I've been teaching English for over 18 years in London, Japan and France. I also do an award-winning podcast for learners of English called "Luke's English Podcast". In my free time I'm a stand-up comedian who regularly performs shows in English in Paris and sometimes London.
This episode is called CONSPIRACIES / UFOs / LIFE HACKS with James and I’m going for the full Joe Rogan clickbait title here, as you will see later.
I’ve said before that I wonder if clickbait titles actually work (I think they do) and whether I should use them (still not sure). I guess we will find out with this episode, which is a rambling conversation with my brother.
Clickbait, by the way, is any content on the internet which is designed just to get you to click it – usually with some sensational title or a promise of amazing exclusive information which is often not actually included. Usually they’re there as bait for clicks which ultimately will be turned into advertising revenue.
E.g. (for example) “Dermatologists hate her new skin care routine that will save you thousands” “Why Jabba The Hutt is the key to the Skywalker bloodline in ways you couldn’t imagine” “10 Life Hacks guaranteed to change the way you live forever” “Proof that aliens have already landed, and are living among us” “7 Secrets about COVID-19 that the government don’t want you to know” “These simple Language Hacks will help you speak like a native OVERNIGHT”
I hate clickbait but as an online content creator I am drawn to and fascinated by the impact of attention grabbing, wildly sensational titles. They obviously work, that’s the thing, because they’re everywhere. But a lot of the time I find clickbait titles annoying and even depressing because it’s so devious and also hackneyed. Anyway…
I’ve gone with the simple: “Conspiracies / UFOs / Life Hacks” as a title. It’s clickbait-ish, with certain buzzwords that seem to attract attention. But really this is just a bit of a joke as you will hear in the episode.
Let’s see if it makes any difference.
What are you going to listen to in this episode then?
The other evening I called my brother James and I started recording our conversation before he answered the call, which I probably shouldn’t have done because he wasn’t expecting a podcast recording this time. But I pressed record before he’d picked up and what resulted was a spontaneous chat that ended up going all Joe Rogan as we talked about UFOs, conspiracy theories and life hacks.
First of all there’s a bit of a catch up and a chat about the COVID situation and how James has been handling it, and then we get on to some of the major topics of our time, including whether we are alone in the universe, how to cook poached eggs, how to walk up stairs, how not to make “British Tea”, The Beatles meeting Elvis, some sketchy impressions of celebrities, a dodgy chair and what you should do with overripe bananas.
I hope you enjoy it. I will be back at the end to chat to you again with some music going in the background as usual.
But now, let’s call my brother and see what happens…
I hope you enjoyed that. It was really silly in the most fun way possible. I’m glad I recorded it.
This tune in the background is one of James’ own, made on the Akai MPC2000. Those of you who work for the Akai consumer electronics company – James’ MPC2000 is currently on the floor of his living room, with the top off and all the circuits and boards visible. It’s not looking good. There’s something wrong with it and he needs a new one. So, if you’re in a position to provide him with an Akai MPC1 that would definitely help him to help the podcast by providing more background music. Just get in touch with the show if you’d like to help out and we will dedicate a special episode just to the wonderful Akai company and their delightful music making machines!
If you like James’ stuff check out his Soundcloud page where you can hear most of them
As you may know, James is also a DJ and since his MPC broke, he did a brand new LEP DJ set using his record decks and some new vinyl that he got recently. That special, exclusive DJ mix is now available on the page for this episode, it’s also available on the Music Mixes page on my website. Check it out there and have a listen. You’ll hear James introducing the tunes, speaking to you and DJing some music. Alternatively, get the Mixcloud app for your phone and listen to it there.
Here’s a link to James’ Mixcloud page with music mixes across various genres, including Drum & Bass, dub, punk, hip hop and so on
Music and comedy mixes (mostly done by me) on my website
Moto Mix (with plenty of silly improvisations, characters and voices by James and me)
Leave your comments below
Have you heard any conspiracies about COVID-19? Have you ever seen a UFO? Do you believe aliens exist? Do you think they’ve made contact with us yet? Who do you think might be posing as an alien in the world? Do you think I might be an alien? Do you have any good life hacks?
More Life Hacks (to justify the title)
OK, here are a few more life hacks. 5 fairly good ones I just found online, just in case you feel there weren’t enough life hacks in this episode.
This meaning of “hack” is something that makes your life easier – it’s like a solution to a problem in life. We talk about life hacks, learning hacks for language learners – simple little tricks you can apply that make your learning more successful.
I think you know what life hacks are then, so here are 5 more half-decent ones just to make sure you don’t feel undersold by the title of the episode, which is not a sentence that many internet content creator feel the need to say very often is it. “Oh yes, after all this video doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its title, sorry about that” – something you never hear. But I like to be different, so here we go.
Use a pillow case from a sheet set to keep the sheets in
When You Have To Hang Something With Exact Holes, Photocopy The Back And Use As A Template
Put a post it note on the wall when you’re drilling a hole
The Pomodoro Technique (dunno why it’s called that) Work for 25 mins then take a 5 min break. After doing this 4 times, take a 30 minute break. This will dramatically increase your productivity. (I definitely agree – when I was marking exams – 200 or more – I would set the clock for 10 minutes, blast as many as possible in 10 minutes and then perhaps mess around for a few minutes, then do it again. It made a huge difference, compared to just trying to sit and work constantly. Just focus for 10 minutes at a time.
Put your phone on airplane mode to charge it faster (but you knew that one already)
Dangle a fork into an opened bottle of champagne to keep it fizzy (This is an old myth I think. Apparently it makes no difference).
Noel Gallagher story about champagne “Arr kid” means his brother Liam
(Liam had a fork in a pint of milk because he thought it would keep it fresh)
That’s the end of this episode, have a lovely morning, day, afternoon or night and I’ll speak to you next time!
Hello everyone, welcome back to the podcast. Here is a new episode of the Rick Thompson Report.
In the Rick Thompson Report I talk to my dad about the issues of the day, news and current affairs from the UK, especially politics.
The last time we spoke was in episode 652 at the beginning of the lockdown. We talked about COVID-19, how the government was handling it, what kind of crisis it could become.
Now, recording this at the start of July 2020, the world is coming out of lockdown in many areas. Are we out of it now, or are some places still affected? What’s been going on in the UK all this time? And will the government be ready to properly leave the EU at the end of the year when the transition period ends?
With his usual clarity then, here is my dad, Rick Thompson, to talk about these things.
And here we go.
There you are then. That was the Rick Thompson Report for July 2020 here on planet earth, specifically focusing on the UK sector.
Thanks again to Dad for taking the time to talk to me on the podcast today and for taking me to Wembley Stadium once in 1991 to see the FA Cup Final between Tottenham Hotspur and Nottingham Forest. I was a Nottingham Forest fan but I also liked Tottenham and we went along and it was amazing. I saw some of my heroes like Stuart Pearce, Gary Linaker and Paul Gascgoine. So, thanks for that Dad. Forest lost the game but it was still amazing.
Anyway, what’s up with you? How’s your English? How’s that lockdown treating you?
Hey, can you do me a favour? Could you send me a message telling me what your favorite kind of LEP episode is?
What’s your favourite kind of LEP Episode?
Here are some categories
Talking to guests I don’t really know
Talking to guests I do know, like my family and friends, James, Amber & Paul
Talking about learning English with strategies and advice
Episodes about specific topics like 666, films, music and so on, often with James
Conversations with my wife
Listening to comedy and breaking it down
Explaining jokes and dissecting the frog
Made up stories and improvisations
Voices, impressions and characters
The Rick Thompson Report
Gill’s Book Club
Luke’s Film Club
Vocabulary, Idioms or Slang
Exploring a British TV show
Detective Stories and Mysteries
I think that’ll do for now.
Let me know what your favourite type of episode is. It’ll help me think of more ideas in the future.
You can write an email to me, leave a comment under the episode, or tweet me @EnglishPodcast
A conversation with genuine Aussie Pete Smissen, about differences and similarities between the UK and Australia, cultural and historical details, language similarities, and more. Check YouTube for the video version.
Hello and welcome to the podcast. This is episode 671 and it is a free roaming conversation with Pete Smissen from Aussie English.
Aussie English is a podcast and YouTube channel about learning Australian English and recently Pete and I did a podcast crossover YouTube thing where he interviewed me about my stuff and then I did this interview with him for my podcast, which is what you’re going to listen to now.
This is also available as a YouTube video on my YouTube channel. So check it out there too. You’ll find the link in the show notes. You could try turning on the automatic subtitles if you are watching on YouTube.
So this is quite a free ranging conversation in which I talk to Pete about all things British and Australian including
Teaching swearing to learners of English
Swearing in a second language
Accents and diversity of accents
Accents in Australia and the UK
Football Hooliganism in the UK and Australia
Removing statues of slave traders
COVID-19 in Australia
Politics in the UK and Australia
Bushfires in Australia
What Australia thinks of the UK and USA
The Queen on Australian money
Australian English vs British English vs American English
Class in the UK vs class in Australia
Plus a few Aussie and British cliches.
So that’s it. I hope you enjoy the conversation. For more information, visit my website where you can also sign up for my premium service.
Also, check out Pete’s channel Aussie English to see the interview he did with me, which covered lots of stuff about swearing, particularly the C word, and then some stuff about how I got started in podcasting and comedy.
But now you can enjoy listening to a bit of British English and some Aussie English.
Thanks again to Pete from Aussie English there. Check the page on my website for this episode to check out links to his stuff and don’t forget to check out his YouTube channel to see his interview with me that we did on the same day.
So, to everyone on YouTube and on the podcast it’s just time for me to say, good bye!
Hello folks and welcome to the podcast. I hope you are doing fine on this particular day. This episode features a conversation, recorded a couple of weeks ago now, with a comedian and writer from the UK about various things, as you’ll see. Your task is to follow along and see what you can pick up and what bits of language learning wisdom you can glean from this conversation.
I don’t really know James that well. I’ve only actually met him once in fact.
He’s a comedian and a writer, he speaks several languages and his twitter feed is good value. He tweets about politics, learning languages, the issues of the day, comedy and various other things. We share a mutual friend – that’s Dharmander Singh from Birmingham, who I used to be in a band with and who is now a stand up comedian in Berlin. The time I met James was in Berlin when I was there on holiday, and I did some stand up on the same show as him.
So why have I invited him on the podcast? Well, it’s mainly because of Twitter. As I said his Twitter feed is interesting. He takes a moderate and balanced view of things, and his interests are pretty wide-ranging, including the fact that he’s very international. He’s married to a Chinese girl, he’s lived abroad, he used to work as a tour guide in several countries, he used to be an English teacher like me, he speaks very good German and French, he’s working on his Chinese, he works as a translator and he’s generally an articulate and interesting guy and so I just thought that he could be worth talking on the podcast.
The language learning thing is obviously very appropriate and I’m always interested in finding out as much as possible about how someone has learned a second language to a very decent level in adulthood, and that is something that we talk about for at least 50% of this conversation. The first half of our chat is basically me getting to know James properly, talking about his work, his studies, his experiences of going to Oxford University, why he chose to move to Germany, being married to a Chinese girl. Then we get into the details of how he learned German mainly, but also French and now how he’s working on his Chinese.
No need to say much more except that I hope you manage to follow the conversation clearly all the way through. Let me know how it was for you and I will speak to you again on the other side of this conversation, probably with some background music going over the top.
Long thread about languages (1/24): One of the most frequent ambitions I've seen for people during the lockdown is to learn a foreign language. I'm something of an exception, an Anglophone person who's managed to do this as an adult, and I have some thoughts on the matter.
Did you pick up any useful nuggets from that conversation? I think there was some pretty good advice there especially the stuff about reading and noting down certain words, being a bit rigorous about your studying and believing that you can do it, really helps.
Hello and welcome to Luke’s English Podcast. This episode is number 669 and it’s called How To Learn English.
That’s quite a bold title but this really is a lot of what I have to say about learning English. If you really want to learn this language, this is my advice.
I’ve been teaching for about 20 years, podcasting for over 11 years now and I keep finding out more about learning a language through teaching it, getting feedback from listeners and also through my experiences of trying to learn French.
This episode is a distillation of many of my thoughts and advice on how to learn English. It’s not going to cover absolutely every aspect of it, because language learning is a huge subject that encompasses so many different things and you could talk about it all day, but I have decided to talk about learning English, breaking it down into the 4 skills, and giving you as much advice as I can in this single podcast episode. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
For those of you who are not so familiar with me and my work. My name is Luke Thompson, I think I am the 4th most famous Luke Thompson in the world. I’m an English teacher, a podcaster, a comedian, a husband and a dad. I am from England but these days I live in France. My podcast is free and is downloaded all over the world. I also have a premium subscription in which I focus specifically on improving your vocab, grammar and pronunciation. To find out more about that go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
I expect you want to learn English, right? That’s the main reason you’re listening to this I expect. You want to learn English.
Well, good news! It’s definitely possible. You can learn English and you will if you put in the time and the effort. It’s important to remember that.
What do I mean by “learn English”, though? I mean that you can learn to speak English fluently, clearly and with confidence, expressing yourself with shades of meaning, adapting your English for the situation both in speaking and in writing, knowing and being able to use a wide variety of vocabulary and accurate grammar and ultimately being yourself in the language and developing beneficial relationships with others based on effective communication. Yes, you can. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
That’s it, just a positive and encouraging message at the start. It’s important to always remember that making progress in your learning is a realistic prospect and will happen when you put in the time and effort, and more good news: the more you enjoy it, the easier it is.
I hope this podcast helps you to enjoy getting English into your life on a regular basis, which is a key part of learning the language effectively.
But what else should you be doing in order to improve your English overall?
In this episode I’d like to talk in some detail about learning English and how you can do it.
This episode is a sort of “come to Jesus moment”, which I feel I should do regularly, just to remind everyone listening that there is a method or approach at work here and that it’s not just you listening to people talking.
A “come to Jesus moment” in the world of business is when someone does a passionate speech or event in which fundamental priorities and/or beliefs are reassessed, or reaffirmed. It’s like when Jesus gathers his disciples around him in order to reaffirm their belief in what he’s preaching or to say some deep stuff which strengthens their faith.
This is a come to Jesus moment for me.
Not that I’m comparing myself to Jesus. No, not at all. Not even a little bit, and anyway that’s not for me to say, that’s for other people to point out isn’t it, not me. Anyway…
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. There is a method to the madness.
In my podcast episodes, I’m always teaching you, using my particular set of professional skills, but rather than presenting it all as a lesson I usually try to present it more like a radio show or a comedy show even.
So, amidst the episodes about music, comedy, interviews and so on, I thought it would be worth restating the core values of LEP, which I seem to do about once every 6 months or so.
I’m going to give loads of advice here, and this is all based on what I’ve learned from:
Teaching for about 20 years
Meeting thousands of learners of English, some of them successful, some of them not, working directly with them as their teacher and listening to them talk about their studying habits and experiences
The academic studies I’ve done, especially the DELTA which involved extensive reading and writing on various aspects of how people learn and teach English
Doing my podcast and getting testimonies over the years from many listeners who told me about how they’ve used it to improve their English
There’s also my own personal experience of working on my French
Anyway, the plan is to talk about learning English with a focus on the 4 skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
I have talked about these points quite a few times before on this podcast, and have given tons of specific advice about working on your English, including in episodes like 174 (and others)
So I will probably repeat myself a bit. But I still get asked to talk about “how to learn English” very regularly and I think it’s important for me to talk about learning English on this podcast on a regular basis. Obviously, that is what this podcast is about, first and foremost, even though a lot of the time in my episodes you’ll hear me and my guests talking about all sorts of other things.
Learning English is the main aim of this podcast
Essentially the thinking is that you should listen to natural conversation on a variety of topics and it’s simply listening to things in English (not just listening to things about English) that’s going to help you learn this language, especially if you enjoy the content.
I’ll probably talk about this again in a bit, but let’s say that ultimately the plan with the free episodes is to help you listen to English regularly, for longer periods of time, long term. The more, the better. If the content is enjoyable, that should just make it easier for you to achieve that. In fact, if you’re really into what you’re listening to, you don’t really even notice the time passing.
Then there’s the premium content, which is an effort to push your learning beyond the gains you get from all the exposure and input you get from just listening. The premium content is designed to let you get the benefit of my experience and teaching skills in order to cut out a lot of work that you would otherwise have to do yourself, so I can essentially take you by the hand and lead you through some intensive practice to work on your English more directly.
So that’s my content, but let’s talk now about learning English as a whole then.
Learning English is a holistic thing. It encompasses many aspects and skills that are connected as a whole.
There are receptive skills like listening and reading, productive skills like speaking and writing, language systems like grammar, spelling, vocabulary and phonology, social and psychological factors that come into play when we use language when interacting with others, then there are other factors that come into play like identity issues, body language, culture, literature, pragmatics and all sorts of other things. It’s hard to know where to start when talking about it.
You need to learn it to the point where you don’t even think about it any more.
The more you talk and think about it, the more it starts to sound like the force from Star Wars.
Stretch out with your feelings.
Do or do not, there is no try.
Do not think, feel.
Let go, let the English flow through you.
I am your father (oh wait)
It’s about learning how to do something which goes right to the core of who you are in fact.
It’s a holistic thing. It incorporates many aspects as part of a whole process and so it’s quite tricky to know where to start.
Let’s put it like this. Language goes in, and language comes out. (I told you it sounds like The Force)
Language is within you and language is without you. It flows through you. It binds the galaxy together.
There are receptive skills (this is how language goes in)
And there are productive skills (this is how language goes out)
There’s the written language
And there’s the spoken language
This is our system.
Think of it like a table with two categories on the horizontal axis and two on the vertical axis, so it’s like a grid with 4 squares in it.
On the horizontal access we have receptive and productive skills.
On the vertical we have written and spoken English.
Within the table we have 4 skills – the 4 squares.
So in the box marked “written” and “receptive” we have reading.
Below that in the “spoken” and “receptive” categoriy we have listening.
On the right in the “written” and “productive” side we have writing.
And then in the “spoken” and “productive” side we have speaking.
Those are your four skills. Reading, writing, listening and speaking.
The 4 skills are connected in various ways.
Reading and writing deal with the written word of course.
Reading helps you to write. It helps you to see how the language is built, how words are spelled and how sentences, paragraphs and texts are put together with grammar and textual conventions.
Listening and speaking deal with the spoken word.
Listening helps you to learn how English actually sounds, how words join together in sentences or longer utterances, it helps you get familiar with the speed, rhythm, flow and intonation of the language. It helps you get used to natural pronunciation which in turn helps you produce English in the same way.
Words exist in visual form, and in spoken form.
But reading and listening are connected too because they’re both receptive skills. They provide us with input which is the essential foundation of language learning.
And speaking and writing are connected because they’re productive skills.
These are the skills you need to use when using language for various purposes. This is where you are more active in the sense that you are constructing language and putting it down visually in the form of writing, or using your body to produce it orally.
Let’s talk about those receptive skills and input.
The reading thing there is something we’ll come back to in the section about reading.
This is the academic who is always mentioned in this context, when talking about how to learn English these days. Krashen was one in a long line of linguists who came up with theories about how language is learned and should be taught.
Arguably, we still don’t really know how people learn languages, but various academics over the years have put forward different hypotheses to explain it and these have been the backbone of our understanding of language learning that has informed the way we all learn and teach languages over the years.
Krashen though is the one that people often talk about today, including all the many YouTubers who regularly post videos about the best ways to learn, the only ways to learn, the secrets of learning and all that sort of thing. Krashen is usually brought up because his ideas fit in quite nicely to a model of language learning for today. I mean, it involves a lot of consumption of content in English – plenty of listening and reading and that sort of content is in plentiful supply online, like for example episodes of Luke’s English Podcast.
In his input hypothesis in which he makes the case for the importance of comprehensible input for language learning, he states that in fact the only way we can successfully increase our underlying linguistic competence. This is our system of linguistic knowledge or let’s say that “language instinct” that you have, which even subconsciously gives us a sense of when language is right or wrong. I suppose it could be active in that you know a certain grammar rule and can see when it’s been broken, or passive in that you just feel that something is right or wrong but can’t necessarily explain it.
I would say the passive knowledge is the vital one because ultimately you just want to be able to feel that language is right or wrong without thinking about it.
But that being said, your active knowledge can be really useful when doing things like avoiding common errors as a result of your first language, or consciously pushing yourself to create language which is normal.
Anyway, Krashen says the only way to increase your linguistic competence is through comprehensible input, meaning reading and listening to things that we mostly understand and that with the context of what you do understand, you are able to work out the bits that you don’t know. This is how we acquire new languages.
So basically, we learn a language when we understand it. So, naturally, according to Krashen, the receptive skills come first.
I think this makes a lot of sense to me. I think it’s bound to be true that we learn language by listening to it and reading it. But what about those moments when you have to speak or write, what about learning the grammar and all the rest of it?
Krashen would say that we learn the grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation of a language by listening to it or reading it, and that it’s a natural process and part of how we decode language through comprehensible input.
So, don’t worry about grammar rules and all the rest of it, just listen and do your best to keep up and work out what’s going on, and do it regularly.
Again, I am sure this is true but I also think it’s worth studying the language a bit too, breaking it down a bit, seeing how it works, actively trying to learn more vocabulary, checking up on the rules of grammar and doing some controlled practice. Working on your pronunciation by copying and training your mouth and brain to cooperate with each other, like the way we practise certain movements in sport or musical parts on an instrument.
I do believe that controlled practice and conscious learning like that must also be beneficial because I’ve seen it happen. Doing some active studying can be like a fast track of English learning. It can cut out a lot of time by helping you realise certain things about the language quickly, and I think if you then notice it again while listening and reading that only reinforces what you’ve learned.
Of course, you shouldn’t get blinded by grammar or pronunciation rules and so on, to the point that you can’t see the wood for the trees.
Try not to get hung up on grammar, because it can make you process language in an unnatural and contrived way. It can get stuck in your head and block you a bit. Instead, try to notice patterns and incorporate them into your use of English. Try to see grammar study as a way of confirming things you’ve already noticed, or a way of consulting with a reference book as you also just absorb English more naturally. If you only study English with the grammar, it’s going to be a weird abstract process for learning the language. It’s better to focus on consuming English in the form of messages which you are trying to understand, and then perhaps check your grammar later to straighten things out.
The premium subscription is where I help you with that sort of thing, hopefully combining with the free content to give you all the stuff you need to attack English from several angles.
How can you learn this language if you haven’t heard it and read it a lot?
Read and listen to things that are slightly above your level, so you can understand 60-80%. You need to be able to understand that much for your brain to work out the remaining 20-40% that you don’t know. Meaningful context is vital.
Basically, listen x5 and read x5.
It’s largely a question of finding the right stuff to listen to.
There’s this podcast of course. Others are available.
Watch TV and films with and without subtitles.
Hopefully you’ll find content that you actually want to listen to, not just for studying English. So if you do get addicted to a Netflix series and you can’t wait to find out what happens next, that’s good! That means you will get more comprehensible input and you will be much more focused and involved in it, which is great for your English. Or maybe you want to hear another stupid and funny conversation with my friends just because it makes you laugh and you feel some sort of connection to it. All of that is great because it will help you listen more, listen longer and listen long term.
This one is also a pleasure to talk about because it’s a pleasure to do and there are lots of great things to read.
Let’s hear from Krashen again as he is the master of the whole input model.
This is again from Wikipedia, which I think is fine usually for the basics like this.
Extensive reading, free reading, book flood, or reading for pleasure is a way of language learning, including foreign language learning, through large amounts of reading. As well as facilitating acquisition of vocabulary, it is believed to increase motivation through positive affective benefits. It is believed that extensive reading is an important factor in education. Proponents such as Stephen Krashen (1989) claim that reading alone will increase encounters with unknown words, bringing learning opportunities by inferencing. The learner’s encounters with unknown words in specific contexts will allow the learner to infer and thus learn those words’ meanings.
Of course that system is disputed because this is the academic arena we’re dealing with and people are always putting forward ideas, defending them, disputing them and so on. It’s how we move forwards and learn about this stuff.
So this is extensive reading which is different to the sort of intensive reading you do in English lessons, where you spend ages on just one page of text, break it down into tiny chunks, understanding every single morsel. With extensive reading it’s all about just getting as much English into your head as you can by reading as much as you can, and you focus on reading enjoyable things, especially stories and you don’t stop too much to analyse the language or even check words, you just keep trying to follow what you’re reading. The more involved in it you are, the better.
Again, this point about input is that it feeds your instinct for the language. You get a subconscious sense of what is right or wrong, which comes in very handy for when you’re doing those nasty sentence transformations and use of English tasks in a Cambridge exam like CAE. What you really want in those situations is to know exactly which preposition or auxiliary verb is missing, or to be able to manipulate sentences in a variety of forms. I reckon it helps to do a bit of language practice as well, with a few controlled exercises but the idea is that it should all go in naturally giving you this sense of language competence.
It’s important though to choose texts which are not too difficult for you. You need to be able to understand enough to be able to get a grip on the rest of the language.
So which books do you choose?
We’ve talked about the importance of choosing stuff that’s interesting to you, that reflects the type of English you might need.
Genre isn’t an issue. People assume you need to read or listen to the news but as we’ve already established they don’t really talk like normal people on the news, and they also write in a certain “newsy” style. Funnily enough it might be more useful to read the tabloid papers as they write in a more conversational style, but I think it’s worthwhile looking beyond the news.
Basically, read whatever you want.
Even comic books or graphic novels as they’re known for adults.
Graphic novels can be brilliant because they support your understanding with the images and often the English is in the form of speech so you learn really directly how to apply that stuff to real life. I love graphic novels in French. It’s my favourite way to work on the language.
You could consider the current bestsellers. If other people like the books then why shouldn’t you? Look in the fiction and non-fiction categories.
Or try graded readers, which are an excellent and underused resource. I really recommend them if you’re not a strong reader. They’re previously published books, and often some of the great classics and modern classics in English, but they’re republished with English that is graded for certain levels. The number of words is reduced, it’s truncated and essentially it’s a way to increase the percentage you do understand, and decrease the amount you don’t understand, getting to that 80/20 spot where you can maximise your language learning.
There are lots of titles to choose from and various publishers. Check these ones out
But your English may well be good enough now to have a go at a book for native speakers. So go for it. You have loads of options. Just make sure you enjoy reading on a regular basis.
I would also add that it’s important to choose texts which are written in modern style and perhaps about an area that you are particularly interested in. Perhaps think of it like this – what is the kind of English you want printed on the back of your head (on the inside)? Odd question, but I mean, what is your target English. Perhaps it’s the involving and descriptive storytelling of fiction, or it’s the matter-of-fact world of non-fiction. I reckon non-fiction is probably better because it reflects the kind of English you are more likely to be writing, especially if it’s things like academic work or reports at work, because they’re all about presenting you with information, data, commenting on what’s going on, describing how to do things and that’s probably the sort of thing you’ll need to use English for, especially in writing.
This might be a bit dry but it will really show you loads of examples of emails with full explanations, so you can read and learn.
The Story of English in 100 Words
Anything by David Crystal is fantastic, but this non-fiction book will teach you the entire story of the English language through 100 words and there are some great words in there like
Loaf, Street, Riddle, Arse, Jail, Wicked, Matrix and Skunk, to name but a few.
So you’re bound to learn tons from that.
Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny By Nile Rodgers
The War of the Worlds by HG Wells
The writing is a bit old fashioned. I have to be honest, but it’s mostly modern in style and I think it’s worth it because the story is amazing and it’s not too long. It’s wonderfully descriptive and much better than any movie version could be. Definitely one of my favourite books of all time.
Productive skills / output
This is where we get to the more nebulous world of productive skills. It’s like an alien land where monsters roam, a bit like war of the worlds maybe.
OK I’m exaggerating here but I mean that productive skills are a bit harder to pin down because even more psychological and social factors come into play. You have the public aspect of it, the fact that you’re trying to manipulate the language and get your ideas across in the right way, being coherent and cohesive and in the right style with the right level of politeness with the correct conventional replies and requests and on and on it goes!
Again, I’m making it sound tricky, but I mean that you are involved so much more because you’re making the language and actually using it. This is exciting because you get to express yourself which is the most wonderful and gratifying thing you can do in another language, and when it slides out quite fluidly and you’re not too blocked by who knows what, then it’s all gravy. But sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work out that way and you get mixed up and it doesn’t come out right at all. There’s a sense of performance in productive skills, and a sense that you have to be aware of the right way to conduct yourself, and to be able to utter things in English instantly, following what the other person is saying, it’s all done in a sort of unconscious blur and thinking about grammar in that situation is a killer.
So it’s about getting a level of ease, a level of comfort, a platform from which you can bob and weave your way through the conversation, finding other ways to say things and switching correctly between tenses and situations. I think you get what I mean.
So how do you work on these things?
Ease – a voice, fluency
Control – grammar, vocab, pronunciation
Range – a wide range of language for a wide range of things
Coherence – does it all make sense? Can people follow you easily?
Cohesion – particularly in writing, how does the whole text make sense as a whole?
Social factors – knowing how to put things and how to manage relationships through language
Again, the idea is that this language is just built into you from all that exposure and input.
I would say that there’s a great deal of other stuff you can do to improve your productive skills beyond reading and listening a lot, of course.
In both writing and speaking the first thing to remember is you need to engage in it as much as possible. Real writing and real speaking.
Ultimately this means trying to use language to communicate a message in some way and that’s what you should be focusing on. Meaningful interactions, especially ones in which you have something to offer or something to gain, such as negotiations or even information gap situations in which you’re telling someone something they don’t know. Also social interactions involving being polite or building relations with people. Ultimately, doing it for real is the best workshop in which you can work, rolling with the punches and trying to keep track of what you’re learning.
This is why people learn English best when they’re forced to do it because of their surroundings. They learn by being a waiter in London for a year or working in an office with native speakers, or being plunged into a foreign university for a year, or moving to a new country and having to cope with all the challenges that brings and in a second language. I suppose this is immersion, but it;s more than that. I recommend actually conversing with people to just practise. It’s the 5 Ps.
It’s like going to the gym. Fluency is like physical fitness in your mind and also in your body because you’re using your mouth, your breathing and your head and hands to communicate too.
It applies to writing too. You can observe the way other people write their emails and kind of copy their style, you have to really think about what you’re saying and doubtless you will end up writing emails with requests, with information, with questions and with complaints and so on, so you will have to learn on the job. Being thrown in at the deep end, or if you just have to use English at work it could either be a big stress for you or a huge opportunity to just go for it.
Anyway, let’s talk about specific productive skills – writing and reading, and how to work on them.
Let’s say you’re not actually in a situation where you can talk to people or have correspondence with people, or have to write things which other people will ultimately have to read. Unless you find a tutor on italki for example then that person could be your practice point for speaking and writing, giving you feedback as you go. But let’s say for the purposes of this episode, it’s just you and the English language, facing each other off in a kind of wild west fashion.
How can you practise on your own?
Obviously you need to write. But what are you going to write and who is going to read it?
Firstly – just write, write regularly, write meaningfully and write with a reader in mind, even if nobody reads it. This is important because it will help you get used to simply putting your ideas into words. It’s a creative process and also a mechanical process to an extent. Building sentences is a sort of art or a craft. You have to practise it in order to get some level of comfort with it. Let’s imagine there’s a muscle in your head (this is not scientific at all) which, if you never exercise it, will be quite weak and underdeveloped. But if you exercise that muscle regularly it will be strong, reactive and quick. I expect there is a part of the brain responsible for creating written language, and a sub-section for creating written English. Keep that part of your brain fresh by writing English as much as you can. That’s as scientific as I can get here.
So, here are some things you could write
What to write
Email an imaginary person (spooky?) or yourself (think outside the box here ok?)
Academic writing – text types
Emails – email types and conventions
Reports – same!
Formal and informal letters – same!
Applications – same same!
Basically – Whatever you have to write, you should try to find some samples of these texts and aim to copy them. Copy the style, the arrangement, the language they use and reproduce it yourself. Texts that you write will invariably be very practical so it’s about reporting information and asking questions. Look at the sample texts and copy them.
It helps if you have a specific workbook. I recommend Email English by Paul Emmerson. It’s a simple workbook that helps you work on almost all those things and I’m not even sponsored by Macmillan or anything, it’s genuinely a great book.
They also have downloadable email writing tasks on the Macmillan website or here
Ideally you’ll have a teacher to proofread your work, correct you and give you feedback.
If this isn’t possible, it’s still a good idea to write.
A diary (just describe things that happened, or make it more personal and really explore your thoughts and feelings. If the words don’t come, just use basic words. If you feel unable to express yourself perfectly, express yourself imperfectly but try to express yourself.
Writing is not just sentences, it’s paragraphs and pages. The thing you are writing will define how you write it. This means – conventions of certain texts, formality level of the language.
Specific exam tasks → IELTS, FCE, CAE, CPE, BEC higher and vantage
These will often push you to learn the conventions of different types of text, so it could be a good idea to take a Cambridge exam if you want to work on your writing.
You might write some notes on vocab and I would recommend here that you take a more extensive approach to doing this. Don’t just have one word per line. I want to see one word or phrase at the top of the page, and then loads of text underneath full of examples and your own examples with the language. You can then come back and cover up some of the words and try to remember. Alternatively you can use my PDFs with the notes and memory tests if you’re a premium subscriber. Little plug there for my other podcast.
But making more extensive vocabulary notes with plenty of examples means that not only are you recording vocabulary, you’re practising using it in writing too.
I mentioned italki before and you can find tutors, teachers and conversation partners there for regular practice and I do recommend doing that.
Otherwise, let’s look at some ways you can work on your speaking other than in actual spoken practice with others. Developing your speaking on your own.
This is quite a tricky thing to do because normally speaking is an instantly interactive form of communication. It also involves a lot of listening and then being able to produce English instantly and without hesitating too much.
It’s also quite physical as it involves using your mouth to produce words and sentences in the right way.
And of course there are all those cultural things to think about too.
But really speaking should just be your attempt to find your own voice in English, with fluency and with a specific tone. Of course it comes through a lot of practice, of having conversations in which you’re not really thinking about what you’re saying on a grammatical level but it’s pouring out of you due to necessity and not being able to really think a lot. Doing that regularly helps your brain map out the extent of the English you have and increase it, keeping it sort of fresh. That’s not scientific but more a metaphor of what I think speaking can do. It activates something in you that you have to maintain and keep active or those parts of the brain go dull.
So practice x5
But with who?
The fact is, it just helps to talk to other people and that’s the best and most basic advice I can give. Outside of that, you have to manipulate your surroundings and use your imagination to practise speaking on your own.
Talking on your own (and even in your head)
This might sound a bit odd, but it’s a surprisingly effective way to activate English that is in your head. You essentially talk to yourself, out loud, in English, describing what’s going on, what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, say it all in English. Alternatively you can just do it in your own head and just think the sentences. This also keeps that system of language production in your head fresh.
Listen and repeat
You can use certain audio and play a bit, pause, repeat what you heard, rewind, repeat again and keep going until you’ve got it, and then check the transcript or subtitles to see if you’re correct, check any new words and carry on. Always find ways to vocalise the things you are learning and that means saying them out loud even to yourself.
You can also practise different speaking scenarios.
Preparing for a Cambridge exam you can find past papers with speaking part preparation and practise. Find out what’s required in the different parts, watch videos of people taking the speaking part on YouTube, practise answering common questions about yourself, practise speaking on a topic for a minute or two, practise discussing your opinion on the issues of the day. Those are all specific speaking skills that you can practise on your own. I particularly recommend listen and repeat, especially when you have to take quite a long utterance in English, hold it in your head and repeat it like it’s one word? It’s like going to the gym in English. It involves a lot of things: Understanding the clip, identifying the words and grammar, being able to remember it all, being able to produce it in a similar way. That’s a whole punch of different kinds of practice. And if you repeat the sentence straight away, and again, you might notice certain little errors you’re making and correct them. So repeat over and over again, a bit like practising boxing combinations in the ring before the big fight.
In reality, the 4 skills are often mashed up together and you find you are doing things like listening and speaking at the same time, while also taking notes, looking at visuals and so on. It all gets very messy when language is actually applied to real communication in the real world.
A little note about pronunciation and a sort of disclaimer.
I think there are probably plenty of other things I have not mentioned in this episode, such as not talking about specific memory techniques (done that) or specific features of pronunciation (done that) or exactly how to read a book to learn English (done) or plenty of other things probably. To be honest this is just a podcast episode that I wanted to make about the 4 skills and it expanded into an episode all about learning English as a holistic process.
Anyway, the note about pronunciation
It is worth learning the phonemic script
It is worth getting the sounds app on your phone
It is worth doing drills and practising different features
It’s worth getting a book called Ship or Sheep or other books of that nature.
It’s worth remembering that if you have an accent when you speak that is fine and it’s part of who you are, the main thing is that you speak clearly, not which regional accent you have. Clarity is the thing to achieve. Also, it’s extremely difficult to “lose” your accent in English. Hardly anyone does it. But you can still be fine with your accent. English is quite open like that. Everyone’s welcome.
But there you have it. That was quite a comprehensive look at how I think learning English is best when you combine two things: comprehensible input, and a clever studying routine.
I think it can work wonders for your English.
And that’s what I try to do with this podcast. Give you all the input in the free episodes and then do some more focused studying in the premium content. Hopefully, together those two channels can boost your English to the max.
Hello dear listeners, how are you? I hope that you are well, wherever you are in the world, whatever you are doing, whatever situation you currently find yourself in at this moment in time.
Because we do often just find ourselves in situations, don’t we? I do, anyway. Oh, I’m living in France, and I’m married and I have a daughter now… wow, how did that happen? Now I’m in a French bakery ordering a baguette. Now I’m walking down the street with the baguette under my arm and I’m stopping to say “Bonjour” to a shop owner that I am on speaking terms with. Not something I really planned to be doing a few years ago before I moved here. That’s just life, isn’t it? Wwe just find ourselves in different situations, unless of course your life only contains moments which you have prepared, expected, planned for and constructed. In which case, congratulations. How did you manage that?
And then last Wednesday I found myself sitting in front of my computer about to start live streaming on YouTube, the tube of you – a tube full of you. I was about to start talking into a camera to who knows how many people, to talk about who knows what. I did it. It went fine, I had lots of fun, it was cool to talk so directly to my listeners (or viewers as they were on Wednesday) – maybe you were there – if you were, then hello! I hope you enjoyed it too… and now, in this episode in fact you can listen to the audio of that recent live stream I did on YouTube. That’s what this episode is.
Obviously, this was a video live stream and I was talking to viewers who could see me and send messages and questions to me via the chat and I was responding to those messages and questions during the live stream and because this was a video live stream, some of this might come across a little bit weirdly in the audio version because you’ll be missing certain visual clues like the expressions on my face, body language, objects I’m showing you on the screen, the text in the chat and so on, but if you prefer to consume your LEP content with your ears rather than your eyes, then here is the audio track of the live stream for your listening pleasure, and I hope it is pleasant to listen to, even if it is a bit different to a normal audio episode.
The experience of doing YouTube lives is a bit odd for me because it’s hard to do anything other than respond to the comments coming in from the chat, which is different to the way I usually record audio episodes, because normally I get to prepare myself more in advance and I know that people aren’t watching me, and it’s not live so I can edit afterwards, in case I say something that, on reflction, I probably shouldn’t say, and that sort of thing. This means that doing live videos is a bit intense, it’s quite hard to think straight and I found myself saying stuff off the top of my head that I might not have said if I had had time to really think about it. But I did find it fun. It’s just a bit different and takes some getting used to.
You’ll hear me jump from one topic to the next quite quickly. Some of the questions that came in were quite serious, and others were a bit more silly. Also, I sang 3 songs. You can find links to the lyrics to those songs on the page for this episode on my website. There are some crap jokes and In terms of the other stuff it’s a mix of questions related to learning English, some fairly personal questions, slightly bizarre questions and some funny questions.
Anyway, I will let you discover it for yourself. If you haven’t seen the video and would like to, you’ll see the video embedded on the page for this episode on my website. Also you can see it on my YouTube channel (search for Luke’s English Podcast on YouTube – and subscribe / hit the bell icon to get notified if I do more live streams in the future).
If you watch it on my youtube channel you’ll be able to watch the live comment feed as well, so you can see the comments I was reading at the time. I might upload the video to the LEP App as well, but it’s a large file and so it would be a bit costly for me to do so (I get a certain amount of uploading data per month).
Anyway, enough rambling. I’ll now let you listen to the audio from the slightly chaotic but fun YouTube live stream from last Wednesday, 10 June 2020. I’ll speak to you a bit on the other side of this recording.
Again, to actually watch that video, go to my youtube channel. You’ll also find various other videos there, including last year’s YouTube live for episode 600, plus some videos of me recording a few other episodes from the archive, including a couple of episodes with Amber & Paul and more…
I had fun with this but, to be honest (and don’t tell YouTube) I still prefer doing normal audio episodes of the podcast. This is what I do. I make audio podcasts. I’ll do more YouTube stuff and live streams in the future, but I’m still going to focus my main energy on these audio episodes. I love doing audio content.
If you’re wondering when the next YouTube live will be. Honestly, I don’t know yet. I might even just randomly go live like I did the week before.
Anyway, if I do another proper live stream I will let you know in advance.
Coming up on the podcast I have some more interview episodes, plus some more episodes with funny stuff like some comedy, plus some more specific content about learning English and plenty of other things.
Thank you to those of you who have sent me messages of encouragement on social media, on my website and by email. It’s great to get your messages, especially when they are basically first hand accounts of how regularly listening to my content has helped with your English. That’s really encouraging. I am always very happy to find out that people enjoy the podcast, but I am especially pleased when people tell me that it has made a genuine difference to their English. I actually find that I am becoming more and more convinced of the value of podcasting for people’s English, so that this is probably the most rewarding teaching experience I have – more rewarding than classroom teaching in many ways.
Anyway, the point is – thank you for your messages and I apologise if I haven’t got back to all of you.
Also, thank you sincerely for donations. You are keeping the project alive.
And thank you to my premium subscribers. I hope you’ve been enjoying the premium content, including P23 which I uploaded recently. I’ve had some great comments about the pronunciation drills in particular recently, proving to me that I am doing the right thing and so I will keep pushing on with that kind of content, so stay tuned for more premium content coming soon, with specific language teaching from me to you.
OK, enough rambling! Thank you for listening and for being a stakeholder in LEP.
Hello dear listeners and welcome back to the podcast. This episode features a 4-way conversation between three of my friends and me, recorded on Zoom recently (other video conferencing platforms are available), and it’s basically us asking each other questions in a sort of 4-way interview scenario. I think it should be a fun conversation to listen to but I also think it will probably be a challenge for your listening skills. That is what I expect but I will let you find out for yourself.
Upcoming YouTube Live Stream
Before we get started on that, I just want to remind you about the YouTube live stream I’m doing on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM CET.
Did you hear the announcement episode I published at the weekend? Well, if you did, then you’ll know all about this.
I’m doing another YouTube Live Stream on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM Paris time, and you are invited to join me. I’m going to be messing around, answering questions from listeners in the chat, maybe singing a couple of songs with the guitar, and generally just hanging out with my audience on YouTube.
If you can’t make it, the video (and audio) will be published later so you will still be able to watch it or hear it. I’m doing it at 3PM on a Wednesday because my daughter will be in the nursery (or creche as they call it in France – the daycare centre) and so I’m free to get up to some online antics, and at the weekend it’s family time – so, midweek and in the afternoon (my time) is just the right time for me to do it.
Anyway, join me on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM for a YouTube Live “Ask Me Anything / Hang Out with Luke”. To find the specific location on YouTube, check the show notes for this episode and you’ll find a YouTube link or just subscribe to my YouTube channel – that’s Luke’s English Podcast and click the bell icon to receive a notification when I go live.
OK, so that’s that…
This is number 667, and here is my introduction…
This intro is quite long but I’ve done that on purpose to help you understand what I think will be a difficult episode, but if you really prefer, you can skip forward to approximately 22mins but of course if you skip forward you won’t know what you’ve missed and you’ll live the rest of your life thinking “I wonder what Luke said in that introduction to episode 667? What did I miss? And when you’re old and grey and near the end of your life and you’re asked by a grandchild one day, “Do you have any regrets?” you might manage to say “If I have one regret, it’s that I skipped that introduction to episode 667, that’s …that is my only regret in life. I skipped the introduction and I didn’t fully understand that conversation with his friends. I didn’t have sufficient context. A lot of jokes went over my head. Oh, it was confusing and I just gave up on learning English. And that’s when it all went wrong for me. I’m sorry children. It still haunts me to this day. What did he say? What did I miss…? I suppose I’ll never know.” So, if you want that to be you, just skip ahead to 22mins now.
Ok so you’re still with me. You didn’t skip ahead. Excellent choice. You’ll be fine now, for the rest of your life. Everything in your life is just going to slot into place now, just right. It’s going to be perfect from now on. You’ll have no regrets and it’s all going to be roses. Just remember though, when you are sipping cocktails on your own private yacht somewhere in the future. Just remember to thank me, OK.
One of the only good things about the coronavirus pandemic lockdown confinement social distancing isolation situation is that it has encouraged people to get in contact with each other more than they normally would. Maybe this is because we’re unable to get together physically (if you know what I mean), so we’re making up for it by calling each other more, or we’re just aware that it’s important to stay connected during this weird time, in order to make ourselves feel a bit better.
I don’t know if it’s the same for you but I’ve been in touch with friends and family more than usual during this time, including my mates Paul Langton, Alex Love and Moz. We’ve had a few Zoom calls together recently just to have fun chatting and also to generally keep our spirits up. Paul, Alex and Moz have all been on the podcast before so I thought it might be fun during one of our Zoom calls for us to reunite on the podcast again, for the first time in years. And that’s what you’re going to hear today. This episode was recorded during the lockdown with me in Paris and the others in their homes in England.
This was recorded 2 or 3 weeks ago when the lockdown was fully in place both in France and the UK.
The four of us first recorded podcasts together at the Brighton Fringe Festival in episodes 104, 105 and 106, then there was the Slightly Drunk Episode (ep 109) and On a Boat (ep226), recorded on Moz’s narrow boat. I wonder if you’ve heard those episodes? Let me know if you remember Paul, Alex, Moz and me sitting on the beach in Brighton and the creation of Luke Johnson, my evil clone. Do you remember us sharing beers inside Moz’s boat one summer evening and talking nonsense in my flat and other weird moments from deep in the episode archive?
Super-duper long term listeners will remember those episodes, but for those that don’t know here is a quick summary of some background context to help you understand this episode a lot more.
Forgive me for rambling on in this introduction (as usual). I know this is long but this kind of context is essential to help language learners understand a conversation between four friends, and listening to a group of friends chatting can be really hard in another language.
So this is all necessary context to help you piece together what you’re going to hear in this episode which will help you enjoy it more and learn more from listening to it.
We all first met each other doing comedy in London in 2009 when we did the Amused Moose stand up comedy course run by Logan Murray, which I have mentioned before. That was a series of comedy workshops designed to help us develop basic skills for doing stand up comedy.
After doing that course, we did various comedy gigs together in London and also shows at the Brighton Fringe Festival from 2010 to 2012. That’s a comedy festival in Brighton, a bit like the Edinburgh Fringe but smaller, and in Brighton. Paul, Alex and I were in a show together called Snigger Happy, and Moz did his own shows, in the same venue as us.
Here’s some intel on each person in this conversation.
Paul Langton Paul was born and brought up in central London and has a London accent. As a stand up comedian in London, Paul used to regularly MC one of London’s best open mic comedy shows, called “Comedy Virgins” at the Cavendish Arms in Stockwell, South London, and he was also the host of one of the first live-streamed comedy/music shows that I know of, which was called Teaserama (and that was at least 10 years ago), but more recently Paul decided to stop doing stand up comedy. He made a fairly big career move and became a police officer for London’s Metropolitan Police Service, which is what he now does on a full time basis, working on London’s streets, fighting crime, a bit like Robocop, if Robocop was actually an Irish man called Rob O’Cop who liked drinking lots of Guinness during his time off.
Paul was on the podcast on his own in episode 349 talking about Marvel and DC superheroes, as he is something of an expert in that kind of thing – basically, he’s a tall police geek with a London accent and a penchant for Guinness.
Alex Love Alex grew up near Stroud, which is in Gloucestershire, which is in The Cotswolds, which is in the south west midlands, in England. As well as working as a freelance journalist writing articles for newspapers, Alex continues to do stand-up comedy (although not during the lockdown of course). Recently he has been doing a successful show called “How to Win a Pub Quiz” which he has performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to sold out rooms in recent years. Unfortunately Edinburgh is cancelled this year, leaving Alex with a huge August sized gap in his summer. I say Edinburgh is cancelled. I mean the festival, not the city. The city still exists as far as I’m aware. Alex has also brought his pub quiz show to various other places including a recent trip to Australia and New Zealand. He managed to get back home to Stroud in England just before New Zealand closed its borders because of the coronavirus outbreak. This sounded like quite a dramatic escape, which I imagine was pretty much as exciting as that moment in The Empire Strikes Back when Han Solo manages to escape from the belly of a huge space worm just before it closes its mouth. Remember that scene? I’m sure taking off in a plane from New Zealand in the nick of time, was exactly like that.
Alex has been on the podcast a few times before, talking about his Edinburgh show, doing a pub quiz with me, and talking about Queen the rock band.
Moz Moz used to work for the BBC as a producer of comedy TV shows, and he worked on various shows including one memorable flop called Horne and Corden, a sketch show with James Corden who you might know these days as the presenter of The Late Late Show with James Corden on TV in America. A few years ago Moz changed career a bit and became a writer, podcaster and tour guide, setting up Murder Mile Walks and the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast, both of which are about real murders which occurred in various parts of London. On his tours he takes people round various parts of the city and tells them true stories of grisly murders that happened there in the past. You might remember his previous appearances on this podcast telling the gruesome stories of some of those killings. Moz does loads of research into these crimes using court and police records, in order to describe what really happened in proper detail. This level of research is one of the things that makes Moz’s work unique. The other things are of course Moz’s animal magnetism and his captivating storytelling abilities.
You can hear these stories by listening to the Murder Mile True Crime Podcast (link in the show notes) or by going on one of Moz’s walking tours of London (link also in the show notes). More recently Moz started doing storytelling shows on stage in front of live audiences (rather than dead audiences) that’s until COVID-19 came along of course, putting a stop to those live shows, but his podcast continues. Moz also used to do stand-up comedy with Alex, Paul and me, but his performances were a bit different. In stand up it is normal to be yourself on stage. But Moz always performed in character. He also used a lot of pre-recorded audio. He would record an audio track beforehand and then while the audio played through speakers he would stand on stage in costume and mime his performance without speaking, except maybe for a few noises here and there. One of the characters he used to do was called Sloppy Party Bottom, who was a sort of surreal clown (in the proper French clowning tradition) but that description doesn’t really do it justice at all. It was very funny and very weird. These days Moz lives on a narrow boat on London’s canal network, and yes, he does have a toilet and a shower on his boat, which I assume he uses. I hope he uses them anyway.
Luke I think you know who I am, but I should remind you that I also do stand-up comedy, although not as regularly as I should and not at all since COVID-19 came along of course. I performed at the Brighton Fringe Festival 3 years running with Alex and Paul in a show that we called Snigger Happy. In 2010 our show was reviewed by Steve Bennet, who is probably the UK’s most well-known comedy reviewer, certainly among comedians. I had a good gig and got quite a good review. Bennet said I had a promising future. Ooh, exciting. 2 years later Bennet unexpectedly reviewed our show again, but I had a truly awful gig that day and died on my arse in front of him and the rest of the audience. Naturally, his 2nd review was not positive at all, quite the opposite. This still stings to this day, when I think about. I promised Steve Bennet that I would have a bright future as a stand up comedian, and I then two years later when the future arrived I spectacularly failed to deliver on that promise. I think I have told the story of what happened during that awful performance before, so I won’t explain it now. Perhaps I’ll tell the story again some time. Suffice to say, it was bad, and I will never really live it down, meaning, it is an embarrassing comedy failure that may haunt me for years to come, especially if Alex, Paul and Moz keep reminding me of it, which they often do, because it amuses them.
I wanted to interview Alex, Paul and Moz all at the same time so what we’re going to do in this episode is take turns to be interviewed by each other. We’re all going to be cross examined by each other one by one. It’s a bit hard to explain this idea, but you’ll see.
Basically you’ll hear us talking about a variety of topics like our lives, our comedy stuff, how our careers have been affected by coronavirus, regrets we have about our pasts, little anecdotes, criticisms we’ve faced over the years and of course the occasional bit of toilet humour.
What’s the purpose for learning English, you might ask? Well, just the usual thing, which is that it’s vital to regularly listen to authentic conversations in English. It’s this kind of immersion, exposure and input which can make a crucial difference to your learning of English. Obviously the episode is long but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t have to listen to this in one go. Pause, take a break, come back and your podcast app will remember where you stopped.
One issue – audio quality
This episode was recorded online via Zoom and despite my best efforts I couldn’t get any of the others to use proper USB microphones. I even sent one by international post to Alex, but unfortunately his laptop is basically kaput so he had to use his phone. Not everyone is a teched up podcaster with a plethora of microphones at his disposal you know. So if you struggle to understand this conversation, then you can blame them for not having state of the art microphones, or blame me for choosing to do this whole project in the first place, or blame your old English teachers at school who didn’t give you enough listening practice, or blame yourself, or just don’t blame anyone. Probably the last one would be best.
Anyway, the main difficulty that I expect you will have with this is the sound quality. It’s going to sound like it was recorded online during a 4-way Zoom call, and that’s because it was recorded online during a 4-way Zoom call, and because there are 4 of us and you might not know Alex, Paul and Moz that well, and because nobody is speaking super slowly to help you understand them, this could definitely be a challenging episode. So, brace yourself. But then again, for all I know, this will be fine for you.
Some of you will be fine with that, but others will find it tricky. But, rarely in the real world do we get the luxury of perfect sound conditions, especially when doing video conferencing which is becoming more and more commonplace during these times.
OK, I don’t want to waffle on any longer. Instead I will say now that it’s time to join me as I chat with my friends. I hope you enjoy it.
Your tasks are:
a) to be able to identify who is talking (basically, can you differentiate between Paul, Moz and Alex’s voices and
b) can you actually understand what we’re all talking about?
c) Can you use your imagination a little bit and imagine that the whole coronavirus thing isn’t actually happening and that we’re all in fact all sitting around a table sharing a beer or soft drink in the pub and you’re there with us and everything is fine in the world.
OK, that is all. Now let’s get started, and here we go!
What is your name?
What do you do?
How has that been affected by the coronavirus?
Questions for Paul
Luke: When questioning a suspect in the police station, have you ever thrown a chair against a wall or slapped a cigarette out of someone’s mouth?
Alex: What is your biggest regret from your time doing comedy?
Moz: Why do you love Rick Mayall?
Questions for Alex
Luke: In the episode we recorded together about the rock band Queen, one listener said “I don’t understand any words in this conversation. This guy speaks like alien.” How do you respond to this claim?
Moz: What advice would you give to 8-year old Alex Love?
Paul: As the only one of us who regularly still gigs, what advice would you give to your younger self just before you got on stage many moons ago?
Questions for Luke
Paul: What do you most miss about London?
Moz: What part of your body annoys you the most and why?
Alex: You were once predicted a bright future in comedy? What happened?
Questions for Moz
Luke: You live on a narrowboat on the canal network. What’s the most annoying behaviour that you’ve observed and experienced from others on the canal network?
Alex: In your time at the BBC, what’s the worst TV show you worked on and why?
Paul: Have you ever been tempted to get back on stage as one of your old characters?
Questions for Paul
Alex: How close have you been to pooing your pants on duty as a police officer?
Moz: If you had to go shopping at the supermarket right now, what would you buy?
Luke: What’s the best way to talk to a police officer, to avoid being arrested? (inspired by this Adam & Joe video – below)
Questions for Moz
Alex: You did a lot of pre-taped audio tracks with your comedy. Why did you never do stand up as yourself?
Paul: You do your murder mile walks in London. What is the funniest crack-head story you have from your tours?
Luke: What’s the wettest you’ve ever been?
Questions for Luke
Alex: When you were young, what job did you want to do when you grew up?
Paul: What is the most surreal review or comment you’ve received in the 10 years you’ve been doing this podcast?
Questions for Alex
Moz: Why would you make a great or a shit astronaut?
Luke: What is the worst or best gig you’ve ever had?
Paul: What’s the worst heckle you’ve received on stage?
At the end: Some stories of awful gigs, including stories of weird audience members – a woman with a glass eye, a deaf man, a poor man who had a seizure during a show, another poor man who was a burns victim, a scouser who just didn’t like me and more…
OK everyone, that’s it. I would just like to thank Paul, Moz and Alex for being on the podcast today. I hope you enjoyed joining us on our Zoom call. I know the audio quality might have made it a bit tricky for you to follow all of it. Let me know. I expect someone will comment that my friends sound like alien or something. But they don’t to me.
Remember, check out Moz’s podcast. It’s called The Murder Mile True Crime Podcast and it’s available on all good podcast apps.
Alex doesn’t have a podcast but he is still writing a blog, which you can find at alexlove.co.uk
If you want to find Paul, just commit a crime in the London area and he will probably find you and then you might end up having a one on one sit down interview with him in a police station. There’s an interesting approach to finding ways to talk to native speakers – just get arrested! The police will ask you lots of questions, and you’ll have lots of people to talk to in prison too! Yey!
By the way, I did have a lovely birthday, thank you for asking. I’m recording this bit about a week after doing the call, so yes I had a nice birthday and thank you for those of you who sent me birthday wishes. That was very nice of you. Those of you who didn’t, I will still accept your birthday messages quite gladly, and I am still open to gifts, flowers, chocolate, gold bullion and cash donations in most currencies but especially pounds sterling. If you don’t know my age, I wonder how old you think I am, perhaps just based on the sound of my voice.
If you’re wondering about my gifts, I got some new trainers from my wife and also I got a multi-track recorder for making music. If I actually have any time, I plan to record some music so I got a digital muti-track which will allow me to record guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals. Now, all I need is some actual musical talent and I might be able to create something half-decent. We will see.
I was also treated to a birthday cake of pancakes in bed – that’s a cake made of pancakes, with honey – a pancake cake, with candles and decorations and the candles set the decorations on fire and so they were fully ablaze by the time the cake got to me, so essentially my wife brought me a fire hazard directly to my bed first thing in the morning, which was actually very funny and not as dangerous as it sounds. Anyway I had a nice birthday, if you’re interested.
How about you? Are you ok? I sincerely wonder how this episode was for you. I really enjoyed getting together with Paul, Moz and Alex again on the podcast, and I hope you did too, but I expect it was difficult to follow. Let me know in the comment section.
You know, difficult to follow isn’t necessarily a bad thing. That’s the sort of episode that challenges you a bit and pushes your English skills a bit further, in theory anyway.
Well, in any case, it’s time to draw this all to a close. Thanks for listening and speak to you soon, but for now — good bye!
I just want to let you know that on Wednesday 10 June 2020 I’m going to do a YouTube live stream, which means I will be on video on YouTube talking to you live and you can join me and add comments and questions.
The time will be 3.00pm CET.
The topic will be Ask Me Anything, and I mean anything.
Not just questions about English, but questions about anything else. Topics you’d like me to ramble about, situations you’d like me to improvise, impressions, songs, voices, accents, anything at all. The weirder and funnier the better.
You can Ask Me Anything, but of course I reserve the right to not answer, if I wish.
The main point is to just hang out and have some fun in English.
A lot of people have been doing live streams during the lockdown – celebrities, musicians, English teachers, Paul Taylor did a live stream almost every day and is still doing them (Paul Taylor’s Happy Hour) but I haven’t been able to do it because I’ve been looking after my daughter, she’s been around all the time, the conditions just haven’t been right.
I’ve been able to do some audio episodes but that’s a bit different to doing a live stream.
But now in Paris the lockdown is mostly over.
Creches (childcare centres) are open again, shops are open, bars, restaurants and cafes are open (with some restrictions) so my daughter is is back in the daycare centre. So, I now have a bit more breathing space. So I’m able to do a live stream on YouTube.
I don’t normally do live streams. I find they are different to doing normal episodes of the podcast.
I find on a live stream you basically just respond to the comments and questions which come in via the chat.
It’s a bit weird to do anything other than respond to the chat questions.
TBH, I usually prefer just making my audio podcast episodes the way I plan them.
But I’ve been thinking about doing live streams.
Then, on Wednesday, I randomly decided to start live streaming in the afternoon. Some of you might have noticed and joined me. Some of you might have seen it later on my YouTube channel.
What happened was, earlier on Wednesday I was taking a break from my work and I decided to record myself playing something on guitar for my uncle. He’s learning the guitar and sometimes we send each other videos of us playing different songs. I use YouTube to do that.
While I was recording the song I realised there was someone (2 people in fact) who had somehow got into my unlisted live stream. I don’t know how. I was quite surprised but it was quite fun for a moment. When I ended the live stream, the person (Inigo) quickly wrote – wait, don’t go!
So I immediately decided to just start streaming again and see who would join me, with no expectations and nothing planned at all.
I ended up with about 100 people I think (now the video has more than 2000 view so I expect some of you have seen it), and I played some songs, answered a few questions. Some people said “This isn’t fair! You should have warned us!” So I promised that I’d do another one soon and I’d give plenty of warning. So here is that warning!
Have you go it?
Wednesday 10 June at 3PM CET.
YouTube – Luke’s English Podcast
Subscribe and tap the bell icon to get the notification when I’m live streaming.
Ask Me Anything
Let’s hang out and just mess around.
I might play some songs on the guitar.
I might talk about learning English.
I will respond to questions.
And we’ll see what else happens.
It’ll probably be about an hour long.
When it’s done you’ll be able to see the video on my YT channel and I’ll put it in the LEP App too.
So if you can’t make it you will be able to see it later. I might upload the audio as a podcast episode too.
Now what I’m going to do is I’m going to play the audio from last Wednesdays unplanned live stream.
I’m just going to play the audio. It’s not really a proper podcast episode, because it’s just the audio from last Wednesday’s unplanned live stream. You’ll hear some pauses, I’ll be talking about some visual things that you can’t see, and the audio won’t be quite as good as normal. But you might enjoy listening to it.
I play some guitar, the sound quality isn’t amazing because of the way YouTube compresses the sound or the way the sound of the guitar isn’t captured that well during the live stream. But there are three songs which I haven’t done on the podcast before.
Anyway, you can listen to the audio of last Wednesday’s unplanned YT live now.
And I will probably upload the video into the LEP app as well so you can see that if you like, and you can see how scruffy my hair is since I haven’t had it cut since the lockdown began.
That’s it! Hopefully, I’ll see you on Wednesday 10 June at 3PM Central European Time.
More podcasts coming soon, including one before the live stream I expect. So, until then it’s just time to say “Good bye bye bye bye bye!”
And now, here is the audio from last Wednesday’s unplanned live stream…
Hello and welcome back to Episode 666 of LEP in which my brother James and I are talking about scary and evil things. In the first two parts we talked about the number 666, the devil in music, Black Sabbath, and then in part 2 we described some genuinely frightening experiences that we’ve had in our lives. I’m glad to say that more comments have arrived. It’s good to see that people have been enjoying this series.
In this third and final part the plan is to talk about scary films, including the first scary films we ever saw, why people enjoy watching scary films, and then some descriptions of our favourite scary films. I’m sure that not all of you are into films like this, but I hope you can still enjoy listening to us describing them and talking about the effect they had on us when we saw them.
I’ve been thinking. Will you be able to identify the films that we are talking about? I expect that some of these films have different titles in your language. It’s quite important that you know which films they are, even if you haven’t seen them.
You might want to check them out quickly before you listen in order to identify them. You don’t have to watch them all. I just want to be sure that you know which ones we’re actually talking about.
In fact, I’ll give you the English titles now and very brief one-line descriptions (and you’ll see all these titles listed on the page if you want to know the spelling or whatever) so you can hopefully work out which films these are, or you can google them yourself, see if you recognise them and see what they are called in your country.
So here are the films which we mention during this conversation.
Do you know which ones they are? Do they have different titles in your language?
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre One of the original horror/slasher films from 1974 about a group of hippies who go on a road trip that ends badly when they get attacked by a weird family of cannibals in Texas, one of whom wields a chainsaw.
Children of the Corn (1984) Not a very widely known film, to be honest. Adapted from a Stephen King short story of the same name. The plot of the film is described by IMDB as “A young couple is trapped in a remote town where a dangerous religious cult of children believes that everyone over the age of 18 must be killed.” It stars Linda Hamilton who plays Sarah Connor in The Terminator films.
Jaws The 1975 Stephen Spielberg film about a shark. It’s an absolute classic and the most famous film about a shark, ever.
The Thing 1982, John Carpenter director, Kurt Russel star. IMDB: A research team in Antarctica is hunted by a shape-shifting alien that assumes the appearance of its victims. It was pointlessly remade a few years ago. The 1982 version is definitely the best one. Amazing and disturbing visual effects.
Alien 1979, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Sigourney Weaver. The one with the xenomorphs, face huggers and stuff. It spawned a whole franchise with sequels including the more recent ones Prometheus and Alien: Something. (I did a whole podcast episode about that actually) Alien: Covenant (Alien: Covent Garden would have been a much better film).
Evil Dead 2 1987, directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell. IMBD: The lone survivor of an onslaught of flesh-possessing spirits hides in a cabin with a group of strangers while the demons continue their attack.
Ghostbusters 1984 Dir: Ivan Reitman, starring Bill Murray – Three former parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.
Those are the main films we talk about then. I hope you know which ones we mean.
As well as the talk of films, there are a couple of other topics in this episode, including a story that James felt compelled to share with us, from the business world of skateboarding about a skateboard with a famously controversial illustration on it – a picture of satan in hell, being evil. A skateboard with a dangerous design, basically. The story is about the power of superstition, I think.
We also have a go at some armchair philosophy at the end as we consider the idea of whether humans have free will or not, and how this might affect the existence of evil in the world, and whether the existence of the devil can somehow confirm one’s faith in the existence of god. If humans do bad things, is that because they are evil, or is there a more rational explanation for why people do bad things? Big questions which we’re not really qualified to answer, but we have a stab at it.
Also there’s the legendary story of blues guitarist Robert Johnson from the 1930s who, legend has it, sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads in return for amazing guitar playing technique and a mastery of the blues. The question is: for what price would you sell your soul to the devil?
That’s an overview of what’s coming up.
I gave a warning at the start of part 1 of this that you would hear some weird and frightening sounds at some moments during the episode.
I’d like to say that again now “You will hear some weird and frightening sounds at some moments in this episode”, because we play some audio from some of those horror films, and of course they contain some frightening noises. So be ready to hear some banging or crashing sounds, some scratching and scraping sounds, ominous voices, the sound of a chainsaw, some screaming, and other disturbing noises. OK?
Apologies again for James’ microphone cutting out a bit during this episode. I hope it’s not too distracting for you.
So, if you are ready and prepared – mentally, physically and spiritually, and not feeling too sensitive, let’s continue with the final part of episode 666.
And here we go…
So there you are that is the end of part 3, the last part of this series. I hope you’re not too traumatised by all this!
There is also some bonus audio for this episode in the app. Open the app, find this episode, tap the episode in the list and then tap the little gift icon to access the bonus audio. You’ll hear me describing and reacting to a creepy scene from an old black and white film called The Innocents. James wanted to show me this scene and wanted me to react to it, describing what I was seeing. So if you like you can listen and hear my descriptions, and you can watch the scene for yourself too. I’ll put the video of that scene on the website, and I think I’ll also make that bonus audio available on the website too.
So, that’s the bonus audio in the app and also on the website.
Check out the page for this episode to see a few select film clips and other bits and pieces.
As ever, we look forward to reading your comments on the episode page. Perhaps you could tell us what you thought of this series. Are there any scary films you’d like to mention? What’s the first scary film you remember seeing? Why do people choose to watch scary films?
This really is the end now. Thank you for listening. Stay safe, stay healthy, stay happy and be excellent to each other.
Bye bye bye bye bye…
Quint describes the USS Indianapolis shark incident (Jaws)
Quint gets eaten by the shark (Jaws)
Luke sees a scene from The Innocents (1961) for the first time, and describes it. You can watch the scene below.
Hello, are you a learner of English? Would you like something to listen to to develop your listening skills and by extension all other aspects of your English and your life? Well, you could listen to this. That’s the idea. Learning English through listening. Learning through listening. Listening through learning. Listening while learning. Listening and learning. Living and learning.
Anyway, welcome to this episode of my podcast.
This is part 2 of episode 666 in which my brother James and I are talking about scary things, horror, evil and general moodiness.
I uploaded part 1 of this a few days ago and so far there has almost been radio silence from the LEPsters. Just the sound of crickets in the comment section and on social media, despite the fact that I was regularly receiving messages from people before publishing episode 666 asking about what I was planning to do for this episode with an apparently significant number. There have been one or two comments, but I feel it’s less than usual. What’s going on. Have you been spooked by the subject matter? Are you all freaked out by the number 666? It’s possibly because the episode got blocked on YouTube and YouTube is normally where the first comments come in because it’s easier to comment on YouTube. So nothing from YouTube. I don’t know. The download numbers have been good. Maybe you’re just superstitious but like Stevie Wonder once said “Superstition ain’t the way”.
In any case, let me introduce this properly. This is part 2 and there are 3 parts to this episode. James and I recorded all this a couple of weeks ago – him in London, me in Paris (we did it online of course, we didn’t just shout really loud) and we chatted for about 4 hours I think. I’ve edited that down, but still, this was a marathon recording, just because we had a lot of stuff we wanted to talk about.
In part 1 we talked about why the number 666 is associated with the devil, and then we talked about the devil in music with a little history lesson from James’ friend Kate Arnold who is an expert in medieval music and then there was some rambling from James and me about some of our favourite scary music – mostly the band Black Sabbath who are probably the first band to really make a name for themselves by being quite frightening, but also some death metal, some hip hop and some Aphex Twin. Apologies to those of you who were expecting us to talk more about Iron Maiden and also other genres like black metal and so on.
So that was part 1, but here in part 2 James and I are going to move on from music and instead share a few anecdotes of genuinely scary experiences we’ve had in our lives, scary things that have actually happened to us. So, a bit of storytelling in this one.
Then in part 3 of this we’re going to talk about scary films and horror movies, and then that will be it for episode 666.
I recorded this conversation with James remotely over video conferencing software and for some reason James’ microphone kept cutting out at various times. You might be able to hear it sometimes. He talks and then some of his sentences get cut in half or he suddenly goes silent a bit. I managed to fix this in most cases, but sometimes you will hear his voice cutting out and some words are missing or half pronounced. It was quite frustrating at the time, because of course I want you to be able to hear everything. It becomes a bit more obvious in the second half of this episode, and I hope you don’t find it too distracting. Hopefully you won’t even notice, although obviously you will now because I’ve mentioned it.
OK, so without any further ado, let’s jump back into episode 666 with some scary stories of real-life experiences from James and me, and here we go!
OK listeners, that is where we are going to stop part 2, but this marathon episode will continue in part 3 in which James and I are going to talk about scary films and some other bits and pieces on this theme.
If you liked hearing our stories, you could check out some other episodes from the archive, which are similar. Here they are (just two of them).
Episode 140 is the one I mentioned earlier. That’s the ghost stories episode in which I tell 4 weird and disturbing stories from my life. Just a heads up: There’s quite a long and waffling introduction to that episode (what a surprise), so if you’d like to skip that and get straight to the stories, you should fast forward to about 17 minutes into the episode. Start listening from 17 minutes in if you want to get straight to the stories. You’ll hear The Scary Clock story again, plus 3 other weird anecdotes. That’s episode 140, starting 17 minutes into the episode.
Also there’s episode 372 which was called The Importance of Anecdotes in English, and that one contains 4 true stories told by my mum, my dad, James and me. At least 3 of them are quite frightening, including the time James got stranded in Hastings and ended up sleeping on a stranger’s sofa and it got a bit weird. My dad had a confrontation with a taxi driver in Greece when he was a student and I had a taste of the violent underworld crime scene in Liverpool when I used to live there. That perhaps sounds worse than it is – basically one evening a poor guy who had been kidnapped by drug dealers ended up at our front door and my housemates and I took him in without really realising what was happening, and the next thing we knew we had a bleeding traumatised stranger in our house and potentially some armed drug dealers outside looking for him. That was fun. Oh such lovely days as a student in Liverpool in the 90s.
Anyway, that’s an episode with 4 anecdotes told by my family and it is episode 372. There’s some language teaching about narrative tenses and how to tell anecdotes in that one, but if you want to skip straight to the stories again you’ll need to jump ahead to the 34 minute mark. Episode 372, 34 minutes in.