452. A Conversation About Language (with Amber & Paul)

Discussing language with Amber & Paul, including issues such as errors made by native speakers, language change, whether language standards are declining, the effects of technology on language and how to cut an avocado without injuring yourself.


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The other day Amber and Paul came over to my flat do a podcast. We were having tea, chatting and getting ready to record something, and we just started talking about language, I think because Paul said that he found it weird that even though he can speak 3 languages really well, he knows nothing about language – he doesn’t know the grammatical terms, the rules of what makes something right or wrong or somewhere in between, and we were talking about it, and I quickly managed to press the record button and ended up recording about 50 minutes of us rambling on about language – all totally unplanned and spontaneous.

You’re about to listen to it. This is an Amber & Paul episode so you’re going to hear an unscripted and natural chat between friends so there might be a bit of swearing.

Before you listen to us discussing language-related issues, consider these questions, which are at the heart of our conversation.

  • What are some common errors native English speakers make in English?
  • How do native English speakers feel about mistakes in English, particularly mistakes made by other native speakers?
  • Are some errors worse than others?
  • How does a language evolve? Are errors a part of that process?
  • Has your language, or English, changed much in the last 100, 200, 300 years?
  • Is your language, or English, getting worse than before? Are standards of language declining?
  • Has a language ever totally broken down and died due to falling standards?
  • Why did latin die out as a language?
  • On a slight tangent, what’s the safest way to cut an avocado?
  • Back on track, how does Charles Darwin relate to language development?
  • What effect is technology having on our language? Is it making us better or worse at communicating?
  • Are we better at communicating than we used to be? Are we getting better at communicating? How do you even measure that?
  • Do you know more about English grammar and so on than most native speakers of English?
  • Do you know more about English grammar and so on than Paul Taylor?
  • Are you better at cooking than Paul Taylor?

Watch out for answers, and general rambling on the subject of those questions as you now listen to our conversation about language.

That’s it! Leave your comments below.

So there you are, that was our conversation about language.

I invite you to take part in the conversation by getting into the comment section.

Let me remind you of those questions from the beginning. (see above)

There were a few unanswered questions in there, and I think I might be asking David Crystal about some of them.

Remember that? I’m going to interview the world’s leading voice on language – Professor David Crystal. It’ll be a chance to ask him various questions about language. I’ve already collected some questions from my listeners, and I have loads to ask him too, but feel free to offer up a question or two and if I get a chance I’ll ask him.

Actually, I’ve already interviewed David Crystal, so it’s too late to send me your questions! Episode coming soon.

  • Christina Eunice Campos Álvare

    Hi luke!! I don´t know if you´ll read this comment but I REALLY HAVE to tell you that I love your podcast!! I only found out about it 2 weeks ago when reading an article about the best podcasts to learn English. This episode was the second I listened to and totally loved it! I listened to it while on the subway on my way to a meeting and couldn´t help LOL (laughing out loud! I got it right, right? ;)) and I´ve been telling all my friends who speak English or are learning English to subscribe. Besides, language and learning languages is like my favourite and most common topic of conversation so I totally engaged with this one.
    One situation you talked about made me think of a funny song that´s out there on youtube. Link: www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Gv0H-vPoDc so if you have the time have a look at it and I´m sure you´ll have a good laugh!

    That´s all for now, I´ve tons of work to do! and I´ll be listening to you!!

  • I think Paul has played lots of games (online games maybe) I discovered english acronyms in 2004 when i started playing online games i miss emoticons’s shortcuts like :) :P ; ‘ ( ;@ etc etc.

    Come on people cutting avocado, is piece of cake ._. just put the knife, rotate the avocado, remove the seed and that’s it… idk why this is trending I don’t wanna think british are so dumb and they can’t cut an avocado xD.

    Nice episode!!

  • LANGUAGE marks out where we are from and forms a core part of our identity. It’s a jungle/ a weird world we live in. Let’s all share a collective chuckle at this. Being open leaves us feeling close. Most folks seem to be idiots under grammar spell and have no place in real life. Everything can truly change in the blinks of our eyes. That is incredible! You are your only limit.

  • Oh I loved this talk, I wish it lasted longer! Something I find very curious about the English language is how similar American and British English are. I know that for natives the differences must be tremendous, with different accents and words like cookie/biscuit, lift/elevator, film/movie, but I’m from Spain and the Spanish they speak in Latin American is SO different, sometimes we even don’t understand each other! I guess it’s beacause the USA is just a little less than 250 years old and language hasn’t had much time to evolve, or maybe it’s because there was less endemic population. In most of Latin-American coutries Spanish is co-oficial with native languages such as Quechua, Guaraní or Aimara, while in the US English is the only official language. But who knows, maybe my guessings are all wrong and there’s a whole different explanation.

    • Hi Helena,
      For me the difference between US and UK English is not that big. The main difference is the accent.
      Look out for several other episodes like this coming soon. :)

  • Agnes

    I love these kinds of episodes when three of you are rambling even about the grammar:-))

    In fact, the Polish language sounds the same as it is written, as Paul said about Spanish. And I think most of the native speakers in their own language are not masters of grammar, I mean I also don’t remember the details of it if wanted to ask me.

    The language learner won’t know the details of grammar unless he studies the language for some reason, e.g. for exams. If the language is learned intuitively (as well as the native speaker throughout listening) then the detailed grammar won’t be known.

    I’ve been enjoying to listening and looking forward to the next one:-))

  • Hi Toma,
    No idea what you’re talking about here.
    Latin is already a dead language.
    I also don’t get the point about it being like a contagious virus.