66. Top Advice for Learning English / Idioms with ‘say’ / Culture Shock

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Listen to some good advice for anyone learning English or taking a Cambridge exam such as IELTS, CAE or FCE. FULL TRANSCRIPT NOW AVAILABLE BELOW (Thanks again to Bettina from France) Also in this podcast you’ll learn some idioms with the word ‘say’, and listen to Luke talking about culture shock. There’s a bonus comedy audio bit at the end too so listen to the whole thing! Here are the idioms: to have your say she has nothing to say for herself I must say I wouldn’t say no Let’s say… say ‘cheese’ say ‘what’? say when to say the least you can say that again! you can’t say fairer than that you don’t say! Here’s the video from The Day Today about the Jam Festival:
Video Transcript
Video from episode 66:
The Day Today – Chris Morris – Jam Festival Interview
P – TV presenter
J – Janet (quest)

P: Tommorow sees the opening of the London jam festival selling pots of jam some made by celebrities to raise money for the homeless. With me is one of the organizers Janet Breen. Janet, thanks for joining us this evening. This must have taken a heck of lot organizing.
J: Yes, well it has actually to get all these celebrities to contribute their jams really has been quite an operation.
P: How much of your time did you put in to it?
J: Oh, I would say at least six months.
P: Six months? To raise money for a jam festival. Isn’t it rather stupid?
J: No, I don’t think so. I mean, it’s all in a good cause.
P: Good cause, yeah. How much you’re going to raise?
J: Well, we hope to have raised some, at least 1500 pounds.
P: 1500 pounds? That’s a pathetic amount of money. You’d raise more money by auctioning dogs.
J: Well, I don’t think so. I think it’s all in a good cause and very worthwhile.
P: You persuaded this celebrities to waste their time donating to it.
J: Yes.
P: Oh, who?
J: Glenis Kinnock we’ve got and Sebastian Coe.
P: I hate Sebastian Coe.
J: I think, he made a very worthwhile contribution.
P: Well to the paultry sum of 15 hundred pounds.
J: Yes.
P: Is that worth six months of your time.
J: I think it is worth…
P: I don’t think it is at all. I think the only reason you’ve done it, is to make yourself look important. How dare you come on this program and say: “Hey, look at me, I’m raising 15 hundred pounds for the homeless. You could raise more money by sitting outside the tube station with your hat on the ground, even if you were twice as ugly as are, which is very ugly indeed.
J: (sound of sobbing)
P: Has that been very upsetting for you?
J: (silently) Yes.
P: Do you have anything else to say in your defence?
J: (silently) No.
P: Janet Breen, Thank you

PODCAST EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Top Advice for Learning English / Idioms with ‘say’ / Culture Shock (Transcript provided by Bettina, a listener from France)
You’re listening to Luke’s English podcast. For more information visit teacherluke.podomatic.com Well, hello Ladies and Gentlemen, you’re listening to Luke’s English podcast . That’s right the finest example of English that you can find on the Internet and that’s right. This is basically just a podcast while I sit here on my sofa tonight. It’s a Thursday evening and I’m basically just sitting here on the sofa . I have got a bit of time, so I decided to record some kind of podcast. Basically what I’m gonna do is just kind of sit here and talk just sort of talk to you about some stuff basically. I’ve got an idioms dictionary on the desk here in front of me and I’ve got sort of other bits of advice to give to you about learning English which I think will be very useful and very important for you to kind of pick up on and learn, right? So as I like talk to you, I’ll just kind of sort of maybe explain a few bits of vocabulary and talk to you about some advice and that kind of thing. Doesn’t that sound brilliant? Yes, it does Ladies and Gentlemen. Of course it does, because this is Luke’s English podcast. Now if you’re new to Luke’s English podcast if this is the first time you’ve listened to this let me just explain basically what this is all about. You’re probably a learner of English or maybe a teacher of English or something and you might be someone learning English who’s living in another country somewhere else in the world. Maybe a place where it’s difficult to find other speakers of English like native speakers of English. They’re quite difficult to find in some places. So you need to be able to try and listen to someone speaking English in a natural way, like a native English speaker almost like you’re kind of sitting with that person in a café or in a pub and you’re kind of talking to that person, right? So, that’s what you can get from Luke’s English podcast except that also within this, I can add other bits of audio, like interviews with people, interviews with celebrities and other interesting things like that but also I can throw in bits of vocabulary, phrasal verbs, idioms, natural expressions, that kind of thing. The sort of natural things that people talk about and the language that they use and also some pronunciation tips. Things about the way people speak in the real world. The way that they link their words up together and the way they stress sentences and that kind of thing, right? So, how can you get in touch with that kind of English? You can listen to various things on the internet. There’s lots of podcasts available for you to download and you can just listen to people speaking English but how many podcasts are there on the internet for learners of English? Well, there’s a few, some good ones like from the BBC and a few others but there’s also a lot of other podcasts which I don’t think are particularly good for several reasons. One reason is maybe that the sound recording quality isn’t that great and so it’s like listening to a bad telephone line or that they use like scripts when they speak . So they’re not exactly speaking naturally they’re just reading from a prewritten script, right? So that’s not really gonna be like the natural way that they speak. They just kind of , it’s more like written English in that case. Or some of them are just very kind of basic and a bit patronizing, you know? Like you get those podcasts that talk to you as if you’re an idiot and maybe spend ten minutes just teaching you one like big word that you’re never really gonna use, you know. I’m not kind of anti-American or anything like that but it seems a lot of these podcasts are often American ones. You’ve got kind of like “You’re listening to the business English pod from pod business.com. Today’s business word is ‘innovative’ , ‘innovative’.” You know, that kind of thing . I don’t think that’s a natural way that people speak, so it’s better to just listen to someone speaking naturally, right? So, that’s the idea with this podcast . It’s that so I can speak to you naturally and you can listen on your headphones or when you’re on the bus or when you’re on the toilet or something like that, right? You can listen you know, a lot people who listen to this, listen to in the car , so it’s lots of people kind of driving while listening to this. In fact so I expect that some people driving right now, while listening to this. So if you are driving then ‘watch out for that! ‘ Yeah, just a bit of a joke. They’re just for people who are driving. I hope, you know, I’ve done that before. You shouldn’t be really surprised really but anyway. Now, I thought that in this episode I’d kind of impart some wisdom. Basically kind of give a bit of advice. Now, I’m not saying that I know everything absolutely everything about the best way to acquire a second language. In fact what would be very interesting is if listeners to this show could maybe email me with some bits of advice themselves like I get a lot of quite advanced listeners for this show . I’m very interested to hear your stories. How did you manage to develop your English to a good level, right? Because that’s what people wanna know. So from people who (___) a good level of English maybe you can email us some advice . What’s the best way in your opinion to learn English effectively, right? Now, I’ve got some advice which I wanna give you now. Let’s see. Now imagine you’re taking a test in English. It could be one of the Cambridge exams, for example like IELTS or FCE or something like that. You’re taking your test in order to prove your level of English and you want to get a good score, so that you can get a good job in the future, right? So how are you gonna know, if the answers are right? Now, let’s say, you’re doing one of the kind of vocabulary exercises and you have to choose the right word to complete the gap. Now, how do you know that that is the right word? Now in some cases it’s just because of meaning but often it’s because of collocation like the fact that some words always go together, you know? Like the fact that you do your homework, you don’t make your homework or anything else. You DO your homework. Now, how do you know that those two words go together? There isn’t really a rule about the meaning of that word in that situation because , you know, you could just as easily say make your homework but people don’t say that. Do your homework is the collocation. So how do you know that? And how are you gonna know all the other very intricate, subtle differences in meaning between various bits of English? Now, if you just study, if you just study a grammar book or just do kind of controlled practice like that , you’re not necessarily going to for example be exposed to English enough, really. What you need to do is as well as study the language you also should just try and kind of read and listen to as much English as you can, right? Because, let’s say like if I do an exercise in an exam , in an English exam as a teacher, I know the answer, right? I just know what the answer is and I , first of all my instinct tells me it’s right and then
after that I think about the grammatical reasons why it’s right. Okay but first my instinct just tells me, yeah, I know that’s right and the others are wrong just because, you know, I just feel it as an instinct. But how have I developed that instinct? Well I think that is because from the day that I was born, I have been listening to other people using English and I have been reading English. And so much English has gone into my ears and into my eyes now, that a lot of it just sticks. So, I know by instinct which things are right and wrong because I know something is wrong because you know no one says that . I have never heard anybody say that before. That combination just doesn’t feel right.Your instinct tells you what’s right because you have heard it so many times or read it so many times, right? Like whenever you read something in English, all of those words go into your head , they all go in. You might not remember them all but they all go into your subconscious because you’ve seen them and so all those combinations are feeding into your subconscious, all the patterns of grammar and usage just go right into the back of your head until you eventually just develop a natural sense for when something feels right or wrong. So the advice here is that you need to try to read a lot and listen a lot. You need to try to get exposed to the language on a large scale . So that means listening to things regularly, listening to natural things in English regularly, I’m talking about every week. I mean every day would be perfect, right? If you could listen for half an hour a day or more you know? But as much as you can really, just listen to things in English . There’s lots of things you can listen to , all the podcasts on the internet, all the BBC podcasts, this one, Luke’s English podcast , there’s lots of internet radio stations and you’ve got all of your audio books that you can buy and like video, YouTube. All those things, things you can just listen to on your iPod. Then as well that you can read a lot if possible and think about what you, what you’re reading , that kind of English will they be using because if you just read the newspaper then you’re just going to read newspaper style English. So maybe think about other things you can read as well like blogs, which are quite informal and well as that you can read, obviously you can read books, all the novels and books that you can purchase and magazines and things like that . There’s lots of things that you can read. Even read like Comic books in English because that’s like a really natural way of, you know of seeing the communication happen with pictures as well kind of help and you also when you listening, you just think about what you listening to. Are you just listening to the news? Because if you do they don’t really speak naturally, no, they don’t speak like normal people on the news, you know? Like they tend to speak in a wired way, like :’For some reason, everyone on the news seems to speak like this . The sentence stress is strange, the intonation’s just weird. In fact, the sentences seem to go on forever. Nowhere really knows where they’re going to end or if they are going to end at all’ ,you know. That kind of thing. So really it might not be natural. So listen to kind of interviews or conversations if you can. Hopefully then, when you get exposed to the language enough, you start to kind of get a feel for what’s right and wrong. You should also study as well. I mean you can study from grammar books and things like that, too. If you try to do both, it’s the best way to do it but you need to get some English into your life. (Think a bit ?) like that. When you engage with the language you should do on a kind of meaningful level, even an emotional level, you know, so that you’re really feeling, you’re really interested in whatever you’re reading about or listening to in English. Just having that sense of enthusiasm or desire to do it will help you massively. I mean in my experience, the students who learn the best, are the ones who enjoy kind of engaging in some kind of active communication and who, you know, put themselves into the learning process. They don’t just expect it to happen, they actually take it. They take the bull by the horns, you could say. Take the bull by the horns. A bull, you know is a big animal like a male cow. You get bullfighting in Spain for example. A bull, and a bull has horns. Those are a sort of sharp bits on the top of the bull’s head and if you grab or take the bull by the horns you just sort of like take control of the situation basically. To take the bull by the horns. So the best learners really kind of take the bull by the horns, take control of the situation and kind of get involved in learning and you can enjoy it. You can pick up lots of other information not just English. You can find out about what’s happening in the world which is a pretty special thing. I’m sure you agree, Ladies and Gentlemen. So, there we go, there’s just like a bit of advice really for me. I wonder if there are other things I could talk to you about at this point. Just thinking about where my students tend to ask me questions on. Now, I get kind of questions about the world, family and about English food, it’s quite a common one. We have other weird things in this country that people don’t seem to understand. Like when visitors come to England, there are various things that they find strange or different? You know it’s basically culture shock. Culture shock is interesting because people using the word culture shock kind of expect the experience to be a shock like when you’re arriving in a new country, it’s like BANG, oh my god, I can’t deal with this but that’s not what it’s like because actually when you go to another country often it’s just, you know, pretty normal if when you get there it’s just normal, it’s the same. They have cars and you walk up and down the street and you know you can buy kind of coke, maybe people are speaking a different language but in many cases it’s quite of similar but slowly you start to realize that the place you’re living in is different in another way. It’s not just that they have sort of different things but they think in a different way or behave in a different way So like for example when I went to Japan first I thought it was going to be a big shock but when I arrived, I felt fine, I felt totally comfortable. In fact it was easier to live there because they have like more convenient shops and it just seems to be a bit easier, really, except for the language barrier. But then slowly you start to pick up on differences and you have some experiences that make you feel like, you know, understand what’s going on in this country and you start to realize the deeper stranger things about it. And all of the differences in culture between different countries is just based on various old traditions or principles about, you know, the way you interact with other people, that will make you behave that way. So the key thing to remember with culture shock is that whenever you go to another culture you should just be very patient and just accept the way that people behave differently because there is a reason for that, you know? Like, you know, there will be some old historical reason for why people behave in a different way.That doesn’t mean that they re doing it wrong. They’re just doing it differently. So I guess, culture shock is something that people experience sometimes when they come to London . I mean there are very strange things that they don’t understand like the fact we have two taps in the bathroom. I don’t know if you know what taps are. They are the things that you turn on and you turn off in order to get water from you bath or from your sink. And in England it’s very common to have two taps. A hot tap and a cold tap but many people from other countries seem to have a one tap which you can use to control the water and the temperature but in England we have two separate taps and a lot of people find it very strange like the fact they don’t know how to wash their hands because they turn on the hot tap and then it gets too hot and then th
ey have to turn on the cold tap as well and you kind of go between the cold and hot taps when you’re washing your hands. It’s a bit of ridiculous, but that’s just something about England. The fact is we value traditional things like our bathroom fittings. We like them to look old fashioned because we think that’s good. We like the traditional style. We think it looks expensive and good quality and so as a result our bathroom might look a bit traditional and you might have two taps rather than one modern style tap. And that’s typical about England. Another thing is that windows in buildings are not very good. They’re quite old here in London and a lot of my students complain that it’s cold in their room. But the windows they have in their house are often very very old windows from the victorian period. These old wooden windows and the fact is, they don’t really insulate your room. A lot of cold air comes through the windows. They are very bad for that. So it is cold but if you’re buying a house here in London and it’s got those old wooden windows then, you know, it makes it much nicer. In fact a house with old wooden windows would be more expensive than a house with modern windows because we really value the fact that there’re original victorian oak windows. Even though they don’t really work, they don’t even really do their job of insulating a house. They’re still valuable because of the tradition and the fact that they are kind of antique. So that’s just an interesting idea about culture here in England. The fact that we do value traditional things. We’re also very progressive in other areas but a lot of the time in terms of style we quite like the old stuff, I think. Although, you know modern styles are equally popular as well. Right, you know what I’m gonna do now? I’ll open the idioms dictionary randomly, okay? Okay, I’ve just opened it and I’ve got to the word say. That’s s a y and I think I’m just gonna teach you some idioms from this book here. Say, s a y , right? So these are all expressions that you can use with the word SAY. So let’s see. You can say: have you say. To have your say. You might get for example on a radio show where they are discussing news stories. The radio presenter might say, if you would like to have your say then just give us a call on 0208 998 4234, you know and that means to give your opinion, right? To give your opinion about something, right? So if you wanna give your opinion you can have your say, right? So on a radio show, you can call in and have your say about one of the new stories, okay? Another one is : to have nothing to say for yourself. To have nothing to say for yourself, that just means that, you know, you’re boring really. You don’t have really anything interesting to talk about.You know, you got nothing to say for yourself.You know, it just means that you’re not really good at having a conversation. You know, you might say, oh, she seems very nice but she doesn’t have much to say for herself. So for the pronunciation, let’s say that again. She doesn’t have much to say for herself – she doesn’t have much to say for herself – she doesn’t have much to say for herself, right? So that means you know, she doesn’t have anything to say , she’s quite boring. Yah and let’s see. If you’re giving an opinion and you want to emphasize it, you can say, well, I must say, well, I must say, and you can use that to emphasize an opinion. For example, well I must say, that’s the funniest thing I have heard all week. Well I must say, that’s the funniest thing I have heard all week. So you’re emphasizing. Wow, that really is the funniest thing I’ve heard all week. Let’s see. Another one would be: I wouldn’t say no or I wouldn’t say no to that and it’s used to say that you would like to do something or you would like to accept an offer. So if someone says to you, would you like some tea? You say, well, I wouldn’t say no and that means yes., right? Well, I wouldn’t say no, yeah? So, would you like some tea Luke? Oh well, I wouldn’t say no, okay? Well, I wouldn’t say no – well, I wouldn’t say no – well, I wouldn’t say no. Okay, alright next one is: let us say or let’s say, okay? Let’s say. And you can use that to kind of make a suggestion or give an example. For example, well, I can let you buy the TV for, well, let’s say 100 pounds. Okay? I’ll let you buy the TV for well, let’s say 100 pounds, okay? Let’s see. Next one is: say cheese, say cheese, cheese, right? Like you know, like the food that mice like to eat. cheese. We use that when you ask everybody to smile before you take their photograph. So just before you take a photograh you’d say. Right, is everybody ready? Right? Say cheese! In some countries they say “patatas”, I think in Spain, I think it’s “patatas”, which means potatoes I think and in another country, I’m sure you say, I think in Japan sometimes they say cheesu – cheesu which is kind of like cheese but in a Japanese accent , cheeesu. A bit like that. I think, I’m sure they’ve got something else that they say. They certainly put their two fingers up in a V sign. Whenever you point a camera, at a Japanese person, their hand always comes up with a V sign to, you know, Peace. You know, that’s cool, that’s really cool. It’s amazing how every Japanese person, I have ever met, if I showed them a camera, BANG, the hand up with the V sign, Peace, like that. It’s cool you know, like Japanese people obviously really like Peace and that’s good. That’s a good thing, right? Let’s see, okay. We’ve got another: say what? Say what? Say What?, which is an American expression. So you have to do it in an American accent, say wwwhat?, and that’s say wwwhat? Say what?, so you use that to express great surprise on what someone has just said. So, for example, he is getting married? Say what? Another one is : say when. Say when, okay? That’s like when, you know, when did you go to the moon? for example, when. Right, say when. And we use that when you want someone to stop pouring a drink, you know, like for example, if they’re pouring you a cup of tea and you don’t want to give you anymore, so you want to say stop but what happens is when you pour a drink for someone, you say, say when! Meaning when would you like me to stop. So, say when and often the other person will go, when, like that, to tell you when to stop pouring. So, would you like some tea? Oh yes, please. *TEA POURING SOUND EFFECT* Say when? Like that ,okay? Let’s see: to say the least. To say the least, to say the least and we use that to say, that you’re using the least strong way of saying something. So for example, you would say, I’m not very happy with this work, to say the least, which means I’m, the least thing I feel is I’m not very happy about it. So actually, what he really means, he’s really, really unhappy with his work. I’m not very happy with this work to say the least. That means, he’s actually kind of, to say the least is used to describe the fact that you’re actually feeling a lot more angry about it, you know? To say the least. Let’s see, okay: you can say that again. This is a, I love this expression. You can say that again. I think it’s just such a brilliant expression. Basically you can use that when you really agree with someone, like really strongly agree with them. So it means, I agree completely and I already know that, right? So like, you know, if you just really wanna agree with someone. So someone might say, oh, she is the most boring person, I’ve ever met. Right, she is the most boring person, I’ve ever met. Well, you can say that again!, Yeah, you can say that again., Yeah, so you’re inviting the person to say it again because you really agree with it. Well you can say that again. So you can say that again – you can say that again – you can say that again, alright? And here’s another good one: you don’t say. Oh, you don’t say, right? And that’s a like an ironic, kind of sarcastic way of doing. So you have to be very sarcastic when you speak. Oh, you don’t say, like that and it’s used to express, it’s used to express surprise, hum? Okay, alright, I think you use, oh you don’t say to mean, when someone has said something very very
obvious, right, they’d just said something really really obvious, so, it would be, well, next year is gonna be 2012! Oh yeah, you don’t say. No, it’s kind of a bad example. Let’s see, let’s see, well, he’s gonna be really drunk if he keeps drinking that stuff. You don’t say. This is strange, you don’t say? I think, it’s just, it’s like a way of saying, yeah, absolutely, oh, yeah. Actually, wait a minute, I think I (___) wrong. Let me just think about this. Yeah, you don’t say. Funny, you know what? You know when you kind of like repeat an expression or a word over and over and over again. It just stops meaning anything. Well, that’s happened to me now with this expression, you don’t say. It’ doesn’t mean anything to me now. I’ve completely forgotten what this expression means. (___) help me? (___) help me out please? What does, you don’t say mean? I’ve completely forgotten! Right, hold on. Get it together. Just get my mind together here. You don’t say. Yeah, I’ll go with my original explanation. You don’t say is a way, sort of ironically saying, yeah, that’s obvious, you know. You didn’t need to say that. Of course, that ‘s obvious! So, you would say, well I bet that’s the Queen’s rich. Yeah, you don’t say. So it’s kind of a way of stating that something is obvious, you know in a kind of ironic, sarcastic way. You don’t say, yeah, you don’t say, like that… Yeah okay, that’s it for the idioms and I think that’s about it for this podcast. That pretty much wraps this up. Actually I wonder if there ‘s something I can play to you. I might find an interesting bit of audio which that you can listen to as a bit of fun. I’m gonna think about that but for the meantime it’s goodbye for now. Okay, I found something for you to listen to. I’m gonna to play you a piece of audio from a television program which was on TV here in the UK a few years ago and basically it’s a kind of News program but it’s not a serious News program. It’s a kind of a joke News program, right? It’s like a spoof of a News show and in this program basically, it looks like the News, it’s sounds like the News, but they have stories on there and the whole thing is actually a bit of a joke and they twist some things to make them funny, okay? So what you’re gonna listen to here is a news reader interviewing a woman about some charity work which she has been doing. Now, the situation is basically, the woman has come into this studio to talk about this charity work. Apparently she has been organizing a jam festival. So, you know, jam is like that staff that is made from fruit and you spread it on your toast in the morning like strawberry jam. So, she is talking about the fact, she organized a jam festival and she raised some money and she used some celebrities in her jam festival. All to raise money for charity but the interviewer is not very impressed by how much money she has made. She has only made a few thousand pounds and so he is very sort of surprised. Only a thousand pounds, that’s ridiculous, that’s pathetic. That’s a pathetic amount of money and he says to her: ” You could have raised more money by auctioning dogs”, right? Now, to auction is to sell something when people bid a price for something. So, for example you get a big room, an auction room. One person is stand of the front and say, okay so I have this old antique chair. Can we start the bidding please at five hundred pounds. And then people kind of go, 550 got so, 550, so I see 600. 600 to the man in the blue shirt, so I see 650. 650 pounds. 650 pounds to the man with the newspaper and it’s sold for 650 pounds. You know, that kind of, that’s an auction. So he is saying , he raised only a few hundred pounds for a jam festival. That’s pathetic. You could have raised more money by auctioning dogs. So basically, he is very kind of rude to her but he is very funny. Just because it sounds like the News and then he kind of changes it and it becomes ridiculous. So, I hope you enjoy it. The show is called ” The Day Today” and it’s fantastic. Thanks a lot for listening. Bye, bye bye, bye, bye…