Category Archives: Accents

537. How Olly Richards Learns a Language (Part 2) Intermediate Plateau / The Magic of Story / Pronunciation & Personality / Classroom vs Self-Guided Learning

The rest of my conversation with polyglot Olly Richards, talking about how to overcome the intermediate plateau, the magic of story, pronunciation and identity issues, and self-guided learning.

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Intro Transcript

Welcome back to this double episode in which I’m talking to language learner and polyglot Olly Richards all about how to learn languages as an adult.

Olly speaks 8 languages and spends a lot of time working on language courses, and giving advice on his podcast and blog, which are called “I will teach you a language”.

2 years after our last conversation it was interesting to catch up with Olly and see if his approach to language learning has developed.

In this episode I talk to Olly about how to overcome the intermediate plateau, we go into details about the magic of story and how important it is in language learning, we discuss the connection between pronunciation and personality and wonder if the main problem people have with pronunciation is actually an identity issue. There are also comments on learning in the classroom vs self-guided learning.

There’s loads of great advice in here. For premium subscribers I’m doing a video which will sum up the main points and clarify them a bit. That will be available shortly in the app and online for premium members.

But now let’s continue listening to Olly as we have the rest of our conversation about language.

—–

That’s it – I don’t need to say much more!

www.Iwillteachyoualanguage.com

Premium subscribers you’ll get a video summary from me soon.

Sign up for premium at teacherluke.co.uk/premium if you know what’s good for you!

Speak to you soon.

Bye.

534. Sugar Sammy Interview (Part 2) Language & Comedy

Part 2 of my chat with Canadian stand-up comedian Sugar Sammy, talking about his 4 languages, TV shows from our childhood, copying Indian accents, language-related controversy in Quebec, Sammy’s crowd-work skills, stories of difficult gigs in the UK, and our thoughts on recent Star Wars films. At the end of the episode you can hear my spoiler-free review of “Solo: A Star Wars Story”. Transcriptions and notes available.

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Sugarsammy.com – for news of Sammy’s live shows 

Introduction Transcript

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. Here is part 2 of my conversation with Canadian multilingual stand up comedy sensation Sugar Sammy.

In our conversation we’re talking mainly about language and comedy, and here’s an overview of the main points that come up in this episode:

  • First of all we talk about the 4 languages that Sammy speaks
    There’s a tangent about American TV shows that we both used to watch when we were children, and which actually helped Sammy to learn English when he was young.
  • Two of those American TV shows we mention include Knight Rider (the one in which David Hasselhoff drives around in a super cool black talking car) and The Dukes of Hazzard (the one about two brothers who live on a farm in Georgia who drive around Georgia in an orange Dodge Charger, being chased by stupid local police officers, doing lots of jumps and stunts in the car).
  • We talk about accents and copying accents: Specifically the question of whether I should do an impression of an Indian accent on stage, or if that would be inappropriate or unacceptable for some reason.
  • We discuss a language controversy that Sammy was involved in in Quebec, Canada – which included him receiving lots of criticism and even a death threat, essentially for performing a popular show in languages other than French – in Quebec (they are very protective of the French language there) It was quite scandal at the time.
  • We talk about what Sammy does on stage, especially his crowd-work, which is that skill of improvising moments of comedy by talking directly to members of the audience. This is something that Sammy is known for because he does it very well.
  • Sammy talks about some tough comedy gigs he has had in the UK over the years and tells us a story of how he once got heckled by an aggressive audience in Northern Ireland. Heckling is when audience members shout things at you while you’re performing. For a comedian it can be pretty difficult when you’re being heckled, but good comics are able to react and respond with funny “heckle put downs”, funny responses that turn an aggressive comment into a funny moment.
  • Then there’s a bit about Star Wars at the end – because like me, Sammy is a big fan.
    We talk briefly about Sammy’s favourite episode of Star Wars, what he thought of The Last Jedi and whether he is interested in seeing the new Han Solo film. When I recorded this interview I hadn’t seen Solo, but since recording it I have, so I will talk about the Han Solo movie briefly at the end of this episode, giving my non-spoiler review.

Don’t forget that Sammy will be touring parts of Asia soon – this year probably. He has gigs coming up in Malaysia and Singapore and will be organising dates in China and Japan. He also intends to visit Russia and South America to do shows at some point. So Sammy might be performing near you soon and you must go and see him. To get news of Sammy’s shows so you don’t miss him – visit sugarsammy.com and join his mailing list.

Now without any further ado, let’s continue listening to my conversation with the super cool multilingual comedian from Canada – Sugar Sammy.


Sugarsammy.com


Knight Rider

The Dukes of Hazzard

Peter Sellers in The Party (an English actor performing as an Indian character – it would be offensive but Seller’s impression is spot on according to Sammy)


Solo: A Star Wars Story (No-Spoiler Review)

Notes & Transcriptions

For those of you who are Star Wars fans – I’m now going to talk about the latest film, which in English is called “SOLO” – released last month.

This is a “star wars story” – not part of the Skywalker narrative.
It’s an origins story.
I was sceptical about the film.
Production for the film seemed troubled, which is usually not a good sign – but it’s not necessarily a guarantee of a bad film.
The original directors were fired by Kathleen Kennedy (head of Lucasfilm) because they took the film in a comedic direction and there was too much improvisation.
Ron Howard was brought in (a more conventional, reliable Hollywood guy) to fix it and bring it back in line.

Also there were doubts about the ability of Alden Ehrenreich to pull off the performance of a character who we loved so much, largely because of Harrison Ford’s star power.

I kept my expectations pretty low. I just thought – I’d like to see what happens, I just want to enter the world of Star Wars again and see what it’s like. I was ready to be disappointed though.

The film has underperformed at the box office. I’m not sure of the exact figures, but it’s taken less than it should have and might be considered as a financial failure, possibly even losing money for the studio in the short to medium term. It’s bound to make money eventually, long term, but the general feel is that it didn’t do as well as the studio hoped. Perhaps we’ve all had enough of Star Wars now. Star Wars fatigue, or maybe the fanbase has gone a bit weird. Star Wars has always been seen as an indestructible franchise. But the Last Jedi divided audiences, with quite a lot of fans absolutely hating it. Maybe Solo has suffered from the so-called Star Wars backlash.

But Solo isn’t really like The Last Jedi. It doesn’t have the same subtext of progressive politics, or themes that seem to subvert the core ideas of Star Wars. It’s pretty conventional and straightforward stuff.

What I liked

  • The performance by Alden Ehrenreich. He was charismatic, swashbuckling but also had a vulnerable side – the key things that Harrison Ford brought to the role originally. Han Solo has swagger and he’s really cool, but there’s something a bit vulnerable and loveable about him. He’s quite goofy and adorable, but also capable of being quite a ruthless fighter when necessary. It’s an interesting character and the actor did a good job of hitting those points. It’s not just a Harrison Ford impression. He seems to have got the spirit of Han Solo.
  • The dirty, gritty world.
  • Visual effects were incredible (although the whole film was very murky – intentional? Bad cinematography? I personally like that. I don’t need everything to be brightly lit like in the prequels. I like Clint Eastwood films that are full of shadow and darkness and you don’t see everything in bright contrast.)
  • The absence of Jedi and light sabres – it made a nice change. This was all about just having a good blaster at your side, knowing who to trust. It was like Rogue One in that sense. You got the idea that people could die – they weren’t immortal cartoon characters with superhuman abilities.
  • The train robbery scene was amazing, particularly the explosion at the end. I’m not sure why the empire needs to transport goods by train, considering they totally have spaceships, but it made for a good scene and made me think of old action movies and westerns that have action scenes on trains. The film was full of this kind of thing – standard movie tropes but in a Star Wars universe and I liked that. It was appealingly old school.
  • It was a slightly smaller story and that was appealing too. Sometimes you don’t want it to be about the huge Star Wars narrative about destiny and the force. Just a small, compact story about low-level gangsters is all you need.
  • Not too many geeky references to other films. There were some, but they were *fairly* subtle…
  • Nice chemistry between Solo and Chewbacca.
  • There are a couple of jokes which were not bad and pretty much in the spirit of the original films. They didn’t go overboard on the humour like in The Last Jedi, which a lot of the fans hated. I think the original directors probably had a lot more humour in it and after seeing the audience response to the humour in TLJ perhaps Kathleen Kennedy decided to replace them for a more serious director. There is a moment when Han Solo speaks Chewbacca’s language which was a bit over the top (if he speaks Wookie, why did he never do it in the other films – seems like a cheap trick, but it didn’t ruin the film for me.
  • Chewy has some badass moments.
  • Qu’ira’s character is interesting as a femme fatale. Emilia Clarke is very easy on the eye and I found her character to be interesting because I never knew where her loyalties were and there was always this sense that she was going to betray Han, and Han was sort of obsessed with her. It’s a bit like your first love – when, as a younger guy, you fall in love with a girl who might be slightly out of your league and you know she’s always going to break your heart.
  • Just really enjoyable. Woody Harrelson was a dependable screen presence as ever.

What I didn’t like

  • The cheesy musical score running through a lot of the scenes, as if we needed to be told how to feel and to make sure we didn’t get bored or anything
    Some cheesy clichés, which I can’t really remember now – but a lot of typical movie tropes and “yeah, right” moments.
  • There are probably some plot holes and things that didn’t make sense, but I can’t remember what they are. Well, there’s a moment when one character dies and I thought “why did that happen, it seemed completely unnecessary”
  • Some of the moments when they tried to link this film with the wider Star Wars universe – like linking it to some plot points in Rogue One – or just trying to include some of the large Star Wars themes – the birth of the rebellion. It seemed forced, and shoehorned – I mean, like they forced certain big themes into the film (no pun intended). It would have been better to make it a completely self-contained film without having to connect it to the broader world of Star Wars, the birth of the rebellion and all that.
  • Classic westerns like Sergio Leone’s dollar trilogy (spaghetti westerns) are just about those characters in an isolated story. It would have been good to do something like that. Let the audience use their imagination to fit it in with the larger universe.
  • Also, it feels a little bit like Star Wars is pushing an ideological position these days, and I’m not sure how I feel about it. I suppose it always was – the rebellion, the empire. It was basically about the struggle of local groups of freedom fighters against a vastly more powerful military dictatorship. But that message was usually delivered a bit more subtly in the original films. These days it’s like Star Wars needs to push this message a bit harder for some reason.

I can’t go into it in more detail without spoiling the film.

Anyway, those were my thoughts about Solo: A Star Wars Story. If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.

And I just talked about it there because it’s something Sammy and I discussed.

Let me remind you – sugarsammy.com to get news of his upcoming shows – possibly in a city near you soon.

Thanks for listening.

Other news

The World Cup is going on. I really want to talk about that a lot, like I did in 2014 – but I have so many episodes to upload! And I’m working on LEP Premium – basically making some episodes to upload soon and then I’ll launch it properly.

I usually worry when I have too much content to upload. I tend to think – if I upload too much (like loads of World Cup episodes) then people won’t be able to listen to it all and then they might just stop listening completely… they’ll think “Oh I can’t keep up and I don’t really like The World Cup so I’ll just move on to something else” and…

So, expect some WC episodes coming soon during the tournament, but if that’s not your cup of tea (or World Cup of Tea) then I suppose you can just skip them and know that it’s not all going to be about football forever.

Speak to you soon. Bye!

Luke

524. Tricky Pronunciation Debates / “Either” “Neither” / Song + Comedy Sketch

Talking about words which can be pronounced several ways, words which are often pronounced incorrectly by native speakers and the debates, arguments and frustration that arises between native speakers as a result. Includes the “You Say Tomato…” song and the Grammar Nazi sketch, explained. Transcript & notes available.

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Transcript

Welcome to episode 524 of this podcast for learners of English. You know what, I’m going to start this one with a poem that I’ve just written. Anyone who’s heard my so-called poetry before will know that I’m no Bill Shakespeare ok? Anyway, here is my work of genius to kick off this episode.

Here’s a new episode, 1, 2, 3
I’ve got no idea how long this will be
It could be one or two episodes. Let’s see.
I suggest you make a nice cup of tea
Put your feet up on the settee
Get your headphones on your head and when you’re ready
You can focus your attention like it’s a master’s degree
Or simply drift off and relax like you’re floating on the sea
The main thing, for me
Is that you listen carefully
And enjoy this episode of Luke’s English Podcast
Which is completely free.

Moving on…

Coming up in this episode

You can expect a rambling monologue from me which is recorded and presented for you to listen to as part of your ongoing mission to improve your English based on the principle that listening regularly, and for longer periods, is a good way to learn the language, pick up vocabulary, become more familiar with features of pronunciation, develop your instinct for correct grammar and natural English usage while maintaining a strong connection to English as a living and breathing communicative force which exists within us and without us, through us and between us, binding the galaxy together across borders, distinctions, barriers, obstacles and through various dimensions of time and space, leading to rising levels of value, status and quality in diverse and mutually beneficial ways. Basically, listening to this is good for your English, and that helps you to communicate with people from different countries, and that’s good.

Here’s an overview of the things I’d like to cover in this episode, which might become several episodes in fact…

Overview

  • Tricky Pronunciation Debates (arguments about words that people seem to pronounce differently, and also words that people pronounce wrong)
  • Podcast corrections (some comments from listeners with a few corrections)
  • A useful Japanese cat
  • The odd meaning of “Yeah, right”
  • How to actually answer the question “How are you?” or “How are you doing?”
  • Doing impressions of accents from different countries, and whether this is unacceptable or even considered racist in some cases – for example, I can copy the accent of a cockney, I can copy the accent of an American guy, but can I copy the accent of an Indian or Nigerian person? It’s a bit of a cultural minefield… let’s investigate.
  • The benefits of repeat listens – listening to episodes more than once
  • What does the word “podcast” actually mean?
  • Why you need to take extra care while listening to LEP.
  • The phrase, “Don’t be shy, give it a try”

And maybe some more comments about this and that, depending on the time available…

This is all based on comments and questions I’ve had from listeners through various channels…

Unexpected vocabulary question – among / between

What’s the difference between ‘between‘ and ‘among‘?dictionary.cambridge.org/grammar/british-grammar/between-or-among
Mingling among the people
Let’s mingle and socialise!
To mingle = to move around among a group of people in order to socialise and talk to everyone

British Podcast Awards

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/

Before we go any further, I need to tell you that I’m in the running for the British Podcast Awards Listener’s Choice Award this year. Someone informed me on Twitter that they found my podcast listed. OK then, so this is where I implore you to vote for me in the award.

Now, I have an army of Ninjas ready, primed to do my bidding. I have tens of thousands of you, by my reckoning, although I only ever hear from a tiny slice of that audience – a small percentage of you visit the website, leave messages, leave iTunes reviews, actually get in contact with me, download the app, join the mailing list etc… But if I could just mobilise you all and turn you into an international army or something, then I could take over the world!!! Assuming that you’re all capable people of course.

But the thing is, I don’t want to take over the world. What I want to do is to make podcasts, help you learn English, make you laugh on the bus sometimes, tell you stories, talk to guests, pay the bills, raise my family, put food on the table – AND WIN THE LISTENERS’ CHOICE AWARD AT THE BRITISH PODCAST AWARDS.

Last year, we got close. We got into the top 3. You did me proud. #TeamLEP got this podcast into 3rd place- the bronze medal position. Legions of LEpsters came out of the woodwork and voted for the podcast, and I actually got into the top 3. I know I was in bronze position because the BPA tweeted about it on the awards night and I have a screenshot of the tweet.

They have never since said it was a bronze medal. Ever since they’ve just put me in the runner’s up category with load of other podcasts. I don’t know why they dropped my bronze medal status – maybe they wanted to promote the other podcasts who they put in the runners up category, but anyway I was v proud to be a runner up, especially considering the other podcasts that were also runners up and especially the winning podcast, which is my fave podcast, Mark Kermode & Simon Mayo’s Film Review, produced by the BBC. #SoProud

Anyway, let’s see if we can do it again.

So, LEPsters of the world, unite and take to your computers and mobile devices – go to www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/ and search for Luke’s English Podcast. Fill in the details and submit your vote. Voting closes on 17 May 2018. So we have 2 weeks to kick this into overdrive.

www.britishpodcastawards.com/vote/

Let’s make history people.

LEP Premium – Coming Soon

Still before we start, I just want to mention: Premium – coming soon.
LEP Premium is all about me making LEP work as a proper service beyond it being a free podcast.

You might be wondering when this is going to “drop”. I’ve had a couple of questions about it. App users might have noticed that a little “Premium Sign In” option has appeared in the settings menu.

I’m not going to talk about it at length now, but it’s in the pipeline like I said before.
Essentially, the premium subscription will be a way for you to support LEP with a monthly or annual subscription while allowing me to deliver more language and teaching-oriented content (episodes will be specifically about teaching you language, rather than the diverse topics, conversations and rambling that you get in normal episodes) direct to your phone or computer.
I’m doing this using a platform provided by my host – Libsyn, the biggest podcast host in the world. They’ve basically finished setting up my platform now and I am going to produce some premium content before launching it properly, probably later this month.

I’m calling it Premium content because that’s what Libsyn call it. Honestly, I’ve always tried to make all my content “premium” but there it is. In any case, I will as ever, try my best to make the content as good and useful as possible, but with these episodes the plan is to really get down to the business of language teaching. There will be fun and all that too – like in the examples I can improvise to demonstrate the language I’m teaching, but the focus will be on the language primarily – and I think that will go really well with the normal episodes. In many cases it will be a close-up look at the language that’s come up naturally in episodes.

Anyway, that’s enough about that for now. Let’s move on.

How do you pronounce “either”?

Language question – I’d normally leave this for a language episode, like the sort of thing you’ll get in LEPP episodes, but I’ll deal with it here anyway.

Benedikt from Austria, living in Switzerland

Either or either

How do you pronounce them?
Are they the same word?
Are there some times when you say it one way or the other way?
E.g. either we stay or we go (eye-thur) – two different options
I haven’t done it either (eee-thur) – other uses

Luke
They’re both correct.
Same word, same thing.
There’s no difference.
It doesn’t change depending on the situation. It’s exactly the same word with two possible pronunciations.
Everyone will understand you, however you say it.
Eye-thur or ee-thur
Some say that “eye-thur” is more British
And “eeee-thur” is more American.
I often say “eye-thur” but honestly I think I also say eeeethur too and I’m really British.
In fact, thinking about it I probably say eeether just as often as either. (often – that’s another one!)
I think it’s also possible for one person to say them both and there’s no rhyme or reason why it comes out one way or the other. (no rhyme or reason = with no obvious explanation)

Yes, this also applies to “neither”.

It’s a very common issue. English is a very diverse language, and there are some words that culturally we pronounce differently (e.g. American and British English or smaller regions like areas of the UK) and sometimes these are even at an individual level. Some people say “either” others say “either”. It’s no big deal actually.

More words with several pronunciations

Some more examples:
Neither and neither
Potato (US vs UK, but also around the UK)
Tomato (US vs UK)
I’ve chosen ‘tomato’ and ‘potato’ specifically, because they’re in a famous song about this subject.
Often (no difference – just two ways, “offen” is perhaps the original version but with a ‘t’ is fine too)
February
Loads of examples from UK & US English, e.g. “schedule” – another story for another time.
Situations where the word stress seems debatable or people get the word stress wrong (sometimes this is just Brits saying words with American word stress, and other Brits getting pissed off… e.g. my parents)
Harassment (first syllable UK, second syllable US)
Controversy (conTROversy in the UK, CONtroversy in the US – but the Cambridge Dictionary site lists both as being standard to the UK – and lots of Brits still get annoyed when they hear other brits say CONtroversy)
Vulnerable (my Mum insists that it’s only pronounced with the “l” but Cambridge Dictionary says it’s ok without too)
Mischievous (Correct = “mischivus”, not – “mischeevious”, although we do say the noun “mischief”)
**NOTE: “mischivus” is the only correct way to pronounce mischievous. **
**ALSO NOTE: I’m not using phonetic symbols on the website here because I don’t have time and this is an audio podcast not a blog, remember! Listen to the episode to hear how I am pronouncing the words
GIF (moving images which are easily shared on the internet)
Is it “gif” or “jif”?
www.11points.com says:
11 | GIF
Pronunciations: gif, jif
The Internet had come to a decent consensus on the pronunciation of GIF, which is remarkable, of course, since the Internet has never come to a consensus on anything. Everyone was cool with the hard G pronunciation. It sounded better, wouldn’t lead to confusion, and was logical, since GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format. And that’s where the debate SHOULD have ended.
But earlier this year, Steve Wilhite, the man who invented the GIF format for CompuServe, talked. And he said, with conviction: “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations. They are wrong. It is a soft ‘G,’ pronounced ‘jif.’ End of story.”

You say tomato and I say tomato (song)

Going back to “either” “neither” “tomato” “potato” and this whole subject – there is a famous song about it, from back in the 1930s.

“Shall We Dance” (1937) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

00:44 seconds

Lyrics
Things have come to a pretty pass (come to a pass = happened, come to a certain situation)
Our romance is growing flat,
For you like this and the other
While I go for this and that,

Goodness knows what the end will be
Oh I don’t know where I’m at
It looks as if we two will never be one
Something must be done:

You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either Neither, neither
Let’s call the whole thing off. (call it off = cancel it)

You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, Tomato, tomahto.
Let’s call the whole thing off

In most of those cases both words are probably right, but perhaps with some regional differences.

Then there are examples of words that some people say differently, but are generally considered wrong and are worth watching out for. These are the ones that will annoy people – but to be honest if you’re a non-native speaker you’ll probably be forgiven.

The biggest ‘crime’ is when a Brit says these and another Brit hears it, and their blood pressure rises.

Examples: (listen to the audio to hear the pronunciation)
Pronunciation
H
Nuclear” (new-cue-lur) should be new-clee-uh
ETC
Espresso
Prescription
Specific
Arctic
Ask” (this might have racial connotations but I’m not sure)

Some people (who are very particular about this kind of thing) get very upset about it, a bit too much probably…

The Grammar Nazi Sketch – from BBC comedy series “That Mitchell & Webb Look”

How do you say your acronym again? (H H H)

As you can see I didn’t talk about the other points in the overview at the beginning of the episode, but you’ll hear that stuff in forthcoming episodes of the podcast.

Thanks for listening!

Luke

516. Paul McCartney’s Spider Story

Learn English from an anecdote told by Sir Paul McCartney. Let’s listen to Paul telling a sweet story about something funny that happened to him and George Harrison when they were teenagers, before they became world famous musicians in The Beatles. Let’s listen to his story , do some intensive listening practice and then I’ll help you understand everything. Also, let’s have a laugh with some funny Paul McCartney impressions. Video and notes available below.

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Pre-Jingle Vocabulary

This episdoe is called Paul McCartney’s Spider Story and if you keep listening you’ll hear what happens when a couple of Beatles meet a couple of spiders.

You can also do some intensive listening practice focusing on every single word, and then later there are some bits focusing on Paul McCartney’s voice – including a few fun Paul McCartney impressions.

But right here at the beginning, before the jingle even, I just want to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that appear in the episode. I’ll tell you the vocab now and while you’re listening and hopefully enjoying the episode, just try to spot these words and phrases as they come up, and when you do spot them you can just go – oh, there’s that word, there’s that phrase.

  • a bed and breakfast (a B&B) = a simple guesthouse where you pay for a bed for the night and breakfast in the morning, a bit like a basic hotel which is just someone’s home. (e.g. We hitch-hiked around Cornwall and stayed in a few little B&Bs along the way)
  • to turn out (phrasal verb) = when you discover a fact or when something is later revealed to be true or to be the case ,turn out + infinitive (e.g. we got talking to this guy and made friends with him and it turned out that his mum owned a B&B up the road or I was standing in a shop and I overheard someone talking about recording music and a concert and it turned out to be Paul McCartney!)
  • menace (noun) = something dangerous that can cause you harm (e.g. next door’s dog is a real menace to my chickens, or he has an air of menace about him, or there was a hint of menace in his voice)
  • as blind as a bat = totally blind, e.g. I’m as blind as a bat without my glasses! (Bats are often thought to be blind, but in fact their eyes are as good as ours – but they use their ears more at night than their eyes)
  • a nativity scene = a set of models or statues depicting the birth of the baby Jesus Christ, with Mary & Joseph often sitting over the baby Jesus. Every Christmas my school used to display a nativity scene in the school’s entrance. Sometimes people display nativity scenes in their homes or even outside the house if they’re particularly religious at Christmas.
  • to bury the hatchet = to stop a long running argument and become friends again. E.g. I wish you two would just bury the hatchet so we can get the band back together. (bury the weapon you might use to fight with someone)
  • to bury the hatchet in someone’s head = a joke! If you bury a knife, sword or hatchet in this case in someone’s head – it means you stick it deep in their head – to kill them. E.g. I’m ready to bury the hatchet – in your head! – Makes it sound like you’re ready to stop fighting, but actually you still want to kill the other person!
  • showing off = behaving in a way to attract attention and show people how great you are, but in a way that’s annoying. E.g. Dave is really good at the guitar but he’s always showing off doing these ridiculous guitar solos. He just wants to impress everyone. or Stop showing off in front of all the guests!

OK – so, no information yet about the context that those words come up in, but I just wanted to give you a heads up about some bits of vocab that definitely do come up at various points during the episode. See if you can spot them all as they naturally come up. Now, on with the episode!

Introduction

What are we doing in this episode? Listen to an anecdote – a real one, told by none other than Paul McCartney.

This is a video I found on YouTube (see below). Listen to the story, and just work out what’s going on. I’ll give you a few questions to guide you. Then I’ll go through the recording again and explain it, clarify, highlight any features of language and generally help you to understand it as well as I do. So, this is a great chance to learn some English from a real anecdote – a personal little story, in this case told by Sir Paul McCartney.

I love The Beatles. I love listening to Paul talking about, well, anything really, and I love this particular video and this little anecdote.

It’s not a story about how he conquered the world in The Beatles, or how they played Shea Stadium or how they sold millions of records or whatever.

It’s just a sweet and funny little story about something that happened to him and his mate George Harrison when they went hitchhiking in Wales – before they were even famous or in The Beatles.

I think the video originally appears as an outtake from the George Harrison documentary “Living in the Material World”, which was directed by Martin Scorsese. Highly recommended.

He was just asked if he could tell a story about a good memory of George. Of all the things they must have been through together, this is the one he picked.

Who’s Paul McCartney? (as if you don’t know…)

He’s got to be one of the most successful musicians to have ever lived.
He was in The Beatles – you must have heard of them!
I don’t know if you like their music, but you can’t deny that they’re one of the most significant bands ever and also one of the most significant moments in cultural history. I have no doubt that their music and their story will forever be remembered, studied and considered ultimately to be like classical music.

But I don’t mean to build it up too much. For me, I’m a fan of the Beatles not just because of their place in cultural history, but because of the fascinating story of these apparently ordinary guys from Liverpool, their lives, their friendship and the amazing pool of creativity that seemed to open up between them once various factors were in place and the career of the Beatles happened.

Comprehension Questions

Watch the video of “Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison” (below)

Try to answer these questions. Listen to find out the answers.

  1. Why did they hitch hike to this place called Harloch in Wales?
  2. Where did they end up? Why did they spend their time there?
  3. Where did they stay?
  4. What did he realise later on?
  5. Who did they hang out with? What did they do?
  6. What was their reaction to the spiders in their room? How did they deal with the spiders?
  7. Who were Jimmy & Jemimah?

Paul McCartney talking about his best times with George Harrison – “The Menace! The Spiders!”

The second anecdote – Buddy Holly and John Lennon’s poor eyesight

What’s the funny thing Paul says about John’s eyesight?

Answer: John Lennon famously wore glasses because he was very short sighted. He used to take the glasses off if girls were around. Later, Buddy Holly became a famous pop/rock star and suddenly it was quite cool to wear horn-rimmed glasses. Anyway, one night after writing songs at Paul’s house one dark evening at Christmas time, John walked past a house and thought he saw some neighbours still sitting outside in the freezing cold playing cards. Paul later realised that it was just a nativity scene, and John was so blind that he’d thought the statues of Mary & Joseph bending over the baby Jesus were a couple of people playing cards outside their house.

Rob Brydon & Steve Coogan do Beatle Impressions in The Trip to Spain

Rob and Steve do their Paul McCartney impressions. Rob talks about how Paul’s voice has been affected by the fact that his mouth has lost some mobility now that he’s quite old. Steve disagrees and says that he thought Paul was quite articulate. They then start doing John Lennon impressions.

Peter Serafinowicz Show – The Beatles go for a poo

A parody of the Beatles in their Let It Be period, when there was lots of friction in the band and they couldn’t agree on the musical direction for the group. British comedian Peter Serafinowicz does impressions of all the Beatles.

Listen to Episode 414 – “My Uncle Met A Rock Star” – My uncle’s account of how he once met Paul McCartney in a shop

414. With the Family (Part 2) My Uncle Met a Rock Star

503. My Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 1)

Talking about the new Star Wars film including the audience reaction, English accents you can hear in Star Wars, and a run-through of the plot with my thoughts about the events and characters. Plot spoilers throughout the episode! Transcript available.

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Transcript (95% complete)

This episode is all about Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Some of this stuff that I’m saying is scripted, some parts are not – but if you want to read along with me while I’m talking, which can be a great way to work on your English, see specific phrases I’m using and so on – if you want to read along with me, check out the page for this episode on my website.

In fact there will be two episodes about Star Wars. This one, which is just me talking about the film, going through the plot, giving my thoughts and discussing the audience reactions to the film, and also the next one, which will be a conversation about the film with my brother and my dad. We went to see the film together while they were here at Christmas time and afterwards I managed to record a conversation with the them and you can hear their reactions and some general rambling about it – that’ll be in the next episode.

So, at least 2 episodes about Star Wars. I was wondering if I should devote so much time to this, especially considering that some of you probably aren’t into Star Wars at all. Then I thought to myself – “Well, how do I choose my topics when I know that I can’t please everyone?” Often the deciding factor is – do I want to talk about it myself? Would I want to listen to it? The answer to those questions is yes. When I came out of the cinema in December having just seen this film I just wanted to hear other people’s comments about the film, and I looked for podcasts about it and youtube videos and stuff, and if I was learning English I would definitely like to hear someone talking about this film in English. Certainly for my ideal learning French podcast I would want to hear someone discussing the film in some depth in clear French – I am still yet to find this elusive perfect French version of Luke’s English podcast! And also, you know what? I just really want to talk about Star Wars for a while just because it pleases me to do it. So there you go, that’s my justification for doing these episodes.

SPOILERS

There are spoilers for the film throughout this episode – so if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet, you might want to wait before you listen to this. I’m pretty sure the film has been out for a while in most places. I understand that it came out in China on 5 January – a bit later than in other countries. So I think there’s been enough time now for me to do some spoilers.
If you’re not a fan of Star Wars (which is totally fine of course), I understand that this might not be for you. I don’t expect everyone to be into Star Wars – it’s just something I’ve always enjoyed since childhood. So if you’re just not a Star Wars fan – I totally understand, but you’ll just have to put up with an episode or two about Star Wars this time, or you can just skip them – it’s totally up to you.

If you want to listen to something else from me, like perhaps an episode about vocabulary, or an episode with various jokes, an episode with a mystery adventure story or an episode with grammar and pronunciation questions answered – let me remind you that you can download the LEP App completely free and there you will find at least 7 exclusive app-only episodes that deal with those things specifically.

Just check out the app store, download the LEP app, check the App-Only Episodes category and away you go.

And of course you have the entire episode archive there which you can peruse at your leisure.
But for this one and the next one, it’s all about Star Wars – and if you are a fan, I hope you will enjoy being immersed in the world of Star Wars The Last Jedi for a couple of episodes.
Let me say again very clearly there will be spoilers coming as I am going to talk about exactly what happens in The Last Jedi in quite a lot of detail. Please don’t let me spoil this film for you – even if you’re keen to listen to this new episode I strongly recommend that you wait until you’ve seen the film first.

So, perhaps the people I have left with me now are:
Fans of Star Wars who have already seen the film.
And maybe some other LEPsters who might not be big fans of Star Wars but are just happy to listen to me talking about it, even if it includes plot spoilers.

I should also say that I might lose some more of you when I say that I really liked Star Wars The Last Jedi – not everything, but on the whole I really enjoyed the film and I feel like the good things definitely outweigh the bad things.

I have seen it twice now, and so there’s always a chance that I might change my opinion after seeing it a third time, but I don’t think so.

I said I might lose some more of you when I say that I enjoyed this film and that is because the response to this film has been very divided. Plenty of people like it a lot but having said that plenty of people dislike and even hate this film.

This reaction mainly comes from so-called “hardcore fans” online who are posting very negative reviews on YouTube as well as on film review websites like IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes.
But I’m quite a hardcore fan and I loved it.

In terms of my fandom, here is a summary. I grew up with the films. Watched the original trilogy over and over again throughout my life. Watched ROTJ in the cinema. As a teenager I used to have lots of fun speculating about the back story of certain characters and so on. As a child I used to think I was Luke Skywalker, as I’ve said in previous episodes. I was quite obsessive about it growing up. In the 90s and 2000s I saw the prequel films and was disappointed by them. I found them to be badly written and directed, with pretty bland characters and too much CGI. Not everything was bad about the prequels – I like the Darth Maul scenes, the pod-race, the scenes between Obi Wan Kenobi and Jango Fett but that might be it I think. I found the rest of it to be more like a Saturday morning cartoon in places.

More recently I saw reviews of the prequel trilogy on YouTube that cemented my opinion of those films as being rubbish. I’m talking about Mr Plinkett’s reviews, by RedLetterMedia.

Very astute criticisms of the prequels, with some twisted humour thrown in.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the prequel trilogy “ruined my childhood” as some fans have said (and are also saying about The Last Jedi). I think if your childhood can be ruined by a fantasy film that you watch as an adult, then perhaps your childhood was already quite flimsy in the first place. What this phrase really means is that the films spoil the Star Wars franchise, which was such a key part of your upbringing… Anyway, the prequels didn’t ruin my childhood but they did disappoint me a bit.

Then it was announced that more Star Wars movies would be released, after Lucasfilm was taken over by Disney. 2 years ago The Force Awakens was released and I really enjoyed it, even if it was very derivative of the original Star Wars films (episode 4). It basically copied the plot of Episode 4 – but I’m alright with that. I thought it was done in a way that was far closer to the original spirit and aesthetic of Star Wars and that was really pleasing. Also they introduced a few new characters that was interesting.

Also, in 2015 Rogue One was released – a film set just before Episode 4. This was a sort of war movie inspired episode that didn’t have any Jedi or lightsabers, but told the story of how the rebels managed to get the plans to destroy the Death Star. I really enjoyed that too! It feels like Star Wars is good again.

I love reading about fan theories and speculations on forums (like Star Wars Leaks on Reddit) and I do watch lots of dumb YouTube speculation videos about Star Wars, and there were a lot of them released onto YouTube before The Last Jedi came out.
But I like to think that I have my fandom under control. I love the world of Star Wars and I feel invested in the stories, but I try not to expect too much from the films. I remember the prequel trilogy – I used to get my hopes up really high before each film was released and I was disappointed each time.

Also, I know that your enjoyment of these films is largely a question of taste and a question of subjective experience. What makes a bad film for some people makes a good film for others.

The relationship between the fans of Star Wars and the films is very complicated. A lot of people feel very personally invested in this franchise. The fans feel that they own the franchise or that it represents their own personal life, childhood, dreams, imagination and everything.

It’s strange how Star Wars can do that. When it is at its best it manages to touch people in the most personal and profound ways. Also, the level of speculation and theorising among the fans has created such massive expectation from the films that it’s almost impossible to please everyone now, and when a film fails to meet people’s specific vision for the story and characters it can feel like a very personal disappointment.

But I think some fans are expecting too much from Star Wars now. They’ve put it on a pedestal – which is a way of saying that they expect it to be perfect and to live up to their highest expectations all the time. But it’s just a movie franchise and to an extent it’s a children’s movie franchise. I think some people just need to chill out a bit and stop expecting so much from the films. Saying that, there is bound to be someone out there listening to me who disagrees, who says I’m being an apologist, who says there’s no excuse for what they’ve done.
When I read some of the negative reactions, I honestly think – “did we see the same film?” Some people are so angry! It makes me wonder if perhaps there are other things going on, like that these people are not just angry with the film, but they’re angry with what they see as a certain political agenda being expressed through the film. This probably feeds into the ongoing saga of the war between right-wing people (who don’t say they’re right wing) and what they describe as liberal social justice warriors. I see these arguments all the time online in comments sections and so on. The angry ones (whatever their political position) get furious when there’s a suggestion that a film is being used to promote feminism, or to promote ethnic diversity or perhaps animal welfare or environmental issues. A hint of this in a film makes some people really mad. There’s a bit of this in The Last Jedi – some strong female characters, black, asian and hispanic actors in prominent roles, a storyline about animal cruelty… Part of the hatred aimed at SW is fuelled by this stuff.

But also, some people don’t like it because they think it’s bad storytelling, and because of the way some characters are dealt with – particularly Luke Skywalker. A lot of people can’t stand the way he is represented in the film.

Added to that, there’s the humour. Some people have really taken against the moments of humour which they think don’t fit in with the tone of the film as a whole or the whole franchise in general.

I’m talking there about some reasons why the film is disliked by some people – but not everyone of course. Plenty of people like or love this film too although it’s hard to tell what the overall audience reaction has been. I think it’s fair to say that the film is dividing people, particularly the more serious fans.

I don’t know what you thought of The Last Jedi. There are some pretty strong feelings out there. You might disagree with me when I say I like it, but I hope you hear me out on this. Of course the film is not 100% perfect or anything but generally I think there is a great deal to be enjoyed about it.

Story recap

I’d like to now go through the film from start to finish, describe what happens and give my thoughts on each part.
You remember the numbers don’t you?
OT – Original Trilogy (4, 5, 6)
PT – Prequel Trilogy (1, 2, 3)
ST – Sequel Trilogy (7, 8, 9)
Also Rogue One that fits in before episode 4.

The Force Awakens
The Resistance are searching for Luke Skywalker because they need his help. There’s a missing piece of a map hidden inside the droid BB8.
A scavenger girl called Rey finds the droid.
Han Solo and Princess Leia had a son who turned to the dark side.

The Last Jedi – Opening Crawl

How did it feel in the cinema at this point?
I was trying to keep my expectations realistic. I thought – if I expect too much from this I might be disappointed. It’s just a film and ultimately it’s just a space fantasy. It seems silly to invest so much into it.

Having said that, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into some new Star Wars and I had no idea what was coming.

The Lucasfilm logo appeared and I was really trying to just stay calm but I have to admit it was difficult. I felt really nervous.

Star Wars logo + music and I was already getting chills and started welling up. I know it’s a bit pathetic or something, but there it is. Somehow these films just take me directly back to my childhood. It’s like stepping back in time and going straight back to my living room when I was 7 years old and my Dad was younger than I am now and I’d never had any real experiences, I’d never left home, never had my heart-broken, never fallen in love…
I was a bit emotional during this film. I just can’t help it. Also bear in mind that I was watching this while fully expecting my wife to give birth to our baby at any moment. I literally had my phone in my hand and every single vibration I expected was a text from my wife saying that her water had broken. Anyway, I was feeling very emotionally susceptible while watching the film, which is fine – I’m in touch with my feelings, there’s nothing wrong with that, is there?
The opening crawl started and it’s impossible not to get excited by this, if you’re a Star Wars fan. For some reason I can never really read it and take it in.

Episode VIII
THE LAST JEDI
The FIRST ORDER reigns.
Having decimated the peaceful
Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke
now deploys his merciless
legions to seize military
control of the galaxy.

Only General Leia Organa’s
band of RESISTANCE fighters
stand against the rising
tyranny, certain that Jedi
Master Luke Skywalker will
return and restore a spark of
hope to the fight.

But the Resistance has been
exposed. As the First Order
speeds toward the Rebel base,
the brave heroes mount a
desperate escape….

The First Order are now in complete control of the galaxy after having blown up the republic with Starkiller Base.
The Resistance are on the run, escaping from their base. The First Order are closing in, with vastly superior weaponry, ships, and so on.
They blow up the base as remaining resistance ships escape, but they’re being pursued by a First Order fleet.
In an effective but costly counterattack led by Poe Dameron, Resistance fighters manage to destroy a First Order dreadnought.
One of the FO officers is played by Ade Edmondson, and all the Brits are delighted.
Admiral Hux is played by Domhnall Gleeson, Irish actor. He really “hams it up”.
First bit of controversial humour. “Holding for Admiral Hugs” etc.
FO officers are pretty incompetent and Gleeson plays a lot of his scenes for laughs – it’s a completely over the top performance. Old fashioned RP, and general frothing at the mouth.

A note about accents:
In SW almost all the Imperial Officers have old fashioned heightened RP accents. This is because this is the accent that Americans associate with an evil old empire – because the British Empire was an evil old empire for the USA. This association still exists – more so in the 70s but still today. Also, it means stuffy formality.
Obi Wan Kenobi also had an old school English accent, but that was to suggest that he came from an era that no longer exists – the old republic. It just fits the character. His British accent gives him class, dignity and suggests that he is more than just a “crazy old man”.
Vader also had a bit of an RP British accent, but this gradually changed into a trans-atlantic American accent. Still old fashioned and formal in tone, but a bit American. That’s just because the voice actor – James Earl Jones – was a classically trained American actor. These great actors really brought a lot of weight and class to the original films and this was repeated in the prequel trilogy. They chose more well trained British actors because they have class. This includes people like Terence Stamp.

In this sequel trilogy (ST), accents are also used to create certain feelings and associations with the characters. The FO officers still speak in old fashioned RP in order to give that sense of old empire (think of the naval officers in Pirates of the Caribbean who speak in a similarly old fashioned way). Supreme Leader Snoke speaks in formal British RP. We don’t know much about him (and I’ll come to that in a bit) but basically he’s a bit like the Emperor – probably very old and powerful and he is the Supreme Leader of the First Order so of course he has the old fashioned English RP accent.

Most of the other characters speak American English though, and this seems to be the default accent for “ordinary person” in the Star Wars universe. This includes Han Solo – a kind of cowboy smuggler flyboy kind of guy, and Luke Skywalker- just a farmer from a desert planet – nobody special (or at least that is the background he has come from).

Also, most of the new characters speak with standard American accents – Finn is just an ordinary guy – quite a low level person since he used to be just a stormtrooper and he speaks with an American accent, although the actor is actually from Peckham in South London. Apparently he auditioned in his normal voice but it just didn’t feel right. He auditioned in an American accent and it just fit the character better. Poe Dameron also has a standard American accent. As I said – ordinary people, rebels, not part of the empire.

But then there’s Rey. She speaks with quite a posh English accent, although not in the formal way that the FO officers speak. She is definitely just a normal person too, and according to this film she is nobody special (unless this is just a trick and in episode 9 they will reveal something special about her, but I don’t think so – again, more on this later). So why does she have this English RP accent? I don’t really know! Perhaps the actress doesn’t do a very good American accent and this is just her normal voice. Perhaps they just wanted to arouse our interest in this character by giving her a distinctive and classy voice, like Obi Wan Kenobi. The fans certainly took this point as a big clue about her origins. A lot of people believed that because she is force sensitive and speaks in a posh English accent that she must be related to other force users with this accent like Obi Wan Kenobi or perhaps even Emperor Palpatine. There are other details that support these fan theories. But apparently her accent doesn’t mean this. But still, it’s interesting to note that although she grew up on an insignificant planet and lived as a scavenger for all her life, she still speaks with quite a posh English accent, when all the people around her on her home planet of Jakku don’t have the same accent. Her slave owner for example (because in TFA she appears to be basically a slave or at least someone who works for food rations rather than money) – her master or boss speaks with a working class cockney English accent.
Just a note on accents there. Next time you watch these films in English, think about that.
Back to the plot.

The Resistance avoid getting blown up by the First Order ships – massive battleships called Dreadnaughts.

Poe Dameron bravely and recklessly flies right up to the FO dreadnaught and does some Top Gun style maverick moves, taking out lots of gun turrets and generally being a brilliant pilot. He clears the way for the Resistance bombers.
WW2 style bombers.

Star Wars always took inspiration from WW2 films.

The bombers are laden with cool-looking round black bombs.

Some people say “but there’s no gravity in space!” – but this is Star Wars not Star Trek. It’s fantasy, not science fiction. If your argument is that it doesn’t make scientific sense then sorry, that’s a bit invalid considering Star Wars has never stood up to scientific scrutiny. It’s an emotional character driven fable set in space in a galaxy far far away a long time ago. It’s more like a greek myth or an episode of Flash Gordon than 2001 A Space Odyssey.
There are some classic moments of Star Wars fighter combat in space, including a fat guy with a beard who instantly dies. This is something that happens in so many Star Wars films, beginning with Episode 4 when a fat bearded pilot called Porkins dies, and it happens again in Episode 7 I think, and then here we go again – a fat bearded pilot buys the farm almost instantly. It’s a running joke. I wonder how the fat bearded guy community feels about this.
Poe is an awesome pilot but an incredible risk taker and he ends up getting most of the Resistance fleet destroyed, except for one lone bomber which somehow manages to get through the FO defences.

Super-dramatic sequence with the last remaining bomber.

This feels like the ending sequence of the film rather than the start.

How could anyone not find this exciting and brilliant?

This is Rose’s sister. She’s a gunner on the bomber. All the other crew have been killed. It’s up to her to drop the bombs. Very dramatic stuff with the trigger button. She falls and the button is on a ledge above her. There’s a suggestion that Leia uses the force to help her. She also holds onto a necklace – the other half belongs to her sister Rose. The button drops down but she seems to miss it. This is executed in a slightly cheesy and cliched way by Rian Johnson. The button clearly drops past her and out of reach but in slow motion we see the button dropping from another angle and her hand comes from nowhere to grab it.

It’s exactly the same thing that happens in Mission Impossible with Tom Cruise when he is in a high security room trying to steal some classified information or something. He’s suspended from the ceiling and a bead of sweat drops from his forehead. If it touches the floor, he’s dead basically. The bead of sweat falls and is definitely going to land on the floor but his hand comes in and stops it at the last minute. The magic of the movies, right?

Some people probably found that annoying, but it’s just a trick that’s been used in countless other movies. Movies always play with time, they slow it down, speed it up, use different angles and so on in order to raise the tension. The worst you can say about this sequence is that it’s a cliche. I personally found it to be good old fashioned dramatic tension and the moment when she presses the button and the bombs drop onto the dreadnaught very satisfying. Massive explosion and the dreadnaught is destroyed, although at great cost to the Resistance.

That was a really exciting sequence. I didn’t mind the jokey dialogue between Poe and Hux. I love the way the FO officers are quite ridiculous. I always found that funny in Star Wars anyway.
But there is a hell of a lot of war in this film. Of course – it’s Star Wars. But I remember James saying in another episode that we did about Star Wars once – will this war ever end? Probably not. It’s going to go on and on forever. It’s a pity that this is all about war and that this is great entertainment for us. War as entertainment. That’s a bit of a pity. You see it a lot in other films too, like Avengers Infinity War for example. War war war – explosions and explosions.
The Resistance fleet jumps into hyperspace and escapes, for now.
Poe gets told off by General Leia who demotes him.
Poe’s character arc in this film is that he has to learn how to develop from a reckless if brilliant fighter pilot to a strategic and inspiring leader of the Resistance.
One of the complaints about the film is that none of the characters develop. I disagree. Most of the characters have clear character arcs.
Hux gets told off by Supreme Leader Snoke who throws him around the room and drags him across the floor using the force.
So, I think Hux is summoned to Snoke’s throne room along with Kylo Ren.
Snoke is really pissed off but Hux reveals that they are actually tracking the Resistance through hyperspace – something that wasn’t possible before – hyperspace tracking.
Some fans are pissed off about this – that it’s a new thing that’s come from nowhere but this was mentioned v quickly in Rogue One, so there it is – it’s not completely out of the blue that this is possible.
This kind of gets him off the hook with Snoke.
Then Hux leaves Snoke alone with Kylo Ren who is still wearing his mask from episode 7.
This is a cool scene.
Snoke bullies Kylo – explains how he’s disappointed, how he’s lost faith in him, how he is still conflicted despite having killed Solo. He said when he found him he thought he had so much potential and raw power and that he could be the new Darth Vader but he’s just a boy in a mask who got beaten by a girl. To be fair to Kylo he had been shot when he took on Rey, but still. Snoke really makes him feel small and useless. Snoke is manipulating him but in a very cruel way.
He basically slaps him down. In fact he gives him a jolt of force lightning. Kylo stands up defiantly and Snoke shocks him quickly sending him flying backwards. I suppose to teach him a lesson – like a cruel parent or something. When this happens we see Snoke’s power used casually and also his guards quickly adopt fighting positions when Kylo stands and then return to their original positions after a couple of seconds. These guards look badass and cool, and better than the Imperial Guards that (badly) protected Emperor Palpatine in the original films.
Snoke looks amazing.
Kylo feels utterly humiliated and furious at this point.
Adam Driver’s performance is great.
It’s understated, except for the moments when he flies into a rage. We don’t quite know what’s going on inside him, except for subtle looks he gives, subtle changes in his expression which suggest that he’s feeling hurt, angry, determined, impatient, calculating. He’s a bit of an enigma. He never blinks in the film, I think. He never quite reveals his hand.
I feel sympathy towards him, considering how Snoke bullies him, builds him up and knocks him down.
I actually think he’s a bit more interesting than just a guy in a mask. Vader is of course a brilliant villain, but he’s also really ridiculous. The helmet is a bit over the top.
Kylo removes the mask and this is a good idea – in terms of the film making. It allows us to see Adam Driver’s performance. I like the way he is mostly quite blank in his expression – it’s hard to read him. Then at certain key moments we see the conflict inside him.
I like the fact that we never really know which way he is going. Is he turning good or bad? Or is it possible that he’s going in a completely new direction – against The Resistance & Luke Skywalker but also against Snoke who is using and abusing him?
Kylo is upset and very angry – not only does he remove the mask but he destroys it against the wall of the lift. He smashes it to pieces. This guy is calm and expressionless one minute and completely unhinged the next minute and I love that.
He orders his ship to be made ready.
The Resistance are just licking their wounds from the bomber run on the dreadnaught. Poe is feeling gutted that he’s been demoted.
Finn wakes up inside his bacta tank thing – some sort of medical body suit he’s been wearing while recovering. There’s a bit of comedy when he walks out of the medical ward wearing this ridiculous suit with pipes sticking out of it and liquid going everywhere. It looks pretty dumb, but it doesn’t really do any harm to the film or to Finn. Just a slightly goofy moment. Poe sees him and kind of fills him in on the plot.
I think at this point the First Order ships suddenly jump out of hyperspace right behind the Resistance and The Resistance are shocked to discover that the First Order have somehow tracked them through hyperspace.
The thing is, The Resistance are a certain distance ahead of the First Order ships – just out of range of the FO’s big weapons. I admit that this part of the plot is quite contrived. We now have a sort of standoff, or a low-speed chase in which the FO can’t get any closer because their big ships aren’t quite fast enough and The REsistance ships are relying on their shields and their mobility to keep out of range of the FO’s guns.
I don’t know why the FO can’t just do a really quick hyperspace jump so they’re immediately behind The Resistance ships and then use their big weapons. I don’t really understand why the FO ships aren’t faster and why their big weapons have such a short range – but honestly, I don’t really care. It doesn’t matter that much to me. The situation is this – the FO decide to play the long game. They’re convinced that eventually The Resistance will run out of fuel and then their shields will fail and they’ll fall within range and the FO will be able to destroy them. They also know that The Resistance can’t escape through hyperspeed. So they wait. That’s good enough for me! It shows the arrogance and cruelty of the FO – enjoying the feeling that they have the upper hand and perhaps even relishing the dominance of their position.
In terms of the film it allows other things to happen in the meantime and works as a kind of ticking clock device, which is really common in many films. A ticking clock or ultimatum which gives a sense of urgency to everything that happens. The protagonists have to hurry because they’re running out of time.
Kylo then goes out on an attack run against The Resistance with a few other FO fighters.
First time we’ve seen Kylo in his own Tie Fighter. It’s a bit like Vader’s tie fighter or perhaps the fighter flown by Anakin Skywalker in the prequels. Kylo also does some spinning, which is something Anakin was known for doing in the prequels. It’s quite a nice touch since Kylo is Anakin’s grandson.
Kylo destroys a lot of The Resistance x-wing fighters in the hanger on their ship The Raddus.
Loads of Resistance pilots die.
Kylo is a badass pilot. He flies past the bridge of The Raddus, where his mother Admiral Leia is situated. There’s a cool moment when the two of them obviously become aware of each other through the force. Kylo is planning to blow up the bridge, killing everyone, including his mother, but he pauses and seems to be wrestling with inner conflict. We see Leia perhaps reaching out using the force. This is a great emotional moment and really good performances by both Adam Driver and Carrie Fisher. A lot of emotion is shown in their faces. Kylo doesn’t shoot his missiles into the bridge. He can’t kill his mother, apparently. Maybe Leia is using the force to control his mind or something, or perhaps Kylo hasn’t become completely dark yet and the light part of him has mercy on her. It’s interesting anyway – to see his conflict and to consider where his loyalties really lie – with Snoke or with Leia. We don’t really know, but he doesn’t launch his missiles in any case. However, the two tie-fighters by his side do shoot their missiles and the bridge is blown up – sending everyone hurtling out into space, including Leia.
Kylo is then told to return to the FO fleet and he seems frustrated – perhaps because his mother has just been blown up, or because he resents being given orders by General Hux. At this moment I feel like he’s going to turn back to the light side, or at least that he’s not completely loyal to Snoke and the FO. This conflict is really interesting and I don’t see why some people don’t see this as a really positive point about the film. Trying to work out Kylo Ren is fascinating.
I reckon the best things about this film are the inner conflicts in the main characters. There is depth, contradiction, failure, confusion and pain in these characters, and the film shows this to the audience, rather than explaining it in really clumsy dialogue like you get in the prequel films.
Kylo flies back to the FO fleet.
Then perhaps the most controversial and weird moment in this film happens. This is the one that a lot of people really don’t like.
This is the end of part 1.
Part 2 – coming soon.

495. Australian Stereotypes and Cliches (with Oliver Gee) ~didgeridoo sounds~

Discussing stereotypes and clichés about Australia with podcaster Oliver Gee who comes from a land down under. Learn about Australian English, Aussie accent, Aussie slang and exactly what you should say whenever you meet a true blue Aussie, mate! Vocabulary list available. Hooroo.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast I’m talking to Oliver Gee who comes from Australia.

Oliver lives in Paris these days and is a journalist and podcaster – he does a podcast about Paris for World Radio Paris, which is a sort of radio network in English, based in Paris.

Oliver’s podcast is called The Earful Tower – and it’s available from all good podcasting apps and online at theearfultower.com/ 

Click here to listen to Oli’s podcast The Earful Tower

If you are a subscriber to my email list then you’ll know that earlier this year Oliver invited me onto The Earful Tower to talk about French people learning English. You can find conversation on the Earful Tower in the episode archive.

This time I thought I’d invite Oliver on to LEP in order to talk about all things Australian.

Australia is of course a country where English is the first language and Australian English is a thing. It’s definitely a thing. I mean, it’s a major type of English in its own right. Everyone always talks about American English and British English as the two types, but of course there are plenty of other types of English – with their own accents, particular words and so on. Australian English, New Zealand English, Irish English, South African English, Canadian English and more…

But let’s turn our attention in this episode to Australia.

Australian English is it’s own thing basically. Originally it was a form of British English, but like American English it has evolved into its own form of the language, with a distinctive accent and vocabulary that reflects the things you might see, experience or feel if you were living in this place which is very far removed from life in the UK. Australian English is also undoubtedly influenced by American English as well to a certain extent.

Now, let’s consider the land down under before listening to this conversation. I want you to think about Australia.

What do you know about Australia?
Have you ever met an Australian? Or been to Australia itself?
Can you recognise or understand Australian accents?
What does an Aussie accent sound like?
What should you say to an Australian when you meet them, in order to impress them?
What are the stereotypes of Australia? Are they true?
And what are Vegemite, Tim Tams and Thongs anyway?

You can now look for answers to those questions as we now talk to Oliver Gee from Australia… (didgeridoo sounds)

Australian Words, Phrases and Reference Points

  • G’day
  • Mate
  • How ya going?
  • Arvo
  • Bail – to cancel plans
  • Barbie – Barbecue
  • Brekky – Breakfast
  • Brolly – Umbrella
  • Choccy Biccy – Chocolate Biscuit
  • Chrissie – Christmas
  • Ciggy – a Cigarette
  • Dunny – Toilet
  • Good On Ya – Good work
  • Heaps – loads, lots, many
  • Maccas – McDonalds
  • No Worries – it’s Ok
  • Servo Service Station
  • Sickie – a sick day off work
  • Stoked – Happy, Pleased
  • Straya – Australia
  • Thongs – Flip Flops. Do not be alarmed if your new found Australian friend asks you to wear thongs to the beach. They are most likely expressing their concern of the hot sand on your delicate feet.

Other references (some clichés)

  • Crocodiles
  • Spiders
  • Snakes
  • Ugg boots
  • Didgeridoos
  • Boomerangs
  • Flip flops (thongs)
  • Relaxed people
  • Beer drinking
  • Vegemite
  • Selfies
  • Baz Lurhman making a film
  • AC/DC
  • Sydney Opera house
  • Heath Ledger
  • Kylie
  • Koala bears
  • The outback
  • Steve Irwin
  • Hugh Jackman and Chris Hemsworth
  • WI FI
  • Black box recorders
  • Polymer banknotes
  • Wine
  • BBQs
  • Cricket
  • Tim tams
  • Aborigines
  • The spork
  • Coffee

Outtro

So that was Oli Gee from Australia mate.

I hope you enjoyed listening to our conversation.

Remember you can listen to Oli’s episodes of The Earful Tower on iTunes or any other good podcasting service. Find the earful tower episode with me talking about French people learning English by dipping into the episode archive on teacherluke.co.uk and search for Earful Tower.

That brings us to the end of this episode.

Thank you for listening .

Check the page for this episode on the website and you’ll find transcriptions of the intro and outtro and some notes for my conversation with Oli including some of the Australian slang and other specific words.

Join the mailing list.

Episode 500 is coming up and I’m thinking of things to do for it.

Please send me your voice messages for episode 500 – luketeacher@hotmail.com

One idea I had was to collect audio messages from you the audience – short ones, and then put them all up in episode 500. So if you have any messages for me, please send them to luketeacher@hotmail.com

What I’d like you to say is:

  • Your name
  • Where you’re from
  • Something else, like:
    • If you’d like to say something to the audience
    • If you’d like to say something to me
    • If you’d like to ask me a question
    • How you first discovered the podcast
    • How you learn English with the podcast
    • Anything else you’d like to say

Make it no more than 30 seconds. I know that’s short but it’s going to be a montage of all the recordings and it’ll be really cool if they’re all pretty short.

So about 30 seconds and don’t forget to say your name and where you’re from. It’s not a competition this time but more of a celebration. I can’t believe I’ve done 500 episodes and they’re all about an hour each or more.

Anyway, it’s been a lot of fun and I’m very happy to have reached 500 episodes. Why don’t you celebrate with me and send a voice message to luketeacher@hotmail.com

Thanks for listening!

Bye!

Luke

488. A Rambling Conversation with Mum (Part 1) + Vocabulary

A conversation with my (lovely) mum in which we generally witter on about a number of different things including some British history, ways of describing rain, different expressions for talking (like rambling and wittering), my mum’s accent, what she thinks of this podcast and some of her podcast recommendations. Vocabulary is explained after the conversation and there is a vocabulary list available below.

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Introduction Transcript

Today on the podcast, you’re going to listen to a conversation with my Mum and I’m going to explain some of the vocabulary that comes up naturally in that conversation.

Here are some of the topics that we talked about:

  • a bit of British history from the Regency period (that’s the Jane Austen period of British History) including descriptions of ballroom dances and men in tight trousers
  • some descriptions of how we talk about rain in British English
  • a few expressions related to ways of talking such as the words ‘rambling’ ‘wittering’ and ‘bickering’
  • what my mum thinks of my podcast
  • some of mum’s podcast recommendations – her favourite podcasts that she listens to and how she likes to listen to them
  • and various other things that you can discover as you listen to the conversation in full

At the end I will be going through some of the vocabulary that you are going to hear, which should help you to learn some really nice, natural English phrases, the kind of English that my mum speaks.


Vocabulary List

I’ve highlighted some words and phrases in bold and there are definitions and comments [in brackets].

  • I typed up the minutes of a meeting of a volunteer group I belong to.
    [typed up = converted handwritten notes into a document on a computer]
    [minutes of a meeting = the notes describing what happened in the meeting, usually written, typed up and then kept as a record of what happened]
  • It’s a very tedious job but someone has to do it.
    [tedious = boring]
  • Did you volunteer to do that or did someone delegate that responsibility to you?
    [to delegate something to someone = to give someone a responsibility]
  • *Mum bangs the microphone and apologises* Mum: Oh, sorry I think I just banged the microphone and made a noise. Luke: Flagging it up like that may have just made it worse than it would have been.
    [to flag something up = to bring it to everybody’s attention]
  • The fact that you brushed against the microphone slightly.
    [to brush against something = to touch something a little bit as you move past it, make contact with something as you move past it, probably by accident] [brush up on something also means to improve your skill, e.g. to brush up on your English – but that’s the idiomatic version of the phrase]
  • The building had a complete renovation which was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
    [a renovation = the appearance was changed in order to make the building look new again. The building had a renovation. It was renovated.]
    [it was funded by = it was paid for by the Heritage Lottery Fund. A fund = a collection of money which is collected for a particular purpose. Verb – to fund something = to provide the money for something]
  • One of the conditions was that the town council would stage community events.
    [verb – to stage an event = to organise and present an event. Noun – a stage – a platform where performances happen, e.g. in a theatre]
  • It dates back to the 18th century some time.
    [dates back to = it comes from that time, it originates from that time. E.g. this building dates back to the late 1700s]
  • It was used as a petty sessions court.
    [petty sessions = court sessions or court procedures which are for petty crimes]
  • Petty crimes
    [less serious crimes, also called “summary offences” in legal English. The serious ones are called “indictable offences”]
  • Just fairly petty, trivial offences, like drunkenness etc.
    [trivial = another word for ‘not very important or serious’]
  • We have a lovely Regency ballroom.
    [a ballroom = a fancy looking room where formal dances are staged.
    Regency = a period of British history including the very end of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century]
  • Going to the ball was a very good way of meeting people.
    [a ball = a dance]
  • The dances were danced en-masse, like a folk dance.
    [en-masse = in a group, together. It’s a French phrase that we use in English]
    [a folk dance = folk here refers to the traditions and culture of ordinary people, not upper class people or nobility. When I think of ‘folk’ I think of the countryside, farming communities, acoustic instruments, simple clothing and group dances that involve old traditions]
  • Men would be wearing these kinds of frilly shirts and tight trousers, and neckties.
    [ frilly = a design of a shirt that has fabric with lots of folds in it – see the pic]
  • Regency style clothing (from the BBC TV series Pride and Prejuduce) The men wore frilly shirts with neckties. The women wore dresses that were fitted 'under the bust'.

    Regency style clothing (from the BBC TV series Pride and Prejuduce) The men wore frilly shirts with neckties. The women wore dresses that were fitted ‘under the bust’.

    Heaving bosoms (!)
    [ a bosom = a woman’s breasts or ‘bust’. Heaving = full and pushed up]

  • The dresses were fitted under the bust.
    [ the bust = the breasts. “bust” is a singular noun used to describe the whole area of the breasts. It’s a woman’s chest, basically]
  • What with the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts, it was quite interesting! [What with (all the) + noun . This is a way to say “because of” but you put the noun at the beginning of the sentence. E.g. It was difficult to hear him because of all the noise. What with all the noise, it was difficult to hear him. It was quite interesting because of the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts. What with the men’s legs and the ladies’ busts, it was quite interesting!]
  • In common parlance we talk about the Regency era.
    [common parlance = the things that people usually say]
  • If it starts pissing down (with rain)
    [raining heavily – a slightly rude but very common expression]
  • It’s raining cats and dogs
    [raining heavily – an idiom that we don’t really use much any more]
  • It’s bucketing (it) down
    [raining heavily – a common, informal expression]
  • It’s “shuttering” down
    [what my Gran used to say, but nobody else said it I think!]
  • Episode 135 – “Raining Animals” teacherluke.co.uk/2013/06/17/135-raining-animals – an episode I did about the subject of heavy rain and whether animals ever do rain down from the sky
  • To ramble / To ramble on
    [to talk for a fairly long time in quite an unfocused way. It’s sometimes annoying because someone doesn’t get to the point. Note – not rumble.]
    [to ramble on  means to continue rambling] to ramble on + about + something
  • To witter / To witter on
    [it’s similar to ‘ramble’. To ‘witter’ means to talk without really saying anything important. It can be used in a negative way, as in “Stop wittering on!”]
    [to witter on = to continue wittering] to witter on + about + something
  • “A ramble chat” as Adam Buxton would say.
    [Adam Buxton calls his conversations ‘ramble chats’ on his podcast]
  • What on earth do people want to hear me wittering on for?
    [what… for? = why. e.g. Why did you do that? What did you do that for?]
  • Why (on earth) do people want to hear me wittering on?
    [Do you enjoy listening to my Mum wittering on? Let us know in the comment section]
  • The kind of English that Jacob Reese Mogg would speak.
    [A Conservative politician who is very posh and upper class, and speaks with an obvious heightened RP accent. My mum doesn’t like him]
  • Don’t go there! Don’t even go there!
    [Don’t start talking about that!]
  • Luke: I think you speak RP. Gill: Yep, I’d go along with that.
    [I’d go along with that = I agree]
  • Some of them are a bit rambly and go on a bit but most of them are excellent.
    [rambly = the adjective for the verb ‘ramble’]
    [to go on a bit = to talk for a bit too long]
  • Backlisted podcast – They do a podcast every fortnight, talking about backlisted books, which are books that are mainly out of print or aren’t popular in bookshops.
    [a fortnight = two weeks – just UK English]
    [backlisted books = books which are out of print – I don’t need to explain that, do I? Still, nice language]
  • They’re so knowledgeable and yet they’re not academic, they’re not stuffy.
    [knowledgeable = knows a lot about things, has a lot of knowledge. Can you say it? He knows a lot. He has lots of knowledge of the subject. He’s very knowledgeable about it.]
    [stuffy = formal and old-fashioned, a negative and disapproving word]
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon – it’s written from the point of view of an autistic child.
    [autistic = suffering from autism. Autism = a developmental disorder characterized by impaired social interaction, difficulties in communicating, problems with seeing and hearingrepetitive behavior, etc.]
  • We just peruse the different shelves and tables.
    [to peruse = to browse, read, investigate in a relaxed and casual manner]
  • James is Whatsapping us while we’re on the podcast. How dare he?
    [Whatsapp = a messaging app on your phone. To ‘whatsapp’ someone = to send someone a message on Whatsapp.]
    [How dare he? – usually How dare you? – It’s used when you’re shocked or unhappy with someone’s behaviour]
  • James tweeted to Mark Kermode (Mark had tweeted that he was listening to a couple of soundtrack albums for films by William Friedkin, and James replied saying he’d “snapped up” the soundtrack to a Friedkin film called Sorcerer. Mark is a big fan of Friedkin, especially Sorcerer, and he liked the tweet.)
    [snapped up = took quickly, like a crocodile would take something]Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 18.39.04
  • The Frank Skinner Podcast (Absolute Radio)
  • (Frank Skinner) He’s very witty, very articulate, very quick witted.
    [witty = funny, able to make quick jokes. Quick witted = with a fast brain for making jokes or quick comments]
  • He’s from our neck of the woods. He’s from West Bromwich. It’s in The Black Country. It’s part of the midlands.
    [our neck of the woods = the area where we live]
    [The Black Country is a region of the West Midlands in England, west of Birmingham, and commonly refers to all or part of the four Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton. It’s called the Black Country because in the mid 19th century there were many iron working foundries and forges that produced a lot of black smoke and because of the coal mines that produced the black rock and dust from under the ground.
  • People say people from Birmingham sound untrustworthy.
    [untrustworthy = can’t be trusted]
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Review (aka The Wittertainment Podcast) @Wittertainment
  • (Mark and Simon) They seem to be on the same wavelength, but they play this game of being irritated with each other all the time.
    [On the same wavelength = they think in the same way]
    [to be irritated with someone = to be annoyed by someone]
  • They just witter away with each other.
    [to witter away = to witter on]
  • They bicker with each other. Bickering, getting at each other, a bit like an old married couple.
    [to bicker with someone = to argue but not very seriously]
    [to get at someone = to criticise someone again and again]
  • As far as I can gather, most of my listeners listen when they’re on public transport.
    [gather = to understand. Gather can also mean ‘collect’, e.g. to gather firewood. Here it means ‘gather information’ or just ‘understand’]

There’s no language quiz this time. The reason for that is that it takes absolutely ages to create them and I wonder how many of you are actually using them! Let me know if you have used the language quizzes that I’ve done for recent episodes of the podcast. If there is enough demand for language quizzes, I can try and bring them back.

Give me your feedback – I need to know what you think.

Podcast and Book Recommendations from Mum

Also mentioned:

There will be more talk of reading books, listening to podcasts and watching films in part 2 of this episode.

487. Learning Languages and Adapting to New Cultures (with Ethan from RealLife English)

A conversation about travelling and learning languages with Ethan from RealLife English. Ethan is very well-travelled, having lived in at least 6 different countries. He’s also learned a few different languages to a good level as an adult. Let’s talk about his advice for adapting to new cultures and learning languages in adulthood. Vocabulary notes and language test available below. 

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A Summary of what Ethan said

How to adapt to a new culture

  • Arrive with an open mind and be ready to try anything
  • Don’t just hang out with people from your country
  • You have to make an effort to integrate into the country
  • Things might be weird, but you’ll end up having some really memorable experiences
  • Push yourself to live like a local, even if at first you feel like the lifestyle isn’t as good as it is in your country
  • Get over yourself! Get out of your comfort zone
  • Don’t go just to learn English, go somewhere for the whole experience – and if you do that you’ll probably learn English more effectively as a result

Ethan’s advice for learning English on your own

  • Watch a popular TV show with subtitles – it’s important to choose a show that you like.
  • Listen to music and taking the time to look up the lyrics.
  • He just talked to people, even though he was really awkward and shy because he made lots of mistakes.
  • Motivation is key – he fell in love with Catalan and this gave him the motivation to push through the difficult moments, the awkwardness etc. So build and nurture your motivation to learn a language. Realise how good it is for you to come out of your shell and remember that you can get over your barriers if you really want to.
  • Find the right people to talk to, find people who are understanding and sympathetic to your situation (someone who’s learning a language too).
  • Do a language exchange because the other person will be much more likely to tolerate your errors, and will be willing to help you out because you’re going to do the same for them. (you can use italki to find language partners in many countries – www.teacherluke.co.uk/talk )
  • Be voraciously curious – cultivate the desire to do more. If you’re listening to music, check the lyrics and look them up. While watching TV use a notepad or an app like Evernote on your phone to note down vocab and then look it up later.
  • Practice by speaking to other non-native speakers of the language you’re learning. Other learners of the language are likely to be more sympathetic, they’ll probably have more in common with you, they might have some good advice, you’re going through a similar experience. Having peers with whom you can share your experience is really important.

Some language from the first part of the conversation (Quiz below)

Listen to this episode to get some definitions and descriptions of this language.

  • Refurbished buildings (made to look new again)
  • You can see some random smokestacks and things sticking up (tall chimneys)
  • Three blocks from the beach. (distance between his place and the beach)
  • I tend to go running there (I usually go running there. Not – I am used to going running there)
  • The weather hasn’t really been beach-appropriate (appropriate for a beach!)
  • We’re just rolling into fall here (entering) (fall = autumn)
  • I enjoy running by the beach, especially because the whole area around the beach is very iconic from when they had the Olympics here (impressive because it’s a famous symbol of something)
  • A modernist humongous whale structure (massive)
  • Every time I look at it I’m just astounded, it’s beautiful. (amazed)
  • Language for describing Ethan’s background (background – narrative tenses, past simple, past continuous, maybe some past perfect)
  • I moved back here (already) two months ago.
  • I was living here two times before, once for a year and a half and once for 3 months. (normally I’d use ‘I lived’ but perhaps he was thinking of it as a temporary thing in both cases)
  • Ways he talks about his current situation – present perfect to describe past events with a connection to now.
  • I’ve come back to stay, probably indefinitely, hopefully for a couple of years. (this is the only example actually)
  • Describing your background and your current situation 

    Describing your background

    You need to use narrative tenses to describe your background story, and you need to learn how to do this in English and to be able to repeat it with some confidence. It might be worth thinking of how you can make your background story quite interesting or entertaining, or at least say how you felt about it. It just helps in social situations.
    Remember:
    Past simple – the main events of the story – the main sequence
    Past continuous – the situation at the time, or longer events which are interrupted by shorter actions
    Past perfect – background events to the main events of the story
    E.g. I went to university in Liverpool and studied Media & Cultural Studies. It was a really interesting degree, but it wasn’t very useful. I stayed in Liverpool for a while and played music in a band but we didn’t make it and I left and moved back in with my parents which was a bit of a nightmare. I didn’t really know what to do with myself for a while, but I decided I wanted to travel and go somewhere quite different, and I‘d always been curious about teaching, so I trained to be an English teacher and I got my first job in Japan. I stayed there for a couple of years, had a great time but decided that I wanted to come back because of family reasons. I taught English in London for 8 years, did my DELTA, got a job in a good school in London and then I met a French girl and I moved to France so we could be together. I’m very romantic. (actually that was almost exclusively past simple, wasn’t it?)Describing your current situation
    Then you also need to talk about your current situation. We do this with present simple (permanent situations) and present continuous (temporary situations) and present perfect to talk about past actions with a connection to now.
    E.g. I live in Paris these days. I’ve been here for about 5 years. I’ve worked for a few different schools, teaching English. These days I teach at The British Council. I’ve been there for about 3 years now. I’m also developing some online courses which I hope to release on my website before too long!
  • I’m from Colorado in the USA. Luke: Oh cool.  (I said cool – because you should say cool when someone tells you where they’re from, or at least you should show some interest or curiosity, and be positive about it.)
  • It’s below Canada and above Mexico, between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. (my non-specific description of where Colorado is – basically, it’s somewhere in the USA, haha etc)
  • It’s (to the) north east of Arizona, (to the) east of Utah, above New Mexico.
  • What’s the difference between ‘east of London’, ‘to the east of London’ and ‘in the east of London‘?
  • The four corners – it’s just a couple of hours away from the town I grew up in. (how would you put that in your language? “It takes two hours to get there”, “It’s a couple of hours from here”
  • It’s a tourist trap now. You go and put your hand in the middle and you’re in four states at once. (a place that attracts tourists and is probably best avoided)
  • I was born in my house. Durango, Colorado. That’s the town I lived in.
  • When I was 17 I moved to Germany for 6 months.
  • It’s interesting to see that, when you’ve lived in a place for 20 years, how it evolves. (how it changes gradually over time)
  • Colorado is wonderful, it’s spectacular. (magnificent, amazing, breathtaking)
  • We’re so active, we’re always outdoors. There are spectacular hikes you can do.
  • There are 4,000 or 5,000 metre peaks. (summits, mountain tops)
  • It’s very different to Europe because you get that kind of old-west feeling. (from the period of western expansion) (wild west – cowboys and lawlessness)
  • My only criticism is that I lived there for 20 years, which is more than enough. (nice way to start a sentence with something negative in it)…. (more than enough = too much)
  • I’ve never seen a grizzly, and they are dangerous. (grizzly bear)
  • Mountain Lions – if you were by yourself and you encountered one, it might not be a great end for you. You might get eaten alive by a huge cat. (You don’t meet a wild animal, you encounter one.)
  • We have deer and elk and in the north we also have moose, and a lot of, we’d say, critters, like small animals. (deer = animals that look like they have trees growing out of their heads – you know what I mean. Like Santa Claus’ reindeer. Elk = big deer. Moose = really big elk. Critters – little animals like rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, rats, raccoons, skunks)
  • In the US you drive from city to city and you see endless expanses of mountains and plains. (wide open spaces)
  • That’s a fun question so I’d have to think. (a nice way to buy time for yourself when someone asks you a question, like saying “that’s a good question, let me think”)
  • When I was in high school I did a 6 month exchange in Germany and during that time I also got to live in Poland for 2 weeks. (difference between for and during?)
  • I lived in Spain in Majorca for a year during college, which is when I fell in love with this place.
    Some time expressions to help you tell a story:
  • After that, after school, I moved to Brazil.
  • I joined RealLife English because they had started a few months before I moved there.
  • That’s when I moved to Barcelona. Then I moved to Chile for 6 months. Now finally I‘ve moved back here.
  • After that you can imagine I’m a bit tired of jumping around so much and living out of a back pack. Now I’m here to stay for a while.

Were you listening carefully? Test yourself.

Did I mention this? I was recently interviewed on the RealLife English Podcast – you can listen to it here…

We talked about using comedy TV shows and humour in learning English. Check it out below.

RealLife Radio #161 – How to Be Funny in English (Special Guest: Luke’s English Podcast)

RealLife English – Links

RealLife English Global Website

RealLife English Podcast

487 pic

485. & 486. Difficult Words to Pronounce in English (with Paul Taylor) (Parts 1 & 2) + video

This is a double episode with two audio episodes on one page, and it’s going to be really useful for you because it’s all about difficult pronunciation in English. Listen to Paul Taylor and me discussing the tricky relationship between spelling and pronunciation. There are lots of jokes, impressions, funny accents and useful comments about this important area of the English language. Use this episode to avoid some very common mistakes in English pronunciation, and try not to laugh on the bus while you’re listening! Check this episode page for word lists, transcriptions and my video of 40+ difficult words to pronounce in English.

Part 1

Part 2

[DOWNLOAD PART 1] [DOWNLOAD PART 2]


british humour posterLuke’s British Council Teacher Talk – “What is this, British Humour?”

I’m doing another talk on the topic of humour at the British Council in Paris on 19 October. It is also being live-streamed on Facebook. Details below.

Click here to reserve (free) tickets if you’re in Paris.

Click here for the British Council France Facebook Page for the live stream – Thursday 19 October at 19:00 Paris time (CET).


Difficult Words to Pronounce in English: Notes, Word Lists and That Useful Video (below)

  • Focus /fəʊkəs/
  • Fuck us /fʌkʌs/
  • Sting /stɪŋ/
  • Boy George /bɔɪ ʤɔːʤ/
  • Spandau Ballet /spændɑː bæleɪ/

What problems do French people have with pronunciation in English?

  • /h/ sounds
  • /th/ sounds

Part 1 ends here… Part 2 continues below!


  • /r/ sounds
  • Some vowel sounds, particularly certain ‘long’ and ‘short’ sounds, such as…
  • bitch” /i/ and “beach” /i:/
  • shit” /i/  and “sheet” /i:/
  • voiced and unvoiced sounds
  • Paul’s “how to beatbox” with boots and cats

The words & phrases from the TOPITO article – “The Most Difficult Words to Pronounce in English – the hell of /th/ sounds

1. I have a sore throat
2. Squirrel
3. Throughout
4. Bewildered
5. Hierarchy
6. Anaesthetize
7. Threshold
8. Worthlessly
9. Worcestershire
10. William Wordsworth

The TOPITO article (it’s in French by the way) www.topito.com/top-trucs-durs-dire-anglais

An academic “focus” on French people speaking English, from Frankfurt University

Phonology
There are some differences in the sound systems of the two languages that can cause French learners problems of comprehension and speech production. Spelling errors may result from the frequent lack of correspondence between the pronunciation of English words and their spelling.

A typical pronunciation problem is the inability to correctly articulate the vowel sounds in minimal pairs such as ship / sheep, live / leave, full / fool. Because the tip of the tongue is not used in speaking French, learners often have problems with words containing the letters th (/θ/ /ð/), such as then, think and clothes.

Another common feature of English spoken by French learners is the omission of the /h/ sound at the beginning of words. This sound does not exist in French and leads to problems such as ‘Ave you ‘eard about ‘arry?, or overcompensation by pronouncing the /h/ in words like hour, honour.
French learners typically have problems with the unpredictable stress patterns of English words, particularly of cognates. (Word stress in French is regular.) Learners may also be unwilling to engage in the prevalent vowel reduction of unstressed syllables in English. Consider, for example, the way that English native speakers swallow the first syllable of the word tomorrow (t’morrow). These problems result in the stereotypical staccato French accent of beginning learners.

From Frankfurt International School Website esl.fis.edu/grammar/langdiff/french.htm

TH sounds

/th/ can be voiced [ð] or unvoiced [θ]

A quick guide to producing TH sounds:

  • Stick tongue out slightly
  • Let air pass under/through teeth and over the tongue
  • You don’t need your lips!
  • It’s not /f/ /s/ /d/ /v/ or /z/
  • It’s [ð] (voiced) or [θ] (unvoiced)

Watch my video (below) for more help with /th/ sounds.

More words which learners often find difficult to pronounce

  • Architecture /ˈɑː.kɪ.tek.tʃər/
  • architectural /ˌɑː.kɪˈtek.tʃər.əl/
  • Drawer /drɔː/
  • Colonel /ˈkəːn(ə)l/
  • Comfortable /ˈkʌmftəbəl/
  • Pronunciation /prənʌnsɪˈeɪʃən/
  • Recipe /ˈresɪpi:/
  • Scissors /ˈsɪzəz/
  • Strengths /streŋkθs/
  • Clothes /kləʊðz/
  • Eighth /eɪtθs/
  • Queue /kjuː/
  • Fruit /fruːt/
  • Sixteenth /sɪkˈstiːnθ/
  • Eighteenth /eɪˈtiːnθ/

“Ghoti” is pronounced “fish” (is it?)

This is an old attempt to prove that English spelling makes no sense. Note: David Crystal doesn’t agree.

ghoti

www.neatorama.com/trivia/2012/09/09/Ghoti-is-Pronounced-Fish-in-the-English-Language/

David Crystal disagrees with this “ghoti” (See below)

Some Words with Silent Letters

  • bomb
  • climb
  • comb
  • crumb
  • debt
  • doubt
  • government (ok, so the ‘n’ isn’t really silent, but this word has 3 syllables, not 4)

More here: mywords.cle.ust.hk/sir/silent_words.php

Also

  • Business /ˈbɪznɪs/ or /ˈbɪznəs/
  • Busy /ˈbɪzi:/
  • Derby (place and a horse race) /ˈdɑːbi:/

L/R (Often difficult for Japanese speakers, or people from East Asia in general)

  • Roller coaster
  • Rarely
  • Red lorry, yellow lorry, red lorry, yellow lorry

My name

  • Luke (correct) /lu:k/
  • not:
  • Look
  • Luck
  • Mr Luck (the most common wrong version, especially in writing)
  • Teacher luck pot cat? (teacher luke podcast)
  • Ruke
  • Ruku
  • Rook
  • Duck??
  • Mr Luke (still not correct – it’s just “Luke” or “Mr Thompson”, although Moz called me Mr Luke as a sort of joke)

Thompson /tɒmpsən/

  • Often pronounced “Tom-sun” in France
  • and pronounced “Tom-pu-son” in Japan

Some rude or funny tongue twisters read by Paul and me

She sells sea shells on the sea shore.
(not rude)

Red lorry yellow lorry red lorry yellow lorry…
(not rude)

I am not the pheasant plucker,
I’m the pheasant plucker’s mate.
I am only plucking pheasants
Because the pheasant plucker’s late.
(don’t say “fucker“)
I slit the sheet, the sheet I slit;
and on the slitted sheet I sit.
(don’t say “shit“)
One smart fellow; he felt smart.
Two smart fellows; they felt smart.
Three smart fellows; they all felt smart.
(don’t say “fart”)
I’m not the fig plucker,
Nor the fig pluckers’ son,
But I’ll pluck figs
Till the fig plucker comes.
(don’t say “pig fucker“)
Fire truck tyres
(repeat it – don’t say “I fuck tyres”)
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Not a punt cut square,
Just a square cut punt.
It’s round in the stern and blunt in the front.
Mrs Puggy Wuggy has a square cut punt.
Six stick shifts stuck shut.
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers.

(don’t say “cunt” – really, don’t say that word, it is extremely rude)

She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I’m sure she sells seashore shells.
(not rude)
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
(not rude)
Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers
(not rude)
 

Betty Botta bought some butter;
“But,” said she, “this butter’s bitter!
If I put it in my batter
It will make my batter bitter.
But a bit o’ better butter
Will make my batter better.”
Then she bought a bit o’ butter
Better than the bitter butter,
Made her bitter batter better.
So it was better Betty Botta
Bought a bit o’ better butter.

(not rude)

www.fun-with-words.com/tong_rude.html


Pronunciation practice – repeat after me!

There’s no quiz for this episode – instead I thought I’d make a video so you can practise your pronunciation by repeating after me. Word list with definitions below.

Word List + examples [The definitions are in brackets]

  1. Sore throat – I’ve got a sore throat today [a painful throat, because you have a cold]
  2. Squirrel – I saw three squirrels in the park [cute little animals with bushy tails that live in the park]
  3. Throughout – Squirrels live in this park throughout the year [all the way through]
  4. Bewildered – I was bewildered by all the options [confused]
  5. Hierarchy – There’s a flat hierarchy in our company [a system of levels]
  6. Anaesthetist/Anaesthetise – It’s the job of the anaesthetist  to anaesthetise the patients with an anaesthetic [to give someone an anaesthetic – something which stops you feeling pain]
  7. Threshold – If you earn more than £70,000 you enter the next tax threshold [a level or point where something ends and something else begins]
  8. Worthlessly – I was worthlessly trying to impress her by showing off [in a worthless way – with no worth or no point]
  9. Pass the Worcestershire sauce, would you? [a kind of brown sauce for giving flavour to food]
  10. William Wordsworth was a wonderful writer
  11. live / leave – You have to live a little before you leave this world
  12. ship / sheep – we put all the sheep onto the ship, so the ship was full of sheep
  13. full / fool – The room is full you fool!
  14. Architecture – I love the architecture
  15. Architectural – The architectural style is fascinating
  16. Drawer – The knives and forks are in the top drawer on the left [for example, where you keep the knives and forks in the kitchen]
  17. Colonel – Colonel Sanders founded Kentucky Fried Chicken [a senior officer in the army]
  18. Kernel – Pine kernels can be a delicious addition to a salad [a nut]
  19. Comfortable – Are you comfortable? Would you like a pillow?
  20. Pronunciation is important. You have to pronounce words properly.
  21. Recipe – Can you give me that delicious cake recipe? /  This is a recipe for disaster! [the instructions for how to make certain food]
  22. Scissors – Do you know where the scissors are? [a tool for cutting paper or fabric]
  23. Strengths – What are your strengths and weaknesses? [strong points]
  24. Clothes – I bought some new clothes today.
  25. Months – She’s 18 months old now.
  26. Eighth – Henry the Eighth was a Tudor king of England
  27. Queue – Sorry, are you in the queue? Are you skipping the queue? Sorry, the end of the queue is back there. Yes, we’re all queueing up, we’re not just standing here. Unbelievable. [a line of people waiting for something]
  28. Fruit – Do you have any fresh fruit?
  29. Sixteenth – It’s the sixteenth of October
  30. Eighteenth – It’s the eighteenth of November
  31. Thirteenth – it’s Friday the thirteenth
  32. Thirtieth – it’s the thirtieth of December
  33. Bomb – There was a bomb scare in the station. People were talking about a bombing. I remember when the IRA bombed Oxford Street. [an explosive device]
  34. Climb – Do you want to go climbing with me next weekend? I’m going to climb that mountain on Saturday. You climbed it last year didn’t you? [to go up something steep like a ladder,  a hill or a mountain]
  35. Comb – I’m just combing my hair with a comb. [something that you use to make your hair straight]
  36. Crumb – Why are there lots of bread crumbs on the table? Have you been cutting bread here? There are lots of crumbs everywhere. Can you clean them up please? [little bits of bread or other food]
  37. Debt – (Many students leave university with) thousands of pounds of debt. [money which you have to pay back to someone after you borrow it]
  38. Doubt – There’s no doubt about it. It’s a brilliant film. [something you’re unsure about]
  39. Government (ok, so the ‘n’ isn’t really silent, but this word has 3 syllables, not 4) The government is yet to make a statement.
  40. My name is Luke  (not Mr Luck) Thompson
  41. This is a podcast – not a postcard, or potcard, or pot cast or pot cat. It’s podcast.

 See Paul’s One Man Show #Franglais – http://paultaylorcomedy.com/

By the way, if you’re in France, you really should see Paul’s one man show called #Franglais because it is back in theatres for another run. A lot of the comedy in his show is based around pronunciation differences, including the way people say his name, the way French people say funny things without realising it and more. Check out paultaylorcomedy.com for more information.

Here’s David Crystal’s response to “GHOTI” = FISH

Remember that thing that goes around the internet about how “Fish” should be spelled GHOTI?

Basically David Crystal believes that English spelling is not actually senseless, chaotic or mad. It is complex but it’s not completely random. In fact it is the end result of a fascinating process of development that can tell us a lot about the rich history of the English language.

From a Guardian review of his book “Spell It Out”

‘Crystal shows a brisk impatience with the tradition that likes to pretend that English spelling is senseless. The famous suggestion that you could spell “fish” “ghoti” (gh as in “rough”, o as in “women” and ti as in “motion”) is a witticism often ascribed to George Bernard Shaw but, Crystal says witheringly, has been doing the rounds since the middle of the 19th century. It is, he argues “complete naughtiness. The spelling ti is NEVER used with this sound at the end of a word in English, and the spelling gh is NEVER used with this sound at the beginning of a word.” It doesn’t do, then, to simply throw your hands up and say: “Isn’t our language mad?” The real story is much more interesting than that.’ www.theguardian.com/books/2012/sep/14/spell-it-out-david-crystal-review

You can read more about the interesting story of English spelling and what it can teach us about the history of the English language by reading David Crystal’s book “Spell It Out”, which I expect is available from any half-decent book shop.

454. David Crystal Interview (Part 1) Professor of Linguistics

455. David Crystal Interview (Part 2) Questions from Listeners

So, that’s it for this double episode then, thanks for listening!

  • Join the mailing list!
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  • Be excellent to each other and party on!

Luke

Why does the UK have so many accents? (Recorded February 2017)

This episode was originally recorded in February 2017 and is being uploaded in August 2017. In this episode I’m going to answer several questions from listeners about accents, including how regional accents occur in the UK and why there are so many accents there. Video available.

[DOWNLOAD]

Video – I’m not sick, I’m English, and it was winter. ;)

uk accents

There is a very wide variety of accents in the UK (not to mention the accents you find in other English-speaking countries like Ireland, Canada, the USA, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and more. English is a hugely diverse language and in my experience foreign learners of English don’t usually know a lot about the different accents – particularly all the regional varieties in the UK, and they often just find it difficult to understand them, and as a result learners of English can’t enjoy the great variety of sounds in English and the sheer diversity of character and personality you get from the different varieties of English, and therefore it’s worth talking about on the podcast.

This is such a big subject that to do it justice would require me to write a whole book about it. Instead I just do episodes about accents fairly regularly in an effort to cover as much of the topic as possible. For example, I recently did some episodes about British accents that you hear in the Lord of the Rings films, which gave me a chance to talk about the different associations we have with different accents in the UK and how those associations were used to provide some colour and character to the movie versions of Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings stories. I also did episodes about the accents you might hear in Glasgow and I spoke to Korean Billy about regional dialects and accents too.

Since uploading those episodes I’ve noticed a few comments from listeners wondering why there are so many accents in the UK, so I’ve prepared this episode which I hope will help you understand that a bit more.

The plan, in this episode (or episodes) is to talk about these things:

  • Why there are so many accents in the UK
  • How our accents develop as part of a natural psychological process
  • What this means for learners of English and teachers of English

Also, we’ll listen to someone speaking in a Liverpool accent and I’ll help you understand it

So, this episode is about the way people speak, but it’s also about history, psychology, how to learn English, what my friends sound like, and how to understand a football player from Liverpool.

How are all those things connected? Listen on and you’ll find out!

Why do we have so many accents in the UK? (Communication Accommodation Theory)

One of the things I said in those episodes about LOTR was that there is a really wide variety of accents in the UK, and that your accent reveals lots of things about you such as where in the country you’re from and what social background you come from.

Remember, when I say “Accent” this means simply the way that you pronounce the words you’re using.

If you remember, one of the things I mentioned in one of those episodes was a quote from George Bernard Shaw, which said “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him”, George Bernard Shaw.

This gives the impression that we all hate each other of course, and I don’t agree. The point which is made by this quote is that we all have prejudices about each other’s accent and this is an expression of the class system probably. That middle class people probably look down on people with strong regional accents and resent people who speak with very posh accents and so on…

Here’s a comment from Nick in response to those episodes.

Nick 2 hours ago – [These bits in brackets are Luke’s comments]
What a complicated life there in the UK… Everybody resents each other because of their accents… [we don’t resent each other really, but we do judge each other a bit – we also love each others accents too] Wow I never thought that accents in the UK had such an important role in people’s lives. [Yes, they’re very important indicators of our identity – but they’re also a source of great fun, joy, amusement and celebration] Luke, thanks for this episode. You opened up the UK in a new way for me. Even though I knew about different accents in the UK (and from your podcast too) I somehow didn’t realize the deep meaning of accents in English life.
But I don’t really understand how it happened that you have so many accents in quite a small area. I can understand that different levels of society may have different words in their vocabulary, but why they should have SUCH different accents especially when they live in one city or region… maybe it was people’s desire to make something with the language, or at least with pronunciation in order to be somehow unique from others. Like different groups of people or subcultures dress in different clothes or different nations have their own folk costumes.

This is a really good question and there are so many interesting aspects to the answer. I’m now going to try and deal with that question.

Why do we have so many accents in the UK?

It could be explained by “Communication Accommodation Theory” or CAT for short.

Collins dictionary: “Accommodation” 3. countable noun
Accommodation is a kind of agreement between different people which enables them to exist together without trouble. (not a written agreement, but a social or psychological tendency to come closer to each other and form communities based on shared behaviour)

Communication Accommodation Theory suggests that the way we communicate is an expression of our desire or natural tendency to become part of a social group.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communication_accommodation_theory (Wikipedia)

E.g. When I was living in Japan I picked up a lot of the body language because I wanted to fit in, basically. I didn’t even realise I was doing it.

That’s non-verbal communication, but we’re talking about verbal communication.

Also, it’s not just limited to individuals. Imagine whole communities of people, over many many generations being affected by this process.

scottthornbury.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/a-is-for-accommodation/ (Thornbury)

This could explain:

  • Why there are so many different accents associated with different regions in the UK
    For example, why people in Liverpool speak differently to people in Manchester, or why the ‘cockney’ dialect came about (more on this kind of thing in a bit)
  • Why we naturally change the way we speak depending on the people around us
  • Why speaking to a diverse range of people is very good for your accent
  • Why native English speakers sometimes change the way they speak when talking to foreigners – e.g. when travelling or meeting a foreign person.

The tendency is to unconsciously adapt.

I’m going to try and deal with all these things, but not quite in that order!

Why native speakers sometimes adapt their language when talking to foreigners
According to Scott Thornbury (a well-known teacher and author of teaching materials and a bit of a legend in the world of English teaching) there are two versions – ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’.

“This is especially obvious in the way we talk to children and non-native speakers, [using] forms of talk called ‘caretaker talk’ and ‘foreigner talk’, respectively. Both varieties are characterized by considerable simplification, although there are significant differences. Caretaker talk is often pitched higher and is slower than talk used with adults, but, while simpler, is nearly always grammatically well-formed. Foreigner talk, on the other hand, tolerates greater use of non-grammatical, pidgin-like forms, as in ‘me wait you here’, or ‘you like drink much, no?’”
I’ve seen this happening to some English teachers. They adapt their speech to the students, speaking this weird form of English that’s easy for foreigners to understand but might not be helping them learn.

It’s really difficult to judge it correctly as a teacher. How much do you grade your language, and how do you do it? It’s important to speak correctly – meaning in the sort of full English that you normally would use and in the same way that most native speakers talk to each other, while making sure it’s comprehensible. If you’re too ‘natural’ your students won’t understand you. But if you simplify your English too much, you end up doing this ‘foreigner talk’ which is just not a good model of the language.

I guess this is part of being a good teacher; knowing how to strike the balance between being comprehensible and yet also realistic and natural.

I always try to keep these things in mind when I speak. It’s probably why my voice becomes more and more like standard RP, which I think is just generally accepted to be clearest version of the language, and that’s how I was brought up to speak by my parents. That’s not to say other versions of the language aren’t correct of course, and as I’ve said many times before I love the different accents.

Do I accommodate when I talk to native speakers with different accents?

Yes I do – a bit – I mean, only to accents that are a part of me. I have a few slightly different accents in me and my speech slides in slightly different directions depending on who I am with. They’re not radical changes because I’m still being myself, but my speech does change a little bit. When I’m back in Birmingham my speech becomes a bit more Brummie. When I’m in London it does the same. Only a little bit of course. This is totally normal.

It’s also why it’s important to speak to other people on this podcast because it’s in the interaction with others that language really becomes most alive and natural. When I’m talking to you on my own I speak in my neutral voice, but when I’m in conversation with others you might hear my voice changing slightly. You might not notice to be honest because it’s a pretty mild change. Perhaps it doesn’t happen that much because I am still aware that I’m being listened to by my audience.

For example, when I spoke to Rob Ager from Liverpool about movies last year, my accent didn’t change that much. But maybe if I’d spent the weekend in Liverpool, just hanging out and talking, my accent might have changed a little bit.

When I lived in Japan I spent a lot of time working with people from Australia and apparently I picked up some of accent – particularly the rising intonation pattern. So, the conclusion – I do accommodate a bit, but usually to an accent that I have personal history with, and only if I’m exposed to it for fairly long periods of time and when I’m feeling self-conscious it happens less.
Certainly when I’m back in Birmingham my accent changes a bit, because that’s where I spent a lot time when I was younger.

Cat’s question: What are Paul and Amber’s accents?
Amber & I are pretty similar. It’s just RP. Paul speaks RP too but with a bit more local influence. He’s from Kent so he speaks with some traces of a Kentish accent – e.g. glottal stops. “Native speaker” “Excited” Maybe some “th” sounds sound a bit like “d” or “v” sounds.

Some people seem to think that his voice is influenced by French. It’s isn’t.

That kind of influence would only happen if French was Paul’s first language, and he’d learned English as a second language in adulthood. That’s not the case – in fact to an extent he learned both languages while growing up. He’s certainly native level in English, and he probably is native level in French too. He certainly sounds it. So, because he’s got, basically, two native level languages, they exist independently in his head and therefore don’t influence each other much in terms of accent. Every now and then it influences his vocabulary but he instantly recognises it and self-corrects. You might have heard him do it on the podcast sometimes.

Paul speaks very clearly, which is evident in the way people always tell him that they can understand what he’s saying. His English accent is influenced more by where he grew up in the south-east of England and by the wide variety of people he’s spoken to in his life. He spent many years travelling with Apple, studying and living in different parts of the UK. RP again is probably the default setting for someone like Paul, when trying to speak clearly, but those glottal stops and some dropped consonant sounds reveal that his most formative time for English was in Canterbury, and he is also not the sort of person to listen to a lot of BBC Radio 4.
Paul is also a natural mimic. He’s able to hold different accents in his head at the same time and switch between them. He’s something of a chameleon in that way. Put him in with a bunch of Scottish people for a long time and he’d probably emerge with traces of that accent I expect. Anyway, when he’s with Amber and me his accent is pretty much like ours but with traces of his Kentish background, which is why he says “Native speaker” like that.

So, that’s a bit about ‘accommodation theory’ in relation to my friends and me.
What about Nick’s original question about the diversity of accents in the UK. I’m going to talk more specifically about that in a moment.

But first let’s check out a funny example of a professional footballer from Liverpool who moved to France to play for Olympique de Marseille football club.

Now this is an example of an English person accommodating to French people around him, and we see that this is certainly not happening to Paul Taylor

Joey Barton’s weird French accent

Who is Joey Barton? What was the situation?

Joey Barton speaking with this weird French voice

He was heavily criticised for this – a lot of people mocked him and called him stupid.
He’s definitely not stupid. Maybe he wasn’t aware of the different ways he could have changed his voice – e.g. speaking with RP probably just wasn’t something that would occur to him. This lad is a scouser through and through. He’s not going to start speaking RP – he’s going to accommodate to the French instead.

The reason he’s doing it, as explained by accommodation theory is to make it easier for the French journalists to understand him. His scouse accent is difficult for the French to understand. He was just trying to be intelligible and he ended up accommodating to their speech.

Also he did it to win social approval. I imagine being the only English guy there, in front of all those French journalists, with the pressure of playing for this big club and not speaking French, he wanted to win their approval. This probably happens in Football quite a lot because of the emphasis on teamwork. I expect during training and while bantering with other players and staff, Barton had to very quickly adapt his speech to be part of the team. I imagine speaking Scouse English more clearly wouldn’t help the French.

(Joey Barton talks about the French accent incident)

It’s not just speech – it’s also non-verbal communication. Barton does a couple of typically French things, including the kind of ‘sigh’ or blowing of air through the lips which is really common.

According to research we are naturally wired to copy the speech and behavioural patterns of the people we’re talking to. It’s a natural, neurological process that humans engage in when they want to communicate, be understood and be accepted by others.

Significance for Learning English
For learning English this suggests some of the most important ways to improve your English pronunciation and your English in general are to a) actually communicate with people in real conversations about real things b) have the desire to understand others and really be understood by others c) have the desire to share things (info) with the people you’re communicating with d) have the desire to be socially accepted by the people you’re talking to.

So, spend time talking naturally with English speakers because you want to! Or at least, practise communicating in English not just because you think it’s important for your career or for your English, but because you are genuinely interested in sharing ideas, finding out about people and the world, and broadening the scope of your identity. The more motivated you are by these things, the more you’re opening yourself up to the natural neurological conditions for language learning.

Got it? Talking to different people with good English and who come from diverse origins about things you are interested in, really helps your English and your accent in particular!
Being engaged in genuine communication because you care about sharing ideas is going to help your brain in a natural process of language learning.

Other work helps too – like studying the phonemic chart, analysing the physical ways we pronounce different sounds, how speech is connected and all that stuff, and doing plenty and plenty of mechanical, physical practice – it’s important too, but certainly this theory suggests that our brains are wired to adapt our speech patterns in the right conditions as part of a social process.

But also, it may be vital for you to learn how to accommodate yourself to the English of the people you’re talking to. This from Scott Thornbury:

So, what are the implications for language teaching? In the interests both of intelligibility and establishing ‘comity’, Joey Barton’s adaptive accent strategy may be the way to go. For learners of English, whose interlocutors may not themselves be native speakers, this may mean learning to adapt to other non-native speaker accents. As Jenkins (2007: 238) argues, ‘in international communication, the ability to accommodate to interlocutors with other first languages than one’s own… is a far more important skill than the ability to imitate the English of a native speaker.’

So, when you’re chatting to other non native speakers in English, how should you make yourself more intelligible in order to establish good relations? Do you suddenly start sounding like Luke Thompson, or do you accommodate to their way of speaking, following the rule of accommodation theory?

What do you think? Feel free to either agree with accommodation theory here, or disagree with it, but do give a good reason why.

But why are there so many accents in the UK?

It’s a really complex question which probably needs to be answered by someone with a PhD on the subject, but here’s my answer!

It’s probably a big mix of geography, culture, politics, history and human nature.
Tribalism.

Perhaps it’s because we’re a small nation with quite a high population.

Geography. We’re an island (group of islands actually) so that creates a clear land border – meaning that we’re a bit more ‘penned in’ than some other cultures.

The class system. RP was the standardised version, but ordinary folk spoke in their own way and weren’t expected to speak RP because they knew their place. They could never break away from that. We never had a revolution proclaiming everyone as equal, so working people didn’t take on the standard form of English.

Irregular relationship between the written word (spelling) and the spoken version mean that the spoken version is perhaps more open to interpretation than others. Our written language is not phonetic, therefore the pronunciation is not tied down. There’s no solid rule book on how to pronounce English – there’s the phonetic chart, but that is based on RP and that’s where the class system comes into it. RP is associated with a certain class of people and then identity politics come into play.

Perhaps the multicultural ‘mongrel’ nature of the Brits has something to do with it. We’re a mongrel nation. Maybe the diversity of accents is the result of this patchwork or melting pot of different people and languages. E.g. celtic, nordic, germanic, norman French, gallic French, latin, Irish celtic, Scots celtic, commonwealth nations like Jamaica, India & Pakistan – especially Jamaica which has had a massive influence the way young people in London speak, and now media, like American and Australian English that we hear on a daily basis.

Our islands have been visited, invaded, populated and influenced by migrating people and their voices for many many years. This goes deep into the past and continues to this day, even though the official version of history will suggest that we have one unbroken family line (The Royal Family that we all learn about in school). There’s a lot more diversity than this narrative would suggest. This could result in a wide variety of influences, creating diversity which is not obvious just by looking at people. It’s also interesting to me that the narrative of the ‘unbroken line of history’ which we get from the monarchy, is also aligned with a certain way of speaking – this old-fashioned RP which is the standard form. Underneath that standard form, or next to it, there is a lot more variety and diversity.

There was a long period before the emergence of the single unifying monarchy in which the country was essentially split up into different, independent areas, ruled by competing monarchs. Tribalism was seriously important. Think: Game of Thrones. Community, loyalty, rejection of others – these were vitally important principles. It was the breeding ground for different local versions of a language. It must be the same in many other countries.

This relates to aspects of the accommodation theory. Convergence is when people pull together in a community and naturally speak in the same way to express this shared identity. At the same time there is divergence – pulling away from other communities which could be rivals or whatever. If you’re part of one community you’ll speak like them and you won’t speak like the others. Either you’re in one or the other. This could account for why people in Liverpool and Manchester speak differently even though the two cities are pretty close. Just look at the football fans to see how much of a rivalry there is between the two cities.

I expect a number of other factors have come together to cause the UK to have this wide diversity. But perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of the diversity because the place is really connected – it’s a pretty small island and we’re all squeezed in together with a clear natural border of the sea, and the industrial revolution happened there bringing the train – mass transport which suddenly brought everyone much closer together, making us a lot more aware of our different versions of English. I imagine if you examined other countries you would find similar differences in Accent. The USA for example has definite differences, and it’s quite a young country in comparison. So, I expect many countries have similar diversity in accent and dialect, perhaps we’re just a lot more aware of it in the UK.

We also have the class system which has added another dividing line – another factor which pushes communities together (convergence) or pushes them apart (divergence). Perhaps working class communities held onto their accents as a way of expressing their sense of local identity as a contrast to the less region specific upper classes, who seemed to be less fixed geographically. E.g. The Royal Family has it’s own geography, which moves between international borders and not just across domestic community borders. I mean, Prince Phillip for example was born in Greece. The QUeen’s ancestors were German. Despite the fact that they are the figureheads for the UK, they are not really fixed to local areas within the country.

This also would apply to the nobility – the proper upper classes, who probably owned land that perhaps their families hadn’t lived on for centuries. I expect one area of England for example was ruled by one family for a period, then another family became the rulers – either by conquest, trade, marriage etc. The ruling class probably were quite mobile. The people who lived and worked on the land, were of that land for generations. So, working class people have stronger regional accents than upper class people. It’s absolutely nothing to do with so-called “lazy pronunciation”, it’s more to do with identity – strengthening local communities by having their own version of the language. Power, identity and economics.

No governing body to standardise English. Just powerful people through their influence have guided the narrative that RP is the standard form – this also happens to be the English that the educated, wealthy class use.

So, that’s my fairly long and rambling answer Nick.

We’re not finished with accents though. I’ve just talked about how C.A.T. might explain why we have so many accents in the UK, and also what the theory can tell us about things like my accent, the accents of my friends and also how you can work on your accent too. I still plan to spend some more time focusing on specific accents and playing around.

Now, I would like to ask all of you a few questions

  • How many different accents can you identify in your country?
  • Are accents in your country related to geography?
  • Is there a standard accent? Is that accent associated with a particular region?
  • What attitudes to people have about accents where you come from?
  • In English, which accent do you prefer? If you don’t know a region, can you think of an individual person whose accent you like? Feel free to say Amber Minogue of course.
  • If you’ve been shipwrecked and you get washed up on a remote island populated by a local tribe of native people who seem to use English as their main language and yet look like they might be hostile, or hungry, or both, what’s the best way to get into their good books? Speak like me, or speak like them? Or get back in the sea and swim?