell me a few things about what it’s really like to live and grow up in this important English city.

His website – CollativeLearning.com reveals all sorts of interesting things – like that fact that Rob is a filmmaker himself and he is very prolific with his analysis videos. He has loads of documentaries which you can download from the website. What becomes clear after reading and watching his work is that Rob is a very observant and articulate person with a great interest in film, but he is also knowledgeable about a wide range of academic theories and he incorporates ideas from psychology, sociology and philosophy in his film analysis. All of that reminds me a lot of the things I read and wrote about while doing my Media & Cultural Studies degree at university in Liverpool. What’s also notable about Rob though is that he has received no formal academic education or training in all of these subjects – he’s completely self-educated.

I’ve never spoken to Rob before, and I’m recording this introduction before our interview, which is due to start in just a few moments. I’ve got no idea how the conversation will go or what directions our conversation will take but I really hope it’s an insightful and engaging listening experience and that Rob and I get on with each other. I suggest that you listen out for differences between my standard Southern British RP accent and Rob’s accent, and let’s see what kind of vocabulary emerges from our talk.

Alright, it’s time to speak to Rob now. So, here we go.

*Conversations starts (after I remembered to press ‘record’ on my device)*

Links & Videos

Rob’s website www.collativelearning.com

Some interesting videos from Rob’s YouTube channel

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364. TEN TOP TIPS for Learning English

LEP is back after a two-week absence. This episode is about top tips for learning English. Here are some ideas about learning English that have occurred to me in the last couple of weeks of teaching intensive general English classes at school.

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So, how’s your English?

Remember to be responsible for your own learning. Nobody can learn for you.

It’s all about establishing habits for improving your English, and keeping up those habits.

TOP TIPS FOR LEARNING ENGLISH

  1. Watch movies and TV in English. This is what people always say, but it can work really well if you do it right. Here are some specific tips. Repeat watch a movie that you love in English. Watch it with subtitles in English. Then watch it again without the subtitles. Put your phone in front of the TV or computer and record the audio, then listen to it when you’re out and about. Quote some of the lines. Recreate parts of the film on your own. Go the extra distance and think outside the box.
  2. Find a book that you know quite well. Read it in English and also listen to the audiobook. You won’t mind repeating it because you love it. You already know the story, so now you can explore it in English. Imagine hearing all those lines in English again and again.
  3. Keep two notebooks. Go down to the stationery shop and buy two nice notebooks. The first one is for scribbling things down quickly and just keeping quick notes. The other one is where you keep an organised record of words and rules. Keep the first one with you when you’re watching, reading or listening to stuff in English, or when you’re in conversation on italki or something. The other one is going to be like your bible for English and you’re going to write it yourself.
  4. Use mnemonic devices to help you remember.
  5. Listen to my podcast! Listen to episodes more than once. You’ll find that specific things I say will stick in your mind. You’ll also find things funnier and funnier, I promise. Some of my episodes are designed mainly to make you laugh. You need rewards for understanding and learning a language, so let the funny moments be a reward in themselves. Enjoy the process of understanding what I’m saying, and getting the subtleties and nuances. Check out the page for each episode. You’ll often find words written there. Often the introduction or the whole episode is transcribed. You can use that to help you learn.
  6. Get a grammar book and do the exercises, then do them again a few months later. English Grammar in Use is still the best one. Even if you’re pretty good at English already, going through those pages systematically will iron out a lot of the fossilised errors you have. Then when you listen to English, read English or speak to people just try to notice some of the grammar you’ve been studying. Also, if you don’t understand some of the grammar – don’t worry about it, just carry on. The worst thing you can do is stop when you feel confused or frustrated. You don’t have to understand 100% of the grammar. Just understanding 70% is ok. Do your best to understand it all, but it gets pretty complex and abstract (not as much as most other languages). The main thing is: when you experience difficulty or resistance – the worst thing you can do is stop. Just keep going anyway! Work with what you have and make progress in little steps.
  7. Just keep yourself switched on at all times! Be mindful. Notice language and take opportunities to learn. Some learners of English are just not diligent enough. Every error is an opportunity to learn. Bit by bit, step by step.
  8. The pizza analogy.
  9. Enjoy the small victories. Every single positive moment in your learning should be celebrated. If you understand something fully – well done you. If you say exactly what you wanted to say – well done you. If you stopped making a fossilised error, well done you.
  10. Enjoy it! You only get one life. (deep and meaningful moment)

 

More episodes coming soon.

Thank you so much for your comments and messages. I’m sorry I can’t reply to them all.

Have a good day/night/evening/morning, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing!

:)