Author Archives: Luke Thompson

About Luke Thompson

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.

747. Social Awkwardness / Very British Problems (with Michael Lavers from Level Up English)

Talking to Michael Lavers from the Level Up English Podcast about learning Japanese, embarrassing moments in language learning, social awkwardness and some “very British problems”. Are you as socially awkward as a British person? Let’s see how you and Michael would respond to some quiz questions that will test your British awkwardness to the max. Video version available.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and video viewers,

Today on the podcast I am talking to Michael Lavers who is an English teacher from Cornwall in the South West of England. Michael also has a podcast for learners of English. It’s called The Level Up English Podcast – you might want to check it out if you haven’t already done so. It’s available wherever you get your podcasts.

As well as being an English teacher, Michael is also a language learner himself and in his podcast episodes he often talks with guests about experiences of learning other languages, including those embarrassing or awkward moments that happen when you feel shy or you make mistakes. Also, Michael has described himself as a socially awkward person who lacks a certain amount of confidence in himself. In fact, he says that one of the reasons he started his podcast was to try and gain some confidence by going out of his comfort zone.

So this is what I thought I would ask Michael about: his language learning experiences and those awkward and embarrassing moments, and then I’d like to chat about social awkwardness and whether this is a uniquely British thing. And we’re going to go into some specific examples of how this so-called British awkwardness manifests itself.

That’s the plan, so now, let’s meet Michael Lavers from the Level Up English Podcast.


Awkward Situations – Very British Problems

Here are some questions based on some tweets by the popular Twitter account, Very British Problems. Each one describes a specific problem that British people typically experience in social situations. They seem to sum up the experience of being a British person. We’re socially awkward – I don’t know why.

Let’s see how you respond to these questions. And listeners, I want you to consider your answers to these questions too, then we’ll see what Michael says, and then we’ll see the original tweets and we can see if they match up.

Questions & Tweets

How do you feel when you walk through the “nothing to declare” gate at an airport?

You’re sitting with a group of people. It’s time for you to leave. What do you say as you kind of slap your hands on your knees and stand up?

If someone says something to you but you don’t hear it, how many times are you willing to ask them to repeat themselves?

What do you say to your taxi driver as they approach the point where you want to get out of the cab?

If you’re on a train, sitting in the window seat with a passenger next to you, and your stop is approaching, what do you do to signal to the passenger in the aisle seat that you will need to get up?

You’re standing at the exit door of the train as it is pulling into the station, slowly coming to a stop, and there is a crowd of other passengers right behind you, eager to get off the train. The “Open door” button isn’t yet illuminated. What do you do? Do you press the button?

How do you feel when the ticket inspector inspects your perfectly valid ticket?

What do you say, modestly, to guests arriving in your home, even though you spent some time before their arrival, tidying things up?

There’s one last roast potato on the table at Sunday lunch. You want to eat it. How do you achieve this?

  1. Just take it and eat it
  2. Ask if you can eat it
  3. Offer it to everyone else first

Do you ever tell your housemates or family that you are “off to bed” but then just stare at your phone in bed for an hour?

Imagine you are walking through a hallway with lots of doors in it, like in a library or something and you’re walking just behind a stranger who keeps having to hold the doors for you. How many different ways of saying “thanks” can you think of?

How do you end an email? Is there a subtly less friendly difference between kind regards and just regards?

What do you do when you get an incoming call from an unknown number?

How good are you at overtaking someone on foot?

Do you feel it necessary to speed up at all, when walking over a zebra crossing?

If you pay for something with exactly the right change, and you know it’s exactly the right change, do you wait for the cashier to count the money?

Links

www.ewmichael.com

www.levelupenglish.school

A reminder of the LEP Design Competition

I have had some entries already. If you’ve sent me something, then thank you. Please send your designs to podcastcomp@gmail.com and my brother and I will review the entries we receive, talk about them on the podcast and pick at least one to be featured in the LEP Merch store.

  • Think of a t-shirt that LEPsters would want to wear
  • PRIZE: The winning design will be put on t-shirts, mugs and other merch, and the winner will also win £80!
  • SPECS: A high-resolution transparent .PNG at 150dpi.  Minimum dimensions of at least 1500px by 1995px (not including outer transparent pixels).
  • CLOSING DATE: 22 October 2021
  • Send your t-shirt designs to podcastcomp@gmail.com

746. Karl Pilkington’s 3-Minute Wonders / Manchester Accent

Understand English as it is spoken by native speakers. Let’s listen to Karl Pilkington rambling about life, the universe & everything, and see what we can understand and learn. Karl is from Manchester, so we’ll be looking at some features of his accent, picking up plenty of vocabulary and having a bit of a laugh along the way.

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Full Episode Transcript

Hello LEPsters,

Welcome back to the podcast. How are you doing today? 

In this episode we’re going to do some intensive listening and use it as a chance to learn some vocabulary and pronunciation.

This episode should be a bit of a laugh as we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of Karl Pilkington and listen to his thoughts on some big issues like health, food, animals, holidays and just existence itself.

We’ll be looking at the different features of his Manchester accent, and there will be lots of vocabulary to pick up too as we are covering a range of different topics. You can also consider this as a little intensive listening test, as I will be setting questions that you have to find answers to, then going through each clip in detail and breaking it all down for language.

We last heard about Karl Pilkington on my podcast in episode 656 in which we listened to a couple of his Monkey News stories about a chimp that works on a building site and another chimp that pilots a space rocket. 

Do you remember that? If you don’t, then get the LEP app and listen to episode 656. It was a very popular episode and it should make you laugh out loud on a bus maybe. 

That was pretty funny stuff, and Karl is very funny even though he’s not actually a comedian.

Who is Karl Pilkington?

To be honest, Karl Pilkington was most well-known about 10 years ago
and these days he’s not in the public eye as much as he used to be,
but he’s still a fairly well-known person in the UK, especially for Ricky Gervais fans.

Karl is just an ordinary bloke from Manchester who met comedians Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant when he worked for them as a radio producer in London. 

Later, Ricky invited Karl to be on his podcast in order to broadcast his weird ideas and inane ramblings to the whole world, and the rest is history. 

The Ricky Gervais Podcast became a world record-breaker with over 300,000,000 downloads.

In episodes, Ricky, Steve & Karl would talk about big topics like religion, evolution, philosophy, nature, birth and death and Karl would often say some bizarre and hilarious things, apparently without intending to be funny.

Ricky was always slightly obsessed with Karl, and he always described him as “an idiot with a perfectly round head like an orange”. 

After being on Ricky’s podcast, Karl went on to become a fairly well-known figure in the UK, doing more podcasts with Ricky, then TV shows, books and documentaries like “An Idiot Abroad”.

Karl is known for his funny and slightly odd musings and observations about life. 

He comes from a working class background in the Manchester area, and his accent has many of the features that you would expect from that. 

Accent / Pronunciation

We will be going into the specific features of his accent in more detail as we go and this kind of follows on from episode 682 which was all about common features of pronunciation in England which are different to RP.

Which accent should you have?

So this episode is about one of the UK’s regional accents.

You might be thinking – Luke, by doing this episode are you saying that we should all learn to speak like Karl?

I’m not saying that. You can choose your accent, and many learners choose a neutral accent to learn, but it’s not all about learning an accent, it’s also about learning to understand different accents, and learning about the varieties of English that are out there.

So, you might not want to speak like Karl, but I certainly want you to understand Karl and the many millions of other people who speak English in a non-standard way.

So this episode is all about understanding an accent, rather than copying it. But of course you can copy Karl’s Mancunian accent if you like.

Vocabulary

There will also be plenty of vocabulary coming up too as we pick apart the things that Karl says and the way he says them.

You’ll find it listed on the screen on the video version and also presented in text form on the page for this episode on my website.

Video

We’re going to be using a series available on youtube in which Karl ponders certain big questions in just 3 minutes of video, originally broadcast on Channel 4 in the UK as part of their “3 Minute Wonders” series. 

These are short videos in which Karl talks about his fridge, health, food, animals and holidays, covering each topic with his usual ramblings, all delivered in that Manchester accent, know what I mean?

I have about 6 recordings, which are about 3 minutes each (this could become two episodes).

Before I play the recording I’ll give you a little bit of context and I’ll set some questions. 

Then you listen and try to get the answers. 

Then I’ll break it down – listening to each bit again, with some explanations if necessary.

We’ll also pay attention to pronunciation – specifically his Mancunian accent. I’m going to break that down too, exploring the main features of that particular accent.

And I’ll sum up some of the vocab from each clip before moving on to the next one.


#1 Karl on Life

Karl goes around a museum looking at meteorites, dinosaur skeletons and endangered animals (stuffed ones or models) and muses about life in general medical science.

  1. What does Karl wonder about the big bang?
  2. What makes the meteorite room a bit disappointing?
  3. What’s Karl’s main criticism of humanity today?
  4. What does Karl think would happen if a dinosaur got loose and started to “run riot”?
  5. What’s Karl’s main point?

Vocabulary

  • The big bang
  • Did it only seem big because there was no other noise to drown it out at the time?
  • Meteorites (on earth)
  • Meteors (flying in earth’s atmosphere)
  • Asteroids (flying in space)
  • The edge is taken off it because that isn’t the only one.
  • I’m not surprised they went extinct, they’re all in here.
  • Enough’s enough. If your body is that done in, call it a day.
  • The more we know, the more we interfere.
  • Don’t interfere with nature and that.
  • Even if it was going round running riot they’d go “We don’t want it to go extinct
  • The panda is dying out.

Notes on Karl’s accent

Here’s a summary of the main points regarding Karl’s Manchester accent. 

Many of these features are common in people from the Manchester area, although not all people from Manchester will speak like this, and there are different degrees of it. 

This is certainly Karl’s Manchester accent in any case. 

A lot of what I’m about to say will include things brought up in the episode I did about Key Features of English accents, episode 682.

PRONUNCIATION #1

H dropping

  • Look, how many do you need?
  • I’m not surprised they went extinct, they’re all in here.
  • She’d had a new lung, a new heart
  • He puts his hand in and goes “Yep, it’s broke”
  • They weren’t doing anything. They weren’t jumping through hoops. (talking about animals in a zoo)
  • I don’t know if it’s cruel or not, to have them in there.
  • I’m 32, I think I’ve got the hang of it.

Glottal stops (/t/ sounds get replaced by /ʔ/ )

  • I’ll have a look at the meteorites.
  • If you’re going to eat a live animal, don’t eat one that’s got eight arms that can get hold of your neck.
  • Let me see them again when they’re better.

Go back to my episode called 682. Features of English Accents, Explained to find out more about glottal stops.


#2 Karl on Health

Karl recounts a conversation he had with a woman about going to the gym.

  1. Does Karl go to the gym?
  2. What does he think of the idea of breathing classes?
  3. What does he think of drinking 7 pints of water a day?
  4. What’s Karl’s argument for not going to the gym? Heart beats, tortoise

Vocabulary

  • I know what’s probably putting you off – the fact that it’s hard work.
  • Breathing classes – I’m 32 I think I’ve got the hang of it
  • My Dad’s like 60-odd. I’ve never seen him drink a pint of water, yet they’re telling us we should have, like, 7 pints a day or something, and then they wonder why there’s a water drought on.
  • They keep coming up with daft ways of keeping fit.
  • Chucking paint at each other. 

PRONUNCIATION #2

/æ/ not /ɑː/ (the “bath/trap split”, again)

Short A sound /æ/ in bath, podcast 

(gas and glass have the same vowel sound in Karl’s Manchester accent).

This is normal across all northern accents, and many accents in the midlands. I would use /ɑː/ because although I lived in the midlands for many years (half my childhood), my accent is mostly from the south because I’ve lived there more and my parents don’t have strong regional accents.

Come to my class. We do breathing classes.

/ʊ/ not /ʌ/

The U sound in but, enough and much.

I pronounce it /ʌ/ but Karl pronounces it more like /ʊ/

Do you go to the gym much? 


#3 Karl on Food

Karl talks about a new trend – eating things which shouldn’t be eaten. 

Coming from England, Karl thinks it’s weird to eat certain things that might be eaten in other cultures, like live octopus, insects, frogs, snails, probably raw meat, raw fish and sushi.

  1. What is the danger of eating a live octopus?
  2. What’s Karl’s issue with kids and food today?
  3. What does Karl think about eating dog?

Vocabulary

  • They choke you. Why would you want to eat that?
  • If we’re eating octopuses, why are dogs getting away with it?

END OF PART 1 – TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 2

745. Mental Factors in Learning English (with Ray Addam) [English with Ray SwapCast]

Talking to English teacher Ray Addam from Glasgow in Scotland about mental factors in learning English, such as anxiety, confidence, stress and motivation. Video version available on YouTube.

Audio Version (with extra ramble + song)

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Introduction Transcript

Hello dear listeners,

This is a swapcast between LEP and English with Ray, which means we are both uploading this to our podcasts/youtube channels.

Ray is an English teacher from Glasgow in Scotland (and you’ll be able to notice his accent, which is not the strongest Glaswegian accent I’ve ever heard but it’s definitely noticeable – which is great, because I love Scottish accents). Ray has recently started making videos on YouTube for learners of English. 

One of his students – Ivan (from Russia I think) who is also a LEPster, suggested to Ray that he start doing that and that he also contact me for an interview, so that’s what you’re going to listen to or watch here. This is Ray Addam interviewing me for his channel.

This is a fairly relaxed and free-ranging conversation, and after chatting a bit about playing music and performing in front of people, we ended up talking about the psychology of learning English, particularly how to manage anxiety or nerves when using English in stressful situations, and then our comments about how to work on your confidence and how to have the right mental approach to learning a language, which is one of the most important steps to take.

So listen on for some comments and tips about how to manage your stress levels in English, how to become more confident in English and how to take control of your communication skills in general.

Thanks to Ray for sending this recording to me. You might want to check out his channel on YouTube, which is called English with Ray. He only has a few videos there at the moment, but everyone’s got to start somewhere. I’ve noticed that Ray also speaks fluent Arabic so any Arabic speaking LEPsters might be particularly interested in Ray’s content as he might have some insights into differences between Arabic and English. I haven’t actually asked him about that yet, but maybe it’s something he could work on in a future video.

Anyway, that’s it for this introduction and I will now let you listen to this conversation with Ray Addam, firstly about playing music in front of audiences of people, and then about the challenges of managing your confidence when using English in stressful situations. I will probably speak to you again briefly at the end of this chat, but for now, let’s get started.

Links for Ray

Take online English lessons with Ray Addam on Preply preply.com/en/tutor/447455/

English with Ray on YouTube www.youtube.com/c/EnglishWithRay/featured

Song (audio version only) – “Questionnaire” by The Rutles genius.com/The-rutles-questionnaire-lyrics

744. The Rick Thompson Report: Fuel Crisis / Brexit Rant (Autumn 2021)

Talking to my dad about the latest in the Brexit saga, including the current fuel crisis due to lack of lorry drivers and other problems which were predicted in the run up to the Brexit referendum in 2016. Video version available on YouTube and below.

Audio Version (with some extra bits and pieces)

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This is The Rick Thompson Report, where I talk to my dad about politics, news, current affairs – which almost always means an update to the ongoing Brexit saga.

What’s going on in the UK at the moment? How is Brexit going? Remember before the referendum when predictions were made by experts who recommended that Brexit was a bad idea – do you remember any of the predictions? They were labelled by the pro-Brexit camp as “Project Fear” suggesting that critics of Brexit were just trying to make everyone scared about leaving the EU but it was all baseless and everything was going to be wonderful in a very non-specific way. Well, we are now getting to a stage where we can see if those predictions are coming true or not? 

So, how long has the UK actually been out of the EU now? How’s it going?

743. Give me Tea, Please – Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language (with Natasha V Broodie) + ramble / song

Talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English understand the subtle codes of polite language when making requests and giving information in professional and personal contexts. In the conversation we explore the topic and consider some tips for making your language more culturally appropriate.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

In this episode I am talking to author Natasha V Broodie who has written a book which aims to help learners of English to find the right tone in their speaking and writing. Tone is something which is very much affected by culture and often relates to things like being direct, indirect, formal, informal, the use of modal verbs and phrasal verbs and so on. In English the general tone is often quite friendly, indirect and polite, and this can sometimes cause problems for English speakers coming from different places where codes of politeness or professionalism are different.

Natasha has worked as an English teacher and has also worked in international contexts for the UN and so she has direct experience of observing people communicating in English and not quite getting the tone right.

So in her book, “Give me tea, please. Practical Ingredients for Tasteful Language” she lays out a sort of style guide with theory, practical tips and a glossary of defined vocabulary at the back.

It sounds like an interesting book which could be a worthwhile read for my listeners, so I thought it would be good to chat with Natasha a little bit and explore some of the ideas presented in her book.

“Give me tea, please” is currently available on Amazon but from 24 September should be available from all other providers too.

Right, so now you know what sort of thing we’re going to be talking about, let’s meet Natasha Broodie and find out some of those practical tips for tasteful language.


Give Me Tea, Please on Amazon


Ending

So that was Natasha V Broodie, talking about her book Give me tea, please – available from all good bookstores. Go ahead and pick up a copy and if you like it, leave a review on Amazon.

Thanks again to Natasha for her contribution in this episode.

A Short Ramble

T-shirts
Design comp – link here for details teacherluke.co.uk/2021/09/22/742-new-lep-t-shirts-merch-lep-design-competition-2021-with-james/
Premium
YouTube

Sneezing caused me to take a trip to tangent town…

Song – “Trouble” by Coldplay

tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/coldplay/trouble-chords-16491

742. NEW LEP T-SHIRTS & MERCH + LEP DESIGN COMPETITION 2021 with James

LEP merch is now available, including t-shirts, mugs and more featuring special LEP designs made by James Thompson. Luke and James discuss the new designs and launch a new design competition to give you the chance to get your design in my merch store and a cash prize of £80.

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VISIT THE TEE-PUBLIC MERCH STORE 🌎 (Everywhere else)

VISIT THE RED-BUBBLE MERCH STORE 🇷🇺🇨🇳 (Russia & China)

Introduction

Hello listeners, it’s nice to be talking to you on this fine morning. I’m also joined by James, my brother.

If you’ve seen me on YouTube in a t-shirt with a magnificent LEP logo on the front of it, or drinking tea from a lovely looking mug with an LEP logo on it, or perhaps writing something down on my special LEP notepad, then you might be thinking…

Where can I get one of those t-shirts?
Where can I get one of those mugs?

Where do I get one of those amazing pads?

Or even: How can I get one of my designs on some LEP Merch?

Your questions are finally being answered today, because the LEP merch store is back open, and I am launching a design competition to give you the chance to get your design on an LEP t-shirt, and a special cash prize of £80!

The merch store is now open. That’s where you can get t-shirts, sweaters, mugs, stickers and loads of other things with the LEP logo on, but also there are various other new designs which you should love if you are a LEPster. 

I suspect that you’re going to want more than just one of the things on offer for you today – In fact I’ve already ordered some and I am wearing one now.

In this episode I’m going to talk a little bit about the different merchandise available just to make sure it’s clear and that you understand everything.

Also in this episode I am launching a design competition – this is your chance to have your design on an official LEP t-shirt. Not only that, but there are cash prizes available too for the winners. I will explain more later.

My brother James is the one who did all the design work to produce the various images which are available across a range of products, so he is joining me for this one.

We’re going to talk about each design one by one, I’ll give you a little tour of the store to make sure you can use it properly, I will give you the full details of the LEP Design competition and then we’re going to open things out to have a larger conversation about merchandising and stories related to that.

Tips for Using TeePublic – tee.pub/lic/LEP

Click on the design you like, then choose the products using the list on the left.\

Some t-shirts are double sided.

Check the different types of t-shirt available using the little drop-down menu (classic, heavy, tri-blend, etc)

TeePublic often does sales and discounts on their website.

Tips for Using RedBubble – www.redbubble.com/people/LEPLuke/shop?asc=u

I opened this store so Chinese & Russian LEPsters could buy merch too. The website is simple enough. It shows t-shirts in the thumbnail pictures, but check the list on the left to see all available products.

Various types of t-shirt are available.

RedBubble doesn’t do double sided t-shirts.

Avoid buying dark designs on a dark colour t-shirt (although personally I think an LEP Ninja design on a black tri-blend t-shirt looks really cool)

Let me know what other ideas or changes you’d like to make to the store, and I will see what I can do. So, if you have any other design ideas, or suggestions for things you’d like to see in the store, or changes you’d like to make – let me know. luketeacher@hotmail.com

LEP DESIGN COMPETITION 2021

We are looking for cool t-shirt designs by LEPsters, for the LEP Merch Store.

  • Think of a t-shirt that LEPsters would want to wear
  • PRIZE: The winning design will be put on t-shirts, mugs and other merch, and the winner will also win £80!
  • SPECS: A high-resolution transparent .PNG at 150dpi.  Minimum dimensions of at least 1500px by 1995px (not including outer transparent pixels).
  • CLOSING DATE: 22 October 2021
  • Send your t-shirt designs to podcastcomp@gmail.com

James and I will consider all designs which are sent to me, and a selection of designs will be displayed on the website so you can leave your comments. James and I will also discuss them in a podcast episode.

Ultimately, James and I are the judges and we make the final choice on the winner(s).

741. Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021, Explained

Learn English from some jokes in this episode as we go through 9 jokes chosen as the best of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe stand up comedy scene this year (2021). Let me tell you the jokes, see if you understand them, and then I will break them down for language learning opportunities. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Episode Transcript / Notes

Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021, Explained

Hello listeners, hello video viewers. How are you? How is the world treating you today? Not too badly I hope. 

Here’s a new episode. So stick with me. Listen closely. Pay attention. You can definitely learn some new English from this. Let’s get started.

Introduction

It’s time to dissect the frog again as we look at some of the most popular jokes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe of this year 2021. I’m going to read them to you and then explain them so you can understand them fully and also learn some new vocabulary in the process. 

This is something I’ve been doing every year at the end of the Ediburgh Festival when the list of the most popular jokes is published in the newspapers. 

Last year I didn’t do one of these episodes because Ed Fringe got cancelled due to Covid-19. 

But the festival was back this year, so here we go again. Let’s find some popular jokes told by comedians at the fringe and use them to learn English.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Just in case you don’t know, the Edinburgh Fringe (full name: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe) is a huge comedy festival that happens every August in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland.

Sometimes it’s called The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh Fringe, The Edinburgh Comedy Festival, Ed Fringe, just The Fringe or simply Edinburgh.

It’s one of the biggest comedy festivals in the world, and every August comedians travel to the city in order to perform comedy to the large crowds of people who travel there. 

For comedians August in Edinburgh is a huge opportunity to get exposure and experience, but it is very tough, especially at the beginning when you have to drum up an audience of people to come to your shows every day.

Just in case you didn’t know, stand-up is a form of entertainment that involves one comedian standing on stage with a microphone telling stories and jokes in an effort to make the audience laugh. It is an extremely popular form of entertainment in the English speaking world.

This episode is about specific jokes told by comedians during the fringe this year, but stand-up comedians don’t really just go up and tell individual jokes one after the other (except in the case of some specific comedians), rather they fit their jokes into stories, observations about the world or confessions about themselves.

However, this list of the “best jokes from the fringe” just picks simple one or two line jokes from people’s performances.

Lower Your Expectations Now 😅

I expect that taking these jokes away from their original performances will not help the jokes. 

They will probably be less funny outside the comedy show that they came from because we’re going to remove the context of the joke, the attitude and personality of the comedian who told the joke and what was happening in the room that particular evening. All those elements have a huge impact on how funny the joke will be.

So, it’s not very fair to judge these jokes on their own like this, outside of their original context, but this is still an interesting experiment in learning English, so here we go.

Here’s how we’re going to do this

  1. First I will read each joke one by one. 
  • There are 9 jokes in total. 
  • How many jokes do you “get”?
  • If you “get” a joke, it means you understand why it is funny.
  • Ideally you will laugh, but you can also groan.
  • If you don’t understand it you need to say “I don’t get it!
  • The main thing is: You have to notice and acknowledge that a joke has been told to you.

So, listen to the jokes, do you get them all?

  1. Then I will go through each joke one by one and I will break them all down, explaining exactly how they work, showing you double meanings, explaining any specific vocabulary or cultural reference points and giving you all the information you need to be able to understand these jokes properly.

There is a lot of vocabulary to be learned from this, which I will highlight as we go through and recap at the end.

So, get ready, it’s time to dissect the frog again.

Of course, I have to say the quote: 

Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You can learn something from it, but the frog dies in the process.

I expect I will be killing all these jokes by explaining them. 

You’re not meant to explain jokes, and if you do, the joke suddenly becomes less funny. 

Most jokes work by surprise. 

Getting the double meaning instantly is usually the only way to find a joke funny. 

So I can’t guarantee that you will laugh at these jokes, but this is certainly going to be good for your English in any case.

Joke types

A lot of these jokes use 

  • synonyms (different words with a similar meaning),
  • common fixed expressions and sayings
  • homophones (different words that sound the same)
  • similies (finding similarities between otherwise different things), 
  • pull back & reveal (revealing extra information to change the situation)

Top Jokes from Edinburgh Fringe 2021

I’m getting this list from the website Chortle.co.uk which is the UK’s number 1 comedy website.

www.chortle.co.uk/news/2021/08/22/49087/masai_graham_wins_the_dave%2A_joke_of_the_fringe

1. “I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”

– Masai Graham 

2. “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.” 
– Ivor Dembina

3. “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.” 

-Tom Mayhew

4. “The roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.”

– Adele Cliff

5. “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.”

– Leo Kearse

6 “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.”

– Will Mars

7. “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.” 

– Sameer Katz

8. “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.” 

– Rich Pulsford

9. “People say zoos are inhumane. But that’s because they’re for animals.” 

– Sameer Katz

Vocabulary Focus

Now let’s go through those jokes again and break them down so you can understand them fully, picking up bits of vocabulary along the way.

Broken down versions (sorry frogs)

1. “I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.” 

– Masai Graham

Vocabulary

A caesarean

A C-section


2. “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.” – Ivor Dembina

Vocabulary

Common phrase: “A problem shared is a problem halved.”

Quid

Halved (verb)


3. “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.” – Tom Mayhew

Vocabulary

To be into role play

Role play – pretending to be someone else, often during sex to make it more interesting.

To pretend to be someone / to do something

He pretended he was James Bond

She pretended she still loved him.


4. “The Roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.” – Adele Cliff

This is a pun – a word joke and it’s just that one thing sounds like something else.

“Julius Caesar” sounds like Julius sees her, which is why his wife hates playing hide and seek because Julius always sees her. Julius Caesar. I think you get it.

Vocabulary

To play hide and seek

5. “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.” – Leo Kearse

Oooh, this is a bit of a groaner. That’s where you go Oooooh like it almost hurts. 

“Heard it through the grapevine” is one of Marvin Gaye’s most famous songs.

“Herd” can mean to move a group of animals in a certain direction, like sheep or cows. You herd your sheep into a field.

Marvin used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. A vineyard is a place where you grow grapes for wine. 

The grapevine is where the grapes grow, but there’s also an idiom “through the grapevine” meaning when you hear people gossiping about something, or you over hear people talking about something. 

In the case of the song, he hears that his girlfriend is cheating on him and he hears it through the grapevine. 

He heard it through the grapevine. He heard rumours or gossip about it.

He’d herd it through the grapevine. He attempted to move the sheep around through the grapevines of the plants in the vineyard.

Vocabulary

To herd sheep

To hear something on/through the grapevine

Vinyard

This is too much of a stretch and if you get the joke please let me know. Write a comment in the comment section – do you get the Marvin Gaye joke?


6. “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.” – Will Mars

This is quite a clever little joke. Everything took longer in the past – travelling, communicating etc. 

Marriages seemed to last longer, but everything took longer back then.


7. “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.” – Sameer Katz

This is quite funny and of course it hits two of my favourite notes, well three in fact: Star Wars, France and speaking English. 

There is a common misconception that French people arrogantly refuse to speak English in Paris let’s say, 

but I find that French people are more willing to speak English than it seems, and in fact they’re a bit more shy than arrogant, and if a French person in Paris speaks French to you, that’s quite normal as you are in France. 

Also, rather than being arrogant, a lot of French people just feel quite self conscious about their accent and certain common mistakes that French people often make. They also might have bad memories from English lessons at school which knocked all the confidence out of them, and they’re afraid to be judged by each other. So it’s more likely to be shyness than arrogance.


8. “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.” – Rich Pulsford

This is a clever little joke. 

To have an inkling means to have a suspicion or an idea of something.

“I don’t know who stole the last biscuit, but I have an inkling. Or I have an inkling of an idea who took that biscuit, and I think it was you!”

But an inkling does sound like a small spillage of ink from a pen. A small puddle of ink, or ink on your hand. An inkling. 

What do we call that? I don’t know, but I have an inkling!”

Vocabulary

To have an inkling

A spillage


9. “People say zoos are inhumane. But that’s because they’re for animals.” – Sameer Katz

I’m not sure I have to explain that, do I?

Being humane means treating people in reasonable and humanistic manner. 

Treating people with respect, dignity, justice. 

Inhumane is the opposite – and although it includes the word human, we do use this word to refer to the cruel treatment of animals.

Keeping animals in a cage is inhumane. 

Even though they’re animals, we still use the word inhumane, and this is just a funny little thing that can make you laugh when you notice it.

Vocabulary

Humane

Inhumane


Vocabulary Review

  • A caesarean
  • A C-section
  • “A problem shared is a problem halved.”
  • Quid
  • Halve (verb)
  • To be into role play
  • To pretend to be someone / to do something
  • To play hide and seek
  • To herd sheep
  • To hear something on/through the grapevine
  • Vinyard
  • To have an inkling
  • A spillage
  • Humane
  • Inhumane 

740. Are native English speakers bad communicators? (The Travel Adapter with Matt Halsdorff)

Talking to English teacher Matt Halsdorff about a project to train native English speakers how to communicate better with non-natives. We talk about the reasons why native speakers are often bad at communicating with non-natives, what they should do to fix this and the wider issues relating to this project. Video version available.

Audio Version

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Video Version

Episode Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners and video viewers, how are you doing today?

In this episode you’re going to listen to me in conversation with Matt Halsdorff who is an English teacher with many years of teaching experience, and we’re going to be discussing the question of whether native English speakers are in fact the worst communicators in an international English environment.

Matt is currently working on a project with Christian Saunders from Canguro English. I think the project sounds really interesting and raises a few good questions about how native speakers of English and non-native speakers communicate with each other, what non-natives really struggle with in this language, and whether native speakers can do anything to help.

If you saw my latest video interview with Christian from Canguro English and you watched until the end you might remember us discussing this project briefly. If you remember, Christian mentioned a training course in communication in English – but the twist is that it’s for native speakers – more specifically it is for native English speakers who need to communicate internationally.

Because, It’s not just learners of English who need training in this language. Apparently – It’s native speakers too.

English is a global language, and everyone is using it for business and also for travel purposes. Everyone needs to use this language to communicate successfully so the world can continue spinning.

Everyone uses English, and everyone has to work on the way they use it, in the same way that we all have to work on our email writing and IT skills to make them as efficient and effective as possible.

As a non-native speaker of English, of course you’ve got to work on the entire system – you need vocabulary, you need correct grammar, you need clear pronunciation, fluency, confidence and so on – obviously, that’s what’s involved in trying to use another language.

You learn as you go and try to do your best and you almost certainly feel a great deal of responsibility, pressure, and challenge when communicating in English. You are probably keenly aware of your performance in English and sensitive about any kind of failure in communication and how that might be your fault.

But do native speakers share a similar sense of responsibility?

In fact here are a number of other questions which arise when thinking about this topic.

  • Do native English speakers do all they can in international situations to make sure they are understood clearly, just like everyone else does?
  • Are native speakers aware of what it is like to operate in a second language?
  • Might there be other reasons why native English speakers don’t adapt the way they speak in order to improve shared communication?
  • Who is responsible for the success of any act of communication? Just one side, or both?
  • Should native speakers adapt their English? Or is it up to the non-natives to do all the heavy lifting in this situation?
  • And if native speakers should adapt their English, how should they do it?
  • What kind of English should they avoid and what kind is likely to be the most successful?
  • And what about other considerations and questions, such as what happens to the English language when it is being adapted in this way?

Well, I am interviewing Matt today in order to discuss these things and find out about this project in general. First we’re just going to take a few minutes to get to know him, and then we’re going to dive into this training project for native speakers, which is called The Travel Adaptor by the way. We’re going to find out about the project, about what native speakers do and say which can be so confusing, how native speakers can facilitate communication with non-natives, and the wider issue of global English and successful international communication.

As well as getting into the specifics of this conversation, you can certainly learn about some of the major obstacles that non-native speakers have when understanding natives.

So there’s plenty to pick up from this. There is a YouTube version too just in case you need to see our faces as well as listen to us.

Let’s get started!

Links

Download the PDF about The Travel Adapter

www.canguroenglish.com

www.coyoteenglish.com

*This is a conversation about language*

Ending

Well, that was Matt Halsdorff talking about The Travel Adapter – a training course for native-speakers of English, to help them communicate better globally.

So, what do you think? I’m very keen to read your comments and I am sure you had things popping into your head during this conversation. Why not express them in English here in the comment section?

  • Do you have experiences of communicating with native speakers in English? What was it like? Did they adapt their speech? What was difficult?
  • Do you think native speakers should adapt their speech when talking to non-natives, or not? Why?

But that’s it for now. Thank you for listening and I will speak to you again soon. I’ve got a little announcement coming in the next few weeks that’s pretty cool, plus the usual free episodes and premium episodes on their way as usual.

Speak to you soon, but for now – goodbye bye bye bye bye bye bye!


739. The Escaped Man by CT Platt (Learn English with Short Stories)

Reading a short story presented on Commaful.com. The Escaped Man is a mystery full of tension and intrigue. Listen closely as I break it all down and explain the vocabulary fully. YouTube video version also available.

Audio Version

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Video Version

Introduction Transcript & Links

Hello listeners and video viewers,

It’s time to do another story on the podcast. This time I’m going to be reading a story called The Escaped Man which was written by CT Platt and is presented on the Commaful website.

Commaful.com is a website where you can find short stories, fan fiction and other reading texts and it’s all presented in quite a nice and easy-to-read format.

I’m going to read the story to you once and all you have to do is follow it, and hopefully enjoy it. I have a couple of questions for you to help you stay focused on your listening.

Then I’ll read through the story again and break it down line by line, explaining, pointing out and teaching you bits of vocabulary and grammar as I go.

Learning English through stories is a great idea and tends to work because it places language in a vivid context and is generally quite entertaining and fun.

So listen to the story and then let me break all the language down for you bit by bit.

Just before I read the story, here are a couple of questions for you.

Where does the story take place? How do you know?
Is this American English or British English? How do you know?
What is going to happen next?

OK, let’s start.

commaful.com/play/lisa/the-escaped-man/

Full Script of the Story

www.wattpad.com/543021670-suspense-stories-the-escaped-man-c-t-platt-2017

738. Do you remember…? with Mum, Dad & James / Family Stories with The Thompsons

Chatting to my family about some old anecdotes and stories from the past. Listen for some enjoyable chat, memories, descriptions and tales from days gone by.

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Introduction Transcript

Hello and welcome back to the podcast. 

In this episode I am happy to present to you a conversation with my mum, dad and brother all about old family stories and anecdotes from the past.

The episode is called Do you remember…? And that’s the title of the activity I chose for this episode. The idea is that we could generate some stories about things that happened in the past and you can follow along and see if you can pick up some English in the process, or simply enjoy a bit of storytelling on the podcast.

So you’re going to hear stories of little accidents, moments when James and I got into trouble, learning to drive and failed driving tests, how my parents first met each other and how my bottom lip was always left trembling at the end of every story.

We recorded this in my parents’ living room, sitting around after dinner and if you like you can imagine that you’re there too, listening into the conversation – not taking part though. For some reason you’re not allowed to speak, you can only listen like a weird audience in our living room just lurking in the background. Anyway, you can imagine that you’re there if you like, if it helps you to tune into the conversation and follow along more easily.

I will now leave you to enjoy this relaxed conversation, follow the stories and little jokes and I will speak to you again at the end of this episode.


Ending Transcript

So, that was my family, recorded in the living room recently while I was on holiday in England. I hope you enjoyed that.

Apologies if we repeated any stories you had heard before (perhaps all of them?) but then again it can be really helpful to hear the same stories over and over when learning English. You could even try to tell the stories yourself, and then compare your story to the recorded version.

If you want other, similar episodes from the archive, check out these ones.

79. Family Arguments & Debates (Debating things like language and politics)

teacherluke.co.uk/2012/01/23/family-arguments-and-debates/

322. With the Thompsons (Answering random conversation questions)

teacherluke.co.uk/2016/01/07/322-with-the-thompsons/

372. The Importance of Anecdotes in English / Telling 4 Family Anecdotes

teacherluke.co.uk/2016/08/09/372-the-importance-of-anecdotes-in-english-narrative-tenses-four-anecdotes/ 

413. With The Family 1 Talking about cooking christmas dinner

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/03/413-with-the-family-part-1-mums-cooking-vocabulary-with-uncle-nic/

414. With The Family 2 – My Uncle Met a Rock Star – Nic tells stories of meeting famous musicians including Paul McCartney

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/05/414-with-the-family-part-2-my-uncle-met-a-rock-star/ 

415. With The Family 3- Meeting Famous People – We tell stories of meeting famous people and what happened

teacherluke.co.uk/2017/01/10/415-with-the-family-part-3-more-encounters-with-famous-people/

542. Talking Rubbish & Having Fun with The Thompsons (More random topics and fun)

teacherluke.co.uk/2018/08/21/542-talking-rubbish-just-having-fun-with-the-thompsons/ 

554. ODD News Stories with Mum & Dad (Speculating about and discussing some weird news stories)

teacherluke.co.uk/2018/10/18/554-odd-news-stories-with-mum-dad/ 

605. Unexpected Road Trip (The story of a road trip that went horribly wrong, wth James as my co-pilot)

teacherluke.co.uk/2019/07/18/605-unexpected-road-trip-with-james/ 

But for now I will leave you to go back to your life, unless you choose to listen to another episode which you will find in the archive.

Don’t forget to check out LEP Premium. P31 parts 4,5, 6 are on their way and may have already been published by the time you listen to this.

But in the meantime, be excellent to each other, have a lovely day, morning, afternoon, evening or night and I will chat to you later but now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.