Hello listeners, here is an episode about English Tests like TOEFL and the Duolingo English Test which I hope will still be an interesting episode even for those who have no plans to take one of these tests. I’m joined by online English teacher Josh MacPherson. I guess you have heard of TOEFL, and the Duolingo English Test is a test made by Duolingo, that company which helps you learn languages on your phone, and which seems to be managed by a green cartoon owl, who is some kind of master of learning English. They make a test now, and it’s getting really big.
Some time is spent describing the tests but we don’t just spend an hour describing TOEFL. Most of the time we are doing samples from the test, commenting on my performance in a TOEFL speaking task, discussing testing methods in general and giving comments on ways to perform well, particularly in the speaking parts of a test like TOEFL and IELTS.
Also, tests should be reliable and having genuinely good English skills should (of course) cause you to get decent results, so a lot of the tips relating to getting a better score are also generally good tips for improving your level of English, so even if you’re not planning to take one of these tests, the tips and advice here should be applicable to your English anyway.
There is a video version of this episode on YouTube and you can see Josh’s screen and can observe our conversation as if you are taking part in a Zoom call with us. You can find the video on the page for this episode or on my YouTube channel.
Again, the audio is not tip top this time round and that was caused by things like microphone echo, which I have managed to fix, but in any case I think you can still hear everything clearly.
That’s it, I hope you enjoy it and you will find all the links you need on the page for this episode on my website.
Let’s get started
I am joined today by Josh MacPherson from TSTPrep.com and the TST Prep YouTube channel.
Josh is an English teacher who specialises in helping learners of English prepare for English tests, particularly TOEFL and also the fairly new DuoLingo English Test.
I thought I’d interview Josh to find out more about these tests and to get some tips from him about how to get the best result that you can.
Also, we’re going to do some test questions during this interview, so we can see how well I perform in these tests too.
Thanks again to Josh for his contribution to this episode.
Don’t forget, links are available on the page for this episode for all the things Josh mentioned there including test practice, sample answers, tips and videos.
Thank you as ever for listening all the way up to this point.
There’s not much more for me to add here. I haven’t played the guitar on the podcast lately, but I will be coming back to that soon, but for now I will just wish you a fond farewell and until next time, good bye bye bye bye bye
This is the final episode in the WISBOLEP competition series, speaking to Bahar from Iran about the 7-step method she used to improve her English and develop a British-sounding accent. Bahar used to be a terrible student who hated English, but then she made a decision to focus on her English in her own way. Listen to her explain how she did it.
Hello listeners, this is the final episode in the WISBOLEP series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast. As you probably know, this was a competition I launched last year in which listeners chose other listeners who they would like to be interviewed in an episode of the podcast, and so far we’ve had 5 people, all of whom have managed to improve their English to a proficient level, while living in a non-English speaking environment for the most part, without having English speaking people in their family or close friends. So these have been stories of English learning success, which I seriously hope have been inspiring and interesting for you to listen to.
This conversation is with Bahar from Iran. Bahar actually came 5th in the competition, but she happened to be the last person I interviewed.
As you will hear, Bahar’s English is excellent but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, according to her she used to be a terrible student who hated English and who couldn’t string a sentence together. But now it’s a completely different story. She is proficient in English, she has a lovely clear accent and is confident and talkative, and loves this language. So how did she do it?
That is the main focus of this episode. Bahar tells us the story of her English journey, and she outlines her 7-step method for improving her English, especially her pronunciation.
Yes, she has come up with a 7-step method. To be clear, she defined this method in retrospect, meaning that having improved her English to a good level she then looked back at what she had done and consolidated her approach into 7 clear steps, and she’s going to go through the entire thing in this episode.
Now, you can try to follow Bahar’s method, but one of the main points here is that you can actually come up with your own method for improving your English as long as you maintain certain key principles in your learning.
There’s no need for me to add much more here really, except that you will find links to the various resources Bahar mentions during this conversation. Those are resources that she has found to be especially useful. You’ll find links to those things on the page for this episode on my website.
So now I will let you meet Bahar from Iran, currently living in Italy and here we go.
So that was Bahar from Iran. Thanks again to Bahar for her contribution. She definitely put a lot of effort into preparing herself for this conversation, coming up with some clearly defined steps and thinking about how she could go into some specific details about the things that worked for her. So, thanks Bahar for doing that.
You will see the hand drawn infographic that Bahar created to show her 7 steps – you’ll see it on the page for this episode on my website, and as the image for this episode on YouTube.
Perhaps the main point is that you can create your own method for learning English. Just go with whatever works for you. There isn’t one single best approach. You just have to make sure you are working with English on a regular basis, that you do things which bring you some joy (there’s no point slogging away with something that you just don’t like doing), you should attempt to maintain a positive and beneficial cycle in your approach to English, try to find your own personal motivation for learning the language, say to yourself “I’m going to do this and I’m going to do it my way” and then just put the time in.
Also, don’t underestimate the importance of just spending plenty of time listening and don’t apply too much pressure to yourself. Let it happen naturally and in its own time. I hope my podcast helps to make this easier.
Again, check the page for this episode on my website where you’ll find links to things that Bahar mentioned, including the BBC Sounds of English pronunciation course, British Council Elementary Podcasts and so on.
That’s for this episode. Thank you for listening. Leave your comments and feedback in the comment section and have a fantastic day, night, morning, afternoon or evening and I will speak to you soon.
But now it’s time to say, good bye bye bye bye bye.
Talking to pod-pals Amber & Paul about diverse topics including organ harvesting (yes), favourite fruits (exciting), accent challenges, guess the punchline, British Citizenship tests, What the “great” in Great Britain really means, and Amber’s son Hugo’s astonishing fluency in English.
Hello listeners and welcome back to my podcast for learners of English. How are you doing today? Doing ok?
I won’t talk at great length at the start here, suffice to say that as the title of this episode suggests, Amber & Paul are on the podcast again, after a one year absence.
Yes, the tangential trio are at it again.
I’ve been wondering What on earth I should call this episode. As you will hear, the options I had for a snappy title for this one were a bit tricky because our conversation covers some pretty diverse topics, including some quite dark themes, some potentially controversial moments and the usual fun rambling nonsense. It’s hard to sum it up in one pithy clickbait title. I think I’m just calling it “Amber & Paul are on the Podcast” but that does seem like a bit of a cop out. Anyway, we will see what I ultimately choose as a name for this episode.
Here’s a quick hint of the diverse topics which we explore.
Organ harvesting – yes, that’s right, organ harvesting. To get this, you will need to have listened to the previous episode of this podcast (#718), which was a conversation with Michael the hitchhiking shaman from Poland. In that episode Michael explained how, when hitchhiking once, he almost got kidnapped by several people who he suspected were organ harvesters – people involved in the illegal trade of human internal organs. Amber heard that podcast and was sceptical.
This prompted nearly 30 minutes of conversation about the ins and outs of organ harvesting, including how, where, why and who would do this.
Then we go on to do various random questions & challenges from my list of random questions and challenges, so you will get some accent fun, a thrilling discussion of Amber’s favourite fruit and vegetables, a story about Amber’s son Hugo and his surprising articulacy in English, a joke about Spanish firemen, some British citizenship questions about Easter holidays, British overseas territories and why Great Britain is actually called Great Britain, and plenty more besides. So, other than organ harvesting, there isn’t just one theme for this episode, hence the rather generic title.
It’s a thrill ride of an episode which has everything you could expect from a a conversation with Amber & Paul. I hope you enjoy it. Nothing more needs to be said except that you are about to hear a rapid conversation between friends and it might be difficult to follow, so strap in, hold on tight and let the tangential chat commence…
Episode Ending Transcript
Well, there you have it. Amber & Paul reunited on the podcast once more. We’d been waiting for ages for that to happen, and I hope you were not disappointed.
Just in case you were wondering what “tangential” means (and you’re not a long-term listener)
A tangent or a conversational tangent is when someone starts talking about something that is unrelated from the main topic of the conversation. To go off on a tangent.
Tangential is the adjective and it refers to something different from the subject you were talking about. This is typical of all my podcast conversations, but especially those ones with Amber & Paul, and so we are the tangential trio.
As ever I am curious to know what you think about all of this.
Sometimes our conversations become quite rude and inappropriate, but I’m just presenting you a natural conversation between friends, and this sort of thing is normal when socialising in English.
Here are some questions for your consideration:
What do you think of Michael’s organ harvesting story? Do you believe it? Is it possible?
What is your favourite fruit or vegetable?
Why is Great Britain called Great Britain?
Did you hear about the Spanish fireman and his two sons?
Let us know your thoughts and comments in the comment section.
I’ve got a ton of episodes in the pipeline which will be coming out over the next few weeks and months.
Here’s a little taster of things to come:
Bahar from Iran
A couple of episodes about expanding your vocabulary using word quizzes and dictionaries with a returning guest
More episodes in the vague Beatles season including some stuff about the psychology of John Lennon, adjectives for describing personality traits and some analysis of Beatle song lyrics, with a sort of expert guest.
Various stories which I have been searching for and then reading out on the podcast, with YouTube versions (this is because the recent Roald Dahl story I read out was a popular one)
More special guests for interviews and collaborations, more bits of comedy analysed and broken down, and plenty of other things too…
I am still waiting for my shiny thing from YouTube but when it arrives I will be doing another YouTube live stream. Who knows, I might do one before it arrives, but I will let you know.
Premium subscribers, I have the rest of the “What did Rick say” series coming up, and then a similar series called “What did Gill say?” focusing on language from my recent conversation with my mum about The Beatles, following a suggestion from a listener.
So, new premium content is either being published, written or recorded all the time, so watch out for new episodes. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo if you’d like to find out more.
I will be back soon with more episodes, but for now it’s time to say goodbye…
Hello everybody and welcome back to Luke’s English Podcast. How are you today? I hope you’re doing well as you listen to this, wherever you are in the world at this particular moment in time.
This is the 5th in the WISBOLEP competition series – Why I Should Be On Luke’s English Podcast, talking to winners and runner ups from the listener competition I did at the end of last year.
So far I have spoken to Walaa from Syria, Tasha from China, William from France and Robin from Germany. Now it’s the turn of Michael from Poland, also known as Michael the Shaman (this is the nickname that he often uses, for reasons which will become clear later in this episode). Michael actually came sixth, and Bahar from Iran was fifth, but at the time of recording this I haven’t spoken to Bahar yet. Her interview is coming soon though.
So, let me tell you a little bit about Michael the Shaman, from Poland.
Michael, who for the record is not an English teacher, has a lot to offer both in terms of language-learning tips that have worked for him and some very interesting stories and insights into some pretty deep and fascinating things, and I think this should be a great episode. So, listen closely.
Here’s a quick overview of the things we cover.
First we talk about language learning and those specific tips from Michael. These are resources and approaches that he has used to work on his English, especially his vocabulary and pronunciation, with some success I would say. I won’t go into them now, but pay attention so you can hear him describe these things, how he uses them and how they have helped him make some significant improvements to his English. I will summarise them again at the end and give a few extra comments.
Secondly, Michael tells us some of his hitch-hiking stories. Michael has spent lots of time travelling around in neighbouring countries near Poland and doing it by hitch-hiking, which basically means getting picked up by drivers who are going in the direction he wants to go, and hitching a ride with them as a way of travelling around. Now, this sounds adventurous and possibly a bit risky, because it does involve travelling in the cars of strangers, and Michael has some genuinely frightening and incredible stories of doing this. Again, listen closely to hear the specifics of the edgy situations that Michael has found himself in.
Then, thirdly we have the topic of shamanism, or being a shaman. Michael is probably better placed to describe this than me, but being a shaman basically refers to the use of certain rituals and practices to enter different states of consciousness, which can lead to new discoveries, new perspectives, new ways of thinking and different ways of seeing the world, or the universe in fact, and our place within it. This is something that Michael has explored and for him it has been very beneficial to his life in various ways. So let’s listen to what Michael has to say about shamanism and the use of psychedelics.
At this point I feel I need to say something about the use of psychedelic substances, which is part of what Michael describes as being a shaman, and we’re talking about using substances that occur in nature, like certain magic mushrooms and ayahuasca as well as the synthetic chemical LSD or acid as it is also known.
So I would like to just say one or two things about this topic as a sort of disclaimer or preface to our conversation.
First of all, the substances I just mentioned are controlled substances in most countries, which means that they are illegal to some extent. So, we are certainly not suggesting that people go out and start using them.
By the way, I’m referring to these things here as controlled substances, but in many cases they are also called drugs, and they’re not just prohibited by law, but also in the general culture. For a lot of people drugs are a serious taboo and people often have quite strong and negative feelings towards this subject. I am aware of this, and I hope that you are comfortable listening to us talking about it on this podcast. I think it’s alright, but I am aware that for some people drugs are just not ok, and that’s fine.
I feel it’s necessary to say that in talking about psychedelic drugs here we are not condoning their use in any kind of flippant way, and “condoning” means promoting or supporting something. We take this seriously and as you will hear Michael is very articulate and quite serious about the subject. He’s very well-read and knowledgeable, and we are just talking about his personal experiences and knowledge, which I do think are interesting as well as being new as a subject on this podcast. I’ve never really talked about this kind of thing in depth before on the podcast.
Also I think it’s worth making a distinction between different types of drug or substance.
There are many different types of drug, and they are extremely different to each other.
People often just say “drugs” without making any distinction between them. They just lump them all together as if they are all the same, basically. But I think it is worth making a distinction. Despite that fact that controlled substances are often grouped together as drugs, they are not really the same as they have very different effects and different levels of risk and we are certainly not talking about things like cocaine, crack cocaine or heroin, which are obviously very dangerous substances and very serious substances. We are not talking about those things here.
So, I thought it would be worth making that distinction and I’m trying to be responsible about this topic, but I’m also attempting to manage your expectations here because I don’t want you to get the wrong impression or to be shocked or to have a knee-jerk reaction while listening to us mention psychoactive substances in the latter part of this conversation. For many of you, these words are not really necessary, you’re fine with it, but there it is. I felt I should make those points. We’re not promoting any kind of illegal behaviour, we are not talking about those damaging and addictive things that ultimately will destroy a person’s life, instead we are taking what I hope is a more reasonable and rational approach here and discussing the more intellectual and spiritual aspects of shamanism and how certain psychoactive substances are part of that.
Right, now before we get to the talk of psychedelics in the second half of our conversation, you can first hear Michael’s specific language learning tips, which I think are really useful, and then his crazy hitch-hiking stories, which are pretty mind-blowing and entertaining.
Right, no need for me to add anything else here. I really hope you enjoy this conversation. I’ll be recapping and summarising some details later but let’s now meet Michael the Shaman from Poland, another runner up in the WISBOLEP competition.
Are you ready? Listening carefully? OK, here we go.
Bruce Parry’s short film about Ayahuasca
So that was Michael from Poland, and wow, that was awesome stuff, wasn’t it? It got very deep there, and cosmic, didn’t it? I hope you liked it. As usual, I’m very interested to read your responses to the things that Michael said.
I’m going to sum up some of the things Michael said at the start of the conversation about learning English, because after all that mind-expanding talk of psychedelic trips and also the hitch-hiking stories, it seems like we talked about his language learning methods ages ago, and I think he made some really great recommendations that you could find really useful for your English.
Now, considering Michael’s English again. I think it’s fair to say that it’s good, right?
I do want to repeat a couple of points.
Don’t compare yourself to others too much
Don’t compare yourself to other people too much. This can lead you to judge yourself a bit harshly, which is totally normal. Whenever we listen to other language learners, the tendency is to either judge their language level, or judge our own level in comparison to theirs, but this isn’t a very healthy thing to do in terms of language learning, and what I’d encourage you to do is only judge yourself by your own success, and rather than comparing yourself to others, try to notice how your English is better than it was before.
Just compare yourself to yourself at earlier points in your language learning journey. Notice improvements you’ve made, and celebrate them. This is more likely to put you in a better mental space than comparing yourself with others.
Just think how far you’ve come as a learner of English and take note of your progress. That’s probably healthier than falling into any kind of negative thinking which can happen if we compare ourselves unfavourably to other language learners.
So, try not to judge others too harshly, and don’t compare yourself to others too much.
And hopefully listening to other language learners can give you some inspiration and some practical ideas which you can use to work on your English in ways you hadn’t considered before. Even little things like changing certain habits can make a big difference to your learning of English.
And with that in mind, let me quickly just go over the tips Michael had for learning English, which worked for him. Have you tried these things or used these resources?
Michael’s Language Learning Resources
There were two things really:
Use English/English dictionaries to expand your vocabulary with correct definitions, examples, phonemic transcriptions and synonyms. My 5 favourites are www.collinsdictionary.comwww.cambridge.dictionary.orgwww.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/www.macmillandictionary.com and Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English www.ldoceonline.com/ I have been planning to do a full episode on using online dictionaries to improve your English (in fact I’ll be touching on this a bit in a couple of upcoming episodes), but I will just say that these dictionaries are fantastic resources not just for getting definitions, but getting synonyms, examples, phonemic transcriptions and more – all of which are really important ways of really getting to know new words. Bookmark the dictionaries, use them all (because they have slightly different examples and details which you can cross reference) and get into the habit of checking words in them and exploring the information they can give you. Never before have we had access to so many wonderful language learning resources, completely free of charge, and at our fingertips at all hours of the day. It’s like living in a massive library. So, use those online dictionaries to explore new words.
The second resource Michael mentioned was the website www.dialectsarchive.com – a website full of voice recordings used by actors and voice coaches trying to learn different accents, and especially the text Comma Gets a Cure, which is designed to reveal a huge variety of pronunciation features in English. You can hear the text being read in different accents, you can shadow the text, repeat it, record yourself repeating it and more. I plan to do some premium episodes using this text and other similar texts too. There is a lot to explore and use there, including some podcast episodes by the creators. www.dialectsarchive.com
OK, so just two tips there, but they are solid ones.
And returning to the hitch-hiking stories. I just want to sum up the main one, just to be sure you got it. I think it was probably clear, but I want to retell that story just because I think it was such an exciting story, and maybe you didn’t catch the specifics.
Michael’s Hitch-hiking Story – recap
So Michael and his friend Kuba were hitchhiking from Poland to Amsterdam and they got picked up by a couple of very dodgy guys in a van. They didn’t realise it when they first got in the van but these guys were drinking alcohol and smoking some kind of crystal – perhaps crystal meth, like in the TV series Breaking Bad. Meth is a pretty nasty drug.
Michael is an intuitive person and he picked up on a very bad vibe from these guys and became convinced they were planning to do something very nasty with Kuba and him. Like I said, it sounds like something from a horror film. Listening to their comments, watching their demeanour and generally reading between the lines, Michael became convinced these guys were organ traffickers, who are people that kidnap healthy people in order to steal their internal organs and sell them on the black market. Certainly these guys seemed to be very dodgy and probably involved in organised crime.
Michael decided he would subtly let the guys know that he and Kuba were actually not that healthy and therefore their organs were not worth taking, which would convince them to just let them go.
It’s crazy I know, but I kind of know what Michael is talking about when he said he just knew something wasn’t right and that they were in danger. I feel like I’ve been in similar situations before, where you realise that the people you are with are dangerous and up to something, and so you just have to get out. It’s a weird feeling. I can’t remember any specific stories from my own life, but I’ve met guys in pubs before who just seemed dangerous and untrustworthy, even though there were no specific things that would give me that impression. It’s more of a vibe that certain people give off.
Anyway, Michael said that he heard the guys making jokes about stealing their organs, which appeared to be jokes, but there was a sinister undercurrent which suggested that perhaps they were not really joking. Michael’s friend Kuba was not quite as observant maybe and he didn’t seem to realise something was wrong, but anyway Michael sent him text messages to convince him that something wasn’t right. They managed to persuade the drivers to stop the van at a petrol station because Michael needed to be sick or had diarrhea and then they escaped at a petrol station.
They then decided to continue their hitchhiking trip to The Netherlands, but decided they would not accept lifts from any more Polish people, nobody drinking or using drugs and no vans. This is because they didn’t want to risk running into any similar people or perhaps their friends who they suspected were also on the road, but somehow the next car that picked them up, by coincidence maybe, contained the friends of the dodgy guys they had just escaped from. So, it was a case of “out of the frying pan, into the fire”.
Michael said that these other guys seemed more intelligent and perhaps were the bosses of the other two they had met previously, and the only way Michael and Kuba got away without being taken, was because the guys ended up liking them, as they played along with their jokes and generally tried not to antagonise them at all. So, phew! What a lucky escape!
And Michael said that hitchhiking was not that dangerous!
Actually I do believe that on balance his experiences of hitch hiking have been much more positive than negative, but what a scary story! And I do believe it is true. I find it very believable. There are dodgy people in the world.
And finally, a few more words on the topic of psychedelics like magic mushrooms.
A final note on Magic Mushrooms
All the things Michael mentioned about Amanita muscaria (Fly Agaric) are definitely worth researching. In his words (from a recent email exchange we had) “I think I talked about maybe 1% of things you can do with this mushroom. I’d like to stress once again that I don’t recommend everybody uses this mushroom. I’m all about education and knowledge. The mushroom can have medical, therapeutic and spiritual effects, but only if one does it correctly. It is not easy to work with this mushroom.
An excellent resource for Amanita muscaria is Amanita Dreamer on YouTube and her website www.AmanitaDreamer.net. Also, a recently published book: ‘Fly Agaric: A compendium of History, Pharmacology, Mythology & Exploration’ by Kevin Feeney is also great.
These resources are essential as there are many dangerous myths regarding Amanita muscaria. Remember, it’s important to make sure that you are fully knowledgeable about this mushroom. You can’t just pick the caps and eat them.
I think the same goes for all kinds of psychedelic substance that Michael talked about. Please remember that we’re not condoning the use of these things in any kind of casual way. You must be very careful, very well-read and personally very prepared before going any further.
Right then, what did you think of this episode?
Any thoughts on Michael’s language learning resources, his hitchhiking tales or his comments on the use of psychedelics? If you have things to say, just express your thoughts in English, ideally in the comment section on my website.
That’s all from me. Have a good morning, afternoon, evening or night. Be excellent to each other, good luck with your English and do take care.
Speak to you again on the podcast soon, but for now it’s just time to say good bye bye bye bye bye.
More random questions, talking points, accent challenges and “guess the idiom” with pod-pal Paul Taylor. Includes discussion of accents in English, cancel culture in comedy, some rude Spanish phrases and more. Video version available.
Here is a brand new episode, hot on the heels of the last one and my friend Paul Taylor is back on the podcast again this time and I just wanted to add a few things here before we start properly. This is not going to be a 15 minute introduction though, I promise. It’ll be 14 minutes.
Firstly, there is a video version of this episode and you can watch it on my YouTube channel or on the page for this episode on my website and if you’re watching on YouTube, don’t forget to like and subscribe.
By the way, I reached 100,000 subscribers on YouTube the other day, which is nice. Thank you very much if you wrote me a message saying congratulations. It’s a nice milestone and if YouTube decides I’m eligible, I should receive one of those shiny things from them – a kind of plaque which I can proudly display in my pod-room at home. If and when that shiny plaque arrives I’ll do some kind of YouTube livestream in which I unbox the plaque and do some of the usual live streaming shenanigans. So listen out for announcements about the time and date for that on the podcast soon.
*By the way – this text is all written on the page for this episode*
Talking of YouTube live, after recording this episode, Paul invited me onto his Happy Hour Live – his weekly YouTube live stream, and we had a lot of fun celebrating my 100,000 subscriber milestone with a bottle of nice champagne, some funny accent challenges – reading famous lines and quotes from films in different accents, and also we looked at some common French idioms and tried to translate them into English.
You’ll be able to find that on Paul’s YouTube channel for Happy Hour Live and also that will be embedded on page for this episode on my website, along with the video for the episode you are listening to now. So, plenty of video content for you to check out if you like.
This episode is very similar to the last one featuring Paul, which was episode 698, published just before Christmas last year.
I decided to use the same format as last time, with a few random questions and little challenges and things, the idea being that we’d get a selection of different topics and bits of language during the conversation. So, it doesn’t really focus on one thing in particular, but a variety of things, some of them quite silly and others more serious.
You’ll see that this time I chose to call the episode “Lucky Dip with Paul Taylor”. I also could have called it “Pot Luck with Paul Taylor”.
I thought that would be a slightly snappier title than what I went with before, which was “Random Questions with Paul Taylor” although that is more descriptive. It’s possible to overthink the titles of episodes – it probably doesn’t matter that much as I expect or hope that most of you will listen to my episodes regardless of the title. Anyway, I should probably explain what those things mean now.
Lucky Dip and Pot Luck – they both refer to situations where you don’t really know what you are going to get, but you hope they will be good things.
A Lucky Dip is a game that you might play at a funfair or at a children’s party.
This is when some items, or gifts, are put into a bag and you have to dip your hand into the bag, rummage around and pick something out. You don’t know what you’re going to get, although you know it will be some kind of gift, prize or treat – like a bag of sweets, a little toy or something like that.
I thought that was a good title for this one because this episode is a bit like a lucky dip – Paul is essentially blindly dipping into my list of questions and picking things out, not knowing what he’ll get, and it’s just supposed to be a bit of fun.
Pot luck is another phrase which could be used to describe a game like the lucky dip, but it’s also a general phrase for any situation in which you don’t know exactly what you’re going to get, but you hope that it’ll be good.
Here are some examples of pot luck (A couple are from the Oxford Dictionary for Learners of English – other dictionaries are available)
It’s pot luck whether you get good advice or not.
When you sign up to English lessons at a school it’s pot luck what kind of teacher or fellow classmates you’ll get.
So I think you can see how those phrases relate to the concept for this episode.
Just a heads-up – there is some swearing in this episode, and not just in English. There’s a bit of Spanish swearing in here too, which I hope you don’t mind too much if Spanish is your first language – it’s probably ok isn’t it? I expect so, but I should say that I hope my mum doesn’t listen to this episode. I’ll let you find out more as you listen.
There was certainly no intention for us to be offensive to anyone in particular during this conversation and we only talk about rude expressions in order to understand them and perhaps laugh about them a bit (because some rude expressions in Spanish seem pretty funny when you translate them into English).
Also, there’s the usual fast talking that you get from episodes with my friends, so I hope you’re ready for that.
Alright, that’s it for my introduction then. I just couldn’t help doing some kind of introduction here at the start of the episode, but you can now listen to our conversation in full and completely unedited. So, let’s begin.
Song Lyrics for “I’m Only Sleeping” by The Beatles
Chatting with Charlie from The British English Podcast and Real English with Real Teachers on YouTube. We talk about the north/south divide in England, Charlie’s background in psychology & NLP, his decision to become an online English teacher and his travelling experiences in Chile, Germany and Australia. Video version available.
Some of these sound a bit negative, but they’re quite normal.
Not too bad.
Could be worse.
Not so bad, thanks for asking.
Of course you can say:
I’m fine thanks
I’m very well thanks
Or (more positively)
I’mradiant (a nice word meaning “glowing with happiness” but nobody really uses it)
My guest on the podcast in this episode is Charlie Baxter. Charlie is an online English teacher, a YouTuber and a podcaster too and you might well know him from his YouTube channel, which is called Real English with Real Teachers (which he does with his friend Harry) and you might also know him from his newish podcast which is called The British English Podcast
I’ll see you at 12-ish.
Dave’s car is a kind of greyish-blue colour.
Charlie’s podcast is newish. He started it about 6 months ago.
Here’s that photo of David Crystal presenting an award to Andy Johnson and me.
And here’s that tweet from The British Podcast Awards – as proof that I genuinely came 3rd in the competition!
In this episode the plan is to wish you a happy new year, welcome back all my regular listeners (and maybe some irregular listeners too) and also say a big hello to any new listeners who might have just discovered this podcast and are wondering what it’s all about. I normally do episodes like this at the start of the year because at this time, during the new year period, it’s normal to turn over a new leaf, make a fresh start, perhaps make some new year’s resolutions and generally try to pick up some good habits for the year to come – and that often includes working on your English and trying to find good listening resources to help you do that.
So, in this episode I’d like to welcome you to LEP or welcome you back to LEP, just summarise what this podcast is all about, restate my objectives for doing this and generally make sure we are all on-track for a good year of podcasting and learning English in 2021.
I’ve decided to answer some Frequently Asked Questions. These are the questions people typically ask me when they find out that I have a podcast for learning English and they want to know more.
So during the episode, you’ll learn or be reminded of what the main ideas are for this podcast, what teaching principles this is based on, what my methods are, what you can expect from my episodes in general, how you can use them to improve your English and also some info about me too, because it’s a good idea to get to know the person you’re listening to, isn’t it? I have always found, as a teacher, that it really helps when I put my personality into my English lessons. It just seems to make things more enjoyable and effective for the learners. Not because I have an award-winning personality or anything, but just that I think learning a language is a deeply personal process and so it makes sense to have a more personal approach to teaching it as well as learning it. It helps if you know who I am. It gives you context, it brings the language to life and it’s just more fun too, isn’t it. If you like, as you listen to this, you can imagine we’re in a cafe or something (even though I’m doing all the talking – but you can pause me at any time and put your thoughts into words if you want. I can’t hear or respond to you, but it’s better than nothing isn’t it? That’s the least you can say about my podcast , haha, “Well, it’s better than listening to nothing”)
By the way, other podcasts are available of course. As you probably know, there are quite a lot of podcasts for learners of English including ones by the BBC and other ones by other people, and they’re great, but obviously I hope you listen to my podcast, don’t I?
So, what’s this podcast? How can it help your English? Who are you listening to? Those are the sorts of questions we’ll be covering, but also plenty of other random bits and pieces.
Happy New Year!
Welcome back to the podcast! I hope you had a fairly good holiday period – as good as it can be during this mad mad time that we are all living in. When’s the world going to go back to normal? When’s that going to happen? We don’t know. Was it even normal in the first place? Probably not. In any case – I hope you’re well and that you’ve started 2021 in a reasonably positive frame of mind and that you’re ready to embark on some new audio adventures with me and my podcast.
If you are a brand new listener – then welcome. I really hope you simply enjoy listening to me talking to you, or talking with my guests in English in these episodes. I hope that this will help you to get regular English listening practise into your life, and that you enjoy it too.
Because enjoying your listening practise is so important. This will help you to listen regularly, listen for longer periods of time and listen long-term in your life as well.
We all know that it is very important and useful to listen to plenty of clear, natural English, spoken at a fairly normal speed, focusing on a variety of topics.
Reading is good. Studying grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation – that’s good. Doing plenty of speaking practice is really important. Watching videos in English is helpful. But do not underestimate the importance of just listening to English – for as long as possible each time. That’s what this podcast aims to help you do – at a very minimum. There is more to it than that of course. A lot more. But basically – I want you to do more listening in English.
The first and most basic aim of this podcast is just to help you to get more English in your life through listening to the spoken word – listening to English as it is spoken naturally, by me in this case, and my guests.
Let’s go through my list of frequently asked questions, which will form the backbone of this episode, which is probably quite long.
What is this podcast?
Is it for me?
It’s for everyone, but it might be difficult if → You’re lower than an intermediate level (intermediate might be hard – you’ll have to be extra motivated) or you are a really visual learner. (My wife doesn’t listen to podcasts – even in French. She can’t really do it. She feels she has to close her eyes or do nothing else, whereas I love just listening to audio and it works really well for me – better than watching videos because I can multi task)
How long have you been doing it?
Why did you start doing this podcast?
Who are you Luke? I mean, can you tell us a bit more about yourself, your background and your career so that we can feel totally confident that you know what you’re talking about and that you’re just some guy who can speak English?
Will it really help my English to listen to this?
How do you know? First-hand accounts from listeners.
Common sense. Of course. It’s about a billion times more effective than listening to nothing at all. Plus, what else are you going to do? Watch Netflix with subtitles (yes, do that too, but switch the subs off sometimes) REad books (yes definitely – both graded and non-graded ones if you’re ready) Speak English with people you know who speak English (yes) Take English classes (good idea as long as you take part properly and take responsibility for your learning too). You can do all of those things. But I don’t want to make this complicated. Listen to my podcast regularly and it will help with your English.
Academic studies I’ve done – while preparing my teaching qualifications I read a lot of books and other texts based on proper academic studies into how people learn languages.
Professional experience after having met many thousands of learners of English from many places, and working with them closely to help their English. Observing what works for them, what people respond to, the realities of learning a language.
All of that has shown me that regularly listening to something like my podcast can help your English a lot. I could go into that more (and I have in previous episodes) but that’s all I will say at this point.
Will it help me improve my grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation?
Yes, both directly (when I teach language) and indirectly (through exposure). I can also help you think about the way that you learn, which can make you a more skillful and effective learner.
What’s your method then, Professor Thompson?
5 Ls, 5 Ss, 5 Ps, being a smart-learner, the 5 Ms, DISCIPLINE, commitment. There are many ways to approach language learning. You have to choose one that works for you and that helps you to keep doing it even when it’s tough. Basic: Get as much English into your life as possible and make it meaningful. Hopefully I can help by giving you something you enjoy and want to listen to. More complex: Be a conscious learner too → notice structures and phrases, notice pronunciation (how I say things), try to record them, understand them in context, remember them, record them and repeat them. My premium content is designed specifically to help you do that. I cut out a lot of the annoying work and put it all on a plate for you. Just listen, follow the PDFs and do what I tell you to do – memory tests, repeat after me etc.
Can I really learn English on my own, only by listening to you Luke?
I always recommend my podcast as “part of a balanced diet” and that does include doing other things, especially plenty of speaking practise with real people, probably qualified teachers who can help give you bits of feedback and correct your errors, but also just speaking with people helps you develop the social side of using in English for communication.
I should also mention writing and reading of course, but since this is an audio podcast we focus mainly on the spoken version of English.
What level is it for?
Should I do anything else, other than just listening?
Share your thoughts in the comment section on my website – practise little bits of writing there and chat with other listeners.
Your episodes are quite long. Aren’t they too long, in fact?
How should I listen? (the technology you can use, what you can do while listening, where you listen, how often you listen)
Are there transcripts for these episodes?
What’s your accent Luke?
Do you only have native speakers on your podcast? Most of the time my guests have English as a first language, but sometimes I talk to people who have learned English in adulthood because these people are extremely inspiring as they have done what so many people want to do, and they have great insights into the process of learning English and it’s also really important for you to listen to non-native English speakers speaking English too because it’s vital to hear a variety of English being spoken in your life. English is a diverse language. There are many people around the world using it and speaking it in slightly different ways. It’s important for you to be able to understand all those different varieties. This is true for the different accents and dialects in native English speakers too – you should become accustomed to hearing English spoken with various regional accents. If you only ever listen to my standard RP which is probably very clear to your ears, you might not be able to understand others. Also I really want to encourage you to love the different regional accents and to see their value. Sometimes learners of English will say that they only want RP and they see other accents as somehow being “lower forms of English” with less value. I don’t agree with this of course. The idea that a regional accent makes you sound uneducated or even lazy or something – that idea deserves to stay in the 1950s where it belongs.
Having said that – let me put my cards on the table and be as clear as possible.
What accent should you develop in English?
The first thing is that you need to be clear. People need to understand you. Work on that.
It’s a good idea to pick a certain accent which you can use as a model. This is the accent/pronunciation you can aim for or try to copy. Why not choose RP? It’s a perfectly good choice as most people will be familiar with it. If you have a particular reason for wanting to copy a regional accent, then go for it. Perhaps you live in the north of England and you want to do things like your neighbours. Or maybe you just love a certain regional accent for personal reasons and you’ve decided that this is the one for you. That’s fine too. Go for it. Try to keep things natural. I could talk about this more but I won’t go on about it too much.
Basically – I love all the accents in English. I really do. But I would probably recommend RP as the one to go for, just because it’s still a standard form. I know someone is thinking “but only about 5% of English speakers use RP” yes – but I can’t think of another accent which is more common. Think of British accents in a pie chart. There isn’t one accent that really dominates that chart, I expect. Each segment in the chart is probably around the same size. So which one do you pick? Again, I think RP is fine and makes sense because it’s a standard. I don’t mean you should speak like a posh person, like The Queen or something, because that would be weird.
Listening for understanding others Listening in order to develop your pronunciation
How do I pronounce your name, actually?
How do I pronounce the name of the podcast?
What sort of episodes can we expect?
What are your favourite episodes?
You’re on episode 699 of LEP. Do you have anything special planned for episode 700? No, I don’t! I think it will just be another episode this time. I can’t think of anything specific I can do. Maybe I will do a YouTube livestream “Ask Me Anything” kind of thing. I’ll see. I know that if I do a YouTube live stream then you will all want to know about it in advance. This isn’t always possible. You’ll just have to subscribe to my YouTube channel.
What are LEPsters?
Where are your listeners?
In many places around the world! All over the world.
Why do you talk about ninjas sometimes? What are LEP Ninjas?
Can you explain the Russian Joke please? No.
What do you think of Brexit? It’s a bad idea. I think it was an opportunity for a bunch of nutters to take control of my country and push it in a different direction. I think it’s the wrong direction, but now we have to live with it and make it work. I am not a fan of Boris Johnson and his gang. I feel they’re doing a bad job. That’s probably enough politics isn’t it. Oops, nearly slipped on politics there. Watch out everyone, there’s some politics on the floor. Don’t step in it. “Can someone clean that up please?” (I have made that joke before)
Do you have a team of people helping you to do this? No, it’s just me.
Can we see you perform stand-up comedy on stage?
Are you married and do you have kids and stuff?
What’s your favourite football team?
Do you like music? Do you play music? Do you have any songs stuck in your head today?
Can you sing songs for us on the podcast sometimes? Yes, I do that occasionally, when I feel inspired to do it. I’m not the greatest singer or the greatest guitarist. I’m just learning. But I love it and I feel moved to do it. If I do sing in an episode, most of the time, I do it right at the end of the episode so that people who might not like it don’t feel obliged to listen to it. But the ones who like hearing my versions of other people’s songs (I usually sing cover versions of songs) those people can listen and hopefully enjoy hearing me. I always make an effort to sing clearly so you can hear all the words of the song. I also don’t use any reverb to cover up the imperfections in my voice or guitar playing. I just get the guitar on my lap, point the microphone somewhere between the guitar and my mouth and do my best.
Are you on YouTube?
Yes, I have a YouTube channel as you may know.
I post my audio episodes there, usually with a single static image. I don’t think YouTube is necessarily the best way to listen to my content, but I guess if you are sitting at your computer, perhaps doing something else (like gaming or working or something) then it’s convenient to have one of my episodes running in the background. But also, YouTube’s automatically generated subtitles are usually pretty accurate. When I’m talking on my own, the accuracy is about 95% but when I’m with guests that accuracy can drop to about 85-90% I think. That’s not 100 perfect, but it’s pretty good.
I’m always working on ways to deliver 100% correct transcripts to you because I know how useful and important they are. To an extent I’m just waiting for the technology to catch up. I think it won’t be long before automatic transcriptions are basically perfect but we’ll see.
I’ve been working with some new software which is quite mind-blowing. I don’t want to make any promises about it because I’m just experimenting with it at the moment, but basically it allows me to generate transcripts for episodes in a really convenient way, then edit those transcripts quite easily while also editing the audio. This is too complicated to get into now.
Have you forgotten anything?
Yes, I am certain that I have forgotten to mention something really important, and someone is going to think “Hey you forgot to mention this specific thing! Or You didn’t mention this specific person!” Sorry about that.
You ramble quite a lot Luke, you sometimes talk too much and repeat yourself a bit.
Yes, I do. Sue me. To paraphrase Shakespeare: There is a method in my madness.
From Shakespeare’s Hamlet, 1602. The actual line from the play is ‘Though this be madness yet there is method in it’.
The main message I want to give you here is this:
Listen to my episodes regularly and enjoy doing it.
Download my app to get easy access to all the episodes on your phone. (more than in Spotify and anywhere else)
Become a premium listener if you want to go further in your learning with me.
Don’t be a ninja – come out of the shadows and write a comment from time to time.
Join me as I potter around my flat and give the results of the WISBOLEP competition then make a cup of tea and have a ramble about things like listening to non-native English speakers, reducing clutter in your home, renting vs owning a property, what it must be like to have only one hand, Zatoichi the blind swordsman, The Mandalorian TV series, Christmas plans and more. Includes a song on the guitar at the end.
Here are the competition results in full. Congratulations to Walaa for taking the top spot!
I’ve decided to talk to the top 6 candidates on the podcast in order to find out their stories, ask for their comments on learning English and more. Walaa will get a full episode for herself, and the others might share several episodes. We’ll see. The episodes will probably be recorded and uploaded in January.
Those people are: Walaa, Bahar, Robin, William, Tasha Liu and Michał. I’ll be in touch by email 👍
WISBOLEP Results (in reverse order)
16th place: Ksenia from LEPland – 29
15th place: Rasul from Ukraine – 92
Joint 13th place: Patrick from LEPland – 113 -&- Leisan from Russia – 113
12th place: Evgenia from Russia – 120
11th place: Priscilla from Indonesia – 121
10th place: Ezio from China – 137
9th place: Vladimir in Moscow – 154
8th place: Vadim from Russia – 173
7th place: Jane from Russia, living in China – 178
6th place: Michał from Poland – 300
5th place: Bahar from Iran – 337
Joint 3rd place: Robin from Hamburg – 361 – William from France – 361
2nd place: Tasha Liu from China – 391
1st place: Walaa from Syria – 2,801
Other words, names and links mentioned in this episode
The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Upby Marie Kondo.
The Japanese art of decluttering (reducing clutter) and organizing.
Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman
All the WISBOLEP Recordings
In case you’d like to listen to all the competition entries again, including the 85 people who you didn’t hear in LEP#692.
Song Lyrics: “One of those People” by Neil Innes
I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time I don’t want no bad news messin’ with my mind I don’t want no smart ass media clown Wising me up and then dumbing me down I’m just one of those people who puts up with crap all the time
Not just ordinary crap I’m talking about a constant stream here Continually getting in my way I’ve got crap in the workplace Crap on TV Crap in the global economy I’m just one of those people who puts up with crap all the time
I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time Oh Lord I ask you, is it such a crime? The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt When I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts I’m just one of those people who some people call paranoid
Well who is and who isn’t these days, it’s hard to tell When so many people have so many good reasons to feel more than just a little annoyed What can you do when you’re sure somebody Is fooling around with your reality I’m just one of those people who some people call paranoid
The last thing I need is a feeling of guilt When I’m wading through treacle on balsa wood stilts I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time
What can you do when you’re sure somebody Is fooling around with your reality I’m just one of those people who want to feel good all the time
Hi listeners, welcome to the podcast. It’s mid December and Christmas is coming very soon. I hope I find you well and in good spirits. You might be wondering about the competition results after having voted for your favourite candidates. Thank you if you did vote, that’s fantastic. I’ll be revealing the results on the podcast soon when I’ve worked out the specifics of how to proceed with the competition. Once I have worked out the details of the next step I will let you know all the results.
This episode is sponsored by LEP Premium. Go to teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo to get the details. Regular lessons with language teaching, memory tests for target language and pronunciation drills to work on your speaking, with plenty of stupid examples, nonsense fun and impressions too. Series 27 is currently being produced and you can expect to get episodes 3-8 in the next few weeks. teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo for all the details.
697. Pronunciation, Pragmatics & Procrastination with Emma
Welcome to episode 695 which is called “Pronunciation, Pragmatics and Procrastination with Emma” which is quite a mouthful isn’t it?
Can you say it? Pronunciation, Pragmatics and Procrastination.
What does this mean exactly? I’m going to tell you in this introduction.
What you’re going to hear is another conversation with a new guest on the podcast. I’ve had lots of guests on the podcast in the last few months. Here’s another one.
This time it’s Emma from the YouTube channel Pronunciation with Emma.
So, what can I say now to set up this conversation for you, and help you to enjoy it and learn from it as much as possible?
Emma is an English teacher with lots of qualifications – in language teaching and linguistics, as you will hear.
The pronunciation part is that in her YouTube videos she focuses on helping learners of English improve their knowledge and use of natural English pronunciation – you know, all the different features that make up natural English speech, including things like the specific vowel sounds & consonant sounds, sentence stress, word stress, intonation, elision, connected speech, and so on.
Emma is particularly interested in pronunciation as it is one of the things that she focused on during her university studies.
So we talk about pronunciation as you might expect, with some bits about different accents and the question of what kind of pronunciation learners of English should aim for, and what kind of accent teachers should present to learners of English.
Another thing Emma focused on at university was the linguistic area of pragmatics. When we think about language, we usually analyse it in terms of grammar, vocabulary or pronunciation, but pragmatics is also a very important thing to consider.
David Crystal says it’s actually the most important factor to consider when looking at how language works.
According to David Crystal, pragmatics is the study of the choices you make when you use language, the reasons for those choices and effects that those choices convey. That’s a bit abstract at this point, but we do get into some examples during the conversation, examples like how to phrase requests in English, and how different types of requests can give a different impression on the people you are talking to. Or more simply, how certain requests can make you seem more or less rude.
For example, what’s the difference between these things? And let’s imagine you’re on an aeroplane and the flight attendant wants you to put your bag under your chair. What’s the difference between making that request in these different ways?
“Put your bag under your chair” and “Please put your bag under your chair” and “Can you put your bag under your chair?” and “Could you put your bag under your chair, please?” and “Could you just pop your bag under your chair for me please, thanks.”
That could also apply to the way people use English when requesting things from me, in comments or emails, for example, as I discussed in a recent episode, if you remember, and if you don’t remember too.
So that’s the bit about pragmatics.
But this episode is called “Pronunciation, Pragmatics and Procrastination with Emma”. I’ve mentioned the pronunciation and the pragmatics, so what about the procrastination part?
Well, this relates to Emma’s other online English teaching channel – Procrastination with Emma, which is on Twitch.tv. Basically, Emma also does Twitch live-streams in which she plays computer games and helps people with their English while she’s doing it.
As you may know, procrastination means putting off doing other things which you have to do by wasting time doing something else. Like, for example if you have some important work to do, but you don’t want to do it for some reason, so you end up telling yourself you’ll do it later and then doing something else instead, essentially wasting your time. How do you procrastinate? Let’s say you’ve got English homework to do, but you end up spending your time playing computer games instead. Is playing computer games a waste of time? Maybe not. Maybe it can help you learn English. That’s the spirit behind Emma’s Twitch.tv gaming channel “Procrastination with Emma”.
So, stuff about accents & pronunciation, stuff about the pragmatics of how we make requests in English, and some stuff about improving your English through computer games.
Actually those things mostly come up in the second half of this conversation. The first half is spent mainly getting to know Emma, finding out the usual things like where she’s from, what her accent sounds like, how she approaches language learning (because she speaks Spanish and also enjoys learning other languages from scratch) and any tips she has about learning English.
I won’t say much more here, except that I really enjoyed talking to Emma and you should certainly check out her YouTube videos and her live streams on Twitch.
Keep listening all the way through and I will chat to you again at the end of the episode, but now, let’s get started!
So that was pronunciation, pragmatics and procrastination with Emma from Pronunciation with Emma on YouTube and procrastination with Emma on Twitch. That’s quite a mouthful isn’t it, again!
Right, well I hope you got a lot out of that conversation in various ways including just general knowledge, linguistic knowledge and not to mention specific vocabulary and phrases you might have noticed.
Thanks again to Emma for being a great guest on the show.
So Christmas time is approaching fast.
Normally at Christmas I take a break for a couple of weeks, but since I’m not going back to the UK this year I might continue podcasting. I certainly have a few episodes in the pipeline and they’ll drop over the coming weeks. I might take a break in the new year but we will see.
So, episodes in the pipeline include more conversations with guests on different topics and a returning guest who is a friend of the podcast who we haven’t heard from in a while.
Also P27 parts 3-8 are coming with the usual language practise and pronunciation work. Remember all my premium series have a lot of pronunciation drills so you can improve your speaking by simply repeating after me, paying attention to certain little language features as we go. www.teacherluke.co.uk/premiuminfo
In terms of the competition. Thank you to those of you who voted. As I said before, voting is closed now and I am working on the next stage in which I will announce the winner or winners and then the next steps for things like interviews, which will probably happen in the new year.
So hold tight for the results of the competition, and thanks for voting.
That’s all I have to say at this point except that I hope you are well. Please stay safe, stay positive, be excellent to each other and I will speak to you again soon, but for now, goodbye…