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460 Catching Up With Amber & Paul #6 (feat. Sarah Donnelly)

Conversation and language analysis with the podpals and guest Sarah. Hear some conversation about being married to a foreign person, bringing up kids to be bilingual, and learn some slang in Australian and Northern Irish English. Vocabulary is explained at the end.

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Introduction

This episode is choc-a-block with natural conversation and language.

Yesterday I had Amber and Paul over to the flat, and I also invited Sarah Donnelly, a friend of the podcast. Sarah also brought her baby who she had since she was last on the podcast. There’s no relation by the way between her being on the podcast and having a baby. Purely coincidental. Anyway, the four of us sat around the table yesterday in the blistering heat to record some podcast material and that’s what you’re going to hear.

Sometimes you can hear the baby screaming and gurgling in the background but I don’t think it spoils the recording really. She hasn’t learned to talk yet, but who knows being on the podcast might help a little bit in some way.

The conversation is a bit chaotic because there are 4 people, sometimes talking over each other. If you like you can imagine you’re in a business meeting. A business meeting in which no business actually takes place, nobody observes the rules of formality and where the participants just chat with each other. So, not much like a business meeting really, but anyway a meeting of sorts, and this is the kind of thing you might have to deal with in the future if you go to a meeting in English and there are a number of people discussing things and you have to keep up. It’s good practice to listen to this kind of thing to help you prepare for that kind of situation.

This recording was slightly shorter than the usual full-on ramble that we have together. But I’m going to do a bit of language analysis at the end. I’ll pick out a few words and phrases and will clarify them after the conversation has finished.

Also there’s another language-related episode coming soon with Amber, Paul and Sarah.

Here now is a discussion between podpals Amber and Paul, also featuring Sarah Donnelly the American with Irish roots who has been on this podcast before, most recently talking about the US Presidential Elections with Sebastian Marx.

Things we all have in common:

  • We’re all English speaking expats in France
  • We are all with French partners, either married or “paxed”
  • We’re all comedians on the stand up scene too

In this chat we discuss a few things, such as the complexities of being with a foreign partner, bringing up a child in a foreign country to be fully bilingual, getting married and what it feels like for the bride and groom on the big day, Amber’s podcast which was recently released online, Paul’s upcoming gig in Australia, Sarah’s Irish roots and some English slang from New Zealand, Australia and Northern Ireland.

Questions

Here are some questions for you to consider as you listen. This can help you to focus on the content.

  1. Are you or have you ever been with a foreign person in a relationship? What are the difficulties of that?
  2. What’s the best way to bring up a child to be bilingual? Is it possible to raise a bilingual child when only one of you speaks one of the target languages to the child?
  3. Are you married? How did it feel for you on the big day? Did you cry? Have you ever been a guest at a wedding, and did you cry?
  4. Have you heard Amber’s podcast, which is called Paname? It’s now available at panamepodcast.com
  5. Can you identify different English accents and dialects from around the world? How about American vs British, or different areas of the UK? How about Ireland and Northern Ireland? What about Australia and New Zealand? Do you know what their English sounds like?

Right. Consider those questions as you listen to this conversation and hold on until later when I’ll explain some of the vocabulary and some cultural stuff too, maybe touching on different accents, wedding vocabulary and more.

But now you can listen to Amber, Paul, Sarah and me, melting in my boiling hot apartment.


Vocabulary and other language points – Explained

It’s really hot
It’s hot as hell
It’s boiling
It’s sweltering
It’s baking
It’s blisteringly hot

Being partnered with a French person is hard work.
I have one hour’s worth of material on this.
One hour’s worth of something
5 minutes’ worth of something
We’ve got 3 days’ worth of food left
I’ve got about 10 minutes’ worth of battery left

Bringing Up Children
Bringing up
a baby in a foreign country with a foreign partner – will they speak English?
Bring up a baby
Raise a child
Be raised in / to
Grow up
Do you have experience of bringing up a baby to be bilingual? Let us know.
If just one parent speaks English, and the rest of the time it’s French with school, friends and everything else – will the kid be bilingual?
Anglophone
Francophone

Condone/Condemn
I don’t condone the hitting of a child (stupid thing to say actually – but that’s what happens when you joke – sometimes you go over the line a bit – obvs I didn’t mean it)
Condone / condemn

Paul’s Wedding
An out of body experience
We were so stressed out

Crying
To cry
To be in tears
To well up
To choke up

Neither of us cried
I thought everybody would be in tears
I welled up a bit
I was choking up

Walk down the aisle
The altar

Her parents aren’t with her any more. They passed away.
Paul’s dad gave her away. “It was so sweet that it was your dad that was giving her away.”
I’m left-handed
I can’t grip it like I like to grip it. (innuendo)
He’s jumped ahead. (he’s gone to the innuendo before we realised it)

Some ninjas came out of the woodwork. (to come out of the woodwork)
to appear after having been hidden or not active for a long time:
After you’ve been in a relationship for a while all sorts of little secrets start to come out of the woodwork.
Mildly disapproving.
From Cambridge Dictionary Online.

They feel like they’re going to do mistakes. Make mistakes.

Aussie slang mentalfloss.com/article/61847/25-awesome-australian-slang-terms
G’day mate, how are you going?
Arvo: afternoon
Barbie: barbeque
Bogan
Chockers
Fair Dinkum
Fuckin’ oath!
Sweet as
Strewth! (Cliche)

Kiwi slang
The slang is pretty similar to Aussie or UK slang, but the accent is different. For years I couldn’t differentiate it from Aussie, but the more you hear the more you realise how different it is. Watch Flight of the Conchords to hear lots of it. Episode in the pipeline.

446. British TV: Top Gear

Talking about one of the UK’s most popular television programmes, Top Gear. This episode features lots of vocabulary related to cars, but a lot more too including your guide to how to speak like Jeremy Clarkson.

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LEPster meetup in Prague – 13 May – Click here for the Facebook page.

More British TV content. This time it’s all about cars. It’s not just a car show though. It’s kind of a comedy entertainment show with cars. And it’s perhaps the BBC’s most popular show for a long time, certainly one of their biggest exports. You’ve probably seen it. It travels well.

Overview of the Episode

  • The story of Top Gear
  • Descriptions of Top Gear and the way they speak on Top Gear
  • Some clips + language
  • The criticism of the show

The Story of Top Gear

What it used to be like…

“The Jeep Cherokee!”

How it came back in 2002.

3 things on Top Gear

  1. Car news and reviews (which are actually quite informative and inventive, even though they focus on unaffordable cars)
  2. Blokey banter between the presenters, where they share car news and take the piss out of each other.
  3. “And then we did THIS.” Ridiculous challenges in which they spend a LOT of money and create some mad entertainment all around cars.

It’s politically incorrect, wilfully irresponsible, male-centric, unapologetically macho and competitive, slightly offensive at times but very well-made television.

I must admit that I always watch it when it’s on, but I’m not completely convinced by the presenters and the general tone, but some of the special episodes were amazingly well made.

The show is popular but also controversial as it has been criticised for being slightly racist or inappropriate. The makers of the show claim they’re not to be taken seriously. Others don’t like it because it promotes irresponsible driving and that it doesn’t take into account any green issues.

The Presenters

James May, who used to live in the building over the road from me. A mischievous motoring journalist who’d never done TV before. He’s tall, scruffy, slow and sardonic. They call him Captain Slow and he’s probably the one you could stand having a drink the pub with. He seems like the nicer, milder one of the three.

Richard Hammond, who comes from the same town as me – Solihull in the West Midlands, the former local radio DJ who also had never done TV work before joining the show. Hammond famously had a big accident during a high-speed dragster race and was seriously injured, spending weeks in hospital recovering from head injuries. They call him Richard “The Hamster” Hammond, even though he’s definitely not a hamster. He’s a man.

Jeremy Clarkson, lives nowhere near me. Used to be a presenter in the early days, and had done talk shows and some other programmes before being part of the Top Gear reboot with his old school friend producer Andy Wilman. Clarkson was fired from the BBC for allegedly punching a producer of the show when he was drunk and hungry. This is what led to them leaving the show.

The BBC found new presenters and continued, but it didn’t pick up the same audience figures or ratings. Apparently the trio of May, Hammond and Clarkson is where the appeal is.
The three of them continue to make a big show about cars now on Amazon Prime in their show The Grand Tour, which as far as I can tell is pretty much the same as Top Gear but with a bigger budget.

A lot of Top Gear is on Netflix and YouTube.

How they speak (Learn how to speak like Jeremy Clarkson)

1. Pauses.
Almost – everything they say – is absolutely full – of pauses.
In fact, some of the pauses are so long – you don’t realise – that’s not even the end of the sentence – because this – is the kind of sentence – that has to end – like THIS.

2. “THIS”
It seems like all the sentences they say have to either begin or end with the word “THIS”
And then we did THIS.
THIS is the kind of car – that my Mum would drive
And THIS – is THIS.
If there’s one word which summarises everything that you need to know about Top Gear, it’s this.

3. Intonation – i.e. Going down heavily at the end of the sentence.

4. Hyperbole
“I think it’s quite possibly the best looking car in the world” I’m sure he’s said that about 5 times on the show, about 5 different cars.
“This is the most amazing feeling I have ever had… with my trousers on.”
“The level of torque is biblical.”
“It goes from 0 to 60 in negative 12 seconds. It is so fast that it actually goes back to the future.
If this car was a guitar player, it would be Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Noel Gallagher all rolled into one.”

5. Humour – some might call it “British humour”, but mainly it’s dry, sarcastic, opinionated hyperbole with loads of jokey banter and piss taking.

Car review

Porsche Carrera GT Car Review

Language

  • It isn’t styled with the verve or the passion of a Ferrari.
  • It’s form following function.
  • He was ready to take on the Mercedes.
  • Masses of wheel spin off the line.
  • He has got to tread carefully.
  • I’m surprised he’s playing his power ballads today
  • Bit of a wiggle, he’s ok coming up to the hammerhead
  • This is where he spun it before, cannot afford a mistake now.
  • This is maximum attack mode.
  • He’s really opening the taps now.
  • Really working that manual gearbox.
  • Wringing out any millisecond advantage.
  • This is the second to last bend.
  • Hard on the ceramic brake s.
  • Keep it steady.
  • He’s measuring out the power.
  • Gambon corner. Ooh he’s pushing it now, and there he is!

Blokey Banter

Cows or cars

Vocabulary

  • Can anyone see a flaw in my plan?
  • We’ll be out of a job!
  • Steer (top steer)
  • The only drawback I can see are cattle grids.

Challenge

Reliant Robin

The Criticisms of Top Gear

Excess
Decadence
Materialistic
misogyny
Casual racism
Climate change
Irresponsibility
Setting a bad example

Stewart Lee on Top Gear
“Clarkson. He’s outrageous, politically incorrect – but done just for money. He’s like The Sun.
“Hammond – a man who’s been able to carve out his own literary career off the back of his own inability to drive safely.”

Steve Coogan
It’s lazy comedy based on offensive comments. It’s not punching up.
It’s lazy, feckless and flatulent.

What do you think?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orcs (Cockney! Oi Oi!)


one-does-not-simply

402. The Rick Thompson Report: What’s Going On? Nov. 2016 (Post-Truth Politics, Cricket and Tetris)

Last week I asked my Dad for his opinions about recent news and we talked about Brexit, post-truth politics, the US election, the right-wing press in the UK, the political landscape in the EU, the rules of international cricket and the music from Tetris. You can listen to the conversation in this episode. Introduction and and ending transcriptions available below.

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Introduction Transcript (script begins 1 minute into the episode)

My Dad is back on the podcast in this episode and in a few moments you’re going to hear our conversation which I recorded last week on Thursday 17 November 2016.

In the conversation we touch on these subjects: the weather (naturally), a bit about the rules of international cricket, then a Brexit update including details of the recent UK high court decision regarding the government’s power to trigger Article 50. Article 50 is a piece of legislation (part of the Lisbon Treaty) that when triggered begins the legal process of the UK’s exit from the EU. We’re not actually out of the EU yet, despite the result of the referendum. We have to wait for the government to ‘trigger article 50’ and then it all starts.

“Trigger article 50” – it sounds like something from Star Wars episode 3 “Revenge of the Sith”. In fact it feels like the political narrative these days is getting more and more similar to the plot to a Star Wars prequel, with lots of complex negotiations with shadowy trade federations, insidious political manoeuvring and the general sense of an impending journey towards the dark side, which is a pity isn’t it? “Trigger Article 50!” In Star Wars episode 3 it’s “Execute Order 66” which is an order by the evil emperor Palpatine to have all the Jedi assassinated by their own soldiers. “Execute order 66” “Trigger Article 50!”

But no, this isn’t Star Wars – we’ll have to wait until December for that.

You’ll also hear my Dad’s views on the presidential election result in the USA, some stuff about the UK’s right-wing press (newspapers), the OED’s word of the year – ‘post-truth’, ‘post-truth’ politics and general political trends across Europe and other regions at this time.

At one point the podcast gets interrupted when someone rings my Dad’s doorbell and it turns out to be a lost postman (which is actually quite a welcome break from all the depressing post-truth politics), then we somehow end up talking about the idea of a giant flea jumping over St Paul’s cathedral, a bit more about the joys of international cricket, the music from the classic Russian videogame Tetris and how a cup of tea is sometimes the best solution to almost any problem.

Language-wise this episode gets quite technical in places, especially when we talk about the UK’s constitutional, legal and political frameworks. So, watch out for lots of big words and big phrases relating to constitutional law, the inner-workings of government and even more complicated than both of those things: the rules of international test-match cricket.

Depending on both your level of English and your familiarity with these topics, this might be a difficult conversation to follow, but we all know that these challenges can be good for your English.

You might try transcribing some minutes of the episode (go to the transcript collaboration page to get started) or try some shadowing or any other techniques for active listening. Alternatively, just sit back, relax, have a cup of tea and enjoy the company of my Dad for a little while, as we try to work out what’s going on in the world.

I’ll talk to you again briefly on the other side of the conversation, but now you can listen to the Rick Thompson report.

*CONVERSATION*

So, there you go, that was my Dad and me going on about what’s going on. What do you think is going on? Get stuck into the comment section at teacherluke.co.uk if you’ve got something to share.

You can hear the Tetris music in the background. This one is Theme A – which I believe is a version of a Russian folk song called Korobeiniki. I’m sure many of you out there know more about it than I do, so I will let you explain the meaning of the song, and indeed the correct way to pronounce it.

For me, it reminds me of journeys in the back of my dad’s car, trying to get to level 9 on Tetris.

I actually prefer the B theme. It still gets stuck in my head to this day as I find myself humming it even when I haven’t heard it recently.

If you know about this tune as well, you can write a comment on the website.

Comments: Let me know what you think of these things

  • What do you think is going on generally in the world today?
  • On a positive note, what are you looking forward to? What are you optimistic about? Is there anything coming up that you’re impatient for? (On that note, I am looking forward to seeing the new Star Wars film, which is a prequel to the original trilogy, as many of you will know. This one isn’t a sequel to episode 7, it actually takes place between episodes 3 and 4. Yes, they still can’t count in the Star Wars universe. So far they’ve gone in this order 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3, 7, 3.5 and after that it will be 8. I’m looking forward to it just because I love the SW universe, and the trailer looks pretty good – although I’m a bit concerned by the script which seems a bit dodgy in places (“This is a rebellion, isn’t it? – I rebel.” It’s not Star Wars without a bit of clunky dialogue) I expect I’ll be talking more about this soon. Anyway, what are you looking forward to exactly?
  • Are you a fan of cricket? Have you ever heard of cricket? Do they play cricket where you live? Do you understand the rules at all?
  • Going back to Tetris – Did you use to play Tetris? Do you still play Tetris? What do you know about the history of this classic game? Do you have any stories to share about Tetris, including how it was developed and the people who created it? Or stories about how you played it, and how you used to get that tune stuck in your head, and how you’d play it until you got ‘Tetrisitis’?

So, feel free to get involved in the comment section.

Listen to Australian comedian Jim Jeffries trying to explain cricket to some Americans *contains rude language*

Join the mailing list

It’s the best way to get access to the page for the episode where you’ll find notes, transcripts, videos, links, other useful bits and pieces, as well as easy- access to the episode archive, the comment section and lots of other things.

Another note about the transcript collaboration team

This is now called The Orion Transcript Collaboration Team, which is cool. I didn’t name it – the name was chosen by Antonio because “Orion” is a constellation of stars in the night sky, and the members of the team are also a group of stars – so the name seems appropriate now. I like it anyway.

The team have been doing a great job. Go to the website -> (hover the mouse over TRANSCRIPTS -> TRANSCRIPT COLLABORATION and click the red, yellow or green buttons to access the google docs.

Episodes are divided up into 3 minute chunks. You transcribe your 3 minutes. Other people check your 3 minutes and make corrections. Eventually the whole episode is transcribed – it might not be completely perfect, but it’s done. Next, I have to proofread them all! So actually, this project rapidly creates more and more work for me. I am going through them *extremely* slowly, and publishing the full scripts on the website. It might be necessary to employ some proofreaders to check the finished scripts. Perhaps I should launch a kickstarter campaign for that or something, because it’ll cost money to get a pro to do the final proofreading.

I got a message from Antonio about this recently and he said this at the end:

I laugh a lot when someone corrects my chunk and I see certain mistakes I do. But I have improved a lot my understanding and can watch the BBC TV, not only the news, understanding much, much more than before I started transcribing you episodes. Maybe in this area, I am experiencing the famous breakthrough all teachers speak about. See you, Luke and thanks again for your commitment. Antonio

BENEFITS OF TRANSCRIPT COLLABORATION
Catherine Bear
Since I’ve been proof-reading a little bit of the transcripts, I have the feeling that my short term memory has improved considerably.
So, guys, I would encourage each of you to do little bit of transcribing.
Also shadowing is a nice way to improve not only the short term memory but also the sentence stress, intonation and pronunciation.
I used to speak with a kind of American accent, but since I started actively listening to Luke’s English Podcast back in August and doing lots of shadowing (like 5 minutes in one go, a couple of times a day) — my English accent suddenly started to switch towards the British RP English. :)
Guys, let’s share some personal success stories related to Luke’s English Podcast.

Yes, please do share some personal success stories of learning English!

Take care and I’ll speak to you soon.

402

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

350. Film Club: X-Men Apocalypse (Review)

This is the final episode in this superhero series and simply put, I’m going to talk about the latest X-Men movie. Now, you might not be into the superhero stuff and I totally understand, but let me give you a heads up about this episode. Basically, I didn’t like the film and so I’m more interested in making fun of it than talking about it seriously. So, that might make it more fun to listen to than the other superhero ones I’ve done lately. You can just kick back and enjoy me taking the mickey out of this film.

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Honestly, I really enjoyed recording this. It was more fun than watching the film itself. Sometimes talking about a film is far more enjoyable than actually watching it, especially if the film is a cheesy mess full of cliches, incoherent plot-lines and stereotypical bad guys. So, even if you haven’t seen the film I invite you to listen to this episode, have a bit of a laugh and then move on to the next episode. There are no major plot spoilers in this review. So don’t worry if you haven’t seen it – but my general opinion of the film might have an influence on your enjoyment of it – or maybe not. Perhaps you’ll completely disagree with me.

It’s called X-Men: Apocalypse. It’s actually the 3rd film in the rebooted X-Men franchise and about the 6th film in the X-Men series as a whole, if you don’t include the two Wolverine films and the Deadpool movie. I went to see it the other day, and immediately after coming home I recorded this review.

You know the X-Men, right? … (some improvised stuff about the x-men here)

So, on to the review.

So, imagine me walking home after watching the film, getting into my flat, picking up my microphone and immediately starting to record these comments before I’d even taken off my jacket.

That’s the context, so let’s go, and I’ll speak to you again after my film review.

*Review begins*

So, that’s what I thought of the film. I thought it was a stinker! But I did kind of enjoy watching it. Mainly so I could then make fun of it afterwards.

I was a bit critical of the film. I wonder what you think of it if you’ve seen it. I should also say that it’s far far easier to criticise a film than to make one. Ultimately, it’s really really difficult to make a feature film. I think that most of the films that get made aren’t very good. We only see the ones that get published and given worldwide releases. So, it’s all well and good me talking about how bad it was, but I should give some credit to the filmmakers for actually making the effort in the first place. The audience reaction here though – it paled in comparison to the Captain America movie.

Again, let me know your thoughts in the comment section. I always look forward to reading your comments there.

Some comments from Facebook

Question: Who’s the best superhero?

Francesco: Definitely you Luke! ☺

Hamza: My parents – because they deserve all the respect and the best they give me everything they could, I’ll never forget thier sacrifice <3

Aritz: Hard decision… Batman or Spiderman?? mmmm I’ll go for the latter as we could have now a different debate: should Batman be considered a superhero?

Hien: I always admire soldiers who never betray their country even though they were tortured terribly in war.

Carmen: Deadpool, for sure. He can’t be killed, he’s got a cheeky sense of humour AND he’s aware of his own existence in the books/films he’s in and breaks the 4th wall all the time.

Luciano: Conan, The Barbarian!

Hoang Minh: Dear Luke, please make a podcast about this subject :))

Ricardo: Superman for sure!!

Jean: Super Luke! For sure!

Francesco: Deadpool because he’s a badass.

Тима Салихов: I think is Superman :) Because he is Superman :)

Virginia: Wonderwoman. She’s a Woman!

Gloria: ” El Chapulín Colorado” ( mexican Superhéro ) although he is a coward he manages to overcome his fears . By Chespirito. ❤️

Ricardo: My favorite superhero is Spider-Man because he fights to win his money like me. He is not rich like Batman although Batman kicks ass.

Lê Vũ QC: Iron man because of RDJ’s fantastic potrayal.

Ethan Lee Ok. So the answer is captain america and here’s why: (Roy Wood Jr. Stand-Up 06/12/14)

Anton: Sherlock Holmes without any doubt.

That’s the end of this episode, and also the end of this series on superhero films. The plan now is to turn to more real-world issues because there the UK is due to have its referendum on the EU in less than a month, and there’s plenty to talk about.

OK film fans, that’s it then. Speak to you soon. Bye!

Luke

331. How’s your English? (and why speaking is so important)

Hi listeners, I’ve got a big big slice of podcast pie for you in this episode because I’m going to talk to you about some important considerations for language learning, some ways that you can push your English to new levels with LEP, and I’m going to talk about italki, which is a really great service that you can use to arrange conversations with native English speakers online from the comfort of your own home, and why as a listener to this podcast, you should check it out. There is also a transcript for this episode already available at teacherluke.co.uk so check that out too. Now, let’s get started.

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First of all, hello! How are you? I hope you’re well.
Here’s a new episode to listen to. I’m very glad to see that recent episodes have been popular with the LEP community. Episode 330 about Grand Theft Auto was particularly popular. I’ll have to do more of that sort of thing in the future.

New-Look Episode Archive
Have you listened to all the episodes of LEP? If not, maybe it’s because you don’t know which episodes to choose. You might not know where you can find them all.
If you’re subscribed with iTunes you can access all the episodes in the RSS feed. But, I’ve recently added a new episode archive with descriptions of the content and language in each episode of this podcast. Check it out. If you haven’t listened to the back catalogue and don’t know what is contained in all those episodes, have a look at the new archive by clicking on ALL EPISODES in the website menu. You’ll find links to all the old episodes and now you’ll see that each episode is accompanied by a description of the topic and theme, including the language focus in particular episodes, so you know what to look for. There are loads of classic episodes of Luke’s English Podcast just sitting there in the archive, waiting for you to listen to them. Remember, you can download them all individually from the website, and there are lots of transcripts available too. So, if you’re ever caught waiting for new episodes – just ask yourself the question, “have I listened to all the previous ones?” They’re all there, available for you, free.

How’s your English? Let’s talk about learning a language
More and more every day I am coming face to face with experiences of language learning. Either other people, like my students or the people who email me every day, or me – because I’m a language learner too – struggling to learn French.
I’m constantly aware of our need, in this incredibly interconnected world, to speak foreign languages. For you and my students it’s English. For me it’s French.

A lot of people struggle to push their level up
Some people don’t know how to do it. I meet so many students in language schools who know they need to improve their English, but they don’t know how to do it, so they just sign up with a language school and to an extent, they then expect us to do all the work for them. Not all of them are like that, some students do exactly the right things – but some students seem subconsciously to think that by signing up to the course and simply being in the room, that’s all they need to do. People like that tend to be the worst students because they don’t take responsibility for their own learning. It’s not necessarily their fault, because they just don’t realise that there is a better way to learn another language.

Like, a lot of people don’t realise they have to connect with English on quite a personal level, regularly and for extended periods of time. It’s not just a skill to add to the CV. Learning a language has to become part of who you are. The more you put your time and personality into it, the better the outcome.

A lot of people probably don’t realise that this podcast exists for example, or at least they just wouldn’t even think about listening to podcasts regularly in English, or they might listen a bit but just give up after a while because it’s too difficult.

That’s a pity because I think there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had from my episodes, and from many other podcasts – I really hope so anyway because that’s what I’m trying to do with Luke’s English Podcast – I hope it’s more than just a thing for learning English, but that rather it’s something that helps you learn and which you just enjoy listening to as a human being, or not – you might enjoy listening to it as some other life-form, but I imagine most of my listeners are humans. I know I have a few dogs, and some fish listening to this, at least – but mainly, homo sapiens. Whatever you are, if you’re a long-term listener I think you’ll agree that regularly listening to my episodes will give you an edge over the people who don’t. It’s quite simple really.

So, what I’m saying is – there are bad language learners and good language learners. The bad ones do things like sign up for language courses, expect that to be enough, sit in language classes, expect to be spoon fed, but don’t take responsibility for their own language learning. Good language learners know that learning a language is all about taking responsibility for your own learning, and making an effort to get some English into your lifestyle, on a regular basis, by experimenting with new ideas and new platforms. You don’t give up when it gets challenging and in fact you enjoy the whole process of doing it!

I have over 300 hours of content here on this podcast – and that’s a lot of English to listen to. That’s a lot of words, a lot of grammar and pronunciation that you can hear and it’s definitely going to be a great injection of proper English into your brain.

But, you and I know that listening to this and enjoying it is only part of what you could be doing to seriously push your English into overdrive. You’re probably aware that, despite listening to this, your English could still be so much better and that you’re capable of so much more. You could be more fluent, more accurate and more confident.

The cool thing is that all these things are achievable, and that is more true now than ever before.

You know that you can really accelerate your learning if you choose to. The power is in your hands. If you want to, you can take your English to the next level. It’s just a question of putting in the time and effort and finding ways that work for you.

Here are a few suggestions for how to push your English in other ways, beyond just listening. Now, some of you might be quite content just to listen – and of course you can do that, but I would like to reach out to you here and ask you to just stop for a moment and question yourself  – are you satisfied with your level of English? What more could you be doing to improve it?

Here are some techniques for the motivated LEPster who wants to do more than just sit back and listen.

Listen to episodes several times
This is really important. It allows you to not only understand the content much better, but will also allow you to notice specific phrases and then remember them over time. If you hear phrases or even grammatical structures and certain bits of pronunciation again and again, they will really stick in your memory and become part of your English. For example – I know a lot of the lines from the first Star Wars film. They’re absolutely stuck in my mind and they even come out in my speaking sometimes. How do I remember these lines so easily? Just because I’ve watched the film a lot of times – and weirdly, I even enjoy it more each time as well. In fact, having watched Star Wars a lot, I feel like it’s part of who I am now. If I’d just watched Star Wars once, I’d never remember any of the lines. There’s absolutely no way I would be able to see Star Wars once, then walk out of the cinema and quote lots of lines of dialogue after just one viewing. It took multiple views before the dialogue stuck in my head. It’s exactly the same with the podcast. Listen more than once and the language will stick much more easily.

Use the transcripts
There are transcripts available for lots of episodes of LEP and you really should be using them. They took a lot of work to produce, either by me, members of my family or by listeners who take part in the transcript collaboration project – and if you have done that, then you deserve a medal because, as well as the long list of fully transcribed episodes on the website, there is another very long list of transcripts which are also complete but haven’t been checked by me yet. They’re all available on Google docs and the links are on the transcript collaboration page. So, there are more transcripts available than you might think. The transcript collaboration has been going for several years now, it’s really quite a big project! Writing transcripts is time consuming and we wouldn’t be doing it unless it was really useful for you, my listeners. So please use the transcripts which are provided! Here are some ways to do that…

Read transcripts while I’m talking – just listen and read at the same time. You could print out the transcripts, or just read them on your phone or tablet while you listen. Reading the words while you hear them will allow you to do a number of things: it’ll help you to remember the words better because you’re not just getting an aural picture of the word, but a visual one too, and many of us have very visual memories. Words exist as physical entities in our minds – they have a shape, they have a sound, they have spelling and they have muscle memories too. By shape I mean simply the way the word looks – that means its spelling, but also just the general visual characteristics of a word – the length and other visual characteristics. Apparently, when we read we don’t just look at the individual letters and put them together, but we recognise the first and last letters and the rest is just a general shape. So, it is important to get to know the shape and spelling of words in order to keep them recorded as visual entities in your mind. Words are also sound memories – what they sound like, and muscle memories – how it feels to say them. There are many aspects of a word, and the more of those aspects you cover, the more 3 dimensional the word will be and therefore the better you will remember it. So, reading the words while listening will help to tie the visual side to the aural side. It’ll allow you to remember them better, and later on to spell them too. Repeating words or sentences will help to develop the muscle memory too – attaching that to the aural and visual pictures that you already have. You should learn words in 3D – that means listening to them and reading them.

Also, reading while listening may help you to notice particular high-frequency features such as collocations or grammatical structures. If you’ve printed the scripts, you could highlight these things with a highlighter pen, or select them on a computer and record them in your own lists and check them again later.

Just read them, and then listen to the episode later
If you just want to focus mainly on listening skills, but would still like to get the benefit of having seen the words too – just separate those two things. First, listen to the episode, try to understand it, then read the script and understand more, then listen again and see if you notice a difference.
You can break up the script and episodes and just focus on chunks or parts of episodes.
You can print the scripts and then write notes on them as you listen, or highlight particular phrases or aspects of pronunciation.

Take some of the words and keep them in word lists
Highlighting words in scripts is good, especially if you go back and read them later, or find ways of remembering those things. Also, you can print out the script and then have fun highlighting certain words with one of those brightly coloured highlighter pens – that’s always fun isn’t it – there’s just something satisfying about using a highlighter, but remember that the highlighter itself won’t learn English for you – you’ll need to go back to those words again and again in order to really learn them.

You can copy+paste words into your own vocabulary lists – then find ways of working on those lists in your free time, repeating words, testing yourself, putting them into sentences and so on. Just make sure that you’re applying some kind of process to your learning – don’t just mindlessly read through your word lists – you need to work with the words, and push them into your mind in various ways. Remember the episode I did in the past about using mnemonics and memory techniques (listen to it here teacherluke.co.uk/2014/02/05/167-memory-mnemonics-learning-english/). There are a lot of words for you to remember. You have to think outside of the box in order to keep those words in your head.

You can use flashcard apps to help you do this, or just a notepad. Try to record and repeat words in sentences, not just on their own. Consider how the words interact with other words – because they do that, words – they don’t exist on their own, they are always with other words.  Are there any particular collocations or grammatical features of these words – e.g. do they take a particular preposition? If it’s a noun, what is the verb that collocates with it? For example, if the word is “homework”, what’s the verb? It’s “do”. What about “housework”? (It’s “do” as well) What about the DIY (ok, that’s “do” as well – yes, all those examples take “do” as their verbs). Another consideration is the word family. What are the other words in the word family? Noun, verb, adjective, adverb forms. Are there any opposites or synonyms? Are they followed by -ing or infinitive forms? For example, the expression ‘used to’. You shouldn’t just record ‘used to’ but also ‘be used to + -ing’ and ‘get used to + -ing’.

Getting to know one word often means getting to know all the other words that they live with. Beyond just recognising words in phrases you could also use a good dictionary – like perhaps a collocations dictionary to help you make your lists, and make sure you go back to those lists and study/practice/test yourselves! You could get a dictionary like the Oxford Collocations Dictionary, or use one online. I found one today that looks great. It’s called the Online Oxford Collocation Dictionary. Search for a word and it will show you all the verbs, nouns, prepositions, adjectives that collocate with it, with examples. Here’s a link with the word “memory” oxforddictionary.so8848.com/search?word=memory

Also, try to practice producing your target words, not just recognising them. That means when you do some studying with your word lists, you should read out those words and sentences aloud, not just read them in silence.

Try to avoid simply converting words from your language into English and back again. Try to do it all in English.

Since these transcripts are in text form, you can do all sorts of things with the words on your computer. For example, you could create your own worksheets using the transcripts. Import the text into Microsoft Word, then gap certain words (you can select certain words and gap them all automatically), or gap random words, then print the worksheet you’ve produced, and then go back to it later and try to add the words from memory. You could remove all the punctuation and put it back in later. You could remove all the verbs and then put them back in the correct form. You could remove all the prepositions and put them back in later. You don’t have to do it to the whole text, you could just choose certain bits. Be selective about which bits of transcript you work with – for example, it would be a good idea to focus on part of an episode in which someone tells a story, or in which there’s lots of technical language that you don’t know.

Be your own teacher, create your own tests and exercises. You can do that. It will help.

Recording yourself reading transcripts
You could take a transcript and read it out loud. Try to sound exactly like me, or just try to read out the script in a natural way, as if you were talking to real people and you had to make it interesting. You could record yourself reading the script and then compare it to the original recording of me. See the difference, and try to copy my voice.

Shadow the way I speak when you’re in the car
If you listen while driving – that’s the perfect time to do some speaking in private. You can use the privacy of the car to do some speaking. You could try shadowing me – that means repeating everything I’m saying while I’m saying it! Don’t do this when you’re in conversation, it’s seriously annoying (I had a few students who used to try and mouth the words I was saying as I said them – weird) but you can do it in private. Either you repeat it after I’ve said it, or you allow your mouth to vaguely follow what I’m saying as I’m saying it.

Listen at different speeds – slower or faster
A lot of audio software and podcast apps allow you to speed up or slow down episodes. Why not try listening to an episode really fast the first time round, then slowing it down. You might find that after fast listening you’re suddenly able to understand normal speaking much better. It’s a bit like training in the mountains – you let your body get used to running with less oxygen, and then when you run at a normal altitude your body is tuned and able to consume much more oxygen and by comparison you’re much stronger and faster. If you get used to listening at a fast pace, you could become an amazing listener at normal speed. Alternatively, you could listen to an episode slowly to try and focus on specific things that you missed before. The main thing is – experiment with different listening speeds – and remember, if you listen faster you can listen to more because the episodes will be shorter.

Pause the podcast to say something
Remember, you have a pause button. You can use it to pause the episode when you have a thought or idea and just say your response. Again, this will work better if you’re in private so people don’t think you’re crazy, talking to yourself. You might be listening to an episode, and someone says something and you have a response. Pause the podcast and say your response, to yourself, to your pet cat, to the wall, to your teacher, to your friend who also listens.
And you don’t have to wait until a specific thing comes up. You could decide to stop every 10 minutes and summarise what has been said in the last 10 minutes, by saying it out loud. Try to use language which you’ve heard in the podcast.
Imagine: you listen, and every 10 minutes in you pause, summarise and respond, then continue. That way a 1 hour podcast will also involve you summarising and responding in your own words six times. That’s quite a lot of speaking, as well as listening.

Use episodes of LEP as the basis for discussions or activities with your speaking partner
If you have a language partner for practising English, or if you have one to one lessons with a teacher, you could take inspiration from LEP. I’ve done lots of episodes with speaking games like “The Lying Game” the vocabulary games with Amber & Paul, the difficult situation role plays, the random discussion questions with my family, the bank robbery activity, the 1 minute challenge, the A to Z game and all the topics and interview questions I’ve used in episodes over the years. You could recreate speaking tasks from episodes of the podcast, in your own lessons or language exchanges. Check the pages for each episode and see if there are questions or other notes that you could use for your lessons or speaking sessions.


 

So there I’ve just explained a few ways to be a more active listener. That’s all going to help you, definitely. Even just listening to these episodes and enjoying them means you’re certainly getting a leg up on the competition, especially those losers who don’t even know LEP exists! But being proactive and finding new ways of pushing your English with LEP is definitely going to help too.

But, I haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room. This is the thing that’s missing from the whole arrangement and that I haven’t talked about, because previously it was a bit of a problem, but not so much any more.

What does “the elephant in the room” mean?

What’s the elephant in the room that I’m talking about? I’m talking about the fact that LEP doesn’t give you everything you need for your English. That shouldn’t be a shock of course, because I’ve always said the podcast is best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet – I mean, that you get best results by combining listening to this with other things, such as study and speaking practice. But certainly what I haven’t mentioned so far is that the podcast certainly can’t give you the one thing that you really really need to make rapid progress in English, and that’s the chance to practice speaking with native speakers.

Beyond adding habits and techniques into your lifestyle and getting regular exposure to authentic English with the podcast, the best way is to push your English is to do plenty of speaking. Speaking speaking speaking – in authentic conversation with native speakers. That’s definitely the fastest way to push your fluency, accuracy and range of vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation to the level that it needs to be. Natural conversation with native speakers, hopefully teachers who understand your situation and can help you with error correction and explanations, and by listening to you more.

So, I haven’t mentioned it because I’ve known that for many of you that’s just not possible, and it’s something I can’t provide through the podcast. It’s always been hard to develop your speaking skills through this podcast, and so you need to find native speakers to talk to – but as I said, that might not be possible. It may be that there are just no native speakers in your area to talk to, or if there are native speakers, it’s difficult to get to know them, even if you live in London where native speakers are much harder to find than you might expect. The same goes with teachers – there might not be many native teachers who you actually like and who can teach you regularly on a 1 to 1 basis.

Now, maybe you’re lucky and you live in a situation in which you can speak to native speakers regularly. But I know that even when you live in the country of the language it’s still hard to meet the right people and find the right teachers. For example, for many students or foreigners living in London, it’s hard to make friends with local Londoners. They’re just a bit distant and tend to stick to their own little circle of friends.

So, essentially – although it’s vital for your English, regularly speaking with native speakers is also one of the most difficult things to achieve, because of access or lack of choice.

So, despite this lack of speaking practice, I imagine you just keep going, trying to learn or maintain your level of English as well as possible, without enough contact with natives. You listen to the podcast when you can and you love it when new episodes come out, and although you have plenty of feelings and ideas in your mind when you listen, you don’t have anyone to express them to. You might take English classes but it’s still not enough, especially if you’re in a group. You might find other opportunities to speak to natives, but it still might not be sufficient or convenient.

What you really need is need a regular person – a language partner or an individual teacher who you can rely on and who knows how to talk to you as a learner of English. Someone who is available at the right time, not too expensive or inconvenient.

Even me in France, I have native speakers of French all around me. I mean, I’m married to one for goodness sake! But none of them are quite suitable as a language teacher somehow. For example, my wife and I have already established our relationship in English and it’s hard to switch to French because there are just too many personal things going on in our lives and it’s not practical to speak French. Also, I don’t want her to think I’m stupid or anything (because I am pretty stupid in French).

I could go on a mission to find an individual teacher or someone who’s willing to do a language exchange with me, but honestly, I’d rather just go online, browse some teachers, find someone easily and schedule some one to one speaking lessons on Skype so I can choose exactly when and where the sessions will take place (my home) and it won’t be too expensive. I don’t want the hassle of having to go out, arrange a place to meet (if its my home that means cleaning the place up) – if it’s the teacher’s home that means travelling and extending the time I have to devote to it. If it’s a public place that means putting up with the fact that strangers around me are listening to my lesson and probably judging me and my teacher. I need an online service which completely cuts through all that annoying stuff. I’ve been looking for a service like that and I’m really pleased today because I’ve found the perfect one. I can now arrange all my French lessons and conversation classes online, and do them all online via Skype and all from the comfort of my own home. There are loads of teachers to choose from. I can have trial sessions with some of them and then pick any one that I want. Then I can schedule lessons according to my timetable and I don’t even need to leave the house. Also, prices are cheaper than they would be with a teacher or in a classroom. Of course, it’s online via videoconferencing software, which is not quite as good as being in the same room, but honestly – after 10 minutes you just don’t notice it any more and anyway – communicating via Skype is the future (in fact, it already is the present). So, I have found this service and it’s called italki. The super duper cool thing is that italki is also in English (in fact English is their #1 language) and they have thousands of teachers and native speakers that you can talk to right now.

The service is called italki
Some of you might be aware of italki already, which wouldn’t be a surprise because italki is one of the fastest growing websites in the language learning sector at the moment.

Have you heard about it?
Either you have, or you will, because it’s awesome.
Ok, so italki is an online community where you can find language partners and teachers for online lessons or conversations.
It’s not a surprise really that italki is one of the fastest growing websites, because now that Skype video calls are such good quality it makes total sense to use that for connecting students and teachers, and it’s a great way to cut out the middle man, avoid having to travel long distances, and get all the benefits of individual tuition. I think it’s going to make a huge difference to the way people learn languages in the future. This basically gets around the age-old problem of having no access to native speakers.

italki used to be a social network where you could find a language partner but over the last year or so it has grown a lot and they’ve just launched their new service, and it’s really smart, professional and high quality. It looks very good and loads of people are using it every day to learn languages and that includes these super motivated language learners called polyglots that speak like 10 languages at the same time. I’ve been interested in polyglots for a while and I’m in the process of contacting some of them for interviews on LEP. I’m talking about people like Olly Richards, Richard Simcott and Benny Lewis who are making a career from the fact that they speak lots of languages. Now these guys swear by italki – and if it’s good enough for them, I think it’s good enough for us, right.

Some of you already use italki and you’re going – “yep Luke you’re preaching to the converted. I already use italki. Been there done that, got the t shirt. In fact that’s how I know the phrase “been there, done that, to the t-shirt” – because I religiously listen to your podcast and I practise your language on italki. It helps me remember stuff like “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”.

Anyway, why are you now going on about italki so much Luke? Do you work for them now is that it?
No, I don’t, but I’m happy to say that after discovering them I did send them an email and ask if they wanted to sponsor the podcast. I’ve been searching for new sponsors for ages, and italki just seemed like the ideal sponsor. They offer a good service, for learners of English, in any country, it’s all online. They’re friendly people, it’s professional, and it’s growing fast. I’m happy to say that they responded to my email positively, and I’ve been talking to someone from the italki team and we have arranged a sponsorship deal for LEP which I am very happy about because it’s going to be mutually beneficial. Beneficial for everyone basically – you, me and italki. It makes total sense all round.

Now, let’s just talk about sponsorship for a moment
You should know that sponsorship for LEP is absolutely necessary – it’s important to understand that, especially if you don’t get it. This podcast must have sponsors – it’s the only way for the podcast to keep going, and for it to stay free. I have to be able to justify spending time on this. Now, I do spend time on the podcast – I do it all myself. I could spend that time on other things that would be much more profitable. I could use all my hours doing one to one lessons with university students or business people in Paris, or on Skype and that would make me more money than I earn from LEP. But I would rather spend time on this than almost any other job, and the only way to do that, while keeping the podcast free for you, is to have a sponsor that I mention briefly in my episodes.

I would rather do this podcast than work on one to one lessons or teach in language schools, and I expect you would also like me to continue doing this too. Well, sponsorship is the way I can achieve that.

Also, you should know that sponsorship is absolutely the standard for monetisation for podcasts today. All the big podcasts I listen to, unless they’re done by the BBC, have sponsors. I’m glad that my podcast is popular enough to attract sponsors. It means I’m doing something right.

So, sponsors are necessary for this show, and for me it’s vital to find a sponsor that offers you a quality service that can really make a difference to your English.

It’s been hard to find the right company. I’ve had Audible for a while now, but I’ve continued to look for other services that you might like.

Audible are great – those audiobooks are brilliantly produced, of excellent quality and it’s a good offer – 30 day trial and a free audiobook. You can’t argue with that. That’s staying open by the way. You can still get a free audiobook from Audible by going to teacherluke.co.uk/audible

But I think italki are an even better service for my listeners – in a more profound way for your English. You already have a lot to listen to with LEP – in fact, Audible are a sort of competitor for me. By sticking a 15 hour audiobook in your phone I’m giving you the choice of listening to me or listening to the book – I hope you choose me first! Anyway, you already have tons of stuff to listen to – either from me or from audiobooks, but speaking to native speakers is going to be so good for your English, and that’s what italki would allow you to do.

So I am really pleased that after checking out my podcast and my website the people at italki are really keen to work with me and to sponsor the podcast. So yes I have managed to secure italki as my new sponsors and I’m very happy to recommend them to you. The cool thing is that you can get free teaching time in italki if you’re an LEP listener. They’re offering all my listeners 100 lesson credits, which is about $10 of free teaching – that’s equivalent to about an hour.  Just go to teacherluke.co.uk/talk to check out italki, look at some teachers, start talking to people, and you can get 1hr of free lessons too. Nice.

Click here to check out italki

Click here to check out italki

italki
Let me just tell you a bit more about italki and how to use it before I move on to talk more about how to improve your English.
They already have over 2,000,000 language learners using the platform.
You can learn pretty much any language.
Of course, English is the most popular language and there are more English teachers and tutors on there than other languages.
So, after going to teacherluke.co.uk/talk you sign up free, like a social network.
Then you decide which language or languages you’re interested in. Let’s say English.
Then you can choose to find either ’Professional Teachers’ or ‘Community Tutors’. Professional teachers are qualified to teach English as a foreign language. There are professional teachers that specialise in different skills, different types of English (e.g. business or IELTS) and they’ll guide you through the learning process. It’s just like having 1to1 lessons with a teacher in a language school or in your own home, except that it’s done using video conferencing software, like Skype.
Then there are ‘community tutors’. Essentially, they’re not qualified teachers but they are educated native speakers of English who are passionate about sharing their language with you and helping you to practise communicating and developing your fluency. They’re also cheaper than the professional teachers. There are some great community tutors on italki and they’re a really really good option for those of you who need to talk to native speakers of English and have a more limited budget. In fact, I think that the community tutors could be the best thing about italki – friendly native speakers of English who are available and ready to talk to you right now, and cheaper than teachers.
But it’s not just teachers and tutors, italki offers you plenty of other content too.
There is a whole community of people on italki, because not only is it a marketplace for teachers, it’s also a social network for language learners. It’s a really cool place to hang out if you’re learning a language, and it’s better than other social networks like Facebook, because all the people who are on italki’s forums and blogs are motivated language learners – they’re not just there to make stupid comments and waste time like on Facebook.
So, there’s the social networking side.
Also, italki publishes lots of articles and blog pieces about language learning. There’s already a large catalogue of interesting and useful articles which you can access.
And finally, (and this may be one of the best features of italki) you can arrange language exchanges with speakers of other languages. This is a great option for people who are on a really tight budget. There’s bound to be people out there who want to speak your language, so check out the community and look for people who speak your target language (English) and who want to practice speaking your language too. You could find some great language partners for language exchange (one of the oldest ways to get speaking practice at no cost) and in the process you can make some awesome friends around the world and just have a lot of fun while doing it. Who knows, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship with someone in another country.

So there you have it – italki is a bit more than you might think. Now, you can talk to native speakers of English regularly, and from your own sofa, and they have tons of other services and a whole community of like-minded people. There’s a reason why italki sponsors LEP – it’s because they are the perfect service for you my listeners, and I wouldn’t promote them if I didn’t think it was useful.

I realise I’m talking about italki quite a lot in this episode. I’m not going to go on about this subject a massive amount in every single episode in the future – my episodes will run as they normally do, and I’m still free to talk about whatever I want to talk about – I will just mention italki at the start of episodes or at the end too just to remind you of the offer.

Generally, this is all very good news for LEP and is a big step in the right direction for me and for all of us. :)

Right, so now I’ve introduced the new sponsor, let’s get back to the subject of you and your English, specifically the importance of speaking for learning English, and why being a regular listener of Luke’s English Podcast gives you a big head start if you’re going to work on your speaking skills.

The importance of speaking, and how that is connected to regular listening
We know that all the areas of English are linked, so first of all improving your listening will have an effect on your pronunciation and speaking, and probably your vocabulary and grammar too. Then, following that up with regular speaking is a great combination for faster fluency and linguistic control.

I’m really convinced that regularly listening to this podcast and engaging in an authentic way with the things I’m saying and the sentiments I’m expressing – either humourous, serious, mysterious, factual or whatever –  is going to make a great difference. My professional knowledge tells me that’s true, but also my experience. First of all, I get messages all the time from listeners who swear that the podcast has helped them a lot – either by giving them confidence, better vocab or by generally improving their English to help get a higher score in an IELTS exam. But also, I’ve had first hand experience of listeners making progress with this. I’ve spoken to listeners a number of times and have noticed how their English has improved. I know people who started listening with next to no English, and have got to the point where they understand everything and can also speak and make themselves understood, and of course they have my accent and my speech patterns! It’s weird!

By listening you’re exposing your ears to a whole other side of the English language. If you think about it, there are 2 things: English as a written language (you read it, you write it, it’s visual and physical) and then English as a spoken language (you hear it, you don’t see it, you produce it physically using your body as an instrument). They’re two different beasts. If you just work with the written version, you’re only getting half of the story. By listening you’re engaging with that other type of English – the spoken version. Spoken English has been around longer than the written version. Stories and knowledge have been transferred orally for many many years and this form of communication was around before people developed written language.

Also, speaking is a very immediate and lively from of English. Spoken English takes many forms because of different accents, and is closely tied into codes of behaviour and body language. It can be much harder to understand spoken English, especially if you are used to reading all your English, and need a script of what is being said. So, regularly listening to authentic conversations can really give you an edge, certainly over the majority of people out there who have spent more time on reading and writing than on listening and speaking.

If you listen a lot you can really explore the way that sounds are used to create words and how those words connect to each other, and how the whole thing is interpreted by stress patterns and intonation in the voice. English has a rhythm and an accent that you can never find in the written version. The voice is used as a delivery system for English, and it’s vital that you get to know how that works. And to do that, you just have to listen to it. Also, regular listening exposes you to so many words and grammatical structures that you start to develop an intuition over grammar, and that’s the best situation to be in. You know the answer is right because it just feels right after having heard that particular phrase or prepositional collocation many times already. It just feels like the right answer, but you don’t have the rule. Now you’re thinking like a native speaker. The rule doesn’t matter – all that matters is that you’re familiar with the right kind of English. Listening to the podcast regularly is a great way to work on those things.

But speaking is absolutely vital, especially if you want to make fast progress and become a good communicator. That requires some practice and a positive attitude. The good news is that if you’re a regular listener to this podcast you have a head start, because having this podcast as a platform you can really push your spoken English further and faster. In fact, as well as giving you a foundation of passive knowledge from listening this podcast can give you lots of inspiration and information which you can use to push your speaking. First of all, you’re already interacting with the language in its spoken form by listening a lot. Your brain is already used to listening. This should make it much easier to then respond by speaking yourself. In fact, by listening and thinking, you’re already engaging the part of the brain involved in spoken communication. You’ll be more familiar with accent, rhythm and intonation and so it’ll be far less foreign for you to produce those sounds that you know quite well. In terms of topics and ideas, hopefully the conversations and topics that I cover in this podcast are exactly the sorts of topics that you could talk about in speaking lessons or conversations that you might have – and I’m assuming you’re considering working on your speaking for a bit. In your lessons you could use topics or activities that you’ve heard in this podcast. I think it’s time to activate the passive English which you have in your possession.

I’m glad about that because I think my podcast club, my LEPSters, ninjas, jedi knights, followers or whatever are my special team and I’m glad when you get a head-start in something. I think that people who want to improve their speaking (and I meet them all the time) and who HAVEN’T listened to this, are definitely at a disadvantage. Imagine starting conversations in English when you haven’t listened to any episodes of this or any other podcast. It would be like starting all cold, with no English on your mind, and no sense of how to create spoken discourse or understand the person you’re talking to. It would be like starting from scratch. So, hopefully my podcast is like lubrication for your brain, or brain training – to keep yourself fresh and ready for action. And you should activate that English as much as possible for quicker progress.

Some evidence for the importance of developing your speaking skills
Just in case you weren’t convinced of the importance of speaking, here are some reasons why it’s a good idea to focus on using speaking as your way of mastering communication in English, alongside regular listening.

First of all, top language educators and examiners like the British Council, International House and Cambridge University all stress the importance of speaking skills for achieving anything in English and this is reflected in the courses offered by those institutions and the way they run their courses, with many of these top schools putting a lot of emphasis on speaking and communication skills work in their lessons. It’s generally well known that speaking skills in English are learnt most quickly through engaging in communication activities directed by teachers in which you can really improve your spoken fluency through practice and feedback. Also, any Cambridge exam involves a speaking test which is worth at least 25% of your mark.

Improving your speaking also has knock on effects in other areas. It can help you to tune your ear while listening, improve your vocabulary and grammar and also feed into your writing, which can become faster and more expressive. The fact that it is instant and dynamic makes speaking a faster way of working on your English.

Comments about speaking from the website of Gerald Gillis, writer and public speaker
Here are some comments by respected public speaker Gerald Gillis who hits the nail on the head regarding how speaking skills are vital for success in business. Much of what he says can be applied to other areas of life. Originally posted on his website here www.geraldgillis.com/importance-speaking-skills/

The four language skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing are all interconnected. Proficiency in each skill is necessary to become a well-rounded communicator, but the ability to speak skillfully provides the speaker with several distinct advantages. The capacity to put words together in a meaningful way to reflect thoughts, opinions, and feelings provides the speaker with these important advantages:

• Ability to inform, persuade, and direct. Business managers, educators, military leaders, lawyers, and politicians, among others, seek to develop their speaking skills to such a level that they are transformed into Jedi master communicators. (OK, he didn’t write Jedi masters, I added the word Jedi) Speaking clearly and confidently can gain the attention of an audience, providing the golden opportunity for the speaker to make the message known. Wise is the speaker who gains and then holds the attention of an audience, with well-chosen words in a well-delivered presentation, forming a message that is effective, informative, and understood.

• Ability to stand out from the rest. When one thinks of speaking skills, one tends to think of it as a common skill. Think again. The ability to stand before others and speak effectively is not an ordinary ability. Many people are deathly afraid of public speaking; others have little ability to form thoughts into sentences and then deliver those words in a believable way. The bad news is that at any given moment the world has precious few with the speaking talents of, say, Winston Churchill or John F. Kennedy. The good news is that a speaker whose skills are honed and developed with constant application and hard work can stand out.

• Ability to benefit derivatively. Well-developed verbal skills can increase one’s negotiation skills. Self-confidence is improved. A growing sense of comfort comes from speaking in front of larger and larger audiences. A reputation for excellence in speaking can accrue over time, thereby imparting a certain credibility to the speaker.

• Career enhancement. Employers have always valued the ability to speak well. It is, and always will be, an important skill, and well worth the effort in fully developing. This is especially evident when talking about English as a second language.

I can add a few other things: developing relationships – good speaking skills give you confidence which helps to install a feeling of trust into your relationships. You can truly be yourself, and this is very charming indeed. In fact, a confident, charming speaker of English from another country, speaking with a slightly different accent can be very seductive to native speakers of English – I might hasten to add that speaking good English will not just open doors, it could open legs too(if you know what I mean).

OK, so there it is. I hope you’re feeling fully motivated and ready to push your English onwards and upwards.

Click here to check out italki

Click here to check out italki

Don’t forget to check out italki and have a look at some of the qualified teachers and native speakers who can either give you lessons or give you conversation practice. Remember that if you choose to buy some lessons, as a listener to LEP italki will give you 100 ITC as a discount for being a listener to LEP (italki credits) – and 100 credits is worth about 10$ and is around the price of a 1 hour session. So, you can get a your first 1hr lesson free. That discount is applied when you make your first purchase. If you don’t want to buy, that’s fine – you can just go on and check out all the different teachers and people – they’re mainly English speakers from the UK – perhaps some professional teachers living in the UK, or native speakers who with someone who are really interested in sharing their English with you. A lot of those teachers and tutors offer trial lessons at discounted prices, so you can check out a few people before you decide on your favourite. Visit teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started.

Just before we finish, I want to show you how committed I am about continuing to develop Luke’s English Podcast, and how getting the right sponsor is going to allow me to apply myself to this even more seriously than before. It’s a step towards me being able to eventually quit my job and do this full-time – something perhaps I should have done earlier. But anyway, I think you’ll agree that anything which makes it possible for me to spend time on the podcast is very good for you because you’ll get more free content and episodes that I’ve taken time to produce.

So, just to convince you of my good intentions for LEP, I’ve written a list of aims for this project. Aims are things you want to achieve. It’s important to have aims – not just in teaching (any good teacher will establish aims for each lesson) but as a language learner (you need achievable aims to give your learning some structure and some reward) and as an entrepreneur or anyone who’s trying to achieve something. Aims give you achievable targets that will guide you in whatever you’re doing. You should set aims for your learning of English. Here are my aims for episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.

LUKE’S ENGLISH PODCAST – 10 AIMS

  1. To provide a resource of authentic native English speech for learners of English to use for improving their English.

  2. To inform my audience about methods and strategies for improving their English.

  3. To educate my listeners about the English language by explaining or providing examples of grammar.

  4. To enrich the vocabulary of my listeners by presenting and teaching natural English usage in context.

  5. To entertain my audience by producing fun and interesting content specifically targeted at learners of English as a second language.

  6. To highlight particular aspects of English (language) culture including themes about Britishness, accounts of key moments in history, politics and the arts, with a particular focus on comedy and films.

  7. To develop the communication skills of my listeners by focusing on approaches to spoken discourse and interaction with interlocutors.

  8. To raise awareness of many features of British English pronunciation and provide practice of repeating certain phrases or constructions with a focus on connected speech.

  9. To keep my audience engaged in the listening process long term, by providing a resource to help them laugh while they learn.

  10. To dominate the world with an army of LEP ninjas equiped with biscuits and good English. …Ok, one of my listeners (Chriss) asked me to add this as an aim for my podcast, and sometimes I think it’s true that I have started a cult :)

That’s the end of this episode about learning, listening, speaking and my new sponsor – italki.

I’ll be back soon with a really interesting interview with an English guy who can speak 8 languages, and plenty of other episodes on different topics.

Don’t forget to go to the page for this episode at teacherluke.co.uk to read a transcript of everything I’ve said here.

That’s it! Speak to you soon. Bye!

324. David Bowie (Part 2)

Hello, welcome to Luke’s English Podcast, which is a  podcast for learners of English around the world. This is part 2 of a special episode about English musician David Bowie who died just a few days ago on 10 January 2016. The aim of this episode is to talk about David Bowie’s significance as an artist, to consider some of the themes of his work and to look at why so many people had such a strong emotional attachment to him. Hopefully after listening to this episode you’ll be better able to have conversations about David Bowie, but also about art and culture in general. You can find almost everything I’m saying transcribed on the page for this episode – see below.

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In part 1 I talked about Bowie’s career up until about the year 1975. So let’s carry on in just a moment, but before that I just want to say that since I recorded this episode I’ve realised that there are lots of other things didn’t mention. For example, I could have talked more about his first wife Angie and his second wife Iman. They say that behind every great man there’s a great woman. If that’s true then Bowie must have had two great women in his life – and probably quite a lot of average ones as well I expect… Anyway, joking aside, I’m sure they had big parts to play in his life, and I hope they’re alright. It’s hard for us to lose an artist we love, but I can’t imagine what it’s like for his close family who must have cared about him in so many other ways.

Anyway, let’s get back into this episode and I’ll carry on from where I stopped last time in the mid-70s.

Part 2

It’s hard to explain everything that happened in the 1970s! It was a whirlwind of different things, and incredible music. Everything moved so fast for Bowie during that period, and he was really ahead of everyone else in terms of fashion. Bowie was very ahead of his time.

Around this time he starred in a film called The Man Who Fell To Earth, directed by Nicholas Roeg. In it he plays the character of an alien who lands on earth and attempts to make sense of the place. He was perfect for the part and it is still a mesmerizing performance. He was a great actor. IN the film he’s very thin and his otherworldliness and his vulnerability were perfect for the part of an alien, alone on earth.

If you’ve seen the film “Under the Skin” with Scarlett Johannson, I think it borrowed a lot from “The Man Who Fell To Earth”.


Why was he so thin? Drugs and his excessive lifestyle.
It’s amazing that he survived that period.
You can see him in quite a dark place in the documentary film about him called “Cracked Actor”.
This is partly due to the ravages of his rock and roll lifestyle – touring, performing and being a celebrity can have a weird effect on a person, but add drugs into the mix and things can get seriously out of control.
Bowie took a lot of cocaine in the 70s. ultimateclassicrock.com/david-bowie-cocaine/
He did this mainly to help him work, but also because it was fun of course (in the beginning). I think cocaine can give you lots of energy which allows you to keep working much more intensively and for longer periods than people who are not using it, but it comes with a price of course – to your wallet, but to your mental and physical condition. Apparently it is incredibly habit-forming and very difficult to break away from. Ultimately, if you continue to use it then eventually it will use you. “Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar eats you.” I don’t know where that quote comes from, but I guess it means that “you might use drugs, but eventually the drugs will use you.” And I don’t know what drugs will use you for… it’s probably best not to let drugs use you or dictate your life. They’ll take you to bad places.

Paranoia, weird eating habits, alcohol, obsessions.
He was incredibly thin and seemed to be quite out of his mind during that period.
Check out some of his interviews and TV appearances, and photos of him at the Grammy Awards with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1975. He looks almost like a skeleton.
Grammy Awards in 1975 - from left to right: Bowie, Art Garfunkel, Paul Simon, Yoko Ono, John Lennon

He later described this period as horrible. Imagine being so far out of your mind and yet so lost within yourself that all your demons are made real and are talking to you in persuasive, frightening and seductive voices. Apparently Bowie was so disturbed and paranoid that he could only bear to eat certain foods. Apparently he lived for quite a while just drinking milk and eating green peppers, while snorting cocaine all the time and drinking alcohol. It’s amazing that he survived.

I think his problems at that time were not just drug related, but also identity related. Apparently he had let the Ziggy Stardust persona take over his real life. He wasn’t sure where Ziggy or Aladdin Sane ended and David Bowie began. The lines became blurred. Reality and performance were all messed up, and he lost a sense of who he really was. He must have nearly lost his grip on reality for a while. Again, he was the astronaut spinning into deep space.

Nevertheless, despite the craziness in his personal life at the time, he continued to make some of the best music of his career and it’s all there for us to listen to, like great albums such as Young Americans and Station to Station. Always such fantastic music and well written songs. That’s the bedrock of all of it – he wrote very good songs. He combined appealing and popular music which also contained some very complex and avant-garde elements, like a crazy freeform piano solo here, some very unorthodox string arrangements, some totally distinctive chord changes, and some incredibly versatile singing. Some people say Bowie couldn’t sing, but it’s not true. He had quite a narrow sounding voice, but he used it in a lot of different ways and could sing low or very high. Sometimes he would sing in a kind of cockney accent, and sometimes he’d use a posher, deeper and more distinguished voice.

The Berlin Period
My Dad didn’t have any records by Bowie from 1975 until 1983, so I missed the whole Berlin period, and I still haven’t really explored it, which is, on one hand terrible because how can I be a fan without really knowing those records, but also great because I’m going to explore all those albums now. My uncle sent me 3 CDs not long ago – Low, Lodger and Heroes. I’m going to feast on those LPs. He’s always been good that way, my uncle Nic. Never been on the podcast, but he’s a huge music lover and a massive fan of Bowie. When I was 16 Nic made me a tape. It had Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, David Bowie and The Clash on it. What an education. My uncle saw Bowie perform live 3 times. At one of those performances it was 1975 or 1976 and he was right at the front of the audience. He actually saw Bowie performing as the Thin White Duke, just a few metres away. It must have been incredible. I’ve been chatting a bit with Nic, and my brother who is also a big fan. Here are some of the things that my Uncle said to me via text just yesterday.

Nic: I feel really very sad about it, more than I can imagine for someone I never actually knew. Except of course I did in a way. Such a soundtrack through my adult life. The highlight for me was being near the front at Wembley Pool for the Thin White Duke, maybe the best concert we ever went to. The greatest artist of my generation.

Saw him three times but The Duke was the best, mainly also because we saw him swept away in the back of a huge black limousine after the gig, this little white genius in the back of this huge black car.

Luke: I’m about to do a podcast about Bowie, but I really don’t know where to start.

Nic: What you have to say is that part of his genius was the utter unpredictable nature. Each successive album was unique and different, you never knew what to expect. But it was always different and fascinating.

Good luck with the podcast I’m sure you’ll manage it but don’t worry if you can’t. Such a huge subject.

Luke Thompson: I’ll do what I can! Didn’t someone once say that art is never finished, it’s just abandoned? I’m not saying my podcast is art or anything, but I think you know what I mean.

Nic: I do. I think you and David would’ve got on really well!

Luke: Oh man, what a thought!

My bro sent me a little voice message. Here it is.
(James’ audio message)

Anyway, back to the Berlin period. I think what happened is that Bowie decided to get out of LA in order to escape all the drugs and madness. He moved to Berlin with Iggy Pop. I think they believed that there would be no drugs in Berlin, but they were wrong – apparently there was lots of heroin. I don’t think Bowie used heroin. Good – that’s the real killer and must be avoided at all costs. His friend Iggy Pop (real name James Osterberg) was a heroin addict, so I think he may have succumbed to it there, I’m not sure. But for Bowie, Berlin was a chance to start piecing his life together again and work on new projects. He also split from his wife Angie during this period. (Yes, during all the madness of the previous few years he had married and had a child, now called Duncan Jones – he’s a filmmaker who did a really great science fiction film called Moon, which is quite reminiscent of Bowie’s song Space Oddity).

Anyway, Berlin was Bowie’s attempt to begin again, and although it must have been a difficult and troubling time for him, it was also an extremely creative period, again. Some say it’s the peak of his career, but David Bowie had so many different peaks. Just pick one.

Berlin and the art scene there influenced him a lot. His records from that period were a collaboration with Brian Eno, and they have a totally different feel to the Thin White Duke period. They’re stark, sparse, quite low-fi, quite gritty, depressing yet with an air of grounded optimism and a sense of rebirth. It’s amazing how he managed to change and find new creativity with each step. I think artists are always struggling to find that inspiration to be creative. You can’t always manufacture the creative urge, it just comes to you and you have to try and put it into music or paint or whatever you’re using. I’m amazed at how Bowie managed to follow his creative muse so consistently and regularly. He was really in touch with something – a creative channel, that most of us don’t have access to. It makes us think that Bowie knew things that the rest of us don’t know. I don’t really understand that, but it’s true of all great artists I think – that they have direct access to something that we don’t, and they are able to put it into their art and then we can have access to it too. I feel like that about The Beatles too.

Song: Ashes to Ashes.
This was made just after the Berlin period and it’s his way of saying goodbye to the 70s. The song is incredible, especially when performed live. It has a really cool funk groove, but it also has some really weird and original chord changes and melodies. For me the lyrics are about him looking at his recent past and putting it behind him. It’s about letting the past be the past and moving on. I really can’t do justice in words to how poignant this song feels for me whenever I listen to it. It just grabs my feelings and throws them around all over the place. I don’t want to sound pretentious, that’s genuinely what the song does to me. I care about it in personal ways that I can’t go into now. I love the strength in the song. That you can move on and change and that you are not defined by your past. That’s incredibly brave and positive.

My Dad had another album – Let’s Dance, released in 1983. Perhaps Bowie’s biggest commercial hit. Produced by Nile Rogers.
On the cover Bowie was dressed as a boxer and is throwing a punch. There are also some diagrams for dance steps. I like the analogy of boxing and music. Dancing can be like fighting, when you dance on your own that is. It can be like sparring with your demons, if you like.
Bowie was still in a suit in this period and had bleached blonde hair. He still looked super cool as always.
The production on the album is absolutely massive. It sounds incredible.
The vinyl was in much better condition.
Maybe my Dad listened to it less (I think having kids and a job took up most of his time) or maybe the technology had improved since then, and vinyl records were just better made.
“Let’s Dance” blew my socks off completely. Still does.
“China Girl” also sounded incredible. The musicianship was so tight. It was produced like an up-front commercial dance album. Apparently Bowie didn’t like it that much. I think it just didn’t match his artistic vision, but I love it – because I love the work of Nile Rogers (think tracks like “Good Times” by Chic or “He’s the greatest dancer” by Sister Sledge, and many other records).
My Dad told me that he thought China girl was a song about heroin. That was really intriguing to me. “How could those romantic lyrics be about drugs?” and also, I was interested to know if Bowie had used heroin, because I know how dangerous that drug is – just watch the film Trainspotting and you’ll know.
It turns out the song was written by Iggy Pop. That explains it. Iggy was the heroin addict.
Listening to it, there’s a lot of pain and despair in the lyrics. Bowie screams in pain, including the line “It’s in the whites of my eyes!” to describe the depth of Iggy’s drug addiction. That’s scary, but it’s a pop song.
In fact, the raw upbeat power of the song overwhelms the dark sentiment of the lyrics. Maybe that’s why Bowie wasn’t so keen on it.

Since listening to that album as a teenager (and throughout my life) I’ve learned that by 1983 Bowie had managed to get clean and had left his drug habit behind. That was always really impressive to me. He always managed to maintain such distinction and class, even when he must have been feeling so terrible sometimes. He really kept it together, but there must have been some pretty dark and difficult times. I respect him for having the strength of mind to stop. Lesser people would have been destroyed by the lifestyle he had. Apparently, to help him stay clean, Bowie had a tattoo on his leg of the serenity prayer, which is the common name for a prayer authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971). It has been adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. The best-known form is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Which means I think – he wanted to remember that he could never go back to using drugs. I think some addicts slip back into using when they think they have the power to stop again, but they have to remember that their drug addiction is something they can’t change. If you believe you can control the addiction, you’re wrong. But you can control yourself by choosing to stay clean.

It’s something like that. But to me it’s impressive that he tattooed that onto his leg. He was really committed and strong-minded.

The 80s were a slightly mixed period artistically for Bowie. I think he probably got his personal life together but his art suffered a bit. Fair enough. I think he deserved to have some happiness and stability for a while and so what if some of his work in the late 80s wasn’t that great.

I remember seeing him again in about 1986 or 1987 when as a family we went to the cinema to watch a film called Labyrinth. David Bowie played the bad guy in the film – called Jareth The Goblin King. Basically it’s a kind of dark fairy tale about a girl who goes on adventure into a maze in order to rescue her baby brother who has been kidnapped by the goblin king. Bowie’s performance is pretty hilarious. He’s dressed up in a very camp outfit with big hair and tights. He sings a couple of songs. I remember being a bit disturbed by the film but I didn’t know why. Watching it back more recently I think I realised what it was – it’s Bowie’s tight trousers. They were… well… a bit too tight. I mean, you could see everything. The film was supposed to be scary and there were a few monsters in it, but really the most frightening monsters were on display under David’s tight pants. If you don’t know what I’m getting at, watch the film and you might see what I mean. I’m not the only one to have made that observation by the way. Apparently it was intentional too. The director wanted to create a villain who was attractive yet dangerous – like a rock star.

Bowie came back again in the 90s with another creative period. He reinvented himself as a kind of godfather of British rock music. He wore an awesome jacket with a union jack on it, and collaborated with drum and bass artists like Goldie.

For me the rest of his career is interesting but not quite as great as his earlier work, in terms of music. But he did lots of TV interviews and live performances and many of them are on YouTube. I like to think of his later period as his interview period, but of course he was involved in loads of other projects. There are plenty of things I’m not mentioning here just because it would be impossible to cover everything. One thing he did was use the internet to share his music, right from the beginning, before most other artists or companies used the internet for publishing. He really had his finger on the pulse. He was always ahead of his time.

His TV interviews on YouTube are great. He was always really interesting to listen to. He was very thoughtful, intelligent and articulate, and funny. He was really witty and had a fantastic sense of humour. That’s perhaps one of the most attractive things about him. He never ever took himself too seriously. He took the art really seriously, but never himself. His attitude was so refreshing. No ego.

He had a characteristic voice and way of speaking. It’s fun to do impressions of him and many comedians have done that over the years. My favourite impressions of Bowie are done by Hugh Cornwell on a TV show called Stella Street, and by Adam & Joe who are both Bowie obsessives, particularly Adam Buxton. They do great Bowie impressions. Check out the page for this episode to see those Bowie impressions and to listen to a long documentary that Adam did about Bowie. It’s brilliant.

Bowie released a few albums during the 2000s that were well received by critics, including Heathen and Reality.

Then he went quiet for a while after having a heart attack. He sort of disappeared from the media, except to help promote his son’s film “Moon”.

Then, more recently he came back with The Next Day, and just a week before his death his final album called Blackstar.

What’s interesting about this last couple of albums is that he seemes to be singing about his career as a whole, revisiting some of the themes, places and images that he created earlier.

What none of us predicted is that his latest album Blackstar is about his mortality. Listening to it now, immediately after his death, the songs and videos take on a much deeper significance. The album is very poignant and moving, and is full of puzzles and enigmas that seem to express his experience of coming to terms with his own death, and then dying, leaving us with a completed body of work. It is the perfect ending to his career.

Just over a week ago Bowie released his new album on his birthday.
Lots of people were talking about it, and Bowie fans were excited as usual to get some more music to explore.
We were all celebrating his return and wishing him a happy birthday.
So when we heard about his death, it came as a painful shock.
It was so unexpected, because we had no warning. We had no idea he was sick. He’d kept it secret.

It might seem like a small thing, but a new album of music from an artist you love can make a difference to your life in subtle ways.
A week before he died, early on a dark Monday morning while eating my corn flakes, I had watched the video to his song Blackstar. I found it to be really strange and quite frightening, yet with an appealing and catching song in the middle of it.
Just like much of Bowie’s best work, it’s both avant-garde and poppy. It’s not easy listening, it’s quite dark and moody, but I like that. Music shouldn’t always be safe. It should be challenging sometimes.
Anyway, the video disturbed me a bit. It was full of nightmarish visions, and seemed to be symbolic of something but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.
I went to work that day and put it to the back of my mind, deciding to just come back and listen to the whole album at some point later.
Then a week passed and last Sunday evening came around. I couldn’t sleep.
I just couldn’t get to sleep.
That doesn’t always happen to me. Usually I get to sleep quite easily. I love sleeping.
This was one of those nights when I couldn’t rest. My mind was just wide awake and it was racing in lots of different directions at the same time. I ind it very frustrating and annoying, especially if I have work the next day. I just want to sleep but my mind seems to be connected to something and won’t switch off. (perhaps I should have listened to my own sleep episode – or tried the relaxation techniques, but I couldn’t focus)
It was disturbing to be still awake at 4am, just lying there in the darkness, with the stars in the sky outside, just staring into space even though my eyes were closed.

Eventually I dropped off and got a couple of hours of sleep, but I was feeling pretty delicate on Monday morning. You know how it is if you haven’t slept.
I had corn flakes again like normal. I have to get up extra early on Mondays in order to teach. My wife was still sleeping peacefully. Lucky her!
I got to school in the rain.
I was holding it together, getting my lessons prepared and someone came in the room and just said to me “David Bowie’s dead”.
Immediately I just said “WHAT???”
In fact, the news spread around the teachers’ room pretty fast. Usually people are busy getting their lessons planned but everyone just stopped.
It’s hard to comprehend that someone is just not in the world any more.
There’s a period where you can’t come to terms with it.
I felt a bit empty or something.
Then I had to go and teach.
During the classes that morning, when I wasn’t interacting with my students, like when I was getting the CD prepared, or when I turned away from them to write on the board, it came back to me quite quickly, and I got surprisingly emotional and had to try to get control of myself!
Fair enough I hadn’t slept much so I was feeling a bit weird anyway.
But I’m still quite surprised at how moved I was.
It was so unexpected.
It’s like David Bowie himself had punched me in the stomach.
Apparently he used to train as a boxer to keep fit.
Well, apparently he was still pretty fit because laid a combination of punches on me that morning that I didn’t expect.
In those moments when I wasn’t occupied by something else I couldn’t help thinking of the times when David Bowie’s music was in my life. They were all key moments for me somehow. Like being in the car with my Dad, discovering new feelings as a teenager in the corner of the living room, dancing in a nightclub somewhere with girls, doing Bowie impressions with my best friends, singing a Bowie song to try and seduce my girlfriend (it worked – the song? “The Prettiest Star”).
They all struck me, but I wasn’t the only one of course. Millions of people around the world were feeling pretty much the same things as me at that moment.

And later on I thought about that scary video that I’d seen exactly a week before and it made a lot more sense to me.
Bowie knew what he was doing. He new he was sick with cancer and he knew that he was going to die, but he didn’t tell the public. We had no idea. So he decided, probably very quickly, to make this music and throw into it all his feelings and experiences when confronted with his own mortality. Apparently he had 6 heart attacks in the year before his death, while recording the album, but he kept fighting to finish the album. Wow.

Apparently he was very close to the edge during the period when the album was due to be released. But he managed to time it somehow so that he would die a week after his birthday and the release of the album.

Even his death was a flawlessly judged artistic act.

Imagine my sleepless night, the frustration of not sleeping, the weird thoughts and fears that passed through my head in that condition. It was weird but what must it be like to be lying in bed, not waiting for dawn to come, but waiting for the end to arrive? What would you be thinking and feeling? I think Bowie has done a great job of expressing that in this music. It’s scary I know, but it’s powerful, and it’s not just morbid and depressing. There are moments where I feel he’s exstatically happy, looking back on some of the victories and joy he had in his life.

Also, the music is good. It’s got some bubbly electronic sounds and some jazz/funk drumming, and some soulful elements and sweeping string arrangements and saxophone.

But what’s mind-blowing is that Bowie used his death as a way of delivering his art to us. That punch in the stomach is a great way to get someone’s attention. Now he has everyone’s attention and we’re all listening. It’s the perfect exit! He really left with a bang.

Now what we have is a complete body of work with a distinct beginning and end, which makes it all the more powerful. I’m sure that all his best music will stand the test of time. In 100-200 years, if we’re all still here, I think Bowie will still be considered one of the most influential and significant artists of this age.

For me personally, I hope there will be many more moments coming in the future that I can share with David Bowie and his music, like the ones I had in the past.

The man may be gone, but the artist remains – preserved in the music, in the images and in our memories.

Thank you David Bowie.

Here are lots of David Bowie Links and Videos.
Just take your pick and dive in.

Space Oddity studio version with lyrics

Space Oddity live on TV in 1969

Ziggy Stardust sings Starman on BBC Top of the Pops in 1972

David Bowie announces the end of Ziggy Stardust on stage

Aladdin Sane

Bowie interviewed by Dick Cavett in 1974, clearly under the influence of cocaine

Thin White Duke


Bowie in Berlin
Guardian article www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jan/13/david-bowie-berlin-years-heroes-just-a-gigolo

Fascinating interview from 1979

Bowie in 1983 criticises MTV for not playing black music

Bowie talks about acting and touring in 1983

Nile Rogers describes meeting David Bowie

Bowie – “The Interview Years”

Bowie & Comedy – Ricky Gervais described meeting Bowie

Phil Cornwell on Stella Street (skip to 5:00 for the David Bowie impression)

Documentaries


Adam Buxton’s Audio Bowie Documentary
This is my favourite Bowie tribute.
archive.org/details/AdamBuxtonOnDavidBowie31stMarch2013
YouTube version here but with the songs removed

The new tracks – Blackstar (the creepy video I watched on Monday morning while eating corn flakes) and Lazarus

Adam & Joe talk about Bowie and do some impressions
If you watch just one of the videos in this list, please watch this one. Adam & Joe obviously love Bowie very much, and their impressions and improvisations are a lot of fun.

323. David Bowie (Part 1)

This episode is all about the life and work of David Bowie, the English musician who died just a couple of days ago. In the episode you’ll hear me talk about the cultural significance of Bowie as an artist, why he is such a legend of British music, and what his music means to me personally. I hope you can use this episode as a way to learn more about British culture. Almost 100% of the episode is transcribed below.

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David Bowie was an English singer, songwriter, record producer, painter and actor. He was a figure in popular music for over five decades, and was considered by people around the world as a cultural innovator, particularly for his work in the 1970s. I am a big David Bowie fan, and in this podcast my aim is to explain to you the appeal and significance of David Bowie as a cultural icon. I’ve had a few messages from listeners over the last couple of days asking me to talk about this subject, and I am very happy to be able to do that on my podcast.

This subject is significant to me personally, and I expect to many of you too, but also it’s a very significant to British culture in general, and I think it’s important to teach you about British culture or English language culture on Luke’s English Podcast, as well as to teach you the language itself, because ultimately, it’s all part of the same thing. The language exists within the culture, or perhaps the culture exists within the language – they are intertwined together in complex ways. So, to learn the language like a native I think it helps to know about the culture of that language too, so you can start thinking in the same way that native users of that language think too. Also, if you ever talk to native speakers of English you need to know the cultural references. For example, at the moment and no doubt for a long time afterwards, people will be talking about David Bowie, his music, his art and its significance. Would you be able to hold down a conversation about Bowie? Hopefully this episode will help you do that.

David Bowie changed our culture, not just in Britain but also around the world. How did he do it? What did he do that was so significant? Why is his death such a big deal? What was his appeal? What do most people know about David Bowie? What did he do during his life? What were the messages he communicated through his art? Why will he be considered one of the greatest artists of our time?

There are so many questions to answer. I don’t have the answers to all of them. Some questions will go unanswered. But there are always more questions than answers, aren’t there?

I think the world still doesn’t fully understand what Bowie was doing or what it was all about – or at least we can’t easily put it into words, but those people who value his work certainly feel a powerful emotional connection to David Bowie and his work. He was an artist, and I suppose part of the work of an artist is to express ideas and feelings in other ways – not using words alone, but using anything else as a way of conveying a message or feeling. David Bowie definitely did that. Not only was he a musician, but he was an artist, maybe one of the greatest artists of our time, and he used everything he could in order to communicate with us – music primarily, but also video, theatre, mime, the internet (he was an early adopter), the media and even his own body, his fame, his image and ultimately his identity itself. He even used his own death as a way of communicating his art to the world.

David Bowie’s whole life turned out to be a work of art itself, and as an artist he used his life to tell a captivating, mysterious and complex story.

Here are the main questions I’m going to try and talk about
Who is* David Bowie? (*was ?)
Why is he significant?
Why is Bowie significant to me personally?

I have to say that this is a really difficult episode for me to do because there’s just so much to cover, and I want to do justice to the subject. I don’t think I can say everything I want to say about Bowie in this episode. I would love you to just listen to his music with an open mind. Listen to the beats, the grooves, the moods and let your imagination do the rest. he was also a great speaker in interviews – he was articulate, charming and very funny too. I’m not going to play you any interview footage or any of his music (except perhaps for a couple of seconds per song) on this podcast. But what I have done is collect some videos and other links for you on the page for this episode and I strongly recommend that you check them out. There are other documentaries, interviews, podcast episodes and music that are really really great and will give you loads more perspective on the subject. So go to the page for this episode and just dive in. Please do watch and listen to Bowie in his own words, and in the words of other people who have talked about him too.

I’ve been a fan of Bowie almost all my life. I grew up with his music and it has been with me at various important emotional moments for me.

When did I first hear Bowie’s music?
In the car as a child.
Night time.
Space Oddity.
The song is fascinating – it tells the story of an astronaut on a space mission. He goes out alone into space and loses touch with the earth. The astronaut is afraid, and it is scary – the idea of being so alone, drifting into the void of space, but also it is full of the wonder of the universe – seeing the earth from a distance, and wondering what it’s all about. The song is deep – as deep as the film 2001 A Space Odyssey, which was a direct influence on Bowie.
Looking back on it now, that car was like a spaceship floating through the dark with my Dad at the controls, the lights of suburban London street lamps passing overhead.
The song is like a metaphor for his career somehow.
The astronaut is Bowie the artist, and the spaceship is his work – the different characters he portrayed and inhabited, the multimedia structure around him that he built during his career – like a cocoon, which he has now departed.
Now, after his death, we have just the cocoon, the spacecraft. His life’s work is left with us.
I’m not sure what I’m saying here. And I’m sounding a bit pretentious I expect.
What I mean is that the image of a man in spaceship travelling through space is a bit like a metaphor for the work of the artist going on a journey. I can’t explain it. IN fact, I don’t quite understand it fully. It’s just beyond my understanding, just out of reach, somewhere in space.
That’s space oddity.

Then, later, at other times in my life, I had other moments with David Bowie’s music.
I gave a Bowie album to my Dad for his birthday in 1987. I remember the front cover of the album. I was 10. Bowie was Blue. It felt important that I was giving the record to my Dad. I think my Mum bought it, and I gave it to him.

Then when I was a teenager I started exploring my parents record collection. I discovered a lot of old music, but it was new to me. In our house the record player and the vinyl records were in the corner of the living room. I remember spending quite a lot of time in that corner, with the headphones on, exploring the music while my family were doing other things.

There was an album called “Changes – One Bowie”, which was a greatest hits compilation. I think it was released in the mid 70s and it had songs from his whole career up to that point. It was music from his psychedelic period, his hippy-in-a-dress period, the Ziggy Stardust period and the thin white duke period. These are all different incarnations of Bowie’s rock star identity.

The album cover to “ChangesOneBowie” – the compilation LP that I found in my parents’ record collection.

There was a photo of Bowie on the front of the album – it was a black and white pic and he looked like a Hollywood star from the classic Hollywood period of the 1930s or 40s. I couldn’t quite date the photo. Normally I’m good at predicting the period in which the picture was taken, or predicting when a record was recorded by listening to it, but this photograph just looked completely timeless. I couldn’t work out when it was taken.

The photo could come from any time and that was pretty fascinating. Also, he just seemed so cool and handsome and I thought – how could I be like him? How can I take some of that style and confidence and attractiveness and apply it to my own life. He seemed to be above everything, but not in a bad way – not in an arrogant way. I thought, how could any girl resist this guy? And that was very exciting for me – because I definitely fancied girls but I just wasn’t confident enough. I had no clue about how to talk to girls, let alone get them to fancy me. What Bowie showed me about that is that you shouldn’t fake it – just be confident, express yourself, let your natural style come out and don’t show any fear and you’ll attract girls. In fact, what was really attractive about Bowie is that he didn’t do things for egotistical reasons – the guy in the photo was distant – he wasn’t looking at the camera, he wasn’t begging for your attention, he was looking off into the middle distance somewhere. His mind was elsewhere. He was occupied by his work and by big ideas. I think Bowie’s enthusiasm and commitment to his work made him as attractive as his looks. But it was his looks too. He was the complete package.

I asked my Mum what she thought of Bowie and she said she just found him weird and a bit creepy. I was a bit disappointed, but I was still convinced that Bowie was the essence of coolness. What I saw in that picture was a lot of what is appealing about Bowie. His good looks and cool style, but also his class, his elegance, mystery and weirdness.
Let me describe the album cover.
You see his face and shoulders. He’s looking to our left, into the distance. It’s a black and white photo. His hair is quite short and is combed back with a slight parting on the side. His finger is resting on his bottom lip as if he’s thinking of something.
After a while I noticed that his eyes were different. The pupil of his left eye in the photo is dilated wide, but the other pupil is normal. I wondered if that was an effect added to the photo, to perhaps hint at the fact that he was high on something. It wasn’t obvious, but it was fascinating. Later I learned that Bowie had 2 different eyes – it looked like they had different colours, and the pupil of one was always larger than the pupil of the other. Apparently he had an accident or a fight over a girl when he was fourteen and got punched. The punch caused damage to a muscle in his eye, and since then one of the eyes always looked different to the other. It was another part of Bowie’s allure – there was just something different about his face.

In the photo he’s thin and has ridiculously high cheekbones and chiseled features, like a Hollywood movie star from the 1940s.
He had classical good looks, but there was something else about him – the lines on his face, the shape of his nose – there was something otherworldly and alien about him, like he might have come from outer space.

Also he has femininity in his features, and I think there’s nothing wrong with being in touch with your feminine side.
His ambiguous gender wasn’t the main thing I liked about him, but for many other teenagers throughout the years – teenagers who struggled with their gender identity, David Bowie was someone who gave them self-esteem and confidence. He showed that if you felt confused about your gender, that it was nothing to be ashamed of and that it didn’t matter, and that you could be whoever you wanted to be, and do it with pride. As a rock star, David Bowie was a huge ego boost to so many fans, and for many reasons. For me Bowie was just cool, confident and he made really great music. His confidence and his style commanded respect.
I grew up a bit when I looked at that album cover.

Then I listened to the record. I took the vinyl out of the sleeve and put it on the record player, with the headphones on. My parents had an old pair of 70s headphones. They were really good quality ones.

The first track was called Changes, released in 1971. There was a scratch on the record and it used to jump quite a lot during the introduction to the song. For years, I only heard the scratched version. The song would skip from the intro to the first verse, and then to the chorus quite quickly. It still sounded good to my ears.

It had a piano riff, chunky sounding drums and a good baseline. It sounded amazing in the headphones. Bowie sang words like
I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through
Changes

As a 15 or 16-year-old I was quite aware that I was going through changes of my own and at the time I was feeling for the first time that I was actually having more complicated feelings than just “I want to play football” or “Star Wars is cool”. Listening to this song, even though I didn’t completely understand the lyrics, I felt that I was suddenly part of something much larger and deeper, and it felt really cool. What it meant to me at the time was that we go through changes in our lives and we don’t always know why, but they’re significant and meaningful and we should be prepared for them, and others should let us change and we shouldn’t try to hold each other back or tell each other what to do – that we should have respect for each other’s complex worlds. I didn’t really understand it all, but it meant a lot – I just felt it.

Also, as I learned more about David Bowie’s music I knew that he was something of a changeling himself. He went through many image changes during his career, especially in the 70s, and that was and still is fascinating to me. How could someone become all these different people – and still hang onto himself? What was identity all about?

Here’s a ‘brief’ history of David Bowie.
South London in 1947. His real name was David Jones. Another performer had the name Davy Jones so he changed his name. He tried a few others, including Tom Jones and David Cassidy, before sticking with David Bowie. Good judgement. He chose Bowie because it was the name of an American knife and he liked the symbolism of that. The knife.
Grew up in postwar UK – the same generation as the Beatles and so many other great artists of his generation.
The main theme of his childhood seems to be – boredom and dullness. Living in suburbia was dull and everything looked the same. It seems to me, looking back on that period in the 1950s that life was in black and white. Just boring and quiet. The older generation just wanted peace and quiet after the hell of world war 2.
Like his peers he got hooked on American rock and roll and R&B but also plenty of other forms of music. This new music which he heard on the radio must have brought some colour into his life.
America was the place that seemed to be really exciting and interesting.
He got involved in the London music scene but never really found his style or confidence.
There was a boom in youth culture associated with music and fashion. This was the mid-late sixties.
Drugs and psychedelia were involved, amphetamines for energy and probably LSD for its mind expanding qualities.

Bowie recorded Space Oddity and it was released and became a hit, eventually, particularly as it coincided with the NASA moon landing in 1969. Some people thought of Space Oddity as a novelty song – just a funny story about an astronaut going into space. But it was deeper, more meaningful than that. Space Oddity is now a timeless classic that is not just about an astronaut. It’s an existential comment about the human condition. But it’s also a great little pop song that you can hum along to and which gets stuck in your head.

Despite some success with that song he still felt unsure of himself as a performer, and searched for ways to bring new dimensions and confidence to his performance art.

He started taking risks with his performances and was influenced by avant-garde artists and various forms of theatre, like clowning, mime and Japanese kabuki. He brought those influences into his rock and roll shows.
He collaborated with a guitarist called Mick Ronson who perhaps deserves more recognition than he gets. He’s the one who played those amazing riffs on a lot of Bowie’s glam rock classics like Rebel Rebel and Ziggy Stardust.

Bowie also came out as gay/bisexual during that period, but it’s not clear to all of us if he really was gay or if it was all part of some kind of provocative and experimental performance both on and off stage.

Nevertheless, he attracted devoted and passionate fans who loved his daring style and his outrageous performances. Being a David Bowie fan was a statement of liberty and freedom. He made it ok, and maybe even cool, to be androgynous.

Also, his music at the time just kicked arse. His band made really raunchy and catchy glam rock. It was heavy, fast, funky, romantic and glamorous. The confidence and mystery that he exuded on stage was like a gift to his fans, who were empowered by having him as a role model.

He first became really huge as a star when he created the character of Ziggy Stardust in around 1972.
Up until that point Bowie had not really found his feet as a performer. Apparently, when performing as himself he felt shy. It’s hard to imagine, but apparently it’s true. He didn’t really enjoy performing as David Bowie, because he just felt a bit awkward.

So he invented a character, and played him during the performances.
Ziggy Stardust was just a character – like a character in a movie or a play, and Bowie was the actor.
People still refer to Bowie as Ziggy, like it was his nickname. It wasn’t a nickname for Bowie, it was an alter-ego. Ziggy disappeared in the mid 70s.

Becoming Ziggy allowed Bowie to really let go of himself and become a rock god, and his performances as Ziggy were really extravagant, involving big costume changes, make up and all sorts of rude and lewd acts on stage.

Apparently Bowie was Ziggy not only on stage, but also off the stage, in public appearances, interviews and so on.
So, David Bowie was really an actor playing the part of an outrageous rock star. That’s interesting for me because Bowie’s acting performance was not just confined to the stage, it bled out into every aspect of his public life. His fame was his medium. He used that medium, fame, very well, to convey his art to us, even with his death.

It’s as Ziggy Stardust that Bowie became really well-known all over the UK and then in the USA, where he was embraced as a big star by the rock music scene.

Apparently Bowie’s main influences for Ziggy Stardust were on one hand NY based musicians Lou Reed & Iggy Pop, but also mime artists, Japanese kabuki theatre performers. Bowie loved the way Lou Reed managed to combine avant-garde art with pop and rock music. He loved the outrageousness and energy of Iggy Pop and the mystery and magic of the kabuki theatre tradition. All of it combined to create something extraordinary in Ziggy Stardust. These incredibly theatrical live shows, with stomping fast rock music and avant-garde lyrics. He released an album called Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. It’s now a classic.

Part of Bowie’s genius was always that he could take very weird and abstract art and bring it to a wide audience via good old-fashioned rock and roll, and pop music. That’s the genius of pop. A pop song is so short, and so simple. Just 3 minutes with a couple of verses, a chorus and a bridge section. Played on the radio for mass appeal, full of catchy melodies and instant appeal. Bowie, like all the other great pop stars, used this medium to deliver some very powerful and clever ideas. Bowie’s pop songs were not just disposable trash. They had deep hidden meanings that are hard to comprehend, but which really stand up under scrutiny. He wasn’t just lucky either, like some artists who make one or maybe two hit records in their career. Bowie had hit songs throughout his career, and his greatest hits albums that you can buy now stretch over 2 or sometimes 3 CD collections. He knew what he was doing and his music is pure pop art.

He was a mainstream pop act, but he was also a radical avant gardist. Using pop to deliver abstract ideas right into people’s every day lives. Usually abstract art is to be found in galleries, and let’s face it, not enough ‘ordinary’ people see it. Through his records and videos and other projects, Bowie brought that stuff right to hearts and minds of a massive audience. IN that way, he’s way more of a successful artist than so many others. People would play his songs on the radio. He appeared on Top of the Pops on BBC1 – a very mainstream show, and he brought into the homes of normal people some of the craziest and most over the top concept art, simultaneously fascinating and frightening the nation. He sang a song called “Star Man” on BBC TV, dressed in a bright green costume, with his hair dyed bright red. Starman seems to be about an alien who wants to come to earth but is frightened of how the humans will receive him. It seemed to many that Bowie was the alien.

What did Ziggy Stardust look like?

I remember watching a movie about a Ziggy Stardust live concert, with my brother…

Ziggy was Bowie’s way to celebrate rock and roll, and comment on all its conventions. Again, he knew what he was doing. He wasn’t just aiming to get as many fans as possible. He wanted his fans to really think about what was going on in the live show, in music and in life in general. He really encouraged his audience to use their own intelligence and to interpret his work in their own way. I feel a great amount of respect from the artist when I listen to the music and watch his performances. I don’t feel like he’s patronising me or being arrogant. I just feel like he’s doing the performance, but that some part of him is completely conscious of what he’s doing objectively and that he has no ego.

Apparently, according to the things I’ve heard and read about him, Bowie was a really nice and down to earth person. In interviews he was always very intelligent, articulate, sweet and funny. Apparently he was also quite a private man. The characters he played in his songs are really different to the character of the artist himself.

Bowie made a few albums using the Ziggy Stardust persona, and toured America, and moved there I think. He recorded a couple of albums as Ziggy, but the character did change bit by bit, with a slightly different look emerging over time. He released a couple of albums with the Ziggy Stardust persona I believe. These are absolute bona fide rock classics. I’m talking about albums like Diamond Dogs.

I think by the mid 70s his life was moving extremely quickly and that’s evident in his music and his image. He went through so many different changes during that period and produced some wildly inventive yet accessible music. Eventually he killed off Ziggy (you can see video footage of him announcing it during a live concert – the audience seem devastated! He says, this is our last live concert, ever – and you hear gasps from people in the audience.
But he didn’t quit of course, he just came back with a new image, a new character.
Aladdin Sane.
He looked a bit like Ziggy, but he was darker and even more mysterious.

Then within just a year or two, Bowie changed again. Ziggy Stardust, then Aladdin Sane, and then a character was eventually called The Thin White Duke. He wore sharp suits and had his hair combed back. He used to walk around with a cane, and sometimes wore a hat. He was extremely debonair and suave looking, yet very thin and bony. Again, his combination of handsomeness, androgyny and alien weirdness gave him an allure and a charisma like nobody else.

At that time he was influenced by the soul and funk musicians of New York in the mid seventies. I can’t really explain all the influences and details of his different clothing choices. Essentially, he had his own style – and it influenced a lot of fashion that followed him. I think he had a huge influence on the styles of the 1980s. A lot of what musicians and fashion designers did the 1980s, Bowie had already done in the 70s. Bowie basically created the 1980s.

I think the Thin White Duke is my favourite Bowie period, although I love all of his changes. He was called that because he was thin (due to his lifestyle), he was white! (obviously – but this was more evident because of the fact that he had started playing soul and funk music, which were associated with a black audience – so compared to many of the black artists in his band and black people in his audiences he looked really white. And he was very pale anyway during that period, so I think he was pretty much the whitest dude on the planet, but playing what was considered to be black music.

And the music is the main thing I like about Bowie during this period. I generally love funk and soul music from the 70s, regardless of who is playing it – whether they’re black or white doesn’t matter much to me, in fact I prefer to have my music in with the full colour spectrum please – black, white, and everything in between – purple, brown, yellow, green, pink – if it’s a colour, I want it in my music! No black and white music please. So, Bowie’s funk period is really great. My favourite album from that time is Young Americans. It’s got tracks like “Young Americans” and “Fame” on it – deeply groovy, tough and yet smooth soulful dance tracks. He collaborated with John Lennon on Fame. Imagine that! A funky dance classic, with John Lennon of the Beatles.

END OF PART 1


CLICK HERE FOR PART 2

Here are lots of David Bowie Links and Videos.
Just take your pick and dive in.

Space Oddity studio version with lyrics

Space Oddity live on TV in 1969

Ziggy Stardust sings Starman on BBC Top of the Pops in 1972

David Bowie announces the end of Ziggy Stardust on stage

Aladdin Sane

Bowie interviewed by Dick Cavett in 1974, clearly under the influence of cocaine

Thin White Duke


Bowie in Berlin
Guardian article www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jan/13/david-bowie-berlin-years-heroes-just-a-gigolo

Fascinating interview from 1979

Bowie in 1983 criticises MTV for not playing black music

Bowie talks about acting and touring in 1983

Nile Rogers describes meeting David Bowie

Bowie – “The Interview Years”

Bowie & Comedy – Ricky Gervais described meeting Bowie

Phil Cornwell on Stella Street (skip to 5:00 for the David Bowie impression)

Documentaries


Adam Buxton’s Audio Bowie Documentary
This is my favourite Bowie tribute.
archive.org/details/AdamBuxtonOnDavidBowie31stMarch2013
YouTube version here but with the songs removed

The new tracks – Blackstar (the creepy video I watched on Monday morning while eating corn flakes) and Lazarus

Adam & Joe talk about Bowie and do some impressions
If you watch just one of the videos in this list, please watch this one. Adam & Joe obviously love Bowie very much, and their impressions and improvisations are a lot of fun.

255. Taken 3 / Expressions with ‘Take’

My response to the film Taken 3, plus 12 expressions with the word ‘take’. [Download]

The Film
*Spoiler alert* – I might give away some details of the story line, although I think you probably have a good idea what kind of thing you can expect. Someone did something to his family, and Liam Neeson will use his very particular set of skills to find them, he will hunt them down and he will kill them. There will be loads of high-octane action, some very questionable moral actions, and the usual offensive stereotypes of foreign people.

You should know that I’ve talked, at length, about Taken 1 already on this podcast.

Yesterday I went to the cinema and tweeted “I’m on my way to see Taken 3…” Naturally, some people wanted me to talk about it on the podcast, so here it is.

In a nutshell, this film is bad – it’s total pants, it’s piss poor, it’s lame, it’s cheesy, and frankly, it’s dull. It’s like a b-movie, but with Liam Neeson. It retains few of the redeeming qualities of the original, brings nothing new to the table and just looks like everyone involved is just doing it for the money. That’s not to say it was without enjoyment – I did enjoy it a bit, perhaps because I’d lowered my expectations before going into the cinema.

Expressions with Take
There are loads. Here are 12. Listen to the episode to hear full explanations and examples.

1. Take someone for a ride = to rip someone off
2. Take someone to the cleaners = to rip someone off, or to beat someone
3. Take something for granted = to undervalue something which is actually very valuable to you
4. Take it on the chin = to be strong and resilient in the face of criticism or adversity
5. Take it out on someone = to express your anger/frustration by being nasty or aggressive towards someone else
6. Take advantage of something = to make the most of it, to exploit it
7. Take it easy = relax
8. Overtake = to move in front of someone (e.g. in a car)
9. Take over = to take control of something (to acquire)
10. Takes one to know one = In order to know something you have to be that thing too
11. To have what it takes = to have the necessary qualities to do something
12. Give or take = approximately


Taken3PIC