Here’s another episode done in a similar style to the last one, with some news, some rambling and some questions and comments from the website. Topics in this episode will include: My live comedy show in Tokyo on 13 April, Differences between Comedy & Humour in France and the UK, Understanding TV shows and movies in English, Talking about Breaking Bad, Logan (the latest Wolverine movie), some grammar teaching and more…
19.00-22.00 Gamuso in Asagaya 2 Chome-12-5 Asagayakita, Suginami, Tokyo 166-0001, Japan
There will be a few other comedians first, doing comedy in English, then I will take the stage and do a set of stand-up comedy for you to enjoy.
FB Event page: www.facebook.com/events/396651460705556/
I’m not sure I’ll be filming or recording it because it’s stand-up and I have to be careful about what stand-up material I film and make public on YouTube.
Sorry to people in Osaka – I can’t be there this time!
London LEPster meetup
Host: MO (in LEP t-shirt) Hi Luke I am happy to say that I have finally managed to organise a time and a place. The time is Saturday the 8th of April at 1300hrs I chose this time because it is in the Easter holiday and I am assuming that most of the people are going to be on a break. The place is Costa Coffee and the address is 33-34 Rathbone Place, Fitzrovia, London W1T 1JN. It’s just off Oxford Street. The nearest station is Tottenham court road station. For any enquiries they can send me an email on email@example.com
Russian LEPsters in St Petersburg
Hi Luke! How are things, man? We have already organised the first Get Together in Saint Petersburg! It will be on 9 April. Will you help us with publicity once we announce this event? :)) The Facebook Group The Facebook Event on 9 April
Don’t forget to check the ARCHIVE for my recent interviews on ZEP and MFP
Other Comments & Questions
I write this comment just hoping to be mentioned in the next episode…….
Carine (a reference to a message in the last episode from Adam, whose family hates my podcast because Adam forces them to listen) Hello Luke, To make you feel better about being hated by Adam’s family, which you do not deserve, I want to let you know that my two 9 year old daughters like your podcast very much and they love to listen to it when we are travelling by car! Listening to your podcast is a family thing we sometimes do the 3 of us together. They particularly enjoyed episodes 425 and 426, the Victorian Detectives. They are also Paul Taylor’s fans now! Thank you for your funny podcast, Take care, Carine from La Rochelle, France.
Hello Carine from La Rochelle and her two 9 year old daughters!
I learned French in school from a book called Tricolore and it was set in La Rochelle.
All the characters, everything, happened in La Rochelle.
Danil Zelichenko Hi Luke! Thank you for you podcast! I’ve been listening to it since September 2016. It really helps me. I still make a lot of mistakes, but I feel more confident. I have a few questions 1. Have you ever listened to comedy in other languages with subtitles? What can you say about the sense of humor in different countries?
French comedy without subtitles. I don’t really understand it! I also feel like their comedy is a bit different to ours. Some differences.
Our humour is self-deprecating, theirs isn’t. French humour is quite combative and involves quite a lot of put downs. We do that too but we also put ourselves down a lot.
Ours involves a lot of understatement, theirs doesn’t.
Comedy – theirs is situational.
Theirs is very visual.
Theirs is quite traditional – it is linked to theatre traditions that go back years.
In the UK we have alternative comedy which is counter-culture and subversive (even though it’s mainstream now) whereas in France it’s still tied into the theatre tradition. 2. Do you listen to other podcasts about learning English? Maybe you can compare your one with others?
Ingles Podcast (mainly focuses on Spanish learners of English, a little slower than mine, they focus more on teaching specific language points and language related questions – I do that less these days, preferring instead to focus on topics)
All Ears English (They’re very bright and energetic, they focus on communication strategies, natural sounding language and everything is focused on learning to communicate like an American native speaker – my episodes are longer and a bit looser than theirs.) 3. I like to listen to your old episodes every now and then, but I found that in iPhone first episodes had disappeared. It starts only from 33 now. Can you do something about it?
Daniel from Moscow (I’m not ninja) :) you can notice (mention) my name if you want.
P.S. I’ve just voted for your podcast!
Ivan I’d like to listen to you Luke, speaking more about Breaking Bad.
Can’t remember who wrote this! I have a basic question to you, teacher Luke! Well… maybe most lepsters will laugh at this doubt, but I really can’t notice sometimes the difference between for example: “I did walk” versus “I walked”. I mean… when I should use did or the suffix “ed”. Maybe it’s a basic grammar issue but I hate studying grammar. Thanks!
Christopher Hi Luke, How do you do? As a start I want to say thank you for the great work you do. Besides your podcast, I also hear a lot of BBC Stuff. Most of them are political talks or documentaries. I find it very interesting to hear different opinions about a topic. But there is one thing I find really curious and I was hoping that you might be able to help me out of my confusion. In every talk show the guest addresses the host with his forename. For example: “Today we are talking with the new director of Strawberry Media, Jackie Smith. Welcome! Thanks Steve… nice to be here…” In Germany we would find this very informal and it never would happen on a political talk show. Why do you do that in GB? Best wishes to France,
Dmitry from Russia Luke, I really adore your podcasts. But I’ve got a question: When I listen to your podcasts I understand absolutely everything you say, no matter how quick you speak. But when I try to watch something that is made for natives and by natives (movies, also songs) it’s extremely difficult (or sometimes completely impossible) to get what they say. Could you, please, explain this in one of your episodes, why this happens, and also come up with some ideas how to cope with this problem. Thank you in advance. Your podcasts are amazing!!!
Familiarity with my voice.
My clear way of speaking. I try not to speak too slowly but I do make an effort to be clear. I am talking to an audience, I am doing a show. In episodes with guests you hear a slightly more natural speech pattern as I’m in a real conversation, but when I’m talking to you I am making an effort to communicate to you – just like you’d expect from someone doing a presentation. In movies they’re not talking directly to you like that.
Films feature people talking to each other – not talking to you. THere’s a difference. It’s easier to understand it when the person is engaging you directly, rather than you listening to other people’s conversations.
It’s just me, so no distracting stuff, no interruptions, no sounds etc.
Films contain loads of sound effects, music and background noise.
It’s recorded to be listened to and for every word to be understood. Movies are not always supposed to be understood completely.
Films are realistic. The dialogue is not always audible – many films feature “naturalistic dialogue” – i.e. incomplete sentences mumbled under the breath. This is a totally intentional stylistic choice. It’s supposed to be natural and realistic.
Films are confusing. They often don’t make sense. My episodes have a pretty linear structure.
My podcast is recorded to be heard – i.e. I use microphones for clear voices. I reduce background noises. Movies aren’t like that. They add noise, they record voices to be blended with the rest of the soundscape.
Movies are a visual medium – so much of the message is in the visuals. The audio is an accompaniment to that, so it has secondary importance. Also, you get distracted by the visuals and you end up not concentrating on the audio. You could try just listening to some movies. This sounds a bit strange but try getting the audio from a movie and simply listen to it. Then watch the movie – you might find you understand more of the dialogue that way, because you’re allowing yourself to focus only on the speech.
Most films are in US English. I speak British English, although there aren’t that many differences really.
Movies also feature lots of different accents and characters who might speak in ways you’re not familiar with.
Songs don’t always make sense. There’s a lot of artistic licence. I often can’t catch the lyrics of songs (check out my misheard lyrics episodes). The English isn’t normal English.
Sometimes they’re just a stream of consciousness with no proper discourse like in spoken English.
Watch more movies! Familiarity is important. Getting used to it.
It’s just a question of continuing to improve your English.
Subtitles sometimes, then no subtitles, then subtitles again.
Don’t worry about it too much. Sometimes I can’t catch the things they’re saying in movies either. Realise that there are times when you won’t understand. Realise that movies are hard to understand, and so don’t be shocked when you don’t understand them. Often they’re mysterious or simply don’t make sense. I often struggle. Don’t worry about it too much.
Try using headphones so you can hear more clearly.
Specific techniques: Practice shadowing specific scenes first without subtitles, then with, then without again. Do this with favourite scenes from films. I do it a lot too and it can be really fun. It will help train yourself to hear and understand movie dialogues more easily.
Hi Luke! I really like those episodes you talked about superheroes. Could you do an episode about the movie, “Logan”, please? I would love to hear your thoughts! Thank you soooo much! Best regards, Jane
In this episode I’m joined by Paul Taylor and Robert Hoehn and we do a speaking exercise that I often use in my classes to help my students to practise using different grammatical structures in their speaking. I thought it would be interesting to record some native speakers doing the exercise too, so that’s what you’ll hear in this episode, as well as various little anecdotes, a few jokes and general chat. The conversation contains swearing and a few humourous comments which shouldn’t be taken too seriously.
Today I’m joined by a couple of guests. First of all I have Paul Taylor with me, fresh from an appearance on French TV.
And also, Robert Hoehn is back on the podcast.
Last time Rob was on was in episode 143, in which we hung out together in Rob’s kitchen, we made some tea cocktails and then Rob offended everyone with some obnoxious comments about American foreign policy.
Since then I have never invited Rob back onto the podcast.
I thought it was time to bring him back on since his name has been mentioned a few times recently.
First of all, we have to deal with the fallout from his last appearance (which actually wasn’t that bad) before going on to talk about some other stuff.
How Rob offended everyone last time (well, not everyone…)
Last time Rob said some comments which were not supposed to be taken seriously. Just some stuff about America bombing other countries.
He hasn’t been on the podcast since. (except for a brief appearance during one of the Star Wars episodes, and a telephone call to Paul once)
So I think we need to deal with that and perhaps roast Rob a bit before moving on. Once he’s been roasted, his name will be cleared and his debt to my audience will have been paid.
Jokes from Rob’s roast
A roast is something that American comedians do. It usually happens on someone’s birthday. All the comedians take turns to insult the roastee. It gets pretty harsh and insulting, but that’s the whole point and everyone gets roasted. You’re not supposed to get offended. It’s a tradition.
Here’s what I said during Rob’s roast.
Hanging out with Rob is a profound experience. After you spend time with him you might have a crisis of religious faith. Not because he has persuasive arguments against the existence of god, but because if god does exist that means he has created everything, including Rob – and the question is “Why?” “Why would he bother?” “Why would an intelligent creator choose to invent Rob Hoehn? what would be the point?” It’s impossible. It wouldn’t have happened. So, Rob’s existence is basically proof that we are alone in the universe. No intelligent designer would have decided to create Rob, so there is no god and this is all the result of random chance.
But it’s exciting hanging around with Rob.
I imagine it’s a bit like spending time in the company of a great ape, like an orangutan.
It’s exciting, because you never quite know what he’s going to do next, and it’s fun to speculate on just how intelligent he really is. Whenever he manages to do something, like communicate a complex message it’s always very exciting, “Ooh! he asked for a banana! Ooh he offended everyone! Amazing!” but there’s always a fear that he’s going to get confused and start throwing things around or pull someone’s arms out of their sockets.
Rob of course is American. He’s from Minnesota in the mid-west of the USA, and he’s a great ambassador for the USA because he basically embodies all of the values that we associate with the united states. Basically I’m saying that he’s fat and ignorant.
I invited Rob onto the podcast a few years ago. I thought it would be a good idea. I’d now like to read a selection of comments that I got in response to that episode.
The first one is a message from a regular commenter, someone who regularly commented on every episode I uploaded.
“Hello Luke, as you know we all love your podcasts because they’re authentic and full of life…”
“However, this American was utterly arrogant and full of himself. I’ve never heard such a smart alec person in my whole life, I feel like jumping off a bridge.”
I never heard from that person ever again. Never left a comment ever again. He disappeared. I don’t know what happened to him.
Here’s another one.
“Hello Luke. I’m afraid…”
That’s not a good start.
“Hello Luke. I’m afraid I am completely disgusted by Robert. At 42mins50seconds…”
So this person continued to listen, despite being completely disgusted.
“At 42mins50seconds, on the subject of American attitudes to other countries, he said ‘The truth of the matter is that we just do not fucking care. We do not care at all what anyone thinks, because we Americans know that we can completely dominate everyone and if someone pisses us off too much – BOOM! Smart bomb.”
I’m actually quite proud of these comments because I don’t know if you noticed but they are very well written. In fact, I have used Rob’s comments a few times in class because they are very motivating. The students can’t wait to give all kinds of angry and abusive responses to what he said. They just keep producing more and more English in response to his statements. So thanks Rob you have definitely helped to improve the motivation and productivity of my listeners.
Rob originally moved to France to train to become a clown, which wasn’t necessary, let’s be honest. He wanted to become a clown because he was so inspired by his hero Ronald McDonald.
So there we are Rob – all is forgiven. You’re back to square one again. Welcome back to the podcast.
Have you ever…?
This is a conversation generator that I use in class. I usually use it in fairly low level classes in which they’re just learning to use structures like:
present perfect for life experiences – “Have you ever ridden a Segway?” “Yes, I have / No, I haven’t”
Questions in past simple tense – “When did you ride it?” “How was it?” “Did you enjoy it?”
‘would like + infinitive / wouldn’t like + infinitive’ – “Would you like to ride a Segway?” “Yes, I would / No, I wouldn’t”
Have you ever…?
seen a ufo
eaten an insect
flown in a helicopter
done a jump in a car
made a complete fool of yourself in public
killed an animal by mistake
had a public argument or fight
gone scuba diving
slept outside (not camping)
met a famous person
Tell us about them in the comment section. Have a good day, evening, morning, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon. Bye.
Paul’s TV Show
Paul is currently having a lot of success on French TV (and on YouTube) with his series of mini TV shows in which he makes fun of French culture. The show is also produced with the help of Rob Hoehn, and Amber and I have writing credits on some episodes. Check out a couple of recent episodes below.
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!
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.
a little, a bit, slightly, fairly, rather
very, extremely, immensely, intensely, hugely
Extreme Adjective (absolutely, completely)
awful, terrible, horrible
huge, gigantic, massive, enormous
wonderful, fantastic, excellent
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.
This episode of the podcast is all about telling anecdotes in English. Anecdotes are little stories about our experiences that we share while socialising. It’s important to have a few anecdotes of your own and to know how to tell them properly. In this episode I’m going to give you some advice for how to tell an anecdote and then you’re going to listen to some true anecdotes told by members of my family that I recorded yesterday evening during dinner.
This episode is sponsored by italki. Speaking practice is very important in developing natural, fluent English and this is now really easy to achieve because with italki you can find plenty of native speakers and teachers to talk to, you can set your own schedule and you don’t even need to leave the house – you can do all of it from your own home. If you want to practise telling your anecdotes, do it in conversation on italki. They have lots of friendly and experienced teachers who are ready to help you to learn English your way. Go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk to get started and to get a voucher worth 100ITC when you get some lessons. OK, let’s get started!
I’m at my parents’ house for a few days. My brother and I are just taking a couple of days off and spending some time here doing the usual things like enjoying the fresh air, talking to my parents and taking advantage of our mum’s cooking.
Yesterday evening we were eating dessert at the end of dinner and we started talking about anecdotes. I think I asked everyone, “Do you have any anecdotes?” I asked them to think of an anecdote they’d told before. We were about to start when I realised that it might be a good idea to record the talking, so I quickly got my audio recorder and then recorded them telling those anecdotes. Each one is about 5 minutes long.
Before we just listen to their little stories, let’s consider anecdotes and how important they are in English.
The Collins Online Dictionary defines an anecdote as a short, usually amusing account of an incident, especially a personal or biographical one.
So, essentially anecdotes are little true stories about ourselves. We are usually the protagonists in our anecdotes, and they’re usually told in informal social situations. Sometimes there are moments in our social interactions when we just start sharing little stories about things that have happened to us in our lives. This might happen at a dinner, or when you’re generally spending some extended time with other people. Anecdotes are a really common part of the way we socialise in English. They allow us to entertain the people around us, while letting them know a bit more about us.
Both of those things are vital in my opinion. If you’re trying to build a relationship with people it’s important to both entertain them and also share some personal information with them. Entertaining the people around you is important because it just makes them feel good. If you can make people feel good, they’re much more likely to trust you, to give something to you in return and also, it’s just good to entertain people around you. It’s just fun and enjoyable to hear about people’s experiences. Also, giving away some personal information is a good way of encouraging other people to do the same thing. That’s how you build trust. For building a relationship you can do two things: ask questions and be prepared to give away details about yourself. Anecdotes help you achieve the second one in a fun way.
So, how do you tell an anecdote in English?
Tips for Telling Anecdotes
Find the right moment. Usually they take place in informal anecdote sharing sessions. Don’t just jam your story into a conversation. It should add something to the subject of the conversation. E.g. you might be sharing travelling stories, or stories about weird people you’ve met, or university stories, or dangerous experiences. That’s when it’s appropriate to add your story too. Maybe you’re talking about a particular subject and your anecdote will add something to that conversation. E.g. you might be talking about the difficulty of finding accommodation in your town, and you could tell the story of the crazy landlord you used to have. Perhaps someone has just told a story, and you’ve got one that relates to it too. All of those are good moments to introduce your anecdote. Only tell your story if it relates to the conversation you’re already having.
Keep it short! Don’t get stuck in the details too much. Focus on the impact of the story. What emotion are you attempting to elicit in people? What is the feeling you’re trying to get across? Is it frustration, fear, danger, humour? Focus on communicating a feeling and try not to let the details get in the way. You need to communicate that feeling by explaining the right events. The best anecdotes allow the listeners to discover the same feelings as you did when you felt them, so describe the events and aspects of the situation that made you feel that way. Don’t get caught up in the details. Keep it pretty short and simple. Say the word “anyway” when you get stuck in the details and want to move on to the main stuff.
Use the right narrative tenses. Usually we tell anecdotes in the past. That means you’ll be using past simple, past continuous and past perfect. Here’s a really quick and simple explanation of how you use those tenses. Past simple – this is the tense you use to explain the main actions in the principle part of the story. E.g. I saw a spaceship, I stopped my car, the spaceship flew above me, all the objects in my car started floating, I saw a bright flash of light, then I woke up lying down in the forest with a pain in my backside.” Past simple is usually used for short actions that happen one after the other. Past continuous – we use this to explain the situation at the time the main events happened. It’s for context. It sets the scene. E.g. “I was driving in my car through the countryside late one night when I saw something strange”. Also, it’s for moment by moment action, and it’s when two things happen at the same time. Past continuous is for the longer action of the two. The action starts, is interrupted by a shorter past simple action, and then may or may not continue. E.g. “I was trying to remember where I was when these guys in black suits turned up and started asking me questions.” Past perfect – this is for giving back story. Use past perfect to talk about events that happened before the main events of the story. E.g. I told the guys that I’d just been camping in the forest and that I’d got up in the night to go to the toilet and I’d lost my tent, and that’s why I was sleeping outside like that. I told them I hadn’t seen any aliens or anything like that.” Past perfect is a difficult one to notice when listening. The “had” is often contracted and can be impossible to hear. It’s possible to identify past perfect because of the use of past participles, e.g. “I’d seen it before” and “I saw it before” but when regular verbs are used it can be almost invisible. Compare “I’d finished” and “I finished”. They sound very similar. Sometimes ‘had’ is not completely contracted but pronounced using a weak form, like ‘/həd/’ e.g. “He had been there before”. It might also be part of a continuous form, like “He had been talking to someone else”.
So, there are the narrative tenses – past simple, past continuous, past perfect. Past simple is the most common one – you could probably just tell the story with that one on its own, but adding the other two will give your stories more depth and range. Think about how you use these three tenses when describing events in the past.
Tell us how you felt. That’s pretty simple. Just give us some emotional content.
Use direct speech. Don’t worry about using reported speech, just use direct quotes. E.g. “He said “What are you doing here?” and I said “I’m just camping!” and they both said “Where’s your tent?” and I said “It got stolen in the night, or I lost it, I can’t remember”. I don’t think they believed me but they told me to be careful and to go home.
Introduce your story with a quick sentence, like “I got abducted by aliens once” or “I saw a weird thing once” or “That sounds like something that happened to me once”. That’s generally a sign that you’ve got a little story to tell. However, if people aren’t really listening, don’t worry about it, this might not be the moment for your story.
When someone has just told a little story, ask a few questions or respond to it in some way. Show some appreciation of the anecdote – like, “Oh my god I can’t believe that!” or “Wow, I can’t believe that you got abducted by aliens!”
Try to make it quite entertaining! If the story doesn’t have much entertainment value, keep it extra short. You can exaggerate the story a bit, but don’t lie, that’s just deceptive. For example, don’t just make up a clearly fictional story about being abducted by aliens. Obviously, it should be very much ‘based on a true story’. Repeating anecdotes a few times is quite common. In fact, people carry anecdotes with them through their lives and repeat them again and again. You probably have a few experiences that you’ve described a few times – they’re your anecdotes. Try converting them into English, and it’s ok to practise those anecdotes a few times because you’re learning the language. Think about experiences you’ve had in your life – how would you describe them fairly quickly in conversation, focusing on the main events and how they made you feel at the time?
Show us when the story is finished. Typically we might say “That’s what happened.” or “And that’s it” or even “That’s my alien abduction story.” It’s nice if your anecdote can end with a funny line or a punchline, but that’s difficult. It might also be good to say what you learned from your experience.
Now, let’s hear my family’s anecdotes shall we? (yes)
By coincidence, all these anecdotes relate to meeting strange people and most of them involve some element of danger (in the case of the boys’ stories) or embarrassment in my Mum’s story.
Imagine you’re at the dinner table with my Mum, Dad and brother. As you listen, think about the things I’ve just mentioned, and try to notice them. You could listen to this episode a few times. Try to notice different things I mentioned about telling anecdotes. Which anecdote do you think is the best? Why is it a good one?
Here are some key points to watch out for.
Narrative tenses used – in particular, can you hear when past perfect is used? It’s only used in 3 out of the 4 stories. Watch out for past continuous to set the scene. Is that one used in every story?
When someone says “anyway” in order to avoid getting caught in the details
What is the main feeling that the person is trying to communicate? Is it danger, embarrassment, weirdness?
How does the anecdote end?
Any new vocabulary?
I’ll let you listen to the anecdotes, and then I’ll deal with some vocabulary and make any other points afterwards.
Mum’s Anecdote – Meeting the King of Tonga
(Tonga is a Polynesian kingdom of more than 170 islands, many uninhabited)
*some past perfect is used to explain what the king had been doing before mum arrived
It’s going to fall very flat = it’s going to fail to have the intended effect. E.g. if a joke falls flat, it doesn’t make anyone laugh. If a story falls flat, it is not impressive or amusing.
It’s been built up too much = We say this when people’s expectations have been raised. To ‘build something up’ means to raise people’s expectations of something. You’d say this before telling a joke if you feel like everyone’s expectations have been raised. E.g. “What’s this Russian joke? I’ve heard you talking about it a lot, so it must be amazing.” “Well, it’s been built up too much now, it’s just going to fall flat.” or “Have you seen the new Spielberg film Bridge of Spies, oh my god it is amazing!” “Don’t build it up too much!”
I was nothing to do with it = if you have nothing to do with something it means you are not involved or connected to anything at all. E.g. “Mr Thompson, I want to talk to you about the bank robbery that occurred in the town centre last year.” “Bank robbery? I had nothing to do with it officer, I promise!” or simply “There was a royal visit happening, but I had nothing to do with it. I was just there to pick up my husband.”
I was just a hanger-on = a hanger-on is someone who just hangs on. This is someone who is nothing to do with what’s happening but they just hang around. E.g. musicians often have hangers on. These are people that hang around the band even though they’re not contributing to the show at all. They’re just hanging on because it’s cool or fun to be with the band.
I was skulking in the corner = to skulk means to kind of hide or keep out of sight, often in a slightly cowardly way.
He beckoned to me = to beckon to someone is to wave someone over to you with your hand. It’s to do a motion with your hand which encourages someone to come to talk to you.
He was eyeing her up = this means to look at someone because you fancy them – to look at someone with sexual interest. E.g. the king of Tonga was eyeing up my Mum all evening.
James’ Anecdote – Hastings Story
a skate park = a place designed for skateboarding
the ramp’s in the church = a ramp is a thing for skateboarding on. It has sloped sides so skaters can go up and down on it
a hog on a spit = a hog is a pig, and a spit is a stick that goes through the pig, suspending it above a fire
we had too good a time = we had a good time – but if you want to add ‘too’ you need to say “we had too good a time” not “we had a too good time” – this works with the structure in general. “It was too big a pizza for me to eat” or “It was too long a journey to make at that time of night”
I was too drunk – not in a lairy way = to be lairy means to be aggressive and anti-social. It happens when some people get drunk. They get lairy.
I’m bigger than him, I can take him = to ‘take’ someone means beat them in a fight
We crashed out = to crash out means to fall asleep, usually quickly and often in a place where you don’t usually sleep.
He was coming round = to come round here means to wake up, or come back to consciousness
I didn’t get interfered with = to interfere with someone could mean to touch them in a sexual manner
*just past simple
Dad’s Anecdote – Hitchhiking in Italy
*all the narrative tenses used
We got a few good lifts = a lift is when someone takes you somewhere in a car. E.g. “Could you give me a lift to the station?”
This car pulled up = this is when a car stops by the side of the road (also – pull over)
He was a slightly dodgy character = dodgy means untrustworthy or suspicious
The car broke down = stopped working
They turned on him and said “What are you doing?” = to turn on someone (not turn someone on) means to suddenly start criticising or attacking someone. In this case, there were curious neighbours listening to the argument and after a while they turned on the guy – they decided that he was wrong and they started criticising him
I managed to jump in and grab the keys from the ignition = to manage to do something (this is an important verb structure) – also ‘the ignition’ is the part where you put the keys in order to start the car, e.g. “You left the keys in the ignition”
I dangled the keys over a grating / a drain = to dangle something over something is to hold something in the air so that it swings from side to side slightly. E.g. We sat on the edge of the bride with our legs dangling in the air.
Luke’s Anecdote – Liverpool Story
*Includes quite a long passage with past perfect when I described what had happened to the man before he arrived at our front door.
There was some sort of commotion going on in the hallway = a commotion means a period of noise, confusion or excitement
He ran through all the alleyways = alleyways are passages between or behind houses
Hello, welcome back to the podcast. This is part 3 in what could turn out to be quite a long series about my recent trip around California. Normally I tend to focus on British things in this podcast but every now and then I go travelling somewhere and report back on what happened. This time I went to California on my honeymoon. The itinerary for the trip was to fly to LA, then drive to Yosemite National Park, then across to San Francisco, then down the coast back to LA and then home again. In this series I’m telling you about the trip, but also I’m branching out in order to ramble on about the history and culture of California and some of the differences between British and American English, as well as some other subjects.
At this point in the series I’m still just a few days into the holiday, and there’s plenty more stuff to cover. In this episode I’m hoping to talk about Venice Beach, Baywatch, Segways, the grammar of telling stories and anecdotes in English, some facts about the Hollywood sign, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, British and American English vocabulary related to driving, the dark side of Hollywood and celebrity culture, and an analysis of the lyrics to the song “Hotel California” by The Eagles. That’s a lot of subjects to cover, so I’d better get started right away!
Saturday 8 August
Drove to Venice Beach which is just along from the world famous Baywatch Beach (Santa Monica beach).
Long Boardwalk with lots of shops, cafes and bars.
People performing and busking.
Bikes and segways.
The Segway – the most stupid invention of all time?
What we need is some way of propelling us forwards at just a few miles per hour (you mean like walking speed?), but with the ability to go slightly faster (what, like running speed?) facing forwards so we can see where we’re going, with our hands free so we can hold coffee or mobile phones. How on earth can we do it? (How about our legs sir? We could just walk, jog or run.) Don’t be ridiculous!
And the Segway was born – bringing human laziness to new levels. And you thought escalators and moving walkways were bad enough, now the Segway. It’s very hard to look cool or even dignified on one of these things. I imagine there are some people who cruise around on a Segway all day and then go to the gym to run on a treadmill in order to stay fit. Something doesn’t make sense here. OK, so it doesn’t produce harmful emissions, but neither do your legs. Sure, a person can fart – that’s an emission, but you can still fart on a Segway so it’s the same. Maybe it’s for people with mobility issues, but it seems that in order to use a segway you need the full use of your legs in order to stand on it the whole time, and balance properly. Well, I’m sure it must be useful for something – like maybe doing specific jobs, but it seems a bit silly to use one when you can just use your legs to do exactly the same job. It seems like reinventing the wheel to me. (This is a phrase which means doing something unnecessary – like working hard to do something which is already done by something else)
“Introducing a new innovation in green personal transport – legs!”
Went to the beach or sunbathing. Really huge beach covered in pristine bleached sand.
Swam in the sea. Big waves.
There are lifeguards, exactly like in Baywatch but somehow I expected (or hoped) that it would be more like Baywatch there.
Baywatch: A show which I think was ‘single handedly’ responsible for bringing a whole generation of boys into puberty – no pun intended.
But it was pretty normal, compared to the TV show. I mean, the people looked pretty normal. It wasn’t just hundreds of David Hasselhoffs and Pamela Andersons everywhere, except for me and my wife of course.
Shopping in the huge outlet mall. The place looked like Bowser’s castle from Super Mario Bros. Totally fake modern place that was vaguely like a castle and a huge castle courtyard.
Bargains on jeans. 4 items for the price of one pair of jeans back home.
Seemed incredibly luxurious. Big marble toilets with acres of space.
Yamashiro restaurant in the evening for a romantic candlelit dinner with a stunning view of the city. The restaurant was amazing, with Japanese gardens in the middle and lots of sliding doors – like the scenes from Kill Bill.
Amazing views of the city.
STOP! Grammar Time – A Note on the Tenses Used in this Episode
Usually when you’re describing what happened in the past you use past tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) and so on. So far I’ve been using past tenses in this series of episodes when talking about what we did, but as I’m now reading from the notes I made during the trip, I’ve noticed that I wrote it all in present tenses and it feels tempting to slip into the present tense while reading it. Why? This sometimes happens when we tell stories that we want to make engaging, captivating and in-the-moment. Past tenses accurately report past events, but past tenses can be quite remote. They place the action in a finished time period. When people tell long stories, they sometimes slip into present tenses in order to avoid this remoteness, and make the action and events seem more real and captivating.
Also, using present tenses to tell stories and anecdotes is more common in spoken English. In written English it can be frowned upon (some people don’t like it) but the main thing when writing is that you stick to one perspective (either past tenses or present tenses, throughout). For example, a person at a dinner party might begin telling a story about their holiday using past tenses but then might subconsciously switch to present tenses to make the events more immediate, and that’s considered ok. But if a novelist writes a story and some of it is in past tenses, and other bits are in present tenses, it’s usually considered to be sloppy writing unless it is obviously a stylistic choice. What I’m saying is: you might notice some moments where my tenses move from past tenses to present tenses and this is more acceptable in spoken English than in written English. As my podcast is presented to you as primarily a form of natural spoken English, that should account for this.
Past tense version: So we were sitting in the Japanese restaurant and eating sushi, having a lovely romantic evening, when suddenly loads of ninjas dropped down from the ceiling but I wasn’t worried because I’d spent 3 months in the mountains learning the ways of Chinese kung-fu and so I dealt with them all, and went back to the sushi.
Present tense version: So there we are eating our sushi, having a lovely romantic evening when suddenly loads of ninjas drop down from the ceiling but I’m not worried because I’ve spent 3 months in the mountains learning the ways of Chinese kung-fu, so I deal with them all and then go back to the sushi. (The present tense version is more immediate, and more common in spoken English, although it might sound a bit colloquial).
Slipping into present tenses when telling a story is usually a subconscious thing, rather than a planned thing. I think people just end up using present tenses when they’re recounting events as they actually happened. So, let’s see if it happens to me while I continue to tell you this story.
Another point: This habit of slipping into present tenses that I’m talking about… This doesn’t mean that you don’t need to use past tenses. It’s not a loophole which you can use to avoid making sentences with complex past tenses. This is not a way for you to completely avoid having to deal with irregular verbs and past participles and auxiliary verb conjugations and things. No. If you get a grammar test at school about narrative tenses and you use present tenses, you can’t justify it by saying “But sir I was just using present tenses to make the story more immediate!” Sorry, it doesn’t work like that. You still need to master past tenses before you can abandon them in certain cases. You need to know the rules before you can break them. You need to have full control of the language in order to make these subconscious shifts in tone. So, keep studying those past tenses, practising and being mindful of how you’re using them. If you want to listen to a podcast episode about using past tenses (simple, continuous & perfect) to tell stories, check out episode 29 which is called “Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses”. It’s one of the most commonly listened-to episodes of my podcast. It’s got a short story featuring The Doctor from Dr Who, and a full explanation of how to use narrative tenses properly, pronunciation drills and everything. Click here to check it out: www.teacherluke.co.uk/2009/11/12/mystery-story-narrative-tenses/
So, you can study the tenses directly. Alternatively, don’t worry about it too much and just let the words wash over you and focus on the general meaning of what I’m saying to you, and imagine yourself there and just focus on the meaningful content – the more natural and contextualised English you hear the better it is for your acquisition of grammar at an almost subconscious level, creating that sense of instinct for what is correct or incorrect usage.
Anyway, on with the story…
Sunday 9 August
Breakfast and then took a drive up into the hills for a trek. (Am I using present or past tenses? I’ve become self-conscious now, so I’ll probably stick to past tenses, but I’m sure that if I get carried away with the story I’ll end up using present tenses… we’ll see)
The whole time in LA I felt very bizarre deja vu. This was of course because of the films and movies I’d seen, but more specifically because of Grand Theft Auto 5, which is very accurately modelled on LA, down to lots of small details. I felt exactly like I was in GTA5 a lot of the time. It’s an amazing game.
Stopped off at a pharmacy on the way. Vast.
I think you get the idea – everything in the US is big. Big cars, big buildings, big beds, big meals, big people. Although we didn’t see many of these huge, fat Americans that we all hear about. I think that’s because in California people are generally a lot healthier. Still, people in general are larger than in the UK.
Park the car and begin a trek into the hills around the back of the Hollywood sign.
Very dry. In fact the whole state is on high alert for forest fires. There are fires burning in various parts of the state all the time. California has been experiencing a severe drought for years. In LA they redirect water from hundreds of miles away in the Colorado River Basin. The water then gets used by rich people in Beverley Hills to spray in their gardens to keep their lawns green. Again, pretty crazy right? Welcome to Los Angeles.
L.A. is a city with a little mountain range running through the middle of it (Ok they’re hills not mountains) and if you like hiking a bit then it’s worth going up these hills.
We do get amazing views of the city sprawling away on both sides.
Arranged in lines.
Mild hike behind the sign and then down the right hand side.
Views of the sign.
Here are a few quick facts about the Hollywood sign:
– The sign is about 45 feet high and was originally built in 1923 when it was originally put up as an advertisement for a huge real estate company selling top quality real estate in Hollywood. The company was called Hollywoodland. In fact the sign used to say Hollwyoodland, but the ‘land’ part was removed and the sign became an icon of the region of Hollywood, and everything that represents – glamour, movies, fame etc.
– In 1932 a young actress called Peg Entwhistle committed suicide by climbing up the sign and jumping from the letter ‘H’, falling to her death. Apparently she was depressed because she couldn’t make it as an actress in Hollywood. Ironically, her death made her quite famous.
– The sign used to be covered in lightbulbs, which must have looked pretty cool when it was turned on, but the bulbs didn’t last long as they were too expensive.
– The sign was repaired lots of times and almost completely rebuilt in the 40s, but in 1978 it was in such bad condition after the O fell off and tumbled down the hill and also some arsonists set fire to one of the letter Ls. The city decided to repair it and it cost over $250,000 to do that. Who came up with most of the money? Hollywood’s celebrity class. In fact PLayboy owner Hugh Hefner organised a big party at the Playboy Mansion in order to provide the money. Rock star Alice Cooper also provided money to help repair the letter O.
– It was replaced in 1978 and while the work was being done there was no sign there for 3 months.
– The sign is owned and protected by the city of L.A. and there’s quite an advanced security system which monitors the sign 24 hours a day.
In fact you can’t actually get that close to it. There’s a big fence surrounding it, and a big telegraph aerial. You can get around the back, like we did, but you can only really see the letters “HO”. But when you hike around to the front you can see it pretty well, and it looks cool. Again, it’s amazing to actually see something that you’ve seen so many times on television. But it’s not just the power of TV. It is a great location, with some attractive landscape and a really good view of the city below.
We ended up quite far from the car and got lost in the winding streets under the sign. Lots of properties nestled in to the hills. Attractive places and no doubt expensive but not as expensive as other places like Bel Air etx.
No phone reception so kept walking.
Then uber back to the car.
Life in LA is life in a car.
You never drive above about 60mph. I wonder why there are so many powerful sportscars. You never drive over about 50-60 mph. Sums up the place a lot. It’s more about show and image than about practical living – for some people. In fact there are plenty of ordinary people living in LA, who drive ordinary cars, and who do all the ordinary business of life. There also happen to be plenty of rich movie industry people here too, rock stars, and their children. In fact, one of those rock stars is Anthony Keidis from The Red Hot Chili Peppers. He used to live in the Hollywood Hills, and he sang about them too. In fact, I’d now like to recommend another audiobook download for you. So, here’s some more promotion for Audible – that company that provides loads of audiobooks, and they’re giving you the chance to sample their service for 30 days and that includes a free download of any book you like. Here’s another California related book you could get…
Audiobook Download Suggestions
“Scar Tissue” by Anthony Keidis
This is the autobiography of the lead singer of The Red Hot Chili Peppers. The Chili Peppers have an amazing story. They’re from L.A. originally, they’ve been going for about 3 decades, they’ve been through numerous guitarists, ups, downs, deaths and near deaths, epic highs and devastating lows, and yet they’re still going. Anthony himself was a heroin and cocaine addict during much of his career and in this book he tells his own very personal story of growing up in Los Angeles and his experiences of living with his Dad who was basically a drug dealer to the rich and famous. He talks about struggling for years with his experimental band the Chili Peppers – doing intense live performances, sometimes naked on stage, developing their funk-rock sound which ultimately catapulted them onto the world’s stage. You can hear exactly what was like and listen to descriptions of all the complicated things that went along with that stardom. It’s a powerful story, full of sex, drugs and rock and roll but also a genuinely moving and candid account of Anthony’s success, strengths, weaknesses, friendship, personal hardship, the music business, his addiction and his eventual recovery from addiction. The book is an international bestseller and you can download the audiobook version from Audible. Get it free by going to www.audibletrial.com/teacherluke, or click one of the Audible buttons on my website.
American & British English (Part 1) Vocabulary Related to Cars & Driving
*A note on British and American English*
As you are well aware, there are, broadly speaking, two types of English – American English, and good English, I mean British English. (Just joking – I’m not one of those Brits who has a problem with American English) There are other types of English too of course, like English in Australia, South Africa, Ireland, India and so on.
Can Brits and Americans understand each other? Yes, they can – except for some slight misunderstandings sometimes, there’s no problem in understanding each other.
Really the differences are in the accents, vocabulary, spelling, some grammar and the culture or communication style.
There are definitely some differences in vocabulary. Sometimes these cause misunderstandings. E.g. I said “Are you in the queue? ” and the woman just looked at me. Then I worked out the problem and sad “Are you in line?” and bob’s your uncle. The vast majority of the words we use are the same, but there are differences that are worth knowing. These differences may be more obvious when talking about different systems (e.g. our political and legal systems are a bit different so we’ve developed different terms to talk about them) but in general English there is a relatively small group of key words that are different and it’s worth knowing them all. I’m going to go through a lot of those words with you in this series of episodes.
In terms of culture, although we speak the same language, we don’t necessarily think in the same way and this can cause some problems in communication. For example, Brits tend to be more indirect in their use of language as a way of being polite, diplomatic, tactful etc. It can seem to be a more complicated message, but we see it as being more respectful and considerate. We don’t want to seem bossy or aggressive, but the Americans might take it as weak, unclear and even unsincere (not just the Americans) E.g. “I was wondering if you could…” or “I think there might be an issue…” instead of “Could you…?” or “There’s a problem”. I’m not saying all Americans are direct all the time, but in my experience I think there is truth in what I’m saying. If you want more evidence, read this article written by a Brit who’s done a lot of business communication in America www.forbes.com/sites/sungardas/2014/08/14/lost-in-translation-overcoming-the-language-barrier-as-a-brit-in-america/ So, there is a bit of a difference in communication style and culture, despite the fact that we speak the same language. The old saying goes “Britain and America are two nations separated by a common language” (which I think was said originally by George Bernard Shaw, an Irish playwright and one of the founders of the LSE – not the London School of English, but the London School of Economics).
Accent or dialect can cause problems, particularly stronger regional accents. To be honest I think this is more of a problem for Americans understanding Brits (and other forms of English like Australians, South Africans, Irish etc) I think the average Brit would probably understand most American dialects and accents, but the average American might have trouble with some local British dialects. For example, in the USA they often require subtitles on TV when someone with a strong non-American accent is speaking (e.g. a local Brit from Liverpool, Glasgow or Newcastle). I’ve seen interviews on US television with actor Colin Farrell that had subtitles to help the Americans to understand what he was saying. He’s Irish and has a fairly strong accent, but it’s not extraordinarily difficult to understand in my opinion but apparently it was necessary to provide subtitles for the American viewers, even though he was speaking English. However, I doubt that a UK audience would need subtitles for an American, even if they have a strong accent from pretty much anywhere in the country. I think this is because in the UK we are exposed to lots of American English from TV and films – even the really colloquial stuff, but British English is comparatively less known in the USA due to lack of exposure.
The Brits and Americans do spell some words differently as I’m sure you’re aware (famous differences are things like colour/color and theatre/theater) and there are some differences in grammatical usage, but that’s less obvious and as a result less problematic.
Anyway, the point is – there are differences between British and American English but the vast majority of the time we can understand each other without any problems at all. If you’re wondering what kind of English you should learn (which you’re probably not wondering to be honest, because if you’re listening to this then you’ve probably decided that you like British English, and you’re right of course – you are wise wise people indeed) But seriously, you can choose to learn British or American English, or a bit of both. In fact, I personally think it’s ok to mix it up a bit as long as people understand what you’re saying.
For your learning of English, I’d say the main things are that you’re able to identify the difference between a British and American accent, and that you know the main differences in vocabulary. For more information about the differences between UK and USA pronunciation, listen to a previous episode I did on this subject – Episode 14 “British and American Pronunciation” teacherluke.co.uk/2009/10/19/episode-10-british-and-american-pronunciation/.
The subject of British and American English is really interesting and very relevant so I’d love to come back to it in the future but for now, here are some different British and American words. I’ve chosen ones that are related to driving.
Let’s see how many you know. I’ll define the word first – try to guess it. Did you come up with the British or American version, or both? Let’s see…
British Word – American Word
Petrol – Gas (gasoline)
Petrol/fuel tank – gas tank
Caravan – Trailer
Lorry – Truck
Junction – Intersection
Tyre – Tire
High street – Main street
Windscreen – Windshield
Motorway – Freeway/Highway
Number plate – License plate
Bonnet – Hood
Pavement – Sidewalk
Boot – Trunk
This is the third and final episode in this series on jokes. In this one we’re going to consider the psychology of puns, hear an old tape recording of my brother and me telling jokes when we were children, and you’ll also get lots more gags and their explanations.
[DOWNLOAD] [PART 1] [PART 2] The Psychology of Puns Why do we tell jokes? Is it all just fun, or is there something deeper and more psychological going on here? Let’s listen to a clip.
This is a clip from Tim Vine’s DVD ‘So I Said To This Bloke’ about the psychology of puns. Tim Vine (winner of the joke of the year) talks to a psychologist called Ingrid Collins about why we like puns.
1. Why do we tell puns? (two reasons)
2. What’s the condition she mentioned?
3. Why did the audience laugh a couple of times?
1. For two reasons. One is for the sheer joy of surprise, silliness and the joy of showing up our language in all its light and shade. Secondly, people use puns because they want to avoid talking about more serious things – emotional issues, fear of intimacy etc.
2. The condition is called paronomasia and a person who suffers from this is a paronomasiac.
3. The audience laughs a couple of times because, of course, Tim Vine makes a couple of jokes. The first one is a joke about the word paronomasiac. Para (like parachute) mosaic (a pattern) – he says; “A paronomsiac – as opposed to someone who like parachutes and strange patterns, a paranomosaic.” This is a made up word, and a pun which he came up with on the spot. The psychologist is not impressed, and just says “yes” – in fact we sense that the psychologist is probably judging him and maybe considers him to have paronomasia. Also: “Black beauty – he’s a dark horse”
Round 2 – yet more bad jokes!
11. What do you call a Saudi Arabian dairy farmer?
A milk sheik
12. Why can’t ants go to church?
Because they’re in sects.
13. Man walks into a bar with a piece of tarmac under one arm and says…
I’ll have a drink please and another one for the road.
14. Two fish in a tank, and one of them said…
How do you drive this thing?
15. Why did the scarecrow win the nobel prize?
He was outstanding in his field.
16. A policeman was standing by the side of a road watching traffic. He saw a bus drive past full of penguins, so he stopped it.
“Why is your bus full of penguins?” he asked the driver. “I found them all by the side of the road, they must have escaped” said the driver. “Well take them to the zoo!” said the policeman. “All right” said the driver, and drove off.
A couple of hours later the policeman saw the bus again, it was still full of penguins and now they were all eating ice-creams. He stopped the bus again and said to the driver – “I thought I told you to take them to the zoo?”
The driver said “I did take them to the zoo, and now we’re going to the swimming pool”.
17. Why don’t cannibals eat clowns?
Because they taste funny.
18. A man walking down the streets sees another man with a very big dog. One man says to the other, “Does your dog bite”, the man replies “No my dog doesn’t” The man pats the dog on the head and it bites his hand off. The man says “I thought you said your dog didn’t bite” and the other man says “Yes. Thats not my dog”.
19. Why do Marxists like to drink fruit infusions?
Because all proper tea is theft!
20. What’s ET short for?
Because he’s got little legs.
My Brother and me telling jokes when we were kids
Here’s an old recording from when I was about 6 years old of my bro and me telling jokes. The jokes are listed below. I was a bit young to be able to tell the jokes properly, and I found it hilarious to get the jokes wrong. Nothing has changed really…
Here are the jokes from the recording
Why did the fly fly?
Because the spider spider (because the spider spied her)
Doctor doctor I feel like a pack of cards
Sit down and I’ll deal with you later
Cows go who?
Cows go moo not who!
What did the cat do when it got to the motorway?
– get your (py)jamas on
Louis CK talks about a joke written by his daughter The point is that he loves his daughter’s joke because it is unexpected, and because he can imagine the situation. It’s a funny situation with no explanatory punchline. Normally this kind of joke has a contrived opening because it is leading to a punchline with a double meaning. His daughter’s joke just has a contrived setup, but no punchline, which is actually more surprising and therefore more satisfying! I’ll let Louis explain it.
Who didn’t let the gorilla into the ballet?
Just the people who were in charge of that decision.
(this is a sort of anti-joke made up by a child who doesn’t really understand the rules of jokes, which makes it funny to Louis)
For more jokes written by kids, click here.
21. Did you hear about the ice-cream man? He was found dead in his ice-cream van, covered in chocolate sauce and pieces of hazelnut.
The police said that he had topped himself.
22. What lies on the bottom of the ocean and shakes?
A nervous wreck.
23. Q – what did the grape say when the elephant trod on it?
A – Nothing, it just gave a little wine.
24. A man walks into a bar and is about to order a drink when he notices Van Gogh in the corner. He calls over, “Hey, Van Gogh! Want a drink?” and Van Gogh replies, “No thanks. I’ve got one ‘ere.”
25. There were two cows in a field. One said “moo”, the other one said “I was going to say that!”
26. Patient : “Doctor I keep hearing “The green, green grass of home” in my head. Doctor : “That’s called the Tom Jones Syndrome”
Patient : “Is it common ?”
Doctor : “It’s not unusual”
27. Two aerials met on a roof, fell in love and got married. The ceremony was rubbish but the reception was brilliant.
28. A horse walks in to a bar. The bartender says: “Why the long face?”
29. A bear walks into bar. He goes up to the barman and says “Can I have a pint of beer and … … … and a packet of crisps?”.
The barman says, “yes… but why the big paws?
30. A Buddhist monk walks up to a hot dog vendor and says “Make me one with everything.”
LEP is back! You might be wondering where I’ve been, or what’s going on at LEP headquarters. In this episode I’m going to explain my absence, fill you in on what’s going on at the moment, and also talk a bit about what’s coming up in the future. [RIGHT-CLICK TO DOWNLOAD]
As I talk during this episode I’m going to use a range of different language (some tenses and vocabulary) that relates to the past, the present and the future. See if you can notice the different language I use. What are the different ways that I refer to the past, present and future? I’m trying not to plan this language too much, I’m just going to see what expressions and phrases come out of my mouth naturally. At the end of the episode I’ll review that language so that you can pick it up and start using it yourselves, broadening your English in the process. So, not only am I giving you some news, we’re also doing some language study. You could say that we’re killing two birds with one stone (and not for the first time on LEP).
Here’s the plan for this episode
– Explain why I disappeared for about a month (The past)
– Talk about what’s going on at the moment (The present)
– Mention a few plans, intentions and upcoming events (The future)
– Present and review some grammar & vocabulary
Listen to Everything!
Please listen to the full episode to get the complete experience – remember, this is a podcast and not a blog. It’s all about listening!
Where have you been Luke? (The Past)
– I’ve been super-busy and I haven’t had a chance to get into the sky pod to record anything for a month. I’ve had to focus on other things. It’s been a busy and important time.
– First of all, I got sick with flu. That knocked me off my feet for quite a few days. I lost my voice etc. The #1 priority was to get better and rest! So, everything stopped.
– I had to take time off work – and all those cancelled classes had to be replaced. So, I worked way more than normal. No free time! Also, when I wasn’t working I was knackered and needed to rest!
– I got over the flu, but the cold came back. I’ve still got it now. :(
– By the way – I’m not complaining! I promise! I’m just explaining why I disappeared and I’m being transparent. I think if you understand my situation more clearly it can help you understand my service better.
– Also – I got married! (part 1 – explain a little bit)
So, that’s why I haven’t done a podcast for a while! Sometimes, life is just completely full. Remember, it takes a few hours in total to prepare, record, upload and distribute episodes of LEP. That time is rather precious.
What’s going on at the moment? (The Present)
– I’m still getting over the flu
– I’m doing exams this week (which means that I’m going to have tons of marking to do).
– I’m dealing with the other courses I’m teaching.
– I’m enjoying the extra hours of daylight and sunshine that we’re having.
– I’m enjoying married life very much (although it’s not that different to normal life to be honest)
– My online teaching colleague Gabby Wallace (of Go Natural English) is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund a book she’d like to write. Click here to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign. When she gets enough money she’ll publish the book. It looks good, and this is something I have been intending to do for ages. If it works for her, there’s a good chance I’ll be doing it too! This is a new (and very cool) model of publishing learning-English materials and for it to work we need everyone’s support – from teachers, but also from you the learners too.
Don’t forget, that Audible offer still stands. If you go to audibletrial.com/teacherluke you can sign up to a free 30 day free trial which includes a free download of any audiobook of your choice, and they have over 150,000 titles to choose from. So, check out audibletrial.com/teacherluke or just click one of the audible buttons on my website. You can find all the details and frequently asked questions about this audiobook offer on my website.
What’s coming up over the next few weeks and months? (The Future)
– Wedding part 2 (the big one) is planned for July and that’s fast approaching! So the madness is going to start up again soon. We’ve got loads of things that still need to be done. There are quite a lot of of loose ends that need to be tied up. Ultimately, we’re both just really looking forward to being able to celebrate with our friends and family, and we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather.
– I’m going to have loads of marking to do, which means I might not have much time in the next few weeks either.
– The end of the university term is in sight, and then I’ll have a bit more breathing space. The thing is, my working plans are still undecided. I’m not completely sure how much I will be working. Will I give up one of my jobs to allow me to focus on online projects? Which one? Will I be able to get by? I’m not sure, but let’s see.
– By the way, I realise that sometimes these podcast episodes are a bit self-centred and I don’t really like that. But sometimes it’s just necessary to explain what’s going on in my life as a way of contextualising the service, so you know exactly what you’re getting.
– The spring holidays are just around the corner. The university will be closed for a couple of weeks. So, I’ve got some time off coming up but I’ll be focusing on marking.
– Preparations for my stag do are underway. The plan is to stay in a house in the countryside, do some outdoor activities and adventure stuff, and no-doubt spend a good deal of time in the pub. My brother is in charge. I’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store for me.
– I’m seeing Kings of Convenience with my wife in May. I can’t believe I’m finally seeing them. They’re probably my (our) favourite group and they don’t tour much.
– I’ve got a few gigs in the diary. I’d like to work on new material. We will have to see about that. The Paris stand-up scene in English is developing more and more all the time. One of these days I will fulfil my dream of having my own one man show, but that requires time for marketing and publicising. I’d love to do two things: Develop a strong one hour show of written material, and regularly record podcast episodes live in front of an audience (interviews, improvised stuff and so on).
– After all this work I’m hoping to devote more time to LEP and LEP related projects – not just doing new episodes but producing other content with a view to giving you opportunities to improve your English in other ways – cool ways that will be beneficial to both you and me.
– Summer is well on its way. In fact, we’re having a little taste of it here and it’s about time!
– A bunch of new Star Wars movies are in the pipeline. In fact, the first one is due this December. I’m trying not to get too drawn into the hype.
– The next big Marvel movie is about to be released, and that will be followed by loads of others. If you thought you’d already seen enough superhero movies, well you ain’t seen nothing yet!
– The UK general election is nearly upon us.
– The EU referendum is on the horizon.
Language Review – Structures and Vocabulary for Talking About The Past, Present & Future
Did you notice the language I used? Let’s re-cap. This might not be everything. If you noticed other stuff then add it in the comments section. Also, try repeating these lines after me, and try using them when you speak English too. That’s the best way to actually add these phrases to your active vocabulary. If you don’t use it, you lose it.
Present perfect and present perfect continuous – these are both used to refer to actions in a time period that starts in the past and ends now. It’s used to explain recent news. The actions may be finished, but the time period is connected to now because it’s from the recent past until now. We use this tense for ‘catching up on someone’s news’. We often use present perfect with time expressions like ‘for ages’ and ‘for a while’, especially in the negative form.
“I haven’t seen you for ages!”
“How have you been?”
“I’ve been meaning to call you for a while now”
“What have you been up to?”
“What have you been doing?” “I’ve been super-busy and I haven’t had a chance to get into the skypod to record anything for a month. I’ve had to focus on other things. It’s been a really busy time.”
Past simple tense for actions in a sequence.
These are finished actions that are not connected to now. It’s a sequence of events. It’s not connected to now. The whole sequence is finished. Finished actions – finished time. “- First of all, I got sick with flu. That knocked me off my feet for quite a few days. I lost my voice etc. The #1 priority was to get better and rest! So, everything stopped. – I had to take time off work – and all those cancelled classes had to be replaced. So, I worked way more than normal. No free time! Also, when I wasn’t working I was knackered and needed to rest! – I got over the flu, but the cold came back. I’ve still got it now.”
Present continuous – be + -ing
This is the most common way to talk about temporary actions and situations right now. – I’m still getting over the flu – I’m doing exams this week (which means that I’m going to have tons of marking to do) – I’m dealing with the other courses I’m teaching – I’m enjoying the extra hours of daylight and sunshine that we’re having
Obviously, we have present simple for permanent facts and situations too. No need to go into that.
Other language: Preparations for my stag do are underway.
In terms of tenses, there’s:
‘will’ (predictions, promises, facts, judgements about the future) “I’ll have a bit more breathing space.”
‘going to’ (intentions, plans, things you’ve decided to do, predictions based on evidence)
‘present continuous’ (also plans, future plans which are fixed) “I’m seeing Kings of Convenience with my wife in May”
Modal verbs for different levels of certainty about the future: “I might not have much time in the next few weeks either”
Future continuous ‘will + be + -ing’ (a bit like ‘going to’ for fixed plans) “I’ll be focusing on marking”
Other language for talking about the future: it’s planned it’s fast approaching we’ve got things which need to be done there are lots of loose ends that need to be tied up we’re both just really looking forward to being able to celebrate with our friends and family we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather The end of the university term is in sight let’s see The spring holidays are just around the corner I’ve got some time off coming up The plan is to stay in a house in the countryside I’ll just have to wait and see what’s in store for me I’ve got a few gigs in the diary We will have to see about that One of these days I will fulfil my dream of having my own one man show I’m hoping to devote more time to LEP Summer is well on its way A bunch of new Star Wars movies are in the pipeline. In fact, the first one is due this December The next big Marvel movie is about to be released you ain’t seen nothing yet The UK general election is nearly upon us. The EU referendum is on the horizon.
Song – You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet by Bachman Turner Overdrive
I’m feeling pretty excited today because I’ve got a bit of a celebrity on the podcast. Jason R. Levine, also known as Fluency MC is something of a legend in the world of online English language teaching. He’s become pretty well known on YouTube in particular for his videos in which he uses hip hop to bring a fresh approach to teaching English. Jason raps his English lessons, and many of those raps have become YouTube sensations – for example “Stick stuck stuck” the past participle rap (over 2.5million views on Youtube), and the present perfect rap which is a full on explanation of the grammar rules for the present perfect tense, delivered in rhyme. But, Jason is not only a teacher who raps – a look at Jason’s CV shows that he is involved in a number of very interesting English teaching projects – he leads workshops, has published material and is an English specialist for the US department of State – which makes him sound like a government agent, and he has a very interesting academic and personal background which has led him to take this fresh new approach to language teaching. On the musical side, Jason raps but he also plays the drums like me, and he DJs and produces his own tunes. There’s so much to ask him and so much to talk about, and hopefully Jason will do some rapping on Luke’s English Podcast too, and who knows – I might even get involved in that as well. You can look forward to all of it in this episode. (In fact, if you listen to the whole episode you will hear both Jason and me rapping on some of my brother’s music)
I’ve never met Jason before, this is the first time I’ve spoken to him in fact. I always thought Jason lived in New York, but a while ago I was on Facebook and I saw a photo of him in Paris and I assumed he’d visited for work or for a holiday, so I sent him a message saying “next time you’re in Paris, how about an interview for LEP” and he wrote back saying “Actually, I live in Paris”. Needless to say I was pretty surprised. What are the chances of that!? So naturally, I thought I’d take the opportunity to hook up with him and interview him for the podcast, and he’s sitting right next to me now so let’s get started…
Questions & Stuff
These are some questions that we covered in this episode of the podcast.
I’m really chuffed to have you on the podcast Jason, because as we heard in my introduction you’re sort of a living legend of English teaching. Are you famous?
What are you most known for?
What other projects are you involved in?
Where are you from?
What did you study at university?
How does psychology come into your teaching method?
How long have you been teaching?
How did you get into it?
When did you first start rapping in the classroom? Was there one particular time when you first did it? What happened?
You travel quite a lot, teaching in different locations. Do you always rap in class?
How would you describe your approach to teaching?
How is rapping a part of that?
What are the reactions of your students to your method?
What’s collo and spark? Can you explain that?
Is it related to mnemonics?
FluencyMC on YouTube
This is the original video of Jason rapping “Stick stuck stuck” – just about 3.5minutes of one of his lessons.
Luke’s Rapping (Lyrics Below)
Here are the lyrics of my rap at the end of this episode!
The Well-Spoken MC (Lyrics)
Microphone check one two one two
Let me introduce myself to you
My name’s Luke
I’m an ordinary dude
I like food, I wear shoes
I like to watch YouTube
I’m just like you,
or maybe Doctor Who
when I’m in a good suit
I’m feeling in the mood
from time to time
I like to unwind
I Drink a bit of wine
and try to write a rhyme
and when I combine
all of this all online
then surely it’s a sign
it’s my time to shine,
cos I like to feel fine
I do it all the time
and in my mind
I’m going to get mine
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
I get dizzy
with a bit of thin Lizzy,
while drinking some fizzy
getting busy with Queen Lizzy
I’m a gentleman
With a lesson plan
I’ll Help you understand it with a diagram
Of different tenses
and complex senses
or ways of saying sentences with different kinds of emphases
You could say I’m blessed
With a CELTA and a DELTA and my CV’s fresh!
I teach pronunciation
Throughout the nation
To stop alienation
Caused by poor articulation
It’s just a natural fact
and I like it like that
so relax and sit back
and listen to this track
Cos I speak like a native
and I’m here to get creative
and I have already stated
that I’m very qualificated
I’ve got a wide CV
an even wider TV
which I’d like you to see
Because between you and me
and the deep blue sea
One day I’m going to be
On the BBC
Because I’ve got that BBC style
The one that makes you think for a little while
about the way most newsreaders speak
It sounds as if they’re trying to repeat
Sentences of information But With crazy intonation
and weird enunciation that’s clearly fascinating
And at the end of every news report
There is a summary of sorts
Of all the main sports, and some afterthoughts
Where the main news anchor
Turns to the camera
And delivers an answer
in the form of a mantra
This is the voice of the BBC,
and while you’re sitting there drinking cups of tea
We’re working away inside your TV
And on the screen you will surely see
that I go by the name of the Well-Spoken MC
When I get nominated for this competition, I usually have quite a lot of new visitors to the site by people who are checking out the podcast for the first time. So, let me take this opportunity to say hello to any new visitors and to give you an idea of what LEP is all about.
In this episode I’m going to tell you 16 things you need to know about LEP. After listening to this, you should have a better idea of what this podcast is all about!
16 Things You Should Know about Luke’s English Podcast
1. I’m a teacher from London, living in Paris, with about 14 years of experience and both a CELTA and DELTA qualification. I’ve lived in Japan too, and I have experience of teaching adults and children at all levels of English, for general, business or more specific purposes. Students I’ve had in the past include Brazilian world cup winners, Scandinavian heads of state, top business executives and even a porn star. I now teach at The British Council and at a top university in Paris.
2. I started LEP in 2009 after taking a course in podcasting with The Consultants E. At the time I just felt like I wanted to have my own radio show, and I discovered ways of creating podcasts on my new Apple Mac laptop, and realised I could publish them myself on iTunes, and then get the word out using social networking. I started to get really busy producing episodes of the podcast. The aim was always to mix up teaching with general entertainment. I wanted to produce episodes that were instructive but also fun to listen to for their own sake.
3. I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I do try to use those skills in my episodes too, from time to time! I do stand-up comedy regularly in Paris, in English. This may not be obvious from this episode, as I’m not adding any jokes to it! From time to time I share some videos of my comedy on this website, and some of my listeners have come to see me perform my comedy live, which is great!
4. The podcast now has over 250 episodes, and I have a really loyal following. In fact, my listeners have lots of names – the LEPpers (yes, LEP stands for Luke’s English Podcast), LEPsters, LEPaholics, LEP Ninjas, PLEPS (people of Luke’s English Podcast) and so on.
5. Some of my listeners have created podcasts of their own, after being inspired to do so by listening to LEP.
6. There are various types of episode that you can expect on the podcast. Some are about specific aspects of English, for example – episodes about idioms, grammar points, pronunciation, vocabulary, and slang. In some episodes I try to keep my listeners locked-in and entertained by making up improvised stories off the top of my head. In some episodes I feature interviews and conversations with friends, family and special guests. Some episodes involve me just talking directly to my audience about whatever comes into my head. Some episodes are about films, music or popular culture, and some episodes deal with specific aspects of British culture and lifestyle. So the podcast covers a broad range of topics. Ultimately, I love the freedom of being able to talk about anything I like! The main thing is that it creates engaging content that encourages learners of English to do more and more listening!
Here’s a quick list of some of the more popular episodes of this podcast:
1. Introduction – this is the first episode I did back in April 2009 and it outlines my basic approach to LEP.
28. Interview with a Native Speaker: The Weather – this one follows on from a vocabulary episode about British weather and features an authentic interview with a teenager called Chris, and his odd views about foreigners in the UK
29. Mystery Story / Narrative Tenses – this is one of the most visited of my episodes. It teaches you narrative tenses (past simple, past continuous, past perfect) via a short mystery story that features several of the UK’s most beloved popular culture icons. The story is continued in the next episode.
71. The Ice-Cream Episode – an unplanned rant on topics such as: Amazon Kindles, robots & technology in Hollywood films and why we should put down the weapons and pick up an ice-cream instead, man.
83. How to Swear in British English – an indispensable guide to all the rudest words in British English. It’s extremely offensive, but extremely useful.
100. Going to the Pub – the guide to everything you need to know before you step into a pub in the UK.
118. Sick In Japan – the true story of how I ended up sick in a Japanese hospital. It contains loads of medical and health related vocabulary, culture shock and a story which is engaging from start to finish!
125. The Pink Gorilla Story – one of the most popular ever, this is just an improvised story that regularly makes people laugh out loud, and which I really should convert into a one-man-show stage play!
140. Ghost Stories – just some scary true stories to keep you awake at night
167. Memory, Mnemonics and Learning English – revolutionise your learning techniques with these powerful memory devices.
174. How to Learn English with Luke’s English Podcast – this is your guide to improving your English using my podcast.
176. Grammar: Verb Tense Review – this is a very complete guide to all the main tenses in English
192. Culture Shock: Life in London – this episode deals with many of those strange aspects of the English lifestyle that foreigners find so hard to understand.
208. Travelling in Indonesia – one of many episodes about travelling experiences, this one has quite a dramatic beginning.
There are plenty more episodes which are popular with listeners, in fact everyone seems to have a different favourite. But that’s just a selection of some of the most visited pages on my website.
7. Yes, my episodes are quite long, but I always explain it like this: Firstly, all my favourite podcasts are long, and I think that it’s quite normal for podcasts to be about an hour long. Radio shows also tend to be at least an hour long too, so why not my podcast? It’s better for my listeners if they listen for an extended period. Why should listening only last 15 minutes? I can’t achieve very much in just 10-15 minutes, and I want my episodes to have some depth and rigour to them. Also, listeners can just pause the episode when they’ve had enough, and come back to it later!
8. I have a transcript collaboration project on my website, which allows listeners to transcribe sections of episodes and build a whole library of transcripts for other LEPsters to use. This is good for the transcribers because it is a big challenge and a good way to improve their English, and it’s good for the other listeners because we have an ever-growing library of transcripts which they can use to help them understand episodes. The collaboration is hosted on my website and is done using google documents.
9. I have won this award three times before and that is completely thanks to my devoted audience, who every year come out in force to vote for me. I hope to repeat the success this year, but I am up against stiff competition! Whatever the result, I’m just happy to have been nominated again.
10. The podcast has had 3 million listens in just over a year, since moving to a new audio host (audioboom.com) which is amazing!
11. I also have some videos on YouTube and they are pretty hot as well! My channel has had about 2.5 million views in total, but I haven’t uploaded anything for a while. The popular videos are ones I did in 2009 and feature me interviewing members of the public in the centre of London. There’s also a video called “16 Ways to Say I Like It”, which you may have seen too.
12. I launch competitions of my own from time to time, for listeners to take part in. The last one was called “Your English Podcast” and I invited listeners to send me short recordings of them doing their own versions of LEP. I received lots of entries and votes and the winner was interviewed on the podcast as a prize.
13. These days I record episodes of my podcast in a room at the top of my apartment, where I have great views of the rooftops of Paris from the windows. I call it the “SpacePod” or “SkyPod” and it’s the podcast HQ!
14. I have another podcast, called A Phrasal Verb a Day. It’s on iTunes and on my website. That is made up of short episodes devoted to individual phrasal verbs. I give definitions, examples and explanations. It’s a great way to pick up more of those tricky items of vocabulary – phrasal verbs. My goal was to record one a day in 2014. I didn’t reach my goal, but I haven’t given up and I still add episodes to the series when I can.
15. I love playing the drums, guitar, bass and ukulele (but not at the same time) and occasionally at the end of podcast episodes I play a song on the ukulele – but you have to listen all the way to the end of the episode to hear it.
16. I put my heart, soul, time, energy, humour, money and love into making episodes of LEP. It’s become quite a big thing in my life after having done it now for nearly 6 years. I enjoy a close and warm relationship with my listeners, I always welcome new additions to the LEP family, and in the future I plan to build my service more and more until I can perhaps do this for a living somehow. The future’s bright and I hope that many more people will join me on this journey to create authentic, entertaining and interesting content that helps you not only to improve your English but to enjoy yourself while doing it. So, I invite you to start listening today and like thousands of others get addicted to LEP – it’s good for your English!
If you haven’t already done it, I invite you to vote for LEP by clicking here. Thank you for your continuing support!
In this episode I decided to teach you about prepositions! Yes! Everyone’s favourite words in English! OK, that’s sarcasm – most learners find prepositions to be confusing and frustrating. However, the episode didn’t quite go as planned and I didn’t manage to deal with the subject as I had intended. Nevertheless, this episode contains some comments and information about prepositions, which works as an introduction to other episodes on the subject. Listen to this one before you listen episode 240, which deals with the subject in more depth. [Download]
I’ve been meaning to do this episode for ages and now finally I’ve managed to get round to it. Well, that was the plan anyway.
Following notes I made over a year ago (which weren’t actually finished) I thought I would be able to deal with this topic without much preparation, but prepositions tend to be complex little creatures to get a hold of, and the topic proved too slippery to deal with fully in this episode, so I have promised to continue the series in the next episode, when we will look at the way prepositions collocate with other words.
So for this episode, I didn’t manage to succeed in my overall mission, but you can see this as like ‘part 1’ in a series about prepositions.
What? Another series? Yes, that’s right! The next episode will focus on ways prepositions collocate with verbs, and will feature an improvised courtroom drama featuring a whole list of verb + preposition collocations. You’ll just have to wait for that one. But for now, join me as I begin to explain prepositions, and end up going on about poor sales techniques and why you shouldn’t buy an iPhone 3 from me. Enjoy!