Category Archives: Vocabulary

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

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

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The UK’s Most common New Year’s resolutions

Source: ComRes poll

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

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

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

Making New Year’s Resolutions about Language Learning

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

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

Stop making excuses, release the pressure and enjoy it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some suggestions for resolutions about English

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for listening. Speak to you soon.

Luke

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

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

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Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

In this episode you’ll hear these things:

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

Part 1 (overview)

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

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

Conversation extract starts
Conversation extract ends

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

Vocabulary

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

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

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

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

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

Vocabulary List

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

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

In forthcoming episodes…

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

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

So, brace yourselves, more podcasts are coming!

But for now – GOODBYE!

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

403. Competition Results / War Story / Grammar & Punctuation / My Dad’s Accent

The final results of the LEP Anecdote Competition, some podcast admin and responses to some comments & emails from listeners including a war story, some grammar & punctuation (noun phrases, possessives & apostrophes) and a question about my Dad’s accent.

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The LEP Anecdote Competition – Final Results

The voting closed at midnight last night. So, here are the results in reverse order.

  • 10th position: Weija Wang from China (talked about how his female friend embarrassed him by admitting that she had fallen in love with him, but he suspects it might have been a practical joke)
  • 9th position: Shujaat from Pakistan (told us the story of how he narrowly avoided a terrorist attack near his college)
  • 8th position: Elena from Russia (told us the nightmare story of how she went on a wild goose chase to find the daughter of one of her friends, who appeared to go missing one Saturday evening)
  • 7th position: Frankie from Sicily, Italy (talked about how he narrowly escaped death in a walk around a lake that turned into the day trip from hell)
  • 6th position: Vasily from Tashkent (told the sweet story of how he met his wife, accompanied by the lovely sound of the accordion – this story was a cult hit in the comment section, prompting lots of speculation about Vasily’s virtuoso accordion playing skills)
  • 5th position: Jose from Spain (told a creepy story about a suspicious character he used to know)
  • 4th position: Zdenek from Czech Republic (told an amusing anecdote about a lesson learned on the London Underground about how to say “please” to strangers)
  • 3rd position: Marla from Germany (in her lovely voice told us about how she found herself on the set of the brilliant BBC TV series “Sherlock”, and met one of the main cast members)
  • 2nd position: Saaya from Japan (Told us a story involving a pyjama-based family coincidence which proved to her that she’s truly is a chip off the old block)
  • 1st position! DRUM ROLL! … Kristina from Russia! (who told us about her nerve-wracking experience of doing a completely unprepared live simultaneous translation for a famous film director, on stage in front of a large audience of people)

CONGRATULATIONS KRISTINA!
Also, congratulations to everyone who took part. It was really great to listen to your stories.
You can still hear the anecdotes, by visiting the page for episode 387 (all anecdotes).
I hope you join me in congratulating the winner and the runners up.
screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-11-10-42

Adverts at the beginning of episodes

You might have heard some adverts being played at the beginning of episodes. For example, you play an episode on your podcasting app or on the website and before the episode begins you hear about 20-30 seconds of advertising. I’m not talking about the bit where I mention my sponsor for the podcast, but another ad – not featuring my voice. The ads are region specific. For example, here in France I hear adverts for Mini (coincidentally enough, voiced by my mate Tom Morton from episode 344). Some of you won’t be hearing these ads, but many of you will, and you might be wondering what they are. Let me explain. They’re not added by me. They’re added by Audioboom and I’m hoping that they’ll be a temporary thing. Audioboom, my audio host, are now inserting ads into podcast content which is hosted by them. I’m one of many podcasts which are hosted by Audioboom. They don’t just do podcasts. They do audio hosting service for lots of other purposes – e.g. for news websites that want to embed audio clips onto their websites, or journalists who want to publish pieces of audio. They’ve recently started featuring adverts on audio content in order to monetise their service. I’m in discussion with them about this. Personally, I don’t really want the ads. I have my own sponsors – italki & Audible and some others that I’m talking to. They’re working pretty well because I like their services, we have a good relationship and they’re services that reflect the aims of my podcast. I don’t really want other ads in addition to those. Some sponsorship is definitely necessary in order to keep this podcast free, and I want it to stay free. But too much advertising is definitely not a good thing. I want to make sure your listening experience is enjoyable, as much as possible. I personally find it annoying and a bit jarring to hear certain types of advertising at the beginning of episodes.

So, I’m in talks with Audioboom about how we can enter a new agreement in which those ads are not featured on my content. That new arrangement is now pending, meaning that we’re in the middle of sorting it out. I’m waiting for Audioboom to get back to me with some other options. Hopefully we’ll find a solution which is satisfying, or I might move to a new podcast host, which would be pretty inconvenient for me, but in the long run might be better for the podcast.

In the meantime, you might hear some ads inserted at the beginning and the end of my episodes, but I expect it won’t be a long-term thing. They’ll just be there until Audioboom and I have figured out a way to either remove them, or improve them to the point that I’m happy to keep them.

You might think – “you could earn money from them Luke, to help monetise your podcast”. Yes, that’s a good point, but as I said, I already have sponsors which I feel are working for me well enough, and allow me to cover costs like website services and just the time I devote to the preparation, recording and production of the podcast. The main thing for me at this stage is that the listening experience is good for you.
I need to balance all these things: the monetary support I might get from advertising or sponsorship, your experience of listening to my episodes, the workload that I have and the time I have to devote to the project.

So, in brief – if you’ve heard slightly intrusive sounding advertising at the beginning of episodes – I am aware of it, I didn’t insert those adverts myself and I expect it will only be a temporary thing until Audioboom and I have reached some kind of agreement.

A family story from WW1 – A Turkish POW in Russia

This is Deniz’s comment after my episodes about D-Day and in relation to the episode I did about my Grandfather, who died at the beginning of 2015.

Related episodes

183. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 1)

184. Luke’s D-Day Diary (Part 2)

259. Eulogy for Dennis

In episode 183/184 I went to the D-Day commemoration to remember what happened in Normandy in 1944. My Grandfather was an officer in charge of a group of men on that day. I asked listeners to share any stories they had about family members who got caught up in WW2.

Deniz’s comment

Hey Luke,
This was an intense episode, wasn’t it? I can understand what you feel about your grandpa. I listened this episode recently, and came here to check if any commentator mentions anything about World War 1 or 2, which is related with their family. As a reminder: you asked for it in the podcast.
As you probably know Turkey kept its neutral status during WW2. So as a Turkish person, my family do not have any WW2 memories (except how hard those state of emergency years were) on the other hand WW1 was a really intense chain of events in Turkish history, since so many Turkish people were killed during the battles and even infants had to fight for the very reason after a while it had became “defending the mainland” for Turks.
So here is the memory from the father of my grandfather (my grandfather): The Caucasus Campaign had been a real disaster for the Turks, since fighting with the Russians during winter conditions is always a bad idea and “the sick man of Europe” Ottoman army lacked equipment for such a formidable campaign. In a nutshell, so many Turks died because of the winter conditions and the situation became a piece of cake for the Tsardom of Russia.
The father of my grandfather (my great-grandfather) was really lucky to stay alive and became a POW after the Russians surrounded them. As a POW he had to do whatever the Russians decided for him and in the end he was sold to an aristocratic Russian family and became a stableman for them. After a while that Russian family let him marry since they thought there was no turning back for him anymore. So he married a low-class serf woman, and they even had two babies!
But then… the Tsardom of Russia also collapsed and the October Revolution stormed through all of Russia. This incident had serious effects on aristocratic families, which is not a surprise. So during all that mess, my great-grandpa managed to escape by boat and came back to Turkey again… Of course he had to leave his Russian wife and those 2 children there, because he had no any other choice.
After he came to Turkey, he fought in the Turkish War of Independence and after that finally married a Turkish woman, which led to me, in the long run. So Luke, isn’t it weird? There are some people in Russia, who are my distant relatives in a way, and there is almost no way for us to find each other. I just wanted to share that story here, since I know many Russians listen your podcast and who knows… It’s a small world with weird coincidences. :)
Thank you for all the podcasts!

Does that story sound familiar? If it does – get in touch!

Grammar: Nouns adjuncts, noun phrases, possessive ‘S’ and apostrophes – A question about the title of “An 80-Minute Ramble”

Yaron’s question about the title of episode 397 “An 80-minute ramble”
Hi Luke,
It’s been a while… good to have you back…
I haven’t listened to this episode yet (I probably will in the evening)
Anyhow…I have a small question:
Should it be “An 80 minute Ramble” or “An 80 minutes Ramble”?
I find that all the subjects with the “S” at the end of the word in English to be very confusing (You need to add “S”, with ‘ sign before/after the “S”, etc…. )
I would really appreciate ii if you could clarify it.
Thanks,
Yaron

My reply
Hi Yaron,
It’s ‘an 80 minute ramble’ not ‘an 80 minuteS ramble’.
As you know, plural nouns (unless irregular) do take an ‘S’ – e.g. “I’m going to talk for about 80 minutes” but not in the case of ‘an 80 minute ramble’ because ’80 minute’ here is like an adjective for the word ‘ramble’ and adjectives in English aren’t pluralised.
What kind of ramble? An 80-minute ramble. ’80 minute’ is performing the function of an adjective.
More information en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noun_adjunct

That’s the theory, but it’s a bit abstract isn’t it? It might be easier to learn this when you consider all the common examples of this kind of structure, e.g.

  • a 5 star hotel
  • a 10 pound note
  • a 4 year old girl
  • a 5 minute walk
  • a 10 dollar fine
  • a 10,000 pound reward
  • a 9 hour flight
  • a 4 hour drive
  • 10-year cave-aged cheddar cheese

‘S
This is either: ‘is’, ‘has’, possessive

Check this page from Oxford Dictionaries Online for all the details about how to use ‘S

en.oxforddictionaries.com/punctuation/apostrophe

Rick Thompson’s accent

Sebastian
Hi Luke, I hope you’re all right. I’ve got a question: Where’s your Dad’s accent from or what kind is it? Is it posh? Thanks.

The ‘short’ answer:
My Dad speaks standard British RP (Received Pronunciation), also known as BBC English. This type of accent is generally associated with middle and upper-middle class people, probably university educated, from England, particularly the South East of England, but possibly from any other part of the UK too.

I think, by the standards of most Brits his accent is slightly posh because there aren’t many regional inflections in his voice, but I don’t think he is properly posh, like someone who went to Eton school for example.

What does ‘posh’ mean? (screenshot from Oxford Dictionaries Online – click it for more details)

en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/posh

You could say there are slight regional variations of RP (e.g. in Scotland, the north of England or Wales) But it’s not a truly posh accent, like the way the royal family speaks, or David Cameron speaks, for example.

I reckon you could break it down like this (and this is making it really simple)

  • Regional dialects (strong accents, particular words and phrases used – all specific to certain areas)
  • Regional accents (strong accents specific to certain areas)
  • Standard RP with slight regional variations (e.g. the way some vowel sounds are produced)
  • Standard RP from the South East of England
  • Heightened RP (like David Cameron)
  • Very heightened RP (like The Queen)

Depending on your social background, you’ll consider some accents to be more posh than others. Generally, if the accent is associated with a higher social class (based on the old model) than yours, you’ll say it’s posh.

Posh can be either positive or negative. It depends on your view of the situation.

I guess by a lot of people’s standards, my Dad sounds quite posh. For me he isn’t that posh. He’s just really neutral and clear. I think a truly ‘posh’ accent has different qualities to it.

To do justice to this subject I’ll need to do full episodes on the way different people speak.

That’s it! Speak to you again soon. Bye!

392. What are the most essential skills of a good foreign language learner?

This episode is full of what I hope will be more useful insight and advice on how to learn English as an adult so that you don’t end up sounding like a robot, because you’re learning English or at least maintaining your English and it’s a long-term process, there are right and wrong ways of doing it and I want to support you along the way. The main aim of this podcast is to help you stay on track as you continue to develop your English, trying to find new ways and improving the old ways so that you get a grip on this language.

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This episode represents not just my ideas but also the thoughts, conclusions and recommendations of plenty of other linguists and polyglots who certainly should know what they’re talking about because they’ve either studied the process of language acquisition or they’ve learned multiple languages themselves. Contained in this episode is a distillation of lots of experiences, research and common knowledge about language learning, including my own thoughts and practical tips which I’ve picked up after 15 years of teaching English as a foreign language. I hope this will be a motivating, inspiring and interesting episode for you to listen to as part of your English learning journey. So, let’s go.

Quora www.quora.com

Do you know about a website called Quora? Quora.com

It’s a good website where people post all kinds of thoughtful questions and then other users chip in with answers.

The answers are then read and upvoted by members of the community, which helps the best information to be presented to everyone.

The result is that you get a selection of some of the best advice and information from people who actually know what they’re talking about.

It’s not a new concept. It’s been done before by Yahoo, Reddit and so on. But it seems that Quora is used by slightly more serious people and as a result the content on Quora is pretty reliable and intelligent.

You can sign up and choose what types of topic you’re interested in. I selected “Language learning” and came across this post. In fact I often get emails from Quora with interesting language learning questions and answers and they’re very interesting to read.

I also selected a bunch of other options, but I now can’t remember what they are – but I think they were pretty random ones, like I think I selected questions about gun control, science and technology. As a result, along with the language learning questions I also get sent some pretty bizarre Q&As about things like “Can you get shot in the head and survive?” and “What’s the worst bear attack in human history?” and “What happens to you when you die?” – all of which, I admit, I find fascinating too! Perhaps I’ll make podcast episodes about them too one day.

But this one is not about bears and stuff, no it’s about learning languages, and the question we’re looking at here is:

“What are the most essential skills of a good foreign language learner?”

www.quora.com/What-are-the-most-essential-skills-of-a-good-foreign-language-learner 

There are about 12 answers from different people.

This is perfect for an episode for LEP because I don’t need to prepare anything – I can just read through the different answers and make comments along the way.

OK, so here goes!

Anthony Lauder’s Presentation at the 2013 Polyglot Conference

Here’s that great presentation by Anthony Lauder at the 2013 Polyglot Conference. It has a slightly slow start, with a couple of technical difficulties (and I found it slightly offputting that he was presenting in shorts and flip flops but I suppose that shouldnt’ matter) but it really gets going after a few minutes. It’s very amusing and has some truly great insights into how to learn languages.

Mnemonic Dictionary

“libel” – www.mnemonicdictionary.com/?word=libel

lep-mug-painting

386. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 2)

Here’s part 2 of this episode about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. Click here for part 1 of this episode wp.me/p4IuUx-6Wl

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Measure your progress – test yourself

Take a test, do an IELTS or CAE simulation. Speak to people and see how it goes. Try to understand a TV show without help. Read authentic material. Try to do exercises meant for a specific level and see how it feels. Take FCE use of english sample papers. Take the grammar test at the back of Blue Murphy. Download Duolingo and take their level test.

Use DIALANG dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

DIALANG is an online diagnostic system designed to assess a person’s proficiency in 14 European languages.[1][2] Competences tested are reading, writing, listening, grammar and vocabulary, while speaking is excluded for technical reasons.[1]

DIALANG was designed primarily for European citizens to assess their language abilities in adherence to Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference – CEFR – as a basis for determining language proficiency. The CEFR is a widely recognized framework used to describe and measure the language proficiency level of a learner in a particular language.[1]

Dialang was funded by the SOCRATES programme and by some 25 institutions, largely universities, throughout the European Union.[3]

Also, ExamEnglish.com www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Practice practice practice practice practice (The 5 ‘P’s)

Practise using it! Again – a language partner on italki can help.

A note about using italki or any 1to1 lessons – make sure you know what kind of teacher you’re looking for. Be clear about what you want from lessons. If you want plenty of speaking, say so – be clear that you want a lot of language feedback. Bring topics yourself. Be imaginative and prepare questions, speaking tasks etc. If you need to do job interviews, ask to do that, and bring some materials to the lessons – e.g. job interview questions. The more involved you are the better. Know exactly what you want before you get into the lessons. In the first lesson or trial lesson, explain what it is you want to practise. This will avoid the trap of just talking aimlessly, or letting the italki teacher talk too much or make it all about them. I think a good italki teacher should do a lot of listening. Make sure you take time to show that you respect them as a teacher and that you’re glad to talk to them, but also make it quite clear what you expect from them.

Attitude

It’s how you perceive your progress. Where are your priorities? What’s making you feel like you’re not making progress? Perhaps you’re focusing on one thing too much that might not be that important. E.g. you might be frustrated that you can’t lose your accent, but in fact that doesn’t matter too much. Understand that some things will just never be perfect, and realise that you’ve made a lot of progress in other areas. Don’t get caught up on your accent – don’t let one thing hold you back. Keep pushing in other areas too.

Be positive!

Yes we can!

A lot of people just tell themselves they can’t do things.

A student of mine recently told me that she couldn’t speak English. She said “I think I can’t speak. I don’t know why but I just can’t speak English. What do you think?” I said – well, you can speak English because you’re doing it right now. What you mean is that it’s difficult.

When you experience resistance, don’t say “I can’t do this”, just say “this is difficult”. It’s all achievable with practice and the right attitude.

Goals

Give yourself little goals, not one big one. Learn English step by step. I know some students who have unrealistic goals, or at least goals that are too high. E.g. I want to become bilingual – it might be possible one day, but at the moment it’s probably best to scale it down to something more achievable, like I want to improve my accuracy, or I want to be able to speak on the telephone about my work more confidently. I want to improve my sales skills in English, for example.

Don’t create a vague goal like “I want to master English”. It’s built for failure.

Create specific goals that will allow you to define a specific set of actions to achieve it.

Goals are pointless unless you have a plan on how to achieve them.

Let’s use the CAE test as a standard. Cambridge English have put a great deal of time and effort into classifying and testing advanced English. Let’s use their test and their assessment criteria to create goals. You’ll see that there are a LOT of goals here! But the point is – they’re specific.

www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/cambridge-english-advanced-handbook-2015.pdf

I can/want to/will:

(let’s just use writing and speaking as an example or this will go on forever)

  • Writing
  • Write a structured ‘for and against essay’ in which I compare two opinions on a subject, write in the appropriate register, use the right linking phrases, develop arguments and give a persuasive point of view.
  • Write a business email with the appropriate style, including the right opening and closing parts and the appropriate phrases for making requests, agreeing, disagreeing, asking for and giving information.
  • Write a business report in which I give details of results, numerical data and recommendations for action to be taken.
  • Write a personal email in a friendly style.
  • Learn and use the appropriate phrases and style to achieve all those types of writing.
  • Speaking
  • Use a wide range of grammatical structures accurately and with the right amount of control (note that this aim focuses on being able to use the grammar not just understand it)
  • Use a wide range of vocabulary, especially on abstract areas which are unfamiliar. (again a focus on using vocab not just understanding it)
  • Produce longer pieces of structured spoken English with little hesitation, e.g. a 1 minute speech on any topic.
  • Speak clearly and intelligably (not with a perfect British accent!)
  • Use intonation and sentence stress to help me make a point
  • Interact naturally in conversation with others, including negotiating things, managing any breakdown in communication. (this is about effective communicative competence and comes from listening as much as from speaking but must be practised in the context of real communication)

You could even break those things down into more specific goals too. E.g. to be able to talk freely about finance, or to be able to write clearly about facts and figures, or simply to be able to say all the numbers and dates without hesitation.

That all might seem a bit challenging, but it has been proven time and time again that breaking down your learning into small yet achievable goals is the way to deal with the challenge.

Step by step

How do you eat an elephant – one spoon at a time. How do you climb a mountain – one step at a time. Don’t try to leap up it. Take it steadily – it’s a long journey but every step is a step in the right direction. Sometimes you take steps backwards and work out where you’ve gone wrong and then find the path again.

Repetition

Study the grammar again and again and again. Test yourself again and again. Learning a language is difficult. It takes time and effort. Accept that and just keep going day by day. In the end it will all pay off. When I first started teaching English I couldn’t understand a lot of the grammar. I had to study it for ages at the weekend before I taught it, but I learned my own grammar! It helps that I’m a native speaker, but understanding the rules was difficult for me too. Now I know it well and I think it’s because I put the time in and because there was pressure – I had to teach it. Also it’s because I studied and taught the grammar again and again. It’s the same with vocab, and with other areas like listening.

Listen to episodes of the podcast more than once, like this comment from Mayumi

MayumiM 3 minutes ago

Hi, hope you feel better than the day you recorded this episode. Your voice is kinda sexy like you mentioned and I’ll miss that when your voice is fully recovered, though.;) Anyway, you always keep encouraging us to keep listening even though we have some difficulties to understand everything and listen again. That totally worked this time for me. I’ve repeated last Ian Moore episode maybe 3 or 4 times straight. I could do this because the conversation was just fascinating. Maybe I could understand 70% at first and next time, 80% or more and at the end of this routine, I felt I could get almost everything! After that, I did with different episodes and it went well, too.

Thank you for encouraging us as always and I’m looking forward new episodes.

Enjoy it! Take stock. Enjoy the small victories. See progress as achievable.

Grammar

Spend some time learning grammar but do it selectively. Use the murphy grammar test to identify things you need to work on. Notice the grammar you’ve been studying in the real world. You’ll start to notice it everywhere.

Don’t get blocked by your grammar knowledge

I suggest studying the grammar, but sometimes you need to know when to just put the grammar rules away and use the force.

Listening and reading a lot are just as important in learning grammar as focusing on the rules. You need to have seen and heard a lot of grammar to be able to judge if something is right or wrong and to make sense of the rules. Always remember to understand and analyse the language in a meaningful context, not just abstract grammar rules. Everything comes back to the way the language is actually used, not the so-called rules on paper. Understanding this can help you study grammar more effectively.

Notice grammar in the real world. Make your own rules. Test them. Check them with the rule book. Keep going.

Writing to get through the Plateau

I should also mention that writing is a really important way to get through the intermediate plateau.

You can use it to help you find errors that you make in your language, correct them and learn to stop making them. Often these errors are simple fossilised mistakes that you know you shouldn’t make. Your own knowledge of the language plus any research you do can help you identify and correct the mistakes, making it less likely that you’ll do it again.

So you can correct yourself by doing some creative writing and then checking it carefully on your own. But also you might need someone to correct your writing or give you feedback. You might have a native speaker, a teacher, an italki teacher or a relative who can check your work, or  you can you have your writing corrected through sites like Lang-8 and LingQ.

Different skills in English are connected and mutually beneficial. There are basically 4 skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking, and they’re all connected. There are receptive skills like listening and reading, and then productive skills like speaking and writing. Listening is connected to speaking because it is the oral version of the language, and reading is complementary to writing because of the syntax, the spelling and punctuation.

Writing is also different to speaking in that you have more time to reflect on what you’re putting down. When speaking you have to be spontaneous and it’s linked to body language. Writing is a solo experience and that allows you to think more clearly about the language you’re producing.

Also, as you correct your writing, this will benefit your speaking by giving you an inner monologue which can be converted to speech. All in all, it’s a good idea to practise writing as well as speaking in order to improve your accuracy and fluency.

Enjoy it 

Enjoy the English you consume and produce. Follow your heart and focus on the aspects of language that you enjoy and that will keep you coming back. Take pleasure in the act of learning a language. Remember that it’s making you a much more rounded and multidimensional person.

Here are some motivational quotes

Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can; there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
‒Sarah Caldwell

Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.
‒Chinese Proverb

To have another language is to possess a second soul.
‒Charlemagne

❝The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.❝ Ludwig Wittgenstein

Rapping with Fluency MC

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

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385. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 1)

This episode is about ways you can push your English to higher levels even if you feel that your progress is stuck or moving very slowly. I’m talking about a very common phenomenon in English learning called the intermediate plateau. It usually happens at an intermediate level. I wonder if this applies to you? I would love to read your thoughts so please do write in the comment section.

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234. Making “Choons” with My Brother

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Mailing List, etc

Subscribe to the mailing list to get a link to the page for each episode sent to your inbox.

LEP Anecdote Comp is almost closed. It closes today. Any entries I get after midnight today (CET) won’t count, and remember you only have 5 minutes. I’ll upload an episode v soon about that to tell you what’s going to happen next, and you’ll be able to listen and vote for your favourites.

So now, let’s talk about the intermediate plateau and how to push your English to new levels even if you feel like your progress has stalled.

Transcription / improvisation

Breaking the Intermediate Plateau

What is the intermediate plateau?  Why does that happen and how can you get out of it? Generally, how do you keep making progress with your English?

People often get stuck at an intermediate level. They feel their English is not improving as fast as before. In fact it feels like you can’t progress further and your learning is blocked. It’s very frustrating.

This applies to moving from intermediate to a higher level, but much of it can be applied to making progress at a higher level too.

What is intermediate?

Moving from intermediate to advanced is a tricky phase and it often takes longer than moving from elementary to intermediate. It’s harder to make the distinction between intermediate and advanced than it is to make a distinction between intermediate and elementary.

CEFR B1 descriptions

  • Can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.
  • Can deal with most situations likely to arise while travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
  • Can produce simple connected text on topics that are familiar or of personal interest.
  • Can describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes and ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.

CEFR C1 descriptions

  • Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer clauses, and recognize implicit meaning.
  • Can express ideas fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions.
  • Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.
  • Can produce clear, well-structured, detailed text on complex subjects, showing controlled use of organizational patterns, connectors and cohesive devices.

How do you know if you’re at the intermediate plateau? How do you know if your learning is at a plateau in general (not just at intermediate level)?

We’re talking about 2 things – what your level is, and the progress you’re not making.

How do you know if you’re intermediate?

Take a test, use the criteria for the CEFR, consult your teacher. (See links to tests below)

ExamEnglish www.examenglish.com/leveltest/index.php

Dialang dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

How do you know if you’ve reached a plateau – probably at intermediate level?

You started with a low level of English and have made some effort to pull yourself up to a functional intermediate level. Perhaps you studied, maybe you have lived in an English speaking environment in which you were forced to learn the language.

You can basically express yourself and get by in most situations, but when you’re under stress or when it’s a new situation your English crumbles.

Or perhaps you have a jagged profile – you might be good at one area, but other areas are really weak. E.g. you might be good at reading and writing but your spoken English is a disaster. Or perhaps you’re great at oral communication but you can’t write full sentences, can’t spell etc.

You can talk, laugh and have fun in English when you’re with fellow non-native speakers, but as soon as you’re with a group of natives, you suddenly feel lost and don’t understand the humour.

If you really concentrate and focus you can watch a film or TV in English and understand most of it – especially with English subtitles, but if you go to the cinema full of native speakers and watch a comedy film or something you realise how little you understand because everyone else is laughing but you’re just sitting there. You assume that everyone’s a bit stupid or that they have no taste. In fact, you just don’t understand the jokes.

Why do people hit an intermediate plateau?

You can basically survive with an intermediate level of English. In fact, you can get by with about 3000 words whereas the average native speaker is able to use about 20,000. This is the difference between a basic operational intermediate level of English and a fully rounded vocabulary of a native speaker.

Suspected learning curve. You expect learning to be linear. When you start you learn rapidly, the curve is steep. When you have got through the early stages and you can basically express yourself and understand others. It’s harder to see progress. Your progress becomes more shallow and there’s less stress involved.

People expect the learning to continue in a straight line of progress, but they don’t realise that it goes up and down.

The actual learning curve is more like a bell, and it involves many ups and downs too.

The more of a language you learn, the less there is to learn. It’s a process of diminishing returns.

Comfort zone.

Goals and study habits are not well defined. Often the first goal is just to get out of that painful confusion you experience at the start. When you hit intermediate your goals need to be more achievable and specific. Then you need to match them with an organised study plan.

How to break through the intermediate plateau and continue making progress

There’s no magic formula or single way to do it. It comes down to attitude, time and practice.

The study methods you used to get to intermediate might need to change.

Merely ‘getting by’ in the language is not enough any more. You need to explore, push it further, test yourself and increase the challenge.

Follow just one subject in a lot of depth

You want to develop a more advanced level of vocabulary and grammar, especially the vocab but there is so much of it! How can you cover it all? Instead of just scraping the surface of a few topics, try going into loads of depth in just one or two topics.

Following a subject you’re fascinated in will take you down a rabbit hole of English and you will learn a great deal of more complex language on the way. It’s hard to learn all the English of everything, so focus on one specific thing and let that be your entry point to advanced English.

This means finding loads of information on this single topic you’re interested in – reading articles and books about it, finding podcasts and videos about it, video documentaries on youtube and so on. For example, right now I’m reading about The Beatles in French and it’s much better than just reading stuff I don’t care about and it keeps me interested.

Learn how to talk and write about your specialist subject too. Learning one thing in a lot of detail is more achievable than trying to learn the vocabulary of everything. You will learn tons of vocabulary about the subject but also you’ll learn the kind of English you need to construct and understand complex and in-depth ideas – so, not just technical terms but also complex sentences, grammatical forms and linking devices.

Challenge

One of the reasons you made so much progress before was that everything was a challenge. You met a lot of resistance. It was frustrating but you pushed through. Now there is less resistance but don’t stop pushing. Challenge yourself, push yourself out of your comfort zone, teach the language to someone else – or at least prepare yourself as if you’re going to teach, find your weaknesses and push them. Don’t give up. Jump in at the deep end and try to swim.

Habit

Honestly – how many of you are going to do all these things? Not many of you. You’ll probably listen and agree but not take action. Right there – that’s where the difference is between progress and not progress. Choose to do even a couple of these things and you’ll be on the right path. Just make a few little changes and do them regularly and it should become part of your habit. Build habits into your life.

Exposure

Exposure to some comprehensible input combined with some stuff on the verge of what you don’t understand. Some stuff that’s fairly easy to follow, and some stuff that’s hard to follow. So, that means listening to podcasts like this in which you understand quite a lot, but you’re also challenged sometimes, but it also means reading and listening to content designed for native speakers. Get an audiobook, get some real books, listen to BBC radio, subscribe to some podcasts for native speakers (listen for some recommendations soon).

236. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 1)

237. OPP: Other People’s Podcasts (Part 2)

Vocabulary & Mnemonics

Keep an organised notebook for vocabulary and use some mnemonic techniques. They’re proven to work again and again, but how many of us use them?

Listen to an old episode of my podcast called Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English.

Basically, the trick with remembering vocabulary is to a) link the new memory to an existing memory and b) make new memories visual, vivid and attached to a space that you know in the real world. This sounds a bit strange, but it’s proven to work. If you can attach a new word to an existing word somehow, perhaps with a very vivid picture in your mind perhaps connected to a space you know, like your house, then memories will stick like glue.

167. Memory, Mnemonics & Learning English

Part 2 coming soon…

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384. Teaching Grammar & Social English

In this episode I’m talking about recent things I’ve been teaching in my classes including some grammar and some social English. There’s an absolutely massive amount of grammar crammed into this episode and quite a lot of silly improvisation too!

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Introduction

I’ll give an overview of the groups I’m teaching,and what I’m teaching them including some grammar and vocab. Essentially you can learn what my students have been learning. I’ll also talk about some considerations I make as a teacher and activities I use.

The classes are quite low, probably lower than the average listener of this podcast.

Two classes – A2 (pre-intermediate) and B1.2 (good intermediate)

CEFR A0 – A1 – A2 – B1 – B2 – C1 – C2

Needs of the groups

Gradable and ungradable adjectives

I’ve been using Cutting Edge Intermediate 3rd edition, but a little bit of googling reveals several pages online with good sources of info and some exercises, such as this one from Espresso English . net, which I am paraphrasing.

Regular Adjective

Graded with:

  • a little, a bit, slightly, fairly, rather
  • very, extremely, immensely, intensely, hugely
  • Really
  • pretty
Extreme Adjective (absolutely, completely)

Graded with:

  • absolutely
  • completely
  • Utterly
  • Really
  • pretty
angry furious
bad awful, terrible, horrible
big huge, gigantic, massive, enormous
clean spotless
cold freezing
crowded packed
dirty filthy
funny hilarious
good wonderful, fantastic, excellent
hot boiling
hungry starving
interesting fascinating
old ancient
pretty gorgeous
scary terrifying
small tiny, minute
surprising astounding
tired Exhausted, knackered
ugly hideous

Absolute Adjectives

Another type of extreme adjective is called an “absolute” adjective.

These are words that are either “yes or no.” It’s binary, black and white, there’s no grading – not even with words like ‘completely’. For example, dead – you can’t be “a little bit dead” or “very dead” – either YES, you are dead, or NO, you’re not dead.

Here’s a list of some absolute adjectives and their opposites:

It’s fun to play with these ones. I find it funny to grade these absolute adjectives and when you do it knowingly it starts to reveal how you can bend the language to make it humourous or ironic.

Absolute Adjective Opposite
complete incomplete
Equal (all animals are equal…) unequal
essential non-essential; extraneous
dead alive
fatal not fatal
full empty
ideal not ideal
impossible possible
infinite finite
married single / divorced / separated / widowed
perfect imperfect
pregnant not pregnant
unique not unique
universal not universal
unknown known
true false

Exercises here www.espressoenglish.net/extreme-adjectives-in-english/

Present simple vs present continuous

Present simple: Facts, always true, habits (things you do every time) and also permanent situations.

Present continuous: What you’re doing right now. Temporary truths. Things that are changing (e.g. social trends). Future plans.

Present continuous, going to & will for future

Social English

Making polite requests

Borrow and lend

Could you lend me your

Could I borrow your

Could I borrow your xxx from you?

Do you mind _ing

Would you mind _ing

I was wondering if you could

Do you think you could…

You couldn’t… could you?

Invitations

What are you doing on Saturday?

I’m not doing anything.

Would you like to have a drink?

Do you fancy having a drink?

Shall we have a drink?

Let’s have a drink shall we?

Do you want to have a drink?

How about we have a drink?

What about having a drink?

Sure that sounds great.

I’d love to.

That sounds great, but…

I’d love to, but…

I can’t

I can’t make it

The Lying Game

Mystery Story Narrative Tenses

Murder Mystery

LEPCUPPIC

374. Alex’s Edinburgh Fringe Report

Hello listeners, this episode features another chat with Alex Love who was on the podcast recently in episodes 366 and 367. I decided I’d get Alex back on the podcast for several reasons. The first reason is because he is now in Edinburgh at the Festival and his show seems to be doing very well. In fact, so far every performance has been completely sold out and he’s making a nice profit. I’m happy to hear that and I thought we could get a little Edinburgh report and actually have a conversation without it being derailed by a poor internet connections and other distractions, and that’s what we’ve managed to do. The second reason I brought him on is to do our own LEP Pub Quiz in which we ask each other questions, and that’s what you’ll hear in part 2.

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I have divided this conversation into two parts again, to make it more manageable for you. In part one we talk about Alex’s show, some details about the culture of pub quizzes in the UK and we go off on several quite instructive tangents about stag and hen parties, male strippers, The Smurfs and the anatomy of giant squid, which are large sea creatures with tentacles. That sounds quite random but it’s not really. It’s actually perfectly logical and it will all become clear as you listen to the conversation, and I think there’s quite a lot to learn about British culture in this episode as you’ll see. There’s also quite a lot of vocabulary to watch out for and I will go through that in a moment.

Then in part 2 you’ll hear Alex and I playing our own pub quiz in which we ask each other various questions in order to test our general knowledge.

I expect that by the time you listen to this episode Alex’s Edinburgh show will probably be over and all his shows seem to be sold out anyway, but what the hell – I’ll mention the details of it anyway. It’s called “How to Win a Pub Quiz” and it takes place at 12 o’clock lunchtime at The Stand in rooms 5 & 6 until 14 August. Details and bookings tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/alex-love-how-to-win-a-pub-quiz

Vocab from Part 1 – Watch out for these words and expressions

I’ve made another list of words and phrases from this episode. This is language that you might not know and which you might want to learn. I’m not defining and explaining this vocabulary here, I’m just encouraging you to notice it, and hopefully making it a bit easier for you to notice it. Being mindful of language while you’re listening to this podcast is important. If you’re switched on and attentive, taking mental note of different features of English as you move through these episodes, you’re in a much better position to retain words and phrases and add them to your own active vocabulary. Also, if you’re into studying while you listen you will find all these phrases written on the page for this episode and you can then look them up in a dictionary – and you can try Oxford, Cambridge, Macmillan or Collins dictionaries online. They’re all freely available, which is nice. Now I’m going to just read out each phrase and you can try to notice them as they come up naturally in our conversation.

old habits die hard – it just goes to show that old habits die hard

the love interest – she plays the love interest in the movie

a hen-do – there was a group of girls on a hen-do sitting on the front row

a stag-do – there was a group of lads on a stag-do in the audience

a mixed bag – how was the show? It was a bit of a mixed bag to be honest

self-deprecating – we make lots of self deprecating jokes

a bit hit and miss – the show was a bit hit and miss

inconsistent – it was quite an inconsistent show

bland – it was a bit bland and boring

I died on my arse” – he absolutely died on his arse on stage at the show last night

to slag someone off – We used to slag off the entire audience in our show

to bad-mouth someone – we bad-mouth the audience at the beginning of the show

it’s frowned upon  – being brutal with a hen-do is frowned upon, you’re not supposed to do it, whereas it’s ok to insult a stag-do

a sash – there was a girl on the front row wearing a sash

the first album I ever bought – “Smurfs Go Pop” was the first album I ever bought

anthropomorphic – Smurfs are quite anthropomorphic

the gestation period – humans have a 9 month gestation period

promiscuous – everyone says she’s quite promiscuous

to beat around the bush – don’t beat around the bush, just say it straight

to cast aspersions – I don’t mean to cast aspersions on Smurfette

to hear something

to hear about something

a squid / a giant squid

tentacles – they have ten tentacles, whereas Octopuses have 8 limbs

10 inches in diameter – their eyes are 10 inches in diameter

a beak = what birds have at the end of their faces – like the mouth of a bird, or a squid

your eyes are too big for your stomach

dismal = terrible

to come in third place – Paul is coming in a dismal 3rd place

So, that’s it for the vocabulary and this introduction, let’s now join the conversation I had with Alex Love yesterday afternoon, watch out for the vocabulary and see what you can learn about hen dos, stag dos, male and female strippers, the Smurfs and giant squid. There’s a bit of swearing – so you have been warned.

*Conversation Starts*

Talking talking talking – no robot invasions! – talking talking talking

*Conversation Ends*

That’s it for part 1. Did you notice all the vocabulary I listed at the beginning?

In part 2 we do a pub quiz in which we ask each other various questions, including some questions about the English language. So, if you want to know what our questions are, and who wins, check out part 2 now!

Thanks for listening.

Join the mailing list.

Check out audible and italki

Send a donation if you want to say thanks.

Have a good day, night, morning, evening, afternoon, bus journey, train journey, gym session, walk, nap, jog or sleep.

Speak to you in part 2.

Luke

fringe2

373. Who Wants to Be Good at English?

This episode is a game show hosted by my Dad, with me as the contestant. The aim of the game is to see how many words I know. My Dad designed this quiz for his students of journalism at the university where he works sometimes. The quiz is specifically designed to highlight what he considers to be common misuses and misunderstandings of words. His opinion is that journalists writing and presenting on television should use words in exactly the right way, even if many people use those words to mean different things in general everyday use.

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Frankly this is an evil game show, created by my evil father (a.k.a Darth Vader) and it is designed to make normal people fail, allowing him to then prove a point about using words correctly on TV. Listen to the episode to see how many questions in his evil quiz I got wrong and right! While you listen you can try to guess the correct answers too. Let’s see how many you get right. Can you beat me?

Check out my Dad’s questions (and answers) below.

Screenshot from screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-11-47-13this page from OxfordDictionaries.com about the word ‘inflammable’.

 

2014-07-07_00022

By the way, I know that 1 in 3 is not 25% – it’s 33.33333333333%

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?