Chatting to Cara Leopold about living in self isolation, the global coronavirus lockdown and how you can work on your English at home using TV shows and films.
Hello ladies and gentlemen of the world, I hope you are doing alright in both body and mind at this particular moment in time.
Welcome to this new episode of my podcast which is here to help you develop your English skills simply by listening to some authentic, unscripted and spontaneous conversation – because we know that regular exposure to spoken English is vital in the learning process, and if listening to this can just keep you company for a while too, then that is an added bonus.
In this episode you’re going to hear a chat with Cara Leopold, an English teacher from the UK currently living on lockdown in the east of France.
Cara has been on this podcast before, two times as you may remember.
The first time was back in episode 523 in which we talked about learning English with films and TV shows.
Then more recently we talked in episode 618 about the climate crisis.
This time you can hear us chatting about social distancing and being on lockdown during the current coronavirus pandemic, and some more comments about how to improve your English during this period at home using TV series and films.
Yes, there is quite a lot of talking here about the coronavirus. I hope you’re not completely fed up with this topic now. As I’ve said before, I don’t plan to talk about it too much, but I do still want to address the subject a bit, just because it’s on our minds so much and if I ignored it completely it would just end up being the elephant in the room.
Here is a quick rundown of the main points that came up in this conversation, just to help you understand what’s going on.
First we talk about the complex feelings and emotions we’re experiencing during this covid-19 lockdown, including things like anger, guilt, compassion, empathy, helplessness and general feelings of cognitive dissonance as we try to make sense of what’s going on in the world at the moment.
Then we talk about trying to balance the seriousness of the situation with your general mental health on a daily basis. Weighing up the positives and negatives of being stuck inside while the TV news reports on serious events going on around the world every day.
We talk about how much people are following the lockdown rules in our local areas and the vagueness of government positions on those lockdown rules in both France and the UK.
We speculate about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude towards social distancing (if you describe someone as ‘cavalier’ it means you’re criticising them for being a bit careless, reckless or not really taking the situation seriously enough) so we talk about Boris Johnson’s cavalier attitude a few weeks ago which resulted in him personally catching the virus.
Breaking news at time of recording: he is now out of intensive care, which seems to be a good sign for his health, even though I expect it might have been touch and go for a while. Of course we wish him well, and anyone else who is suffering at this time.
We discuss the challenge of trying to work out a moral position on all of this, specifically several approaches to dealing with the crisis: social distancing vs herd immunity.
We chat about managing daily life at home, with a 2-year-old child (in my case), and what happens when I leave her unattended for more than 10 minutes.
Then we turn our attention to you and your English – and how you can use online content like TV series and films (for example on Netflix or perhaps on OpenCulture.com) to improve your English at home.
We did cover a lot of that kind of advice in episode 523 – link above.
but I will sum up the main bits of advice we made in that episode at the end of this one, so stay tuned for more comments about how you can use TV series and films to improve your English nearer the end of the chat.
By the way, Cara’s last episode was transcribed by the Orion Transcription team and apparently it was quite a tough transcribing job partly due to the sound quality from Cara’s side of the conversation. I think she may have been in an echoey room or at least a room with lots of flat surfaces around (a kitchen maybe) which caused her voice to be a bit difficult to hear.
So this time Cara made a special effort to create better recording conditions. In fact for the whole conversation she was in a cupboard surrounded by coats – the point being, she was doing her best to get good quality sound. Hopefully she will be a bit clearer this time.
Clarifying Some Reference Points / Vocab
I’d like to clarify a couple of reference points, particularly in the opening minutes of the conversation, to help you follow what we’re saying.
Like an episode of Black Mirror
Black Mirror is a TV show which many of you will have seen, but also plenty of you won’t know about it. Episodes of the show typically involve some kind of scary situation, like perhaps a post-apocalyptic world or a world in which certain technology has completely changed our every day lives and not for the better, or it could be life in the context of an environmental or economic crisis or something. But basically “like an episode of Black Mirror” has become a phrase meaning “like we are living in a scary version of the future” or something.
France 3 / BFM –> These are news stations which you get on French TV.
Canal+ –> a TV station / online platform which you have to pay for in France
ICU = intensive care unit
Collins Dictionary dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/helicopter-parent
There are plenty of other reference points and bits of language that I could explain and clarify now but actually I think it’s best to just let you listen to the conversation and simply try to follow it all, notice things as you go, work them out from context and try to find things that you can relate to personally, but in English.
So let’s begin…
Thanks again to Cara for climbing inside a cupboard and staying there for the duration of our conversation in a bid to improve the sound quality on her side of this conversation. Nice one Cara.
As ever, you can leave your comments on the website. I’m curious where you stand on all of this.
I mentioned before that I would sum up the main points Cara and I made in episode 523 about using TV and films for learning English, with and without subtitles.
I’ve decided to put that into a separate episode, because I think that rather than tacking it onto the end of this conversation it deserves to have a whole episode of its own. Plus there will be people out there who would appreciate having all the advice in one single episode. So that will be the next episode of the podcast – a summary of advice for using Netflix (and other platforms) for improving your English, plus some more specific recommendations for shows and films you can watch.
Cara’s free course on udemy.com “Improve your English Listening Skills with Movie Quotes”
Upcoming episode with Oli
Long term listeners will remember that I have a cousin called Oli who used to be on the podcast quite a lot until he moved to Bristol and I moved to France and we didn’t get the chance to see each other very often. Well he now works for Netflix as a producer at their offices in Los Angeles (I swear I am not sponsored by Netflix!) He moved there a couple of years ago and coincidentally enough I recorded a conversation with him the other day about moving to the USA, what it’s like working for Netflix as a producer and what it’s like to be a Brit living in the USA and communicating with American people every day. That is coming soon. Again, I’m not promoting Netflix – they don’t need me to do that. But anyway, it was a good conversation that covers details of his work and the communication and cultural differences between the UK and USA.
Coronavirus Mini Interviews 1-3 on Zdenek’s English Podcast
If you enjoyed listening to this conversation with Cara, and you enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences of living in lockdown in different countries then I’d like to recommend that you listen to several recent episodes of ZEP including episode 2 which is with me. Links on the page for the episode or just subscribe to Zdenek’s English Podcast.
Episode 1 – Alexander from Russia, Musa from Turkey who is currently living in the UK, Daniel from Switzerland who is also known from My Fluent Podcast, and Daria from Ukraine.
Episode 2 – Luke from England, Rita from Italy, Lavi from Hungary, and Nrup from India.
Episode 3 – Kieren from England, Kais from the Netherlands, Nikita from Canada, and Darkan from Kazakhstan.
Some of you will be wondering when another RT report will arrive. Soon, I think!
Thanks and speak to you again soon!