Join me as I meet and get to know Rhiannon, an English coach whose mission is to help you feel awesome about your English. I had never met Rhiannon before this interview, so listen as I get to know her and we chat about her English & Welsh roots, moving to Edinburgh, studying theology at university, early experiences as an English teacher, why learners often feel ashamed of their English, and how she can help. We also discuss the wonders of fish & chips and deep fried Mars bars which you can buy on the streets of Edinburgh.
Fabio has written a book about language learning, based on his own personal experiences of learning English. Each chapter ends with the same sentence: “This is how to learn a language”. But each chapter disagrees with the next. There are many ways to learn a language, and none of them is the only right way to do it. In this episode, we talk all about this and Fabio shares some of his stories. Fabio is the host of “Stolariod Stories” a self-development podcast which includes lots of lessons about learning English, and learning about life in general.
☝️ The audio version has 20+ extra minutes of rambling from Luke ☝️
👉 Get Fabio’s book “Any Language You Want” https://fabiocerpelloni.com/any-language-you-want/
👉 Listen to Fabio interview Luke about stand-up comedy on Stolaroid Stories https://pod.link/1588409467/episode/5a1f614be55bdffa8513091565ef4985
👇 Video version of “The Art of Making People Laugh” on Stolaroid Stories
Also, listen to Luke’s funny story on Bree Aesie’s podcast recently 👇
A conversation with accent coach Luke Nicholson, including lots of insights, advice and conclusions about improving your pronunciation in English.
☝️The audio version contains 20+ extra minutes
Questions to consider before listening
- In your language learning, how important is pronunciation for you?
- How much time do you put into practising it or researching it, compared to other things like grammar or vocabulary?
- How much do you know about the physical ways that we make sounds, and also the ways that we express pronunciation in writing – the phonetic alphabet?
- Think about your mouth, throat, tongue, teeth, nose or other parts. Do you know which parts are responsible for making different sounds in English?
- Try saying different vowel and consonant sounds, and see which parts are involved. Perhaps try counting to 20 and just notice the different parts of your mouth and areas near your mouth that you use, the shape of your lips and so on.
- Does English use sounds that you don’t use in your language? Which ones?
- Are there certain words which always seem to cause you trouble when you speak English? Which specific parts of those words cause the problem?
- How many different accents can you identify in English? Which one do you want to sound like? Why?
- Which accent would you like to have in English? What is that accent called? Why do you want that accent?
- Does it matter if, when you speak, people can tell which part of the world you are from, or that they can tell English isn’t your first language? To what extent does that matter to you, and why?
- What do you think is more important in pronunciation – intelligibility (being clear), or identity (expressing a certain identity with the way you speak).
- How can you actually go about improving your pronunciation? What steps can you take, and what resources can you use?
- What does it mean to have “good pronunciation” or a “good accent”?
- If you are an English teacher, how do you teach pronunciation? What place does it have in your lessons? What are your experiences of teaching it?
Summary of the main conclusions in the conversation
- Improving your pronunciation. According to Luke, it all boils down to these things.
- English is diverse in its pronunciation and accents, and the written word doesn’t always match how it sounds.
- You just have to accept things that seem inconsistent, irregular or complex in English pronunciation, and move forward. Those ‘irregularities’ will seem relatively normal when you get familiar with the language.
- Study pronunciation, but don’t look for “one rule to explain it all”. Instead find little patterns and other ways to help you remember English pronunciation bit by bit.
- Determine your pronunciation priorities and choose a target accent which you can aim for.
- Balance intelligibility (being clear) with expressing your identity through your accent.
- Familiarise yourself with the vocal tract and the sounds of English.
- Learn the phonemic chart and explore stress and intonation patterns.
- Don’t be put off by the phonemic chart. You probably have most of those sounds in your language. Look out for the ones which you don’t have.
- Identify which sounds in English you find difficult, or which cause people to misunderstand you, and focus on them.
- Practice making different sounds and think outside the box to find approaches that work for you.
Luke Nicholson’s Websites
A conversation with Hadar Shemesh, a non-native speaker who has improved her English to a very high level, and who now shares her knowledge and experience with the world through her podcast and YouTube channel. Hadar describes her own experiences of learning English and mastering pronunciation. This episode is all about the voyage of discovery that is learning a language.
👉 Hadar’s website https://hadarshemesh.com/
👉 Hadar’s podcast (InFluency Podcast) https://hadarshemesh.com/influency-podcast/
👉 Hadar’s YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClPyOwXLnSMejFdLvJXjA5A
👉 Hadar’s episode with Luke 👇
Audio & podcast links 👉 https://hadarshemesh.com/magazine/interview-with-luke-from-lukes-english-podcast/
Video version 👇
Comedian Sebastian Marx returns to the podcast in order to talk about Yiddish words which have found their way into the English language, including common words like bagel, glitch and schmooze and plenty more.
👆The audio contains extra content, including an introduction and a short ramble at the end 😉
Word list for this episode 📖
These are the Yiddish words we discussed. Words marked with an X are the ones I couldn’t find in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary.
- Meshuggeneh x
- Oy or Oy vey
- Schlemiel x
- Schmuck: (vulgar) A contemptible or foolish person; a jerk; (שמאָק, shmok, ‘penis’, probably from Old Polish smok, ‘grass snake, dragon’; MW, EO)
- Schmutz x
- Schlong: (vulgar) A penis (שלאַנג, shlang, ‘snake’; cf. German: Schlange; OED)
- Shtick: Comic theme; a defining habit or distinguishing feature or business (שטיק, shtik, ‘piece’; cf. German: Stück, ‘piece’; AHD)
- Schmaltz: Melted chicken fat; excessive sentimentality (שמאַלץ, shmalts or German: Schmalz; OED, MW)
- Schmooze: To converse informally, make small talk or chat (שמועסן, shmuesn, ‘converse’, from Hebrew: שמועות, shəmūʿōth, ‘reports/gossip’; OED, MW). To persuade in insincere or oily fashion; to “lay it on thick”. Noun: schmoozer, abbr. schmooze.
- Schnoz or Schnozz also Schnozzle: A nose, especially a large nose (perhaps from שנויץ, shnoyts, ‘snout’; cf. German: Schnauze; OED, MW)
- (keep) Shtum: Quiet, silent (שטום, shtum, ‘mute’; cf. German: stumm); OED)
- Shul x
- Shvitz x
- Tuchus x
- Verklempt x
- Yenta x
- Shm-reduplication can be used with most any word; e.g. baby-shmaby, cancer-shmancer and fancy-shmancy. This process is a feature of American English from Yiddish, starting among the American Jews of New York City, then the New York dialect and then the whole country.
I found 25/33 of the words in the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary (English).
Previous episodes with Sebastian on LEP 👇
Kate Billington returns to LEP for the third time, to drink tea, talk about my pod-room, learning the bassoon, exam results, learning Chinese, responding to listener comments and talking about her videos on TikTok.
Links and things
The British Council on TikTok
Kate’s video about “It’s raining cats and dogs”
@britishcouncilenglish Replying to @sentimentalbxtch Way ahead of you! #learnontiktok #learnenglish #idioms #edutok #vocabulary #english ♬ original sound – British Council English
@britishcouncilenglish Kate’s back with another ‘very funny joke’ (she made me write that…)! Tell us what you think! #britishhumour #britishcomedy #englishteacher #learnenglish #learnontiktok #vocabulary ♬ original sound – British Council English
British Council Mini-English Lesson on For & Since
Previous appearances on LEP
Welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. I hope you are doing fine out there in podcast land.
Kate Billington is back on the podcast today. Of course, you remember her from episodes 689 and 705.
If you heard those episodes I’m sure you will remember Kate and I know that a lot of you out there will be very happy that she is back again and yes, Kate’s return to this podcast is long overdue. She was a very popular guest when she was on the show before. So it’s great to have her back.
Some of you don’t know Kate because you haven’t heard those episodes but there’s no need for me to introduce her fully now in the intro because I kind of do that again during the conversation, except that Kate is an English teacher from England and we work together at the British Council.
People sometimes ask if Kate has her own podcast or YouTube channel or something, because they want to hear more from her.
Well, recently she started making videos for TikTok. We do talk about this during the episode, but that’s not until the end of the conversation, so I just wanted to give you a heads up about that right now at the start.
Kate is part of a team of teachers making content for the British Council’s channel on TikTok. You’ll see that they are making shorter videos (certainly shorter than mine) about things like British English idioms, culture and other entertaining bits and pieces. So, check it out – @BritishCouncilEnglish on TikTok. The link is on the page for this episode on my website.
So, what you are about to hear is another long and rambling conversation with a guest on my podcast. Hopefully you will stay engaged and entertained throughout while practising your English listening in the process.
All you have to do as you listen to this is keep up with the changes and tangents, and enjoy this conversational journey into things like how Kate helped me with the shelves in my pod-room, how Kate doesn’t agree with the way I arrange my books on those shelves, how it feels to be filmed while talking (and yes there is a video version of this on YouTube), we talk about Kate’s academic successes and failures (or maybe I should say “failure” because it seems there’s only been one, and I’m still not sure it counts as a failure), the Chinese classes that Kate has been taking recently, quite a lot of stuff about Korea (hello Korean listeners), our blood types and what they mean, how we both feel about getting older, and how we feel about certain other English teaching video content that you might find on TikTok, Instagram or YouTube. All that, and much more, starting… now.
Santiago has a top job in the English teaching industry. He is the managing director of English teaching at Oxford University Press. But English is not his first language. He learned it as an adult when he moved to London in his twenties. This conversation explores how he progressed in his English learning and in his career, while dealing with daily challenges and failures in English.
The conclusions are that motivation and positivity are vital, you have to keep going through the difficult times, and you can achieve great things in your career in English even if you’re not perfect. This episode should be a boost for the confidence of all English learners! Keep an open mind, keep your eyes on the prize, keep going and your English WILL improve!
The audio version contains extra content, including my thoughts and conclusions after speaking to Santi
Some thoughts about language learning 👇
- (To borrow a catchphrase from All Ears English Podcast) “It’s about connection not perfection“.
- Use English today – what are you waiting for?
- Learning a language can be painful, but we have to persevere. Keep going through the bad times. Good times are just around the corner.
- Keep your chin up!
- Keep calm and carry on!
- Perseverance, positivity, practice.
- Exposure is so important for learning English – reading a lot, listening a lot, socialising a lot in English.
- Lean into failure, don’t hide from it.
- But if you do hide from it, that’s ok – you’re only human.
- English is a broad church – there’s a lot of diversity in it.
- Your version of English is part of it too, so don’t worry about your accent too much. Work on it, practice being clear, listen & repeat, but at the same time, keep it real – don’t worry if you don’t sound exactly like me. It hasn’t stopped Santi – he’s a success in English and you can do it too.
That’s it! Thanks for listening!
In conversation with Mysterious Al, a contemporary artist / street artist from London now living in Melbourne, Australia. The conversation covers Al’s background, how he makes his art, the difference between street art & graffiti, attitudes towards graffiti, how Al needs to use social media (but doesn’t like it!) his recent ghost train exhibition, and more. Al’s Instagram https://www.instagram.com/mysteriousal/ Al’s website https://www.mysterious.al Video version also available.
Video Version with images and subtitles
Introduction Transcript (audio version)
Welcome back to the podcast. I hope life is treating you kindly today and that you’re not being rained on, or baked by the sun or stuck in traffic or being chased by a bear or something. If you are being chased by a bear, well done for managing to press play on this episode of the podcast while also attempting to escape, and good luck. Maybe play this episode to the bear and he (or she) will suddenly become absorbed in the fascinating conversation that you’re going to hear in this episode, and then you can become friends with the bear and bond over a mutual love and interest in listening to Luke’s English Podcast. Or just throw your phone at the bear as hard as possible and hope that it just leaves you alone, I don’t know, but good luck with that.
OK, now I’ve got that out of my system, let’s start properly.
Welcome to this episode. This one is a conversation with Mysterious Al.
Mysterious Al is an artist from London, now based in Melbourne, Australia.
Al is known as a street artist. He is also a contemporary artist in the more conventional sense, but he is often been called a street artist.
So we’re talking about art here, contemporary art, but more specifically street art, and street art is similar to graffiti but it’s not exactly the same thing. We’ll discuss that during this conversation (the difference between graffiti and street art) as well as lots of other things.
Al used to live in London and was working there at around the same time as Banksy, who is probably the most well-known name in this particular world. You’ve heard of Banksy, right? Banksy is famous for his stencilled street art in the UK, particularly in London and in Bristol.
So, Al is a contemporary of Banksy and was part of the same scene as him in London..
These days Al still displays art work in outdoor urban areas but he also produces canvases, fine art prints, and NFTs in his studio, which he exhibits and sells privately.
A canvas is a work of art on a canvas, in the traditional way – a wooden frame with some canvas stretched over it, and then a painting is done on that surface and it’s then presented or exhibited in a gallery. So Al does canvases, and also NFTs, which are a fairly new thing. NFTs in the art world are basically original, unique digital art works which can be bought and sold online, but not copied. If you’re not sure what NFTs are, and blockchains and stuff, then listen on because we do explain that stuff.
So these days Al works in his studio in Melbourne creating canvases and NFTs, and putting on interesting exhibitions but he also works with councils and brands, making huge murals for buildings, and various other projects.
Al is an amazing artist, his work is really distinctive, and he’s also just an interesting person to talk to and so I thought it could be fascinating to interview him about his art, the specific ways that he makes it, and generally to make an episode about the issues related to street art, graffiti, and what it’s like to be a working artist today.
I hope you find it interesting and that you are motivated to keep listening.
By the way, this podcast is for adult learners of English around the world. I say that because some people listening to this or watching this might not know that. This is a podcast for people in different countries learning English and who want to listen to natural, authentic conversations as a way of developing their English skills.
This conversation might be a bit difficult sometimes because it’s not graded for a particular English level, but I have made a premium episode series in which I explain a lot of phrases that come up in this conversation. If you listen to that and use the accompanying pdf, it’ll really help you to understand this episode properly and you’ll definitely learn more English vocabulary from it, as well as work on your pronunciation too. So, to get the most from this, you could check out Luke’s English Podcast Premium series P42 and you can get it in your podcast app through Acast+ by signing up at www.teacherluke.co.uk/premium
So, English learners, we’re about to start this episode, but to get your mind in the right space for this, which will help you understand it all a bit better, here are some questions for you to consider.
If you like, you can discuss these questions maybe with your English teacher or conversation partners in English, or just on your own, out loud or in your head.
Some questions for you
We’ll start with graffiti
- Do you live in a place where there is graffiti?
- Do you see graffiti around you?
- What do you think when you see graffiti? How do you feel about it?
- Is graffiti a form of art? Or is it a crime? Or both?
- What do you think when you see a piece of graffiti in a certain spot which must have been very difficult to reach, like high up on a building, or next to the train tracks?
- Who is graffiti for? What’s the purpose of it?
- Do you know the names for the different types of graffit or street art?
- Tags, Posters (paste up – paper posters which are pasted to walls with paste), Stencils, Stickers (slapped onto walls, signs etc), Murals (large pieces on walls), Blockbuster murals (huge pictures that take up the entire sides of buildings), Wildstyle – which is the large letters and words painted on a wall or train or something in a very stylised way
And other types probably
This conversation is not all about graffiti though, it’s also about art and the life of an artist.
- What do you think of the world of art?
- The way art is presented to people, and also bought and sold?
- There’s the big, famous, expensive pieces, but also plenty of other art which is made and sold every day at much more reasonable prices.
- Where should art be exhibited? Just in art galleries? Or other places?
- Do you find it interesting to look at art in galleries or do you think they could present art in a different and more exciting way somehow?
- What do you think the life of an artist is like?
- How do they spend their time?
- What are the challenges and the advantages of living as an artist?
- How might social media be important for artists today?
- Which platforms do you think artists can use?
- What might be the good and bad aspects of having to use social media as an artist?
- Do you know what NFTs are?
- Have you ever heard of NFTs?
- What is a block-chain?
- How could NFTs and blockchains change the way digital artists sell their work?
I could go on, but I think that’s enough in terms of questions and info to get you in the right headspace for this conversation.
This is a long episode. No need for me to make it even longer here in the introduction, but you know – you can listen to as much or as little of this as you like. You can pause and continue later, and that is the joy (just one of the joys) of podcasting.
Personally, I hope you listen until the end. I’ll have another little word with you then.
But now, let’s meet Mysterious Al and here we go…
So that was Mysterious Al. I really enjoyed catching up with him after not having seen him for over a decade. He’s exactly the same as he used to be which is nice.
You might be thinking – Luke you didn’t ask him about Banksy!
You said that he used to hang around with Banksy in London.
So, has he ever met him and does he know the true identity of Banksy?
Banksy is a fascinating figure and part of the intrigue and mystique is that we don’t know who he is.
I asked Al by email if he has met him and if he can tell us his true identity.
This is his response.
Yes I have met Banksy, a few times. I think everyone who’s been in the London scene a long time would have crossed his path, but nobody would ever give away his identity because it would give away the fun and he’s worked so hard to protect it.
There are various theories about who Banksy is, including that he’s a member of Massive Attack or that he’s one of the founding members of Gorillaz the band, or even that Banksy is not just one person. I guess we will never know, which is all part of the mystique.
Anyway, this episode was not about Banksy, it was about Mysterious Al, and if you are curious about Al’s work, yes you can find him on Instagram, but also his website is a great place to go if you want to find out about exhibitions in Melbourne, and also if you want to buy some of his work. Mysterious.al
Remember, P42 is all about phrases from this conversation – not just language to describe art, but any phrases which I think you might not have noticed, or understood and which could help you push your level of English higher and higher. Check it out at teacherluke.co.uk/premium
That’s it, cheers!
Special Guest Mark Steel joins me to discuss cultural and linguistic differences between the UK and France, plus accents in the UK and a little tour of some places in the UK that you don’t know about. Also includes a discussion of swearing and rude language in Britain. What is the R word which you should never say in a specific part of the UK? Listen on to find out. Video version available.