Category Archives: Accents

691. Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach

How do professional actors change the way they speak for different acting roles? What can learners of English take from the way actors do this, in order to apply it to their language learning? In this conversation I speak to Jerome Butler who is a very experienced dialect coach working in the TV and film industry in the USA, and we discuss these questions.

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Photo by Alison Cohen Rosa www.alisoncohenrosa.com/

Introduction Transcript

Hi folks, I just wanted to let you know that I’ve been working on the WISBOLEP competition and it is coming soon. I’ll let you know exactly what I’ve decided, I will play you recordings from listeners and you’ll be able to vote and we’re going to find a LEPster to be interviewed on the podcast. So the next installment of Why I Should Be On LEP is coming soon.

Also some premium content is coming. Just a reminder that I recently uploaded a 28-minute video of one of my comedy shows. It’s me doing stand-up comedy in London a couple of years ago. I’d been holding on to that video for a while, but I finally decided it was time to publish it considering I’m not doing any gigs at the moment and I’m not sure when I will be able to. So, premium subscribers – check it out, as well as all the pronunciation videos I’ve uploaded and at least 100 premium episodes. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you want to sign up or know more.

Also you can expect more free episodes, including the next WISBOLEP episode and more conversations with guests. 

I’ve been doing a lot of interviews recently as you’ve probably noticed. It’s been a really good run of guests that we have never heard before on the podcast, but I will go back to the old favourites soon enough, with hopefully Amber & Paul making a return and an episode of Gill’s Book Club – the book in question will be 1, 2, 3, 4: The Beatles in Time by Craig Brown – an interesting, recent book which explores the story of the Beatles in various interesting ways. We’ll be doing that in the new year because I’m getting it for Christmas and I’ll need a chance to read it. I think it will basically be a chance for me to talk about The Beatles with my mum and she was a huge fan back in the Beatlemania days and saw them live twice. So, you might want to get that – 1, 2, 3, 4 by Craig Brown. Anyway, onto this episode and this one is all about pronunciation, so get ready to think about accents and changing the way you speak. It goes quite nicely with other episodes like the recent one I did about Key Features of English Accents (682). So the question is, how can you change your accent? Let’s ask a dialect coach.

Jingle —

Jerome Butler – Dialect Coach 

Hello everyone – here is an episode all about accents and dialects and specifically how to convincingly sound like you come from a different place, with a different accent. 

You’re going to hear me in conversation with Jerome Butler who is a dialect coach. Jerome works with actors who need to change the way they speak. 

To give you an example of what this means, let’s say I’m an actor from England, and I’ve got a part in a TV show that takes place in the USA in a southern state. Perhaps the film is set in Atlanta or something like that (like in The Walking Dead perhaps) and the character I’m playing was born and grew up in that area, and so I need to change my RP English accent to a general Southern accent from the USA for the filming of the show. 

How can I do it? How can I change my voice? How can I consistently speak like I am from a southern state in the USA? Well, I would need a dialect coach, and that is what Jerome does. 

Actually, having to change your accent is quite common for actors in the English language TV and film industry. There are loads of famous actors who have successfully changed the way they speak for different roles. I mentioned The Walking Dead before and it is quite a good example – so many of the actors in that show are from the UK but they sound like they could come from Georgia or a neighbouring state. No doubt those actors worked closely with dialect coaches like Jerome. 

And it’s not just British actors working in the USA, it’s anyone who normally speaks in one way and needs to learn to speak in another way, and remember the English language is so diverse in terms of accents and dialects across different parts of the world that it’s very common for actors to have to make this kind of change in their work.

Now, talking to Jerome about this is actually a great opportunity for us to listen to someone who has a lot of experience and expertise in helping people change their accents. He’s been doing it for years now and has worked on loads of different film and TV projects and with loads of different actors from different parts of the world. Jerome is amazing actually, and we’re really lucky to have him on the podcast. I really enjoyed talking to him and it was very interesting to find out the specifics of what he does in his job.

For you as learners of English this should be particularly interesting, because the whole point of this conversation is to answer two questions really:

  • How can actors change their accents and dialects for different roles?
  • What can learners of English take from the way actors do this, in order to apply it to their language learning?

How can you change your accent?

It’s quite a complicated question as you can expect – it involves many linguistic factors and a lot of work. In just a one-hour conversation we can’t give you all the answers of course. It’s a complex and very personal process, but at least we can get a sort of window into that process by listening to what Jerome has to say.

Let me tell you a bit about Jerome’s CV before we listen to him talking, just so you get an idea of who you are listening to.

Jerome Butler has had a really diverse career working for over 25 years in acting, teaching and dialect coaching. He graduated from The Juilliard School which is one of the most prestigious acting and performance art schools in the USA. Loads of great actors went there, including well-known people like Adam Driver, Jessica Chastain, Oscar Isaacs, Anthony Mackie, Robin Williams and plenty of others.

He’s done various acting roles in theatre, TV and film productions even including episodes of Star Trek Voyager and ER but the majority of the work he has done in the industry is that of a dialect coach and if you look at his IMDB page the list just goes on and on, working on various productions with various performers including names you might recognise, like Emily Mortimer, Tom Hardy, Gerard Butler, Robert Downey Jr., Jonathan Pryce, and Chiwetel Ejiofor. Impressive, most impressive.

OK so I just dropped a bunch of names on you there, but this episode is not a celebrity gossip type thing. It’s not about that. I’m not asking him to tell us what Robert Downey Jnr is really like. I just wanted to let you know that Jerome is a proper, professional dialect coach who has lots of real industry experience, so he knows what he is talking about.

He’s also taught classes at universities like MIT and has been involved in an artistic rehabilitation program in the California prison system. That’s quite a glittering and diverse CV, and of course now he has reached the high point of his professional career – appearing in an episode of Luke’s English Podcast. Haha. 

In this conversation we start by talking about the work he does and what it involves, and the conversation gets more and more specific as it goes, as we try to understand what he does and relate it to your learning of English.

Now, I would also like to say that I think as a learner of English, the decision to change your accent or perhaps I should say the decision to try to sound exactly like a native speaker of English is completely up to you but in the EFL/ESL community this is actually quite a contentious issue. Should learners of English aim to or expect to ultimately sound exactly like native English speakers? People seem to disagree about it. 

Even now I can sense, using my jedi force abilities that some of you are saying “yes we should try to sound like native speakers!” whereas others are saying “no, we shouldn’t” and probably most of you are saying “I don’t really know Luke, I haven’t made up my mind!” and a couple of you are saying “Sorry, what was the question?” 

Let me repeat it.

Should learners of English spend time and effort on trying to sound exactly like native speakers? Should we all aim for “native level speech” as our ultimate goal? Or is it better to keep your accent when you speak English because this is all part of who you are and it’s perhaps even damaging to set such high standards? 

These are questions that are often discussed and people continue to disagree on the answers. 

To an extent it is a question of personal choice – people can do whatever they like and if sounding like a native speaker is your personal goal, then fine. Some people manage to do it really well. 

One thing’s for sure – nobody can argue against the importance of intelligibility – being understandable and clear, but exactly who you should sound like seems to be up to you.

But anyway,  I felt I should mention this whole argument in the introduction here, and Jerome mentions it too before going on to describe the specifics of how someone could shift their accent.

Also keep listening to hear Jerome start training me to speak in that southern American accent that I mentioned earlier. Can he help me learn to speak like I’m in The Walking Dead and I’m from a southern state like Georgia or Tennessee or South Carolina or maybe even Alabama?

OK, I will talk to you again at the end in order to recap and sum up some of the main points that are made in this conversation. But now, let’s start this conversation with me in Paris and Jerome Butler across the Atlantic in New York City.

————————–

Ending Transcript

So, that was dialect coach Jerome Butler. Thank you again to Jerome for all that information he gave us.

So, for me that was fascinating and also reassuring to know that Jermoe uses more or less the same methods and approaches in the TV and film industries as I use in my English teaching. I think Jerome gave us some really valuable insights into how people can change their accents. As I said before, this is a huge and complex subject so we only scratched the surface here. 

If you’d like to know more from Jerome and use the tools he mentioned then visit his website, which is dialectcoachescorner.com/ You can create a free profile there and then start exploring and practising. It is for a general American English accent though, as Jerome pointed out.

Let me now just recap and sum up the main bits of advice in that conversation. If you found it a bit difficult to follow or to pick out all the specifics, this summary should help.

Summarising Advice from this conversation

Learn the phonemic script because it will help you become more aware of the different sounds that are used in English. There are apps you can use to do this. Check “Sounds” by Macmillan. This will really help you to identify and then produce specific sounds that are used in English → British English in the case of that. “Sounds” contains various tasks that will help you learn the sounds, practise recognising them, transcribing words phonetically and more. The full name is “Sounds: The Pronunciation App” and the best way to download it is from the Macmillan website www.macmillaneducationapps.com/soundspron/ 

Categorise words by the different sounds – for example, what is the vowel sound in the stressed syllable of the word?

You can take all the vowel sounds – monophthongs and diphthongs and consider them to be categories. Try putting different words into those categories.

Vowel sounds would be good. 

Also certain consonant sounds like voiced and unvoiced pairs, TH sounds and so on. Also, -ED endings for regular verbs.

A textbook like Ship or Sheep by Ann Baker can help because in that book all the different vowel sounds are listed chapter by chapter and you can practise recognising, categorising and repeating words with those sounds.

Mechanical practise is important. Repetition is the mother of skill – I think that’s the phrase that Jerome used. It’s reassuring to know this – and he’s a man with a proven track record of results. He knows that to help someone change the way they speak it is a combination of heightening your awareness of the different sounds and how they are made, then mechanical practise with those sounds until they “enter your body” and you acquire the ability to quickly switch between the categories and quickly work out how to say words in the accent you have chosen.

So, again, practise identifying which sound is used – practise categorising words over and over again.

Then practise saying these words by repeating after someone. Again – Ship or Sheep can help because there is an audio CD. Other books or websites may be available.

But there are many things to take into account. It’s not just vowel sounds. If I’d had more time with Jerome we might have got onto other things like intonation, connected speech, elision of sounds, sentence stress, weak forms and all that stuff.

It can be hard to do it on your own so you might also need a personal coach of some kind, like a one to one teacher who can work closely with you.

Let me point you towards Jerome’s website again dialectcoachescorner.com/ where you can contact Jerome, create a free account to access all the resources and more. Remember, that is if you are looking for a general American accent, or perhaps more specific regional accents in the USA. For British English, well of course I’d recommend my premium subscription!

So, work with someone, work with resources designed to help you with this.

Alternatively, you can practise simply repeating after someone whose accent you want to copy. 

If you want to copy my accent, you can repeat words and sentences after me. 

Do this either by shadowing – just try to repeat as you listen, or perhaps pause and repeat.

Or you can use the pronunciation drills in my premium episodes, because they are designed to help you repeat after me and I focus my attention on things like sentence stress and other specific features.

Practise practise practise.

Have fun with it too.

But also remember that it is a question of personal choice. Please don’t feel that you have to sound exactly like a native speaker. In my opinion, it is totally fine and reasonable to retain traces of your native language when you speak English. That’s part of who you are. Like Jerome said, perhaps the only reason to completely lose all trace of your first language in your English accent is if you are an actor or a spy. 

Also, I think it requires a lot of time, dedication and effort to work on your accent to the same level as a professional actor. This isn’t always a realistic proposition for learners of English who are also busy in their lives. So, working on being clear is the main thing and if you have a regional accent in English, that’s fine – it’s part of who you are, just like someone from Liverpool has a Liverpool accent, someone from Glasgow has a Glasgow accent, someone from Essex has an Essex accent – you can have an accent from your country, as long as people understand you.

It’s all a question of personal choice at the end of the day – but there it is, I think speaking to Jerome shows us that there are ways of working on the way that you sound, if you are prepared to put in the time and the effort.

I also wonder sometimes if some people are more naturally talented at changing their pronunciation than others, but that is a question I’m not completely able to answer at this moment. What do you think? Do you think some people are naturally better than others at matters of pronunciation?

A Few Expressions in the Episode

My tongue is firmly in my cheek – This just means he’s not being serious. He said calling himself a dialect coach would mean he’d get paid more.

We’re splitting hairs – To split hairs means to make very specific and unnecessary distinctions between things. Jerome could be called an accent coach or a dialect coach and it doesn’t matter – although to be specific, dialect refers to the words and the grammar, and accent refers to the pronunciation.

I’m not going to go into the weeds – This means getting deeply involved in very specific details. He’s not going into all the complex details, he’s just giving us a simple overview.

Links

Here are some of those useful links again

689. Baking Cakes, Telling Jokes & Speaking Chinese with Kate Billington

A funny chat with Kate who speaks multiple languages, makes delicious cakes, teaches English and does stand-up comedy. Enjoy!

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This episode of Luke’s English Podcast is sponsored by Luke’s English Podcast Premium. Premium LEPlanders, did you know that in the LEP App, as well as the category for premium audio episodes, there’s a category called Pronunciation Videos? Did you know that? There are currently 13 pronunciation videos in there with drills for you to repeat after me with annotations on the screen, plus a new video which I created and uploaded just the other day – a set of pronunciation drills for present perfect simple and continuous. I just thought I would let you know. I’m also working on a new premium audio series which is coming soon, so keep checking the premium category in your LEP App and also on my website. If you’d like to become a premium listener, then go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo  


Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners, how are you today? I hope you’re basically doing alright.

Sometimes I get messages from people who say things like this:

“Luke, when you talk on the podcast, are you talking at your normal speed, because I can understand everything you say” and “Can you speak at your normal speaking speed on the podcast please? Because we want to hear natural, fast speech – like the way native speakers usually speak.”

OK then. Actually, I think I do speak at my normal speed on this podcast more or less, most of the time, but as I’ve said before it’s probably easier for you to understand me when I’m talking on my own than when I’m talking to a guest. My conversations with guests tend to speed up. As you may have noticed.

But if you are one of those listeners who is looking for English listening at a fast, natural speed, then this kind of episode (that’s this one, that you’re listening to right now) is for you, because the conversation I’m presenting this time goes at a really rapid pace. 

My guest and I got quite carried away during this conversation, which does happen when I speak to guests. We didn’t see the time passing and we covered a lot of different little topics with some bits of humour thrown in and we weren’t simplifying our English throughout. It’s just like when you’re talking to your friends in your native language I expect. 

Basically, listeners – are you up for another English listening challenge? If the answer is “yes” then, great. Here you are. Here is this episode.

But it might be difficult, so brace yourself. It depends on your level of English of course. Maybe you’ll have no problem understanding this at all. But I think for some people, it might be a challenge.

Nevertheless, I’m not going to explain all the main points you are going to hear in advance, like I do sometimes at the start of episodes – that kind of explaining can be very helpful, but I’m not doing it this time, mainly because I want to keep the episode length under control – I don’t want it to end up being tooooo long. In fact, I’m going to stop this introduction in a moment and just let you listen to the conversation in full without loads of support from me. You’ll be alright. You’ll be fine.

My guest this time is Kate Billington, who you haven’t heard on this podcast before – so another new voice for you to get to know. 

Kate does a lot of different things – she speaks multiple languages. British English is her mother tongue but she also speaks Chinese, French, Spanish too I believe. She is an English teacher like me. She makes cakes at a professional level (unlike me – I’m not great at making cakes but I’m very good at eating them) But Kate is a pro. I mean she is a professionally-qualified cake maker. She has a particular set of skills as you will hear – and watch out for some descriptions of some classic British cake recipes. Kate is a stand-up comedian (yes, another one), and she is interested in lots of other things too, as you will hear.

Kate and I really enjoyed this conversation. I hope you do too and that you just get really involved in listening to us and that you don’t see the time passing. If you do lose track of what we’re talking about at any point, which is quite possible, maybe use your podcasting app to skip back a bit and listen again.

If it is difficult, all I can do now is just encourage you to complete the episode from start to finish, even if you don’t get 100% of what we’re saying. It’s important when learning a language to persevere. It’s worth it. Anyway, if you simply enjoy the atmosphere and the things we say, hopefully that will make things much more pleasant for you.

Remember you don’t have to listen to the whole thing in one go. If you need to stop at any point, your podcast app will remember where you were and you can just carry on again later, which is one of the great things about podcasts. 

The icing on the cake

Juuuust before we start, I feel I should explain one idiom in English which comes up near the beginning. “The icing on the cake”

I was thinking of calling this episode “The Icing on the Cake with Kate Billingon” but then I thought “no, people don’t know what that means”. But I want to explain it anyway because it does come up and you’re here to learn English, right?

If you say that something is “the icing on the cake” it means that it is something extra that is added to an already good situation, which makes it even better.

You have a situation which is already good, and then you add a little extra something to make that situation even better.

“The episode was good – but that joke that Kate told at the end was the icing on the cake”.

This is an idiom in English of course. It’s not only used to refer to cakes.

Icing is a sugary frosting which is added as a thin layer on top of a cake. So, the icing on top of a cake is an extra little layer of yummy sweet stuff which is added, making it even better. A cake is already amazing, right? Well, adding icing on top makes it even more amazing.

For exmaple: “It was incredible seeing Neil Young doing a concert in Hyde Park but Paul McCartney arriving on stage at the end of the show was the icing on the cake.”

This idiom comes up at the start. Watch out for it.

OK, I’m going to stop this introduction now. So let’s meet Kate Billington for the first time on Luke’s English Podcast, and here we go…


Ending Transcript

So, that was Kate Billington in an epically long conversation. Thanks again to Kate.

Hello you! You made it until the end. Nice one. How was that for you? I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. 

If this episode was a cake, what kind of cake would it be?

Maybe a long fruit cake – rich, quite heavy, fruity, made in the run up to Christmas, very British and best enjoyed with copious amounts of brandy.

Or maybe you found it more like a Victoria sponge cake – light, fluffy, sweet and moreish.

Or perhaps a battenburg cake – it looks like one solid whole, but when you get into it you realise that it’s made up of different sections. 

Anyway, thank you for listening all the way up to this point. 

Let us know any thoughts or reactions you have by writing something in the comment section on the website. 

  • How was this episode for you?
  • Did you learn anything from it?
  • Do you have any specific questions about vocab that came up?
  • Do you have any thoughts that you’d like to share?
  • Do you have any thoughts in your head, generally? (I hope so) 

Check out the page for this episode on my website where you will see things like transcriptions for my introduction and this ending bit, plus pictures of most of the cake types and pastry types that we talked about → Victoria sponge, fruit cake, Battenberg cake (aka window cake) plus some lovely French things like croissants, pain au chocolate and more.

Kate Billington on Instagram

Check out Kate’s Instagram to see lots of lovely pictures of lovely delicious cakes that she has made – yum yum yum and indeed, yum.

www.instagram.com/cake_by_cake_paris 

See stand up comedy in Paris (covid-permitting)

Also you can check out Comedy Croissant on Instagram & Facebook, especially if you are in the Paris area and you’d like to come to one of the shows when they eventually come back. And as I record this ending bit France is again under strict lockdown measures, which means the comedy shows are not happening for the foreseeable future, but when they’re back, which they will be one day, you’ll know about it if you follow Comedy Croissant on Facebook.

You can find information about all the English comedy nights in Paris by going to www.englishcomedyinparis.com 

Bonus Audio in the LEP App

LEP App users – There is a little outtake in the app (extra audio – just in case you didn’t get enough from this episode) – tap the gift icon while listening to the episode and you’ll hear a couple of bonus minutes of Kate and me talking about some blue bookends that I have in my pod-room. Bookends are things you put on the end of shelves to stop the books falling off. Usually they are rectangular in shape, but also L shaped – because part of the bookend has to go under the books. My blue bookends, which you might have seen in my videos, look like the Tardis from the TV show Doctor Who. The Tardis looks like a blue telephone box. Doctor Who fans will know. If you’d like to hear us talking about my Tardis-shaped bookends and whether I am a proper Whovian (Doctor Who fan) or not, then find the gift icon for this episode in the LEP app and tap it!

The bookends in my pod-room which caught Kate’s eye. The bookends look like The Tardis. Listen to the bonus audio in the app to find out more.

Posh, or not posh? Gap yah, etc…

Another thing is, if you are wondering about posh people – how to know if someone is posh, what a posh accent sounds like, and that whole “Gap Yah” thing, then go to the episode archive and find the “Posh or not posh” episodes – 581, 582 and 584. They should explain everything relating to poshness and how posh people speak.

Thank you again to Kate for this episode. Thanks Kate.

Dear listener, I will speak to you again soon on the podcast in either a free episode or a premium one (I’m working on more content for you), and yes the next part of the WISBOLEP competition is on it’s way. I am working on that too.

Thank you for choosing to listen to my podcast.

If you are feeling up for it you could leave a nice review for LEP on iTunes – it helps the podcast appear in those recommended lists and things. Like and subscribe and  leave a comment if you’re listening on YouTube. Consider donating to support the podcast by clicking a donate button on my website. Download the Luke’s English Podcast app from the app store and consider becoming a premium lepster by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo 

And finally, please remember to be excellent to each other, stay safe, stay healthy, stay positive.

But for now, it’s just time to say, goodbye!

English Cakes

Again, check Kate’s Instagram, because her photos are much more appealing than these ones. www.instagram.com/cake_by_cake_paris/

Traditional English fruit cake
The Christmas version of an English fruit cake – probably “fed” with brandy and left in the cupboard for weeks.
Victoria Sponge Cake
Battenberg Cake (a.k.a “Window cake”) www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/battenburg_cake_60878

French Viennoiserie

“All butter” Croissant
Pain au chocolat (also known as a chocolatine in some parts of the country) 😋

684. Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth Graty

A conversation with English-teaching stand-up comedian Elspeth Graty, which covers lots of different topics including Elspeth’s background in England, teaching English, cultural differences, “French-bashing”, old-fashioned telephones and The Tellytubbies. Enjoy!

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There are now well over 100 audio and video episodes in the premium archive and you can access them all, plus new ones that are coming. That’s what you get when you become a premium lepster. To get all the information, including how it works and exactly how wonderfully reasonable the prices are – go to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo

Introduction Transcript

Hello listeners,

How are you today? Doing alright all things considered? I do hope you’re managing to keep calm and carry on during this weird and difficult period of history that we are all experiencing.

Shall we start the episode? OK.

Here’s the second in a series of interviews I’ve been doing lately featuring people I’ve been meaning to talk to on the podcast for quite a while (quite a while — is that a short time or a long time? Quick answer: It means a long time.)

I just wanted to record natural conversations with some new guests so you can hear their voices, their stories, their thoughts so you can notice bits of language and practise your English listening as usual.

The first of these recent interviews was with Marie Connolly from Australia, which was the last episode of course. I hope you all enjoyed it.

This conversation is with a friend of mine called Elspeth who is from England.

Elspeth is an English teacher and she also does stand-up comedy in the evenings, which is how we met each other. Yep, she’s another English-teaching comedian friend of mine.

Explaining this episode’s title

The title of this episode is “Chasing the Tangent Train with Elspeth”.

The title is just a metaphor – please don’t expect a conversation about train travel!

It’s just a metaphor to explain the fact that this conversation is full of tangents and I hope you can keep up with it. In fact, it’s mainly tangents.

What is “a tangent”?
Long term listeners should know this, but plenty of people won’t know so let me explain.

In a conversation, a tangent is when the topic changes to something quite different and seemingly not related to the main point of that conversation.

It’s when you digress from the main point, go away from the main point or get sidetracked.

“To go off on a tangent”

There are lots of tangents in this conversation. So, for the title of the episode, I was trying to think of a way to describe the experience that you will have of just following the changes in direction in a conversation and seeing where it goes.

I ended up with “chasing the train”, which is not actually an expression you will find in the dictionary – I made it up.

Let’s imagine, then, that this conversation is a train and it’s going down the tracks and every now and then it switches to new tracks and continues for a while, then it switches to another new track and then does it again, and again and so on. Can you keep up with the train? I think you get the idea.

My overall aim for this interview was mainly to get to know Elspeth in more depth and to capture an authentic conversation to help you learn English. That is the destination for this train journey. But as I said, the topics move around a bit, which is totally normal in a conversation. Just ask David Crystal, he wrote a book all about it and he’s a professor and definitely knows what he’s talking about.

What I’m getting at is that this might be hard for you to follow – depending on your level of English.

So you’ll have to focus.

Nevertheless, I can help you keep up with this if I let you know what the main changes will be in advance.

So I’m now going to give you a quick overview of the main changes in topic in this chat.

The main points in this conversation are, thus: (these aren’t spoilers)

We talk about

  • Where Elspeth comes from originally, and how her family moved around parts of England
  • Being the daughter of a vicar (that’s her, not me obviously) A vicar is a priest in the Anglican church – the church of England. The cliche of the typical English vicar is that they wear black with a little white collar, they’re often softly-spoken grey haired men with glasses who ride bicycles around their parish and love drinking tea, eating cake and generally worshipping god.
  • Our accents, which are not strongly affected by the region where we grew up (we actually come from the same general area in England)
  • Having harvest festivals at church when we were children
  • Then there’s a big, random tangent → Remembering the old dial telephones we had in our houses when we were children. Remember them? You had to put your finger in and turn numbers around a dial, and it went went kkkkkkkkk. You don’t remember? That must be because you’re young, or you’re old and you’ve lost your memory.
  • Services you could get on the old analogue telephones, like the operator (a person who you could speak to and who would deal with your telephone-related enquiries) and the talking clock (a recorded voice that was constantly telling the time and you could call a number and listen to it)
  • Coventry Cathedral in Coventry, which was almost destroyed during World War 2 but was rebuilt and is now definitely worth a visit if you’re in the city
  • Elspeth’s life in France, her French, and whether or not she feels French or English after living here for quite a long time
  • Some of the cultural differences between England and France that frustrate us a bit, like the usual things – being punctual, walking down the street and in particular, queueing – standing in line to wait for things in public
  • Teaching English to young engineers, and the challenges that French students have when learning English
  • Some of Elspeth’s experiences of learning French
  • How Elspeth can behave slightly differently in English and in French, especially when doing stand-up comedy in the two languages
  • Elspeth’s thoughts on her own clothing choices and fashion sense, and how people react to it, especially the Nike Air Max trainers that she wears
  • Teaching English online using Zoom – and what that is like
  • Doing stand-up (going on stage and telling people jokes and stories to make them laugh) and Elspeth’s favourite and least favourite things about doing that
    Where her inspiration for comedy material comes from and “flow activities” or being in a “flow state
  • If there is a connection between stand-up and English teaching
  • A little story about The Tellytubbies that Elspeth uses in her English lessons, which makes the students laugh (The Tellytubbies is a children’s TV show) The story involves The Tellytubbies, William Shakespeare, the county of Warwickshire in England and April Fool’s Day. Basically, the county council of Warwickshire played an April fool’s trick on the people of Warwickshire, and it involved The Tellytubbies and Shakespeare, and people didn’t like it.
  • Why English people get into rages – like road rage, or trolly rage in the supermarket
  • The concept of French-bashing (criticising or making fun of the French and French culture) and why Parisians seem to complain about each other’s behaviour quite a lot (Parisians are people living in Paris)
  • How people’s behaviour in public in Paris compares to behaviour in the UK and in Tokyo
  • Things we love about France – because there’s a lot to love about this country too
  • Finally, a bit at the end where we both conclude that Paul Taylor is basically a cake – a delicious British cake.

Actually, reading out that list – it doesn’t seem like there are that many tangents, but there are tangents ok? What I’ve just given you there is the main flow of the conversation.

Right. Now that you have an overview of the track layout, let’s get this train rolling.

Let’s just get started. Here is my conversation with Elspeth, and here we go.


Luke’s fuddy-duddy slippers (a Christmas present from a couple of years ago)

Ending Transcript

Right, so that was my conversation with Elspeth. I enjoyed it a lot, especially because we have quite a lot in common, not least because we are from the same neck of the woods (a local area where someone lives).

How did you get on? Did you manage to follow it ok? Well, you must have done, because you made it. You’ve caught up with the train. You can have a rest now. Well done for keeping up.

I expect you’re getting out your phone now. If that’s what you’re doing, open up Instagram on your phone and check out Elspeth’s page, which is @elslostinfrance which I now realise would have been the perfect name for this episode, right?

Elspeth on Instagram

www.instagram.com/elslostinfrance/

I could do a lot of rambling on now, about all sorts of things, like what’s been going on and the WISBOLEP competition (which is now closed by the way – no more entries please. The deadline has passed, unless maybe you’re in a part of the world where it is still the 15th October – in which case, you have until midnight).

I’ve received loads of entries and let me tell you – it is going to be difficult to choose just one winner. There are so many really interesting recordings and stories of how people learned English and all kids of other things. It will be hard to pick just one person. Also I’m now wondering how I’m going to manage the whole thing. I’ve had nearly 90 entries. I don’t know why I didn’t expect to get so many.
Each entry is about two minutes long and so – 180 minutes, even without my comments (and I really want to make even very short comments).

Shall I play them all on the podcast? That’s a lot, isn’t it?

I think the best way to do it might be to make a YouTube video of all the audio (if that makes sense) and then I can add time stamps for each person, which will make it much easier for everyone to find each recording.

In any case, I will find a way to manage this. It could take a while though, so be patient.

I do want to re-state that it has been amazing listening to all the recording (I’ve had brief listens to most of the recordings sent). There are some awesome people in my audience. I just want to give a shout out to anyone who sent in a recording. Well done for plucking up the courage to do that. The competition is going to be a bit of a celebration of my audience from around the world.

Not much more to add here, except the usual mention of LEP Premium which you can find out more about by going to www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo I’ve been getting some very positive feedback about it. There are now over 100 episodes of LEPP now in audio and video form. Check it out to see what you’ve been missing.

I’ll be back again soon with another episode, perhaps one in which I just ramble on about all the stuff that I’ve been meaning to say on the podcast for a while, a few listener emails, some songs perhaps and more…

Let me say thank you again to Elspeth for her contribution to this episode. Thank you Elspeth.

Everyone: Hang in there. Keep your chin up.

Hey, do you want some anti-covid funk music to cheer you up? (Yeah)

OK. This is something that I recorded this morning. I probably should have been doing some work but after dropping off my daughter at school I suddenly felt compelled to play some bass, and one thing led to another and I ended up recording a little 2-minute funk groove. The drums are from a youtuber called Dimitri Fantini (link on the episode page). I needed a 90bpm 16-beat funk groove and he delivered. Credit to Dimitri for the drum track. I’ve added bass using my Mexican-made Fender P-Bass, some rhythm guitar with my Fender Stratocaster (also made in Mexico) as well as some string sounds which are from my Yamaha P-45 electric piano.

I called the track Funk in the Kitchen, because it’s supposed to make you dance in your kitchen, or indeed in any other location.

Brace yourselves – music is coming… In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, let the funk commence…

Thanks for listening… Speak to you again soon… Bye!!

658. [2/2] Why do Brits sing with American accents?

This is part 2 of a double episode exploring the question of why British people often change their accent when they sing. This episode contains more examples, including some (dodgy) singing from me in order to hear how it sounds when different songs are sung in different accents. Notes, lyrics and transcriptions available on the page below.

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Notes & Transcriptions

Introduction

Hello, welcome back to the podcast. I hope you’re doing ok out there in podcastland during this difficult period.

It’s necessary to say that isn’t it these days. You have to acknowledge the fact that everyone’s struggling, or you have to explain that things are perhaps not happening normally because of the coronavirus and there are various ways of saying it – both informal and formal, perhaps in a work email or something. I saw something on Twitter which made me laugh and I retweeted it. If you follow me on Twitter you might have seen that. My Twitter handle is @EnglishPodcast by the way. So the thing I saw on Twitter was just a little meme about how in normal English we say “because of the coronavirus” but in  formal writing (like in a work email) we have to dress that up in more fancy language, like “due to the ongoing situation regarding covid-19”.

So I hope that you are not having too much of a bad time because of the coronavirus, or perhaps I should say “I trust that you are managing to maintain your working routines effectively in the context of the current situation regarding covid-19.” 

This is episode 658 and it’s part 2 of a double episode. This is part 2. Don’t listen to this, until you’ve heard part 1. Seems obvious, doesn’t it, but I just want to make it clear. Part 1 contains loads of context and details which I think you should hear before listening to this.

In part 1 I started answering a question from a listener, and the question is “Why do British people sound American when they sing?” It’s actually a bit complicated. It’s all about the conventions of modern pop music which has its roots in the USA. But there are also plenty of examples of British singers singing in British accents. It’s a mix of language, identity, music and phonology. In part 1 I answer the question in some detail and also point out some features of what I’m calling the American Singing Accent, including things like the way certain words which I pronounce with diphthongs (that’s double vowel sounds) become ‘flattened’ to single long vowel sounds, like in the words I, find, time, mine in the line “I need to find my time to get what’s mine”.

So let’s continue and in this part, which is part 2 I’m going to continue to explore this whole area by singing some songs in different accents and by listening to some samples of music. I hope you enjoy it and find it interesting. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section or perhaps links to YouTube videos with other examples that you can think of – examples of British artists singing with American accents, or perhaps British artists singing with British accents, or artists from anywhere else for that matter, singing in any other accent. It’s not just British and American of course, there are so many other accents that you might hear in English language songs. Reggae music from Jamaica for example is usually sung with a Jamaican accent of course.

Anyway, let’s carry on with part 2 and here we go…


Singing songs in different accents

I want to experiment with this by singing some well-known songs in either an American accent (The American Singing Accent as defined above) or a British accent (again, which one? Probably my own standard British RP but also I might try some cockney or maybe Liverpool or something).

Brits singing with American accents

What happens when you sing certain American songs in a British accent (let’s be more specific, let’s say my British RP)

If you sing some songs in a British accent they usually sound weird and wrong. You might disagree, because you might have a soft spot for British accents (and in fact more recently there have been some very successful artists who seem to sing in British RP as a stylistic choice) but I think overall, most people would think it sounded wrong, like my previous example with “Shallow”.

My Girl by The Temptations

Tell the story (briefly) of someone who sang “My girl” at a party once. It was ridiculous.

I’m now going to sing the songs in their normal American voice, then in a British accent.

“My Girl, talking about, my girl!”

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/the-temptations/my-girl-chords-86366

Take it Easy by Eagles

Eagles’ “Take it Easy” in a British accent (especially the 2nd verse)

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/eagles/take-it-easy-chords-14322

Hit me Baby One More Time by Britney Spears

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/britney-spears/baby-one-more-time-chords-279810

Under The Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/red-hot-chili-peppers/under-the-bridge-chords-44981

Songs by British artists sung in an American accent

I could pick almost any song by a British pop artist and the chances are that it’ll be sung in an American singing accent.

Whole Lotta Love by Led Zeppelin

We Are the Champions by Queen

Weirdly, Freddie seems to drift from an English sounding voice in the verse to an American one in the chorus. Listen to how he sings “time” (Time after time) in the verse and then “time” in the chorus (No time for losers).

This is so tricky! The accents seem to drift around while people sing.

Ultimately, I think this shows that when people sing they change their voice to suit the music. Freddie Mercury wasn’t just a rock singer, he was also quite operatic and theatrical and I think he probably chose to sing in different ways depending on the feeling he was choosing, including some bits where he sings with a more English sounding voice and some bits where he’s in full-on rock mode and sounds American.

British bands/singers singing with British accents

Let’s consider some songs which are clearly sung in British accents, or moments where British accents are more obvious. 

There will be billions of examples of great British bands who sing in British accents. Here are some ones which I can think of right now.

The Beatles

They’re a difficult case because it’s quite hard to tell when they’re singing with American accents, when they’re singing with Liverpool accents but there are definitely times when their Liverpool accents came through.

It seems to me that their accents became a bit more English as they went on because in the early days they were (to an extent) imitating American artists they loved like Elvis, Buddy Holly, Little Richard, Chuck Berry & so on (especially when doing cover versions like “Long Tall Sally” (“Oh baby, some fun tonight”) and “Twist & Shout” (“And let me know that you’re mine”).

But later as they wrote more of their own music and became more original, their own accents came in. They also used to make a point of singing in a Liverpool accent sometimes.

Penny Lane by The Beatles

“In Penny Lane the barber shaves another customer” 2:00

Lennon singing Polythene Pam (intentionally putting on a strong Scouse accent)

John Lennon – Norwegian Wood “I once had a girl” – the “I” is rounded like Lennon would say it.

Paul McCartney – I’m Looking Through You

Paul McCartney’s English accent is quite recognisable in “I’m Looking Through You”
“I thought I knew you… what did I know?”
“Why tell me why did you not treat me right?”

Although some bits still sound a bit American – “You’re naaat the same”

Steve Earle – I’m Looking Through You

But when US country singer Steve Earle did a cover version of it, he did it in a Southern sounding American accent.

“Aaah thought aaah knew yewwww whut did aaaaah know?”
“Yurrr voice eis soootheuyin , but the wrrrrrds arrrrnt clearrrr”
“Whaaaaa tell me whaaa did you naaat treat me right?”

The Smiths – Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now

“Why do I give valuable time” –all with rounded diphthongs

The Undertones – My Perfect Cousin

The Undertones were from Northern Ireland and you could hear it in some of their songs, like this one.

“He’s sure to go to heaven”
“He thinks that I’m a cabbage because I hate university challenge”

A lot of Britpop bands sang with British accents, because it was Britpop. BRITpop, you see.

Blur – Parklife (they were making a point of singing in a British accent)

There are billions of other examples, I’m sure.

But it’s weird and not black and white.

It’s not like all punk bands or all Britpop bands sang with their local accents. Sometimes they did, sometimes it was definitely American.

There’s no escaping that rock & roll is basically American.

Singing in an American accent when it should be British, and people get annoyed

Alesha Dixon sings the national anthem in a “soul” voice. Basically, she sang the word “god” in an American accent, which pissed off the Daily Mail readers.

She got quite harshly criticised for this. She said she did it on purpose because it was a “soul” version of the anthem. Naturally a lot of Brits were triggered by this.

What’s the conclusion?

  • Singing is different to speaking.
  • Accents change to suit the music and the social rules are a bit different when people sing.
  • Singing is a more open and free form of expression than speaking. Our accent when we speak is completely tied to our identity. But when we sing it’s more tied to the feeling we are trying to create or express.
  • Some types of music or some songs just have to be sung in an American accent and it’s usually not a big deal.
  • Some artists sing with British accents because they are expressing something uniquely British, like a folk singer such as Billy Bragg or a rapper like Stormzy.
  • It’s also interesting to note that a lot of non-native speakers of English can sing in a native-like accent, but when they speak English it’s not the same story.

    For example: Paul Taylor’s bit about his wife saying “Hello how are you?” –> His wife can sing “Hello” when she’s singing along with Adele’s song but when she has to say it, she says “‘ello ‘ow ‘are you?”

Leave your comments, thoughts and video suggestions below

657. [1/2] Why do Brits sing with American accents?

Have you ever wondered why British people sometimes change their accent when they sing? This episode explores the question of why this happens, with various examples and some (dodgy) singing by me. Notes, videos and transcripts available on the page below.

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Notes & Transcriptions

Hello listeners,

This is episode 657 and it’s called “Why do Brits sing with American accents?”

Essentially this episode is about accents in English, and how our accents sometimes change when we sing.

This is all based on an email I got from a listener recently. Here is that email.
I’m curious to see if you have ever wondered the same thing.

An email from a listener, with a question about accents

Name: János Bernhardt /jænɒʃ bɜːnhɑːt//

Janos gave me the OK to read this out, and I’ll make some corrections as we go.

Message:

Dear Luke,

I have just watched this video (attached) and one question came to my mind about the british english accent.

A couple of corrections from Luke

“British English” should have a capital B and a capital E (British English) because we capitalise the first letters of nationality adjectives and the names of languages in English. Also, I’d avoid saying “The British accent” or “The British English accent” because there are lots of British accents, and this often annoys British people, who often get a bit offended by other people writing “the British accent” and they say “There’s no such thing as The British Accent!”. So, I suggest that instead you should say “British accents”, just “British English” or maybe “a British accent”.

Let’s rephrase Janos’s sentence like this:

I’ve just watched this video and one question came to my mind about British accents…

The video in question is of a British singer called Charlotte Awbery who became a sensation (in February) due to a viral Instagram and YouTube video in which she was randomly asked to sing in a Tube station in London.

In the video sent by Janos, we see that she sings Lady Gaga’s song “Shallow” from the film A Star Is Born really well, just like Lady Gaga, but when she speaks she does so in a completely different accent to the one she was singing in.

We’ll listen to the video in a moment, but let’s continue Janos’ email.

In the video Charlotte clearly loses her accent when she sings, but when she speaks I can hear her beautiful british accent. Is this a normal thing or she has to pay close attention to this during singing? Does she have to…

Sorry for disturbing you if it is a stupid question and also sorry for my bad english.

By the way I love your podcast. I just discovered it recently but I really try to relisten as much episodes as I can.

I am really trying to relisten to as many episodes as I can.

Thanks a lot Luke!
Kind Regards,
János Bernhardt

This is an example of an email from a listener which immediately sent me down a huge rabbit hole (a complicated journey in which you get lost looking for an answer).

That doesn’t always happen when listeners send me questions, but it did with this one. To be honest, I should have been working on other things but when I received this email it caught my attention and then I got sucked in! I thought it would make a perfect episode of the podcast because it’s about accents in English, it’s about American and British English, it’s about music, it’s about culture, it’s about identity and I am certain this is a question that a lot of you have thought of → Why is it that British singers often sing with American accents?

Brits don’t always sing with American accents (there are plenty of cases when this doesn’t happen, as we will see later in the episode), but they often do.

This is the stuff I’m interested in. Also it gives me a chance to play a bit of guitar and do some singing on the podcast too, which I will probably do a bit later when we get stuck into this properly.

God knows how long this episode will be, because there’s a lot to unpack here. It might be a double episode. We’ll see.

Before we go any further, we should check out that clip that Janos sent to me, so we know what he was talking about.

Let’s listen to the video that he mentioned.

Charlotte Awbrey on The Ellen Show

This is a clip from the Ellen show (an American chat show), and you’ll hear various people speaking including chat show host Ellen Degeneres, and also some other people. I won’t explain any more. Let’s just listen to the clip and your job is to work out what is going on, who is speaking and where they are from.

Comprehension Questions

  1. What’s happening?
  2. Who is talking?
  3. Where are they from?
  4. What accent does Charlotte have?
    Don’t just say “British”. Can you be more specific?

In summary…

Charlotte Awbery: 5 Things To Know About The Subway Singer Who Nailed Lady Gaga’s ‘Shallow’ 

Charlotte Awbery is an internet sensation after a video of her showcasing her incredible singing voice went viral on February 20. Just four days prior, a content creator named Kevin Freshwater shared a video of a segment he hosted called, “Finish the Lyrics.” In the video, Freshwater can be seen traveling through the streets and subways, asking random people to finish the lyrics of popular songs. And, that’s where he came across Charlotte, who was making her way to a train in the subway. [The Underground!]

Freshwater approached Charlotte who was visibly caught off guard, and began singing the lyrics to “Shallow” — Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper‘s Oscar-winning hit from the film, A Star Is Born. Charlotte began singing the lyrics quietly, but just enough for Freshwater to recognize how talented she is. When he kept asking her to sing more, Charlotte went all out and it took the internet by storm.“

Then she was invited onto the Ellen show with Ellen Degeneres, to sing the song and then be interviewed.

The thing is, she sang with an American accent but then spoke with a really broad Estuary English accent (some call it cockney, some call it Essex – basically it’s a strong local accent from the area to the east of London.)

So, going back to Janos’ original question then:

Why did Charlotte Awbery switch from an American accent when singing, to a British accent when talking?

Is this normal?
Do British people normally do that when they sing?
Do they/we have to make special effort to do it?
What’s going on?

Is this normal? Do Brits normally do this when they sing?
Yes, lots of Brits suddenly change their accent and sound American when they sing. (Why? We’ll see). I’m talking about singing pop music, which sort of covers various forms of modern music that largely originate in the USA, like jazz, blues, soul, country, rock & roll, rock, gospel –> all the main ingredients of modern pop music.

It’s not just Brits. Irish people, Australian people, people from New Zealand, people from South Africa, any English speaker, including non-native speakers of English in France, Germany, Japan, wherever! Everyone does this.

I’m sticking with Brits though because that’s what I am and that’s what I know.

Yes it is very normal and very common. There are various degrees of it – sometimes it’s just a slight American accent, sometimes it’s really strong. We’ll be looking at some examples later.

But it doesn’t happen every time. There are plenty of examples of British singers singing in their own accent too (again, more on this later).

Do British people have to make a special effort to sing in an American accent?
I would say “no”, it normally happens completely effortlessly but it does depend on the song, or the style of the song. In fact, in many cases it would take a lot of effort to sing some songs in a British accent even if that is your native accent. I’ll hopefully demonstrate this later when I try to sing some songs myself.

What’s going on?
Various things! This is a complex question to answer and that’s what the rest of this episode is about. I’m going to explore the answer to the question, although I’m not a linguist or a sociologist or anything so I’m kind of working it out myself. One thing that can help is to listen to some samples of music and also it might help if I try and sing in different accents myself and we can see what happens.

Basically, singing and speaking are different. Let’s talk about why.

Social, linguistic and musical conventions 

American accents are conventional in music which has its roots in the USA.

Certain genres of music were born in the USA, including most pop music, soul, rock, R&B, jazz, funk, hip hop → this goes back to the roots of modern pop music, American blues, gospel and country music.

Therefore, when singing pop songs an American accent is the standard and is therefore easier, more normal and more natural.

Singing those songs with an obvious RP accent (or other) just ends up being weird, unnatural and wrong sounding, mainly because it would be unconventional. It just doesn’t sound right to sing certain songs with a British accent like mine.

But there are plenty of exceptions to this too, and that’s songs, genres or bands that have something authentically British about them.

In the case of this song (Shallow) Charlotte is singing a Lady Gaga song, and Lady Gaga sings it with an American accent because she is American. It’s a cover version and it would be a bit weird if she made it sound different to the original. Also the song is in a country-rock style, and in country music it’s normal to sing with a really pronounced accent – probably a southern or mid-western drawl. “Shallow” is a song from the film “A Star is Born” which is about a country singer.

Singing “Shallow” in a British accent

Let’s play “Shallow” on the guitar and first sing it in an American accent and then in a British accent.

How does it sound in my accent?

What’s your accent Luke?
Just a reminder (and because people often ask me questions about this) My accent is basically standard RP, which is said to be not specific to any region of the UK, but to be honest it’s usually associated with educated, middle-class people, probably from the South East of England. I’m not trying to say I’m educated (and of course you can be highly-educated and everything and have a regional accent), but I’m definitely middle class and from the south east of England, but I also spent time growing up in the midlands as well as west London, so you might hear a bit of west-midlands Brummie in my voice or a bit of a London accent – if you’re listening very carefully. But basically, I speak with standard British RP from the south east of England but I’m not posh.

“Shallow” Lyrics (written by Lady Gaga with Andrew WyattAnthony Rossomando and Mark Ronson)

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/misc-soundtrack/a-star-is-born-shallow-chords-2488086

Shallow doesn’t really sound right in my accent.

I don’t know what you think. There’s bound to be some people who prefer my British version. It’s a question of taste, but I think overall my British RP version wouldn’t really be accepted by most audiences. It would be weird, different, unconventional. Most people in the USA would think it was weird and wrong, I reckon.

But some songs and genres are definitely British and British voices are more obvious → things like folk music, UK hip hop (does Rapping count? It’s basically talking), Britpop, merseybeat, punk – in fact any music which is uniquely or authentically British in some way, or in which the local identity is being emphasised.

Brits sing in a British accent when they’re really being themselves, when it’s traditional British folk music, or when they’re pushing the British identity in the music.

Some British musicians make an effort not to sound American. You can hear that in some of the Beatles’ output (although sometimes they’re a bit American sounding too) and definitely in punk bands, new wave bands, britpop bands and so on → any musical movements in which a British identity gets pushed to the forefront.

Some examples of British music sung in a British accent

Madness – My Girl

Original version

Me singing it with an American accent (sounds wrong!)

Lyrics: tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/madness/my-girl-chords-202328

So, in summary, I’d say that although this seems a bit weird, it’s common for Brits to sing with American accents because of the conventions of pop music which has its roots in the USA, but there are also examples of Brits singing in their own accents.


There’s a lot more to talk about and to investigate here, so let’s go into a bit more detail.

This article from thrillist.com has some more comments (read some extracts) 

I might be re-emphasising what I just said, but I think it’s worth reading these extracts from an article I found on a website called Thrillist.com

www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/why-do-british-singers-sound-american

One of the most prominent academics on this case is Peter Trudgill. In 1983, the man published an oft-cited study that examined the disconnect between how so many British pop singers talk in real life and how they perform. He concluded that acts like The Beatles and The Rolling Stones incorporated American phonetics because they were so influenced by Yankee musicians — particularly blues acts. (Remember, the Stones got their name from a Muddy Waters track.) It was an attempt to ape their idols and break into the U.S. market.

Rolling Stones singing “Not Fade Away”

Trudgill noted the American-ness got less aggressive as time wore on, and the British Invasion acts became more comfortable with their native speaking voices. By the time the ’70s arrived, punk bands like The Clash were turning away from American affectations.

So, basically –> In the beginning, UK singers were copying their American idols, but later this influence lessened.

Here are a couple of examples of UK punk bands singing in obvious British accents, to illustrate what Peter Tudgill said.

Sham 69 – Hurry Up Harry

Peter & The Test Tube Babies – Banned from the Pubs

That’s one explanation, but seeing as we still have modern fakers like Adele, it’s incomplete.

Adele speaks with a cockney accent like Charlotte Awbrey but sings in an American accent.

Some people argue that the phenomenon is more a matter of technique. Billy Bragg, who’s normally pretty cool with singing like a Brit, once said, “You can’t sing something like ‘Tracks of My Tears’ in a London accent… the cadences are all wrong.”

Billy Bragg singing normally

Billy Bragg singing Tracks of My Tears by Smokey and the Miracles.

So the point here is that it is just easier to sing in an American accent and sometimes an American accent is just appropriate for the song.

A recent study by Andy Gibson, a sociologist in New Zealand, would appear to back Bragg up. Gibson found that Kiwis defaulted to an American singing voice across the board, and it wasn’t a conscious choice. He surmised it was just easier to sing in that accent. That’s partially because of the way we round off certain words when we sing, and partially because the world is so used to hearing American accents in pop songs, it requires more effort and concentration to sing in a different accent. Even if that “different accent” is your default speaking voice.

Clearly, researchers are still working on a definitive answer. But people do “lose” their accents through song, and it’s not some weird conspiracy. It’s just linguistics! Or Mick Jagger’s fault. You decide.

What are the phonetic features of this “American Singing Accent”?

Let’s break down “the American singing accent” vs my British accent

I’ve decided called it “the American singing accent” because it might not match perfectly with General American or with all American accents.

America is a diverse place and there are many diverse accents there. But it seems that there is a certain kind of American accent that we can hear in a lot of music.

I get the feeling that this accent comes from the people who sang the blues and gospel (basically that means black communities in southern states) and from people who sang country (mostly white singers from southern or midwestern states) but I’m not a musicologist.

Features of The American Singing Accent (my own made-up term)

  • Diphthongs are flattened to long single vowel sounds. This can help in singing, because it allows you to hold one note for a long time.
  • Common examples:
    I (often) sounds like aaaa
    My (often) sounds like maaa
    Try sounds like traaaaa
    Life sounds like Laaaaaaaf
    Time 
    “Out” sounds like “aaaat”
    “Sight” sounds like “saaaaat”
  • /r/ sounds are often more rounded “Now you’re out of sight here” “Now yurrrraaaaatu saaaaat heRe”
  • It’s generally a bit more nasal “Tell me something girl. Are you happy in this modern world? Or do you need more?” “Tell me something boy. Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?”
  • “Baby” sounds like “Baybeeee”

I’m sure there are other features. Let me know in the comment section if you can think of others.

To be honest, the best way I can demonstrate this is to try and sing some more songs in different accents and see what happens.


Ending

That’s where we’re going to pause. This is the end of part 1, and we will continue in part 2, which will be available soon, possibly already.

In part 2 the plan is to explore this question further by doing some more singing. I’m going to take some songs which are normally sung in that American singing voice, sing them normally and then sing them in my accent and we’ll see how it sounds. 

We’ll also hear some more examples of British singers singing in American accents, and also British singers singing in British accents. 

So, a lot more examples in part 2 to illustrate what I’ve been talking about in this episode.

As ever, I’m interested in your comments. Perhaps you have examples of British singers singing in American accents, or British singers singing in British accents.

Or maybe there’s a song which you like, but you don’t really know what the accent is?

In any case, you can share your thoughts and YouTube videos in the comment section.

I hope you’re keeping well, that you’re not climbing the walls or going stir crazy if you are currently in self-isolation at home. If you’re cooped up with members of your family I hope you’re managing to make it work and that you’re not at each other’s throats. Maybe you’re a lovely lovely time, in which case I am happy for you. If you’re struggling then hang in there, this won’t last forever. And if you or anyone else you know is currently unwell, then I wish you a speedy recovery and what else can I say –> may the force be with you? Actually, that’s when the lockdown is supposed to be lifted here. May the 4th (although I suspect it will be extended) but anyway, “May the 4th be with you”.

Alright, that’s enough. I hope you have found this interesting and part 2 should be available now or very soon, so you can get stuck into that. 

So, speak to you again in part 2 but for now –> bye bye bye!

Click here for part 2

656. British Comedy: Karl Pilkington’s Monkey News / The Ricky Gervais Show

Listen to a funny story told in a Manchester accent, and learn various bits of English in the process including vocabulary and pronunciation. Improve your understanding of regional British accents. Story transcript & vocabulary notes available.

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Episode aims

To understand a funny story in English to the same level as a native English speaker
To become more familiar with a Manchester accent (mancunian) and to practise listening to colloquial speech in English
To learn vocabulary relating to working on a building site, and more

Listen to the story – Monkey News / Builder

What are the main events in the story?
What’s going on?
What does the builder do?
What does he see?

A quick summary of the story

A man gets a new job on a building site. He’s just told to get to work and to not ask any questions. He sees another guy working at the top of the building who seems to work really well. He’s efficient, he doesn’t take breaks, he seems to take risks and be a hard worker. He asks the other builders and they say not to worry about it. Never mind. Don’t ask questions. He notices this guy at the top doesn’t have lunch, except for a bucket of nuts which is sent up to him. Peanuts. He gets v suspicious and asks the boss what’s going on. The boss just tells him to get back to work and not ask questions. Ultimately the guy clocks what’s going on and works out that it’s a chimpanzee working on the building and he complains, but the boss gives him the sack. So it turns out that a chimp was working on a building site and he was actually a more valuable worker than this experienced builder. Well, fancy that.

Vocabulary

Go through it quickly, just giving quick definitions and pronunciation pointers.

A bloke
A builder (person)
A building (noun)
To build / building (verb / -ing form of verb)
To get going on it = start doing something
To get on with it = hurry up, continue doing something
Bricks
Cement
Girders
The spire = the pointed top part of a building
The foundations
A fella
To take someone on
The work rate
Scared of heights (scared of the heights which are up there)
Riveting (verb)
Riveting (adjective) “This is really riveting stuff, Luke”
Nuts (that you eat)
Nuts and bolts
To hook something (on)
To check someone out
To stare
A tyre
To be wise to what’s going on
To clock something
It’s not on
Don’t get involved
Don’t interfere
You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
A good grafter
To graft (verb)
Graft (noun)
To let someone go
To be made redundant
To be laid off
A chip off the old block

Monkey News – Transcript

Ricky: Ooh, chimpanzee that! Monkey news, you fff…

Karl: There was this bloke who was a builder, right?

Steve: Oh yeah

K: And, er, you know what builders are like. They sort of move about, don’t they, from, from sort of building to building just building.

R: Well yeah. Once they’ve built it, the building’s done and they move on to build some more.

K: So he goes to his next job and that, right?

S: Who does, the builder?

K: The builder

S: Yep. The new building.

K: He goes to, like, the boss of this building who’s building it.

S: OK, yeah.

K: And he says what unto him?

K: Do you need anything building?

S: OK, yeah

K: So anyway, so he says, err, he says “Yeah yeah there’s plenty of work and that going about”. He says “We’re working on this one here”. He said, err, “Get going on it, like. There’s your bricks and cement and stuff. Get on with it.”

R: Any plans? Nah, JUST BUILD.

S: Just start building.

R: GO UP

K: They’re getting on with it and stuff. It’s all going well. But he notices that there’s someone working high up, on the top bit.

S: Sure

K: Because you know how, like, there’s girders and stuff on these big buildings

R: And he’s still building the bottom bit, which is weird.

K: And he’s still… Yeah well that’s, that’s the way they do it there apparently, just to sort of speed it up. Work from top to middle, from top to bottom

S: Sure. And that’s where? That’s in imaginary land.

R: We put the spire on and then we’d better do the foundations, and then put some stuff in the middle to keep it up there.

K: So anyway, he’s saying to, like, the other workers, he’s going “What’s… Who’s that up there? …

S: Who’s that up there?

K: … He’s working on his own.

R: What? Little fella was he?

S: Little hairy fella up there.

R: The little hairy fella up there with the hard hat

K: The other fellas are going “Look, you know, don’t ask questions, you know. The boss decides who he takes on. We’re happy to be getting paid here.”

R: [Laughing] DON’T ASK QUESTIONS?? Well I’ll see him when he comes down.

K: So he said, “Well he’s pretty impressive, you know. The work rate is pretty impressive, the work that he’s doing, the way he’s getting from one girder to the other “

S: Haha, he’s swinging is he?

K: “He doesn’t seem to be scared of the heights of anything.” He said “no, we just let him get on with it, you know. We work well as a team.” Lunch time comes. They’re all sat there. Sat on a little wall having their sandwiches. He’s just thinking that he’ll come down in a bit. [But] He’s just carrying on.

S: Is he? He’s just still going.

K: He’s still going and that, right? So, the fella says to the boss man, he says “Isn’t that fella up there going to come down and join us for lunch?” He said, “Err, like I said mate, don’t worry about him, right?” So he said “Oh, anyway, you’ve reminded me that he’s up there. He’s doing a lot of riveting and stuff up there. He probably needs some more nuts, to err…

S: Right, sure, and what kind of nuts is that? Is that nuts the food, or…?

K: So he said “What? Nuts?” He says “Yeah, just… There’s a bag full of them there, just just put them on the hook. Send them up and he can get on with his job.” So, anyway, he picks these nuts up

S: Nuts, yep.

K: Just hooks them on and thinks “They’re not that heavy, considering, you know, they’re normally pretty heavy aren’t they like nuts and bolts and stuff.

S: A big bag of nuts, yeah.

K: Anyway, he has a little glance in

S: Ah no, what’s in there?

K: Nuts

S: What, you mean nuts you can eat?

K: Nuts that you can eat.

S: Ah

K: So they send the bag up and he’s thinking “What’s all that about?” He checks him out. Starts to stare. Worked it out. He can see that… It’s a little chimp running about. So he goes, “I’m not happy with this.”

R: Why isn’t he? Is the boss sitting in a tyre?

K: He said “All them lot out there might not be wise to what’s going on here, but I’ve clocked it, and you’re sending nuts up to it. It’s a monkey, it’s not on.” So he goes, “Look, you know, we’re all just trying to earn a living here.” He said, err “Don’t get involved in it. I’m happy to pay you, but I’m paying him. Don’t interfere.”

R: He’s paying him?

K: He’s saying “Look, I’m just not happy with this. It’s not allowed.” So the boss was saying…

R: We pay peanuts, we get monkeys.

K: He said “To be honest mate, you know, err, he’s a great worker. He’s known for doing what he does. He’s a good grafter. If one of you is going to go, right, I’m afraid I’ll have to let you go because he’s been here longer and that.

S: Blimey. He was made redundant.

R: None of that happened.

K: He was laid off

R: None of that happened.

K: He’s laid off and that. And that’s where that saying, about, err, you know how there’s a lot of tower blocks and that in America, it’s not like, err… ‘a chimp off the old block’, is where…

R: [Laughs hysterically]

K: And that’s monkey news.

Can I still listen to the Ricky Gervais Podcast?

Yes, you can.

Some episodes are still available on
The Ricky Gervais Podcast (find it on iTunes and wherever you get your podcasts, and just scroll back through the archive to find some “best of” stuff)
The Ricky Gervais Show website www.therickygervaisshow.com/podcasts
YouTube (Search or Monkey News and you’ll find full compilations of them)

Another Monkey News – Chimp Goes Into Space

Links & More

A full page listing all instances of Monkey News, with summaries, and time codes for where they appear in episodes of the Ricky Gervais Podcast.

pilkipedia.co.uk/wiki/index.php?title=Monkey_News

A compilation of almost all the Monkey News segments from the RGP. Over 3 hours of Monkey News!

648. Ian Moore Returns

Talking again to comedian Ian Moore about favourite films, a trip to New York, British & American audiences, how to iron a shirt, and funny stories about taking the language test to qualify for French citizenship.

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Introduction

Hello everyone and welcome back to this podcast for learners of English and here is your regular dose of English conversation presented here to help you develop your listening skills and pick up grammar and vocabulary along the way.

In this episode of the podcast you can listen to me in conversation with Ian Moore who is back on the podcast after a 3 and a half year absence.

He first appeared in episodes 382 and 383 when we got to know him and talked about mod culture in the UK.

If you haven’t heard those episodes, or if you have heard them and you need me to jog your memory, here is some background info about Ian, just to bring you up to speed.

Ian Moore is a professional stand-up comedian from England. He moved around during his upbringing and is from a combination of places including the north, East Anglia and the London area as you will hear during the conversation.

He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as “one of the country’s top comedians” and he regularly performs in the best stand up comedy venues all around the UK, notably at London’s top stand up comedy club “The Comedy Store” which just off Leicester Square, where he is a frequent host.

He’s a mod – Mod is a British fashion subculture from the 1960s which involves a very particular style featuring certain clothing (like slim Italian suits, green parka coats – and a lot more besides), riding scooters and listening to American R&B music. Ian is definitely the best-dressed guest I have ever had on this podcast and came dressed in a 3-piece 60s Italian suit, gold watch chain, handkerchief in the pocket with a pin and everything.

Ian now lives in rural France on a farm, and has been living there for nearly 15 years, which is at odds with his mod style.

So he has been living a kind of double life – living on the farm in the French countryside, looking after various animals (his wife keeps introducing new animals into the family), making chutney, and commuting to the UK and other cities in Europe to perform stand up comedy.

He has written several books about his double life, which are available from all good book shops including Amazon.

A la Mod: My So-Called Tranquil Family Life in Rural France
C’est Modnifique!: Adventures of an English Grump in Rural France

As well as writing these funny autobiographical stories, Ian has also branched out into writing fiction, and his first novel, called “Playing the Martyr” was published a couple of years ago. It’s a crime thriller about an English man who gets murdered in the Loire valley – I don’t know if this is based on Ian’s life at all. I have no idea if there have been attempts on his life for some reason. But anyway, the book is well-reviewed on Amazon and is available in both Kindle and paperback versions.

Ian is also a language learner – French in this instance. He actively works on his French and passed the language test to gain citizenship in France.

There are plenty of things to talk about – all that is just background context, and if you’d like to know more – listen to episodes 382 and 383 (both of which have transcripts written by the Orion Transcription team available in google documents. Just check the transcripts section of my website).

In those episodes you can hear:
A full explanation of the mod subculture including the clothing, the music and all the rest of it – and mod is very much a part of British youth culture today – especially the clothing, which influences many high-street British clothing brands.
Various stories of Ian’s rural French lifestyle including how his children were once threatened (rather shockingly) by a French hunter armed with a shotgun, some anecdotes about his experiences of performing comedy to audiences in cities all over the UK, accounts of his comedy triumphs and one or two comedy disasters and more ramblings of that nature.

So that’s all background context that you can hear more of in episode 382 and 383 –

This time, I decided to just see where the conversation takes us and the result was an extremely tangential and rambling conversation that takes in such things as

  • Ian’s favourite films
  • Ian’s recent trip to New York where he did comedy and spent time as a tourist
  • The complications of Woody Allen’s current public image
  • Differences between British and American audiences
  • Differences between Burlesque and stripping
  • Ian’s different accents as a child moving from Blackburn to Norfolk to London.
  • Details of Ian’s clothing
  • How to iron a shirt properly
  • Ian’s various health issues and physical complaints and what might be causing them
  • Comedy shows you can see at The Comedy Store in London
  • Ian’s stories about learning French and attempting to pass the language test for French citizenship

Watch out for various little jokes and funny stories along the way and try to keep up as the topic of the conversation veers from one thing to another.

But now, let’s listen to my conversation with Ian Moore and here we go…

Ian Moore Photo: Richard Wood @comictog twitter.com/comictog


Ending

I won’t talk a lot more here at the end because I don’t want the episode to be too long, but I would like to say thanks again to Ian for being on the podcast.

You can find out more about Ian on his website at ianmoore.info/

Well done for managing to follow this entire conversation. I wonder how much you understood, how many little jokes and funny moments you picked up on. It might be worth listening again and I wouldn’t be surprised if the transcription team chose to transcribe this episode like they did with episodes 382 and 383. You can find those transcriptions in the google documents by clicking transcripts in the menu on my website.

That’s it for now then, have a fantastic day, morning, lunch, afternoon, late afternoon, early evening, mid evening, late evening and night and I will speak to you again on the podcast soon.

But for now,

Bye!

643. The Intercultural Communication Dance with Sherwood Fleming

Talking to Sherwood Fleming, author of “Dance of Opinions” about intercultural communication, including common problems and the solutions to help us learn to communicate more effectively across cultures.

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Introduction

Hello you and you and you, welcome back to the podcast. I’m recording this on a very windy Tuesday morning. A storm passed by over the last few days, wreaking havoc across the UK and also here in France we’ve had some pretty strong winds and it’s still very blustery out there.

But here I am in the cosy confines of the Podcastle at LEP headquarters. A pre-lunch recording of this introduction today. I hope you are comfortable. Let’s get started.

Recently I was contacted by a listener called Inna with a suggestion for the podcast.

The message went like this:

Hi Luke,

I’m Inna, one of your regular listeners, as well as a Premium subscriber.

I would like to thank you for your podcast, which is always helpful and always interesting.

I would like to talk to you about my teacher Sherwood Fleming, her blog: sherwoodfleming.com/.

She is teaching me how to communicate better in English as a foreign language.  

Her lessons changed my vision of what communication is and helped me to understand how to communicate better not only with my foreign colleges but how to communicate better “tout court”. [full stop, period]

Some of my colleagues had the chance to work with her, and it was kind of “a revelation” for all of them every single time.

I strongly believe that this topic would be very useful to all your listeners.

So I got in touch with Sherwood and arranged a call for an interview and that is what you’re going to hear on the podcast today.

Sherwood Fleming

Here’s some intel on Sherwood, from her website.

Sherwood’s expertise is in improving the written and spoken communications of those who use English as a second language and work within intercultural business contexts. She has designed and led seminars for more than 25 years in both Canada and France, helping thousands of participants to communicate more effectively.

Sherwood is the creator of the five-step CLEAR method, which has established a new standard for expressing opinions interculturally. It forms the heart of her recent book, Dance of Opinions: Mastering written and spoken communication for intercultural business using English as a second language, an easy to learn and apply method for intermediate and advanced ESL business people, designed to improve how they express their opinions. Her motto? “We build our futures together, in the words we exchange today.”

OK so this conversation is all about intercultural communication. What are the issues and obstacles that we face when communicating with people from different cultures? How do our different approaches to communication influence the relationships that we build with people? What are the solutions to some of the problems that can arise when communicating across cultures?

Sherwood talks about finding strategies to help you learn to dance to the same tune as the people you’re talking to, and this involves things like the pragmatics of looking beyond the words which are being used and towards the real intentions of communicative acts.

There are some examples of people in business contexts and also how I sometimes struggle with intercultural communication in my everyday life in France.

Our aim for this episode is to help you, the listeners, attain clarity about these issues that you may not even be fully aware of, and once you can see more clearly what these issues are then you’ll be ready to apply the proven solutions, which Sherwood shares during this episode and in her other work, including her book “Dance of Opinion” available on Amazon.

So let’s now listen to Sherwood Fleming and you can consider these questions

  • What are the typical problems people experience when communicating across cultures?
  • Can you find some examples?
  • What are some of the reasons behind those problems?
  • What are some solutions that we can apply to those problematic situations?

I’ll chat to you again briefly at the end, but now, let’s get started

sherwoodfleming.com

Ending

Thanks again to Sherwood Fleming for being on the podcast today. That was a very interesting conversation about the way we all communicate with each other in different ways.

Conclusions?

It sort of boils down to this I think.

Keep it simple!

Make it explicit what you want and what you’re offering. Dumb down your English in intercultural contexts.

Focus on the main message (the speech act) rather than the form of the message. Some cultures don’t emphasise things that other cultures expect, but the main thing is to focus on specifically what the other person wants, rather than how they are saying or writing it.

Thanks for all your recent comments and emails and stuff it’s great to hear from you, including some choice comments from the last few episodes.

Tatiana • 18 hours ago

Luke, I have just binged all three episodes with Quintessentially British things and I must say theyre brilliant! You are so blessed to have such an interesting and intellectual family of yours, all the three episodes are completely different and amazing to listen. it’s like I’ve looked at the Britain I’ve never known before.
Hats off to you and your beautiful kin!

By the way everyone, it’s mum not mom in British English.

There have been numerous requests for episodes of Gill’s Book Club as it might be called, or Gill’s Culture Club or something. So we’re looking at doing episodes of that sometimes.

There’s also a Rick Thompson report on the way soon.

I’ve had messages thanking me for the recent episode about IELTS with Keith O’Hare and have asked for more so I might do something in the near future.

Uswah • 4 hours ago

Hi Luke, I am Uswah from Indonesia.
I’ve been thinking about giving comment in each episode particularly everytime Amber and Paul are on the Podcast. However I always feel not sure untill today I heard the fact that there are fewer comments and responses from your listeners.

So here I’m now, I want you to know that I am a faithful listener, I get every joke you make (including Russian jokes and Lion king, LOL), I laugh out loud when three of you are laughing. I am an English teacher basically, but I spend most of my time for sewing, hahaha so I’m a tailor (not Taylor, LOL) at the same time. So I’ve been always listening your podcast when I’m sewing. It’s just sooo fun. So I feel my sewing project is much more fun since that’s the time I listen to your podcast.

Keep the good work Luke.

Looking forward to having Amber and Paul again .

Enrico Furlan • 21 hours ago

So, let me recap: last May, Luke published an episode titled “SLEEP with Amber and Paul”.
Now, eight months later, Amber is heavily pregnant.
These guys are bringing the concept of modern family to a whole new level…

That’s it for this episode.

I’ll speak to you again on the podcast soon.

Take care out there. Until next time. Bye!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


620. British TV: Dragons’ Den (Part 2) Negotiation

Listen to a real business negotiation and learn loads of English in the process. Vocabulary, scripts and notes available below.

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Transcript & Notes

Welcome back to LEP. This is part 2 of this mini series I’m going to do about BBC Dragons’ Den, the TV show about entrepreneurs trying to raise finance for their business startups by going to meet the Dragons – a group of 5 business angels looking to make money by investing in interesting new business propositions.

In part 1 of this I did a long business ramble all about the different factors and considerations involved in an entrepreneur attempting to do an investment deal with a private equity investor. That covered loads of vocabulary relating to loads of different areas of business and laid the ground work for this episode in which we are going to use a real pitch from an episode of Dragons’ Den as a case study from which we can learn loads of English.

Also, the story of this particular investment is particularly interesting and the negotiation takes an unexpected turn which creates more emotional drama than you might expect from a business meeting.

So, at the end of part 1 we listened to Kirsty Henshaw’s original pitch. Let’s listen to that again and break it down for language. After that we’ll listen to the rest of the meeting in bits. We’ll listen and then listen again and break it all down.

This should be a really good one! I hope you’re listening carefully. We might be able to get all of this done in this episode, we will see. There are other Dragons’ Den pitches that I’d like to do too so I might add another episode with some other pitches as well. So perhaps this will be a 3 or 4 part series.

Right, so let’s listen to Kirsty Henshaw again and remember my questions from before.

  • How much investment does she need? £65,000
  • What equity stake is she offering in return? 15%
  • What exactly is the product? A healthy alternative to ice-cream – a frozen dessert (free from dairy, sugar, soya, nuts – everything! But what’s actually in it?)
  • Why does she need the investment? To buy stock, raise brand awareness with marketing and PR

Would you like to invest?
What questions would you like to ask next?

Kirsty’s pitch begins at 44:00

Peter Jones
It tastes more like frozen yoghurt. Is that fair?
– She wanted a healthy option, similar to ice cream but there’s no dairy that’s why it’s a frozen desert.
How much has it cost so far?
£20,000
How many have you sold?
2,500 units
Went to a big meeting with a large supermarket – it’s completely unique, some of the staff had heard about it before
Do you have any forecasts in the first year?
– 300,000 units – starting to get into bigger places now

Duncan Bannatyne
How healthy is it? How much fat is in it?
– Less than 3% fat in all of them, no sugar in any, carbohydrates are from fruit extracts, a good form of sugar

James Caan
What are the ingredients?
Brown rice milk (because soya isn’t great for children and rice milk is a good digestive enzyme), the fat is organic virgin coconut oil, sweetened with extract of apple, carob and grape.

Deborah Meaden
How far are you down the track with the supermarket?
– Min 400 stores from Sept when they do their refresh
Are they committed?
– At least 350-400 stores to trial it

Theo Paphetis
Which supermarket is it?
– Tesco
They must have asked you whether you could produce in the right volume?
Yes
What did you say?
– I said yes because I’ve spoken to the manager of the biggest ice cream manufacturers and they can make it no problem, if we get the order (volume – numbers)

James Caan
Do you have any idea what Tesco’s potentially could order?
– At least four flavours for each store to start with
How many in a case?
12
If they sold one case per week per store, that’s 400 cases. How much do you make per unit?
– Just over one pound
So 4,000 per week is what you’d make. That’s 200,000 a year.
– Not including my current suppliers
What did you forecast your profit in year one?
– £300,000
So that forecast is not a million miles out. There’s some substance around it.

What’s your background?
Uni (sports science), but had to leave because mind was on the business

Theo
Who is Worhingshaw’s?
– Mix of boyfriend and her name – to make it sound like it had been around for a while
Have you really done all this on your own?
– Yes
How do you invest the money in this?
– 2 jobs and a bit of a night job, and my little boy
You’re pretty amazing aren’t you?
– No, not really.
[She starts crying]
This has been really tough for you hasn’t it?
– I just do it all for my little boy. I just want him to have a good life.
I’ve got to be honest with you. I’m finding it really really difficult to actually take on board what you’ve achieved. It’s phenomenal. I’m totally blown away by it. I’m going to make you an offer. You’ve come in here asking for 60,000 for 15% but I want 40%.
And I’ll explain to you why. Because I’m not going to give you 60,000, I’m giving you 100,000 because that’s what I believe you need to make this business successful.

Deborah Meaden
Let me tell you where I am. I think you’ve done a great job against all odds, but here’s my blunt and honest truth to you. I’m not going to beat Theo’s offer so I’m not going to waste my time making you one. Thank you very much but I’m out.

Peter Jones
Where do you want to take it? You’d love to see this product in every shop. Reggae Reggae Sauce was a big success because of Levi Roots’ whole story. You could be the frozen desert version of Levi Roots.

For that reason I’d like to make you an offer for the full amount but I only want 25% of the company.

James Caan
Let me wish you every success but you’re not going to need my offer so I’m out (there are already deals on the table).

Duncan Bannatyne
I’ll match Peter’s offer (£60,000 for 25%)

Kirsty
I don’t want to give 40% away but thank you for your offer Theo.
I’m really confused now because I know you’re both brilliant.
You’re both ideal to help me, so I don’t really know what to do now.

Peter
If we raised it to 30% so we got 15% each, I’m more than happy to work with Duncan if that’s something he would accept (yes).

Kirsty
I’d really like to work with both of you. It would be ideal so thank you very much I’d really like to accept your offers.

That’s it!

What do you think? Would you like some more Dragons’ Den on the podcast?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section.

610. British Comedy: James Acaster

Listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, but there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.

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Transcripts and Notes

This is LEP episode 610. and it’s called British Comedy: James Acaster.

In this one we’re going to listen to a lovely bit of stand up comedy that will require quite a lot of breaking down in order for you to understand all the jokes like a native speaker, and there’s lots to learn in the way of language and culture in the process.

James Acaster is a popular stand up comedian from the UK who has won various awards, done Netflix specials, Edinburgh shows and who appears on panel shows and TV comedy programmes all the time. He’s now a very popular and well-known stand up in the UK.

I’ve got a clip of one of his performances from the New Zealand Comedy Gala in 2013 on YouTube.

I’m going to play the video in about two parts.

You have to try to understand it – not just what he’s saying, but why is it funny?

Then I’ll go back through the clip, sum it up, go through it line by line, breaking it down for language.

You can then listen again using the video on the page for the episode.

Who is James Acaster? (Wikipedia)
James Acaster is an English comedian originally from Kettering, Northamptonshire. (accent?)
He has performed for several consecutive years at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and won two Chortle awards in 2015.[3] He has been nominated for Best Show five times at the Edinburgh Fringe.[4] Acaster has appeared on several panel shows, including Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You? He has a 2018 Netflix show entitled Repertoire, consisting of four hour-long stand-up comedy performances.[5] He has also written a book, James Acaster’s Classic Scrapes, consisting of true stories, most of which were originally told on Josh Widdicombe’s show on XFM.[6] He currently hosts panel show Hypothetical alongside Widdicombe and food podcast Off Menu with fellow comedian Ed Gamble.

Accent-wise
He’s originally from Northamptonshire which is in the east midlands. He doesn’t have a strong northern accent or a brummie accent, although I do think he would say “podcast” instead of “podcast” and “bath, grass, laugh” with that short a sound too.

The main thing is that he drops all his “T” sounds and also “TH” sounds.
So, “bring them” sounds like “bring em”
“Sitting in a tree, eating all the apples” sounds like “si’in in a tree, ea’in all the apples”
“Theft” becomes “Feft”
He also says “Raver” instead of “rather”.
All very common features of local English – dropping Ts and TH sounds is common all over the country.

What is his comedy style?
Whimsical (unusual, strange and amusing)
Thoughtful
Thinking of things in a different way, unconventional (quite normal in stand up)
Weird
Acting a bit cool even though he isn’t
Geeky looking, wears sweaters, clothes even a granddad might wear
Ginger-ish hair
Looks a bit like Jarvis Cocker

James bought some ‘ready-to-eat Apricots’ and he went on a lads’ night out

Ready-to-eat apricots

You get these bags of fruit in the UK (and elsewhere I’m sure) of fruit which is ready to eat.

It’s been cut up, washed, prepared. It’s ready to eat.

For example, you might get “ready-to-eat apricots”. That’s what James is talking about here.

Also, the expression ”You are what you eat?”

Play the clip: What’s the joke about apricots?

Stop and explain it

What kind of apricots are these?
They are ready-to-eat apricots.
How do you feel?
I feel ready. Ready to eat apricots.
In fact, you could say I was ready to eat these ready-to-eat apricots.
Maybe you’re not ready to eat apricots.
Maybe you just want some, which is why they’re in a resealable bag.
So, they should be renamed ready-to-eat-some-apricots.

A lads’ night out / You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard

James went on a night out with a bunch of lads.

For James, this was not an enjoyable night.

It wouldn’t be for me either. I’ve never been one of those guys who likes to go out on a lads’ night out.

Lets me explain what a lads’ night out is like.

Lads are usually English young men, together, doing male things and generally being aggressive, overly sexual, crude, rude and competitive.

  • Lots of alpha male behaviour
  • Heavy drinking
  • Taking the piss and general one-upmanship and aggressive, laddish, competitive behaviour
  • Spending time in bars and clubs that you hate but they think are brilliant (terrible, terrible music, awful people, loud, smelly, horrible)
  • Trying to pick up girls and the general lack of a moral code – cheating, lying, using alcohol – all in an attempt to get lucky with a girl. This includes cheating on your girlfriend if you have one.
  • Medieval-level sexual politics – being openly judgemental about women’s appearances, giving women marks out of ten, saying whether or not you would shag any of the women around, looking at their bodies and comparing notes etc.
  • You get sucked into it through peer pressure and become part of it even though you hate it.

One of the lads, who has a girlfriend and yet plans to pick up a girl at the club, when asked why he didn’t bring his girlfriend, says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”

An orchard is a place where apples are grown. It’s full of trees and there are apples everywhere. You might pay to access the orchard and pick the apples.

You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard. Presumably because you wouldn’t need to bring one because there are loads there anyway.

How about bringing your girlfriend to a night club. Is it the same?

This leads James to kind of question the logic of that statement and go off an a monologue about bringing an apple to an orchard and how that compares to bringing your girlfriend to a nightclub.

Vocab
To be an accessory to something (like a crime)
An apple a day keeps the doctor away

Play the clip: Do you understand all the comedy about the nightclub and bringing an apple to an orchard?

Stop and explain it

Going to a nightclub with a bunch of lads
One of them cheats on his girlfriend and you become an accessory to it, like it’s a crime and now you’ve become pulled into it. You’re involved in it, without intending to be, and you could go down, like you’re an accessory to a crime.

In this sense, you just have to keep a secret, you’re being expected to lie on behalf of someone else. The guy is a twat basically.

This lad says “You wouldn’t bring an apple to an orchard”.
But then James deconstructs this analogy in a brilliant way.

This is nuanced comedy which is subtly making fun of stupid lad culture in a clever and funny way, with some weirdness and surrealism.

Go through it line by line

One of the reasons I like it is that a lot of people might just say James is being weird and that he’s some sort of loser, but he’s absolutely right in my opinion and he’s just clever and not afraid to be himself and he embraces the slightly weird things in life, because let’s face it, life is weird.

Types of humour / how nuanced & subtle humour can be all about changing the context of the situation in order to reveal new perspectives.

This acknowledges the fact that there are many different perspectives or layers to any situation and a good comedian can make you realise a whole different underlying meaning by just changing one bit of perspective.

Despite the fact that I like this a lot and so do many other people, I’m sure plenty of others don’t find it funny because it’s not fast enough, there aren’t enough dynamic changes (he doesn’t change his voice a lot, a lot of the jokes are left to the audience’s imagination), it’s pretty low energy, maybe little things like (I can’t get into it – I just don’t like his hair cut or his shoes or something) and also some people just don’t really want to look at the world from a different point of view. Some people prefer more direct humour, perhaps with a more obvious target or more relatable things, like observational comedy or something.

As usual, I’m worrying that nobody will get it, but what’s the point of that? Some people just won’t get it because “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”.

And it doesn’t matter. If you didn’t find it funny, that’s totally fine. At least you’ve learned some English in the process. :)

Vocab list

  • Ready-to-eat apricots
  • They say “you are what you eat”
  • A resealable bag
  • A lads’ night out
  • Check out the arse on that
  • Big time
  • Normal people perv solo
  • To outnumber someone
  • Sinister
  • A dented suitcase
  • To cheat on someone
  • An accessory to a crime
  • Despicable
  • An orchard
  • Fit birds
  • Eloquent use of language
  • A little bit miffed
  • This godforsaken pisshole of an orchard
  • Who in their right mind compares women to apples?
  • Another saying “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”

Here’s another short clip of James Acaster, this time talking about Brexit and comparing it to a tea bag in a cup.

Should you take the bag out or leave it in?

James Acaster Brexit Tea Bag

Now explain that Luke!

Tea / Brexit

Should you leave the bag in or not?
If the bag stays in, the cup as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the bag is getting weaker in some way but it’s actually part of a good strong cup of tea.
If you take the bag out, the tea is actually quite weak, and the bag goes straight in the bin.

Do I even need to explain how that analogy works with Brexit?

Should the UK stay in or go out?

If the UK remains, the EU as a whole gets stronger. It might look like the UK is getting weaker in some way, but it’s actually part of a good strong union of nations.
If the UK leaves, the EU gets weaker and the UK goes straight in the bin.

Quite clever really.

You can watch James Acaster clips on YouTube.
You can see his Netflix specials “Repertoire” on Netflix
You can read his book “Classic Scrapes” from any half-decent book shop.

That’s it for this episode!