Category Archives: Transcripts

429. RAMBLENEWS!

A video is available for this episode (see below). Here is an episode with some rambling about recent news, LEPster meetups, transcript project team, listener comments & questions, teaching phrasal verbs with ‘in on’ and some music. This episode is also on YouTube. See below for details.

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Video (with some extra content)

Links

Moscow LEPster Conversation Club on Facebook www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/

Tokyo LEPsters 3rd Meetup www.facebook.com/events/1850850918464336/

A Phrasal Verb a Day teacherluke.co.uk/archive-of-episodes-1-149/phrasal-verb-a-day/

Introduction

I’m just checking in on you. How are you? I’m videoing this one. You can see it on the page for this episode, or on YouTube. I might do this more often if I can. (more about this later)

Are you growing a beard?
I’m not really doing anything! It’s just coming out of my face.
Someone in one of my classes said to me “Oh you’re wearing a beard!” – we don’t really saying this. You might say “Oh you’ve grown a beard!” or “Oh, you’ve got a beard”.

Here’s an overview of stuff I’m going to talk about in this episode

  • Some news, some admin, some language tips, some phrasal verbs and probably some rambling!
  • LEPster get togethers in Moscow and Tokyo
  • The pros and cons of uploading LEP videos onto YouTube
  • A quick reminder about The Transcript Collaboration
  • Playing the podcast at different speeds
  • Some recent comments from the website and other places
  • A question about phrasal verbs with ‘in’ and ‘on’
  • An update about a phrasal verb a day
  • A song on the guitar
  • Plus the usual rambling and stuff!

A lot of what I’m reading is written on the page for this episode, so check it out.
Also, if you’re transcribing – don’t forget to check the page for the episode because some content might already be written there and you can copy it into the transcript.

LEPster get togethers

Moscow

Moscow LEPsters – every weekend in cool anticafes where you pay a fixed price and then get as much tea, coffee and cake as you can stuff into your face. Sounds cool.

You can see from the FB pics that these spaces are interesting – one of them has a big lizard in a glass tank (like an aquarium, not a tank for war).

Click here for the FB page for the Moscow LEPsters Conversational Club

Alex (one of the Moscow LEPsters) sent me a message. It was his birthday and he asked me if I could talk to them for a few minutes. It looked like – or sounded like they were in a Russian sauna or something (!) but they were just crowded around the phone.

  • Alex said “You look good in the frame” – The phrases in English would be: ‘Photogenic’, ‘the camera loves you’, ‘you look good on camera’
  • I didn’t tell Alexander to say that thing about italki – but it’s true!
  • “Mafia” sounds like a fun game. They played the Lying Game the previous week.

Doing YouTube videos

Advantages

  • There’s a much bigger audience there. As Alexander said, many people don’t know what podcasts are (or how to spell or pronounce “podcast” either). He’s right, it’s still a bit of a niche, which I quite like in a way – if you’re taking the time to find this, get it on your phone and listen to it, it probably means you’re the sort of person who will like it, and YouTube is full of lots of general viewers who might discover my videos without really knowing what it’s all about, and they might not be the sorts of people who want to listen to me – but that’s a bit negative isn’t it. I’m sure there are plenty of people on YouTube who could like what I do, so I should try it more. Lots of YouTubers get high numbers of views. It could be successful for me. I could reach an even bigger audience.
  • Some people prefer to watch, like visual learners etc. You can see my mouth moving and my body language. We know that the majority of the message we communicate is visual, so it might be good to see the way I move, the expressions on my face and so on.

Disadvantages

  • Video is much more complex, inconvenient and time-consuming to produce. It takes up much more storage space and processing space on my computer. It slows down my computer a lot. I prefer audio for that reason – it cuts down the time I have to spend on this and allows me to produce more work.
  • It can actually be a distraction from the language. Ultimately, I want you to focus on the spoken language and not get too distracted by the things you can see.
  • But when possible I will try to video myself doing podcasts. Like Alex said, it shouldn’t require much extra effort to have the camera running while I’m talking and then upload the video straight onto YouTube, except that I won’t have the option to edit the video – as soon as I start trying to edit a 1hr video, everything takes absolutely ages.
  • Perhaps I should also do more short videos on YouTube, rather than just the . It’s something I am thinking about certainly.
  • Another thing I’ve been asked about is whether I’ve considered doing Facebook Live or Instagram Live videos. I keep thinking about doing that and I really should. I’m basically in the habit of doing the audio podcast and it’s working really well for me. BUt from time to time it would be cool to do FB live (I don’t have Instagram) and just hang out with some of my listeners. Some of you will be thinking – but I don’t have FB or Instagram! I’d have to video myself doing it on a separate camera and then upload that to YouTube. You wouldn’t be able to send comments and likes during the video, but you’d at least be able to watch it.

Facebook page for Moscow LEPsters: www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/

Tokyo!

Tokyo LEPsters are getting together on 3 March. Click here for the FB page!
www.facebook.com/events/1850850918464336/

We’re still coming to Tokyo in April – first and foremost it’s a holiday, because I’ve always wanted to show Japan to my wife who has never been, and I haven’t been back since 2005. But I am hoping to do a gig there, perhaps on the evening of Saturday 15th April.

Transcript collaboration

re-establish the rules and the benefits, and answer a few common questions.
How does it work
Rules on the page
Leave messages next to your chunks
Everyone has access to all the scripts, including the ones that are fully transcribed now.

Play the podcast at different speeds!

At 0.5x speed – I sound totally drunk.

Comments on the website

The comment section is alive with conversation these days in a way that’s never happened before. This is largely due to a few listeners like Cat, Nick, Eri, Antonio, Jack and Hiro who have been very chatty there recently – but also because of other listeners who drop in and leave comments – which is lovely to see and it’s adding some lively conversation and extra content under each episode because people are sharing videos, thoughts, pictures and other content.

Phrasal Verb Question

Frank asked me about the expression ‘in on’

Would you do me a favour? Can you sometime explain the usage of the expression “in on”? I don’t know in what cases it’s appropriate and why it is used in that way.
The last time I came across with it, was when I watched the first movie of Grey’s Anatomy. The young doctors, who came fresh from the university to the hospital in Seattle to work there, were welcomed by the director with the words: “Each of you comes here today hopeful, wanting in on the game.”

This expression is a little confusing to me. Usually, we use in or on in a sentence. Unfortunately, I can’t remember the other example I have seen it. I hope this makes more sense for you. Thank you for all your effort.

Have a great weekend!

Response

“In on” doesn’t mean anything really. It’s all about how that combines with other parts of the sentence.

At the beginning of this episode I said “I just want to check in on you and see how you’re doing”

Don’t focus on ‘in on’. You need to focus on “check in on you” or “check in on someone”.

So this is not about the meaning of the prepositions ‘in and on’ but the meaning and grammar of verbs, like “Check in on”.

Some people say this is a phrasal verb, or a multi-word verb, or an intransitive prepositional phrasal verb. To be honest we could spend ages trying to categorise this kind of grammar/vocabulary, to get exactly the correct term for these slightly different types of verbs – there are many different names in different books, and I guarantee that if we did spend loads of time defining what a phrasal verb is and what they should be called, it will just give you a headache. Phrasal verbs are notoriously difficult to understand from a grammatical point of view and as a result people don’t really agree on what to call them. Type 1 phrasal verbs, type 2 phrasal verbs, separable phrasal verbs, inseparable phrasal verbs, transitive or intransitive, prepositional verbs, intransitive non-separable idiomatic particalized verb phrases! Let’s just call them bastards, ok.

Because they are bastards, certainly when you first encounter them properly – I mean, they’re difficult and tricky, so they can seem like bastards if you’re learning the language or trying to teach it.

When you first encounter them, they can seem like bastards. Of course, once you get beyond that feeling and you learn a few phrasal verbs and get comfortable using them, they become less like bastards and more like slight bastards and then not bastards at all, and eventually you can call them your friends.

You’re already friends with some of them. E.g. “Take off” “Give up” “Shut up” “Carry on” “Find out” – you probably know all of those and you’ve discovered that they’re not really that bad. They’re pretty cool actually. And you have a sort of deep respect for them after a while, to the point at which you can call them bastards again, but in a good way. Like, “you cool bastard” or “Ah, you’old bastard you! Come here ya bastard! How have you been!?”

Anyway – ‘in on’. Let’s have a look.

The phrase you quoted from Grey’s Anatomy was “Each of you comes here today hopeful, wanting in on the game.” The director of the hospital is giving a speech to the new trainee doctors.

This phrase “To want in on something” means to want to be part of something, to want a piece of something, to want to be involved in something.”

E.g. “I’m putting together a team of people for a bank job. We’ve found out that 100 million dollars in diamonds is being delivered to the city bank next month, and we’re going to take it. We’ve got an inside man at the bank. Everything’s cleared. Security’s been paid off. We need a driver and some muscle to carry the bags and take the money to the safe house. Who wants in? Who wants in on this job?”

Some phrasal verbs have ‘in on’ as part of the phrase.

Copy me in on any correspondence (copy me in) – to be included in the email chain (to be CCd)
I want in on this job (to want in) – to want to be included in the job.
Are you in on the joke? (to be in on a joke) – to be included in the joke.
It took me ages to catch on to what he was talking about. (to catch on)
I’m just checking in on you. (to check in on someone) – suggests visiting a person to check how they are doing – also used for phone calls. Imagine popping into someone’s office and saying “How are you guys doing? I just thought I’d check in on you, see if you need anything.”

Mainly these are intransitive phrasal verbs with a dependent preposition.

Now, verbs in English aren’t always one word. Sometimes they’re two or even three words. We have a lot of verb phrases, also called phrasal verbs.

Just like normal verbs, some phrasal verbs are intransitive.

Intransitive means the verb doesn’t need an object.

Comment – would you like to comment?
Participate – I’ll participate.
Object – He strongly objected.
Complain – She didn’t like it. She complained.

But if you add an object you have to use a preposition.
Comment – would you like to comment? Would you like to comment on the game?
Participate – I’ll participate. I’ll participate in the workshop.
Object – She strongly objected. She strongly objected to the decision.
Complain – She didn’t like it. She complained. She complained about the changes.

This works with some phrasal verbs too.
E.g.
Copy in.
Catch on.
Drop in.
Talk back.

When you add an object, you need another preposition.
Could you copy me in on the email.
Did you catch on to the secret plan.
Shall we drop in on Jeff in his new flat?
What do I have to do to keep ahead of the competition?
The teachers hate it when Dave talks back to them.

So, in the end, I would suggest that you try to learn this kind of language as a chunk of vocabulary and choose not to be too distracted by the vocabulary.

So, try to notice all the phrasal verbs in this paragraph.

“I’m just checking in on you. Just thought I’d drop in on you, just to see how you’re getting on with the project. I’m really glad to see you working hard on this one. It’s exactly the sort of thing we need to do in order to keep ahead of the competition. Make sure you keep copying me in on all the email correspondence with the clients and suppliers so that I can keep up to date with all the work that you’re doing, while I sit in my office smoking a cigar and watching the cricket, ok?”

You’ll see that written on the page for this episode. Try to learn them and add them to your active vocabulary.

A Phrasal Verb a Day

I haven’t done one of those episodes for months. The reason is that it’s hard to get back into the habit, and because there isn’t enough incentive for me to keep doing them.

Hi I’ve started listening to your phrasal verb podcast. I found that It is the perfect content to study by myself since I can use phrasal verbs in my real life right after listening to it. I can rather easily find written version of phrasal verb list but actually listening to your explanation is better for me to understand and memorize it.
Though It’s a shame that you couldn’t reach your goal, which is making 365 list of it. but I also understand It will be very hard for you to carry on this without any sponsorship. I actually think this content is worth to pay, you might want to publish it through another platform.
Thank you again^^
DY from Korea.

Even though episodes are short, it does take quite a lot of time – I have to create lots of pages on my site, manage transcripts for each one, and it’s taking time and I have to wonder what’s in it for me?

Click here for A Phrasal Verb a Day – Episode Archive

Spotify playlist

Song

The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots (Part 1) – Lyrics

 

 

426. Thompson, Taylor & Minogue: Victorian Detectives (Part 2) with Amber & Paul

Listen to the conclusion of this mystery story in which Amber, Paul and I attempt to solve a series of kidnappings in Victorian London.

[DOWNLOAD]
Welcome back to the this double episode in which Amber, Paul and I are working our way through an online text adventure game. The game is set in London in the Victorian era. We are playing the part of a brilliant detective with a particular set of skills who, with his partner Mardler, is trying to track down and rescue 4 kidnapped girls while also bringing the kidnapper to justice.

This is part 2. We’re halfway through the story. If you haven’t listened to part 1 yet, I suggest you do so. It’s episode number 425.

Thanks to Peter Carlson, who wrote the story. Peter gave me the go-ahead to record us reading it out on the podcast. Nice on Peter, thank you.

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

You can find the link to the game on the page for this episode (link above) where you read all of the text that we are reading. So you can either just enjoy listening to us going through the story now, or you can listen now and read the story yourself later, or you can listen to us and read the story at the same time. It’s worth checking the text in the story because you’ll be able to read all the words and check certain things that you might miss, like spellings, definitions of certain language etc.

Whatever you choose to do, try to watch out for descriptive vocabulary (particularly verbs for different types of movement), the language we use while working together as a group and also the language we use when making deductions and speculating about the case (things like “might have” “could have” “must have” and so on).

As I said before, the story does contain some descriptions of violence so if you’re very sensitive to the gory details, then be warned, although it’s not that graphic in my opinion and you expect a bit of blood in a detective story, don’t you?

What’s the story so far?

Let’s recap again quickly.

Girls keep getting kidnapped in London. At the scene of each kidnapping there’s a calling card left by the kidnapper in the form of a creepy smiley face scratched into the floor.

We were called to the house of the Worthington family, where the daughter Chloe had disappeared. Using our deductive reasoning skills, we worked out that she must have run away with her lover – a poor Italian paper seller called Joseph. They had planned to run away together but their romantic escape was interrupted violently and unexpectedly when they were attacked at Joseph’s home in a poor part of London. Joseph was hit on the head with a hammer and Chloe was taken away, her body hidden inside a coffin on the back of a carriage. We deduced that the carriage, with Chloe’s body on board must have been taken to a local mortuary by one of the men who works there. There at the mortuary we discovered that his name is Cade Brewer, and he’s a strange, creepy yet huge and strong man with an appetite for opiate pain killing drugs, woodwork and kidnapping, but we don’t know where he is. Now we have gone back to the police station to consider the situation more carefully.

4 young girls from different social backgrounds have been kidnapped and they all have similar coloured hair – they all have light hair. Then we start receiving notes from the kidnapper, who calls himself Mr Burlap, written in broken English. It seems that he wants us to find him. He’s playing some kind of sick cat & mouse game. We suspect that Mr Burlap the kidnapper is in fact Cade Brewer, the huge creepy man with the opiate addiction who works at the mortuary. We decide to try and track him down. We first search cemeteries in the area, assuming that Cade Brewer has hidden her in a coffin – but we’re on the wrong track! Our deductive reasoning has failed us (I blame Amber). It turns out she’s not at the cemetery at all. In fact, closer inspection of the evidence shows us that he must be keeping her hostage at an abandoned hospital. So, we decide to go and investigate the hospital. But we’ve just lost precious time by investigating the wrong place – the cemetery. Have we lost too much time? Will we find the mysterious kidnapper Mr Burlap who wrote us the note in broken English? Will we find Cade Brewer – and is he in fact Mr Burlap as we expect? Will we manage to find Chloe Worthington and the other 3 girls? Will we manage to save them? Or did we waste too much time? What will we discover at the abandoned hospital? And why is Mr Burlap playing such a sick and twisted game?!

Let’s find out.

*** The story continues ***

Click here to play Victorian Detective 2 by Peter Carlson

*** The story ends ***

Here’s a recap of the story, just to make sure you got it.

Part 2 of Victorian Detective – Explained

So, after making a mistake and searching the cemetery for Chloe Worthington, we went to the hospital to track down Mr Burlap the kidnapper, who we suspected was Cade Brewer the weird, big guy from the mortuary. There we find the body of one of the other girls, Amy Anderson, but unfortunately it was too late! We’d wasted too much time at the cemetery and the girl had already died from ingesting poisonous mushrooms. Next to Amy’s body we found a smiley face (the kidnapper’s calling card) and a scratched note from Mr Burlap indicating that another one of the girls was being held somewhere else and that we had a limited amount of time to find her. We then deduced that she was being kept near the Thames river. We went there and discovered another one of the missing girls tied up next to the water. Mr Burlap’s plan was that because the Thames is tidal, the tide would eventually come in and the water level would rise, drowning the girl. Thankfully we managed to rescue her in time. We suspected the Italian uncle of the paperboy from part 1 of the story to be the killer, because Mr Burlap wrote “Good luck” in Italian at the end of the note. Closer inspection of Chloe Worthington’s house revealed that it wasn’t the Italian uncle, and that in fact Cade Brewer had been spying on Chloe and Joseph (the Italian paperboy) and that’s how he knew about the Italian phrase, which he wrote in the note as a distraction. We then worked out that Cade Brewer, who must be Mr Burlap was probably hiding in a forest just outside London – Epping Forest. We went there to investigate, and eventually found a small wooden house where we came face to face with Cade Brewer. There was a bit of a fight at the entrance to the wooden house, Mardler got hit in the face with a shovel, we dropped our gun and Cade Brewer escaped. We then picked up Mardler’s gun and investigated the house, which was full of bear pelts, bear traps and loads of carved smiley faces all over the walls – clearly Cade Brewer was Mr Burlap the kidnapper, and he’d been practising his smiley faces by scratching them everywhere in his house, like the way you practise your signature when you’re young, until you’re happy with it! We decided to chase after Brewer by going down a trapdoor which was hidden by a bear pelt on the floor. In the basement we discovered the 3rd girl, tied up, standing on a chair with a noose around her neck. For some reason we didn’t immediately rescue her from this perilous situation, and instead we chose to try and follow Brewer by shooting the lock on the back door of the basement  and opening it to discover a tunnel. We then didn’t look properly and got our leg caught in a bear trap, badly injuring ourselves. It didn’t make much of a difference to the outcome of the story but it must have stung a bit! Then, with the help of Mardler and some police officers we cut down the other girl, rescuing her (2/3 at this point).

Then the point of view changed and we followed the story from Cade Brewer’s perspective. Playing as Brewer was a disturbing experience because he was obviously suffering from extreme side effects because of the Opiax painkillers he’d been taking. In fact the painkillers had driven him mad and he’d turned into a psycho, completely obsessed with a nurse who had cared for him at the hospital where he’d been a patient with an injured leg. With his mind twisted by the effects of the opiax, he’d killed the nurse. Brewer’s mental illness, caused by the side effects of the painkiller, came in the form of the voice of Mr Burlap, who convinced him to kidnap the other girls and kill them as part of some kind of natural cycle, which he had to complete. Poor Cade Brewer was completely overcome by the influence of Mr Burlap, all because of the effects of this untested drug that he’d been given at the hospital. His next step was to kill not only Chloe Worthington, but also the detectives on his trail – that’s us!

Then we returned to the point of view of the detectives who had somehow worked out that Chloe Worthington was being kept back at the mortuary, and there we discovered her, only to be locked inside by Cade Brewer/Mr Burlap who proceeded to try and burn down the building as the conclusion of his natural cycle – having killed the other girls with earth, water, air and now fire. Thankfully we managed to use our articulate communication skills to trick Brewer into opening the door of the mortuary, where we chose to mercilessly shoot him dead without asking further questions (notice that Amber was the one who chose to do that straight away, immediately saying “shoot the fucker!”)

We escaped from the burning building with Chloe Worthington. But tragically we didn’t get 100% success because we let Amy Anderson die in the hospital due to our poor deductive reasoning at the cemetery.

That’s the end.

Let us know your thoughts

As ever, I’m curious to know what you think.

  • Would you have made the same choices we did?
  • Did you manage to work out what was going on?
  • Do you have any language-related questions or comments?

Let us know what you’re thinking in the comment section.

Other episodes like this

You could try these episodes if you haven’t already heard them.

Thanks for listening!

Luke
Foggy forest house

379. The LEP Anecdote Competition

Details of a new LEP competition / Competition rules / Advice & Tips / Inspiration / Some Funny Anecdotes

[DOWNLOAD]

Transcript Starts Here

OK listeners, it’s competition time again on the podcast. This time the competition is all about anecdotes. I did an episode about anecdotes recently. It was number 372. In that one I talked about anecdotes and why it’s important to have a few anecdotes that you can tell in English. I think they’re pretty important and fun. I also gave you some tips on how to tell good anecdotes, and you listened to a few genuine anecdotes from my Mum, my Dad and my brother.

I love stories, especially true ones and I love hearing about people’s experiences. I’m sure that loads of you out there have had some pretty cool experiences too and that there are some lovely little anecdotes just waiting to be told.

So that’s why I’m using anecdotes as the basis of this competition.

I want you to send me your anecdotes. That should be clear.

Now, the last time I launched a competition featuring the voices of my listeners I got a lot of recordings and it ended up being about 8 episodes, which was awesome, but that was quite a lot. I understand that not all of you want to listen to the voices of listeners – you come here to listen to me, or my guests. But it’s still great to have some contributions from listeners, just not too many. So this time I’m going to do it slightly differently. There will be stages, a bit like the World Cup, so that I can filter out some of the competition entries that I get and just present the cream of the crop in an episode of the podcast. I’ll tell you more about the stages and how this will work in a minute. The main thing I want to do now is to strongly encourage you to send me your anecdotes. So, please send me your anecdotes!!!

But first I should say this – don’t worry, your anecdote does not have to be perfect or anything! I promise – it doesn’t have to be perfect, just tell us a little story about yourself – that’s all you have to do. We;re going to have a little anecdote party and everyone has to bring a little anecdote. You know the way that when you’re invited to a party you have to bring cake, or drinks, or crisps. Well, this is just like that except that you have to bring an anecdote. It doesn’t have to be amazing, it just has to fill up the table, ok, and then we can have an anecdote party! But the party will not happen unless you send me that little story you have, so do it! But remember – no pressure, just enjoy yourself.

Now, I constantly tell you anecdotes about my life on this podcast. I do it all the time and I hope you enjoy them. Now, I’ve done a lot of sharing on the podcast and so it’s time for you to share back with your stories. I’m fed up of hearing my own stories. Now I want to hear about your experiences! We’re having an anecdote party and you’re all invited!

I’m presenting this as a competition, but it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part. It’s about filling up that table with anecdote cake so we can stand around with cake and drinks and have an anecdote party. So, if you’ve got a personal experience you can tell us about, record it and send it to me! In this episode I’m going to tell you how to do that, and give you some tips and inspiration for your anecdotes.

Competition Rules

First, the rules of the competition. Any half-decent competition has rules, so here are the rules for this one.

1. Record an anecdote and send it to me! Duh! “What’s an anecdote?” you might be asking. It’s a little personal story, told in a social situation. It’s a story about something that happened to you once in your life. For example, it could be a dangerous experience, a funny moment, an embarrassing thing that happened, a surprising thing, an accident, a mystery, a meeting with a person, a run-in with the police or just a misunderstanding. We all have little stories like this from our lives – think about it, what’s a thing that has happened to you – tell us the story of that! Again – it doesn’t have to be perfect! No pressure, just enjoy yourself.
2. Your recording must be no longer than 5 minutes! 5 minutes maximum. Please keep to this rule. Generally anecdotes shouldn’t go on too long (although I am guilty of spinning out my anecdotes quite a lot – for example the hot bath story I told recently). But also, if I get too many anecdotes it will all last too long. 5 minutes max. Feel free to do less than 5 as well. If your anecdote is 2.5 minutes – that’s great! Just don’t go over 5 mins.
3. Your story should be true, but you can exaggerate a bit in order to make it entertaining, that’s normal.
4. Send your anecdotes by email to podcastcomp@gmail.com – or simply go to my website and send me a voicemail using the tab on the right side. You’ll just need to have your microphone connected. If you don’t have a microphone, just use your smartphone to record a voice memo and send it.
5. Closing date for the competition: 5 October (National Teachers Day in the UK)
6. Then round 1 begins. In round one I will publish all the anecdotes on my website. I’m not going to play them in an episode of the podcast at this stage, I’ll just publish them on the website so you can listen to them there.
So, the anecdotes will be published on the website, you will be able to go and listen to them all, and vote for your favourite.
Then I’ll count up the votes and the top 10 anecdotes will make it through to round 2.
7. In round 2 I will publish the top 10 anecdotes in an episode of the podcast and then everyone can listen, and vote for their favourites by using a poll on the website. That way, only 10 anecdotes are actually played on the podcast.
8. After some more voting time I will count the votes. The winner will be interviewed on the podcast, or will get a gift – I haven’t quite decided yet (remember it’s not about the winning, it’s about the taking part). IN any case, the winner will get the glory of being the LEP Anecdote Master, or LEPAM!

9. Don’t read from a script!

Basically – maximum 5 minutes, true story, send your recordings to me, then several stages of voting, 10 best anecdotes and a winner at the end!

Advice

Use a decent microphone. Most iPhones or smartphones have good mics these days.
Try to be in fairly quiet surroundings. Speak closely into the mic.
Practise your anecdote a few times (you could do this with your italki teacher if you like), but always record the first time you tell it. Sometimes the first time is just naturally the best! But then practise it a bit and record it again. Decide which one is best.
Try to keep it spontaneous! So, don’t read it from a script. You should avoid that habit. It’s better if you learn how to say the anecdote without reading it directly from a script.
It doesn’t matter if it’s not word for word perfect, just focus on getting across certain main ideas. If you read from a script it might be obvious, and it tends to sound fake and it’s not so appealing. It immediately will sound more robotic. Make your speech spontaneous, trust me. So no reading from a script.

I have the right to use or not use any recordings I want.

How to tell a good anecdote

Here’s a reminder of my tips from episode 372. You could consider these when you record your anecdote, or if you prefer you can just completely ignore these tips and do it your own way! Be an individual!

First: don’t feel any pressure, and just enjoy yourself. You could forget all the other tips and focus on that – it’s the most important thing. Forget about everything else and just enjoy telling us your little story!
Here are the other rules which you could just ignore to be honest:
1. Don’t get stuck in the details. Just tell us the events and situations which are necessary to show us how you felt. If you get stuck in the details just say “anyway” and move on.
2. Think about the feelings you’re trying to convey, and how they will affect the way you tell the story. Are you expressing fear, surprise, weirdness, luck, sadness, humour, relief, happiness? Let that feeling come through in your storytelling.
3. Use past tenses in the right combination – past simple, past continuous and past perfect. But to be honest, it’s good to keep it simple so you can just use past simple for the entire thing if you like (for example: my brother’s anecdote).
4. Introduce your story with a sentence like “This is a story about how…” and try to set the context of the story by saying something like “This happened when I was…”
5. Give the story an ending, for example, you can just say “And that’s what happened!” or “And that’s it!” or “And that’s why …” (include something you always or never do, a piece of advice or a lesson you learned, for example)
6. If possible, try to explain what that story means to you or what you learned from it.

That’s it in terms of rules and tips. Now it is over to you.

As I said earlier, even though I’ve given you advice on how to make a good anecdote, the first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t feel any pressure, and you should just enjoy yourself! Make sure you achieve that first, before you worry about any of the other things! No pressure and just enjoy yourself! I can’t wait to hear your stories.

I know what you’re thinking

You’re thinking – I’d quite like to take part in this. I’ve got an anecdote I could tell. I think I’m going to take part in this. I’m going to send a story to Luke.
Great! If you are thinking that – then great! But just make sure you do it! Don’t procrastinate. Don’t think: “Oh, I’ll do that later”. Do something now! just send me a little story, I’m dying to hear from you. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Your story doesn’t have to be the best in the world. We’re just having an anecdote party and everyone has to bring some anecdote cake or the party won’t work! I’m inviting you, so bring some cake it’s the least you can do!

Think of it like this: your anecdote will be one of a number of stories from my listeners and the overall effect will be so cool that it doesn’t matter if each story on its own is not individually amazing. It doesn’t have to be amazing. So, if you’re even considering sending my something, let me encourage you to definitely do it, and do it sooner rather than later!

Remember: No pressure, and just enjoy yourself!

Inspiration

Here are some questions to give you inspiration:

Can you think of something relating to one of these points?

– an embarrassing thing that happened to you
– a misunderstanding
– a weird person you met
– a famous person you met
– something you found which you still have
– how you met your best friend/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/wife
– an accident you had
– a scar you’ve got
– a time you got into trouble
– a time you thought you were going to die!
– a time you won something
– something that happened to you while travelling
– an animal-related experience
– something funny that happened in your family
– something that always happens to you, regularly
– a misunderstanding that happened relating to language or culture
– something that happened to you at work
– something that happened in an English lesson
– something that happened as a result of listening to LEP
– something that happened to you while you were listening to LEP
– the worst/weirdest date you ever had
– the worst/weirdest job interview you ever had
– anything else!

Just remember, no pressure and just enjoy yourself!

Send your anecdotes (5 mins max) to podcastcomp@gmail.com or just leave me a voice mail using the tab on my website.

I can’t wait to hear your stupid, terrible, brilliant, funny, boring, confusing and fascinating anecdotes!

Remember the closing date is: 5 October (UK Teachers Day) and please – feel no pressure, relax and just enjoy yourself.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you. Let’s have an anecdote party!

Before we go, there’s a bit of time – so let’s listen to a few little anecdotes that I found online.

Louis CK – Punching a dog in the face to save its life

Essentially this is a story about how Louis’ dog ate chocolate. If dogs eat dark chocolate it can kill them because they lack an enzyme to deal with it. So, Louis had to rush to the pharmacy to get hydrogen peroxide and make the dog drink it, but it’s quite difficult to make a dog eat hydrogen peroxide in order to make it vomit all the chocolate out of its belly. In the end he had to wrestle with the dog and force it to drink the chemical. I love the way Louis tells the story, particularly the way he gives a voice to the dog and explains the emotional motivations of the dog, and highlights the irony of having to attack the dog in order to save it. Don’t worry – your anecdote doesn’t have to be as good as this, but we can learn about story telling from Louis!

Carlo Rota – Meeting Freddie Mercury from Queen

This one is a great little story, but it’s also interesting to hear how Carlo (an Italian-Canadian actor, born in England) uses present tenses, not past tenses, to make his story more engaging. We do this sometimes, although I think you should learn how to use all the right past tenses before you break the rules and use present tenses to tell a story.

A Red Chair story from the Graham Norton about a ‘happy’ donkey

The Graham Norton show is a very popular entertainment chat show on the BBC presented by a comedian called Graham Norton. One of the features on the show is the Red Chair. What happens is that any member of the audience who has a good anecdote is invited to sit in the chair and tell their story. This one is by a guy called Mohammed who went on holiday as a child and saw a donkey, who was, let’s say, feeling quite happy. The other guests on this show were Ricky Gervais and Johnny Depp – you might hear them making comments and laughing in the background.

So, that’s some inspiration and entertainment. Now, get thinking about your anecdotes and send them to me. You’ve got until UK national teachers’ day – 5 October.

Bye bye bye bye bye.

First background music: BenSound www.bensound.com
Jingles: Jake Bullit soundcloud.com/jakebullit
Other background music: Luke on Kaossilator soundcloud.com/user-896257419

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

This episode of the podcast is all about telling anecdotes in English. Anecdotes are little stories about our experiences that we share while socialising. It’s important to have a few anecdotes of your own and to know how to tell them properly. In this episode I’m going to give you some advice for how to tell an anecdote and then you’re going to listen to some true anecdotes told by members of my family that I recorded yesterday evening during dinner.

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This episode is sponsored by italki. Speaking practice is very important in developing natural, fluent English and this is now really easy to achieve because with italki you can find plenty of native speakers and teachers to talk to, you can set your own schedule and you don’t even need to leave the house – you can do all of it from your own home. If you want to practise telling your anecdotes, do it in conversation on italki. They have lots of friendly and experienced teachers who are ready to help you to learn English your way. Go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and to get a voucher worth 100ITC when you get some lessons. OK, let’s get started!

I’m at my parents’ house for a few days. My brother and I are just taking a couple of days off and spending some time here doing the usual things like enjoying the fresh air, talking to my parents and taking advantage of our mum’s cooking.

Yesterday evening we were eating dessert at the end of dinner and we started talking about anecdotes. I think I asked everyone, “Do you have any anecdotes?” I asked them to think of an anecdote they’d told before. We were about to start when I realised that it might be a good idea to record the  talking, so I quickly got my audio recorder and then recorded them telling those anecdotes. Each one is about 5 minutes long.

Before we just listen to their little stories, let’s consider anecdotes and how important they are in English.

From the archives: Another episode about telling anecdotes (episode 44) teacherluke.co.uk/2011/10/11/telling-anecdotes/ 

By the way, listen to this episode from the archives about telling anecdotes. I gave some advice for anecdotes and then we listened to a couple of funny ones. This episode develops the ideas I talked about in episode 44.

What are anecdotes and why are they important?

The Collins Online Dictionary defines an anecdote as a short, usually amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one.

So, essentially anecdotes are little true stories about ourselves. We are usually the protagonists in our anecdotes, and they’re usually told in informal social situations. Sometimes there are moments in our social interactions when we just start sharing little stories about things that have happened to us in our lives. This might happen at a dinner, or when you’re generally spending some extended time with other people. Anecdotes are a really common part of the way we socialise in English. They allow us to entertain the people around us, while letting them know a bit more about us.

Both of those things are vital in my opinion. If you’re trying to build a relationship with people it’s important to both entertain them and also share some personal information with them. Entertaining the people around you is important because it just makes them feel good. If you can make people feel good, they’re much more likely to trust you, to give something to you in return and also, it’s just good to entertain people around you. It’s just fun and enjoyable to hear about people’s experiences. Also, giving away some personal information is a good way of encouraging other people to do the same thing. That’s how you build trust. For building a relationship you can do two things: ask questions and be prepared to give away details about yourself. Anecdotes help you achieve the second one in a fun way.

So, how do you tell an anecdote in English?

Tips for Telling Anecdotes

  1. Find the right moment. Usually they take place in informal anecdote sharing sessions. Don’t just jam your story into a conversation. It should add something to the subject of the conversation. E.g. you might be sharing travelling stories, or stories about weird people you’ve met, or university stories, or dangerous experiences. That’s when it’s appropriate to add your story too. Maybe you’re talking about a particular subject and your anecdote will add something to that conversation. E.g. you might be talking about the difficulty of finding accommodation in your town, and you could tell the story of the crazy landlord you used to have. Perhaps someone has just told a story, and you’ve got one that relates to it too. All of those are good moments to introduce your anecdote. Only tell your story if it relates to the conversation you’re already having.
  2. Keep it short! Don’t get stuck in the details too much. Focus on the impact of the story. What emotion are you attempting to elicit in people? What is the feeling you’re trying to get across? Is it frustration, fear, danger, humour? Focus on communicating a feeling and try not to let the details get in the way. You need to communicate that feeling by explaining the right events. The best anecdotes allow the listeners to discover the same feelings as you did when you felt them, so describe the events and aspects of the situation that made you feel that way. Don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it pretty short and simple. Say the word “anyway” when you get stuck in the details and want to move on to the main stuff.
  3. Use the right narrative tenses. Usually we tell anecdotes in the past. That means you’ll be using past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Here’s a really quick and simple explanation of how you use those tenses. Past simple – this is the tense you use to explain the main actions in the principle part of the story. E.g. I saw a spaceship, I stopped my car, the spaceship flew above me, all the objects in my car started floating, I saw a bright flash of light, then I woke up lying down in the forest with a pain in my backside.” Past simple is usually used for short actions that happen one after the other. Past continuous – we use this to explain the situation at the time the main events happened. It’s for context. It sets the scene. E.g. “I was driving in my car through the countryside late one night when I saw something strange”. Also, it’s for moment by moment action, and it’s when two things happen at the same time. Past continuous is for the longer action of the two. The action starts, is interrupted by a shorter past simple action, and then may or may not continue. E.g. “I was trying to remember where I was when these guys in black suits turned up and started asking me questions.” Past perfect – this is for giving back story. Use past perfect to talk about events that happened before the main events of the story. E.g. I told the guys that I’d just been camping in the forest and that I’d got up in the night to go to the toilet and I’d lost my tent, and that’s why I was sleeping outside like that. I told them I hadn’t seen any aliens or anything like that.” Past perfect is a difficult one to notice when listening. The “had” is often contracted and can be impossible to hear. It’s possible to identify past perfect because of the use of past participles, e.g. “I’d seen it before” and “I saw it before” but when regular verbs are used it can be almost invisible. Compare “I’d finished” and “I finished”. They sound very similar. Sometimes ‘had’ is not completely contracted but pronounced using a weak form, like ‘/həd/’ e.g. “He had been there before”. It might also be part of a continuous form, like “He had been talking to someone else”.
    So, there are the narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous, past perfect. Past simple is the most common one – you could probably just tell the story with that one on its own, but adding the other two will give your stories more depth and range. Think about how you use these three tenses when describing events in the past.
  4. Tell us how you felt. That’s pretty simple. Just give us some emotional content.
  5. Use direct speech. Don’t worry about using reported speech, just use direct quotes. E.g. “He said “What are you doing here?” and I said “I’m just camping!” and they both said “Where’s your tent?” and I said “It got stolen in the night, or I lost it, I can’t remember”. I don’t think they believed me but they told me to be careful and to go home.
  6. Introduce your story with a quick sentence, like “I got abducted by aliens once” or “I saw a weird thing once” or “That sounds like something that happened to me once”. That’s generally a sign that you’ve got a little story to tell. However, if people aren’t really listening, don’t worry about it, this might not be the moment for your story.
  7. When someone has just told a little story, ask a few questions or respond to it in some way. Show some appreciation of the anecdote – like, “Oh my god I can’t believe that!” or “Wow, I can’t believe that you got abducted by aliens!”
  8. Try to make it quite entertaining! If the story doesn’t have much entertainment value, keep it extra short. You can exaggerate the story a bit, but don’t lie, that’s just deceptive. For example, don’t just make up a clearly fictional story about being abducted by aliens. Obviously, it should be very much ‘based on a true story’. Repeating anecdotes a few times is quite common. In fact, people carry anecdotes with them through their lives and repeat them again and again. You probably have a few experiences that you’ve described a few times – they’re your anecdotes. Try converting them into English, and it’s ok to practise those anecdotes a few times because you’re learning the language. Think about experiences you’ve had in your life – how would you describe them fairly quickly in conversation, focusing on the main events and how they made you feel at the time?
  9. Show us when the story is finished. Typically we might say “That’s what happened.” or “And that’s it” or even “That’s my alien abduction story.” It’s nice if your anecdote can end with a funny line or a punchline, but that’s difficult. It might also be good to say what you learned from your experience.

Now, let’s hear my family’s anecdotes shall we? (yes)

By coincidence, all these anecdotes relate to meeting strange people and most of them involve some element of danger (in the case of the boys’ stories) or embarrassment in my Mum’s story.

Imagine you’re at the dinner table with my Mum, Dad and brother. As you listen, think about the things I’ve just mentioned, and try to notice them. You could listen to this episode a few times. Try to notice different things I mentioned about telling anecdotes. Which anecdote do you think is the best? Why is it a good one?

Here are some key points to watch out for.

  • Narrative tenses used – in particular, can you hear when past perfect is used? It’s only used in 3 out of the 4 stories. Watch out for past continuous to set the scene. Is that one used in every story?
  • When someone says “anyway” in order to avoid getting caught in the details
  • What is the main feeling that the person is trying to communicate? Is it danger, embarrassment, weirdness?
  • How does the anecdote end?
  • Any new vocabulary?

I’ll let you listen to the anecdotes, and then I’ll deal with some vocabulary and make any other points afterwards.

Mum’s Anecdote – Meeting the King of Tonga

(Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of more than 170 islands, many uninhabited)

*some past perfect is used to explain what the king had been doing before mum arrived

It’s going to fall very flat = it’s going to fail to have the intended effect. E.g. if a joke falls flat, it doesn’t make anyone laugh. If a story falls flat, it is not impressive or amusing.

It’s been built up too much = We say this when people’s expectations have been raised. To ‘build something up’ means to raise people’s expectations of something. You’d say this before telling a joke if you feel like everyone’s expectations have been raised. E.g. “What’s this Russian joke? I’ve heard you talking about it a lot, so it must be amazing.” “Well, it’s been built up too much now, it’s just going to fall flat.” or “Have you seen the new Spielberg film Bridge of Spies, oh my god it is amazing!” “Don’t build it up too much!”

I was nothing to do with it = if you have nothing to do with something it means you are not involved or connected to anything at all. E.g. “Mr Thompson, I want to talk to you about the bank robbery that occurred in the town centre last year.” “Bank robbery? I had nothing to do with it officer, I promise!” or simply “There was a royal visit happening, but I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to pick up my husband.”

I was just a hanger-on = a hanger-on is someone who just hangs on. This is someone who is nothing to do with what’s happening but they just hang around. E.g. musicians often have hangers on. These are people that hang around the band even though they’re not contributing to the show at all. They’re just hanging on because it’s cool or fun to be with the band.

I was skulking in the corner = to skulk means to kind of hide or keep out of sight, often in a slightly cowardly way.

He beckoned to me = to beckon to someone is to wave someone over to you with your hand. It’s to do a motion with your hand which encourages someone to come to talk to you.

He was eyeing her up = this means to look at someone because you fancy them – to look at someone with sexual interest. E.g. the king of Tonga was eyeing up my Mum all evening.

 

James’ Anecdote – Hastings Story

a skate park = a place designed for skateboarding

the ramp’s in the church = a ramp is a thing for skateboarding on. It has sloped sides so skaters can go up and down on it

a hog on a spit = a hog is a pig, and a spit is a stick that goes through the pig, suspending it above a fire

we had too good a time = we had a good time – but if you want to add ‘too’ you need to say “we had too good a time” not “we had a too good time” – this works with the structure in general. “It was too big a pizza for me to eat” or “It was too long a journey to make at that time of night”

I was too drunk – not in a lairy way = to be lairy means to be aggressive and anti-social. It happens when some people get drunk. They get lairy.

I’m bigger than him, I can take him = to ‘take’ someone means beat them in a fight

We crashed out = to crash out means to fall asleep, usually quickly and often in a place where you don’t usually sleep.

I’ve painted everything in hammerite www.hammerite.co.uk/ = hammerite is a kind of metallic paint

He was coming round = to come round here means to wake up, or come back to consciousness

I didn’t get interfered with = to interfere with someone could mean to touch them in a sexual manner

*just past simple

 

Dad’s Anecdote – Hitchhiking in Italy

*all the narrative tenses used

We got a few good lifts = a lift is when someone takes you somewhere in a car. E.g. “Could you give me a lift to the station?”

This car pulled up = this is when a car stops by the side of the road (also – pull over)

He was a slightly dodgy character = dodgy means untrustworthy or suspicious

The car broke down = stopped working

They turned on him and said “What are you doing?” = to turn on someone (not turn someone on) means to suddenly start criticising or attacking someone. In this case, there were curious neighbours listening to the argument and after a while they turned on the guy – they decided that he was wrong and they started criticising him

I managed to jump in and grab the keys from the ignition = to manage to do something (this is an important verb structure) – also ‘the ignition’ is the part where you put the keys in order to start the car, e.g. “You left the keys in the ignition”

I dangled the keys over a grating / a drain = to dangle something over something is to hold something in the air so that it swings from side to side slightly. E.g. We sat on the edge of the bride with our legs dangling in the air.

 

Luke’s Anecdote – Liverpool StoryLEPcupPOLARIOD

*Includes quite a long passage with past perfect when I described what had happened to the man before he arrived at our front door.

There was some sort of commotion going on in the hallway = a commotion means a period of noise, confusion or excitement

He ran through all the alleyways = alleyways are passages between or behind houses

That’s it for vocabulary!

Which anecdote did you like the best, and why?

332. Olly Richards: English Polyglot – Top Advice and Strategies for Language Learning

This episode could make a huge difference to your English learning. So listen up and get ready for a motivational boost! Joining me on the podcast today is Olly Richards – a polyglot who speaks 8 languages. Olly has some very motivating and practical advice on how to learn languages as an adult. There’s so much to learn from Olly in this episode, so I really want you to pay attention and have a proper think about the ways in which you are learning English. (I really sound like a teacher, don’t I? – or your Dad or something – “Now pay attention! Sit up straight! Put that down! Stop fidgeting. Listen to the man! This is very important for your English in the future!)

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Being Committed to Language Learning

What I’ve personally taken away from this episode is the importance of making a commitment to yourself about your language learning. Commitment is really important for giving you the motivation to get things done, and to add language learning habits into your lifestyle. Commitment, motivation, habit, positivity – these are some of the vital elements for language learning. It’s also about being honest with yourself about what you’re doing to really push your learning forwards. It’s about taking responsibility for learning and finding your own little strategies for adding language learning into your daily routine. Olly is a living example of how it really is possible to learn languages as busy adults.

If you listen until the end of this episode you’ll hear me make a commitment to myself about my French, and it’s a good feeling because I really need to get a grip on that, because my French is not as good as I would like it to be – so you’ll hear Olly encourage me to make a commitment about my French, but also Olly and I invite you to make a commitment about your English too – even a small commitment, and write it in the comments section of this episode. I’ll talk more about that in a moment. But first, let me tell you a bit about Olly Richards.

Olly Richards – English Polyglot

Here are some things that people say about language learning.
People say English people are no good at learning languages, right?
Wrong.
They also say that to learn a language quickly you need to be a child.
Wrong too, apparently.
Another thing people say is that the best way to learn is by signing up to group classes in a language school.
Not necessarily.
Also, it’s often said that to learn a language properly you need to be living in the country where that language is spoken. But that might not be the case.
And, a lot of people say “I’m too busy to learn a language. I don’t have time, and I never meet any native speakers!”
Another thing people say is, “I’m just no good at languages. I think I’m language proof!”
Don’t say that to yourself! A lot of excuses and reasons why we find it difficult to learn English.

Keep listening. (because you’re probably listening to this, not just reading it – right?)

Olly is living proof that English people, just like any other nationality, are perfectly capable of learning a foreign language to a proficient level. In fact, Olly is a polyglot, which means he can speak lots of different languages. In fact, at the moment Olly can speak Spanish, French, Italian, Brazilian Portugese, Japanese, Cantonese and Arabic. Not bad for a guy from England – a country where most people just speak one language, and some people struggle even with just one language, especially after a few drinks.

So, what’s the story with Olly? Is he just a specially gifted person? Was he born with the ‘language gene’, or does he have the force or something? Does he have waaaaay more time in the day than anyone else? Did he go to some really brilliant language schools and follow the amazing methods of a language guru? Did he just learn these languages as a child by growing up in different countries?

The answer to all of these questions seems to be no. No, he isn’t, he wasn’t, he doesn’t, he didn’t. Olly says he doesn’t have a particular gift for language acquisition. He wasn’t born with a language gene. He doesn’t really like learning in a classroom environment so he didn’t just attend some great classes in other languages, and these days he has a busy schedule just like the rest of us, with his job and also the great work he does on his website IWillTeachYouALanguage.com. So it’s not like he’s got acres of spare time at his disposal. Also, Olly didn’t learn any of these languages as a child. They’ve all been learned during adulthood.

So, how has he done it? How has he learned lots of languages and how does he keep them all in his head? What are the techniques for effective language learning as an adult? And, what’s Olly like and what stories can he tell us?

That is essentially what you’re going to get in this episode. All those answers and more. You’ll also hear Olly give me a much needed motivational boost about my French. In fact, while talking to Olly I made a commitment to myself to improve my French in one simple way every day – and that’s simply to do a minimum of 10 minutes of study from my French text book every evening. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a starting point and I really believe that if I make that a really fixed daily habit it could make all the difference to my French.

And you can do it too (but with English, not French obviously, unless you’re also learning French, in which case yes you could do it too). In fact in this episode we invite you to make a simple commitment to yourself about learning English, today, and to write that in the comments section. Listen until the end of the conversation to find out all about that.

OK, so it’s time to start the conversation with Olly Richards – the professional English polyglot who has tons of advice on how to learn languages as an adult. Ready? Let’s go!

*Interview begins*

So, that was the interview – I think you’ll agree that there is a lot to learn and to think about.

Make a New Commitment to Your Language Learning – Join Me!

Just think of one specific thing you can do every day, as part of your daily routine. It could be related to pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, reading or any area you think is important for you. Write your commitment in the comment section of the episode. Then Olly will read your comments and give you some personal encouragement himself. Yes, he’ll write comments to you with some encouragement. For example, your commitment could be, as a starting point, “I will read a novel in English for 10 minutes every morning when I get up.” Just 10 minutes. Think of your commitment and write it in the comment section. Go ahead and give your English a boost! It could make all the difference.

Here are some links to Olly’s work online

Click here to visit Olly’s website, where you can read his blog posts, download his eBook, sign up to his mailing list and listen to his podcast – IWillTeachYouALanguage.com

Here’s a popular post which we mentioned in the episode – My Crazy 5AM Language Learning Routine

You can also find Olly on twitter here, where he tweets things related to language learning: twitter.com/Olly_IWTYAL

Other Links

Want to read a book in English? Don’t know which book to choose? Check out my reading list here.

Check out Flashcards Deluxe on the iTunes store here, or in the Google Play store here. There are lots of other free Flashcards apps available too.

Want to know more about using mnemonics and memory techniques for remembering vocabulary? Listen to my episode about that subject here teacherluke.co.uk/2014/02/05/167-memory-mnemonics-learning-english/

Click here to check out italki

Click here to check out italki

And finally, let me remind you about the sponsors for this show who decided that they wanted to give my listeners the chance to get 10$ worth of free lessons or speaking sessions. With iTalki you can find teachers or native speakers to give you speaking practice from the comfort of your own home. iTalki uses Skype as a platform and you can pick your teachers and schedule classes based around your specific lifestyle and routine. Speaking to native speakers is a vital way of genuinely accelerating your English. And remember that LEPsters – you get a discount if you sign up by going to teacherluke.co.uk/talk.

That’s it for this episode, I hope you enjoyed it. I did. I found Olly to be fascinating and very useful and I’m looking forward to following his advice for my French.

That’s all for now, speak to you soon. Bye!
ollyPIC3

264. Telling Jokes in English (Part 1)

This episode is all about telling jokes, not as a comedian on stage, just in your normal life. Telling jokes is something that everybody does, in countries and cultures all around the world. We all love to make jokes, hear jokes and have a bit of a laugh. For me, jokes are fun and fascinating but I know that for non-native speakers of English they are also notoriously difficult things to manage. If English isn’t your first language, it can be difficult to understand jokes, find them funny, and also to be able to tell them effectively.


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Contents of this Episode
So, in this episode I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about jokes in English, and that includes these things:
What is a joke? (as if you didn’t know)
When/why do we tell jokes?
How do we tell jokes? What are the golden rules for telling a joke properly?
What’s the normal way to respond to a joke?
What are some the typical joke structures? (so you know how to identify a joke)
What are some jokes that you can remember and share with your friends?

So this is not just going to be a guide to jokes and the way they are told,  you’re also going to hear lots of jokes too – I’m going to read out loads of jokes, and explain them to you. So that means that you’re also going to learn a lot of vocabulary during the episode – because often jokes are based on the specific meanings or double meanings of words.

Most of what I’m saying to you here is written on the page for this episode – that’s right, there’s a transcript for most of this, so if you want to read what I’m saying – you can. Just find the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk.

Small Donate ButtonNot all of it is scripted because I expect I will go off script and say some spontaneous stuff too, but most of it is. That’s nice isn’t it? Yes it is. Mmm, very nice. I went to quite a lot of effort to prepare this episode in advance and I hope that’s obvious. It should be full of genuine insights. If you find it useful, you could consider making a donation by just clicking one of the yellow ‘donate’ buttons on teacherluke.co.uk. That is entirely optional and completely up to you of course! No pressure!

I expect this will be more than just one episode because it’s quite a big subject, and it’s a subject which is close to my heart so, naturally I have loads of things to say about this!

It might be the case that I do this first episode as an introduction to the subject of jokes, and then in subsequent episodes I’ll go through my list of jokes, and then explain them. That’s right, I’ve prepared a list of jokes. It’s quite a random list and hasn’t been fully tested for quality. It’s just a selection of jokes which I’ve managed to write down, or poach from other lists on the internet. I’ll tell you all those jokes either in this episode, or in separate episodes, depending on how long this all takes.

So this could be another series of episodes of the podcast. There’s so much to talk about and to share.

I’d also like to do an episode about telling jokes on stage and how to do stand up comedy, because stand-up is also a fascinating topic and one that more and more people are getting interested in. Telling jokes on stage is quite a different topic, so that’s another episode for another time.

I love jokes
I really do. I love hearing them and I love telling them. I love the way jokes exploit double meanings in language. Often a joke is based on a word that means two things at the same time, or two phrases that sound exactly the same. Or a joke might be a little story with a surprise which is revealed at the end. So jokes allow us to have fun with the little holes and coincidences that exist in languages. They’re like little language glitches – moments when your brain has to deal with a sudden change in meaning or something that has two meanings at the same time.
I love the surreal world of jokes – the way the normal rules can be broken – rules of language, but also the rules of physics, and behaviour too. Jokes often bend the rules of reality in order to make the punchline work. They lead you in one direction, and then suddenly surprise you with something completely different, and the only link is that the words sound the same.

What am I talking about? Here’s an example of a joke in which the punchline has two meanings.
A hole has been found in a nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.
To get this joke you need to know that the phrase ‘to look into something’ can mean “to investigate” and also to literally “look inside”. So, someone found a hole in the wall of a nudist camp. A nudist camp is a place where people can enjoy spending time with no clothes on, in the nude. Someone found a hole in the wall and the police are investigating it, but they’re also just looking into the hole.

OK.

A hole has been found in the nudist camp wall. The police are looking into it.

I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – explaining a joke kills the magic.

“Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.”

― E.B. White

 

So, explaining a joke may allow you to understand it, but the joke dies in the process – you probably won’t laugh after it’s been explained. Jokes work best when they are instantly understood. It has to be instant. This is why jokes are often lost on non-native speakers, which is a pity.

However, here at Luke’s English Podcast I have a mission – and that is to try and make you laugh while you learn, and if I can’t make you laugh I’ll certainly aim to teach you something. So even if you don’t find all of the jokes I’m going to tell you (later) funny, then that doesn’t matter, because in the end you’ll learn some double meanings and you’ll be more ready to laugh in the future, because I’m going to explain lots of jokes for you. I expect that many frogs will die during the recording of these episodes…

What was I saying? That’s it – I love jokes!

Jokes can be stupid, brilliant, pointless, dangerous, harmless, disappointing, unexpected, light-hearted, dark, bizarre, rude, intellectual or even illegal.
Jokes can be just a bit of fun, or they can be used to make serious and critical points. They can be very complex things when you examine them but ultimately, jokes are about fun and laughter – and what is wrong with that?

There are all sorts of social rules that surround the telling of jokes.
They’re little bits of language, wrapped up in culture, presented via small social rituals.
Jokes, and humour in general, are often the most difficult aspect of a language to appreciate. The ability to appreciate humour is one of the last things you gain as a language learner.
To get a joke you need to be able to hear the individual words spoken, identify them, understand them, spot the punchline, grasp the pun or word-play and then know how to react appropriately, and this all has to happen instantly. Perhaps most importantly – you need to have identified that it was a joke in the first place, and not just another couple of sentences that you didn’t really understand. It can be even harder to deliver a joke – remembering the specific words, getting the timing right, emphasising the relevant words correctly using sentence stress and intonation. Oh my god! It’s complicated.

Imagine this situation – I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar. You’re in a group of people. They’re all native speakers and you’re not. One of them is speaking rather quickly but you can basically follow what’s being said – even the complex words and bits of grammar. You feel quite proud of yourself “I’m understanding all of this!”. Then the guy says something and everyone bursts out laughing, but to you it just sounded like another sentence. What’s wrong with everyone? Then it becomes clear that he just told a joke, and apparently it was a good one. “Was that supposed to be funny?” You think to yourself. Someone explains the joke to you – you think about it, you get it, but it’s just not that funny! It’s not even clever! Why did everyone laugh so much? Is everyone else weird, or is it you?

The fact is, jokes can be hard to get, and after it’s been explained to you the magic has probably gone. You’ve got to understand it 100%, and instantly. That’s why non-native speakers of English are often not very impressed by humour in English. Jokes don’t usually translate into other languages because they are based on specific sounds or similarities between words. Also the delay in understanding a joke can kill the enjoyment.

I’m not saying that non-native speakers don’t get humour in English. I know they do. Sometimes I make my students laugh a lot, although this is matched by the number of times my student don’t even identify that I’ve told a joke – is that their lack of English, or my bad jokes? A combination of the two I expect. So, even though non-native speakers clearly do laugh at a lot of things in English, I’m well aware that a lot of things are completely lost on them too.

I think that you (as learners of English) need to understand jokes – because it can help you socially, but also because you’re missing out on a lot of fun. That’s why I’ve decided to do this episode.

But don’t expect this to be a particularly funny episode! There’s nothing worse than high-expectations for a joke. If your expectations are too high, you won’t laugh. It’s like when someone says, “I’ve got a really great joke, you’re going to love this!” then the joke is never that funny. So, don’t get your hopes up. Despite the fact that this episode is all about jokes, it’s probably best if you realise at this point that there will be no laughs and no fun in this episode at all. OK?

DO NOT EXPECT LAUGHTER!

What is a joke?
It’s just anything said that is intended to produce laughter. It could be a traditional joke structure, or a comeback, a sarcastic comment or a small story or whatever. If it is intended to produce laughter, it’s a joke.

Vocabulary
There are a few words that you should know. They’re all different types of joke, or just related to jokes in some way. Here they are:
*a pun = a word joke – a short joke that is based specifically on two words/phrases that have the same meaning or sound the same. For example, “Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.”
[‘All right’ = okay, but also, ‘all right’ means ‘only the right’ – in this case, he only has a right side now because his whole left side was cut off. Yes it’s ridiculous. Yes, I like it.]
*a gag = just another word for a joke
*a shaggy dog story = a longer joke with a stupid punchline at the end (e.g. The Pink Gorilla Story or The Prawn Story)
*a one liner = a simple one line joke. E.g. “Conjunctivitis.com – now that’s a sight for sore eyes.” [Don’t get it? Don’t feel bad. Conjunctivitis = a health condition in which your eyes are infected and painful, or ‘sore’. The expression “a sight for sore eyes” = something which you are really glad to see, because you need it. e.g. “You’re a sight for sore eyes” = I’m really glad to see you (maybe because you’re attractive and nice, and I’m bored and surrounded by uninteresting people). Also “site” and “sight” sound the same. Here, ‘conjunctivitis.com is a website for people who have sore eyes. It’s literally a website for sore eyes, and I suppose it’s something you’re glad to see if you have conjunctivitis.] And if you’re in any doubt about the funniness of that joke, it won the “Joke of the Year” award in 2012. That’s an award which is given to the comedian who makes the best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is one of the world’s biggest comedy festivals. It was written by Tim Vine, one of the UK’s top comedians. Click here to read more on this story.
*a wisecrack = a clever and funny response
*a comeback = a quick response to a criticism. Winston Churchill was famous for his comebacks. “Mr Churchill, you’re drunk!” “Yes, I am. And you’re ugly. But in the morning I shall be sober. But you will still be ugly.”
or “Mr Churchill, if I was your wife I would put poison in your tea!” “And if I was your husband, I’d drink it!” etc.
*witty (adj) = to describe someone who is funny and able to make quick and spontaneous jokes.
*the setup = the first part of a joke which sets the situation and linguistic context
*the punchline = the funny part of the joke, which is delivered last. E.g. “I couldn’t quite remember how to throw a boomerang” = the setup, “but eventually it came back to me.” = the punchline. [‘come back to me’ literally means ‘return to me’ – like a boomerang does, but it also means ‘remember’]
*a dad joke = a stupid, safe and rather bad joke. The kind of thing your dad would tell you. To be honest, most of the jokes in this series on jokes are dad jokes. They’re not very dangerous or cool. They’re pretty disposable, but they’re fun, and sweet.

Where do jokes come from?
Most jokes just seem to exist in people’s consciousness and nobody knows who wrote them. They get shared orally (or maybe written in emails) and get passed around, but nobody really owns them. When I was a kid, my friends and I used to own joke books. They were compilations of jokes. You could buy these huge books filled with hundreds or thousands of ‘knock knock’ jokes. We used to go around telling them to each other. There were so many. Sometimes I heard some pretty rude jokes too – jokes that involved sexual things that as a child I just didn’t understand. That was a weird way to be introduced to some aspects of sexual depravity – within the context of a joke told by a naughty kid at school. Only later would I understand what they actually meant.
Then there are jokes which have been made up by someone, like a professional comedian – like the conjunctivitis joke. Those ones are actually owned by those comedians and used in their stage performances, and when you tell one of those jokes it’s customary to say whose joke it is – “That’s a Peter Kay joke” or “That’s a Tim Vine joke” for example. It’s a surprisingly difficult skill to be able to write really good jokes. If you can do it well, it can make you quite rich. Some of the best comedians, writers and directors started out by writing jokes for other people. For example, Woody Allen, Steve Martin and David Letterman.
Then there are original jokes made up by people on the spot. If you’re a clever you might be able to come up with jokes spontaneously – and people might consider you to be ‘really witty’ (positive) or perhaps just a ‘smart aleck’ (negative) depending on how well received your jokes or funny comments are.

Mainly in this episode we’re talking about the first category of joke – ones that lots of people know, have no ‘owner’ and which get passed around by word of mouth. As I said, I’ll be sharing loads of them with you later in this episode or perhaps in the next one.
A lot of these jokes which are shared by friends have typical structures, which most people know. Like “Knock knock” or “Doctor Doctor” jokes.
There are also social conventions around joke telling that you need to know, for example – how to tell a joke, how to react when someone tells you a joke, how to identify when someone is joking and how to respond to a joke.
For example, if someone says to you,
“What’s the difference between a photocopier and the flu?”
You shouldn’t try to guess the answer. “Err, well, one is a kind of machine and the other one is a virus. They’re really different actually. Why?”
No – this is the wrong response. The person is clearly telling you a joke. You’re supposed to say “I don’t know” and then wait expectantly for the hilarious punchline.
“What’s the difference between a photocopier and the flu?”
– “I don’t know”
One makes facsimiles; the other makes sick families.
“Haha, good one!” you say, even if it wasn’t that good.

Telling and hearing a joke is like a little social interaction with its own specific rules and conventions that you have to know. We’ll look at this more later.

What’s the point of telling jokes? Why do we tell jokes?
It’s all about laughter and how it makes us feel good. According to Helpguide.org – a trusted non-profit online service giving advice about mental and physical health, Laughter is good for your health. “Laughter is the best medicine”.
According to them:
Laughter relaxes the whole body. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
Laughter boosts the immune system.
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
Laughter protects the heart. It improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

The link between laughter and mental health
Laughter dissolves distressing emotions. You can’t feel anxious, angry, or sad when you’re laughing.
Laughter helps you relax and recharge. It reduces stress and increases energy, enabling you to stay focused and accomplish more.
Humor shifts perspective, allowing you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Social Benefits
Strengthens relationships
Attracts others to us
Enhances teamwork
Helps defuse conflict
Promotes group bonding

Jokes are crap, aren’t they?
You might be thinking: “But jokes aren’t funny. I sort of hate jokes. They’re usually awful and I don’t laugh.”
Yes, true. They’re often terrible – like the bad puns that your Dad tells you, or the awful jokes you get on lollipop sticks or inside christmas crackers, but that’s part of the charm really. It’s just a bit of fun – stop taking life too seriously! Kids like them of course, because kids don’t like to take life too seriously, and because most jokes are brand new to children. Also, when you’re a kid is when you are learning about the language and discovering any double meanings can be quite exciting. For me, it’s all about having the right attitude and being ready to laugh and find things funny. If you want to laugh at jokes, you will.

When to tell jokes
I suppose the best jokes are the ones that are spontaneous (made up on the spot).
They are usually received best when they are shared in light-hearted joke telling sessions, when everyone is telling jokes. Sometimes that happens – someone tells a joke and then everyone chips in with a joke they know. Like, “I’ve got one” or “Have you heard this one?” That way you’re not forcing your joke on someone who then feels pressure to laugh at a joke they might not find funny or understand.
Be careful of using them to impress people, break the ice or to charm people, like in a business meeting or on a date. They might have the opposite effect. You have to know when to tell jokes. Normally it’s in a moment where there’s no pressure.
The best results come from comments, or responses that happen spontaneously. If people feel that a joke is too planned or contrived – like you’ve planned it for days or weeks in advance, you’ll look like a prat. So, the best jokes are just unplanned comments that happen in that moment.
So, because the funniest things are spontaneous, it’s all about having the right attitude – being open, looking for the funny side of things, being self-deprecating (laughing at yourself), being sarcastic, joking about things that everybody experiences, not picking on anyone in particular, and wanting everyone to be happy and to enjoy themselves.

Jokes are often best told privately. For example, not announcing a joke to the whole room, but sneaking up on someone and sharing it just between you both, quietly.

Jokes can be risky
You might embarrass yourself or others if the joke is not funny or if you ‘fluff it’ – say it wrong.
Watch out for the content of jokes. A lot of them are pretty rude – and I don’t just mean sexually. They often have victims, or could be very politically incorrect. You could offend people and get yourself into serious trouble, depending on the context and the joke of course.
Watch out for these things: jokes about nationalities, jokes about disability, jokes about blondes, jokes about race, sexist jokes or jokes with rude images. I realise that I’ve just deleted most of the best jokes – but the point is, don’t underestimate how offensive a joke can be. Some people might laugh, some might not understand it, and some will take it seriously and be offended. Also, in some places, jokes are outlawed, especially if they are political in nature. So – be careful when joking.
The right joke at the right time makes everything ok.
The wrong joke, told at the wrong time in front of the wrong people could land you in serious trouble.

So:
be spontaneous
don’t pick on anyone in particular – don’t victimise anyone
be prepared to make jokes about yourself
make jokes about things that everyone is experiencing/sharing

How do you tell jokes?
Perhaps the most common structure for a joke is the Question-Answer format. That means that a joke often begins with a question. It’s quite normal to just ask someone that question, and if they’re familiar with the culture of telling jokes, they will respond with “I don’t know” and then you deliver the punchline.
E.g.
“Hey, how does Bob Marley like his donuts?”
“I don’t know”
“Wi’ jam in”.
“Do you get it? ‘With jam in’ – ‘we’re jamming”
“Ha ha oh yeah, I get it! Nice one!” etc.

So, at the right moment you can just tell your joke by asking the question like that.

Sometimes you can say “I’ve got a joke for you” or “Do you want to hear a joke?” or “Have you heard the Bob Marley joke?”

Try not to say “I’ve got an absolutely hilarious joke – you’re going to absolutely love this!” – because the person will expect too much and it’s bound to be an anticlimax.

Timing is important. It also has to be really clear. It has to be comfortably and easily told.
Make sure you learn it properly! The set-up has to be exactly right, and the punchline too!
Make sure the set up is not too long. It has to give only the most crucial information for the punchline to work.
Make sure you know your joke well, because there’s nothing worse than telling a joke wrong, or forgetting the punchline. It’s the equivalent of a magic trick going wrong – you look like a fool.
Don’t expect much of a response, and don’t expect your joke to make you popular or anything. The chances are, people won’t get it, and if they do laugh, they’ll probably just forget about it, unless the person is a joke fan like you. In the right moment though, jokes can be a lot of fun. So, jokes are not worth a lot, unless you find other people who love them, and then you can share your favourite jokes together.

When telling a joke – remember it! Run the joke through your head before saying it. Don’t get halfway through the joke and then start again because you forgot it.
Make it clear and be confident. People have to be able to hear and understand what you’re saying.
Sentence stress is very important. Usually certain words must be stressed for emphasis.
Make it look quite casual. Don’t be too desperate for a response or laughter.
The best jokes are completely improvised comments made in the moment. Sometimes there is nothing better than a very carefully worded quick response to a situation. It can make everyone burst out laughing quite magically. But again – watch out because jokes can backfire. People may find it offensive, inappropriate or just pathetic.
There are risks in joke telling. You risk losing respect from people, or offending people, but the rewards are high. If you make people laugh, they will like you, and ultimately everyone can enjoy a good laugh – and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, sometimes it’s the best, most honest feeling in the world – just letting yourself go and laughing uncontrollably. It’s joyful and infections, and being able to create it is a bit like being a good wizard (not an evil one).
Choose to tell good jokes which have a proven track record. Don’t tell jokes that don’t make people laugh, even if you find them funny yourself.
Don’t tell inappropriate jokes – ones that are sexual, racist or which have a victim. Instead try to tell jokes that are universal. Rude jokes can be very funny, but be aware that they are only appropriate in certain situations, and only funny for certain people.
Don’t get all angry, upset and defensive if people didn’t enjoy your joke. You can’t bully people into enjoying themselves. Just shrug it off.
You need to make it clear when the joke has ended and when people are expected to laugh, although don’t expect it to happen.
If you’re going to make a joke, try to connect it to what’s going on at that moment.
Often the best jokes are just one line responses to things happening around you.
Jokes are often best delivered with a straight face, with an understated style. Don’t make a big song and dance out of it. In the UK we normally tell a joke quite straight. We don’t laugh at our own jokes or slap our thigh when we tell the punchline. Laughing at your own joke too much is considered a bit unattractive.
Be prepared to carry on if the joke fails to make people laugh – people might not notice! Otherwise, it’s probably worth admitting that you told a joke and nobody found it funny. Then people will feel less awkward. Sometimes when I tell jokes, nobody laughs. Then I say “that was a joke, by the way, just in case you are wondering” and that sometimes makes people laugh a little bit – maybe out of sympathy if nothing else!
I realise I’m sounding a bit modest here – it may look like I spend all my time embarrassing myself with dodgy jokes. Well, it does happen sometimes, but not all the time.

English people love humour and it’s used a lot, for a lot of different purposes – including breaking the ice, as well as establishing power structures or social hierarchies, or breaking down social hierarchies.
I’m sure it’s similar in your countries too. Kate Fox says that for the English there is no right or wrong time for humour. I know what she means, but I don’t think it’s strictly true. We love joking in many situations, and we’re always ready for a joke or a funny/sarcastic comment, but of course there is a right or wrong place for it. If you just go around making crap jokes all the time, in every situation, you’ll soon become unpopular. I suppose what Kate Fox means is that humour, rather than jokes, pervades all aspects of British life and I agree with that.
The main thing is the intention you have behind your jokes – are you doing it to make people feel happy, to bond your team, to put people at ease, or are you doing it just to draw attention to yourself at the expense of other people’s comfort? If it’s the latter reason, then it’s probably better to curb your enthusiasm a bit.
Really, being funny is more about having the right attitude – being ready, prepared and confident enough to find the funniness in anything.
It’s also about being generous – just wanting to make people laugh without spoiling the situation.
It’s not about cruelty – bullying or targeting people with humour. It’s not picking on other people too much. It is about being willing to take a joke yourself. That’s the first step.
Some people just don’t want to be a person who jokes – they’d rather be serious and expect people to take them seriously too. That’s fine of course. Personally, I think that many of us take life too seriously – and a good sense of humour and the ability to take a joke are admirable, positive qualities. It’s hard to be a genuinely arrogant person while taking a joke about yourself. It’s a good leveler. It makes people equal in status.
Really, it’s just about having an attitude for laughter and jokes. For me it’s best when it’s sort of selfless.
There’s also a love of language involved. Sometimes jokes come out of picking the right words, or playing with language.
One advantage of a good joke is that people’s guard goes down when you make them laugh. You can say some outrageous things and get away with it. Also, people will warm to you if you make them laugh. It’s charming. Good jokes are harmless (and should be).
Also, there are all the benefits of laughter.

How do you react to a joke?
The worst thing you can do is not recognise it is a joke.
It’s also bad if you don’t acknowledge that a joke has been told. You have to show that you identified it as a joke, at the very least.
Some acknowledgement is good.
Ideally you’ll laugh naturally. You could fake a chuckle but don’t go over the top. You could say “good one”, or even “that’s a good joke!” (without laughing)
If you don’t understand it you say: “I don’t get it.”
If you’ve heard it before: “I’ve heard it before.”
If you understand the joke, but don’t find it funny: You can make a noise, like you’re suffering. “Ooohhh!” or even something like “Oh my god what are you like?”
If you understand it and find it funny: laughter!
It may be appropriate then to share a joke that you have too.

End of part 1

What’s the culture of jokes in your country? 
jokes1PODPIC

251. Welcome to LEP / 16 Things You Should Know about LEP

The podcast has been nominated in the Macmillan Dictionary Award and the voting is now open here www.macmillandictionary.com/love-english-awards/voting-blog-2014.html


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When I get nominated for this competition, I usually have quite a lot of new visitors to the site by people who are checking out the podcast for the first time. So, let me take this opportunity to say hello to any new visitors and to give you an idea of what LEP is all about.

In this episode I’m going to tell you 16 things you need to know about LEP. After listening to this, you should have a better idea of what this podcast is all about!

16 Things You Should Know about Luke’s English Podcast
1. I’m a teacher from London, living in Paris, with about 14 years of experience and both a CELTA and DELTA qualification. I’ve lived in Japan too, and I have experience of teaching adults and children at all levels of English, for general, business or more specific purposes. Students I’ve had in the past include Brazilian world cup winners, Scandinavian heads of state, top business executives and even a porn star. I now teach at The British Council and at a top university in Paris.

2. I started LEP in 2009 after taking a course in podcasting with The Consultants E. At the time I just felt like I wanted to have my own radio show, and I discovered ways of creating podcasts on my new Apple Mac laptop, and realised I could publish them myself on iTunes, and then get the word out using social networking. I started to get really busy producing episodes of the podcast. The aim was always to mix up teaching with general entertainment. I wanted to produce episodes that were instructive but also fun to listen to for their own sake.

3. I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I do try to use those skills in my episodes too, from time to time! I do stand-up comedy regularly in Paris, in English. This may not be obvious from this episode, as I’m not adding any jokes to it! From time to time I share some videos of my comedy on this website, and some of my listeners have come to see me perform my comedy live, which is great!

4. The podcast now has over 250 episodes, and I have a really loyal following. In fact, my listeners have lots of names – the LEPpers (yes, LEP stands for Luke’s English Podcast), LEPsters, LEPaholics, LEP Ninjas, PLEPS (people of Luke’s English Podcast) and so on.

5. Some of my listeners have created podcasts of their own, after being inspired to do so by listening to LEP.

6. There are various types of episode that you can expect on the podcast. Some are about specific aspects of English, for example – episodes about idioms, grammar points, pronunciation, vocabulary, and slang. In some episodes I try to keep my listeners locked-in and entertained by making up improvised stories off the top of my head. In some episodes I feature interviews and conversations with friends, family and special guests. Some episodes involve me just talking directly to my audience about whatever comes into my head. Some episodes are about films, music or popular culture, and some episodes deal with specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle. So the podcast covers a broad range of topics. Ultimately, I love the freedom of being able to talk about anything I like! The main thing is that it creates engaging content that encourages learners of English to do more and more listening!

Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular episodes of this podcast:
1. Introduction – this is the first episode I did back in April 2009 and it outlines my basic approach to LEP.
28. Interview with a Native Speaker: The Weather – this one follows on from a vocabulary episode about British weather and features an authentic interview with a teenager called Chris, and his odd views about foreigners in the UK
29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses – this is one of the most visited of my episodes. It teaches you narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) via a short mystery story that features several of the UK’s most beloved popular culture icons. The story is continued in the next episode.
71. The Ice-Cream Episode – an unplanned rant on topics such as: Amazon Kindles, robots & technology in Hollywood films and why we should put down the weapons and pick up an ice-cream instead, man.
83. How to Swear in British English – an indispensable guide to all the rudest words in British English. It’s extremely offensive, but extremely useful.
100. Going to the Pub – the guide to everything you need to know before you step into a pub in the UK.
118. Sick In Japan – the true story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital. It contains loads of medical and health related vocabulary, culture shock and a story which is engaging from start to finish!
125. The Pink Gorilla Story – one of the most popular ever, this is just an improvised story that regularly makes people laugh out loud, and which I really should convert into a one-man-show stage play!
140. Ghost Stories – just some scary true stories to keep you awake at night
167. Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English – revolutionise your learning techniques with these powerful memory devices.
174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast – this is your guide to improving your English using my podcast.
176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review – this is a very complete guide to all the main tenses in English
192. Culture Shock: Life in London – this episode deals with many of those strange aspects of the English lifestyle that foreigners find so hard to understand.
208. Travelling in Indonesia – one of many episodes about travelling experiences, this one has quite a dramatic beginning.

There are plenty more episodes which are popular with listeners, in fact everyone seems to have a different favourite. But that’s just a selection of some of the most visited pages on my website.

7. Yes, my episodes are quite long, but I always explain it like this: Firstly, all my favourite podcasts are long, and I think that it’s quite normal for podcasts to be about an hour long. Radio shows also tend to be at least an hour long too, so why not my podcast? It’s better for my listeners if they listen for an extended period. Why should listening only last 15 minutes? I can’t achieve very much in just 10-15 minutes, and I want my episodes to have some depth and rigour to them. Also, listeners can just pause the episode when they’ve had enough, and come back to it later!

8. I have a transcript collaboration project on my website, which allows listeners to transcribe sections of episodes and build a whole library of transcripts for other LEPsters to use. This is good for the transcribers because it is a big challenge and a good way to improve their English, and it’s good for the other listeners because we have an ever-growing library of transcripts which they can use to help them understand episodes. The collaboration is hosted on my website and is done using google documents.

9. I have won this award three times before and that is completely thanks to my devoted audience, who every year come out in force to vote for me. I hope to repeat the success this year, but I am up against stiff competition! Whatever the result, I’m just happy to have been nominated again.

10. The podcast has had 3 million listens in just over a year, since moving to a new audio host (audioboom.com) which is amazing!

11. I also have some videos on YouTube and they are pretty hot as well! My channel has had about 2.5 million views in total, but I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. The popular videos are ones I did in 2009 and feature me interviewing members of the public in the centre of London. There’s also a video called “16 Ways to Say I Like It”, which you may have seen too.

12. I launch competitions of my own from time to time, for listeners to take part in. The last one was called “Your English Podcast” and I invited listeners to send me short recordings of them doing their own versions of LEP. I received lots of entries and votes and the winner was interviewed on the podcast as a prize.

13. These days I record episodes of my podcast in a room at the top of my apartment, where I have great views of the rooftops of Paris from the windows. I call it the “SpacePod” or “SkyPod” and it’s the podcast HQ!

14. I have another podcast, called A Phrasal Verb a Day. It’s on iTunes and on my website. That is made up of short episodes devoted to individual phrasal verbs. I give definitions, examples and explanations. It’s a great way to pick up more of those tricky items of vocabulary – phrasal verbs. My goal was to record one a day in 2014. I didn’t reach my goal, but I haven’t given up and I still add episodes to the series when I can.

15. I love playing the drums, guitar, bass and ukulele (but not at the same time) and occasionally at the end of podcast episodes I play a song on the ukulele – but you have to listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear it.

16. I put my heart, soul, time, energy, humour, money and love into making episodes of LEP. It’s become quite a big thing in my life after having done it now for nearly 6 years. I enjoy a close and warm relationship with my listeners, I always welcome new additions to the LEP family, and in the future I plan to build my service more and more until I can perhaps do this for a living somehow. The future’s bright and I hope that many more people will join me on this journey to create authentic, entertaining and interesting content that helps you not only to improve your English but to enjoy yourself while doing it. So, I invite you to start listening today and like thousands of others get addicted to LEP – it’s good for your English!

If you haven’t already done it, I invite you to vote for LEP by clicking here. Thank you for your continuing support!
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246. Flight Stories

Listen to some stand-up comedy and true stories about flying experiences, learn some vocabulary and consider what makes these comedy routines funny. [Download]


Small Donate ButtonIntroduction
This episode features a few humourous accounts of people’s experiences on aeroplanes. Why have I chosen this topic? Well, why not? There’s no Christmas connection or anything, it’s just an episode I’ve been thinking about for ages and I finally got around to doing it. Actually, the main reason is so I can play you some stand up comedy, which hopefully you will both learn from and enjoy.  I always want to play you some stand up comedy – because it’s brilliant and I want to share it with you! The subject of flying is something that is pretty universal, so I thought there was a good chance you’d be able to relate to it. Also, comedians all seem to have material based on flying. it’s a really common topic for stand-up, precisely because it’s universal but also because it’s a pretty bizarre experience in some ways!

Please be aware that there is some rude language in this episode.

Let’s listen to some stories of people flying.
Almost all of these are comedy routines by stand up comedians.
One of them is an inspirational story, which has some laughs in it.

3 things I wonder:

  • If you get the details of the stories
  • If you find them funny
  • If you know all the vocabulary

To understand the subtleties I’ll give you a quick summary of each story before you listen. Then you’ll know the main events, leaving you to focus on the funny details.
To deal with the humour, I will explain what I find funny about each sketch. Obviously, humour is totally subjective – it depends on the person and there is no universal form of humour. However, I also find that humour is one of the last things that you can pick up when you’re learning a language. Learners tend not to find the same things funny as native speakers – perhaps because they don’t get the cultural reference points, or because you can’t understand it well enough to get all the jokes immediately. Instant comprehension of all the subtle shifts in tone and meaning is very important for finding something funny. Most of the funny aspects of these routines are not obvious jokes. It’s far more subtle than that. So, let’s see if you can pick up on those subtle things and see the humour in each bit. I’ll give you my assessment of “what I think is funny” after each bit.

So, you’ll get summaries for general understanding, and some commentary on the humour as well.

There’s also vocabulary, which I don’t think will be such a problem but we will see. I’ll explain some items of vocabulary that appear.

And as if that’s not enough already, there are scripts of every stand up routine that you hear in this episode. You can check them out on the webpage and use them to understand every single word if that’s what you fancy doing.

So, I would like to know which is your favourite story or routine in this episode. you’re going to hear 5 stories/routines. Please vote for your favourite using the poll on the page for this episode.

In no particular order you will hear these things:

  • Louis CK – The Time I Thought I Would Die
  • Eddie Izzard – Biscuits On A Plane
  • Jerry Seinfeld – At the Airport
  • Ric Elias – 3 Things I Learned When My Plane Crashed

Louis CK’s Story
Summary

  1. Louis talks about a time when he was scared for his life. He thought he was going to die. It’s a true story.
  2. He was flying from Indianapolis to New York and there was a delay because of a technical problem with the plane. The fuel guage was broken.
  3. The pilot decided to fly even though he didn’t know how much fuel was in the plane.
  4. Louis just assumed that the pilot knew what he was doing. He unquestionably put his trust in the pilot. Why do we do this?
  5. Louis expresses some concern about the rather relaxed approach to safety which the pilot is taking.
  6. The plane is still delayed because of bad weather at their destination.
  7. The pilot informs the passengers that he is going to lie to the tower, telling them they’re going to Philadelphia, even though they’re going to go to new York.The plan is to say they’re going to Philadelphia, and then at the last minute, ask for permission to land in New York. He thinks the weather is not so bad there.
  8. Again, Louis expresses concern about the attitude of the pilot and he wonders why the pilot is sharing this information with him.
  9. Louis and the other passengers basically accept the situation because, perhaps stupidly, they have faith in the pilot and the whole situation.
  10. The weather during the flight is terrible. There was a big storm.
  11. He managed to listen to the conversation between the plane and the tower in new York.
  12. The tower didn’t allow the plane to land in New York because of bad weather.
  13. They could have run out of fuel and fallen out of the sky at any moment.
  14. suddenly the tower in NY announced that the airport was closed due to bad weather.
  15. The pilot panicked and requested urgent permission to land.
  16. The tower guy allowed him to land, but he was quite annoyed.
  17. The pilot immediately went in for landing.
  18. It was an extremely stressful and dangerous landing in low visibility.
  19. The pilot and all the passengers were extremely emotional at the end.
  20. Even the taxi drivers at the airport were surprised by the dramatic landing of the plane.

Louis CK – When I Thought I Was Going to Die (From the album “Word – Live at Carnegie Hall”)

Buy “Word – Live at Carnegie Hall” by Lous CK here www.louisck.net/purchase/word-live-at-carnegie-hall

I’ll tell you this story about one time that I thought I was going to die. I think it’s the only time where I thought “why wouldn’t this be when I die?”

I was on a plane. I’ve been on a lot of planes in a lot of shitty weather and stuff, but this shit was fucked up.

I was in Indianapolis on a plane, waiting to take off, and we’re sitting there and the pilot comes on, and he says “Hi folks, erm, the fuel gauge is broken so we’re waiting for maintenance.”

So, we wait, about 20 minutes. Then he comes back on,

“Folks the fuel gauge is still broken, but we’re going to go anyway. We don’t know how much fuel we have, but we feel confident that it will be okay so we’re going to go.”

And I’m thinking, okay, well, he’s a pilot, I’m sure he’s going by some manual that says, you know, ”(if) the fuel gauge breaks, call maintenance. If they’re not there in 20 minutes, fuck it. Fuel gauges are overrated, just go, you’re fine. Just top it off and remember what happened.”

So then we still don’t take off and the guy comes back on, “err folks we have another problem, LaGuardia Airport in New York won’t give us clearance to take off because the weather’s been bad there intermittently, so we’re going to wait for that.”

So we wait 20 minutes. Then he comes back on, “Folks, LaGuardia still hasn’t given us clearance, but we’re going to go anyway. We’re looking at the radar, we think the weather will be fine. So what we’re going to do is say that our destination is Philadelphia, we’ll get clearance to go there. Halfway to Philadelphia we’ll switch courses to LaGuardia airport and we’ll be probably there in a few minutes.”

I swear to god he said this.

First of all, I’m pretty sure you’re supposed to be honest with the dude in the tower. Does the tower have to go “Really? You’re going to… come on! Tell me where you’re going!”

And why is he telling us this shit? Am I going to have to corroborate this lie if we get pulled over by the sky police at some point in the flight? “Oh no we’re totally going to Philly, I’ve got a brother there and err, we’ve got a thing in Philly”

But I’m still fine with it because we’re travellers on the plane, like “yeah, I’ve got a thing, fuck it, I’m immortal, just go please. Yes, go into marginal weather, with shoddy equipment, secretly. I totally support this plan.”

So, we take off. We get above where we are right now, and it’s just a black motherfucker of a cloud. It’s just like The Wizard of Oz. It’s just there are trees throwing apples at us, it’s crazy. It’s just horrible, and we’re “GUGGGGGUGUGUGU” the whole flight, and we’re making these circles, and me and the guy next to me are both listening to the tower. You know how you can plug into your seat sometimes and you can listen to the tower talk to the airplanes, and we keep hearing our guy trying to get clearance to land, from LaGuardia.

PILOT: “Ah; this is Delta 288 requesting clearance to land.”

TOWER: “Ah, that’s a negative 288. Low visibility.”

A few minutes go by.

PILOT: “Ah, this is 288. We would really like clearance to land.”

TOWER: “Yeah, that’s a negative 288.”

Like he was getting annoyed. And meanwhile, we’re just circling, and burning this vague amount of fuel. We could just stop being an airplane at any second.

And then we hear this. This is all true. The LeGuardia guy comes on and says,

“This is LaGuardia airport to all area airplanes, we are closed for the night, zero visibility, not safe for landing, please divert to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Boston.”

And then we hear our guy.

“This is Delta 288, we need to land now! We have no fuel! We have no fuel we have to land right now!”

Interesting.

Then there’s a pause, and then we hear this.

“Well, then, clear to land then 288”

That’s how he said it, like “Dude… (sighs) No-one can see okay? But, just, I … (sighs) I guess all the dumb decisions you made today have made this a good one. Just take a shot, I’m going home. Just fuckin’, turn the lights off after you crash, I don’t give a shit frankly. By the way you’re not supposed to be here you fucking liar you said you were going to Philly.”

So as soon as we get clearance, we just “nyaaaaaaa”, like we start bulleting, “nyaaaaaaa…” We’re either flying desperately towards the ground or falling. I don’t know that there’s a difference.

We come out of the clouds and there’s the fucking earth, right fucking there! It’s right there! That’s what low visibility means. We come out of the clouds and “Oh fuck it’s right there oh jesus!”

And the plane just “nyaaaaaa…” And you can feel the plane go “Oh fuck, I can’t do that, what are you nuts?” We go “brrrrrrr” and veer over the highway, and I swear to god I saw people in their cars go “what the fuuuck?”

And we hit the runway like sideways, like “kapoof!” And the pilot comes back on, all true I swear to god, he’s totally out of breath, he’s like (heavy breathing & shaky voice) “welcome to LaGuardia airport, New York City, (crying) you may turn on your cellphones now and you may call your loved ones.”

He said that. He said “You may call your loved ones” and everybody on the plane was crying and rocking back and forth just sobbing, calling their husbands and their wives. I’m divorced, what am I (going to say) “Hi remember you hate me? Well I almost died.”

And I got in a cab, and the cab driver goes “that was a very bad landing.” I was like, “How did you know that was me?”

“That’s the only plane that landed in 4 hours. We all watched, the drivers, we said ‘they are going to die’”

What I think is funny about this

It’s always a bit of a bad idea to try and explain humour, because it usually kills all the comedy, but what the hell, let’s do it anyway.

Firstly, there aren’t really any jokes in this bit. It’s just the way Louis tells the story, adding some descriptions, some sarcasm, some attitude and drama. That’s it really. The first big laugh comes from the line “fuck it”. As if a manual for a pilot would say “If the fuel guage doesn’t work, fuck it. Just go.” Of course a manual wouldn’t write that. Instead, this indicates the negligent attitude of the pilot who is flauting the safety regulations. This is what is going through the pilot’s head, and is clearly a huge act of negligence.

There’s something funny about copying the voice of a pilot, especially when he’s acting rather irresponsibly. We all hear those pilot’s announcements. This is the guy who we are all trusting our lives to. He usually sounds quite relaxed. Pilots have a certain kind of voice, thankfully. If they sounded different it could be worrying. Anyway, copying his voice is quite amusing.

“I think you’re supposed to be honest with the dude in the tower”. This is a really funny line. It’s understating the formal protocol the pilots must follow. Being honest with the ‘dude’ in the tower is a fundamental responsibility of the pilot. The choice of the word ‘dude’ is also funny because we’re talking in informal terms about normally formal things. This highlights the careless attitude of the pilot.

“Why is he telling us this shit? Do we have to corroborate his story?” True – why was he telling them? The character of the pilot is like a shitty friend who expects you to lie for him.

Everyone on the flight just accepts everything that’s happening. This is a really good observation. We put our trust in people in authority positions very easily. We consider ourselves immortal when we’re not responsible for our own safety. It’s the same in taxis. We never put on our seatbelts in the backs of taxis. Why not?

Louis is just a great storyteller. He brings the story alive with certain detailed descriptions to elicit fear, surprise and so on. He knows just how much detail should be given in the correct places. The humourous bits are delivered with excellent timing. They’re not obvious jokes. He’s a master. He makes it look easy. This is not easy.

Then we have the irritated conversation between the pilot and the tower. The pilot is a total dick and the tower is getting annoyed with him. You don’t expect a pilot to behave like that.

Then the dramatic moment when Louis hears the pilot panicking, which he describes as “interesting”, clearly understating how alarming it must have felt to hear that.

The tower is so pissed off, and this is expressed with the line “Well, clear to land then” which is delivered with so much frustrated despondency by Louis, as if the guy in the tower is a tired parent who has run out of patience with his child. This kind of frustration in a conversation is usually over something like homework or another petty disagreement. In this case people’s lives are involved. Louis’ performance is great. He adds loads of attitude into the conversation between the pilot and the tower. Again, the pilot is a dick, who has everyone’s lives in his hands.

Louis even gives a voice to the plane which has a personality of its own, complaining that the pilot is pushing it too hard – “Dude, I can’t do that!” Expressing how low to the ground they were he mentions people in their cars who he could actually see mouthing the words “What the fuck?” which must have been very scary!

This is just a dramatic and engaging story, which seems to be true, told in a way which highlights the general irony of being at the mercy of a pilot making bad decisions.

By demonstrating that the pilot is emotional and out of breath after the landing, Louis allows us to imagine what we couldn’t see in the cockpit of the plane: the pilot had a really hard time landing the plane and is seriously traumatised. For some reason, letting the audience imagine something for themselves is quite funny. Also, Louis’ impression of the emotional pilot is just quite amusing.

The choice of phrase “You may call your loved ones” also emphasises the emotional nature of the landing. Louis considers calling his ex-wife, who hates him, which clearly would be a pointless move. This highlights Louis’ sense of alienation, and the fact that nobody really cares about him. Louis is like a classical comedy character – lonely, sad, alienated. We also get another character – that of the taxi driver who we learn justwatched the plane land, fully expecting everyone on board to die.

That’s it. Again, explaining it does NO JUSTICE to the quality of Louis’ work. Generally, I find that it helps if you care about the story you’re listening to. If you’re emotionally invested in it, it’s more engaging and therefore funnier. If you believe it’s true for example, it’s likely to be funnier. I expect that’s why Louis often says “I swear this is true”. Please listen to the routine again. Please care about it – you’ll find it more enjoyable and rewarding.

In case you were in any doubt about the comic value of that routine, Louis CK is widely considered to be perhaps the funniest stand-up working on the scene at the moment. He is a celebrated comedian. Anyone who knows anything about comedy knows that he’s great. If you were doubting if he really is that funny, well, I would say yes he is. In the end of course, humour is subjective – but it may help you find it funny if you know that many others do too.

Eddie Izzard – Biscuits on a Plane
Here’s my basic version of Eddie’s routine about eating biscuits on a plane. Again, I’m doing this so you can understand the main point, and then compare this description with Eddie’s version. It may allow you to notice the humourous aspects of it.

  1. Eddie describes a flight from Cork in the Republic of Ireland to Belfast in Northern Ireland. It’s not a long flight, and so the plane is really small. In fact there were only about 6 people on board.
  2. He walked across the runway to the tiny plane, carrying his bags. It felt like he was in the Beatles.
  3. The pilot was waiting by the plane, which reminded him of going on holiday with his Dad when he was a kid.
  4. He describes a few things which felt odd about being on such a small plane. The pilot was right there in front of them, and yet he still did the formal announcement like on bigger flights.
  5. He talks about the fact there was no co-pilot, but that the pilot had brought coffee and biscuits to share with everyone.
  6. He talks about the safety considerations of flying, including the idea of ‘bird strike’ which is when birds can go through the jet engine of a plane, causing an accident, although Eddie doesn’t agree with the term bird strike, because the birds aren’t choosing to strike the engine, but rather they are being sucked into the engine against their will.
  7. The pilot on the tiny plane gave the safety announcements, but people don’t usually listen to the safety announcements, so perhaps the staff should make it sound like there’s going to be an accident just to make sure people listen properly.
  8. Eddie makes fun of the life jacket and other safety procedures.
  9. Eddie describes the fact that the in-flight refreshments were some coffee and biscuits shared by the pilot. He notices that the pilot has a secret stash of chocolate biscuits and jammy dodgers, which he doesn’t share with the other passengers. He gets into an argument with the pilot over why he deserves to be given chocolate biscuits. This ends in the pilot crashing the plane into a mountain in order to win the argument.
  10. Eddie dies at the end of the story.

Eddie Izzard – Biscuits on a Plane
Download “Glorious” by Eddie Izzard in iTunes here itunes.apple.com/us/movie/eddie-izzard-glorious/id334208655

I had to do a flight last year on a tour which as from Cork to Belfast. There were only 6 passengers, and someone turned up and said “Well, we’re not going to put you on the 747 because that would be laughable, so we’ve got a Volkswagon Beetle with wings for you.

We had our bags, we didn’t give them to anyone, we just walked with them. Obviously I didn’t walk like this, that was comedy, I was walking like this, because that’s a better mime position, otherwise you just think I’m walking, but that’s with bags you see, in case you ever need it, you know in Nigeria and… They’re very big in mime in … anyway…

So yes I was walking along with the bags and going through. It’s a very small airport, you just go through a wooden door and someone goes “beep” “Oh there’s a problem there, I’d better check”.

And walking across the runway to get to the plane. If you ever do that, walking with your bags across a runway to an aeroplane you feel like The Beatles with squirrels going “Aahhhh”

We got there and the pilot was right by the plane. It was just like going on holiday with your Dad. He was going “Come on! Come on! Come on you don’t need that! Right!”

“That’s my bag! Bloody hell”

“Come on get in we’re going to miss the clouds, come on!”

So we get in and he was taxiing over to the runway, “Come on heads down put your head down I can’t see! Come on!”

And he was right there. We were sitting right here. I could touch him on the shoulder, just like in the car with your Dad. He was doing… even though you could turn around and talk to us he was still doing “This is your pilot speaking. Welcome to flight 1 from here to there. We’re going to be flying at a height of 10 feet, going up to a height of 12.5 feet if we see anything big. Your co-pilot today is a thermos of coffee.”

I thought there was a rule in flying that you have to have two pilots in case one goes “Oh for fuck’s sake” (and collapses) and the other one goes “I’ll take over!” Dun-da-de-dun-da-daa “I’ve got one of my own!”

People in the back “I’ve got one!”

We had a thermos of coffee that was going to fly us home.

And he’s there and doing the stuff and we’re getting into flying and, they have a word in airports, the industry, the airways industry have a thing called bird-strike, bird-strike it’s called. It’s when a flock of birds, just flying along “oh what a wonderful day, the sun’s…” splat! They go straight through a jet engine! It’s called bird-strike and it’s a misnomer, it’s not true because the birds aren’t striking, it’s an ‘engine-suck’. It’s an ‘engine-making-bird-soup-melange’ you know?

These birds aren’t going, “Who’s for bird strike eh? Johnny Human’s got these big metal buggers and they piss me off! I vote we go for bird strike! Alfie, Ginger, Stevie, Feathers, Stephens, Big Beak O’Reilly, Jimmy The Penguin, are you with me? Oh you’re a penguin so you stay here. Come on let’s do bird strike! Dun-da-de-dun-da-daa Faster faster! 747!” SPLAT

And just before they go through, do they go “look there’s Rod Stewart in first class” splat.

We don’t know.

But umm, they do the safety announcements there. My guy on my plane was going, “the safety instructions… the safety instructions are here, next to me. If you see me go through this door then please follow me quickly.”

If you’ve been in a big aeroplane recently, no-one is listening. It’s a problem I believe because noone’s listening to the security announcements, you know the safety things, because everyone’s going “yeah yeah, there there there lights, flash flash … and death”

Umm, it’s a kind of “yeah alright, you know, huuu”

But the pilots have been told to sort of, you know, pick up the importance of these speeches, and there going “please do listen to the safety… please do because we’ve changed things around now, so yeah you don’t know what we’re doing. We’re putting the lifejacket on back to front. Some of the safety exits are false now, they’re not true at all. Listen very carefully because I’ve got a bad feeling about this flight. I don’t think we’re going to make it.”

After that announcement everyone’s going “Show me! Show me! Show me everything! Private showing – show me again, that’s good, now I’m putting it on now, fuck it I’m putting it on now!”

Let’s all have a cup of coffee thanks. And they have these lifejackets, and they, you pull it and pffffff and you’ve got a little pipe here for top up. I don’t know about you but I don’t want top up. I want stays up. Top up implies hole in, implies having to (blows heavily) I want fucking stays up no hole in the first place thank you very much! Bloody top up? No, it’s all a bit, sort of, ‘tea and crumpets with the vicar’ “top up” you know. You crash in the atlantic, bobbing around, going “oh you survived as well… care for a top up? You couldn’t top me up could you? No I didn’t need it I’m just trying to break the ice. Hey float over here float over here. Look: two pipes – pan pipes! Doo doo doo doo doo.”

It’s 2000 miles to Europe, 1000 miles to America, you’ve got your whistle “Peeeeee” The little light going “beep beep” And after a while a pilot fish comes up and goes “Eh Eh! That’s my gag! WHat weird people” And there’s Noah shooting around in a speedboat going “Nurrrrrr-  If anyone’s got big ears you can get in and sit on the side. Photos for the Bible”

So I was in my aeroplane in my small aeroplane and the guy’s there, and we have drinks and light refreshments, when we get above the clouds, and coffee comes back from the thermos, and you go ooh, cheers, ta mate and that goes back, and he had this wicker basket with biscuits in, digestive, you know not terribly interesting. So I take the best ones, and it goes back to the guy at the back who goes “all these are crap”. You know when you’re not hungry but you get offered a biscuit, you want better than that, you know. “I didn’t want anything, but err, what have you got? Ohh”

So I’m nibbling my biscuits and drinking my coffee and I notice out of the corner of my eye the pilot reaches under his jacket and pulls out chocolate biscuits and in a flash I realise he’s hidden them there and taken them out of the wicker basket and hidden them underneath, and I knew that because that’s what I would have done. You know when you’ve got friends round, “Do you want some biscuits, I’ll just go and get you some biscuits and you’re in the kitchen and you go “Oh, I’ll just have one” Someone comes over, “Do you want a hand?” “Oh no no no. Just letting this mouse run over my hands here” [This is a VISUAL JOKE]

So the pilot’s there eating chocolate biscuits and I’m there going “Heeeeey, chocolate biscuits? Eh! Digestive! Crap, biscuit.”

He’s going “Get off! (I’m the) pilot! You know, stress! Chocolate biscuit! What the hell?”

And I’m going “No! Customer! Customer’s always right. Digestive crap biscuits?”

“Fuck off! Five years training for this! Hard time! Chocolate biscuits. Perks of the trade.”

“I don’t agree…”

“Fuckin’…” Naaaaaaaaaa (He starts flying towards the ground)

“Hold on hold on!”

Naaaaaaaaa

“What were you saying about chocolate biscuits?”

“No, fine! HAve the chocolate biscuits! I don’t care I don’t care!”

Nyaaaaaaaa (he steadies the plane) “…chocolate biscuits”

20 minutes later, reaches in and pulls out jammy dodgers!

“Jammy dodgers?!”

NAAAAAAAA (he flies at the ground again)

BOOM!

And we hit a mountain, and I died.

So that was the end of that plane flight, and err… and that is also the end of the show, so thank you very much for being here. Good night.

What’s Funny About This? (In my opinion)

Really, it’s all about Eddie and his idiosyncratic style. It’s a cute story, with some observational comedy around the subject of flying, but really it’s Eddie’s unique postmodern approach which makes it special for me.

The way he talks is amusing to me.

He bends reality. It’s surreal.

He deconstructs the whole performance – doing mime jokes and generally being self-conscious.

You know, I think with Eddie, either you get it or you don’t and no amount of explaining will change your mind. He’s a bit like Marmite.

Some specific things from the routine:

“We’ve got a Volkswagon Beetle with wings for you” – an image to describe the crappy little plane.

The visual mime joke about the way he walks. This is just a joke about how miming an action has to be quite specific because different mimes suggest different things. You have to watch the video.

You go through the wooden door and someone goes ‘beep’. The security is so basic that it’s just a person saying ‘beep’, not a security system.

The comparison between the pilot and his Dad, which highlights how small and cosy the flight was, while also having nostalgiac comedy value. Sometimes comedians will get lots of laugh from inciting the audience to just remember something from the past – like old mobile phones described in detail or in this case those memories of going on holiday with your parents. Comedians often do this – describe shared past memories in detail and the audience gets a pleasant nostalgic thrill from it.

The other thing is just making observations, with a specific attitude. This is the basis of a whole form of stand up comedy – observational humour. Lots of comics do this. Just observe or notice specific details about commonly experienced things, and express them with an attitude (usually questioning the strangeness of these small details we all experience). Jerry Seinfeld is the master of this. Eddie Izzard does it a lot, and in this routine he does quite a lot of this – talking about the safety routines on planes, the lifejacket and so on. We can all relate to this. Also, the juxtaposition of these familiar things in such a small plane.

Questioning the logic behind the term ‘bird strike’ and renaming it ‘engine suck’, and then voicing the thoughts of birds who team up to take down aeroplanes. For some reason they are portrayed like brave young WW2 era British pilots, like in the battle of Britain.

Then there’s the whole scene with the pilot and his secret supply of biscuits. I don’t really know why this is funny – I can’t explain it. I just enjoy Eddie’s account of arguing with the pilot and the reasons why they should or shouldn’t be allowed to share the chocolate biscuits.

Then the cheeky ending in which he dies, which is a playful deconstruction of first person story archetypes. Of course it’s impossible for him to have died at the end of the story. In the video I love the cheeky look on Eddie’s face at this point.

I just love Eddie.

Did I mention that I met him and had dinner with him earlier this year? Just saying…

Jerry Seinfeld – Airplane Flights
This is a famous comedy routine by one of the most well-known comedians in the world, but I shouldn’t build it up because it could end up being an anti-climax. Don’t expect too much, just try to follow what he’s saying. Basically, Jerry talks about various aspects of airports and flying, zoning in on some of the more ridiculous or pointless aspects of that experience. Observational comedy. Here are the observations. For me, it’s all about Jerry’s delivery, timing and choice of words.

Jerry’s Observations

  1. Jerry sarcastically points out that the people who work in airport security are quite incompetent and unmotivated, and probably not very bright. He wonders why the staff are so bored and lazy, using sarcasm.
  2. He describes the fact that the woman you typically see at security is quite fat and her trousers are stretched almost to breaking point. This would be quite cruel if it wasn’t so well worded. Jerry has a reputation for being a clean comic, but if you look more closely he is actually quite aggressively anti-social. He holds the whole world in contempt, which is hugely enjoyable because let’s face it – we hate queueing up in the airport and having to listen to the safety announcement. He’s just voicing the thoughts we all have in our heads in those situations. “What’s with these people? I mean, really?”
  3. He suggests that the x-ray machine is useless because it’s impossible to identify any objects, and the guy looking at the screen is unable to identify any bombs or weapons or anything.
  4. He wonders why the taps (or faucets) in airports have those special ‘on-off’ buttons. Why don’t they have normal taps? Don’t they trust us to use normal taps?
  5. He wonders why sandwiches are sooo expensive in airports.
  6. He wonders why the pilot tells us everything he’s going to do, and in a self-satisfied voice. We don’t need to know really. All we care about is that we get to our destination.
  7. He observes that the safety announcement is patronising – as if we need to be told how to open that old fashioned belt buckle. Of course he doesn’t mention this is explained to us for legal reasons, instead focusing on the fact that it’s just odd and annoying the way we are patronised so much in these situations.
  8. He notices that the stewardesses are very vague when pointing out the emergency exits during the safety announcement. The arm movements are always pretty vague aren’t they? It also looks like some sort of musical number in a Broadway production.
  9. He mentions that everything on the plane is tiny, even the language they use to diminish problems during the flight.
  10. He points out the idiosyncrasies of the aeroplane toilet, particularly the presence of a hole for razor disposal. Who is shaving on these flights?



Jerry Seinfeld – Airplane Flights

But I love to travel. I love it whether it’s a car or whether it’s a plane.

I like to get out there, I like to keep it moving.

I love airports. Feel safe in the airports thanks to the high caliber individuals

we have working at X-ray security.

How ’bout this crack squad of savvy motivated personnel?

The way you wanna setup your airport’s security, is you want the short, heavy set women at the front with the skin tight uniform.

That’s your first line of defense.

You want those pants so tight the flap in front of the zipper has pulled itself open, you can see the metal tangs hanging on for dear life.

Then you put the bag on the conveyor belt. It goes through the little luggage car wash.

Then you have the other genius, down at the other end, looking at the little X-ray TV screen.

This Eistein has chosen to stand in front of X-rays 14 hours a day as his profession.

Looking in that thing…

I have looked in that TV screen. I cannot make out one object.

He’s standing there… “What is that? A hairdryer with a scope on it?”

“That looks ok. Keep it moving.”

“Some sort of bowling ball candle? Yeah, I got no problem with that, just…”

“You know, we don’t wanna hold up the line.”

So, I go to the bathroom in the airport.

What is the story on the sinks in airport bathrooms that they will not give us a twist-it-on twist-it-off, human-style faucet?

Is that too risky for the general population?

Too dangerous? We gotta install the one-handed, spring-loaded, pain-in-the-ass Alcatraz-style faucet.

You know, those ones you gotta go: “Hey, boy I got a little water there”

“Hey I got a couple of drops.”

What is it they think we would do with a faucet?

Turn them all on full, run out into the parking lot,

laughing, pushing each other into the bushes?

“Come on, the water’s on, let’s go!”

“I turned it on full blast.”

“You idiot! We’re businessmen, we’re gonna miss our plane.”

“Who cares! Water!”

That’s how they think we’re gonna act.

Do the people that work in these little shops in the airport have any idea what the prices are every place else in the world?

“Yeah, $14 a tuna sandwich. We think that’s fair.”

Then you get on the plane. The pilot of course always has to come on the PA system.

This guy is so excited about being a pilot, he can’t even stand himself.

“Well, I’m gonna take it up to about 20,000.”

“Then I’m gonna make a left by Pittsburg.”

“Then I’m gonna make a right by Chicago.”

“And then I’m gonna bring it down to 15,000.”

He’s giving the whole route, all his moves.

We’re in the back going: “Yeah, fine.”

“You know, just do whatever the hell you gotta do. I don’t know.”

“Just end-up where it says on the ticket, really.”

Do I bother him with what I’m doing?

Knocking on the cockpit door: “I’m having the peanuts now.”

“Yeah, that’s what we’re doing back here.”

“I thought I’d keep you posted.”

“I’m not gonna have them all now, I’m just gonna have a few.”

“I don’t wanna finish it because it’s such a big bag.”

Then the stewardesses have to come out.

They have to do their little emergency equipment show.

You know, that thing they do. One of them reads it, the other one acts it out.

“Hey, we have seatbelts and oxygen masks.”

“Things for you to use.”

They show you how to use the seatbelt, in case you haven’t been in a car since 1965.

“Oh, you lift up on the buckle! Oh!”

“I was trying to break the metal apart.”

“I thought that’s how it works.”

“I was gonna try and tear the fabric part of the belt.”

“I thought if I could just get it started…”

Then they’re always pointing out the emergency exits,

always with that very vague point though, isn’t it?

“Where the hell would these places be?”, would you say.

The plane’s at a 90 degrees angle, your hair is on fire,

you’re looking for this.

How you think you’re gonna do there?

She’s thinking: “I’m getting out before you’re getting out.”

“You’re dead, you’re dead, I’m gone.”

Then they always have to close that first class curtain, too.

They always give you that little look.

“Maybe if you had worked a little harder… I wouldn’t have to do this.”

It’s all a tiny world on the airplane, isn’t it?

There’s always that little tiny table there, tiny computer,

little cramped seats, tiny food, tiny utensils,

tiny liquor bottles, tiny bathroom, tiny sink, tiny mirror, tiny faucet.

So, there’s a small problem, there’s gonna be a slight delay,

we’re gonna be a little late.

I always go in the airplane’s bathroom, even if I don’t have to go,

I gotta go in there.

It’s nice. It’s like your own little apartment on the plane, isn’t it?

You go in there, lock the door, the light comes on after second.

It’s like a little surprise party.

But I’m always impressed with the amount of equipment that they have in that place.

I mean it’s little, but they got tissues, towels, closets, compartments,

tiny slot for used razor blades. They always have that.

Who is shaving on the plane?

And shaving so much they’re using up razor blades?

Is this what’s happening?

What? Is the wolf man flying in there, for Christ’s sakes?

Who could shave that much?

What’s funny about this?

Well, it’s the wording, the timing, the delivery, the world-weary attitude, the fact that I know exactly what he means, and all the observations he points out.

I simply suggest that you listen again, and read the transcript and buy “I’m Telling You For The Last Time” on CD or DVD. It’s a masterclass in observational comedy.

The stuff about the staff is sarcastic. He describes them as ‘high-calibre’, ‘Einstein’ and ‘geniuses’ when in fact they’re quite the opposite. My favourite line is “Look at this crack squad of savvy motivated personnel.” A crack squad is a specialised team, like a team of excellent soldiers. The best of the best. ‘Savvy’ means that they have expert knowledge. ‘Motivated’ you know, and ‘personnel’ is a professional word to refer to members of staff. He’s describing them like a highly skilled team of experts. Obviously, they appear to be lazy, unmotivated and unambitious.

The bit about the x-ray machine always cracks me up. He describes the thoughts of the ‘Einstein’ who has chosen to sit in front of an x-ray machine for 14 hours a day. The guy is looking into the screen, completely misidentifying dangerous items – “What is that? A hairdryer with a scope on it?” – This is clearly some kind of gun.

“That looks ok. Keep it moving.”

“Some sort of bowling ball candle? Yeah, I got no problem with that, just…” – This is obviously a bomb.

But he lets all of them through.

Voicing the decision making process of the people who priced the sandwiches always amuses me. “14 dollars a tuna sandwich? Yeah we think that’s fair.” It’s clearly unfair, and  ‘it’s funny because it’s true!’

I love the bit where he voices the smug pilot explaining the route,

This guy is so excited about being a pilot, he can’t even stand himself.

“Well, I’m gonna take it up to about 20,000.”

“Then I’m gonna make a left by Pittsburg.”

“Then I’m gonna make a right by Chicago.”

“And then I’m gonna bring it down to 15,000.”

He’s giving the whole route, all his moves.

We’re in the back going: “Yeah, fine.”

“You know, just do whatever the hell you gotta do. I don’t know.”

“Just end-up where it says on the ticket, really.”

Do I bother him with what I’m doing?

Knocking on the cockpit door: “I’m having the peanuts now.”

I love that bit about “I’m having the peanuts now”

 

It goes on.

To be honest, it’s just a class act, it really is. I hope you enjoy it. That’s the point, it’s for your enjoyment. Sometimes it’s worth remembering that you should just go with this kind of comedy. Don’t try too hard to understand it on a deep level or anything. Just enjoy the delivery, the choice of words, the to and fro with the audience, the rhythm of the comedian telling jokes and constructing stories and the audience coming back with laughter at regular intervals. It’s very pleasant and pleasing to me. I can’t imagine something better to listen to as a way of improving your English, except just any episode of LEP of course ;)

Ric Elias – 3 Things I Learned When My Plane Crashed

This is not a stand-up routine, it’s just an awesome true story and we love engaging true stories on LEP don’t we? I thought it would be a good way to end this episode of the podcast.

This is an account of someone who was on board US Airways Flight 1549 which had to crash land in the Hudson River after a bird strike during take-off from LaGuardia airport in 2009. The pilot was a real hero as he managed to land in the Hudson River with no loss of life.

Here the storyteller reflects on what it is like to face your death, and what he learned from that. It’s worth remembering that we shouldn’t take anything for granted!

Ric Elias – 3 Things I Learned When My Plane Crashed

Imagine a big explosion as you climb through 3,000 ft. Imagine a plane full of smoke. Imagine an engine going clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack, clack. It sounds scary. Well I had a unique seat that day. I was sitting in 1D. I was the only one who could talk to the flight attendants. So I looked at them right away, and they said, “No problem. We probably hit some birds.” The pilot had already turned the plane around, and we weren’t that far. You could see Manhattan. Two minutes later, three things happened at the same time. The pilot lines up the plane with the Hudson River. That’s usually not the route. (Laughter)He turns off the engines. Now imagine being in a plane with no sound. And then he says three words –the most unemotional three words I’ve ever heard. He says, “Brace for impact.” I didn’t have to talk to the flight attendant anymore. (Laughter) I could see in her eyes, it was terror. Life was over.

1:22
Now I want to share with you three things I learned about myself that day. I learned that it all changes in an instant. We have this bucket list, we have these things we want to do in life, and I thought about all the people I wanted to reach out to that I didn’t, all the fences I wanted to mend, all the experiences I wanted to have and I never did. As I thought about that later on, I came up with a saying, which is, “I collect bad wines.” Because if the wine is ready and the person is there, I’m opening it. I no longer want to postpone anything in life. And that urgency, that purpose, has really changed my life.

2:02
The second thing I learned that day — and this is as we clear the George Washington Bridge, which was by not a lot — I thought about, wow, I really feel one real regret. I’ve lived a good life. In my own humanity and mistakes, I’ve tried to get better at everything I tried. But in my humanity, I also allow my ego to get in. And I regretted the time I wasted on things that did not matter with people that matter. And I thought about my relationship with my wife, with my friends, with people. And after, as I reflected on that, I decided to eliminate negative energy from my life. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better. I’ve not had a fight with my wife in two years. It feels great. I no longer try to be right; I choose to be happy.

2:52
The third thing I learned — and this is as your mental clock starts going, “15, 14, 13.” You can see the water coming. I’m saying, “Please blow up.” I don’t want this thing to break in 20 pieces like you’ve seen in those documentaries. And as we’re coming down, I had a sense of, wow, dying is not scary. It’s almost like we’ve been preparing for it our whole lives. But it was very sad. I didn’t want to go; I love my life. And that sadness really framed in one thought, which is, I only wish for one thing. I only wish I could see my kids grow up. About a month later, I was at a performance by my daughter — first-grader, not much artistic talent … … yet. (Laughter) And I’m bawling, I’m crying, like a little kid. And it made all the sense in the world to me. I realized at that point, by connecting those two dots, that the only thing that matters in my life is being a great dad. Above all, above all, the only goal I have in life is to be a good dad.

4:06
I was given the gift of a miracle, of not dying that day. I was given another gift, which was to be able to see into the future and come back and live differently. I challenge you guys that are flying today, imagine the same thing happens on your plane — and please don’t — but imagine, and how would you change?What would you get done that you’re waiting to get done because you think you’ll be here forever? How would you change your relationships and the negative energy in them? And more than anything, are you being the best parent you can?

4:40
Thank you.

4:42
(Applause)

He described the crash landing as a miracle, but was it really?

What do you think?


flightstories

179. The Ramblings of an Exhausted Teacher

Last night I couldn’t sleep, and so today my mind has turned into jelly. Let me tell you all about it.


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In this episode I talk to you, in a rambling way, about diverse topics such as:
Dwayne’s English Podcast
Being kidnapped by aliens from Mars
Exam fatigue
Trouble sleeping last night
English at 7.30AM!
The rotten contents of my brain!
Selling Luke’s English Podcast
Saying “Hello” to you
Having a conversation with you
“The best laid plans of mice & men”
The university course I’ve been teaching
Sleep (high-energy bit)
What are you doing?
On a bus
Signalling to another person that you’re a LEPer (secret codes)
Giving a wink to a stranger
On a train
Trains and lifts in movies (Bruce Willis)
My brain is on its last legs

THANK YOU! (Transcripts, donations, reviews)
A special hello to the NSA secret agents
Hello to Yannick
Twitter – it’s what you make of it
Whatever
Normally on Luke’s English Podcast
BBC meeting: Prioritising Luke’s English Podcast
This really is the end
Be nice to each other
;)

Lovely to talk to you,
Goodnight

Luke

jellyPODPIC
Thanks for listening ;)

174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast

This episode contains lots of ideas, advice and suggestions for ways of improving your listening, reading, writing and speaking using Luke’s English Podcast. A transcript is available below. ;)


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This should be a useful episode. I’m going to go through a whole bunch of ways that you can improve your English with Luke’s English Podcast. You’ll find a list of these points on my website. I’m going to expand on them here.

I’ll be talking about key areas: listening, reading, writing, speaking, grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and discourse. Much of what I’m saying is written on my website. Just find the episode called “How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast”. I’ve written a lot of this down because it contains lots of specific bits of information which I wanted to make sure I included. I try not to do too many episodes in which I read things to you. I promise that the next one will be unscripted. Anyway, I’ll do my best to make this sound as natural as possible, which is an art in itself. Actually, you could use this script to help you practise your pronunciation, you could record yourself reading this too, and compare it to my version. What are the differences in your version and mine? What can you learn from that? Record yourself doing it again, and compare that to your first attempt. It’s bound to sound a lot better. In fact, I guarantee that you’ll sound more natural and convincing with each attempt. More on that later.

For now, here is a list of tips and advice for learning English with LEP. ;)

Just listen
First of all, you don’t really have to do much more than just listen to the episodes. I realised some time ago that a lot of the students of English that I met at school in London did not listen to enough authentic English. They were willing to spend money and travel across the world in order to improve their English, and yet most of them, for some reason, were not prepared to take a bit of time every day to listen to something in English. Why? I think partly this is because they didn’t know what to listen to. A lot of people watch TV and movies in English. Fine. But honestly, that might not be the best way to improve your English. Film is very visual. A lot of what you understand from a movie is the visual storytelling. It’s important to just focus on the audio – on the language. So, a lot of students didn’t know what to listen to. They thought that they didn’t have much choice. Actually, there’s plenty of choice out there. The BBC has plenty of podcasts, there are loads of podcasts on different topics on iTunes – but they’re all made for native speakers. They’re too difficult to listen to, and ultimately, that’s not motivating. There are some podcasts out there which are made for learners of English, but a lot of them are just focused on language learning, at the expense of entertainment. They’re useful, but they’re a bit dull. This is less the case now, because 5 years after starting this podcast, there are more interesting things out there for learners of English, including my podcast. So I decided that I’d try and create something for learners of English to listen to that they would actually want to listen to, beyond just learning English. Ultimately, I think to listen to English for extended periods of time, you have to have an interest in what is being talked about, or you have to find it entertaining. Otherwise, it’s hard to really sustain your concentration and it becomes like a chore. There is real value in listening to English for extended periods of time, but it’s difficult to achieve because you get put off by not understanding things, or because the recording is a bit patronising and dull. I don’t want to blow my own trumpet here too much, because I’m sure that my podcast is not always as entertaining or as engaging as it could be, but I think the only way to get people to keep listening, is to try and make it entertaining as well as informative about English. So, I record this podcast with you in mind, but I try to keep it as authentic as possible. I try to avoid being simplistic. I try not to grade my English too much. I know it might be challenging for you sometimes but I attempt to hold your attention by talking in an enthusiastic way about subjects which I personally find interesting. Hopefully, the result is that you keep listening, and that you feel personally involved in it somehow. Then, by exposing yourself to lots of English in this way, you are able to acquire the language – to pick it up, in a variety of ways.

Stephen Krashen & Language Acquisition Theory
Let me now refer to the language acquisition theory of Stephen Krashen. This theory is very well known among language learning theorists, and it underpins a lot of what we know about learning and teaching English. Krashen believed that there are two ways to develop our language learning skills. One is through language acquisition and the other is through language learning. Language acquisition means that it is possible for adults and children to learn language in a subconscious way – meaning, in a kind of passive way – by simply engaging with the language. The important thing is that you focus on the message in a bit of language. So, when listening to Luke’s English Podcast this means focusing exactly  on what I really mean, rather than just on the specific items of language I’m using. The primary focus is to just understand what I mean (hopefully at a fairly deep level – in order to laugh at something I’ve said, or feel moved by it) and then you kind of ‘pick up’ the language as a result of that. You might not be immediately aware that you’ve learned some new language in this way. In fact, this kind of acquisition probably informs your passive knowledge of the language. According to Krashen, another type of language development is language learning. This is when you focus on learning specific forms  – like studying grammar rules for example. It involves having some instruction by a teacher, perhaps in the form of error correction, or from a grammar book which explains the ‘rules of English’. The downside of this kind of learning is that it is rather dogmatic, can be boring, complex and abstract. It doesn’t necessarily replicate the organic way in which we pick up language as children, and doesn’t quite allow the subconscious acquisition of language that occurs from just engaging with the language in order to understand a message being communicated.

Alright, so how does this apply to the way you can learn English? Well, I think it’s pretty important to get both aspects of language learning into your life. This is what I call “having a balanced diet”. You shouldn’t just study the grammar rules in a dogmatic way, although that is undeniably important. You should also attempt to just engage with the language as it is used in natural, authentic and meaningful situations. How can you do that? Ideally, this would mean going out into the world and doing things in English. In fact, this might be the best way to improve your English. If you get a job that requires you to use English all day you will improve quickly. It’ll be really hard, but you’d be forced to improve. That’s like a boot camp for language acquisition because you’re not really studying the language, you’re just attempting to survive in it. You’re really focusing on the communicative acts you are trying to achieve. You’re really focusing on meaningful messages, and you naturally learn the most direct and effective way to understand and communicate meaningful messages. You might not be able to do that in your life. You might not have access to native speakers in that way. So, my podcast can be a substitute. It’s not really the same as attempting to work in an English speaking environment, but the key point is that you can replicate aspects of that experience by just attempting to follow/keep up with what I’m saying, and do that regularly, over long periods of time, and you’ll pick up massive amounts of English.

So, just listen, try to follow everything I’m saying, try to enjoy it and engage with it, listen regularly, listen for extended periods. This will all contribute to your acquisition of English, as described by Stephen Krashen.

That’s language acquisition, but you can also do more traditional language learning alongside Luke’s English Podcast. First of all, outside of listening to the episodes, you can do your formalised language studying from a book or in class, and use LEP as a companion to that. Study the language, and then try to notice aspects of the language that you’ve studied in episodes of the podcast. For example, if you’ve studied verb tenses, you can listen to a story I’ve told on the podcast and try to notice those verb tenses, how I’m using them, how I’m pronouncing them, and so on. It can back up, confirm or clarify the language study you’ve been doing. You should always refer to authentic language usage as a way of checking language that you’ve studied.

Also, you can study the things I say in the podcast more directly. The podcast can be a study tool. Here are some ways you can do some active language study with the podcast:

Use transcripts
You could read a transcript and check new words in a dictionary as you find them. Pay attention to the way I use the words, including the grammatical context, collocations between words and pronunciation. Any new words or structures you find, make a note of them and practise using them yourself.

You could attempt to write your own transcripts. This reveals a great deal about the gap between the English you know, and the English that I use in the podcast.  Try transcribing a section of one episode. You could do an episode that has already been transcribed. Listen carefully to it, and try to write down every single word. There may be certain utterances that you just can’t identify. Mark them with question marks. Listen again and again. You could just focus on a specific 5 minute section of an episode. Keep listening until you’ve done your best. Now check the proper transcript for that section and compare it to what you wrote. What are the differences? Now you can identify the gap between what you understand, and what I said. Try to close that gap. Check the words you didn’t know. Identify why you missed the pronunciation of something. Think about how I say these words and phrases, and their definitions. Then you can start working them into your English when you speak. We’ll look at ways of developing your speaking in a few minutes.

A note on transcripts. You may be aware that a lot of my episodes have transcripts, which can really help you to study the language (although you shouldn’t read them all the time). But you can also contribute transcriptions to my website. If you fancy transcribing a few minutes of an episode, please send it to me and I’ll be able to correct it and publish it on my website. I have a transcript collaboration going on using Google documents. You might already know about this because I did an episode on that subject a couple of months ago. You can go to my website and click “transcripts” to find out more. Basically, writing transcripts of my episodes is not only a great way to use the podcast to improve your English, it also helps me to provide an even better service to my listeners.

So, Luke’s English Podcast is best consumed as part of a balanced diet. Listen freely and just try to enjoy and understand what I’m saying, and let your mind naturally acquire the language, but also mix this with more formalised language study to get the full 360 degree effect.

You might think the formalised language study part of that is boring and time consuming. That’s fine. You don’t have to do any of that, but as a compromise, what you can do is just be mindful when you’re listening. Your first aim is to focus on the message, but you can also try to notice specific aspects of the language too. Try to identify words, phrases and grammatical structures. You don’t have to formally study them, just notice them as you hear them. Like “oh he’s saying depend on” so it must be “depend on” in English, not “depend of”. Things like that. Just be mindful when listening.

I record different types of episode here. My main aim is to engage you and keep you interested, while presenting English to you in an authentic way. In some episodes I try to draw your attention to the language more specifically. For example, I teach/explain/demonstrate vocabulary items referring to a topic, or bring your attention to an aspect of pronunciation. In those episodes, you can just chill out and follow what I’m saying, but you can be more active, and make notes of the vocabulary, try to remember phrases, listen again and pause the recording to test your memory.

Listen in comfort, and enjoy the experience. Krashen also writes about the affective filter hypothesis. This relates to the conditions in which learning takes place, and how these can have a big effect on the successful acquisition of language. Basically, good conditions for learning are: motivation (the listener really wants to hear what’s being said, and is keen to learn the language), high self-esteem and relaxation. These things allow the flow of acquisition to move freely, without being blocked. Mental blocks occur when the learner is stressed, anxious or feeling bad about themselves. This creates a mental block to the acquisition of language. I guess this relates to one of those situations in which you’re in an unhappy language class. You feel stressed because of pressure from the teacher or from the judgement of your classmates, you feel low self-confidence because you don’t get any positive reinforcement from taking part in a communicative exchange and you’re just not enjoying the experience of being there in the classroom. As a result, there is a kind of mental barrier which really prevents you learning anything. In fact, it might even make it worse because you associate learning English with painful or boring classroom situations. The advantage of Luke’s English Podcast is that the emphasis is on fun, a lot of the time. You have nothing to fear or worry about when you listen to this. In fact, it can be an extremely pleasurable experience. I’m not just bigging myself up here. I know what it’s like to listen to your favourite podcast. It’s quite a personal experience. I listen to Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review Podcast on my way to work, and I can’t begin to explain the joy of listening to it. They’re like my friends, and I’m sharing a really nice conversation with them. I listen to their voices in private, through headphones, while I’m sitting on a smelly underground train with miserable people all around me, but I’m in my comfort zone. In fact, sometimes I’m disappointed when I reach my metro station, because I just want to keep listening to the podcast. Hopefully, listening to Luke’s English Podcast is a similar experience for you. That’s certainly the idea. This should be a personal and enjoyable experience for you, and I invite you to just enjoy being part of the podcast community, and remember that all around the world there are other people like you, listening to me ramble on about stuff. There’s no chance of the affective filter giving you a mental block in this situation because you should be in your comfort zone. That’s the advantage of podcasting. You really can listen to this whenever and wherever you want, and you are free to get as comfortable as you please. As I’ve said before, feel free to listen to this in the bath, on the loo, or as you softly and slowly drift off to sleep at night. Of course, you can also listen at your desk, with a pen in your hand, or while typing, in order to make notes or write transcripts. You can also sit up and read transcripts. It’s up to you. The main thing is to just enjoy yourself and let the English go into your head. Just imagine that my voice is bouncing around inside your mind, and lots of the words, and sounds are sticking in there.

You should certainly listen to episodes more than once. In fact, if you’re interested in really learning English from this podcast, I think it’s vital to listen several times. Once is not enough. In fact, you might only scratch the surface if you listen just once. Listening again and again will allow you to get really familiar with what’s being said. You’ll notice and remember things that you didn’t catch the first time. Repetition is really important as a way of helping your brain notice patterns. After a couple of listens, you’ll remember certain phrases, bits of intonation or responses and they will be reinforced when you listen again. It might be asking too much of you, but you could even start to remember and repeat some of the things you’ve heard on Luke’s English Podcast. I don’t necessarily expect you to repeat everything I say, but perhaps you could memorise the lines of a comedy sketch that I present to you, and then repeat the lines to yourself or your friends, or just while you’re listening again. I’m a bit of a geek and I love Star Wars. When I was a kid I used to watch Star Wars on heavy rotation. I’d watch it again and again. Now I can remember all the lines from the film. In fact, I don’t just remember the lines, I remember the bits of music and sound effects too, as they occur in the film. It’s the same with Monty Python films and sketches. I’ve watched them so many times that I can repeat a lot of the script from memory, and in fact some phrases from those movies have found their way into my vocabulary. You can do that too, by listening to episodes more than once, and listening to some comedy sketches which I present to you many times. Soon I’ll be doing an episode about Monty Python. For some reason, Monty Python’s sketches are very memorable. In fact, there are several generations of people in the UK and America who grew up watching Monty Python films and who are able to recite whole sketches to each other. Again, you can do the same thing, realise that there are some terrifically funny things in English, and use that as a way to pick up language.

There are a number of different areas to focus on with English.
4 skills:
Listening
Reading
Writing
Speaking

Language systems:
Grammar
Vocabulary
Pronunciation
Discourse

Listening
I’ve already talked a lot about the benefit of just listening for fun, or listening in a more active way. I did mention that it’s good to be comfortable when listening. I should add too that I think it’s important to try and listen to things that you don’t completely understand. It’s fine to listen to things that you don’t understand completely, and the general opinion on this seems to be that you should push yourself when you listen, and don’t get put off if there are things you don’t understand. It’s in that challenging experience that your brain is really piecing things together. For example, if you struggled to understand my conversation with Daniel Burt, that’s fine – in fact, that struggle is good. Listen again, and keep trying. Don’t give up. Push through those moments when you don’t understand. Keep going. Don’t let confusion stop you.
Also, try to identify subtle differences between accents. You may only notice little differences at first, but eventually you’ll be more and more aware of the differences between accents. Eventually, you’ll be able to say “this guy is from the north of England”, “This one’s from Australia” or whatever.

Reading
Reading transcripts on my webpage.
Outside of the podcast – read a variety of texts. Again, try to find things that you enjoy. You should also be aware of your purpose for learning the language. What are you going to use English for in the future? You may need to read emails, or business reports. It may be worth reading articles that talk about business trends. Otherwise, just reading any well-written text for enjoyment is a really good way to improve your literacy. I must add a page on my website with recommendations for reading. There’s loads of reading you can do – blogs, newspapers but also books which you can download free online. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m planning to give you a list of some good things to read.

Writing
Again, this is not one of the things that I focus on a lot on Luke’s English Podcast. The focus is mainly on spoken English. However, transcribing podcast episodes can be good for your writing. You could also write your own blog which contains your opinions or your outlook on a topic. Feel free to write a response to episodes of my podcast in the comments section. You should aim to concisely express your opinion, in a structured way, using the most appropriate words you can find (perhaps including some words you’ve picked up from that episode of the podcast). Think about the person reading the comment – make it easy and enjoyable for them to read, and focus on stating very clearly and efficiently exactly what it is you want to say. Considering those ideas can help you to make your writing more effective.
If, however, you need to practise writing for the IELTS test, you will need to do more specifically focused writing practice, probably using an IELTS preparation book, or following an IELTS course of some kind. My podcast can help you with general skills (vocab, etc) but for specific kinds of writing work, you should do some specific writing practice. Practice practice practice. As I said before – to get the best out of Luke’s English Podcast, use it as part of a balanced diet.

Speaking
Perhaps the best way to improve your speaking is to actually practise it in real-life situations. The requirements of that situation will train you to say the right things at the right time, with the right tone. You should certainly be aware of how intonation is important in affecting a message. These are things you can learn from trying to enter into meaningful acts of communication and learning from your mistakes. You might also need a teacher to actively correct your errors. But, you can definitely use Luke’s English Podcast to improve your speaking too. Let’s look at some ways to do that:
Just try to take some aspects of my speech and apply it to your speech. You could just add some words or phrases you’ve heard from me, and use them yourself. Or you can pick up some speech patterns, pronunciation from me and add that to your speech too. If you like, you could use my speaking as a kind of model for your own speech.
More specifically, you could copy and repeat some of my sentences. Listen to a line I say, and then repeat it and try to sound exactly like me. You could listen to phrasal verb episodes, and whenever I present an example sentence, pause the episode and repeat it after me. Keep doing that until you feel you’re version is pretty similar to mine. So, just listen and repeat until you’ve worked out how to make the same sounds as me. Think about vowel & consonant sounds, combinations of consonants and how to make those sounds with your mouth, think about connected speech – what happens when words are pronounced fluently together in a sentence – they might get pronounced differently, certain sounds may be dropped when words are linked, and some sounds may be added when words are linked too. Pay attention to these aspects of pronunciation. I should do a whole episode on connected speech, and it’s one I’ve had in the back of my mind for ages.
Pick an extract from the podcast, with transcript, and record yourself saying it. Compare your version with my version. Then, work on the transcript. Underline the stressed words, add lines to represent pauses for emphasis, identify word links in pronunciation. Listen to me saying that extract again, and check your ‘sound scripted’ transcript. Now record yourself doing it again, this time adding the intonation, pausing and sentence stress. Compare that to the original. This can help you develop awareness, and control of speech patterns.
Record yourself just talking in response to one of my podcast episodes. If I’ve talked about UFOs for example (not yet, but I will!) then you could record yourself talking about UFOs too. Try to include any words I’ve presented to you on that topic. If you like you could leave an audio comment on my Audioboo page, and let the world know how you feel about something.
Or, you could start doing your own podcast, like Zdenek from Zdenek’s English Podcast. He’s not a native speaker, but following a suggestion in one of my episodes he decided to do his own podcast. He now has followers and listeners and he’s really into it. Listening to his episodes I get the sense that his confidence is developing and he’s finding his own voice. It must be very good for his English (which, of course, is already excellent). You could do it too if you want.
The main thing is practice. Use as many opportunities to practise as you can. Join clubs to meet English speakers. Use the internet. Find groups on Meetup.com in which people are doing language exchanges. Put yourself outside your comfort zone. Don’t be shy, give it a try. Take the initiative. No-one can do the speaking for you. There’s no shame in making mistakes. You have to be in it to win it, so open your mouth and get talking. Remember that English is about what you can do, not just about what you know. Be active, find your voice in English. If you’re in a classroom – don’t be one of those quiet students. It’s completely up to you to start talking, and why not do it in the safety of a language class. That’s the whole point! Speak up in class and use that as a safe place to experiment and make mistakes. Experiment! Switch off your editor! Don’t listen to the voice in your head which is telling you to keep quiet, or telling you that you can’t say something because it might be wrong. It does not matter if you’re wrong. Remember that you have to say something wrong about 5 times before you get it right. Get through those 5 times nice and quick, and then you’ll be fine! Sometimes, opening your mouth is the hardest thing to do, but once you’ve started speaking it gets easier. Keep up the momentum. Keep your voice warm. Stay positive, enjoy expressing yourself. Your teacher will love it if you are an active member of class. In fact, you need to prove to your teacher that you’re making an effort. We always like those talkative and positive students. Use that to your advantage – you’ll be more likely to get good grades, and get levelled up. Be nice, be friendly, be talkative. But also listen to others and help them too. That’s a recipe for success for any language learner!
Actually, I just sent Zdenek a message and asked him for his comments on the subject of using LEP to improve your English (particularly speaking) and here are his comments, which I agree with wholeheartedly. In fact, before I read his comments it may be necessary to remind you that Zdenek is a well-qualified teacher of English from the Czech Republic who lived in the UK for a number of years and who has got a master’s degree in English Language. So, he definitely knows what he’s talking about. I’m sure many of you listening to this have similarly good advice and comments on this subject. I am very keen to encourage you to share that information – you can leave text or audio comments under this episode. So here are Zdenek’s comments:
How can listening to LEP improve your speaking skills? It can mainly improve the following skills/subskills:
1) listening (obvious)
2) reading, spelling (reading scripts, additional notes)
3) writing, spelling (script, feedback or thanksgiving emails to Luke),
4) grammar (listening to grammar patterns as part of exposure theory)
5) vocabulary (learning new vocab also guided by the exposure theory),
6) pronunciation (passive listening)
As for the speaking, it is a different question. If you want to improve your speaking through LEP, you have to approach this actively. Not everyone is willing to do this. Some people tend to be shy, have approach anxiety etc…and prefer listening to the podcast as passive recipients. That is fine. However, here are some suggestions on how you can actually improve even your speaking skills.
1) Contact someone via LEP community. There are a lot of interesting people eager to learn English from all around the world. Contact those who have a similar level as you – this way you can both benefit and learn from each other and no one will get bored. Ideally, have an interest in common (sci-fi films, sport, you already have one important topic in common = LEP)…try to befriend these people, add them on facebook, start skype conversations with them or something.
2) Record yourself speaking about a topic. Ask yourself questions related to LEP. Answer these questions or just practice vocabulary Luke teaches you. Listen back to yourself. Try correcting your errors. Re-record. Compare your recordings you made some time later to see your improvements.
3) Record comments in Audioboo (max 3 minutes) –why is everyone so shy? Is everyone afraid that they will be judged? Who cares? Just be friendly and you should be accepted by the community. Luke is a teacher. He deals with mistakes every day. We all make mistakes. Never be afraid to make mistakes. A man who never made mistakes, never made anything. Are you afraid to take on a challenge and face our greatest fear – public humiliation? Well don’t be! If we fight it actively without fear, we can significantly improve our speaking skills this way.
[I just want to add a couple of points here about making a fool of yourself, my experience of speaking French, and of fear of public speaking]
4) Try running your own podcast. Most of you can do it. Again it is only about facing your fears of making mistakes and exposing yourself to the public. This podcast can be just for you and your friends. I make loads of mistakes in my podcast and I am a teacher. I feel ashamed; I have to edit them out. But if you are not teachers, why worry? And even as teachers? You shouldn’t worry.
5) You can always speak to yourself in the mirror and go crazy. Become the next Hamlet. Speaking is not about passivity so move your arse and find some interaction
Note: By following these tips, you will work on your English speaking skills, pronunciation (actively), grammar, vocab (you can focus on trying to use expressions Luke has taught you), listening skills (as you listen to your friends talking for example). There are so many benefits to active speaking practice.

Thank you Zdenek. As I said before, I welcome your comments too. Let’s share our thoughts on this subject together. It’s time for my LEP ninjas to come out of the shadows and deliver some powerful advice! LEP NINJAS – ASSEMBLE!!!

Regarding language systems, I have some things to say about grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and ‘discourse’.
To be honest, I’ve already spoken enough about grammar & vocab. Let me just remind you of the theory of ‘exposure’. I have talked about this before. The idea is that by listening to lots of English over extended periods, you’re feeding your subconscious with all the patterns of English usage. Your brain is hearing all these patterns of English, including frequent word combinations (like prepositions), tenses, features of pronunciation etc. Ultimately, it all goes into your head, and informs your sense of instinct for the language, so that when you come to do a test in English, you feel the answer. You know that this particular preposition goes with this particular verb, just because you’ve heard it a number of times before and so it feels natural. Feed your head with English. Feel the English rather than knowing it. Use the force young jedi, and remember, the force will be with you… always. Oh, and don’t forget – you’re never too old for this. Language study is a great way to keep your mind fresh and supple. My grandfather is over 90 years old and he’s still really sharp. Perhaps this is because he’s still going to French and Spanish classes on a regular basis.

Regarding pronunciation – a lot of the tips you’ve been given here will help with that. But, I just want to add that improving your listening skills will naturally improve your pronunciation skills too. The two things go hand in hand. The more you’re able to understand natural spoken English, the more you are able to decode the sounds used to make it. Understanding this natural sound code can allow you to start using it too. There is a direct connection between listening and pronunciation, but to fully reap the benefits, you need to need to actively practise pronunciation. The methods I’ve mentioned already in this episode – repeating, recording, re-recording, comparing, speaking in front of the mirror, etc – they’re all good approaches to practising and improving your pronunciation. Don’t be shy, give it a try. You’ve got nothing to lose, just things to gain. Go for it!

As for discourse, this is really about how you structure your speaking. How do you link your ideas up? When you listen, try to notice any specific phrases I use to link my ideas together, move from one topic to another, deal with moments when I don’t know what I’m saying and so on. What are the tools I use to perform certain functions. Can you identify these things and take them on yourself? Try talking about a topic for 5 minutes. See how difficult it is to talk on your feet. Do it again and again until you develop methods of thinking and talking at the same time. Listen to discussions and focus on the ways in which people interrupt, agree, disagree or whatever. Think about the way we use the language to be polite or indirect. How is humour added to what we say? How does intonation affect the hidden meaning behind our words? Explore these ideas when you listen, and then test them out in your speaking.

That’s it for this episode. I hope you have found it motivating, and inspiring. Leave your comments, and I wish you all the very best of luck keeping up your English. I’m sure you’re doing great. Well you must be, because you’re already listening to Luke’s English Podcast – and long may it continue.

BYE!