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.

876. Thoughts & comments on recent episodes / A Spring Equinox Ramble 2024

Listen to me rambling about Daylight Saving Time, weird AI generated images for Luke’s English Podcast, and lots of comments and responses to recent episodes including the Birthday Party story 🎂 , the MBTI Personality Test 🙇 and the Walk & Talk in Paris 📹🚶.

[DOWNLOAD]


🔖 The Advanced English Summit – book your place for Luke’s Zoom talk (free) 👇

https://english-at-home.com/summit/


📄 Get the PDF 👇

Those Strange AI-generated Images 👇

875. Aepyornis Island by HG Wells (Learn English with a Short Story)

Learn English with another short story. I’ll read the entire story to you, and then go through the text again explaining and clarifying the main events and plenty of vocabulary. This is a wonderful adventure story written by HG Wells, a very influential and imaginative English writer from the late 19th century. The story is full of vivid descriptive language, action, adventure and extraordinary moments. I hope it captures your imagination and lets the English come alive in memorable ways. PDF available below.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

https://youtu.be/u3pUtHNX7YQ

Get the full episode PDF here 👇 

874. Walk & Talk: PARIS

Here is an episode in which I walk through the streets of Paris, rambling about a particular subject. This time the subject is Paris itself. This summer Paris is hosting the Olympic Games. The city will be filled with visitors. I am very curious to see how the city will handle this moment. Will it be a huge success? What will visitors think of the city? Will anyone suffer from the mysterious “Paris Syndrome”? Join me on my walk, follow my words, look out for vocab and consider using my questions for your own speaking practice.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Discussion Questions

Feel free to use these questions for your own speaking practice.

  1. Have you ever been to Paris? When did you come here? What did you do and see? What did you think of the place?
  2. If you have never been to Paris, would you like to? Why?
  3. What associations do you have with Paris? What do you imagine, when you think of this city?
  4. Have you ever seen any films or TV series set in Paris? What image of the city do they present?
  5. Have you ever been to London? Did it match your expectations?
  6. Think of a city that you know well. Try to talk about it.
    What is it famous for?
    What can you see and do there?
    Does your city have a reputation?
    Does the reality match the reputation?
  7. Has your city ever hosted the Olympic Games? What did residents think about it before, during and after the games took place?

Vocabulary

There will be a premium episode dealing with vocabulary, coming soon. https://www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Ending ramble

OK, this is not actually the end of the episode, as you can probably see from the running time. There’s a lot more left in this episode.

I am now back in my podcastle, where I am much more comfortable recording and being on video.

Having reviewed the footage which you have just heard and seen I wanted to just reflect on it and give my thoughts on this experimental episode and how I might do more of these Walk & Talk episodes, and whether I will do more of them at all.

So here are my thoughts on this.

  • The footage looks fantastic. Good colours. Very clear. Smooth image stabilisation.
  • I didn’t show many landmarks in the video but I wanted to keep it natural and just show the places where I would typically go on my way home or on a trip into town to get lunch. You did see the Eiffel Tower (very briefly at the start), Les Invalides, Grand Palais, Assemble Nationale, Concorde, Louvre, La Seine, Les Tuileries, Place Vendome – so actually quite a lot of landmarks I suppose!
  • I’m slightly concerned that referring to all these visual things will make this less satisfying to listen to as an audio only episode, but I really hope not. It should be an immersive audio experience too.
  • The audio sounds good enough I think. It’s not as loud and rich as normal but that’s to be expected. It’s hard to get the mic in the right position and there’s lots of background noise, but it’s good enough.
  • I’m not overly happy about the way I look! You can see up my nose and there are not very flattering angles, but I should not be vain about this and you probably don’t care about it as much as me.
  • I was so self conscious about walking along with the cam in my face it makes me seriously doubt if I can do that regularly. It wasn’t as pleasant as I’d hoped. I felt very self-conscious and awkward and that prevented me from getting into my normal flow of speaking.
  • Putting the cam on my shirt is great – I can be completely hands free and continue to record, but the battery runs out quite fast. Also, you can’t see my face, which is reasonably important.
  • My original plan was to have a load of questions that I answer on a topic then see what topic vocab comes up in those questions and answers. You heard me mention that I’d used ChatGPT to help me write the questions quickly. In this episode about Paris I didn’t really answer many questions from my list. But you can still find some questions about cities on the episode page. Use them to practise talking about a city you know well.
  • I’ll have to review all those ChatGPT questions on other topics because the ones it came up with about Paris were actually very dry and not that fruitful. I didn’t fully answer the questions it gave me about Paris, but it’s ok. I think I still discussed the city enough.
  • It was a bit difficult to prioritise the speaking and expressing myself because I was multi tasking. Operating the camera, moving around and feeling self conscious. When I’m in the pod room I can focus more on what I’m saying.
  • I’ll try this again, and next time will focus on a specific topic with questions and vocab as I promised. Maybe I can sum up the vocab in a premium ep each time.
  • What do you think?
    I’m particularly interested in hearing from audio LEPsters.
    Audio listeners – how was it? Loud enough? Clear enough? Was there a lot of atmospheric noise? Did that make it hard to hear, or did it add to the atmosphere of the episode?

Song: “The Look You Give That Guy” by Eels

873. Luke takes the MBTI Personality Test

The MBTI Personality Test (aka “16 Personalities”) is a very well-known and widely used test which claims to be able to give you a “freakishly accurate” analysis of your personality type. In this episode I take the test, explain the reasons for my answers, explain some vocabulary and give my thoughts on the test results and the test itself. Includes plenty of expressions for describing personality traits, behaviour, ways of thinking and feeling and the subject of psychological testing.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Transcript / Notes

Hello!

In this much-requested episode I am going to take the MBTI personality test and use it to help you learn English.

I’ll go through the test, answering all the questions, and I will explain vocabulary that comes up along the way.

I expect there will be plenty of English here that we use to describe personality, behaviour, feelings, psychology and psychological testing.

I also want to discuss this test, which despite its massive popularity, is criticised for not being reliable or accurate. 

What’s going on here? Why is the test so popular? Can it really identify our true personality? What kind of personality type am I? And what about you?

You can take the test yourself if you want. It’s free and you’ll find a link in the description. 

A comment from a listener

Here’s a comment I received ages ago in response to the Q&A I did for episode 800.

JiaqiThese Q&A episodes are so fun! Thanks Luke!
I agree with one question – it’d be really interesting if you do the MBTI personality test and talk us through your choices! On 16personalities.com they have really good questions and good analysis of your result 😄
I have a feeling that you might be ENFJ aka The Protagonist, Luke👀… Extroverted, Intuitive, Feeling, Judging. I’m INFJ (the introverted version).

OK then!

What is the MBTI Personality Test?

The MBTI Personality Test, in case you don’t know, is a very popular personality test which promises to help you learn all about yourself. 

Wikipedia

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a pseudoscientific[1][2] self-report questionnaire that claims to indicate differing personality types

The test attempts to assign a binary value to each of four categories: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, and judging or perceiving. 

One letter from each category is taken to produce a four-letter test result representing one of sixteen possible personalities, such as “INFP” or “ESTJ”.

The MBTI was constructed by two Americans: Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers, who were inspired by the book Psychological Types written by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung. The test was first published in the 1960s, and was based on work done by Katherine and Isabel in the 1940s. 

This test claims to be backed up by research and is used by millions of people around the world, especially in the world of work where employers often use it to work out the competences of their staff. They use it to put employees into different personality categories in order to help place them into roles at work that they are most suitable for. 

The test is divided into questions and your answers put you somewhere on a sliding scale between certain “opposite” personality traits. At the end, the test gives you a personality profile, putting you into one of 16 personality categories or personality types. I’ll go through those types in a moment. 

This test is extremely popular and actually Jiaqi is not the first person to ask me to take the test and talk about it.

Episode Plan

The plan is to do 3 things:

  • Take the test and talk you through my decision making process for each question – I’m curious to see what personality type I’m going to get. Will Jiaqi be right about me being an ENFJ?
  • Explain different vocabulary or possibly grammar that comes up in the test. I’m sure there will be loads of words and phrases to describe things like personality traits, feelings, ways of thinking, decision making processes and so on.
  • Talk about the test itself – I want to evaluate the test and consider whether it really is a valid and reliable test of someone’s character.

16 Personalities

Let’s look at the 16 personality types developed by Myers-Briggs.

As we go through these profiles, consider these things.

  • What category type are you?
  • Which one do you think I am? (You’ll find out, apparently)

https://www.16personalities.com/personality-types

Interestingly, there are no negative categories. All the categories are positive. 

Surely there must be some negative personality traits in people? 

Why don’t they come up in this evaluation?

For example, there are no categories like these.

7 Negative Personality Types (NOT in the MBTI test) 

Couch potatoes
Lazy time-wasters who avoid all sense of responsibility or personal challenge by spending the day lying in bed, scrolling through TikTok and maybe ordering a pizza. 

Internet trolls
Hate-filled nerds who use the anonymity and lack of accountability of the internet to provoke negative emotional responses from other users, probably because they have trouble establishing genuine loving relationships in the real world.  

Selfish scumbags
The type of person who would push your elderly grandmother out of the way while getting off a bus, these are completely self-interested psychopaths whose only motivations are to gain wealth, power and influence over others, all for their own benefit.

Scroungers
Never willing to pay their own way, scroungers are always looking for opportunities to get things for free or to benefit from the hard work of others, while making the least amount of effort possible and spending none of their own money.

Cowards
Weak-willed losers who run away from any challenge due to a fear of failure which is actually caused by an underlying narcissistic tendency with an overriding sense of self-preservation combined with the feeling they have been wronged somewhere down the line and therefore deserve to be given everything they want without taking any risk themselves. 

Bullies
Bullies make themselves feel better by making other people feel worse. They belittle, abuse and pick on people in weaker, lower-status positions in order to cover up for a deep-seated sense of inadequacy probably stemming from a problematic loveless relationship with one or both of their parents, who probably bullied them too, sending them into a vicious cycle of abuse. 

Other possible categories:
Creepy weirdos
Manipulative gaslighters
Compulsive liars
Sociopaths
Politicians

We all know people like that, but interestingly the test contains no descriptions like that, or in fact any negative descriptions whatsoever. 

Some comments before I begin

This will probably take a lot of time because I think there are lots of sentences in this test, but that’s fine isn’t it. (By the way, I am glad so many people agree with my thoughts from episode 871 about longer episodes).

As I discuss these questions, you might think I am over-analysing or thinking about each question too much, but I’m not. I’m going to answer the questions in the most honest way I can, but I also want to use my critical thinking to analyse the thinking or assumptions behind each one. 

Full disclosure, I am sceptical about this test. I will discuss why as we go through the questions.

I did an A Level in Psychology (I got a B – check me out) so I am vaguely familiar with some of the science behind this kind of thing. 

Test reliability and test validity

For a test like this to be objectively, measurably accurate it should be both reliable and valid. 

These are standard concepts in scientific testing, which any good test should comply with in order to produce results which we can reasonably accept to be accurate.

Test reliability – tests should be reliable

This refers to the consistency of a test – how the test consistently produces the same results, time and time again. 

If the MBTI test is reliable, it should always produce the same results every time someone takes it. 

Because, as the makers claim, we have fixed personalities and so it should always put us in the same category each time.

Also, if a test is unaffected by measurement errors or random effects like the person’s mood, environmental factors, the weather on that particular day etc – if it is unaffected by these things, it makes the test stronger and more reliable.

Test validity – tests should be valid

This means that the test actually tests what it says it tests, and nothing else.

It’s different from reliability because even if a test gets the same results each time, it might not be valid, meaning that the results still might not be accurate. 

If the MBTI test is valid, it means that, for example, it is accurately labelling people – it is putting people in the right categories. For example, when it says that someone has a certain personality type and would be well suited for a particular job, this is actually true

Let’s take the test 👉 https://www.16personalities.com


Luke’s result on 6 March 2024: INFP “The Mediator”

I have taken the test before (did I get the same results?)

Luke’s Result on 11 December 2023: INTP “The Logician”

Results when I took the text on 11 December 2023. I was at work and I had a bad stomach.

Luke’s Result on 19 Jan 2023: INFJ “The Advocate”

The results when I took the test on Friday 19 January 2023 and I felt a bit tired.

Problems with the MBTI test / Criticisms

  • Poor validity
    According to its critics, the test does not accurately predict a person’s performance in any way.

    It’s basically meaningless and comparable to a horoscope in terms of its validity.

    But of course plenty of people believe horoscopes, including you maybe and you might disagree with my criticisms here because you like horoscopes and you like this test because you feel that it gives you a meaningful sense of perspective and insight into yourself.

    But if horoscopes are true and we really can predict someone’s future, why don’t newspapers put them on the front page? Instead they always put them in the middle of the newspaper, down at the bottom somewhere next to the puzzles?

    More about horoscopes in a moment.
  • Poor reliability
    People typically get different results when they take the test multiple times.
  • Inaccurate representation of character traits
    The test presents its character traits as independent from each other and mutually exclusive, but they’re not. In each question you are either one or the other (introvert or extrovert) but in reality these things are not mutually exclusive concepts and we can be a bit of both, and maybe it depends on the situation.

It is possible to be a bit of both, but the test rigidly divides you into one or the other with every single question. This is true for all its categories which are presented as mutually exclusive. Even though there is a middle position in each question, you will ultimately be put in one of the categories.

  • Conflict of interest
    There are huge questions of independence, bias and conflict of interest.
    All the research behind the test is done by the same organisation that produces and sells the test worldwide making a large profit from it. 
  • Barnum effect
    The test has been likened to horoscopes as both rely on the Barnum effect, flattery, and confirmation bias, leading participants to personally identify with descriptions that are somewhat desirable, vague, and widely applicable.

    People believe the results because they want to. It confirms what they already (want to) believe about themselves, and it flatters them in the process – it makes them feel good. Everyone is a winner and nobody has any particular reason to disagree or criticise the results of the test.

    117. Psychics / Cold Reading / Barnum Statements | Luke’s ENGLISH Podcast
  • This is in fact just a glorified version of online quizzes such as “Which Harry Potter character are you?” but in fact it is more successful than that because it presents itself as serious, backed up by research and all the results are positive, unlike in the Harry Potter quiz because nobody is happy if they end up being Draco Malfoy or something.

Debunking the test 

Jordan Peterson actually does a good job of debunking the test. I’m not a big fan of his, but he seems to be spot on here.

Summary of his main points

The probability that a company will use a personality test is inversely related to the accuracy of the test. 

Meaning that the less accurate the test, the easier it is to sell. 

So there are other factors which cause this test to be so popular – it’s really nothing to do with its ability to accurately describe your personality or predict what you will be good at.

Companies buy the MBTI test. It sells about one million units per year. But it has ZERO predictive utility with regards to performance prediction. It does not predict performance. 

Why do people use it? Because it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings. In fact, it makes people feel good. Companies ultimately want their staff to have high morale. 

The test is old, it’s based on unsound and outmoded psychological techniques and should be replaced by another test called “The Big Five”.

An article on vox.comCLICK HERE TO READ

A summary of the article 

The arguments against the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) test presented in the article can be summarized as follows:

1. Lack of scientific evidence: The test lacks empirical evidence to support its claims. It doesn’t predict job success, marital happiness, or overall performance in various situations.

2. Theoretical basis: The MBTI was formulated in the 1940s based on Carl Jung’s untested theories. Even Jung himself cautioned that his personality “types” were rough observations rather than strict classifications.

3. Unsupported principles: Jung’s theories were not grounded in controlled experiments or data but were rather theoretical. The test was developed by individuals without formal psychology training, further lacking scientific credibility.

4. Limited and false binaries: The test’s binary questions oversimplify complex human traits that usually exist along a spectrum. It categorizes individuals as one extreme or the other, ignoring the nuanced nature of human behavior.

5. Inconsistent and inaccurate results: The test often yields inconsistent results when taken multiple times by the same person, indicating its unreliability. It fails to measure traits consistently different among individuals.

6. Disregarded by psychologists: The Myers-Briggs test is mostly disregarded by contemporary psychologists, as it lacks significant research support in reputable psychology journals. Newer, empirically driven tests focus on different personality categories backed by actual data.

7. Entertainment value vs. practical use: While the MBTI might serve as entertainment, it lacks practical validity. Despite its widespread use in corporations and government agencies, its reliability and effectiveness have been debunked by psychologists.

Also the test assumes that you are a good judge of your own character. We might choose options based on how we want to be perceived, rather than on who we really are.

In conclusion, the arguments highlight the lack of scientific basis, the test’s reliance on outdated theories, its oversimplification of human traits, inconsistency in results, and the absence of support from the psychology community, suggesting that the MBTI is unreliable and largely disregarded by reputable psychologists.

The Big Five (another personality test)

Apparently this is a more accurate personality test, and interestingly it has its roots in language. The developers listed every single adjective they could find which describes personality and distilled them into 5 broad concepts. Basically, all personality descriptions boil down to these 5 areas:

The test is based on these 5 factors then, and on other more valid research and methods.

Take the test 👉 Big Five Personality Test 

But that is another story for another time. 

Your Comments?

  • What do you think?
  • Do you think the test is valid or reliable? (actually this is not a question of opinion – it isn’t!)
  • What did you think of my result? Do you agree?
  • Have you taken the test? What result did you get? What did you think?

872. The Birthday Party (Learn English with a Short Story)

🎧 Learn English with a short story. 🗣 Listen & repeat after me if you’d like to practise your pronunciation. 💬 Learn some vocabulary in the second half of the video. This is a story about people watching and what you can notice about people’s relationships if you are observant enough.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

📄 Click here to read the story text 👈

Luke’s Vocabulary Notes

  • In your early / late twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies, eighties
  • To look married (look good, look tired, look happy, look married, look bored)
  • Unmistakably married
  • They were married. It was unmistakable.
  • Mistakable = easily confused for something else
  • Unmistakable = not easily confused for something else – you can immediately identify it
  • The unmistakable smell of fresh bread in the air
  • They looked unmistakably French / unmistakably English / unmistakably yours/hers/his (this handwriting is unmistakably his)
  • Why are they unmistakably married? What does she mean? She’s alluding to subtle behaviour. When a couple are unmarried or perhaps in the early stages of a relationship they tend to give each other a lot more attention. They might be still trying to seduce each other somehow, or to attract each other. There’s still mystery and interest. Brand new couples can hardly take their eyes off each other. I imagine this couple is unmistakably married because they show signs of the relationship suffering from over familiarity. They mystery is gone, maybe. Perhaps they seem very familiar with each other, or very comfortable with each other. Marriage can make people feel stuck (not always!) especially if the marriage is based on the wrong things. 
  • A banquette = a long, fitted seat or bench, typically found in restaurants
  • Narrow – opposite of wide – a long narrow corridor 
  • We get the sense this is a small, intimate space. It’s also uncomfortable, painfully so. 
  • The couple and other guests in the restaurant are all so close and this makes the man’s humiliation and the woman’s heartbreak even more painful. 
  • The narrator is unable to stop “people watching” here – observing this couple opposite.
  • Also the couple sit side by side, not facing each other, which suggests that they’re not all that interested in each other. 
  • You start to speculate – what does this woman mean to this man? Is she there just to sit by his side and look glamorous? 
  • A round face
  • Self-satisfied (definitely a negative word) smug, arrogant, not charming
  • Fadingly pretty 
  • Fading  = gradually becoming less clear, less bright, less colourful. Her prettiness was fading. 
  • A big hat – I imagine it was one of those hats with a big brim, which can be very glamorous but also hides the face. 
  • Conspicuous = noticeable, easy to notice, eye-catching (apparently in those days big hats were not uncommon in New York restaurants)
  • Basically, they looked quite ordinary really, and weren’t trying to grab/attract everyone’s attention.
  • An occasion – a particular event, a birthday, an anniversary, something to celebrate
  • The wife had planned a surprise for him (past perfect because she planned this before any of the events in this story) without past perfect it could mean that the wife planned the surprise there at the table
  • A surprise in the form of a cake – “in the form of” here means that this is how the surprise was actually manifested. I mean, what was the surprise, how did this surprise take shape? The surprised arrived in the form of a cake.
  • The gift came in the form of a beautifully wrapped package.
  • Their support came in the form of encouraging words during a difficult time.
  • The solution to the problem arrived in the form of an innovative new technology.
  • Help arrived in the form of my wife who came to rescue me (from an awkward conversation for example)
  • A glossy birthday cake = shiny & smooth, so the light reflects off the top. It’s one of those smart, fancy cakes that you see in good quality cake shops. 
  • One pink candle burning in the center (American English spelling) – this is a little bit sad, isn’t it? Also, if this guy takes himself quite seriously, he might find that a tiny bit embarrassing – bringing attention to him, and this little cake with a pink candle might make him feel a bit ridiculous, especially if he is full of himself and takes himself seriously. But it is a lovely, sweet gesture and we just want him to be embarrassed but also touched and it would be a great moment for him to blush and smile and kiss his wife and maybe acknowledge the other diners with a smile, but he doesn’t.
  • The head waiter – so the wife probably asked the restaurant to make a special effort here, which again shows how much care she put into this.
  • He placed it before the husband. This means he carefully put it down.
  • Meanwhile = at the same time
  • The wife beamed with shy pride over her little surprise
  • Beamed = her face glowed, she smiled, she seemed proud. To “beam” means that light comes out – like a torch, or a light house. In this case the woman’s face beamed with a certain emotion or an expression. 
  • Pride – to feel proud = she’s happy and satisfied with what she has done. She’s put a lot of effort into this and expects it to go well. She’s trying.
  • It became clear (obvious) at once (immediately) that help was needed (passive voice – needed by who?) We feel that the narrator suddenly sees that this woman is helpless in this situation. She’s in trouble. But nobody can help her without making it worse. 
  • The husband was not pleased.
  • He was hotly embarrassed. – not a common collocation but it tells us that his face probably went red and he was angry.
  • He was indignant = angry, annoyed, frustrated with his wife because of what she’s done. 
  • Don’t be like that = don’t be that way
  • As soon as the little cake had been deposited  on the table = quite formal and impersonal language, meaning put in a certain place. Money is deposited in an account. It’s quite cold, transactional language.
  • The birthday piece – a piece of music
  • The general attention had shifted = moved
  • I saw him say something to her under his breath  = in a very quiet voice, in a whisper, so other people can’t hear
  • Some punishing thing  = a comment which was designed to punish her, to make her feel bad
  • Quick (just a few words) and curt (rudely brief – rude because it is so short) and unkind (cruel).
  • I couldn’t bear to look
  • Can’t bear to do something
  • Can’t stand doing it
  • Can’t bring myself to do something
  • When I finally glanced over there = looked quickly
  • This is heartbreaking!
  • Adverbs
  • Crying quietly 
  • Crying heartbrokenly
  • Crying hopelessly
  • All to herself (she was doing it all by herself, but also crying to herself – a very lonely feeling where you are the only one witnessing your crying – the husband doesn’t care it seems)
  • All to herself / all by herself
  • Under the big gay brim of her best hat. (Gay in it’s original meaning, “carefree” “happy”)
  • The brim of the hat = the wide edge
  • This is a particularly sad image because of the contrast between this lovely hat that should be worn on a happy and carefree occasion, but under it this poor woman is crying. 

871. Rambling through my episode archive / Listener Comments / Gold YouTube Creator Award

A very long rambling episode with a big mix of vocabulary, stories about my trip to Rome, comments from listeners, lots of thoughts about episodes I’ve published over the last 12 months, more advice about learning English, and a story about being Jackie Chan’s English teacher.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

https://youtu.be/rw0_lkypqfM

Get the PDF for this episode 👇

870. Kate Billington moved to Taiwan

Returning guest Kate Billington suddenly decided to move to the other side of the world, to Taipei in beautiful Taiwan. In this episode we talk about meeting LEPsters in Taipei, her decision to move there, and how everything is going, with the usual conversational tangents along the way.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

https://youtu.be/rcwyDstVMiM?si=R9dyismnA5IRbLfi

Introduction Notes

Here is another conversation episode, and it’ll be the last one I’m doing for a little while. You’ll get some more solo episodes from me over the next few weeks, including a short story episode and more.

But this is another conversation, and it’s with Kate Billington who is a returning guest and a popular guest – this is her 5th time on the show.

Over the last few episodes I’ve done fairly long introductions to explain certain things before the conversation begins, but I don’t think it’s necessary this time. I think the title of the episode explains what you’re going to get. Kate Billington moved to Taiwan. Yes, Kate just decided to move to the other side of the world, and then she did it! Why? How? What’s she doing? How’s it going? That’s what we’re going to talk about, and as you might expect there are a few conversational tangents along the way.

It’s great to have Kate back on the podcast, even if we were not in the same room as each other this time. I hope you enjoy it. I’ll come back and chat to you a little bit at the end (in the audio version), but for now, let’s get started and here we go.

Kate on Instagram 👉 https://www.instagram.com/cakey_comedy/

869. Working at UNESCO | English in International Diplomacy

In international diplomacy, “communication is everything”. This is the main point of this conversation, in which I talk to my friend who works for the UK delegation at UNESCO in Paris. We discuss the work that UNESCO does, and the various communication challenges involved in working together with representatives from countries all around the world, including the collaborative writing of official documents where the use of a single comma can be debated for hours, and the meetings and conversations in which cultural sensitivity and good-will are essential elements for success. Also includes some communication idioms and guitar playing near the end of the episode.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Introduction Transcript

My guest today is my friend who works at UNESCO. 

UNESCO stands for The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. (Wikipedia)

It is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) which has the aim of promoting world peace and security through international cooperation in education, arts, sciences and culture. 

Perhaps the most famous thing they do is to protect certain world heritage sites, but that is only one of the things that they are involved in.

My friend works there and in this episode you’ll hear us talking about his work and about communication in the context of international diplomacy.

This is quite complex stuff actually. 

Normally in these situations, when I’m publishing an episode like this, I have to make certain decisions about what to say in the introduction.

How much should I explain in advance? 

What kind of support should I give to my audience before you listen?

People listening to my podcast have varying levels of English. Rather than slowing down and stopping to explain every word, I want to give you a conversation at natural speed, but explaining some context at the start can really help a lot of people. It’s not just because of English. It’s also just a question of general knowledge too.

Before I met M__, I didn’t really know a lot about what UNESCO did, and honestly, I think most people probably find it a little bit of a mystery. 

So I have decided to explain one or two things here, so you are properly placed to understand all of this and therefore enjoy it and benefit most from it.

Of course I don’t want to say too much or repeat myself or anything, so I’ve written this introduction in advance to try and keep me focused, to be informative but also efficient, and then you can just get stuck into the conversation with my guest.

M__ works for the UK delegation at UNESCO, which has its headquarters in Paris by the way. The word “delegation” comes up a few times (also the word “delegate”) and that will be explained.

UNESCO HQ is in Paris – I did stand-up there once, which was weird! I was invited as part of a festival in 2019 called Paris Talks. It was a bit like a series of TED Talks, all of them serious – about the future. 

***Luke talks spontaneously for a couple of minutes about doing stand-up comedy at the UNESCO HQ in Paris***

Whenever I chat to M__, if we have a drink together or something, I am always really curious about his work and I find it really fascinating. Hopefully it’ll be fascinating for you too.

So, we’re going to talk about the work that UNESCO does and the way the organisation works, but also about the different forms of communication that happen there, and this, for me as an English teacher, is perhaps the most interesting thing about it.

Imagine, nearly every nation in the world collaborating together at a government level on very important projects. This of course includes nation states which have different relations with each other, some friendly, some antagonistic. 

Also, you’re dealing with often vastly different cultures with different communication styles and values. But you’ve got to try to work together with these different groups towards a common goal.

This involves communication at a very high level – international diplomacy. What does it take to cross these barriers of culture, politics, economics, at a state level? 

Diplomatic communication is a huge part of it and working in this context requires a variety of different types of communication skills. 

There’s persuasion, there’s negotiation, there’s showing respect, there’s using pressure, there’s giving compliments and expressing gratitude and it can happen in writing and in spoken English too at various levels of formality.

Imagine these different communication contexts:

  • Huge meetings with representatives from countries all around the world, sitting at tables with little flags on them and everyone attempting to work together to agree on certain big decisions. Sometimes they don’t want to do the same thing. There are groups that are friendly, and groups that have their differences.
  • The collaborative writing of very formal documents in those big meetings. These are documents which UNESCO issues – a bit like laws passed by a government (although UNESCO doesn’t actually make laws)
  • Smaller, less formal meetings in which different delegations attempt to build support for their proposals, with negotiations and persuasion.
  • Individual one on one conversations or conversations in small groups, between the more formal meetings, where representatives might stand up and chat together perhaps over coffee and a softer form of persuasion or negotiation occurs, and the building of relationships and alliances.
  • And the work of interpreters – who sit in other rooms, looking through windows, with headsets on, having to simultaneously translate what is being said in these important meetings from one language to another, and the quick decisions they have to make about how exactly they should word things without subtly changing the tone of what is being said. Interpreters are a huge part of this. Maybe some of you listening are considering becoming an interpreter, or maybe you already are.

How is language used in these different situations? How does the language change?

We’re talking about different levels of formality, and the pragmatics of diplomacy at this high level.

Also, what does UNESCO do exactly? How does it actually work? What does M__ actually do on a daily basis?

These are the things I was very interested in capturing in this conversation.

Before we start, here are a few more details.

Here’s some more information from Wikipedia.

UNESCO was founded in 1945 and its founding mission, which was shaped by the events of World War II, is to advance peace, sustainable development and human rights by facilitating collaboration and dialogue among nations.[10] 

It pursues this objective through five major programme areas: education, natural sciences, social/human sciences, culture and communication/information.

What does it actually do? I find this quite hard to work out!

  • It assists in the translation and dissemination of world literature – making sure the best works of literature are available to be read by everyone, and not just in their countries of origin.
  • It works to bridge the worldwide digital divide (attempting to reduce disparities between developed and developing countries in terms of what technologies are available to people)
  • It creates inclusive knowledge societies through information and communication. By Knowledge Societies, UNESCO means societies in which people have the capabilities not just to acquire information but also to transform it into knowledge and understanding, which empowers them to enhance their livelihoods and contribute to the social and economic development of their societies. UNESCO has launched several initiatives and global movements, such as Education For All.

How does it actually do these things? As far as I can tell, they create what M__ calls “standard setting documents”. 

Those are not laws because they are not legally binding but they are similar to laws because they set out guidelines on what should or should not be done. 

Governments in the member states can use these standard setting documents to help them form policies and laws, in line with UNESCO’s overall objectives.

So they’re not binding legislation but these UNESCO documents are still very formally written. 

M__ tells us about how this is done, at the various stages, referring to different communication contexts in the process.

This all might sound a bit dry in my descriptions, but just let me take you back to that image of the large meeting room at UNESCO with all these representatives or delegates from the different countries. Imagine you are actually there. 

Imagine having to open one of those big meetings. Imagine the mood in the room as you look out and see these different faces representing the different nations. Imagine the tone you would have to use in your speech, the specific wording, to gain their attention and their respect, to speak with the relevant level of importance, to try to create a feeling of goodwill, to make the different delegations feel respected, and then to attempt to unite these different nations with competing interests and worldviews.

Imagine having a specific project, and trying to get it off the ground – arranging smaller meetings to try to build alliances. Taking the time to chat one on one with people between meetings, drafting emails with proposals, and finally trying to edit formal documentation in collaboration with other delegates in huge writing sessions that can last days.

That’s the world we’re talking about here and specific things about how we have to adapt our language in these situations.

Several other things

  1. My friend is also a really good guitarist, and so at the end of this conversation we couldn’t help but turn our attention to the guitars in my podcastle. He plays one of my guitars and we talk about guitars. So, we do move from international diplomacy to guitars. If you want to hear him play, just stick around until the end of the conversation.
  2. Background noise. There was a guy in the corridor outside my podcast room doing some work – sanding a wall. So, apologies – you’ll hear the sounds of normal life bleeding into the recording slightly. I think it’s not too bad, but if you hear some noise and wonder what it is, it’s a guy sanding a wall outside.

Right, so without any further ado let’s get started. The first thing you’ll hear now is me saying that often the most difficult part of podcasting is the very beginning of a recording, and M__ gives me a good bit of advice which he has learned from his work at UNESCO.

So, let’s now join the conversation at that point. I’ll chat to you a bit at the end.


Communication Idioms (explained at the end)

  • To beat around the bush
  • To talk at cross purposes
  • To grab/get the wrong end of the stick
  • To hit the nail on the head
  • It strikes a different chord in people’s minds (if you speak from the heart)
  • This guy is trying to wrap me round his finger (to manipulate/control me)

868. How the USA is changing (with Lindsay McMahon from All Ears English)

Lindsay has been observing social, economic and political trends in her home country and comes on the podcast today to talk about them.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]



Introduction Notes / Transcript for Episode 868

Hello!

Today on the podcast I am talking to Lindsay from All Ears Engish. 

Do you know the All Ears English podcast? If you don’t know it, then that is a surprise to me because All Ears English is an extremely popular, well-known and high ranking podcast for learners of English. 

I’m sure you’ve come across it before. Yellow logo, Lindsay and her co-hosts Michelle, Jessica and Aubrey. American English. Their episodes are always full of positive energy. They promote personal growth through learning English and their mantra is “connection not perfection”. All Ears English. Over a million subscribers on Apple Podcasts and Spotify, ranked in Best of Apple Podcasts categories in 2018 and 2019, and #1 in US Education Language Courses category. Lindsay and her team have been featured in Podcast Magazine, Language Magazine, and Forbes. When your podcast is in a magazine, when you’ve crossed from one medium into another, you know you’re doing something right. You know, All Ears English! https://www.allearsenglish.com/

Lindsay is a returning guest on my podcast. She has been on this show a few times before. Long, long term listeners might remember her first appearance way back in episode 186 in 2014 talking about culture shock. So we’ve collaborated quite a few times. I have also been on All Ears English a number of times too, including recently.

Just a couple of months ago, Lindsay and I decided that it was about time we collaborated again on a couple of episodes so we invited each other onto our respective podcasts. I was on her show just a couple of weeks ago, in episode 2140 talking about differences between American and British English. We compared the vocabulary differences, communication style differences and more. If that sounds interesting, you could check it out. AEE 2140: The Subtle Differences Between American and British English with Luke’s English Podcast

Listen to Luke on All Ears English talking about differences between UK and USA English (audio version)

And for Lindsay’s appearance on my show in this episode, we agreed that it could be really interesting to talk about Lindsay’s home country – the USA and what’s going on there at the moment in terms of economic, political and cultural changes.

You’re going to hear us talking about things like:

The actions of unions and how that has been affecting workers’ rights. 

The way cities are evolving because of changes in people’s working lives especially since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Property prices, the energy crisis, American people’s attitudes about their government, trust in public institutions and other things of that nature.

Also, I couldn’t help adding my own comments about what’s been going on in the UK as well, in order to compare and find similarities between our two countries.

It’s a big year for both the UK and the USE – we have big elections coming up – a presidential election in the USA at the end of the year and a general election in the UK at some point. 

There’s plenty to talk about. I hope you find it all interesting. I’ll talk to you again a little bit at the other end of this conversation, but now, without any further ado, let’s get started. 

“Across the Universe” – Lyrics and Chords

https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-beatles/across-the-universe-chords-202167

867. Multimodal Communication (with Nik Peachey)

This episode is all about the different modes of communication that we use beyond the 4 linguistic skills of reading, writing, listening speaking. My guest is Nik Peachey who has helped to write a new paper published by OUP called Multimodality in ELT: communication skills for today’s generation. Listen to Nik and me chatting about the importance of multimodal literacy in our social interactions and in the ways we consume and produce media online.

[DOWNLOAD AUDIO]

Read the OUP paper “Multimodality: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation” here (OUP registration required)


Introduction Notes / Transcript

Hello!

This episode is a conversation all about multimodality in communication. My guest is Nik Peachey, who will introduce himself to you in a few minutes when the conversation part of this episode begins.

Let me give you a bit of background information about how this episode came about, and what the main topic of conversation is.

I was contacted by OUP (they publish academic materials for English teachers and learners – course books but also teacher training materials for English teachers).

They have published a paper about multimodality in ELT and they wanted to see if I was interested in doing an interview with one of the people involved in the writing of this paper. The paper is called Multimodality in ELT: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation.

I thought “Hmm, multimodality, that’s a nice word – sounds interesting”. I was also aware of Nik Peachey already – he’s a fairly well-known figure in the world of English language teaching and publishing, especially in the UK. He’s a name you see at things like teaching conferences or in teacher training.

So I replied to OUP and said I was interested, they sent me a copy of the paper they have published and we arranged this interview, which actually took place a couple of months ago. It turned out to be a very interesting and wide-ranging conversation about so many things.

Let’s consider the title of that paper again “Multimodality in ELT: Communication Skills for Today’s Generation”.

Basically, this is all about how as teachers we always need to be aware of the ways in which learners of English need to use English to communicate in the world today. This involves looking at communication and considering how that happens, and also considering how changes in technology are having an effect.

How do we communicate? Is it just through language? How is our communication affected by advancements in technology?

What OUP are saying, with this paper, is that more and more our communication is multimodal, which means that we communicate in a variety of different ways or modes.

This is not just in terms of the 4 skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing. That is, traditionally, how communication has been defined.

Those are all linguistic or verbal modes (language based), but there are more communication modes than that, including non-verbal ones which are still hugely important. This includes body language, but there is a lot more than that, especially when you consider how much of our communication is mediated through technology these days.

To try and break this down, let’s think about this in two areas: social interactions (the way we speak and listen to each other face to face), and the way we consume media (content such as video, audio, texts).

There is also how these two things (social interactions and media) combine because more and more we use media to communicate – write texts and emails, do video calls, and combine text, images, video and audio to create social media posts.

So, let’s consider these two areas then: social interactions, and media, and let’s think about how they are multimodal – how they involve many various forms of communication.

In terms of social interactions there’s verbal communication (the words we’re using etc) but also body language, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, physical proximity. Also cultural factors come into play such as pop culture references that we use, or different social codes of behaviour in different cultures.

To communicate successfully we need to have an awareness of those social factors.

*Give an example of how I have to consider these things as an English teacher talking to my class – body language, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, physical proximity, cultural references, social codes of behaviour*

The second area is the way multimodality relates to the way we consume media – for example if you watch some video content online, understanding the various ways in which that media is constructed. How certain visuals are important, the use of certain tropes, the use of different fonts, different colours, different editing techniques, music and so on. Understanding these things allows us to decode the media we see, and this is crucial in understanding the intentions behind content we are exposed to, which in turn helps us to detect things like misinformation or just the purpose of the video.

For example, if you show a certain online video to someone who has very little multimodal awareness (like your grandmother or something) it’s not uncommon for this person just to be completely confused by what they’re seeing, or to experience some kind of culture shock. Imagine playing a video of Davie504 on YouTube to my grandmother. By the way Davie504 is an extremely successful YouTuber who makes very distinctive and funny videos about playing the bass guitar. If my gran watched one of his videos, I genuinely think she would not know what was going on. That’s because she isn’t familiar with all the different codes being used.

So it’s important to be have a level of multimodal literacy, so you can properly understand the media you are consuming, but also so that you can also communicate successfully through media yourself, by doing things like creating social media posts which combine sound, video, text and designs.

Nik Peachey is going to give various examples of these things during the conversation, which should help to clarify this all for you.

Ultimately, this is all about the importance of multimodal literacy in both our everyday communication and also in the way we consume content.

I guess for you, as learners of English, you can just consider how language exists as one part of an overall context which also includes things like culture, non-verbal communication, media literacy and more.

I hope you enjoy the conversation!

One note about the sound – I predict that some of you will comment that you found it hard to hear Nik. He’s not using a podcasting or broadcasting microphone, which might make it a little bit hard to hear him at first. You can hear some sounds of the room around him – a bit of echo and reverb. You might have to adjust your ear at the beginning, but you will get used to it. For me, this conversation got more and more interesting as Nik and I got to know each other better and got really into the whole subject of communication in its various modes. I hope you enjoy it too and that it makes you think about how learning English can be about more than just learning words and grammar.

I’ll speak to you again a little bit at the end of the conversation.