I've been teaching English for over 20 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.
Continuing the text adventure game about the zombie apocalypse from episode 706, with text on the screen so you can read with me while you listen. Video version available. Play the game with me – follow the links below. [Part 2 of 2] Listen to part 1 first!
Listen to another natural conversation with Kate Billington about some listener comments, Chinese New Year, English festivals & food in February, sports day traditions, more cake recipes, various bits of vocabulary and more.
Hello there, welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. I hope you’re doing well today.
You might have noticed that there’s been a bit of a delay since I published the last episode. It’s been about two weeks, although I have published a couple of premium episodes in that period. So the premium listeners have had something to listen to.
But there’s been a bit of a delay with the free episodes.
You might also notice that no transcript is available for this episode, including no text video on YouTube (although automatic subtitles might still be available).
The reason for this is that I’ve been working with some new software that allows me to edit both the audio and transcription at the same time, which is much more efficient than editing the audio first, then working on the transcript afterwards. This is the software that I’ve been using to make the recent text videos and transcripts.
In theory, this new software is brilliant and should revolutionise the way I work on my episodes – allowing me to produce the transcripts, text videos, and audio all at the same time. This is brilliant in theory, but in practice things are a bit different, and the reason why this episode has been delayed is because for two weeks the software has not been helping me. I won’t bore you with the technical details, but I will say that I’ve been pulling my hair out in frustration, banging my head on the table (sometimes literally) and generally raising a fist to the sky while attempting to persuade this software to do what it’s supposed to do.
Eventually, I just gave up on it, because it was taking far too long and it was stressing me out too much.
So – apologies for the lack of text video and transcript this time. I’ll try again with the next episode. I always want to provide you with full and accurate transcriptions – I think they’re a great addition to the podcast, but let’s just say that transcripts and text videos are a work in progress. They might not be available every time for every episode, but I am working on a cost-effective and time-efficient way to produce them for you. It’s a work in progress.
Again, if you’re watching on youTube, try turning on the automatic subtitles – they are usually quite accurate, although they struggle a bit when I’m with a guest, like I am in this episode.
Also, there are lots of vocabulary notes and also transcriptions for the intro and ending parts of this episode on my website, so have a look at that. Just check the archive for episode 705.
Alternatively, you can just forget about transcripts and reading and just focus on your listening skills. It’s a good idea to practise listening to the spoken word without relying on the written word too much, even when it’s a challenge.
So now that I’ve said that, let’s kick off this episode properly and here’s the jingle.
You’re listening to Luke’s English Podcast. For more information, visit teacherluke.co.uk
Hello listeners, how are you doing today? In this episode Kate Billington is back on the podcast. You might remember her from episode 689 which was called something like comedy, speaking Chinese and baking cakes, aka “The Icing on the Cake” with Kate Billington.
Just to give you a reminder: I know Kate because we work together, teaching English at the British Council. She is also a stand-up comedian like me. She’s from England. She is fluent in French and Chinese. She is a professionally-qualified baker, who loves making cakes and pastries, which is great for those of us who like eating cakes and pastries because she often brings some when she visits, and this time was no exception – she brought cake with her again, which was very generous. Thanks Kate for the cake.
There’s no specific topic for this episode. Instead, the plan was to just be natural and see where the conversation went, and it did go in various directions. Like last time, we spoke pretty quickly with little jokes and things, so please be ready for an advanced level episode today.
The first 15 minutes in particular might be a bit confusing as we move from topic to topic, but I will help you with that in a moment.
After the first 15 minutes we do settle down and focus on certain specific things, including some comments from listeners, some details about Chinese New Year – or Lunar New Year as it is also known, which leads us to talk about some English traditions, especially ones that happen around this time of year, and also some funny activities that you might see at a school sports day in England, and more quirky features of English life. There are also plenty of other bits and pieces as we move through the episode. I’ll let you discover it all as you listen.
Now, I really want to help you follow this conversation, especially the first 15 minutes, so here are some phrases you’ll hear and some questions to help you prepare yourself.
Think about these questions and phrases and then as you listen you can see how they relate to the things we say. This can make a big difference to your ability to pick up English from this conversation, so forgive me for not jumping straight into our chat right away. I’ll be as concise as possible so this will just take a couple of minutes.
Questions & Some Vocabulary for the first 15 minutes(ish) of this conversation
I will give full answers to these questions at the end of the conversation.
What is tinnitus?
Why do I think I might have tinnitus?
Sometimes I wonder if I have tinnitus and if it was making me shout while I was talking to Kate before we started recording, but do I have tinnitus, or was I shouting for another reason?
My brain feels a bit like a maelstrom sometimes.
What is a maelstrom?
We know the word violent, like a violent film or a violent attack but can the word “violent” refer to non-physical things in English, for example the way that you speak to someone?
I tell a little anecdote about a student who I once encountered when I worked at university in Paris. What did the student want? What did I do? How did he use the word “violent”? (he was speaking French by the way)
Friendship and getting older (this all sounds so random, but these things are connected in the conversation)
Think about making friends. Is it harder to make friends as you get older?
Why would this be the case?
Cake & Eating Cake
What kind of cake did Kate bring this time?
What’s the recipe for that cake? The ingredients and the way to make it.
What are some of the different meanings of the word “grooming”?
Why can the word “grooming” be a dodgy word?
Why did I use it?
Maybe Kate somehow implanted the word in my head, like the hypnotist Derren Brown.
Derren Brown (hypnotist)
How does Derren Brown implant words and images into people’s heads, as part of his magic shows?
That’s it for the questions.
As I said, I will clarify those things, and answer the questions at the other end of this conversation.
Right, so let’s now jump into this conversation with Kate Billington.
OK, here we go!
Links & Comments
Derren Brown (apparently) using subliminal suggestions in his TV show
Some Listener Comments from Episode 689
Kate’s Chinese is good enough for me to understand so I think she should believe in her competence for Chinese speaking.
However, there is a little mistake. 恭喜发财（gōng xǐ fā cái）means “may you be happy and prosperous” instead of “happy new year”. If Kate wants to say “Happy new year”, the right one is “新年快乐”（xīn nián kuài lè）.
By the way, I am greedy for a jar of cookies when I listened this episode before bedtime hahaha. 😋😋😋
Hi Luke and Kate, I think Kate’s Chinese is already good enough (I could completely understand. By the way, the translation of librarian in Chinese does make sense and we also say it that way (The library person : ) ). If you really want a more specific way to call them, I would prefer Tú Shū Guân Lî Yuán (Which is the Chinese Pinyin of 图书管理员, But the label on first “a” and “i” should be horizontally symmetric.
Anyway, it is a really interesting episode talking about cake and Kate’s experience. The joke is the icing on the cake!
If this episode was a cake, it would be a “Puncake” :)
There you go luke !
Ps : Thanks to both of you for the episode, kate was indeed a great guest, and for us listeners, we’ve been able to train our listening skills thanks to Kate’s super fast, natural speaking pace and posh-ish accent ;)
Also, thanks luke for reiterating at your own pace what kate said when you were talking about the first lines and what the senior manager had once said to her : “Oh yeah there’s lot of pregnant people here, if you don’t get pregnant in your first year, we send someone from customer services to do it.”
Wow. What a brilliant guest, she’s so clever and fun and also genuinely friendly without it being insincere.
Kate, if you’re reading this, you’re very inspiring, thank you for being.
Thanks again to Kate for appearing in this episode. She is on Instagram – @cake_by_cake_paris And that’s where you can see lots of pictures of the cakes she has made, if you want to really savour them with your eyes at least.
Answer the questions from earlier (see notes in the intro) 👆👆
Some other vocabulary to clarify
To flatter someone / flattery
This is usually used in a negative way – as Kate said, saying nice things because you want something from someone.
“Oh Kate your cakes are so delicious and tasty. It would be wonderful if you could bring some more tomorrow” and Kate might say “Oh such flattery will get you nowhere” – meaning, your attempt to say such nice things will not persuade me to make more cake for you” (although knowing Kate, she would probably bring cake anyway”.
Or “Oh, you’re just trying to flatter me now.”)
Flattering (adjective) is a more positive word, which we use like this:
“Oh thank you. That’s very flattering.”
Or “Those jeans are very flattering.” meaning – they give you a good figure.
Savour / savoury
To savour your food = to take time to really enjoy the flavour. I should have savoured the cake that Kate made for me.
Savoury food = food which is not sweet, like a savoury pancake (which could have cheese and ham on it) rather than a sweet pancake (which would have sugar, chocolate etc on it)
Talking again to my dad about UK politics and current affairs, focusing on the latest developments in Brexit, plus a bit of weather and sport. What does Rick think of the government’s trade deal with the EU? How does it affect Northern Ireland? And where are all the benefits promised by Boris Johnson & co? Listen to hear my dad explain complex things in plain English. Full transcript and text video available.
Walaa Mouma from Syria has an amazing and inspiring story for all learners of English around the world, and some specific tips on how to improve your English long-term. Listen to this episode to hear all about it. Transcript and text video available.
Guest host Oli Thompson interviews Luke using a classic format from BBC Radio. Luke is going to be marooned on a desert island but he is allowed to bring 8 pieces of music, one book and a luxury item. For episode 700 this is a chance to get to know Luke and his musical choices a little better. (Transcript and text video versions available)
In this episode the plan is to wish you a happy new year, welcome back all my regular listeners (and maybe some irregular listeners too) and also say a big hello to any new listeners who might have just discovered this podcast and are wondering what it’s all about. I normally do episodes like this at the start of the year because at this time, during the new year period, it’s normal to turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, perhaps make some new year’s resolutions and generally try to pick up some good habits for the year to come – and that often includes working on your English and trying to find good listening resources to help you do that.
So, in this episode I’d like to welcome you to LEP or welcome you back to LEP, just summarise what this podcast is all about, restate my objectives for doing this and generally make sure we are all on-track for a good year of podcasting and learning English in 2021.
I’ve decided to answer some Frequently Asked Questions. These are the questions people typically ask me when they find out that I have a podcast for learning English and they want to know more.
So during the episode, you’ll learn or be reminded of what the main ideas are for this podcast, what teaching principles this is based on, what my methods are, what you can expect from my episodes in general, how you can use them to improve your English and also some info about me too, because it’s a good idea to get to know the person you’re listening to, isn’t it? I have always found, as a teacher, that it really helps when I put my personality into my English lessons. It just seems to make things more enjoyable and effective for the learners. Not because I have an award-winning personality or anything, but just that I think learning a language is a deeply personal process and so it makes sense to have a more personal approach to teaching it as well as learning it. It helps if you know who I am. It gives you context, it brings the language to life and it’s just more fun too, isn’t it. If you like, as you listen to this, you can imagine we’re in a cafe or something (even though I’m doing all the talking – but you can pause me at any time and put your thoughts into words if you want. I can’t hear or respond to you, but it’s better than nothing isn’t it? That’s the least you can say about my podcast , haha, “Well, it’s better than listening to nothing”)
By the way, other podcasts are available of course. As you probably know, there are quite a lot of podcasts for learners of English including ones by the BBC and other ones by other people, and they’re great, but obviously I hope you listen to my podcast, don’t I?
So, what’s this podcast? How can it help your English? Who are you listening to? Those are the sorts of questions we’ll be covering, but also plenty of other random bits and pieces.
Happy New Year!
Welcome back to the podcast! I hope you had a fairly good holiday period – as good as it can be during this mad mad time that we are all living in. When’s the world going to go back to normal? When’s that going to happen? We don’t know. Was it even normal in the first place? Probably not. In any case – I hope you’re well and that you’ve started 2021 in a reasonably positive frame of mind and that you’re ready to embark on some new audio adventures with me and my podcast.
If you are a brand new listener – then welcome. I really hope you simply enjoy listening to me talking to you, or talking with my guests in English in these episodes. I hope that this will help you to get regular English listening practise into your life, and that you enjoy it too.
Because enjoying your listening practise is so important. This will help you to listen regularly, listen for longer periods of time and listen long-term in your life as well.
We all know that it is very important and useful to listen to plenty of clear, natural English, spoken at a fairly normal speed, focusing on a variety of topics.
Reading is good. Studying grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation – that’s good. Doing plenty of speaking practice is really important. Watching videos in English is helpful. But do not underestimate the importance of just listening to English – for as long as possible each time. That’s what this podcast aims to help you do – at a very minimum. There is more to it than that of course. A lot more. But basically – I want you to do more listening in English.
The first and most basic aim of this podcast is just to help you to get more English in your life through listening to the spoken word – listening to English as it is spoken naturally, by me in this case, and my guests.
Let’s go through my list of frequently asked questions, which will form the backbone of this episode, which is probably quite long.
What is this podcast?
Is it for me?
It’s for everyone, but it might be difficult if → You’re lower than an intermediate level (intermediate might be hard – you’ll have to be extra motivated) or you are a really visual learner. (My wife doesn’t listen to podcasts – even in French. She can’t really do it. She feels she has to close her eyes or do nothing else, whereas I love just listening to audio and it works really well for me – better than watching videos because I can multi task)
How long have you been doing it?
Why did you start doing this podcast?
Who are you Luke? I mean, can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and your career so that we can feel totally confident that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re just some guy who can speak English?
Will it really help my English to listen to this?
How do you know? First-hand accounts from listeners.
Common sense. Of course. It’s about a billion times more effective than listening to nothing at all. Plus, what else are you going to do? Watch Netflix with subtitles (yes, do that too, but switch the subs off sometimes) REad books (yes definitely – both graded and non-graded ones if you’re ready) Speak English with people you know who speak English (yes) Take English classes (good idea as long as you take part properly and take responsibility for your learning too). You can do all of those things. But I don’t want to make this complicated. Listen to my podcast regularly and it will help with your English.
Academic studies I’ve done – while preparing my teaching qualifications I read a lot of books and other texts based on proper academic studies into how people learn languages.
Professional experience after having met many thousands of learners of English from many places, and working with them closely to help their English. Observing what works for them, what people respond to, the realities of learning a language.
All of that has shown me that regularly listening to something like my podcast can help your English a lot. I could go into that more (and I have in previous episodes) but that’s all I will say at this point.
Will it help me improve my grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation?
Yes, both directly (when I teach language) and indirectly (through exposure). I can also help you think about the way that you learn, which can make you a more skillful and effective learner.
What’s your method then, Professor Thompson?
5 Ls, 5 Ss, 5 Ps, being a smart-learner, the 5 Ms, DISCIPLINE, commitment. There are many ways to approach language learning. You have to choose one that works for you and that helps you to keep doing it even when it’s tough. Basic: Get as much English into your life as possible and make it meaningful. Hopefully I can help by giving you something you enjoy and want to listen to. More complex: Be a conscious learner too → notice structures and phrases, notice pronunciation (how I say things), try to record them, understand them in context, remember them, record them and repeat them. My premium content is designed specifically to help you do that. I cut out a lot of the annoying work and put it all on a plate for you. Just listen, follow the PDFs and do what I tell you to do – memory tests, repeat after me etc.
Can I really learn English on my own, only by listening to you Luke?
I always recommend my podcast as “part of a balanced diet” and that does include doing other things, especially plenty of speaking practise with real people, probably qualified teachers who can help give you bits of feedback and correct your errors, but also just speaking with people helps you develop the social side of using in English for communication.
I should also mention writing and reading of course, but since this is an audio podcast we focus mainly on the spoken version of English.
What level is it for?
Should I do anything else, other than just listening?
Share your thoughts in the comment section on my website – practise little bits of writing there and chat with other listeners.
Your episodes are quite long. Aren’t they too long, in fact?
How should I listen? (the technology you can use, what you can do while listening, where you listen, how often you listen)
Are there transcripts for these episodes?
What’s your accent Luke?
Do you only have native speakers on your podcast? Most of the time my guests have English as a first language, but sometimes I talk to people who have learned English in adulthood because these people are extremely inspiring as they have done what so many people want to do, and they have great insights into the process of learning English and it’s also really important for you to listen to non-native English speakers speaking English too because it’s vital to hear a variety of English being spoken in your life. English is a diverse language. There are many people around the world using it and speaking it in slightly different ways. It’s important for you to be able to understand all those different varieties. This is true for the different accents and dialects in native English speakers too – you should become accustomed to hearing English spoken with various regional accents. If you only ever listen to my standard RP which is probably very clear to your ears, you might not be able to understand others. Also I really want to encourage you to love the different regional accents and to see their value. Sometimes learners of English will say that they only want RP and they see other accents as somehow being “lower forms of English” with less value. I don’t agree with this of course. The idea that a regional accent makes you sound uneducated or even lazy or something – that idea deserves to stay in the 1950s where it belongs.
Having said that – let me put my cards on the table and be as clear as possible.
What accent should you develop in English?
The first thing is that you need to be clear. People need to understand you. Work on that.
It’s a good idea to pick a certain accent which you can use as a model. This is the accent/pronunciation you can aim for or try to copy. Why not choose RP? It’s a perfectly good choice as most people will be familiar with it. If you have a particular reason for wanting to copy a regional accent, then go for it. Perhaps you live in the north of England and you want to do things like your neighbours. Or maybe you just love a certain regional accent for personal reasons and you’ve decided that this is the one for you. That’s fine too. Go for it. Try to keep things natural. I could talk about this more but I won’t go on about it too much.
Basically – I love all the accents in English. I really do. But I would probably recommend RP as the one to go for, just because it’s still a standard form. I know someone is thinking “but only about 5% of English speakers use RP” yes – but I can’t think of another accent which is more common. Think of British accents in a pie chart. There isn’t one accent that really dominates that chart, I expect. Each segment in the chart is probably around the same size. So which one do you pick? Again, I think RP is fine and makes sense because it’s a standard. I don’t mean you should speak like a posh person, like The Queen or something, because that would be weird.
Listening for understanding others Listening in order to develop your pronunciation
How do I pronounce your name, actually?
How do I pronounce the name of the podcast?
What sort of episodes can we expect?
What are your favourite episodes?
You’re on episode 699 of LEP. Do you have anything special planned for episode 700? No, I don’t! I think it will just be another episode this time. I can’t think of anything specific I can do. Maybe I will do a YouTube livestream “Ask Me Anything” kind of thing. I’ll see. I know that if I do a YouTube live stream then you will all want to know about it in advance. This isn’t always possible. You’ll just have to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
What are LEPsters?
Where are your listeners?
In many places around the world! All over the world.
Why do you talk about ninjas sometimes? What are LEP Ninjas?
Can you explain the Russian Joke please? No.
What do you think of Brexit? It’s a bad idea. I think it was an opportunity for a bunch of nutters to take control of my country and push it in a different direction. I think it’s the wrong direction, but now we have to live with it and make it work. I am not a fan of Boris Johnson and his gang. I feel they’re doing a bad job. That’s probably enough politics isn’t it. Oops, nearly slipped on politics there. Watch out everyone, there’s some politics on the floor. Don’t step in it. “Can someone clean that up please?” (I have made that joke before)
Do you have a team of people helping you to do this? No, it’s just me.
Can we see you perform stand-up comedy on stage?
Are you married and do you have kids and stuff?
What’s your favourite football team?
Do you like music? Do you play music? Do you have any songs stuck in your head today?
Can you sing songs for us on the podcast sometimes? Yes, I do that occasionally, when I feel inspired to do it. I’m not the greatest singer or the greatest guitarist. I’m just learning. But I love it and I feel moved to do it. If I do sing in an episode, most of the time, I do it right at the end of the episode so that people who might not like it don’t feel obliged to listen to it. But the ones who like hearing my versions of other people’s songs (I usually sing cover versions of songs) those people can listen and hopefully enjoy hearing me. I always make an effort to sing clearly so you can hear all the words of the song. I also don’t use any reverb to cover up the imperfections in my voice or guitar playing. I just get the guitar on my lap, point the microphone somewhere between the guitar and my mouth and do my best.
Are you on YouTube?
Yes, I have a YouTube channel as you may know.
I post my audio episodes there, usually with a single static image. I don’t think YouTube is necessarily the best way to listen to my content, but I guess if you are sitting at your computer, perhaps doing something else (like gaming or working or something) then it’s convenient to have one of my episodes running in the background. But also, YouTube’s automatically generated subtitles are usually pretty accurate. When I’m talking on my own, the accuracy is about 95% but when I’m with guests that accuracy can drop to about 85-90% I think. That’s not 100 perfect, but it’s pretty good.
I’m always working on ways to deliver 100% correct transcripts to you because I know how useful and important they are. To an extent I’m just waiting for the technology to catch up. I think it won’t be long before automatic transcriptions are basically perfect but we’ll see.
I’ve been working with some new software which is quite mind-blowing. I don’t want to make any promises about it because I’m just experimenting with it at the moment, but basically it allows me to generate transcripts for episodes in a really convenient way, then edit those transcripts quite easily while also editing the audio. This is too complicated to get into now.
Have you forgotten anything?
Yes, I am certain that I have forgotten to mention something really important, and someone is going to think “Hey you forgot to mention this specific thing! Or You didn’t mention this specific person!” Sorry about that.
You ramble quite a lot Luke, you sometimes talk too much and repeat yourself a bit.
Yes, I do. Sue me. To paraphrase Shakespeare: There is a method in my madness.
From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602. The actual line from the play is ‘Though this be madness yet there is method in it’.
The main message I want to give you here is this:
Listen to my episodes regularly and enjoy doing it.
Download my app to get easy access to all the episodes on your phone. (more than in Spotify and anywhere else)
Become a premium listener if you want to go further in your learning with me.
Don’t be a ninja – come out of the shadows and write a comment from time to time.