Tag Archives: listening

415. With the Family (Part 3) More Encounters with Famous People

Here’s the final part in this trilogy of episodes recorded at my parents’ house on Boxing Day. In this one my mum, dad and brother tell us a few more anecdotes about their encounters with some well-known people.

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Introduction Transcript + some ad-libs

The conversation you’re about to hear was recorded with my family on the same day as the last couple of episodes. It was quite late in the evening, after my uncle and aunt had gone home and after dinner and number drinks had been consumed. Picture a very warm and cosy living room with a wood burning stove going in the background.

After listening to Nic describing his encounters with some famous rock stars earlier in the day, the other members of my family wanted to get in on the action too with their stories about brushing shoulders with the stars. So here are a few other anecdotes from my dad, my brother and my mum.

It turns out that my family have met some genuine legends. I didn’t even realise that a couple of these things had happened. You’ll have to wait and see who they are. But here are some slightly cryptic clues.

Can you guess which people I’m talking about?

  • One of the UK’s favourite authors who wrote a series of beloved books which have also been made into successful films.
  • A British comic actor who likes eating ice-creams and fighting zombies, criminals and aliens, in his movies (not real life of course).
  • A small but very important woman who often appears in public but is also a very private person.
  • A nonagenarian who once said that he was “the only man in the country not allowed to give his name to his own children.” A nonagenerian is someone in their nineties – also, septuagenarian (70s) and octogenarian (80s).

There are others too, including an American punk rock star with lots of tattoos and muscles, a Shakespearean actor who has become a successful film director and an actor who had a bit part in the British TV series The Office.

I should perhaps remind you of several other anecdotes which you might have heard on this podcast before, which are mentioned in this conversation.

Anyway, you can now sit back and enjoy some more time with The Thompsons.

***

Outro Transcript + ad-libs

Funny, isn’t he? My brother. I would like him to be on the podcast more often, if he’s up for it. The thing is that he’s a bit modest really and isn’t the sort of outgoing person who likes to broadcast his thoughts and opinions over the internet, although he obviously should because he’s got a lot to offer. He ought to do a podcast or something like that, right? He does have a YouTube channel but it’s mainly skateboarding. www.youtube.com/user/VideoDaze/videos

*All the background music in this episode was also made by James*

The people mentioned in this episode

If you liked this one, try listening to these ones

79. Family Arguments and Debates

322. With The Thompsons

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

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408. Catching Up With Amber & Paul #4 (+ videos)

Amber & Paul are back on the podcast and we do the usual catching-up session and go off on a few tangents about Amber’s play, Paul’s showbiz life, marshmallows, microphones, tea & coffee, accents and more. There are videos for the intro and outro of this episode (below).

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INTRODUCTION

This episode sees the return of pod PALs Amber Minogue and Paul Taylor, which means that The Talkative Trio are reunited on the podcast once more.

Time was pretty tight for this conversation because Paul was working to a very strict schedule on the day it was recorded, which was yesterday in my flat.

As you’ll hear, Paul arrives a little bit late because he was having lunch with some TV industry people and then he has to leave before the end of the recording to be interviewed on the radio, because he’s so hot right now in the world of showbiz.

Amber has also been very busy recently doing various things including writing and rehearsing a play, so it’s been hard to get the three of us in a room together all at the same time.

As a result this episode was arranged at the last-minute and the conversation was completely unplanned. All I wanted to do was to catch up with the two of them and ask the usual question: What have you been doing?

You’ll hear that things carry on quite rapidly and there are plenty of the usual tangents – those moments when the topic suddenly goes off in a different direction.

It might be hard to follow, so to help you keep up, here’s a basic summary of the main things that we talk about. You’ll find these notes written on the page for this episode, including some words that you might hear in the conversation but not know. You might want to check these notes to see words that you might have missed, to check their spelling etc.

  • First of all Amber tells me about the play for children that she’s been working on with our friend James Simpson.
  • Paul then arrives, you hear the buzzer buzzing and he comes in carrying a bag containing a new iPhone 7, still in its box, which he collected from the shop earlier in the day. It’s a present which all his friends bought for him a few months ago for his 30th birthday, organised by his girlfriend. We all chipped in some money and got him a new phone.
  • Amber tells us some more things about her play, including how it contains a few slapstick moments, meaning some funny scenes of fairly violent physical comedy involving a first-aid box and some marshmallows. Apparently at one point in the play James hits Amber over the head with the first aid box. By the way, a first-aid box is a box that contains basic medical supplies for administering first-aid, that’s why it’s called a first-aid box. It contains, things like plasters, bandages, antiseptic, tiny scissors, and maybe some other little medical things that you don’t understand etc.
  • Also in the play they also fight over a marshmallow, which Amber wants to dip into her tea.
  • This leads us to talk about dipping things into cups of tea, like marshmallows and biscuits, which then causes us to talk about what you put in your tea when you’ve run out of milk, which actually happened to Paul the other day. His solution was to use whipped cream as a substitute.
  • That leads me to ask the question of whether you really can put cream in tea, and we agree that you can definitely put cream in coffee, especially a particular type of coffee which is served with whipped cream on top, which in France is called café Viennois – which I think translates as a Viennese coffee – or a coffee from Vienna.
  • That causes me to ask what they call a Viennese coffee in Vienna, speculating that they might just call it a coffee, which leads to a similar question about the French phrase “creme anglais”, which translates literally as “English cream” – but in the UK we just call it “custard”.
    I then ask Paul and Amber to explain to you my audience what custard is, and Paul suggests that instead of us explaining it at great length, you could just ‘google’ it.
  • I remind Amber & Paul that it is necessary to explain some words sometimes, like the word ‘custard’, because this is Luke’s English Podcast and it’s probably a good idea to explain words sometimes.
  • This prompts Amber to comment on the way that I seem to choose to explain words quite randomly in my episodes – like when I recently spent quite a lot of time explaining the word ‘flea’ in a recent conversation I had with my Dad on the podcast.
  • We then go back to food and talk about typical English puddings which can be served with custard, including crumble, sticky toffee pudding and the oddly named ‘spotted dick’.
    I refer to spotted dick as a dessert, which causes Amber to comment that this is the wrong choice of word and that I should say that it’s a “pudding” not a “dessert”.
  • This brings up the slightly confusing and long-running debate about the correct choice of words to describe certain things in Britain, especially in relation to the dinner table. This all relates to British rules of etiquette and language in polite society, perhaps relating to French vocabulary we sometimes use in English. We don’t talk about this very clearly and it might be a bit confusing for you, and really the whole subject of the rules of British etiquette and social class deserves an episode of it’s own.
  • Nevertheless, in order to clear it up a bit, here’s a quote from a book called “Watching the English” by Kate Fox. Kate Fox is a social commentator who writes about social behaviour in England, and “Watching the English” is a good book that explains many things about English life. This is what Kate has to say about the words “pudding” and “dessert” in English. By the way, both these words are used to refer generally to sweet food which is served after the main course. You have the starter, then main course, then the pudding/dessert. Your choice of the word ‘pudding’ or ‘dessert’ seems to depend on your level of class, and apparently according to upper-class culture the word “dessert” is vulgar. Kate Fox: ‘The upper-middle and upper classes insist that the sweet course at the end of the meal is called the ‘pudding’ – never the ‘sweet’, or ‘afters’, or ‘dessert’, all of which are déclassé and unacceptable’ (Fox, 2005, p79). So, according to upper-class etiquette, pudding is the correct term for the sweet course that comes at the end of the meal. Fine. Amber seems to think this is because the word “dessert” is of French origin, but I’m not sure. By the way, in some places (e.g. France and Japan) pudding is a specific kind of dish. For example in Japan ‘pudding’ is a sort of caramel or custard creme dish. In the UK it just means the sweet course at the end of the meal and can include all kinds of things, like cakes, pies, ice-cream, trifle, Eton mess, bread and butter pudding or even jelly. “What’s for pudding?” for example.
  • I try to explain all of this, but I can’t manage it, instead saying “This is tangent city” when I realise that we keep going off on mad tangents and it’s probably quite confusing for the audience – that’s you.
  • Our talk of pudding then causes us to start talking about Pudong, an area in Shanghai, and specifically the Pudong River in Shanghai. Paul tells us a bit about that and then there are a couple of references to the slightly rude sounding English words ‘poo’ and ‘dong’ before things settle down a bit and we start talking about Paul’s recent showbiz news, including how he is going to be interviewed on a radio station called “Oui FM” later in the afternoon, so we go from poo to wee in just a few sentences.
  • At one point Paul nearly uses quite a clever word – ‘concise’ but then doesn’t use it, preferring instead to choose a more simple way of putting things “using the least words possible” (which means to be concise).
  • We talk about responses to Paul’s recent videos including a few YouTube comments & some criticism he received from a serious person in an email (the criticism was in the email, not the person – you can’t put a person in an email).
  • Things get quite geeky when I then start talking about cameras and microphones and the challenges of capturing good audio when you’re recording videos.
  • There’s some talk of different types of microphone, including boom mics, lapel mics, dynamic mics and shotgun mics but then Amber decides it’s all getting a bit too geeky and we move onto something else.
  • We make plans to hang out again on Thursday on the set of Paul’s TV show while they’re doing some filming, and we decide to record a podcast while we’re there.
  • Following on from my recent episodes about accents, I ask Paul & Amber what their accents are, and what they think my Dad’s accent is, and Amber declares her love for my Dad.
  • Then Paul has to go for his radio interview on “Oui FM” and leaves, and Amber & I carry on and talk a bit more about her play before having a massive conversation about Christmas which will probably be uploaded in a forthcoming episode.

So, I hope that helps you understand what you are about to hear from the Tangential Trio. But, now, without any further explaining – here is that conversation as it actually happened!

JINGLE + CONVERSATION

‘OUTRO’

Amber and I started talking about Christmas there and we went on to talk about it for ages – like over an hour of chat about Christmas shopping, games, food, family traditions and everything else relating to the festive time of year. That conversation will continue in the next episode, maybe the episode after.

We talked a little bit about Paul’s English in that conversation.

People sometimes say “Paul’s accent/English is influenced by his French”.
It isn’t. Certainly not his accent anyway.

That’s one of the interesting things about Paul. When he speaks French there is pretty much no trace of an English accent in his speech, and when he speaks English there is no trace of a French accent.

Other announcements

LEP Moscow Get-Together
Hey Luke!
Well, the very first LEP Moscow GET-TOGETHER has just happened! The first of it’s kind, it seems to be a historical :) event in Russia! Everything went great, it was awesome to chat in ENGLISH with like-minded people!!! Personally I felt as if I had known all of the participants for ages – open, nice and smiley friends! I hope somebody else could feel a similar thing.
First, we got to know each other, which was the main achievement! It was interesting to know when and how everyone had found LEP one day, which episodes were our favourite ones, which experiences in English language learning we had (useful Internet resources, grammar books, pronunciation etc.)
A couple of pics and a short audio message from us to you are attached.
Thanks again and again for that announcement and actually for everything you do!!!
We hope to provide more listeners with a chance to meet and speak regularly and one more way to let them know is to “friend” your group on FB with ours www.facebook.com/groups/734996946664425/ and VK vk.com/clubnu1 .
Have a nice Monday, Jedi-Podmaster!
Dmitry

Here are those Moscow LEPsters saying hello!

Transcript Collaboration
~ well done everyone!
Thank you especially this month to Antonio for managing everything.
There is an email now for the Orion team. Just write a comment on the page for the transcript collaboration and Antonio will let you know what to do.
Make sure you read the rules.
Transcript collaboration page: teacherluke.co.uk/episodes-with-transcripts/transcripts/ 

Daniel Goodson – My Fluent Podcast
A LEPster podcast in which you can join Daniel in his quest to become better and better at English.
Daniel interviewed one of the managers of the Transcript Collaboration – Piotr from Poland
www.myfluentpodcast.com/e20-interview-with-piotr-from-poland-transcribing-transcript-collaboration/

Zdenek’s English Podcast
Also, on the subject of LEPster podcasts – Zdenek Lukas continues to do his show, called Zdenek’s English Podcast. Recently he’s been doing episodes about his experiences studying for the DELTA (Diploma in English Language Teaching for Adults) which is a seriously challenging postgraduate qualification in English teaching, which involves not only a lot of writing about linguistics and teaching methodologies, but also plenty of assessed teaching sessions too. It’s a difficult course with many challenges and many things to learn. You can listen to Zdenek talking about it on his podcast in some recent episodes.
Get it here audioboom.com/channel/zdeneks-english-podcast

Join the mailing list for direct access to the page for every episode, and for any other content I put up, including videos that I might start doing with my new camera soon.

That’s it! Cheers!

VIDEOS

Here’s one of Paul’s “What the F*ck France?” videos. This one’s about how it’s difficult to learn French.

LEP VIDEOS

Here are a couple of bonus videos of me recording the introduction to this episode, and a failed attempt at recording the outro too (I forgot to press ‘record’ on my audio device!)

They’re in black & white because I think it looks cool. The gorilla ↴ is pink, ok! 

Thanks for watching. I’m just experimenting with videos at the moment, but if you like them, I might do more.

The Russian Joke appeared in US TV show Parks & Recreation – watch until the end

Music credits

Jazzy xylophone tune & piano tune by BenSound – www.bensound.com

Other music by me, or by my brother James Thompson.

395. “Have you ever…?” with Paul Taylor and Robert Hoehn

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.

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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.

Until now.

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…”

That’s nice.

“…However…”

Ooh

“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.

Luke

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.

 

Photos

grasshopper-guacamole

Paul’s grasshopper guacamole

386. Breaking the Intermediate Plateau (Part 2)

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

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Measure your progress – test yourself

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

Use DIALANG dialangweb.lancaster.ac.uk/

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attitude

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

Be positive!

Yes we can!

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

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

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

Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can/want to/will:

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

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

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

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

Step by step

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

Repetition

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

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

MayumiM 3 minutes ago

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

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

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

Grammar

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

Don’t get blocked by your grammar knowledge

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

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

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

Writing to get through the Plateau

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy it 

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

Here are some motivational quotes

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

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

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

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

Rapping with Fluency MC

253. Rapping with Fluency MC!

mountain-climbing-768813_1280

 

377. Holiday in Thailand (Part 1)

This episode contains stories and descriptions of my recent holiday in Thailand. You’ll hear some facts about Thailand, some descriptions of Bangkok and a few stories about funny experiences that happened while we were there. Part 2 is coming soon. More details and transcriptions below. Enjoy!

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Transcript

Hello everybody, I’m back from my holiday so here is a brand new episode for you to listen to. If you’re new to Luke’s English Podcast, then “hello” and welcome to the show. I have no idea how you found the podcast. It was probably on the internet, that’s how it normally happens. I doubt that you actually tripped over it in the street or anything. Oops ,what’s that – oh, it’s Luke’s English Podcast. I might as well have a look. You probably found it online, perhaps through iTunes or a friend recommended it to you perhaps. In any case, regardless of how you found me, welcome. My name’s Luke – and this is my podcast. It’s primarily for learners of English although I also have native English speakers listening to this too. In these episodes I talk to you in a personal way, telling stories, sharing some things about my life, discussing different topics, teaching you English and giving you the motivation to improve your English for yourself. I try to keep the podcast varied and I’m willing to talk about pretty much anything at all as long as it’s interesting. I’m an English teacher from the UK. I speak British English – with a standard accent from the South East of England. I’ve been teaching for more than 15 years so I have lots of experience to draw from. I’m also a stand-up comedian which means that when I’m not teaching English or doing the podcast I like to stand up in front of audiences of people and make them laugh with jokes and stories and things. I regularly perform comedy shows in Paris.

One of the principles which underpins what I do in episodes of this podcast is the understanding that simply listening to natural, spontaneous speech is a vital part of the process of learning English to a good standard. Obviously, you have to get an understanding of the grammar rules, develop an extensive set of active vocabulary, practise pronouncing the language and so on, but doing plenty of listening is an essential foundation. I usually recommend that LEP is best enjoyed as part of a balanced study program. For example I suggest that you also do plenty of speaking in order to activate the English that you passively pick up from these episodes. There are lots of ways to improve your English and you can just listen to previous episodes of the podcast to get my advice on that. At the very least, you can just relax and enjoy listening to my words on a regular basis, and I hope that it’s a fun process too. Certainly, I am sure that my podcast can really help all the other aspects of your English, not just your listening. I also believe it’s important to listen to English which is spoken at a pretty natural speed, which is spontaneous (i.e. not just written from a script) and I think you should listen regularly for fairly long periods, long term. Make it a part of your lifestyle to listen regularly and don’t give up.

I want my podcast to help you to do exactly those things, and so I try to make my episodes genuine, personal and humorous. So, if you’re new to the podcast – welcome and thanks for listening. I hope you stick with it. I believe that if you do continue to listen, you’ll see significant results in your English. Check out the episode archive on my website teacherluke.co.uk and you’ll see that you have plenty of other episodes to explore and enjoy.

If you’re not new to the podcast, and you are in fact a long term LEPster then welcome back! How are you? I hope you’re well. Did you have a good August? Have you listened to all the episodes I published before I went away? I hope so.

In any case, here is a new episode of this podcast and it is about my recent holiday in Thailand.

Holiday in Thailand

Yes, we went to Thailand this year and I’m going to tell you about it in this episode. In fact, in this one I’ll talk about these things:

  1. Why we went to Thailand
  2. Where we went in Thailand
  3. The things most people know about Thailand
  4. Some things you might not know about Thailand
  5. A few anecdotes about what we did and saw during the holiday
  6. A few dodgy jokes!
  7. An embarrassing story involving nudity
  8. A sad old memory that came back to me at a specific moment in the trip
  9. A mouse-related update (if you heard the last episode of the podcast, this will make sense to you)

We got back just the other day. I’m still a bit jet-lagged. I woke up at stupid o’clock this morning. My body is still on Thailand time, so at about 5AM my body woke up saying “hey it’s time to get up and go walking around temples in very hot temperatures! We’re on holiday come on!” No doubt I will randomly fall asleep this afternoon when my body decides that it’s bedtime. I have a sun tan – correction, I had a tan, until the flight back. As a very white English man, I have a slightly tricky relationship with sun tans. At the moment I am sporting the typical English man’s tan.

I have no idea how long this episode will be but I can just split it up into different chapters and it’s all good.

You will find some of this episode transcribed on the episode page on my website. Not all of it is transcribed, but a lot of it is, and you can read my notes too, which might be a good way to check out the spelling of any words you hear me use. They might be written on the page. By the way, if you’re just reading this – I strongly recommend that you listen instead of reading. Remember, anything that is written here is supposed to just accompany what I’m saying in the audio recording.

Why did we choose Thailand?

– My wife and I wanted to go somewhere exotic and far away (we want to explore places which are a bit further before we have kids)
– A break and a chance to get away from it all
– Never been before
– We like food !
– It’s quite diverse in terms of the things you can do – city, culture, beaches
– It’s not too expensive

Why didn’t you do an LEP Live event?

It was a holiday – so I was not working. That means I didn’t organise some sort of LEPster meet-up, or live podcasting stand up comedy extravaganza. I didn’t meet up with Olly Richards even though I have since learned that he was out there too learning Thai – no, it was all about walking around sweating, visiting temples, sweating, exploring street food markets, sweating, worrying about food poisoning, sweating, going to the beach and sweating there, learning how to cook local food, eating the local food with lots of chilli, sweating, doing yoga and meditating, drinking water and sweating! Just the average holiday abroad for a British person!

Where did you go?

In a nutshell, here’s where we went.

Bangkok for a few days, then up north to Chiang Mai for a few days, then down south to Koh Samui for a few days and then back to Bangkok for a few days and then home! Boom!

That’s the usual tourist route. It’s Bangkok in the middle, temples, treks into the forest, elephants, night markets and cooking classes in the north, then islands, beaches, diving, snorkelling and full moon parties in the south.

We didn’t go to the islands on the west side like Phuket because of the climate in August.

Also, just before we left and even while we were there, there were some explosions – some bombings, which was a bit worrying. We even considered not going, but then we thought – well, we live in Paris and we’ve got as much chance of being blown up there as in Thailand, so what the hell!

In fact our time was very peaceful.

Usual things people think about Thailand

The most typical clichés or stereotypes about Thailand: Busy, crowded, amazing food – specifically green curry and pad thai noodles, weird sex tourism in Bangkok, ladyboys, bizarre sex shows involving ping pong balls, full moon beach parties, buckets full of ridiculously full cocktails, kickboxing, temples, westerners being locked up in prison for drug possession, scooters, Sagat from Street Fighter 2 (Tiger uppercut), snakes, golden buddha statues, amazingly friendly and smiling people and the film “The Beach” starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

That’s partly true (perhaps for the average western tourist) but obviously it’s not the full picture, especially for the locals.  I will go into more detail about what it’s really like in this episode.

Things you might not know about Thailand

1. Full name of Bangkok. It’s the longest city name in the world. “Krungthepmahanakhon Amonrattanakosin Mahintharayutthaya Mahadilokphop Noppharatratchathaniburirom Udomratchaniwetmahasathan Amonphimanawatansathit Sakkathattiyawitsanukamprasit.”

2. Thailand, or “Prathet Thai” means “land of the free”…

3. Thailand has never been colonised by a foreign power, unlike other neighbouring countries which were colonised by European nations like Britain, France and the Netherlands. Thailand had a few wars with Burma, but was never successfully invaded. Well done Thailand.

4. Thailand has more than 1,400 islands. The most famous ones are in the south, and they are beautiful. Probably the most well known is Koh Phi Phi, which is where The Beach was filmed. (By the way, it’s a rubbish film)

5. It’s illegal to leave the house without underwear on. I don’t know how they enforce this law. Are they doing random underpant checks?

6. Thai currency is called the Baht and it’s illegal to step on Thai Baht. Now, you might be thinking – well, I don’t every go around stepping on currency anyway, so that’s not a problem. But the point is that this is because of the high level of respect that the Thai people have for their royal family. Like in the UK, a picture of the monarch appears on every bank note and the image of the monarch cannot be desecrated, in fact it is a crime to disfigure a picture of the king or queen in any way. Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, a bit like the UK, and they hold their king and queen in high esteem. There are lots and lots of images of them all over the country, sometimes you find little shrines in the street devoted to them.

7. The feet are considered to be very unclean (both clinically and spiritually) and so it is very rude to reveal the soles of your feet to anyone. So, don’t sit with your feet facing outwards, or put your feet up on the table like we do in the west sometimes. It’s also rude to point at people with your feet, which is fine because I literally never do that anyway. I’m sure I heard someone do standup about that and I can’t remember who, but it was very funny.

8. Similarly, the head is the highest point on the body and is considered to be sacred, so don’t touch it, slap it, poke it or whatever. In the west you might rub someone on the top of the head as a sign of affection, or whack someone round the back of the head to express annoyance. Don’t do that in Thailand. To be honest, I wasn’t going to do that either. I rarely touch the head of random strangers that I meet in public. I certainly wouldn’t slap the back of the head of someone. E.g. “Waiter, excuse me – we asked for 2 bowls of rice and you gave me one! Can we have another one? Thank you!” SLAP. No.

9. 95% of people are buddhist. It’s quite common to see Buddhist monks walking around. We talked to one of them and I’ll explain what he said later in this episode. Also there are buddha statues everywhere. There are thousands of them. It’s just buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha buddha. Climb to the top of a mountain, there’s a buddha. Inside a cave? Buddha. Under a nice tree? Buddha. Inside this big temple? Buddha. In front of the big buddha statue, lots of other buddhas. In front of them, buddhas. Buddhas everywhere – which is great. They are beautiful, peaceful images and of all the religions I think Buddhism perhaps makes the most sense. Just try to reach a higher level of consciousness. Realise that everything is connected and that there is one universal vibration which passes through the entire universe. Reject selfish and materialistic urges in favour of achieving individual spiritual enlightenment. Fine.

10. It’s a very hot place – especially Bangkok. The hottest time of year is April where temperatures rise to 40 degrees C or more, with high humidity levels too. In August it’s the rainy season but it still gets really hot – it was regularly in the high 30s and with very high levels of humidity. Showers that happen in the evenings are a welcome break from the heat!

Read more about this on ‘the internet’ matadornetwork.com/trips/19-things-probably-didnt-know-thailand/

Bangkok

There are lots of stories about it, like the dodgy ping pong shows, the sex tourism and other weird and lewd things, but of course not everywhere is like that. We avoided the dodgy tourist parts such as Patpong, where there are these weird sex shows. Now, while I am quite curious to learn about the bizarre skills that some women have developed – I mean, some of the things are quite impressive. For example, apparently in these shows, some women are able to launch ping pong balls across the room – and not with their hands if you know what I mean, and some of them can even write letters with a paintbrush or pen, again, not with their hands. THat’s actually quite impressive, but I don’t really need to see it, and apparently the people who run the shows are very dodgy indeed and they lure you in with false prices and then when you try to leave they force you to pay a lot of money and it gets pretty ugly, so no thanks. No ping pong shows for us.

A mix between the chaotic and slightly sketchy places like Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos etc and the more modern JPN, particularly parts of this area where we stayed.

The streets are vibrant, chaotic, noisy, smelly, polluted, full of life. Scooters, cars, crossing the road. Nobody walks! Traffic is incredibly busy. There’s an amazing metro system called the sky train. Tuk tuks, taxis and so on.

Lots of street food, with people cooking all sorts of things on little mobile carts – chicken skewers, lots of seafood, noodles, fruits like mango and some things I didn’t recognise. People eat in the street sitting on little plastic chairs.

Incredible Japanese BBQ. Daimasu.

Massages

Onsen experience

Expectations vs reality.
Naked bald midget.
Only had a tiny towel. Not big enough to go around me.
A bunch of other naked guys, including a group of old men in the corner watching. They broke off their conversation to have a look at me when I walked in.
Only foreigner there.
Not normal in my culture.
I felt really embarrassed. Not because of my size – because I have nothing to be ashamed of in that department. Some might say I’m gifted, I would prefer to say I am average for a guy of my height, but I should add that I have massive hands and feet. Just saying. Anyway, I don’t really need to be ashamed of myself but this was very awkward for me but because I’m not used to being seen, and the natural response is to be self-conscious about your size, even in front of other men. You might think it’s not important what other guys think, but I’d never had to rationalise it before and the fact is, is still matters for some reason.
Size is important, even when it’s other guys. I can’t really explain that.
Of course I shouldn’t be bothered by it at all, but I’m English and it’s just part of our culture. First we don’t ever get naked in a public situation, except perhaps at a sports club but then it’s brief.
Also, for some reason it feels like you’re being judged. I did feel judged. I felt incredibly self co anxious.
Maybe I was being a bit paranoid, maybe not, but people weren’t shy about having a look. The old guys stopped their conversation to take a look at me. Others turned their heads etc.
Nerves = natural body response to protect the Crown Jewels.
Stayed in jet bath.
One by one the guys came over to the adjacent bath and had a look at me. Every time I thought “oh for fucks sake!”
I stayed there for 20 minutes not knowing where to look and absolutely boiling!
Tried to make a break for the next nearest bath but it was the cold one – no way.
Went for the soda bath. High CO2 apparently good for me but I thought I was going to die.
Left and got changed.
An absolute fountain of sweat.
Wife waiting for me, totally dry.

The massage was quite brutal, but ultimately nice.

Holiday = sweating, great discomfort, great comfort and relief, good food, discomfort, sweating, relief, sweating etc.

Rude massage joke

 

Thanks for listening – subscribe to the email list at the top-right of the page. :)

Luke

340. LEP Photo Competition Results & Winners / It’s LEP’s 7th Birthday

In this episode the results & winners of the LEP photo competition are announced, and – it’s the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast! This episode is long but you don’t have to listen to it in one go. You can listen, pause, do something else, listen later and so on. Enjoy!

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Ladies and gentlemen, your attention please because the results of the LEP photo competition are here. Try to contain your excitement. I know we’ve all been waiting for weeks with bated breath to know who has won this most prestigious of prizes, but you can now relax and breathe normally because the wait is over! Yes, in this episode I’m going to give you the results of the photo competition. I’ll tell you the winners and the runners up, I’ll describe the winning photos in some detail including my thoughts and feelings about them, and later in the episdoe I’m going to ramble on about some other stuff.

Also, this is the 7th birthday of my podcast!

Also, I’ve just realised that this is the 7th birthday of LEP! It’s been almost exactly 7 years since I uploaded the very first episode of Luke’s English Podcast. So, this is not just the photo competition episode but also the 7th birthday of Luke’s English Podcast too! Wow. Has it been 7 years? 7 years of my life have gone into this project. I have put a huge amount of time and energy into this over the years and I’ve loved every moment of it. Time flies doesn’t it. Yes it does. I’ll talk more of birthday-related things later, but if you’re feeling like you want to congratulate the podcast, celebrate the birthday, send me a card or a gift, or say thank you for my work or something like that, and you’re wondering what the appropriate thing to do is – well, here are some suggestions:

You could…

  • leave a lovely comment on the website explaining briefly what LEP means to you. It’s always nice to read your feedback and it helps the podcast because new visitors will see that I have an active, engaged, positive audience and that the podcast is good. It’ll help me reach a wider audience.
  • give the podcast a review on iTunes. This is really important actually – lots and lots of new people come to my podcast through iTunes and many of them will look at the reviews. So, if you enjoy this podcast and you feel it’s made a difference to your English, leave me a good review on iTunes. Lots of other people will see your review and it will really make a difference to the reputation of the podcast. Just go to itunes.apple.com/fr/podcast/lukes-english-podcast-learn/id312059190?l=en&mt=2 , view the podcast in iTunes and leave your review.
  • the most sincere way to say thanks is to leave me a donation via paypal. You should be able to find a button on every page of the website that says DONATE. This is the most sincere way you can thank me, because it’s like an investment in the podcast. Any contribution you make will support the podcast directly because it’ll help me to cover costs, such as website hosting and other payments, and because it just means I can do things like buy my wife lunch or something, and that’s important for my quality of life and my energy, which then feeds back into the podcast.

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Prizes

There will be more birthday celebrations later but first let’s get back to the photo competition, and here is just a quick reminder of what’s up for grabs in terms of prizes (this is where things get very dramatic and exciting – the tension is almost palpable isn’t it?!) First place will get two prizes: an LEP mug and another gift of the winner’s choice (so, another mug, a t-shirt, a pad or a tote bag), the two runners-up will receive one prize: an LEP mug each, and then there’s a surprise 4th prize, in a category that I’ve just added, for the winner of the Luke’s Choice Award (a gift of the winner’s choice from the gift shop).

I know some of you might be listening to this thinking – “What competition?” “What’s he talking about?” If that’s the case it probably means you haven’t listened to episodes 313-327 and so you’re blissfully unaware of this photo competition. Either that or you just forgot about it, or you had your memory wiped by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones or something. So, if you don’t remember, go back to episode 313 and 327 to remind yourselves of this competition and to find out more details.

Hey, don’t skip this episode, alright?

Some of you might also be thinking, “Oh, very good Luke, very good, but I might skip this episode because I’m not involved in the competition because I didn’t send a photo and I didn’t vote and yada yada yada”. First of all I should say that I would be deeply shocked and saddened if you skipped an episode. I mean really. It would upset me very much and it would be a huge trauma for me. I might have to go and have a lie down or a cup of tea, just to get over the emotional impact of knowing that you’d decided not to listen. In fact, I’m feeling very emotional about it right now just thinking about that… But if it makes a difference to you I’d like to say – I do hope you stay and listen, because I think there are some good things to be gained from listening to this, and I’ve got some biscuits here. Don’t you want a biscuit?  Anyway, this episode is not just about announcing the winners, but it’s also about describing some of the popular photos using words, in English, and sharing thoughts and feelings with the LEP community.

Yes, I will be describing and commenting on the photos during the episode – so you’ll hear some descriptive language. I suggest you check the page for this episode to see the pics I’m talking about. Also, in episode 327  I taught you some very useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures, which should be very important if you’re taking a Cambridge exam, or if you’d like to learn some useful little phrases and techniques for describing pictures. So, that’s back in episode 327.

Summarising the Competition

Just in case you don’t know, or you’ve forgotten or something, let me quickly sum up the competition again.

Some time late last year I opened up this new contest. I got the idea originally from a Long Term Lepster (LTL) called Guillaume who suggested it to me ages ago by email. He said, “Hey why don’t you do a competition in which you ask your listeners to send you photos of them listening in different situations, and you could share the photos on your website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something?” and I thought, hmm, a competition in which my listeners send me photos of them listening in different locations and I could share the photos on my website and people could vote for their favourites, and the winner could get a prize like an LEP mug or t-shirt or something, that’s not a bad idea! And so I decided to do just that, and in episode 313 ( I think) I said, “I’m launching a competition in which you my listeners can send me photos of you listening in different locations and I’ll share the photos on my website and people can vote for their favourites and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. All you have to do is take photos of yourself listening in different situations and I can share them on my website and everyone can vote for their favourite ones, and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something. What do you think?”
And people said “What? Sorry, can you repeat the sentence?”

Most people seemed up for the competition, which was nice.

There was just one condition , I said – “you have to include something that proves that you’re listening. So, that could be some headphones in the pic, or an LEP logo, or something like that.”
And that’s exactly what happened, everyone sent me pictures of themselves listening in different situations and I shared them on the page for episode 327 and then everyone voted for their favourite ones. I say, everyone – I actually don’t mean everyone – not everyone in the world. I didn’t get 7.125 billion votes, and not even everyone who listens to this podcast voted. In fact, just a small fraction of my listeners voted – which means that there’s a good chance that you, listening to this right now, yes you, the one with the ears – there’s a good chance that you didn’t take part in this at all. And I’d like to ask you why not?? What were you doing? Did you have something better to do? I can’t imagine what could be more important than voting in this competition! Except maybe writing a report for work or something – in fact there might be lots of things that stopped you from voting maybe you were going food shopping to buy food to keep you and your family alive, maybe you were cooking dinner and you couldn’t vote, eating dinner, feeding dinner to your family or friends, cleaning up the kitchen after dinner, digesting food (I can’t vote I’m busy digesting), washing clothes, wearing clothes (sorry, I couldn’t vote, I was too busy wearing clothes), taking your clothes off in the evening – that’s time consuming, sleeping, being woken up by your alarm, putting your alarm on snooze, going back to sleep again, being woken up by your alarm again, putting it on snooze again, going back to sleep again, being woken up by the alarm AGAIN, and putting it on snooze AGAIN, then suddenly realising that you’re really late, smashing the alarm with a hammer, jumping out of bed, putting your clothes back on, having a shower, changing your clothes because they’re all wet, going to the toilet, taking another shower, cancelling 3rd world poverty, making coffee, leaking sensitive legal documents to the media that reveal the hoarding of massive amounts of secret money by a law firm based in Panama as part of a huge multinational tax avoidance scheme involving the leaders of many developed countries and various semi-legal tax avoidance schemes in offshore accounts based in tax-havens all over the world revealing incredible levels of alleged corruption at the highest level, eating a banana, going to work. You know, just the usual daily chores that take up our time. Maybe you were doing one of those things, and you couldn’t vote in the competition. I understand! That’s fine! I think that most people for one reason or another decided not to take part in the competition, and probably said to themselves – “Who? Me? Send pictures of myself listening in different situations so that Luke can share them on his website and then people can vote for their favourite pictures and the winner could win a prize like an LEP mug or a t-shirt or something? That sounds nice, but sorry Luke I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment – I’ve got a big meeting with the boss this morning, and I’m trying to learn phrasal verbs, I’ve got to shred a few documents at the Panamanian law firm where I work and I have a conference call between with David Cameron, Vladimir Putin and some other world leaders that I have to attend to, and I have to eat these biscuits and I’ve got to escape from this pink gorilla that’s chasing me and I’m trying to learn the phonemic script to improve my English pronunciation… so I can’t do it I’m afraid, I can’t vote – but carry on anyway, it sounds like a lovely plan.”

Right. Are you following this?

I’m just saying that most people didn’t get involved in the voting, but that’s totally fine of course, and in a way it’s perfect because if 7.125 billion people had voted and sent me photos, I would have been impossibly busy over the last few weeks and my website would have crashed and so on… So, all’s well that ends well.

Total number of votes and photos? In fact I received a grand total of about 115 photos and then a total of about 270 votes.

Why did I do the comp?

I wanted to see things from your point of view a bit. Obviously, I do these podcasts on my own, mostly. Sometimes I’m joined by other people, which is lovely. But usually I just sit here on own (sad, lonely music?), I record episodes, publish them, read comments from some of you, and watch the download numbers go up and up and I think – who are all these people? Where are they? What are they doing? What are they thinking? It turns out, you’re all just normal human beings (which shouldn’t be a surprise) – I mean, you’re all normal people (I say normal, of course you’re all extraordinary) but seriously, you’re ordinary people just going about your lives in different countries, in different weather conditions, in different environments and you find time to listen to this podcast while you’re doing it. There’s a pretty diverse range of people out there in different situations, but the cool thing is that you’re all united by the fact that you listen to this podcast. You’re united by other things too of course, like the fact that you’ve all got legs (although, saying that I realise that some of you might not have legs of course and that’s great) or you’re united by the fact that you live on earth and other things, like that you need to drink water regularly, breathe air, eat food, go to the loo sometimes, we’re all united by these things, you probably like eating good food – who doesn’t? and you probably don’t like it when you have a stone in your shoe, it’s annoying when your neighbours play loud music all night, sometimes you run out of sugar or milk or, err, rice, and you get angry, like “Why don’t we have any sugar left!? Oh god!!!” or you find it embarrassing when you drop something in public or you trip over in the street and you’d love to get more sleep in the mornings. Yes, you’re all united by those things, but you’re also united by the fact that you all listen to this podcast.

In all seriousness, I can’t really overstate how amazing that is. It’s amazing. It is amazing. It’s amAAAAYzing. OK? Thanks for listening and thanks for your photos & votes.

But really, I was quite surprised at what a fun and even touching experience it was to look at all the photos that were sent. Did you check out the page for 327? It was a genuinely lovely experience, that was just a little bit heartwarming. Unless you’re a steel-hearted terminator of a person, who doesn’t let emotion defrost the edges of your frozen heart, I imagine that you felt it to be quite sweet as well, to look at all these pics of people around the world.

Not all the photos were outstanding works of photographic genius of course. In fact many of them were probably taken right at the moment that you were listening to episode 313 when I said “just take a pic while you’re listening – just take a pic of whatever you can see right now” and that’s exactly what a lot of you did – so there are some photos of computer screens, or mobile phones, or views from car or bus windows and stuff, but these pictures do have interesting details in the background or on the edges of the frame – just revealing little things that show us the things we have in common but also differences like which part of the world you’re in, or what your life is like – for example, the weather, the landscape, your working environment, other people we can see in the pictures, public spaces, etc.

Luke gets deep and meaningful

I’d like to take this opportunity to get deep and meaningful now and say some profound things about what your contribution to this photo competition means to me personally, and the way it represents something special as we move through life in this crazy world we call ‘earth’, struggling to make sense of what’s going on around us and searching for some oasis of calm and some sincere sentiments outside the usual banal nonsense we are exposed to in the media and in advertising. So, here’s some profundity for you.

So here we are, all living on this planet. We all lead these separate lives in different places with our own unique problems, stresses, responsibilities etc, but at the end of the day when we put our heads down to go to sleep, or when we lose a sock in the washing machine, or when we put our headphones on to listen to LEP, aren’t we all the same in some ways? We essentially care about the same things, don’t we? Despite being in different countries, divided by political boundaries, geo-cultural distinctions, ethnic and religious differences, we are all connected. We live pretty similar lives and we share the world together (cheesy). Things we do, even small things, affect the world around us, and affect other people’s lives – even people we can’t see might be inadvertently affected by our actions in some way, and what’s good for other people is good for the world ultimately is good for us too. You know, it’s like what Cypress Hill said – “What goes around comes around”. (Cypress Hill – “What go around come around!” – I couldn’t have said it better myself, except that it’s “what goES around comeS around”, but other than that, well done Cypress Hill.)

OK this might sound bit cheesy and naive but I think it’s true, and what I’m trying to say is that it’s stupid to divide ourselves up into little groups and isolate from each other, alienate people, stigmatise or scapegoat people and point the finger at others for being different. We should celebrate our differences, like our different customs and behaviour but we shouldn’t let those differences drag us into fighting each other on behalf of people who just care about their own power. Yeah man. Deep. OK, that was a cheesy and slightly preachy message there, but there it is. I think there’s a place for a little bit of cheese and maybe the odd bit of preachiness on this podcast sometimes because I enjoy the fact that my podcast is something that crosses borders and I think these things need to be said. It’s nice. If you don’t agree that we’re all interconnected in complex ways and that humans all basically deserve to be treated with respect, and that we have more things in common than differences – if you don’t agree with me, then leave your comments on the webpage unless you’re too busy shredding documents in an office somewhere.

So, back to the photos

Seeing people’s working lives – it’s awesome to observe the different types of work that my listeners do, and there are some interesting things in there, like Julia from Russia who works with gold for example.
Multitasking – it’s great to see so many people managing not just to listen to the podcast but also to do other things at the same time – like playing the piano, cooking, driving or in some cases answering the call of nature – (that means going to the toilet – yes I got a couple of pics of people listening in the loo). Good work (not for the toilet thing – I’m not judging you based on your performance in the toilet) but good work for the multitasking if that’s how you listen to this podcast!
Babies listening – There are a couple of little babies (newborn ones) listening too, which I do think is a good way to get the kids started on English. I wonder what this new generation will be like in English – the generation who will grow up with access to English online. It’s possible to raise kids with good English if you just let them interact with it from an early age. It’ll definitely help. Obviously, you should speak to them and get them to speak to you in English too. Hunter in Taiwan – I’m happy to see he’s smiling while listening to the podcast!
I know that some of my episodes are really long. I’ve spoken about how I think that’s good for your English. But I realise that your time is precious and I think it’s just brilliant  that you choose to spend that time listening to this.
So, as ever – thank you for devoting your time to this podcast. I’m glad my work is appreciated.
Obviously it’s a free podcast and I do this in my free-time so really it’s you who should be thanking me – writing me heartfelt messages filled with praise and admiration, sending me generous donations and and religiously recommending my podcast to every single person you meet (literally everyone) but nevertheless, thank you for devoting your time to LEP. In fact, joking aside, many of those things are true – I really do get regular messages from my listeners telling me how appreciative they are. In fact, you may have sent me an email or written a comment or something saying thank you and I appreciate that. Your feedback is great.

Also, congratulations to you for having the sense to listen to a podcast to improve your English, because in my professional opinion it’s a very good thing for you to do and it should give you an edge over other people who don’t do it. Obviously you should also do other practice as well, to activate your English including doing plenty of speaking if you can find ways to do that. But, you know, congrats for adding an English language podcast to your lifestyle. It’s BOUND to have an impact on your English.

So, now that I’ve rambled on about the podcast for a while let me now ANNOUNCE THE WINNERS of the competition and DESCRIBE THE PHOTOS in more detail. (why did I put those words in CAPITALS? …I don’t know – it just seemed more EMPHATIC!)

PHOTO COMP – RESULTS

4 prizes: 2 runners up, the winner, and the Luke’s Choice Award.

RUNNERS-UP (a mug each)

RUNNER UP (3rd place) Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener? 20 votes.

Walter near Milan in Italy - highest listener?

Walter near Milan in Italy – highest listener?

Thoughts: This is simply an amazing view and it looks like the perfect place to listen to the podcast. Walking in the mountains must be invigorating and energising, and I hope you also get some mental stimulation from the podcast while you’re doing it. I also like the composition of the photo.

RUNNER UP (2nd place)

Photo title: Sergio’s illustration of me as a Jedi in training / Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! Total = 22 votes

Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I'm Luke Skywalker, finally.

Sergio Tellez LEP JEDI and artist! He decided to draw a picture of me as a Jedi in training! :D I’m Luke Skywalker, finally.

Here’s a closer look at that illustration:

This is Sergio's illustration of me as a Jedi in training. :D There's another photo in the competition with Sergio doing the drawing - I consider them to be the same pic (this one http://teacherluke.co.uk/2016/01/20/327-the-lep-photo-competition-please-check-out-the-photos-and-vote/sergio-tellez-lep-jedi)

Note: Just describe the photo. What’s yoda whispering in my ear? “Mmmm, strong in the ways of podcasting you have become, but incomplete your training is.” Why master Yoda? What must I do to become a true Jedi Master of English Teaching? “Hmmm, monetise your podcast you must! Yes! Create online courses! Download them people will! Help them learn, you can! Video courses you could produce, yes! Study packs, pdf worksheets. Publish and sell your own materials online you must. Only then, a Jedi you will be.” OK master Yoda. I’ll try. “Hmm speak not of “TRY”. DO or DO NOT. There is no ‘TRY'”. Your voice is a bit weird master Yoda, are you ok?

Thoughts: A lot of effort went into this. The illustration is great, particularly Yoda. You’ve also done a pretty good job of capturing my face, probably based on just one photo. Also, the picture shows a lot of things like the fact that you’re listening while drawing, you’re a Star Wars fan, and you’re aware that I am too. It shows that you’ve been paying attention! I am Luke Skywalker after all. It’s really funny and nice!

OVERALL WINNER (1st place) (a mug + t-shirt, bag or pad)

Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework (29 votes)

Gabriella in Italy - listening while doing the housework

Gabriella in Italy – listening while doing the housework

Thoughts: This is a great pic because it shows very clearly the way that many people listen to the podcast – while doing something else. Gabriella is obviously very clever to combine the two, and she seems so happy! Big smile on her face, and it’s just a very striking and colourful picture. There’s something appealing about it. It’s a slice of life. We have a glimpse into your home, and we get a sense of how much you enjoy listening to the podcast. Lovely stuff!

Luke’s Choices for Honourable Mentions (from ones that didn’t win) – and one of these will receive a Luke’s Choice Award (a mug)

These are photos that didn’t win or get runners up prizes, but which I’d like to mention because I like them.
Esther and so many ginger biscuits 9
Dima Okun – listening all the time! 8
Lеksandra Sokolova – an artist who listens while illustrating – sashasokolova.com 8
Denis (Bosnia and Herzegovina) during his Orchestra Rehearsal 9
Thavorn Twinant from Thaliand in San Francisco 10
Hunter in Taiwan listening with 14 day old son 12
Zdenek_Lukas in Czech Republic 13
Sylke Strüber and her pet dog Robin in Germany 13
Meliana and bear in Wroclaw (in Poland), which is this year European Capital of Culture 15
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Alexander in hospital in Russia – don’t worry he’s ok – and he’s listened to every single episode of LEP while recovering.
Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1 (stayed up all night studying and then chose to listen to my podcast – instead of crashing out in bed, exhausted – you’ll go far my friend)

The ‘Luke’s Choice Award’

This is an award given to one of the photos that didn’t win, but which I personally like.
I like them all, but of the ones that didn’t win, this one stood out for me.

The award goes to:
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets (5 votes)

Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets

Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets

Why have I chosen this one?

It’s a slice of life. First of all, we get a sense of daily routine. It seems so busy, with other people cycling past. A sense of movement. A sense of multiculturalism. Environmental issues – with he pollution. A sense of urgency. Although it was probably taken very quickly and it’s essentially a selfie, I like the composition, with the cyclists moving past in the background and to the side, with Daria on the left, quite close engaging us with those lovely blue eyes. It makes me wonder what she’s thinking while surrounded by all this traffic. It must be a stressful daily commute, but she seems calm while listening to the podcast. And she l looks like a ninja, which is cool.

If you’d like to buy some merchandise, click the image below to visit the LEP GIFT SHOP.

Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.

Click the image to visit the gift shop where you can buy LEP merchandise.

Other entries and their votes

Lê Phương Thảo sunrise after staying up all night studying 1
Amir Khosh – the Dentist who listens to LEP 1
Sara Viñas in Beijing China with a mask for pollution 1
Gabriel Reis 1
Armando Torres driving in Mexico with the iztaccihuatl volcano in the background 1
Mohsen from Iran 1
Paquan Satamparat in Thaliand with another LEP Ninja – turtley amazing 1
Vlad from Kharkiv in Ukraine, where it looks very cold indeed 1
Alex from Spain making delicious chocolate cookies with the kind help of her two girls 1
Valtesse Maria Thompson – hashtags are enough proof! 1
basma-salman listening in bed I think! 1
Mike in Sri Lanka or India 1
Ewelina – keep on running! (with headphones on) 1
Carolina from Santiago Chile 1
Amaia Garcia – Bilbao in Basque Country – Guggenheim museum 1
Emília Hosszú – she nominated herself in the most boring category – in the UK I think 1
Julien the French stonemason 1
Emma Lee – LEP Ninja from Australia – in her 6 year old son’s room 1
Adam from Poland, now a sheet metal worker in Leicestershire in England 1
Irina Lavrova – another frozen Lepster! 1
Tania from Chile now in Munich 1
Aine Ito – LEP Ninja from Japan now studying in Edinburgh 1
Farid from Algeria now living in Montreal Canada 1
Tetsro – shaving in Japan with Philip’s shaver – did you ask Philip before you borrowed it? 1
Junji Yanagi, from Japan, who prefers walking than taking the train because it gives him more time to listen to LEP – 2
Jonatan Uriel Vidal Carmona in Mexico City 2
Francesco Lotto – a foggy day in Italy 2
romana from höflein, austria – running betwen vineyards 2
Anthony CP from Spain – listening in Northern Ireland 2
Ivan Irikov at the Gym 2
Anna Maria Chachulska (Polish girl living in Netherlands) and Kermit and a gin and tonic 2
A lovely photo of Renato in a typical listening situation 2
Guillaume driving with The Thompsons in Switzerland 2
Ariel Tsai (from China) marking her students homework 2
Quyền Cao commuting and listening 2
Sebastian from Poland – feeling good after a 5 km jog 2
Sergey Abakumoff – somewhere in Russia – spot the headphones 2
Alexey Алексей keeping an eye on the road in Russia 2
playdoh crow multitasking with a nude_potato 3
Mamen – waiting for the snow in Biescas in Spain 3
Mateusz from Poland – and his LEP fish 3
Kaline who listens everywhere! 3
Vasyl Usik on a bike ride in Ukraine 3
Sylke from Germany 3
Marina F with her listening partner – Daniel 3
Achim Winter – Cooking with Luke 3
Facundo Vilicich with a skipping rope in the PLaza Malvinas 3
huda s – favourite place for listening 3
Maxi from San Nicolás, a small town of Argentina – with the view from his kitchen and a cup of mate (local tea) 3
Paulina from Poland – listening in the morning. 3
Hideki from Japan and the Tokyo Skytree 4
Marina in Moscow 4
Jose, who listens while running to the toilet 4
Sabine from Germany – starting the day brushing her teeth in English 4
Leila somewhere in Russia 4
Carlos Rodríguez from Chile – multitasking 4
Alessandro from Rome on a ferry from France to England 5
Anna – on the way from China to Vietnam 5
Kristina listening at -20 degrees C 5
Daria Bokova from Russia living China, cycling through the polluted streets 5
Charleston from Brazil – on the way to his girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night 6
Julia from Minsk in Belarus 6
Eric in France – raising a glass to LEP 6
Mayumi padawan learner from Japan just having seen Star Wars 6
Julia from Russia – a restorer who works with GOLD – note the golden LEP 6
Cristian cooking for his British fiancee – who also is a lepster 7
Joanna from Poland and her comments! 7
Kristina in Moscow – smiling despite the snowstorm 7
Guido in Milan – giving LEP some free publicity 7
Serezha Sergey from Moscow 8
Weijia Wang from China 9

Other stuff

Crikey! It’s the 7th birthday of LEP! I completely forgot about that!

Top countries by download over the last 7 days, 30 days, 90 days, year.

Nicknames for LEPsters

I expect I have many types of listener. Some of you have been listening for ages, some might be quite new. Some of you leave comments, some don’t. Some of you use transcripts, some just listen. I was thinking of nicknames I could use to refer to the different types of listener I have.  Here are a few ideas. They’re mainly acronyms. *Let’s see how many of these nicknames I can actually remember in the future! and Let’s see how many get adopted by you*

LEPsters (all people who listen)
LEP Ninjas (People who listen but never comment, or people who comment rarely, or people who comment anonomously and then slip away into the darkness)
DLLs – Dedicated Language Learners (obviously that’s everyone – but these are people who really go all out to learn using the podcast, like listening numerous times, repeating what they hear, keeping vocabulary records, studying transcripts, or using any kind of serious work ethic while listening)
Dudes – Anyone (men or women) who just likes to chill out while listening. You might have a cup of tea and lie down on your nice rug and just listen for the pure enjoyment of it)
Civilians or “muggles” (People who don’t listen and who have no idea that it exists)
Splitters! (People who used to listen, but decided to stop for some reason – especially if they listen to OPP but not mine)
Scrubbers! (People who know the podcast exists but just ignore it, choosing not to listen)
Passive smokers / Second hand LEPsters / Significant Others (Wives, girlfriends, boyfriends or husbands who listen because they’re with another LEPster)
Younglings (Kids who listen to the podcast)
Comrades – I’m referring to fellow English teaching professionals who listen to this podcast. I have a special sense of solidarity with other English teachers.
All creatures great and small (any animals who listen)
Aliens (just aliens – I imagine they’re scanning all broadcasts on earth)
NSA Agents (Those American secret service agents who are listening to this – imagine Agent Smith from The Matrix)
LTLs (Long Term Lepsters – people who have been listening for years – maybe since 2009 – early adopters)
Newbies – Anyone who’s just started listening recently.
The Lost Adventurers – Listeners who are quite lost  because they just don’t really understand what’s going on in episodes, but they keep pushing forwards anyway, searching for the truth. I imagine you sort of lost in the jungle, slashing at the foliage with a machete, trying to find the path that will lead you to the temple of English enlightenment.
Transcribers (LEPsters who take part in the transcription process)
Audiophiles (People who have downloaded audiobooks from Audible)
Talkers (People who talk on italki)
Cowboys / gunsligners = people who think I talk too much “You talk too much”
Readers (People who just read the show notes and transcripts, but don’t actually listen to the episodes)
Multitaskers (people who listen to LEP while doing other things)
Philanthropists (people who donate money to the podcast out of generosity and kindness)

I’m sure you could think of plenty of other types of listener. So, I invite you to think of other names and add them in the comment section.

POLL – What are the most common types of listener? Complete this poll to find out!

325. Catching Up with Oli / Future Predictions (Part 1)

Here’s a 2-part episode featuring a conversation with my cousin Oliver in which we talk about first some challenges he faced over the last few years (including dramatic things like a scooter crash, a tropical disease, a burglary and how he completely flooded his own house) and then some more positive things about being a father and predictions for how society will be different in the future. Also, listen for some general news and announcements about Luke’s English Podcast.

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Announcements & News

  • I hope you enjoyed the episodes I recorded as a tribute to David Bowie. Unfortunately, so soon after we lost Bowie, the news came that another great person has died – the British actor Alan Rickman, who like Bowie was 69 years old and died from cancer. He’s most famous for playing the part of Severus Snape in the Harry Potter films, and the part of Hans Gruber the bad guy in the film Die Hard with Bruce Willis – both very enjoyable and distinguished performances, but he played many other roles too. Alan Rickman was known for his sardonic humour, his wonderfully rich and unique voice, and for bringing a great amount of weight and humanity as well as humour to his roles. He will be missed too.
  • And, I haven’t even mentioned Lemmy – the lead singer of the group Motorhead, who also died recently. Lemmy played a massive part in the invention of heavy metal music, and was generally a huge personality in the world of British rock. He was on the scene all the way from the 60s until this year when he passed away due to cancer. Lemmy was known for his gravelly voice, his appearance (he looked like a biker dressed in leather with big mutton-chop sideburns and moles on his face – he wasn’t a pretty guy like Bowie by any means), his hard-drinking speed fuelled lifestyle and his bizarre obsession with Nazi regalia – clothing, weapons and so on from the Nazi era. He wasn’t a bad guy, he just liked the designs and imagery from that time – it had nothing to do with the ideology, and at heart he was just committed to playing loud and fast music and living a loud and fast lifestyle – and he will surely go down in history as a true legend of the music world. So, that’s three people, at least. So, can famous British people stop dying please!? If we carry on at this rate there’ll be none left by the end of the year.
  • But let’s not dwell on these dark things any more! I’m glad to present you this episode today because this one is all about the future, and new life because my cousin Oli is going to be a Dad for the first time – his wife is expecting a baby daughter at any time, so let’s look to the future, with new life and positivity and all that stuff! We’ll start that in just a minute, but first – a little bit of admin…
  • The comments issue on the website is fixed. I just needed to do a few updates. You can now post comments on the homepage again. No worries!
  • Email subscribers – are you still receiving emails when I post new episodes? I had a couple of messages from listeners recently who said they hadn’t received emails with new episodes. How about you? If you’re an email subscriber, could you let me know if you received emails for the David Bowie episodes, the episode called With the Thompsons, and the Star Wars spoiler review.
  • Picture comp is finished – so, don’t send me any more photos please! Thank you for the photos I have received in my email account, and, of course, I have loads of pictures. They’ll go up on the website soon and you can pick your favourite. I’m a little bit concerned about how that’s going to work because there are about a billion photos, but I’ll work something out.
  • I’ll be meeting Paul and Amber again soon. Firstly to catch up with them both – because quite a lot has happened since we last spoke on the podcast. Amber went to Costa Rica, and Paul Taylor is now something of a celebrity as his comedy video about kissing in France went super-viral over the last few weeks. His video, “Paul Taylor – La Bise” is about his frustration with the French custom of kissing people when you meet them. It was uploaded onto Robert Hoehn’s YouTube channel French Fried TV on new year’s day and within the space of just a few days it got over 1 million views. He was featured on lots of French websites, radio and TV, and then the video went global on the BBC’s website and more. Paul also has a new solo comedy show every Saturday (as well as the one with me on Thursdays) and it’s completely sold out for the next 10 weeks or something. Wow! Remember when he was on this podcast talking about how he quit his job to do comedy? Remember how difficult it was in Edinburgh? Well, things seem to be working out for him now! Good news!

  • Also, I hope to get Amber and him on this podcast again (if he’ll come on now that he’s such a big celebrity) in order to do that interactive version of the Lying Game – remember that? Listen to “318. The Rematch (Part 2)” to find out the details. Basically, this is a chance for you to get involved in another version of the lying game.  All three of us said some statements, and you now have to write questions in the comments section for episode 318. IN the episode we’ll ask each other your questions, and answer them. Then you can decide if they’re true or lies. Again, listen to 318. The Rematch (Part 2) for all the details (listen until the end).

Introduction to this Episode

As you know at Chrimbo I want back to the UK and stayed with my family, and with my cousin at his home in Bristol. It’s been a while since he was last on the podcast, and quite a lot has changed with him. In our conversation we talk about lots of things and I really think this is an interesting episode, and a very valuable one from a language point of view. The topics we talk about are diverse and quite in-depth and as a result we use lots of different features of grammar and vocabulary. I always encourage you to notice language while listening to native speakers on this podcast, so try to do that in this episode if you can. First we talk about what happened to Oli since the last time he was on the podcast, so watch out for the ways in which we talk about the past – tenses, and other forms. Oli faced a few difficulties and challenges, so watch out for the ways he describes those things. Essentially, he tells me a few anecdotes about some of his difficulties in London, watch out for past tenses and so on. Then we talk about the future, and about various predictions for the next 10-20 years, so naturally you can try to notice the specific language, tenses and modal verbs that we use to describe the future, make predictions and make judgements about the future. As well as that, there’s a lot of vocabulary related to technology, transport and communication.

In my opinion this is a very useful conversation for you to listen to. I loved catching up with Oli and I sincerely hope you enjoy listening to it, and by the way, listen all the way to the end to hear Oli play a bit of guitar – and he’s a really good guitarist.

That’s it!

olipodnew1

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.

308. The Lying Game (Part 1)

Hello, welcome back to LEP. This episode is called the lying game, and it’s one of those ones in which I play a speaking game with my friends Amber and Paul. A transcript for the first 15-20 minutes is available here on the page for this episode. In the introduction you’ll hear me welcome new listeners, talk a bit about my speaking speed on the podcast, mention the importance of listening to native speakers of English (even if it’s a bit difficult to understand every word) and explain some of the content of the conversation you’ll hear between Amber, Paul and me. Then, the speaking game begins properly. I really hope you have as much fun listening to this as we did recording it, because we really enjoyed ourselves! In part 2 (coming soon) you’ll hear the conclusion of the game and I’ll explain how I use this activity with my students in my English classes.

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Introduction Transcript Starts Here (+ more information below)
Hello, welcome to LEP. This episode is called the lying game, and it’s one of those ones in which I play a speaking game with my friends Amber and Paul.

Before you listen to that, I’d like to just say a few things here at the beginning of the episode. Firstly, hello to all my regular listeners, the LEPsters as they are sometimes known. How are you all? I hope you’re fine and having a lovely day or night or evening or morning or whatever time of day it is. Thanks for recent comments on my website. It’s always nice to read your messages. Recently I did episodes about The Battle or Britain and Back To The Future, and I’m feeling a lot of love in the comments section – particularly from my Polish listeners because of things I said in episode 303, which is really great. It’s very motivating to read the positive things you have to say in response to my episodes. I do think about my podcast a lot, and I always hope that you’re enjoying it and finding it useful. So, your comments are valuable bits of encouragement. Thanks also to those of you who have never left a comment on my website in your life – you’re my ninja listeners, and I think there are a lot of you out there, choosing to remain silent in the shadows, but listening to everything.

Secondly, just in case you’re new to LEP, let me just quickly introduce myself. My name is Luke Thompson and I’m an English language teacher from England, which is in Britain, which is in the UK, which is in Europe, sort of. I’m originally from London (in the south-east) but I went to university in Liverpool (in the north-west) and I also spent many years growing up in Warwickshire which is near Birmingham, which is in the midlands, which is in England, which is in Britain, which is in Europe, which is on Earth… etc. OK, I’ve been teaching English for nearly 15 years, wow has it been that long? Time flies when you’re having fun, and I do enjoy my job. I’m DELTA qualified, and in my career I have taught English to adults and children from many different countries, at many different levels, at many different times of the day – morning, afternoon, evening and at night sometimes, in any season, in all weather conditions – rain, snow, hail, wind, lightning, and even during a couple of earthquakes. I’ve taught courses in general English, business English, academic English, English for exams, English for doctors, English for pharmacists, English for engineers, English for lawyers, English for HR, English for secretaries of state, English for journalists, English for unemployed people, English for retired people and English for people who haven’t chosen what to do with their lives yet. Basically, if you need English, I’m your man. If I was a superhero for English teaching, you could call me Englishman! Which is appropriate, because I am an English man. Haha, I’m just joking, I’m not a superhero, I’m just an ordinary humble man, well as you can hear from this introduction I may not be that humble, but I am a man – definitely, I checked this morning. I am proud to be an English teacher – a profession which includes many bright and brilliant people all around the world, who have either chosen this vocation, or just ended up doing it because they didn’t know what else to do with their lives. As well as being an English teacher, I’m also a stand-up comedian, and I’m a podcaster. I do a podcast for learners of English called Luke’s English Podcast. You should listen to it. It’s quite popular and I have lots of downloads these days. I’m happy to say that I have a lovely community of people around the world who regularly listen to my podcast episodes in order to improve their English, but also (hopefully) because they just enjoy listening to each episode I produce. Did I mention that the podcast has won a few awards? No. Ok, well, the podcast has won a few awards. Am I sounding a bit arrogant? I hope not. I don’t mean to sound full of myself, I really don’t – it’s just that sometimes I think I should try and sell myself on the podcast, just a little bit, to remind you who I am. I don’t mean to just go on about myself a lot because it’s a bit self-indulgent isn’t it? But I do think it’s important to convince you that listening to this is very good for your English, and that you should keep doing it. It’s not just me who says that, I also have lots of testimonies from listeners of my podcast who have commented on my website, saying some very positive and nice things indeed, like this one which arrived just a couple of days ago, from someone called “Teddy WS” who simply wrote Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 18.02.11“Thank God I find this page.” He sounds a bit desperate maybe, like he’s been walking through some kind of English teaching desert, and my website is like an oasis for him, where he can drink from this refreshing wellspring of natural English. It’s certainly a positive endorsement.

Thanks Teddy, that’s nice. Now, admittedly, Teddy did make a mistake in his comment – he wrote  “Thank God I find this page” and it should be “Thank God I found this page” but to be fair, he has only just found the page, and he has been walking through a desert for days and days, and he probably hasn’t listened to many of the episodes yet. I expect if Teddy writes on the page again in a few months, after he’s listened to more episodes and refreshed himself, he won’t make a mistake like that. I certainly hope so. Teddy, if you’re listening – don’t feel bad about making that mistake – mistakes are an essential part of the learning experience. Just brush it off, carry on and try not to do it again. By the way Teddy, I’m looking forward to reading another comment from you on my site in the future.

The main philosophy of my podcast is to give learners of English the chance to listen to authentic British English as it is really spoken. Sometimes it’s just me talking, sometimes I have interviews and conversations with friends, family or other interesting people. I try to keep it real – meaning I try not to adapt my language level too much. I don’t want to talk to you in a very simple way because that’s not how people usually speak in the real world. I think I speak clearly on the podcast, but at a fairly normal speed. I believe, ultimately, that’s better for your English.

So, it’s better for your English in the long run, but in the short-term, you might find it difficult to understand every single word I say, or every single word my friends say. So, I often remind you, that if you don’t understand what I’m saying or if you get lost during conversations on the podcast – keep listening! Keep going! Don’t be put off when you lose the thread of the conversation. Persevere, don’t give up. In the long run, it will be better for your English. So don’t stop.

If you want to pay close attention to every single word, and study those words, you can. Many of my episodes have transcripts, or at least some notes which you can read. You can then study the words and phrases I’m using and improve your English that way. Or, you can simply relax and listen to the episodes wherever you are in the world – just find a comfortable place, or even an uncomfortable place – it doesn’t matter that much, but comfortable is better, just put your headphones in, or turn your speakers on, and just listen for fun. It should be enjoyable to listen to English. It doesn’t have to be a boring study exercise. So, I invite you to just relax, kick off your shoes, make a cup of tea, listen to my episodes, and enjoy doing it. :)

This episode is entitled The Lying Game. The title of the episode has absolutely no connection to the things I’ve just said to you in the opening minutes of this introduction.

No, the reason this episode is called The Lying Game, is because in a few moments you’re going to listen to my friends and me playing a speaking game which involves either lying or telling the truth. It’s just a fun guessing game that involves some lying. So that’s why this episode has that title.

So let me tell you what you can expect from this 2-part episode of LEP.

What’s The Lying Game? This is a speaking activity I play with my students in my English language classes. In this episode you’ll hear me playing this game with my friends Amber and Paul, who are native speakers of English.

In a few minutes the episode is going to start (we haven’t started yet, this is still the introduction). I just wanted to say right now, that this was a very fun conversation for Amber, Paul and me. We really enjoyed talking and playing the game. I hope you enjoy it too. The thing is, we got pretty excited during the game and so we speak pretty quickly and sometimes we speak over each other. That might make it difficult for you to understand everything that’s being said. Still, like I said a few moments ago – keep listening anyway, even if you don’t understand everything. OK, I think I’ve made my point about that now!

The recording begins mid conversation. Let me just tell you a few things to help you understand what we’re saying, right from the beginning.

You’ll hear me say to Paul, “Do you really think I change the way I speak?” This is because Paul thought I sometimes change my voice when I’m recording the podcast. Like, I have a podcast voice that comes on when I start recording. We agree that it’s quite normal as a way of catching the attention of the audience from the beginning, or “pulling people in” as Paul says.

Just a couple of other things that will help you understand the beginning of the conversation:

Paul starts whispering subliminal messages into his microphone. This is because just the other day he was on a “film shoot” and he did that to the sound man – he whispered into the microphone and only the sound man could hear him. Just for fun.

I make a (lame) joke about something Amber says about it being a grey day. I thought she said ‘grade A’, referring to the sofa she was sitting on. A grade A sofa would be a top quality sofa. My sofa on the other hand is not that good, so it’s more likely to be a grade B or grade C sofa.

Then we make a few references to things you won’t know about, like my stand up routine, and a joke I made earlier about Philips lightbulbs, you know the technology company called “Philips”. Watch out for that. We found is hilarious. You might be confused by it. Let me know.

Then I realise that we’re having too much fun, and that could be annoying, like my favourite film critic Mark Kermode says that comedy is hard work. If people say they had fun making a comedy you’ll know it’s not funny.

It looks like they had a lot of fun making it which is always a recipe for disaster, when it comes to comedy. Because most really funny comedies are not fun to make – On reviewing Mortdecai 23 Jan 2015 show

So I hope that is not the case for this episode.

So, after that Mark Kermode reference, we settle down a bit, the conversation continues, we talk a bit about lying, and we start playing the game.

OK, I’m now going to stop explaining everything before it’s happened, and just let you listen to the episode. So, here we go!

Intro 2 (This is the second introduction which I say at the beginning of the conversation with Amber & Paul!)
Sometimes I play a fluency speaking game with my students, which involves telling lies. I call it The Lying Game. It’s an imaginative title. It’s just a fun game to practice giving information, and forming questions. I’ve been using it in class for years and it’s always a pretty popular exercise. This time on the podcast I thought I’d play the game with some native speakers. When you listen you can focus on noticing these things: question forms, how people describe events in the past (tenses and pronunciation of ed endings), how people describe present habits (verb forms and adverbs – not just present simple tense) and also the intonation that we use when asking questions in a suspicious, open or challenging way.

With me I have Paul Taylor & Amber Minogue.

How are you?
Do you think you’re good liars? Are you gullible?
Do you ever lie in your life?
Is it wrong to lie? Is it ever ok?
Are you ready to play the game?

Rules

  1. Tell us something – it could be something that happened in the past, a habit, someone you’ve met – anything about you that we don’t already know. Try to make it interesting – partly ridiculous, partly believable.
  2. We will then interrogate you about it, asking you all sorts of questions to investigate your statement. You can expand on it. This is the hilarious bit where we’re not sure if you’re lying or not. Ha ha ha.
  3. Then, when we’ve run out of questions we will say if we think you’re lying or telling the truth, justifying why we think so.
  4. Then, reveal if you were lying or not. It’ll be dramatic and entertaining.
  5. Points: For everyone who guesses wrong, you get two points. Every person who guesses correctly gets 1 point.
  6. Everyone has a go, and at the end we count the scores to see not only who is the best liar, but also who is the most gullible or untrusting person. If you’re gullible, you won’t score much. If you’re too trusting, you won’t score much either. If you’re a bad liar you won’t score much, if you don’t appear trustworthy you won’t score well either. So, the winner of this game will be some kind of psychopath, basically. Or, the winner will be a good liar and good at detecting lies too.

Luke, Paul and Amber’s Statements from the Game

Luke: I once met Dave Grohl (drummer from Nirvana, singer in Foo Fighters) at a buddhist temple in Japan.

Paul: I once spent Valentine’s Day with Elijah Wood and John Hurt.

End of part 1! You can hear Amber’s turn in the next episode, where you will find out what happens and who wins the game in the end! (exciting)

Scores at the end of part 1
At this stage, the scores are like this:

Luke – 2 / 0   Total = 2 points

Amber – 1 / 1   Total = 2 points

Paul – 0 / 2   Total = 2 points

So it’s even stevens!

Listen to part 2 (coming soon) in order to hear Amber’s story, and to see who wins.

The photo of Dave Grohl that I took on my J-Phone:
Dave Grohl

:) Thanks for listening!

The Invention of Lying – Film by Ricky Gervais

Woman with crossed fingers

254. IELTS Tips & Tricks

An episode full of advice for those taking the IELTS test. [Download]


Small Donate ButtonHello and welcome to Luke’s English Podcast and this exciting and edgy new episode. I hope you are ready physically, mentally, spiritually, because this is going to be epic. I’m attempting to make this sound slightly more dramatic than it actually is. This one is all about the IELTS test, which is not normally an exciting subject, but with the use of this background music and my tone of voice hopefully I can convince you that this really is edge-of-your-seat stuff. If that isn’t enough, and you still need to be convinced of the dramatic tension at the heart of this episode, to keep you fully engaged, I am also expecting a delivery from the post office at any moment. A few days ago I ordered a pair of trainers online – a fresh pair of old-school addidas sneakers, and at some point this morning I expect them to be delivered to my door, by the postman. There could be a buzz at my doorbell at literally any second. I can hardly contain myself, and I hope it’s the same story for you. This is a truly riveting and adrenaline fuelled experience for me, and I hope it is for you too. And it is in this highly tense and gripping context that I bring this episode of LEP to you right now. Now if we can just keep up this level of focus throughout the rest of the episode, that would be great. If it helps you to concentrate, imagine that at any moment my addidas trainers could be delivered. I may even open the package live while recording the podcast. Will they be the right size? Will they be the right colour? Will they suit me? Only time can tell! But one thing’s for sure, it doesn’t get more dramatic than this, as the tension rises ahead of this groundbreaking new episode of Luke’s English Podcast in which we deal with the almost frighteningly engaging subject of the IELTS test, a test which, if you fail it, the penalty is instant death.

Just kidding. It’s not instant death. Usually you have to wait about 3 working days.

Obviously I’m just joking – you don’t die if you fail the IELTS test, and anyway, you can’t fail IELTS. So, that was just a light-hearted introduction to this episode, to make it exciting – because I’m a bit worried that a whole episode about IELTS may be a bit dull – but then again, I’m sure that loads of you out there will find this extremely useful. So let’s get on with it.

Introduction
In this one I’m going to go through all parts of the IELTS test, giving you some tips and general advice. I’m recording this because it is one of the most commonly requested episodes. People are always asking me to do episodes about IELTS and I have never done one until now. So here it is, the eagerly awaited IELTS episode. Loads of people around the world take the IELTS test to get a grade of their English. More and more it is becoming the world’s #1 test of English level. It is a notoriously tough test which challenges many people around the world every day, so what wisdom can I impart to my loyal LEPsters who are hoping to prove themselves in the IELTS challenge? Well, quite a lot I hope.

If you’ve never taken the test, and never plan to (quite a wise move), hopefully there will still be plenty to gain from this episode because advice for the test often works as pretty good advice for study skills in general, and I will be talking throughout the episode about linguistic skills, challenges and advice – so there is bound to be loads of useful language which you can pick up by listening to this, and yes – because I had to prepare this episode in advance, pretty much all of this is transcribed and available for you at teacherluke.co.uk. Just find the page for this episode and away you go!

The IELTS test is administered by Cambridge University and is the UK standard test of English language level. It is used by academic institutions and employers as a way of gauging the English level of potential students or employees. It’s an infamously difficult and is a complete test of your English skills. Many people have to take it before making progress in their career, their studies or just in their life in general, others take it as a challenge or a way to find out their real level in English. In this episode I’m going to impart as much advice as I can for those who are planning to take the test. It is a complex and broad-ranging test and I would need a whole series of episodes to deal with it fully. Here I’m going to give you as many hints and tips for each part of the exam as possible in just one single episode of the podcast. Many of the tips I give here can also be applied to other Cambridge exams like FCE, CAE and BEC as Cambridge tends to use certain question types and techniques across all those tests, although the test formats and levels of challenge are different.

To be completely honest, I wouldn’t normally have done this episode because it requires quite careful preparation, a lot of this advice is quite valuable and I’m a bit reluctant to give it away for nothing, and some people may find it a little dull. That’s why I wouldn’t normally have done this episode, but I am doing it simply because so many people have requested it, and I know that there are some people out there who have no access to affordable resources for IELTS preparation.

People normally pay for this kind of advice for the IELTS test, but I’m willing to give it to you here for nothing. In return please consider making a donation to me if you can. I’ve had to spend quite a lot of time preparing this episode, it includes some wisdom that I’ve developed after years of teaching IELTS classes off and on, and I’ve done it out of generosity and as a favour to many of my listeners who have requested this information. I am not in the business of giving away all my advice and counsel free of charge, as I’m sure you can understand. So, if you find my advice useful, please consider making a contribution by clicking the PayPal button which you will find on the page, and then making a donation. You can choose the amount. The most common amounts are 5-10 pounds but you can give as much or as little as you like. Small Donate Button

Where did I get this info?
A lot of this stuff comes from my own head and my experience of leading students through IELTS preparation, but I haven’t taught IELTS in a while, so I asked my British Council colleagues for their advice, and I looked at some BC published material which also includes lots of good tips.

By the way – I get quite a lot of teachers listening to this, as well as great students who have good IELTS scores. I’m sure you’ve got some great insights and tips as well. Please share them in the comments section. Certainly, if something occurs to you that I have missed, just add it in the comments section.

Download this useful stuff
If you’re serious about taking IELTS you will need study materials. You can buy preparation books from Cambridge University Press, and you should also consider getting one of their books of practice tests too.

Here are some other useful things for you to download:
The IELTS teacher’s guide – contains an overview of the test, explanation of the levels, assessment criteria for the speaking and writing sections (very valuable) www.ielts.org/PDF/Guide_Teachers_2013.pdf

IELTS test sampleswww.ielts.org/test_takers_information/test_sample.aspx This is invaluable because you can see the real tasks you have to do. Particularly useful are the sample writing tasks and answers. You can see the tasks, then read some answers from candidates, and then read the assessment feedback by examiners. I find this to be one of the best ways to get my students to reflect on what makes a good piece of writing. Click here to go straight to the writing part, and the sample answers are the last item in this list www.ielts.org/test_takers_information/test_sample/academic_writing_sample.aspx

What is IELTS?
IELTS stands for the International English Language Testing System. It is developed and administered by Cambridge University, The British Council and IDP Australia. The main point of the test is to determine language level. It is impossible to pass or fail the test. Instead, you are given scores for your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills and a global mark which is an average of all the other scores.

It’s a difficult test and everyone finds it challenging. Even native speakers have problems with this test and it is very very rare to get 100%.

The score you get from the test is a reflection of your English level. Many people use IELTS levels as a standard for talking about language level. 1 – 9.

There are two types of IELTS test – the general exam and the academic exam. The format is very similar between the two, in fact the listening and speaking sections are the same. For the academic test in the reading and writing sections the topics are more academic, and you have to write a description of a diagram. The academic one is more popular and I have only ever taught that one, so that’s what I’m focusing on.

Universities and employers will often require you to have a certain score (e.g. minimum level 7) to gain access to a course or a job. Many people around the world are attempting to take the IELTS challenge – usually to prove their level of English as part of a university or job application, or just because they are masochists who like to make their own lives difficult!

The American equivalent is TOEFL, which is a completely different test.

IELTS has a task-based approach, and tests you on what you can do in English rather than what you know. For example, there are no grammar gap-fills. Instead your grammar is tested by your ability to achieve tasks in the written and spoken parts of the test. So, basically, you have to do certain tasks in all parts of the test – understand the general or specific meanings of some texts, be able to follow lectures and conversations, write several types of text, and speak about different things on your own or in a dialogue with someone else.

The listening, reading and writing parts happen in the same session. The speaking test is done at a different time but often on the same day.

The whole test lasts just under 3 hours.

General Advice
Before you take this exam you must be prepared. Do not walk into the exam without having at least tried a few practice tests before. You need to be familiar with the format of the test so that it is not all new to you. It’s q complex test. To a large extent, taking an IELTS course will train you on how to deal with the test itself as much as give you English training. So, you need to know the test before you start. Practice tests can be found online.

Know the assessment criteria. You need to know what the examiners are looking for, especially in the writing and speaking parts. Assessment criteria can be found online at the Cambridge IELTS website too.

Do some practice. Do each part of the test a few times separately, and do a whole test in exam conditions at least once before you do it for real. This will help you practice concentrating for a long time, and it will help you learn about timing, and your strengths and weaknesses. Real test practice is vital.

Time yourself when doing exercises. You should always be aware of how much time you have to do each part of the test, and you should know how much time it takes you to do each part.

Get yourself properly ready on the day and do what you can to remove problems so that you are calm and in a good mood. Get a good night’s sleep before the exam! Eat a proper breakfast. Know the route to the test centre. Make the journey before you do it for real so you know how to get there. You don’t want any unnecessary stress, because the day may be pretty stressful.

When you’re practising, stay positive! Remember that this is a difficult test and everyone struggles with it, even native speakers.

Set yourself a goal – aim for a certain percentage (e.g. 70%) for each section.

When you check your answers, learn from your mistakes. Where do you lose points? What do you need to do to fix that?

Maximise your English input generally. Listen to lots of authentic English, or podcasts like LEP. Read a lot of magazine and newspaper articles. Fairly long magazine articles are best. They’re quite similar to IELTS reading texts.

Read some reports on data – anything with a graph, diagram or table and accompanying report. This will help you with writing part 1.

Keep an organised record of vocabulary. Write new words in a notebook, and write whatever you need to remember those words. Add examples to your notes, that’s important, but also add mnemonic notes – just any associations that will help you remember them. They could be vivid images, or connections to things you already remember. For example if you want to remember the word ‘plunge’ – you could connect it to an existing word in your language (plonger for example) or perhaps the sound of something dropping into water from a height. Add anything to help you remember the word. Test yourself using your word list regularly. Cover the word, make example sentences, check the pronunciation in a dictionary etc.

Attending an IELTS preparation course is always a good idea – it will almost certainly help you, but you must remember that you are the only one who is responsible for your success in this test. Even if you have a teacher or a tutor – it comes down to you. The effort, concentration and time you put into it will pay off later. Take responsibility for your own progress.

Don’t forget the 7 Ps: Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.

You’ll probably need to get hold of practice test materials – published books or stuff online that you can find.

Reading Paper
Don’t read the entire text from start to finish before dealing with questions. You don’t have time and it’s unnecessary. Instead, use the questions as a guide and then skim or scan the text to find the relevant answers.

Use the title; introduction and final paragraph to get a general gist of the text to help give you context.

You don’t get transfer time in this section, so make sure you add your answers to the answer sheet properly as you go.

Don’t bother marking your answers temporarily in pencil before finalising them later. Just add your final answer there and then. You won’t have time to come back and confirm later.

You get 60 minutes. If you finish way too early, there’s something wrong. If you struggle to complete in time, there’s something wrong too! Ideally it will take you exactly 60 minutes to complete the test.

Don’t get stuck on one question and dwell on it for a long time. Move on to the next question and come back to it later if you have time. Sometimes people with very good reading skills will lose lots of points because they let one or two questions ruin the rest of the test.

Do not panic! It’s never that bad. Stay positive throughout the test, even if you feel like you’re not doing very well. The test is not designed to make you feel like you’re doing well. It is not supposed to be pleasant and rewarding, so it probably won’t be. Just pick the answer you think is right and move on. Sometimes you’ll need to choose the ‘least bad’ option. Sometimes it will be a question of cancelling out the wrong answers until you are left with just one.

The reading test often tricks you with distractors. You may find many synonyms in the text, but be sure that they are the right answer. Expect distractors and tricks and notice them when you see them.

Synonyms and paraphrasing are often used. Watch out for words or phrases with a similar meaning.

Watch out for reference words – especially when you’re adding sentences into paragraphs. This kind of task tests your understanding of text cohesion. There are lots of words in English that refer to other parts of a text – words before and after. These are words like ‘this, these, that, those, it’ and other devices that allow the writer to repeat him or herself by using different words. Watch out for reference words and identify which other words they refer to.

Like in the listening section, look at the gaps you have to complete and use your knowledge of grammar to predict what kind of word is needed.

Imagine you are a ‘text detective’ looking for clues. It’s more fun that way.

Read in a clever way. Skim for general understanding. Scan for specific info.

Hold the question/sentence in mind while reading the text. You have to multi task a lot. You should be constantly going from question to text, keeping the question in mind while searching for the relevant section of the text with the answer.

Use a highlighter pen to highlight key words in the questions and in the text.

Use a pen to break up the text to help you navigate it.

Remember – the answers must come only from the text, not from your knowledge or deductive reasoning. It’s just based on what is written in the text, even if you disagree with the information or know better. It’s a reading test not a general knowledge quiz.

If a text is on a topic you don’t know, it doesn’t matter. You do not need to be an expert on the subject. It’s all just about language, and no specific terminology or jargon is used in the test.

True/False/Not given is probably the hardest section. Remember: Does the text directly contradict the sentence? If ‘yes’ then it is false. If the text does not specifically deal with the point in the sentence either way, it’s not given.

If you’re guessing the answers in the true/false/NG section, don’t choose NG because it is the least frequent answer.

If you don’t know a word you can pretty often just guess what it means from the context. You’d be surprised at how accurate my students guesses are when I ask them to guess from context. Is the word positive or negative? What kind of word is it? Make an educated guess based on the context of the word – you’ll be closer than you think.

Tolerate a bit of ambiguity and some level of confusion. It’s normal to be confused and you will often be out of your comfort zone. Learn to operate in that place. For practice you should be reading magazine articles that are difficult. You’re not reading for pleasure here, you’re reading to practice reading in adverse circumstances in which you’re guessing what a lot of it means, tolerating not understanding some things, filling the blanks in your head, and doing it all in about 20 minutes.

Texts are often divided into sections. These could be dates, or types of thing, or people. Highlight these so you can navigate the text easily. For example, it could be a scientific article about key discoveries. The text could deal with each discovery one by one. You can then divide the text into sections that deal with each discovery. This will help you scan for specific details.

You can write all over the question paper if you want to.

You need to do loads of reading practice. Read – every – day. Pick magazines or websites that are not too specific. For example, not financial papers or fashion magazines, but magazines that have articles on lots of subjects. Articles should be quite long.

Yes, it is a long test, which confirms to me that episodes of LEP should also be long. I’m convinced that it’s good to practice long-term listening – that means listening for longer periods, but also listening long-term in your life. Regular listening to extended periods, is bound to have a great effect on your English! If you are a regular LEPPER then you’re already at an advantage. Remember that when you’re taking the test. Look at the other candidates and think “Poor them, they don’ listen to LEP. What chance can they possibly have?”

Listening Paper
Usually you have to complete some notes or sentences based on conversations or lectures.

Make sure you know what kind of thing you’re going to hear. Be prepared. Look at the notes you have to complete to get an overall idea of the challenge you face.

Make sure you’ve seen all the gaps and notes you have to complete so you don’t miss anything.

Predict the answers. Use bits of time to look at the questions and predict what kind of thing you’re going to hear. Look at gaps and predict what kind of info goes in each gap – is it a noun, a verb, a number, a date, a name. Maybe you can predict the answers yourself.

Scribble notes on the exam paper.

Sometimes later questions will give you clues about earlier answers, but be careful of jumping ahead or backwards too much. You need to stay with the flow of the listening and follow it in the notes you’re completing.

Don’t get left behind. Keep up with the recording.

If you don’t know an answer don’t get stuck. Move on to the next one and don’t lose the recording! You can use the notes to make sure you are synchronised between listening to the recording and reading the notes. Make sure you are at the right place in the notes.

Again, if you miss an answer just forget it and move on. Don’t let one bad question ruin all the others. Keeping up with the recording is vital.

Pay attention to what is written around the gap you’re expecting. You may find that words in the notes after the gap will help you get the answer. I mean, the recording may refer to some words that follow the gap you’re looking at, and a couple of gaps may be covered by just one sentence in the recording. So be aware of the general context around the gap you’re looking at.

Remember that the answers are based on the content of the listening only. You might know the answer from your general knowledge, but it is vital that you give the answer that is given in the listening.

Watch out for distractors and tricks which are designed to fool you. Listen carefully at all times and be sure your answer is right!

Use your knowledge of grammar to help you predict answers. For example, does the gap contain a noun, verb or whatever, and is it in plural form or third person or whatever?

Pay attention when completing your answer sheet. Make sure you’re doing it correctly. People sometimes switch off when doing this but one simple mistake can make all the answers wrong.

Never leave a blank space on the answer sheet in a multiple choice situation. Put something, and then you’ve got a 25% chance of a right answer.

Remember that you will probably not hear the same words in the recording as you can see written in the sentences you are completing, so you must always be on the lookout for synonyms – different ways of saying the same thing. This is really important in IELTS. It’s all about synonyms – at a lexical and grammatical level.

“He wants to get on but he doesn’t have enough money to pay for university.”

On the answer sheet you might see:

“He wants to advance.”

“Get on” and “advance” are synonymous. When you are thinking of what key words to listen for, think of synonyms you might hear along with the word used in the question.

Watch out for paraphrasing (like the previous point) e.g. “Less than a quarter of university students took part.”

On the answer sheet you might see:

“Only 23% of candidates actually sat the examination.”

Get used to listening to numbers in English, like the difference between 13 and 30 etc (expand on this in the podcast)

Watch out for spelling and punctuation – especially capitalisation of names and places. If in doubt, write everything in capital letters because you won’t be penalised for it, but you are penalised for failing to write a capital where appropriate.

Listen a lot!

There are tests available online, but you could make your own tests. You could copy +paste an LEP transcript into a word doc, then gap a bunch of random words, then listen and fill the gaps – but there will be no disparity between the notes and the listening. Alternatively, surf the web for IELTS listening practice exercises.

There are no short cuts – just practice and positivity.

Writing Paper
Overview – you have 1 hour to do 2 tasks. You should spend about 20 mins on part 1 a nd 40 mins on part 2. The second part gives you more points and requires more time to do properly.

Time is the big challenge here.

Practise doing writing papers again and again if you can. Practice is vital if you want to do your best. You must get used to the timing, the task types, concentrating for a long time, and dealing with the visual data in part 1.

You also need to practice part 2 in order to get used to organising your ideas into paragraphs and developing your ideas.

Remember, what I’m giving you now is an overview, as I can’t go into massive amounts of depth. To be honest though, the best thing you can do is practice a lot.

– – – – –

It also helps if you can have access to the marking criteria for the writing and speaking parts. This does contain some jargon, but it is very helpful to know what the examiners are thinking while reading your work, and exactly how your English is being judged. I must try and add in some details about the marking criteria.

Make sure you read the instructions for the task really carefully – make sure you know exactly what you are expected to write. Don’t make a stupid mistake and write about the wrong thing. Always read the instructions carefully.

Don’t write in note form or bullet points in either essay. You should write full sentences and paragraphs.

Don’t memorise a standard model answer that you can just repeat during the exam. This just won’t work because the data will be different.

Always check your writing for little errors when you’ve finished. Proofread, every time. It can save you some points.

Useful Links
Check this link because it will give you sample writing tasks, and sample answers with examiner’s feedback. It’s very useful indeed because you can see what the examiners are looking for. www.ielts.org/test_takers_information/test_sample/academic_writing_sample.aspx

Part 1
You’ll be given some visual data, and you have 150 words to summarise it. Imagine you’re writing a summary for your teacher.

It always helps to imagine you are writing for a real person – either the teacher, as it says in the task, or just the examiner who is probably a middle-aged man or woman who has a massive pile of exam papers on his/her desk – he/she has seen hundreds of these papers before. So, first impressions do count – try to write neatly, make sure you leave clear spaces between paragraphs, spell correctly, use the right punctuation and capitalisation, make sure your margins are straight. Make your writing look nice! Also, considering your reader can help you to create better writing which is more readable, pleasant and engaging. In fact, ‘effect on the reader’ is one of the criteria used by Cambridge. Good effect on the reader means that the reader has quite a pleasant experience with your writing – it’s clear, it’s a smooth reading experience, it’s coherant, it doesn’t require lots of effort to understand and the style is appropriate.

By the way, the style for your IELTS writing is quite formal. Formal to neutral. That means – no contractions, it’s not overly familiar like an email to a friend. Put it in the kind of style that would be appropriate for a potential business partner, or an older teacher, or a superior in your company.

So, you have to summarise some visual data. it could be a table, it could be a line graph, a bar chart, a pie chart or even a diagram for a process. There’s also a title and a short explanation of the diagram.

Study the diagram carefully and make sure you understand basically what it represents. Take some time to understand it, because this is a really important stage. if you don’t understand the data, your writing will stink! Study each axis on a graph, make sure you know what the factors are in the data. Make a note of the main trends in the data too. You can’t explain absolutely everything, so you need to find the most significant aspects of the data and then explain that.

You may want to use a highlighter pen to highlight the key words in the task and data.

How many paragraphs? about 2. A quick introduction and then a description of the data. No need for a conclusion.

You’ll need linking phrases for addition and contrast – particularly for contrast as this often involves explaining two sets of data, including their similarities and significant differences.

You will probably need the language of trends – that’s verbs and nouns like climb, rise, shoot up, drop, plunge, level out etc.

You can find examples of linking language and trends language for IELTS by clicking this link juliaenglishinmanchester.blogspot.fr/2012/05/useful-language-for-ielts-writing-task.html and this link www.ieltstips.com/ielts/ielts_writing_test/task_1:_how_to_use_linking_phrases_effectively_-_answer_key.html and just by doing google searches for “IELTS part 1 writing useful language linking trends”

In the introduction you can paraphrase the description given in the task. Do not copy phrases from the diagram or task instructions. You must paraphrase every time. In your intro, just explain what the diagram is about.

Then in the next paragraph, explain the data so that the reader can copy the graph without seeing it. If the data is complex, just focus on the most significant details.

You don’t have to explain why – just describe what you see.

Plan your writing quickly in advance by noting the basic points you will make.

You should never start writing without planning, even in a simple way, what you’re going to write.

20 minutes.

Stick to the word count of 150 words. This should be possible if you’re explaining the main points with the right level of detail.

Again, doing lots of reading can help you a lot. Try reading magazines or newspapers which have diagrams and graphs and things. Scientific magazines, things like that.

Part 2

As always – READ THE INSTRUCTIONS CAREFULLY AND UNDERSTAND THE QUESTION!

Sorry for shouting, but students commonly lose points by not answering the question. One of the assessment criteria is task achievement. You have to do what the task tells you to do.

In part 2 you have to write a short discursive essay in response to a statement or question. For example, you may be asked to write about whether you agree or disagree with something, or to consider arguments related to an issue. it could be the environment, or reducing crime, or the effect of video games on kids.

Again, plan your answer. Spend a bit of time thinking about the question, making sure you definitely understand what you have to do, consider your points and how you will develop them.

You’ll probably write about 4 paragraphs.

The examiner is checking for these things: Did the person complete the task? Did the candidate explain whether they agree or disagree with the subject, developing their points clearly? Is the writing clearly structured and coherent? Is there a wide range of vocabulary and grammar, used accurately? Are the words spelled correctly?

The answers to all those questions should be “yes”.

Remember to show the examiner what you can do – use a good range of language, don’t repeat yourself too much, don’t just use simple words like ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘nice’.

By the way, it’s not all about idioms – they are just a part of the vocabulary that we use. Don’t feel the need to write in idioms only because that can come across as unnecessary and even unclear. Be clear, be specific, be understandable. Achieving the task is your first goal, not showing off your English (but you should show off a little bit).

Once you’ve properly understood the subject you’re going to write about, carefully consider your point of view. Try to come up with several clear arguments on both sides. restrict yourself to one or two points on each side of the argument. Add one or two points to each paragraph, and make sure the points are clearly and logically developed. Do not add new points randomly at the end of paragraphs or with no development.

Don’t write anything without planning first. Choose the points you will state and develop, and make a little plan. You can write on the exam paper. Sketch a plan with notes on how you can develop your idea. You can follow the plan when you write. Don’t try to plan and write at the same time because it results in incoherent writing.

Paragraph 1: Introduction: Do not copy anything from the task. Use your own words to explain the topic of the essay. Keep it simple. Explain the issue and then how you are going to deal with it.

Main body of the essay: You could either cover both sides of the argument in a balanced way or just argue in favour of one side. Personally, I prefer the first one, and if you take the second option you’ll probably have to mention the other side of the argument anyway, so let’s choose the contrastive approach – contrasting both sides of the argument.

So, paragraph 2 (two arguments for) – start with a topic sentence. This summarises your point of view. (note to Luke: come up with an example) then develop that point over the next couple of sentences. Go deeper. Tell us why this is a point for or against. Go further into the issue. See the bigger picture. You could use an example. Remember you don’t have many words, so just use a couple of sentences to develop your point.

Then add your second point for. Topic sentence, development. You may need to use a linking word for addition here, like in addition.

Make sure all these ideas are logically linked.

Paragraph 3: Arguments against. Again, begin with a topic sentence before developing the idea. You’ll probably have to use a linking word for contrast, like However, which usually goes at the beginning of a sentence. Sorry, I can’t go into all the details of specific linking words and stuff like that in this episode. No time.

Then you finish it all off with your conclusion in which you give an overall summary of what you’ve stated already. Remember to answer the question in the task. That’s a good way to focus your attention. Just directly answer the question – do you agree or not. You could use a phrase like ‘on balance’.

So, that’s pretty much it for the writing. Don’t forget to click the links and get that useful stuff from the IELTS website. That’ll help you a lot.

If you’re not taking the IELTS test, you can just feel very relieved and happy.

Speaking Test
So, the speaking part is in 3 sections and lasts about 11-14 minutes.

Part 1 (about 5 mins)
The examiner introduces him/herself and asks you to introduce yourself. Here you don’t need to go into massive detail about where you are from, but it’s good to add a bit of extra info. “E.g. I’m Luke and I come from Birmingham, which is a big city in the centre of England”

The examiner will then ask you some general questions on familiar topics. Just relax and be sociable. Answer the questions and give some extra information. Do not give too little – this is your time to shine!

The worst thing you can do is be silent.

Don’t worry about errors – fluency, and communicative competence are more important. Make an effort to engage with the examiner, and yes, use a bit of charm! It’s a natural conversation. Enjoy it a bit too ;)

This is not too tricky. Just be yourself, warm up, don’t be too quiet, don’t talk too much.

Part 2 (about 4 mins)

Describe something you own which is very important to you.
You should say:
where you got it from
how long you have had it
what you use it for
and explain why it is important to you.

The examiner gives you a card with a topic and some ideas and you have to talk about if for about 2 minutes.

You get some time to prepare, so it’s a good idea to plan your talk, and make a couple of notes.

Try to illustrate your points with examples. This is really important and helps to bring your speech to life.

Have a little introduction – maybe one sentence which just introduces your talk “I’d like to tell you about my laptop, because it is something that I couldn’t live without”.

Then go through the points, adding any details you noted before.

Close the speech if possible, by saying one line.

The examiner will then ask you a couple of other questions based on your topic for part 2, before going on to part 3.

Part 3
This lasts about 5 minutes and involves the examiner asking you discussion questions based on the topic of part 3.

Whereas part 1 was a nice little chat about familiar things, part 3 is more challenging because you’re expected to talk about more abstract topics. This is your chance to show your ability to engage in a discussion, agreeing, disagreeing, giving opinions, showing off your range of grammar and vocab. Again, don’t worry about accuracy the whole time. Being understandable, getting your points across, and being able to achieve the task are far more important. If you’re worried about being correct, or even forcing in some idioms or specific vocabulary you won’t be thinking about the task at hand – expressing your opinion and discussing the questions. Don’t forget the importance of communicative interaction and task achievement.

Of course, remember the 7 Ps: Practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.

Find a partner and discuss some topics. Use IELTS Speaking Part 3 samples which you can find by googling just that.

Try recording yourself, if you can bear it.

Just get used to responding quickly, giving examples, speaking from personal experience. The more you practice, the easier it will be in the real test. It should be like second nature. You should go into the exam room feeling ready, feeling like you’ve done this shit loads of times before.

The golden rule: stay cool fool! You gots to chill!


So that’s the end of my IELTS episode. BYE!
IELTSPOD